By Carol Garcia
Once you’ve decided on a trip to Walt Disney World, you eagerly sit down to make some plans. That’s when you might realize that this place is BIG! There are four parks, two water parks, Downtown Disney, plus lots of interesting hotels. There are boats to rent, mini-golf courses, real golf courses, resort pools and spas, and a collection of really great and diverse restaurants. So now you wonder, how can I see all of this on my vacation and not end up exhausted? Can I have fun on this trip or will it just be a constant rush of activity? How do we do it all??
The first thing to do is relax. And realize one important thing: you can’t do it all, especially in one week. My family has been to the World over 15 times and we still haven’t seen it all. Of course, there are some things that we have done many times, too.
This leads to my second important tip: pick your favorites. In our first few family trips to the World, we did one thing to make everyone happy. We made a list of attractions and rated them based on how important they were to our family members. We used an A-B-C rating system. The “A’s” were things we had to do and so on. For example, when the kids were young, they missed some height requirements for rides. Those rides were our “C’s” (yes we could have done child swap, but those rides weren’t important for us on that trip). Things like Peter Pan were definite “A’s.” As we toured the parks, we made sure that those “A” things on our list were done and the C rides on our list were things that we did if we had time. This list changes over time, of course. We have long since decided to leave Dumbo to those first-time park guests and we only ride it if the line is extraordinarily short.
Rating things by importance also works for activities outside of the theme parks. We have never been to a Walt Disney World miniature golf course. Although I’m sure they are fantastic, they haven’t been high on the list. One year we decided to move a water park up the list and now it is a “must do.” Downtown Disney is always on the list, but we try to see some things each time (World of Disney) and we try something new each time (Earl of Sandwich). What I am trying to say is that there is no right answer, just tailor your plan to your likes and interests.
Next on your planning list is to plan downtime. There is so much to do and see at Walt Disney World (don’t even get me started on all of the other things to do in the Orlando area), you could run yourself ragged. So plan on taking breaks. Plan a non-park day. Or plan a day to just wander around enjoying the atmosphere at a park, without worrying about attractions. Plan on spending some quiet time during the day either in your room or near the pool. Don’t plan on staying out late each night and then getting to the park opening each morning unless you really like sore feet and very little sleep. Remember, most of us don’t do this much walking on a typical day, so take into account tired feet, sore muscles and hot temperatures, especially if you are traveling during the summer months. You may only need 6 hours of sleep at home, but you might want more at Disney World. Not to mention, hey, you’re on vacation. Build-in some time to relax.
So, armed with your list of must-dos and your resolve to relax a little, you arrive at the Happiest Place on Earth. And after a day or so, you decide that everyone is dragging. What now? Relax! Listen to the cues your family (and you!) give. Skip your evening activities and go for a swim. Spend some time people-watching while eating a Mickey ice cream bar. Buzz Lightyear will wait a little while you take a well-deserved break. If you and your family don’t have a little flexibility, no one will ever want to come back.
One of the best ways to get some extra time in the parks, either for relaxing or seeing more things, is to utilize FastPass. Have one member of your group take all the tickets to get FastPASSes and avoid that hour and a half long line at Soarin’. Divide and conquer if you have a diverse group traveling. One parent can go use the Test Track FastPass with your teen while you watch the little ones in the splash fountains.
So, are you ready to have some fun now? Let’s recap:
- You won’t see it all, so don’t try!
- Make a plan of the things that you really want to see and would not want to go home without seeing. Then everything else is gravy.
- Plan some downtime into your vacation.
- Use FastPass.
- Be flexible.
- Have a great time.
Armed with these tips, and some planning, you will have a great time.