During a school break in October of 2012, when our kids were 6 and 9, we took a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando (which will hereafter in this post be referred to as WDW).
Sorry, this blog post won’t be a blow-by-blow of that trip with all the tips and tricks to a perfect WDW vacation, since it happened so long ago and, well, the trip was not perfect. I certainly won’t be providing a glowing review of the place, as the destination has its downsides. Nor will I be trashing it…we did have a fun time, and it’s an incredible man-made wonder. I can kind of relate to the people who go to WDW every chance they get because it’s fun and it’s fascinating, but I also kind of get those who refuse to give into the peer pressure and take out a second mortgage to go there.
Here’s what we loved about WDW:
All four of us love amusement park rides (except spinny ones…only one of us likes spinny rides). There were some awesome ride experiences, many of which we could all ride. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was our family favorite. My husband and I loved Expedition Everest, too.
WDW as a man-made wonder
We tend to be a National Parks type of family, but from a man-made wonders standpoint, there really is no place like WDW, probably second in man-made-wonder status only to Las Vegas. It’s incredible what has been created there, from the hidden trash system to the perfectly manicured grounds to the cutting-edge attractions. Truly. Everyone should at least see it to believe it.
The FastPass option
Once we figured out how to maximize the FastPass, we loved being able to divide and conquer, since our kids were different ages (and sizes) and wanted to ride different things.
The ability to stay on WDW property
We stayed at The Orleans. There was nothing special about the room, and the walk we had to take to get to our building was really long and confusing (and dark when your flight lands at midnight, like ours did). Still, it was very handy to stay at a WDW property. Specifically for:
- The shuttle system: Using the shuttle system connecting the different parks to the lodging was super convenient.
- The variety of pools at the hotel: Even in October it was pretty steamy in Orlando. It was nice to be able to easily take an afternoon break from the parks and hit the pool.
- Access to a concierge service: We were glad we ordered water bottles and some breakfast food from Mouse House Concierge (which is no longer in business) prior to our arrival. It was delivered to our hotel in time for our stay, and we were able to bring these items into the park. Saved us some time and money, for sure.
What we didn’t love about WDW:
I probably don’t need to say much more about this. It cost us an insane amount of money for everything at WDW, and I’m sure it’s even more expensive now than when we went.
I remember lines for rides, lines for getting to meet Tinkerbell, lines for eating…
The sheer enormity of the place
Seriously, the place is overwhelming. I thought I did research and had some semblance of a plan going in, but I felt paralyzed once we got there. Eventually we figured some things out, like the the FastPass. Even with their app, the size of the parks and the number of options was overwhelming. I’m quite sure we missed out on some must-do activities because we just couldn’t find them amongst the clutter.
When preparing to go to WDW for three days, we were clear with our kids that this was going to be their one trip to this magical resort that we would bankroll. We were secretly prepared, however, for them to beg to go back after having the time of their lives. But you know what? They have never, ever asked to go back. Maybe once, but kind of in passing, much like they might say, “We should eat at Perkins again sometime.”
I think the reason our kids weren’t left with an indelible Disney imprint on their brain may have to do with the fact that, after three days at WDW, we headed to the ocean at Cape Canaveral for three days (as well as a trip to Kennedy Space Center, which my husband and I wanted to see…see my family travel planning post that suggests making sure parents get something they choose out of the deal).
The experience of their first time going to the ocean and playing on its beaches was so much more exciting and fun for them. I think it kind of took some of the shine off their WDW memories. They ask to back to a beach all the time. Disney…not so much. So this family will save our money and put it toward more trips to National Parks and beaches and be all the happier for it.
If you’re interested in more vacation ideas for toddlers and young children, check out this post from AllTheRooms.com: Best Vacations for Toddlers and Young Children
If you found this post useful, check out World is Wide’s destinations from our family’s travel bucket list: