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You guys, I love the Magic Kingdom. Like, in a “push small children aside to get on the monorail first” kind of way. I like other Disney parks, too, I guess. Animal Kingdom is okay. But the Magic Kingdom… the Magic Kingdom is my jam.
You would think my level of enthusiasm would fade the older I get, but nope, I am just as excited to see Cinderella’s castle now at age 34 as I was when I was four. Growing up, my parents took us at least once a year. No doubt this lasting love for the Mouse is strongly tied to my starry-eyed memories of experiencing the magic of Disney as a young kid.
Of course, now that I am a Mom, it is so fun to share this experience with my own children and see that same magic through their eyes.
I must admit, however, that managing a day at Disney with youngsters is not for the faint of heart. And most certainly not for those with actual cardiac conditions. Have you ever noticed how many AED’s are planted around that place? Clearly the “Happiest Place on Earth” sees its fair share of heart attacks.
Anywho, I thought I’d offer a few helpful tips and tricks to hopefully maximize fun and minimize tantrums on your next family trip to the Magic Kingdom.
TRY AND AVOID THE CROWDS
I have concluded that there is no longer a “slow time” at Disney. There is busy, busier and just down right ridiculous. My most recent trip to the Magic Kingdom was on a Tuesday at the very beginning of May. A Tuesday. At the beginning of May. A mundane, nothing-special, run-of-the-mill, boring old Tuesday. A Tuesday safely situated after the spring break rush and well before the insanity of summer. A TUESDAY, people. Surely Disney would be slow on a Tuesday at this time of year, right?
I am not sure if you have noticed lately but Disney has lost her ding dang mind. When planning your trip, however, know that there are a few key days and times that are more outrageous than others. These include but are not limited to:
- Holidays: Y’all… don’t do it. Do. Not. Do. It. Especially Christmas, New Years and Fourth of July.
- Spring break: this can be tricky because Spring Break is different everywhere but definitely avoid Florida’s which is basically the whole month of March.
- Summer: I am not sure there is an adjective in the English language that accurately describes just how hot Florida is during the months of June through September. Sweltering? Suffocating? Scorching? The word “swimmable” might suffice since you will basically need to bust out your best doggy paddle to traverse the humidity in Fantasy Land. I mean, it is thick. Also, the entire universe is out of school for the summer so obviously crowds will be higher.
- Weekends: If possible, avoid these.
So, basically, a Tuesday at the beginning of May is probably your best bet. Oh… wait.
WEAR GOOD SHOES
Wear the most comfortable, sturdy and trustworthy pair of tennis shoes you have in your closet.
Make your kids do the same.
Your feet will log miles upon miles scurrying around the park and you want them to be happy. One would think this is a no-brainer, but you would not believe the number of people hobbling around Disney in flimsy flip flops and heels.
Now, I can imagine a world in which some people might think that flip flops are acceptable Disney footwear but… HEELS?! People are crazy. You could honestly not pay me enough money to take 10 steps down Main Street in a pair of heels.
PACK SNACKS (A LOT OF THEM!)
I am not one to mindlessly pump food into my kids’ mouths to keep them content and entertained, but there are a few situations in which I am willing to make an exception. Disney is one of them.
Snacks can be a game changer when it comes to the emotional stability of your children. And, let’s be honest, my mood can also be transformed from angry bear to Labrador puppy with a pack of Vanilla Wafers and the right granola bar.
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The Magic Kingdom is difficult enough to navigate with happy children but exponentially more challenging with hangry ones. Also, you can eat while you’re waiting in line, allowing you to capitalize on your ride time.
While we are on the subject of refreshments, always have some water handy, too. Ain’t nobody got time for dehydration when your Fastpass window expires in 10 minutes!
BRING BABY WIPES
This one may seem a little silly, but I promise, these moist towelettes of multi-purpose wonderment are sure to come in handy. They can substitute as a mini-bath or an extra swipe of deodorant while you are melting in the line for the Jungle Cruise.
They can be used in a stinky bathroom emergency where regular toilet paper doesn’t stand a chance. You know the ones. You can wipe down your stroller after someone spills a drink on it.
The list goes on and on. And I don’t care if your kids are three-nagers or actual teenagers, someone (possibly you) is going to end up with a Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar smeared all over their hair, clothes, face and hands. In this case, your gonna need something sturdier than a plain ol’ napkin.
Related Post: Ode to the Baby Wipe
FIGURE OUT THE FASTPASS THING
I have a love/hate relationship with Disney’s Fastpass system. It is true that these babies will get you on rides super fast (duh) but they will also put you on the fast track to crazy town.
Choosing, managing and optimizing your Fastpasses can be an anxiety ridden experience but, alas, they are worth it. I am not going to extrapolate on this but just know that you need to figure it out. Google it. Ask a friend. Read a blog (but not this one).
*An aside: if you are able to secure a Fastpass for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride, consider yourself one of the chosen few upon whom Mickey has bestowed his favor. It is nearly impossible to do. I have been to the park 5 times since that thing opened and have never been on it!
LET THE PARENTS DO THE PLANNING
If you are there with only one child then, sure, let them decide what rides you go on and when (within reason). But if you are there with a larger party, do not, under any circumstances, allow the children to try and sort out park-day logistics. Have a plan.
Discuss it with the other adults you are traveling with before getting to the park. Do not ask questions. There should be no, “What ride should we go on next, kids?’ or “What do you sweet children want to eat for lunch?” No. No. And no.
Sounds militant and harsh, but trust me, you will get as many different opinions as you have children if you start asking for suggestions.
Obviously there needs to be room for flexibility but don’t discuss that flexibility with your children. That should be a behind the scenes, adults only conversation while your kids are off playing in Dumbo’s air conditioned circus tent and out of earshot. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for a lot of whining, pouting and sibling squabbles.
LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS
You might want to go ahead and apply this one to all parenting situations.
Look, nothing is ever as awesome as we think it is going to be or as perfect as people portray it on social media. A day at Disney is no different.
There’ll be lines you have to wait in and disagreements you’ll have to deal with. You’ll spend more money than you budgeted for. You may have to catch small glimpses of the parade from behind a family of freakishly tall individuals instead of front and center like you wanted.
The weather forecast might betray you. You may temporarily lose a kid (or two) and have a full-blown panic attack in front of the Magic Carpets of Aladdin. Or… was that just me?
The point is, your day may not be picture perfect, but it will still be fun and memorable.
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Last, but not least, allow me to let you in on a little secret.
You know what your kids will remember most and talk about most after you’ve drained your life savings to create this fairy-tale experience for them?
Yes, the hotel.
Forget Enchanted Tales with Belle… they will rave about how you let them stay up extra late to swim in the hotel pool, how Daddy let them push the button on the ice machine and fill up the bucket, how they all got to sleep together on the pull-out couch, be pushed around on the luggage cart by their Grandma, eat waffles and whipped cream for breakfast and run full-speed down the long hallways.
Their favorite parts will be the simple parts. That’s usually the way it goes, isn’t it?
Enjoy everyone! I pray your day at the Magic Kingdom is both magical and meltdown free. And, if it isn’t, I hope you have the good sense and sense of humor to laugh about it!
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