Tonawanda News

December 16, 2013

CRIB NOTES: Disney World dos and don'ts

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — As anyone who read my column two weeks ago knows, I recently went with the family to Walt Disney World. I wrote some about my experiences last time, but I honestly learned too much from this trip not to discuss the trip again this time around.

Seeing as Penny is 6 and Rigby is nearly 5 (only one more month), this vacation felt like what I’d envision any vacation we take for the next eight or so years will feel like. We took the kids to Walt Disney World two years ago, but Rigby was a relative baby, so the experience was far different. There were no strollers or diapers, for starters. And both the kids were able to go with me on nearly every thrill ride (there is nothing better than taking both your babies on Splash Mountain three times in an hour).

Things went smoothly overall, but that wasn’t without a few hiccups here and there. Here is a sampling of what I learned.

VACATION DO: Bring drinks. Even if you’re in Florida in November and you may need to break out the sweatshirts, kids still get thirsty. Often. We bought bulk boxes of those little powder sticks you pour into water bottles. They’re a heck of a lot less pricey than Pepsi in the park at $4 a pop. Just buy a couple flavors, bring in one water bottle and you’re good to go. At least until they want different flavors at the same time.

VACATION DON’T: Push too hard. Places like Walt Disney World turn me into a little kid metaphorically. Only I have the body type and endurance of an adult (I’ve pulled off two weeks straight of two-hour sleep nights while rocking a crying baby daughter, so not much will wear me out anymore). So where a 14-hour jaunt through the Magic Kingdom is easy for me to pull off, kids just can’t no matter how much they might want to. I learned this the hard way. So pay attention to them. Break when they need to. Splurge for a snack if you need to. If they’re dragging too much, then head back to the hotel. Their feet getting tired actually led to our discovering the next do.

DO: Look into alternative transportation. Penny and Rigby are just too big for a stroller. But some of these theme parks are 50-plus acres, with the best rides far apart. We discovered that the parks rent out extra-wide wheelchairs. They’re actually about the quarter the cost of a stroller, also. And we got a deeper discount after renting for multiple days. This likely saved the second half of the trip, as both the kids were about as worn out as desert-walkers after a half-day solely on foot. We needed the wheelchair, unfortunately, after learning about the next don’t the hard way.

DON’T: Take wagons to Walt Disney World. We flew a foldable wagon down with us. They refused to let it in. Claimed it posed a safety hazard of some kind. Perhaps it was hazardous to their profit margin if we didn’t rent the wheelchair. I don’t really know. But just don’t bother.

DO: Practice your negotiating skills. Two children will tend to want to do two different things when you ask them where to head next. To their credit, Penny and Rigby were quite amenable to compromise and trade in mapping out our routes for the day. But, especially later in the day, you will need to step in and figure out a way to make them both happy. Remember that they might not have the capacity yet to understand that gratification needn’t be instant and that you will get to everything in time. So help them work through the occasional disappointment in the moment.

DON’T: Pose every idea as a question. If you take some things and don’t leave them to chance, then you won’t open up the possibility of conflict. As in, say “We are going to Pirates of the Caribbean and then Thunder Mountain” instead of “How does going to Pirates of the Caribbean sound?” Because the lack of questions erases the possibility of a son who loves to disagree with his sister just for the fun of it doing so.

DO: Teach them about budgeting. The kids saved up their own souvenir money. Penny helped organize a lemonade stand for them to run over the summer to raise spending money for Florida. Best idea we ever had. They had to learn how to save, how to prioritize what they want and deal with disappointment after the money ran out. Of course, we kicked in for an item or two on our own, but the lesson proved no less valuable.

DON’T: Spend too much time in souvenir shops late at night after the kids have run out of money. Cranky + broke = a tough time getting back to the hotel. The kids did great with their budgeting, but they’re still kids and still occasionally get infested with The Gimmes. So don’t make it worse for them by putting temptation right in front of them.

DO: Remember to have fun. Taking a family on vacation can get stressful. You have to plan things for yourself and the kids. You have to make sure you have enough money. You have to address everyone’s needs. But you’re at whatever vacation spot you went to for a reason so make sure to soak that in, and help the kids do the same. 

DON’T: Sweat the small stuff. You won’t remember that you could not go through the entire animation studio because one of the kids had to use the bathroom and then needed lunch right away. You will remember the entirety of the trip and those special moments you went to your destination to experience. So if the entire day does not go as planned, just roll with it and let it go. Because it just does not matter.

Contact Paul Lane at