Marcy Palino was a late bloomer, as far as Disney is concerned. "My first trip to WDW was in 2004. My husband surprised me with a week long trip there for our first anniversary. I was immediately hooked! We've made seven more tips since then." Now that she and her husband have added two beautiful daughters to their family, Disney trips are truly a magical occasion for everyone. But traveling with two girls under the age of five is never easy. Marcy shares her tips on how to manage it successfully.
Tip #1 -- Preparation!
For every visit, we've used a website www.tourguidemike.com to help us plan. There are a lot of websites devoted to Disney trip planning. Disney has a Moms Panel made up of moms who have a lot of experience and are committed to answering questions from those who have been there, done that. I plan to check them out before our next trip. http://disneyworldforum.disney.go.com/
Tip #2 -- Consider your hotel needs
We've stayed both on site [at WDW] and off. I prefer on site to take advantage of Disney's Magical Express, eliminating the need for a rental car and parking. Disney has buses, monorails and watercraft to take her every where you need to go. I've stayed in all three levels of Disney resorts. The different levels have different amenities. For our family, we simply need a place to shower and sleep, so we've decided that the Value resorts are right for us.
Tip #3 -- Consider the parks one at a time.
I want to enjoy myself and go where the crowds aren't. I recommend checking websites that specialize in trip planning. At the very least, find out what attractions are going to be closed for refurbishment, lest you have a disappointed fan! Call guest services for each park a day before you travel so you can plan with the most up to date information.
We've traveled with an infant more than once. Find out where the Baby Care centers are on the map. They are quiet, cool and a great place to take a break and beat the heat while taking care of your wee one. They have changing areas, large family bathrooms, high chairs, baby food and supplies, bottle warmers, etc. There is also a quiet nursing area (although Florida state law does allow moms to breastfeed anywhere they are otherwise authorized to be).
You can take a baby on any ride that does not have a height requirement. A good start is a ride like It's a Small World. It's not very quiet, and you'll be able to see what your child can handle. Our one year old went on every ride she was allowed and loved the lights and colors. She's a big Haunted Mansion fan now!
Tip #4 - Be early birds
I recommend starting early. Get up, get to breakfast and get to the park as close to opening as possible. Kids are usually chomping at the bit to get there, and you'll get a jump on the late sleepers. If you are staying on site, check for Extra Magic Hours--this can save you loads of time and get you ahead of the crowds, especially during high capacity seasons.
Tip #5 -- Known when to throw away your plan
More than anything, and I can't stress this enough, is to be flexible. Let your vacation happen. Let your kids enjoy themselves. If you've got other plans, like an advanced dining reservation, but aren't going to make it, don't stress out, (but do use your cell to call 40-WDW-DINE or stop by Guest Services to let them know so that another party can take your seat!) Remember, it's supposed to be fun!
If it's the hot and steamy season (which is most of the year in Florida,) consider taking a break midday. Go back to the hotel and enjoy the pool. Encourage a nap unless you know that your children are old enough for a marathon day.
Tip #6 -- Take advantage of food and drink options
Disney allows you to bring water into the parks. We usually contact a local grocery that does delivery to bring us a case of bottled water. This is also a great chance to get snacks and breakfast items delivered, as well as heavy/bulky items like formula, nursery water and diapers that take up a lot of room in your luggage. Now that airlines are charging per bag, this is an especially good idea.
Eat early. Eat before the crowds! An ADR only gets you the next available table, so we try to get there early during the mealtime hours. We eat lunch at 11am and dinner at 5pm. The great thing about WDW is that everyone expects that there will be children dining there, so it's a lot less stress than eating in finer establishments in your home town. Disney Dining does not pay lip service to being child friendly. They have a wide selection of child pleasing favorites, as well as some more adventurous items. They have also ensured that there are healthy options available. We do not have any food allergy issues in our family, but I have heard that the chefs are very accommodating to these issues. If you don't see what you are looking for, just ask!
The only exception to the child rule is Victoria and Albert's, which now has an age requirement.
Tip #7 -- Be prepared for an emergency
If you experience an illness, there are services that will provide house calls, as well as a pharmacy that delivers. There are also minor emergency clinics nearby that provide transportation to and from their clinic from area resorts.
Tip #8--Don't forget, it's your vacation too!
We usually go for a week, typically around our anniversary. We use Kids Night Out to provide in room babysitting for our baby. They are the preferred WDW childcare provider (they can be there any time, day or night.) We have used them several times since 2006 and have always been pleased. We go out for a romantic dinner, and a friendly, qualified care provider cares for our child. When our kids get older, we'll check out the kids clubs that Disney has at several of the resorts. If you aren't comfortable with that idea, you can try to go with another family and swap kids for an evening so that everyone can have some quiet time.
I can personally recommend the spa at the Grand Floridian. Go get a massage!
Part 2 of this article to follow in a couple of days...