I just got back from a 6-day trip to Florida last night. The first two days were work (I keynoted a conference in Tampa; I brought the baby and my mom) and then since my boys had days off school for Rosh Hashanah, the rest of my family met me for 4 days in Orlando at Disney World.
I remember the phrase about agony and ecstasy from a guidebook on the parks. Tales are legion of families saving for a year to go and then the children wanting to skip the parks in favor of swimming in the hotel pool. Disney seems like it’s aimed at young kids, and yet young kids have a lot of trouble dealing with crowded theme parks. Frankly, everyone has trouble with crowded theme parks, and the overwhelming nature of the place (and the expense) can lead to short tempers. There are moments of wonder, and moments where you might sell a kidney to be able to sit in a quiet bar all by yourself.
I had both! My mom stayed in the rental house with the baby, so we didn’t have that source of stress for 3 of 4 days. The 8-year-old, 5-year-old, and 3-year-old had a lot of fun. Thanks to some strategic uses of Fast Passes and a “baby swap” pass, they rode Soarin’ three times at Epcot and loved it. We enjoyed Toy Story at Disney Hollywood Studios and Buzz Lightyear at Magic Kingdom. We all rode some roller coasters together like the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and the boys went on Splash Mountain with me. My daughter and I ate with the princesses in Epcot (thanks to travel agent Jamie’s reservation prowess) and she was just beside herself with excitement. It was so cute. We all sang along with the Frozen sing-along at Hollywood Studios (“Let It Go” is a new karaoke favorite of mine) and the Lion King show at Animal Kingdom.
Of course, there were other moments. Like carrying my daughter – she’s a bit big for a stroller, but a bit small to walk miles daily. There was her inability to go to the bathroom at the theme parks, yet her regular announcement as we’d get to the front of long lines that she had to go (I stopped believing her after the first time — I think it was nerves about the rides). There was Disney’s lack of transportation optimization. Getting from Epcot to Magic Kingdom in the middle of the day took 90 minutes — they’re about 4 miles apart. I could have walked that. Then there was attempting to leave Magic Kingdom post fireworks. I sometimes wonder if they train “cast members” in riot control. I also had my least relaxing lobster dinner ever at a restaurant in Celebration (the cute, if somewhat creepy, planned community near Disney) though my children’s in-restaurant meltdowns could have happened anywhere.
Flying was tough, but not atrocious. For that I am grateful.
It was, perhaps, somewhat questionable to plan a second vacation so soon after the first to Indiana Dunes right before Labor Day. But I do think our remembering selves will look back on this Disney trip fondly, so it was worth pushing our experiencing selves through some of the madness and psychosomatic bathroom emergencies. However, my husband and I made a pact that we are done with traveling with the kids this year. Other people can come see us for the holidays.
Have you done theme parks with young kids? Do you come out on the “agony” or “ecstasy” side? (Or both?)
NOTE: I am still figuring out the comments settings. I am getting spammed heavily with this new website set-up, so I have everything still in moderation, but I will try to check frequently. I apologize to everyone whose comments were waiting in the spam queue for 5 days last week. Aaargh.