In California we took a quick trip down to Los Angeles (my brother lives there) to take our then 19-month-old to Disneyland. My mother and aunt were visiting and we wanted to go before moving out of state (if you’ve lived in Northern Cali, you recognize the irony in this…big state). The family time was fantastic and Mr. C loved the parade but otherwise our one day experience seemed hot, crowded, and like a bombardment of marketing. Tickets prices being what they are these days, we agreed we’d wait to come back until the kiddo begged us.
Two years later, I found myself seeking a warm, all inclusive, affordable place to vacation for a week this Spring. Without time to get a passport the options were limited and not cheap. None of my findings satisfied our needs, then someone suggested Disney World. Ooo-kay, we’ll see. We are close enough to drive, after all.
One of my first web searches led me to the site MilitaryDisneyTips where I realized there was no way I could navigate all the military incentives. I went out on a real limb (those of you who know me will realize this), totally against my Do-it-yourself-until-you-break-it nature, and called the travel agency advertised there. Ears of Experience, specifically Jen Novak knew it all (be sure to go to her directly). I couldn’t be more thankful. What a completely different experience! Disney World, I have now concluded, is one of the only all-inclusive options in the continental U.S. where your kids can really enjoy themselves, too. Expensive? Not if you use someone who can help you find a deal. Crowded? Not when you work with someone who knows the busy weeks. The meal plan was absolutely worth it, and the shuttle system and availability of services at every location let me shut off my brain. As a matter of fact, we are going back again this Fall.
Sorry, this was not intended to be a sales pitch for Disney (who I still think shamelessly targets children and parents alike with adorable marketing we cannot possibly resist), but hey, sometimes you find something good and just have to share it. That said, I will share a major lesson learned from myself and another good friend who just went. Don’t OVERPLAN. There are so many tools and resources available it’s hard not to, especially for us control freaks. Upon reflection, the only stressful part of the trip was 100% me. Worried we wouldn’t get to maximize our experience, I spent half the time with my head in the Disney app rescheduling fast-passes, checking wait times, and hustling my family along to meet my imaginary schedule.
Next time, I intend to book only one fast pass per day and dinner reservations before we walk into the park… that’s it! I will read the fantastic guides Jen provided before I’m inside (I did plan to do this but didn’t) so I know about the rides when we happen upon them rather than digging for the papers. We’ll go early and see what we see. We’ll go back to the resort for lunch, swim, nap, have a drink, then mosey back out for dinner and a little more entertainment. If you’re looking for an easy, kid-friendly, all-incluive vacation this Fall, call Jen and see what she can do. If you have any great Disney tips you can share, please comment so we can all benefit!