Having just spent a full week at Disney World, I observed many parents doing the right things, and many more doing the wrong things. In light of my recent vacation articles, which have caused quite a stir, I present to you the “dos and don’ts” of taking your young little ones to “the happiest place on earth.”
DO: Bring a stroller for any child under the age of 7. Actually, if your 7-year-old still fits in a stroller, then by all means, go for it. This allows the parent to walk at a normal pace, and the child does not get worn out after walking all day. It also provides a great place for them to take a nap and shelter from the sun via the canopy as well as extra storage so you don’t have to look like a clown wearing a fanny pack.
Extra benefit: Strollers give you something to push your way through the crowds with. It’s feast or famine there, and a good stroller is a perfect way to say “get the fuck out of my way.”
DON’T: Drag your child around the parks all day. They will tire quickly ,and then you have to carry them. I saw countless parents chasing after their kids, who ended up screaming bloody murder because they were exhausted by 1 p.m. There was a huge difference in parents who had strollers and parents who didn’t. It’s survival of the fittest, and the stroller parents were still smiling at night. Each attraction has stroller parking conveniently located, so you can just park and ride.
DO: Take your kid to the hotel pool at night. A good half hour or so will get them tired enough to pass out nicely. Not to mention, most kids will say that it’s the highlight of their trip. It is a good way to unwind after a long day.
Extra benefit: It gets all of that disgusting Disney sweat off of you without having to take a shower!
DON’T: Stay until park closing with your kid. Trust me on this one — you will be burned out by the second day. Plan on a day that starts at the parks at 11 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m. Dinner at 7 p.m. and then pool from 8:30 to 9 p.m. You’re welcome.
DO: Go to the water parks. Young kids really have no interest in EPCOT Center, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, so plan on spending most of your time at Magic Kingdom and Typhoon Lagoon (the other water park, Blizzard Beach, is better for tweens/teens). The water parks are great because they are smaller in size, have tons of different attractions, and cause your little ones to be worn out (in a good way) from all of the exercise they get. They close at 5 p.m., so it gives you time to go back to the hotel room, put the kid(s) down for a nap, and have a nice dinner.
Extra benefit: Though most people don’t have beach bodies, every once in a while you will spot the hottest of DILFs walking around shirtless and hopefully in tight trunks. Yum.
DON’T: Plan a detailed vacation full of things your little one may or may not like. For instance, don’t think you can take a break by watching one of the many shows the parks offer. They can bore the shit out of your child and cause temper tantrums. If anything, I say shoot for a four-day trip with two days in Magic Kingdom and two days at water parks. Keep it simple until they are older.
DO: Sleep in. Everyone will tell you the best way to beat the crowds is by getting there early, but because of this, everyone gets there early. No matter what, it’s going to be a shit show, so get your rest and plan for a good six hours maximum in each of the parks. Disney has a new Fastpass+ system that allows you to pick three rides with a very short queue. You can download the Disney World app and choose these. Pick the three “must-do” rides and take it from there. If you don’t hit every ride, don’t worry — your kid doesn’t care.
Extra benefit: You can have those extra cocktails at night you will so greatly need and not wake up feeling bleary and hungover.
DON’T: Get up at the crack of dawn and cause the whole family to be tired just so you can get that extra-special picture of your kid and Mickey. Is it really worth it? No. And sure you may be able to ride one or two more rides than if you got there a little later, but you could possibly blow the entire day this way. Just remember — relax, you’re on vacation.
DO: Take advantage of the Disney World app. It does a million things. including telling you how long the waits are for all the rides. This is surprisingly accurate, so you can search for the “five minutes wait” rides and accomplish a lot more.
Extra benefit: More time playing with your phone and ignoring your family when they’re acting like assholes.
DON’T: Fully wing it. You will end up in line most of the day with a nagging, sweaty, pissed-off kid.
DO: Bring entertainment for your child, in a backpack (never a fanny pack). We brought our son’s mini iPad loaded with Disney movies, so when we had to wait in line or at a restaurant, we just plugged him in and let him zone out. It worked beautifully.
Extra benefit: You don’t have to hear them as much!
DON’T: Expect your kid to suddenly be more mature than their age. Disney World may be magical, but if you’re bringing a 4-year-old, you’re going to get an amplified 4-year-old on the trip. Disney World does not make your child behave better, so plan ahead with plenty of distractions to keep them busy.
When all else fails, remember that in Magic Kingdom there is a perfect ride called the PeopleMover. There is hardly ever a wait, it lasts for 10 minutes, and it’s a chance to sit down and cool off. Kids love it, and you can ride it over and over. Trust me on this one — it’s a win-win situation. Disney World can actually be fun for parents too — you just have to outsmart your little ones.
FRANK LOWE is The Advocate’sparenting writer. Follow Frank on Twitter @GayAtHomeDad and on Instagram at gayathomedad.