My friend warned me before going on our first trip as a family. She said it wasn't the Disney we knew as kids. I wasn't naive. I was not in la la land dream world imagining every moment to be blissful. I am a realist when it comes to raising kids. I get that it's hard, I talk about it being hard on this blog, I don't pretend all is perfect with parenting. And yet still, I was surprised and taken aback at how not so perfect Disney was on our first park day.
THIS (above) is what traveling with kids looks like, for real.
And then equally as often, this (below) is what traveling to a fancy new place with kids looks like, too...
I share this with you today a little bit hesitantly. I don't want to burst your magic wand bubble of how amazing your first DW trip is going to be. It's going to be AMAZING. It IS going to be the best trip ever. You're going to laugh and tear up and have fun and do all those twirling moves that you see on Disney videos. You WILL get awesome pics of your kids smiling in matching Mickey outfits.
It'll be awesome. BUT it won't be perfect... and the sooner you accept that fate the better your trip is going to be.
Being perfectly honest: some moments sucked. Some moments I closed my eyes and wished I was back home. Some moments I questioned why the hell we'd spent so much money on this trip when our kids were clearly not grateful. Some moments I snapped at my husband and he was frustrated with me. Many moments the five of us were NOT on the same page about where to go or what to do or how to deal.
Our first day at Magic Kingdom (MK) was our worst day of our entire trip. I think because we were new at everything, we didn't know everything - despite all the research I'd done ahead of the trip. It's one of those things you just cannot explain or learn before it happens to you. I liken it to pregnancy or having a newborn. You can read and see and watch others do it all you want, but until you go through it you can't fathom how it'll be. That's Disney.
Our first park day was too rushed. We felt pressure to get it all in, see everything, go everywhere, get on all the rides. Even though we had planned a second day at MK, we still felt this pressure. I yelled, my husband sighed, the kids cried, there were melt downs. It was frustrating. We all were taking it all in differently so it was hard to make a next step that worked for all five of us. We were new at it, it was overwhelming.
The crowds were like nothing I'd ever seen before. It was like being in a mall on Christmas Eve times 1000. I'd never felt it before, it was too much!
We quickly regrouped that night, talked it out in the pool after dinner and while the kids were sleeping, and had a different game plan going into our second day at a Disney park. We got a good night's sleep, and purposely went a bit slower the next day.
All I'd wanted at MK was to walk Main Street and check out all the scenes, find the Mickey ears, take pictures in front of the Walt Disney statue. My only thing I wanted the entire time at the parks was to get to the Main Street MK bakery to get a cinnamon bun. Literally I could care less about souvenirs and t-shirts or any other food, that's all I wanted and we didn't do it... and that's all my fault, nobody else's, because I was trying to make sure the family had a good time and we got to everything.
It was all just too much. I felt smothered by my own plans for this trip. Eek. And I didn't go overboard, I wasn't obsessed with planning, honestly, it just felt like pressure when we got there. It was the heat, crowds, moving stroller out of people's ways, juggling naps and eye meds for the conjunctivitis we learned the baby had like five minutes before our trip, and diaper changes and snacks and FastPass times, app checking= too much. It was overwhelming. I don't go grocery shopping with my kids ... so of course going to a park with so much to consider is going to be hard. This is not like a regular park, you don't just show up and enjoy the rides. You have to plan and get FP etc. You're also spending a billion times more money on this trip than you would say going to a theme park or zoo back home.
It's like a wedding... of course you look back at your wedding day and think oh how wonderful, that was awesome, amazing right? But the planning and chaos of people with wedding stuff is difficult. That's the same as Disney. And it's OK to say so.
So here's the thing I reminded myself of after that first tough day at MK. Here's what I held onto the rest of our trip so it made things much more enjoyable for all- and we DID have that awesome trip! I hope these tips help you as much as they helped me get through the rest of our trip smiling and staying slightly sane.
Tips to enjoy your IMPERFECT trip to Disney:
- You're at Disney. That's enough. The colors, flowers, atmosphere, weather, etc. is enough to make kids smile. Stop pushing yourself to get on all the rides.
- You CAN'T do it all. It's impossible so stop trying. This is a MUST to remember. Definitely plan two days for Magic Kingdom, but otherwise realize you cannot do everything. We got park hopper and did not use it once with our younger age kids. It's OK! We picked and chose rides that we could do anywhere- like the carousel or the second Buzz ride, we had to skip some things so chose a few things that we were OK missing.
- You will go back. You imagine this is the only time you are going to Disney, understandably since it probably took you years to get there this time. But you WILL go back... it's OK if you don't do it all today. My co-worker told me this and she was SO right, you feel like this is it, this is the one chance you get to do everything. Well, it's not. Most people go back, so tell yourself if you don't do it this trip it's all right and you'll do it next time.
- I don't think this is the most magical place on Earth, sorry. It's just not. It's stressful and tiring and overwhelming... Even if it IS the most fun place on Earth, I'll give you that, it IS super fun. And of course there's an element of magic in there, TONS of magic.... but when you say it's the most magical place on Earth I feel that pressure to make it perfect.... and Disney is NOT perfect. It cannot be perfect with young children in tow who are tired and impatient. Our kids were extremely well behaved on this trip, and it was still super hard. I think it's OK to just tell yourself this is a trip, an awesome magical expensive one, but it's just a trip. It's OK if not every single second is full of smiles and magic.
- Nothing in this parenting journey is perfect. Why do we set ourselves up to think Disney will be? Yes, it'll be great. Yes, you'll make the kids happy. Yes, it's worth going and making memories. BUT it's NOT going to be perfect and it doesn't have to be. It's like having a newborn.... most incredible experience, life changing, bliss.... yet you'd love more sleep, and can't stand the sound of screeching baby during diaper changes and sucks to be puked on.
- Plan and prep ahead. Do all you can ahead of time to make this a smooth trip. We packed snacks and lunches to avoid waiting in more lines. We did FastPasses for as many rides as possible to get more in and avoid lines. We took breaks on the sidelines for ice cream daily so we could cool off and rest a bit. We got good night's sleep going to bed early the night before our trips. Do what you can.
IT'S OK to express that it's not all perfect at Disney. It's OK to say you hated waiting in line with a toddler who hit your face or screeched "mine" for your water bottle. It's OK to say you got a headache and sunburn when you forgot to take care of you after changing another poop diaper on the ground because the line for the bathroom was going to be about 15 minutes and you had a FP to get to. It's OK to feel angry, impatient, frustrated, annoyed, sad even at times on this trip. I hope those things don't happen to you... but it's normal if they do. And you need to know that.
We were soooo tired in this picture above... parenting in Florida is exhausting!
It's hard to accept that we don't make something perfect for our kids, right? You build it up so much in your mind, you plan this trip for months, stress over and figure out every single detail, but remind yourself: they are still KIDS. They are kids who are now on the most expensive vacation ever, but still KIDS.
Kids complain about walking because they have short legs.
Kids hate heat because they are too young to know how to deal with it or to recognize it'll pass.
Kids are impatient, they don't have long attention spans and don't realize that it'll be worth it in the end if they wait for 185 minutes for a single 2 minute ride.
Kids don't understand the concept of time, so when you say "it's only a 40 minute wait" they think WTF in their kid ways.
I'm so sorry to report to you, but kids are selfish. They don't express gratitude as well as older people or like you deserve for shelling out so much money. They have no concept of how hard you worked, how many years it took pinching and saving money to get to this trip. They don't get it, so you preaching to them in the gift shop won't really help.
Kids think of themselves- that's NORMAL. They don't think of what ride you want to go on. They don't care that you haven't eaten, they just want their own ice cream, NOW.
Remind yourself you are there for the kids. It's hard to accept at points on this trip... but it's what you're there for. And whatever happens, it's going to be great. It's going to be fun and messy, just like parenting is. It's going to be rewarding but chaotic and totally overwhelming- just like having kids is every other day. So don't set yourself up for perfection or overload. Set yourself up for the reality of going to an incredible and magical place with your busy impatient kids. Breathe. Remind yourself it's ALL OK.
I swear we loooooved our trip.... but the honest mama in me needs to share with you the reality that it's not supposed to be perfect. Hugs to you, those embracing this trip. May it be filled with a realistic dose of magic and lots of icy cold treats to help you get through the hot or crazy moments.