Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Week O' Disney - The Mechanics

So, as you read yesterday, we survived Disneyworld with three two year olds.  I had a number of people ask me about things that worked and what didn't worked when traveling to Disneyworld with young children and/or multiples, so today's post is on the mechanics of our trip.  Here are the highs and the lows and everything in between. 

What worked:

1.  Staying on property.  A range of price points are available for Disney hotels on site, and while it would have been nice to stay super close to Magic Kingdom on the monorail (like the Contemporary or Grand Polynesian), I could not justify the expense for toddlers AND the Art of Animation was perfect for us.  We NEVER packed a car seat which is huge when there are three car seats for triplets.  We flew without one, which I was comfortable with since the kids are almost three, and then the huge Disney bus took us back and forth from the airport (the Magical Express, wouldn't you know), plus buses took us back and forth from our resort, Art of Animation, to Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom.  Most of the time we caught one right away, and only a couple of times did we have to wait 15 minutes.  PLUS...Art of Animation rocks.  Of the four themed suites, we were in Finding Nemo, plus our family suite looked out on the Splash Pad/pool area.  We utilized that outdoor space several times, mostly in the evening when we were fried from the parks.  There was a pool bar with food and drinks (though see note #1 below) and music played underwater.  Fabulous space for young ones and the largest resort pool on Disney property. 

2.  Picking portions.  There was no point to try and tackle Epcot and Hollywood Studios, even if we would have enjoyed it, with three two year olds.  Even Animal Kingdom didn't have much in the way of rides for little ones, so we only spent one day there.  We segmented Magic Kingdom and did a couple of lands Wednesday, a couple of lands Thursday, and our favorites on Friday.  Favorites for the under five set are Winnie the Pooh, Tea Cups, Dumbo, It's a Small World, Peter Pan's Flying Carpet (all in Fantasyland), and Jungle Cruise and Aladdin's Carpet in Adventureland.  We rode Pirates of the Caribbean but it freaked one of ours out.  The rockets, race cars and train also worked in Tomorrowland.  The steamboat was slow and boring in Liberty Square.  I don't know how anyone could do it in one day. 

3.  Hit Every Parade. These parades really are tremendous.  The music is awesome.  My favorite was the afternoon parade at Animal Kingdom because of all the character interaction and great music.  That parade was long and the floats were fun - plus, since little bit danced so intensely, we got a lot of one-on-one attention from the characters as they came by because they couldn't help but notice her rockin' out.  There's a cool street parade in the mornings at Magic Kingdom where the kids can actually dance in the streets with the characters around the palace after they come down Main Street.  Little bit once again rocked it with the dancers and Woody. 

4.  Dine with Disney.  We had a few really fun character interactions at the parks, note the lines to meet the characters are a LOT more reasonable at Animal Kingdom than Magic Kingdom, even in off peak (thank heavens I don't have a princess girl or we would have waited forever).  But the best was breakfast at the Crystal Palace with Pooh and crew and dinner at Chef Mickey's with Mickey and pals.  Plus the food there was so much better than at the parks.  Every single character came over and hugged the kids and posed for pictures and there was even a little parade they did through the restaurant with the Disney dudes and dudettes. 

5.  Go Off Peak.  We were there in the slowest month of the year.  It was a little hot, maybe go later in September, but I could have NEVER navigated the park with toddlers or young ones in high peak seasons - the park said it had about 30,000 one day we were there versus the 70,000 a day they have in the summer and spring break.  Ugh.  I could not go when it's more crowded.  And really, they can miss a couple of days of school young. 

What didn't work:

1.  The Food.  There is no good fix for this.  The food is not good.  Apparently it is perfectly acceptable at high end resorts and Epcot.  We did not experience this.  Odds are, with young kids or multiples, you won't either.  Plus, the food is expensive.  We did not buy a dining plan because it doesn't cover kids younger than three, but we probably should have.  We packed a ton of snacks in our suitcases, so we didn't ever have to buy a snack, but we did have to buy a lot of water (though we did start refilling our water bottles from the water fountains) and we had to buy meals.  The food is mediocre and EVERYTHING is self-serve.  If you have young kids, that is impossible.  One parent is trying to keep the grumpy hungry kids seated at the table while the other parent is ordering food and waiting on it.  Then you get it to the table and try to remember extra plates and cups and cut everything up and parcel everything out.  I'm sure when they're 10 and can just grab a hot dog it will be easier, but the food will still be sub-par and expensive.  Good luck. 

2.  The Strollers.  There is no good fix for this. You have to bring strollers when your kids are pre-K and younger because they get exhausted and need them.  HOWEVER, folding them up and down to get on and off buses, parking them around all the rides, fighting with your kids when they insist on pushing them instead of riding in them, it's all a hassle.  We took a double umbrella and a single umbrella stroller, but most of the time the kids were fighting with us because THEY wanted to push them.  As you might imagine, since I can barely even navigate the stroller, the kids were terrible at it, and when you finally gave in, they just ran people over with the strollers and got them stuck in flower beds.  Ugh.  Maybe you don't have willful kids, if that's the case, congratulations.

3.  The Schedule.  There is no good fix for this. Your family may not be much of a schedule family.  Since I have three two year olds, we are a schedule family.  Less so than a year ago, but still roughly on a schedule.  They wake up around 7 am, eat lunch at noon followed by a nap, eat dinner around six pm and go to bed (not to sleep) around 8 pm.  Of course there's no schedule at a park, and it's catch as catch can.  We tried on Wednesday to bring the kids back to nap at the hotel in hopes for happier children in the evening but, while they slept on the 15 minute bus ride, they would NOT sleep in the hotel.  That means the parents got no rest either.  No. Rest.  As we were saying non-toddler approved words under our breath after two hours of attempted napping when we boarded the bus back to the park, they promptly fell asleep. Lovely. 

All in all, it really was exciting and magical.  But if I had to do it all over again, I probably would have waited another year.  This time next year they'd be nearly four and have less bathroom issues and stroller complications.  I might also schedule some time to go to Downtown Disney where apparently you can get a decent meal and some table service.  We will certainly go back, though not nearly as soon as my kids want, but I would imagine it will be several years before we venture back, and then we'll probably hit the parks in October when it's a bit cooler - September is still hot in the afternoon.  I'd love to hear your tips, and I'll incorporate them in my travel planning for next time around!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Gindi, thanks for posting about your trip.LOVE hearing about Art of Animation! I was wondering how it was to stay there. I wish we had chatted before you went. We started bringing the boys when they were 8months. I can offer some tips and tricks before your next trip. please feel free to e-mail me through SCT or call if you still have my number. Sincerely, Tanya G.