Walt Disney World: The Happiest Place on Earth?

January 23, 2018

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:

The rides

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.


World is Wide Travel Gift Ideas

Looking for personalized gifts for the travel lovers in your life? Click above to see the keepsakes we create in our home in Minnesota!


What we didn’t love about WDW:

The cost

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.

The lines

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.


The Results

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 go 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.

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If you found this post useful, check out World is Wide’s destinations from our family’s travel bucket list:

Our Family’s Travel Bucket List


  • Reply
    Christina Dwiggins
    March 29, 2018 at 8:54 pm

    Great info and advice! I would love to take my kids to Disney sometime.

    • Reply
      March 29, 2018 at 9:28 pm

      Thanks! It’s an amazing man-made wonder, for sure, but not without its downsides, in my opinion. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    The Globetrotter Guys
    March 30, 2018 at 11:08 am

    Thanks for these tips! We know its expensive but one of those bucket list items that just has to be paid for!

    • Reply
      March 30, 2018 at 11:24 am

      Yes, we felt the same way! We framed to our kids as their one and only trip to Disney, and they’ve never asked to go back. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Alexander Popkov
    March 30, 2018 at 6:27 pm

    The top image with the shark. How did you do that? Is it some sort of plugin? Looks cool!
    And yes, well done with the post πŸ™‚

    • Reply
      March 30, 2018 at 6:48 pm

      Ha! No, it’s a shark statue somewhere at Walt Disney World that my kids climbed into. πŸ™‚ I wish I was talented enough to create that on my computer!

  • Reply
    Epepa Travel Blog
    March 31, 2018 at 8:36 am

    Visiting Walt Disney World must be a great attraction for children. When I was younger, I always wanted to go to such an amusement park :). I would like to go there even now πŸ™‚

    • Reply
      March 31, 2018 at 9:01 am

      It is pretty awe-inspiring! But it is also overwhelming and expensive. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    March 31, 2018 at 8:57 am

    I never went to Walt Disney World as a child but I did in my early 20s and did not really see the appeal. Maybe if I have kids I would take them one day (but only if they asked me too!)

    • Reply
      March 31, 2018 at 9:02 am

      We framed it to our kids as their one and only trip to Disney. They’ve never asked to go back. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Adrenaline Romance
    March 31, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    Great info as well! And we like it that your kids prefered the beach or places of science. Although we would love to visit Disneyworld—we know about it since we were children but never had a chance to visit any DWD because we’re from the Philippines—nothing beats the fun and knowledge gained in Nature and in places of science.

    • Reply
      March 31, 2018 at 10:45 pm

      Thanks! Walt Disney World is definitely worth seeing…it’s pretty amazing! There were things we loved about it, and things we didn’t, but I would always say people should see it and judge for themselves. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Medha Verma
    April 1, 2018 at 2:59 am

    I am in my thirties, without children, and I LOVE Disneys! I’ve been to quite a few around the world and I agree with a lot of things that you mentioned here about the one in Orlando. I love that you can stay inside DisneyWorld, only 3-4 min away from anyone of the parks. But the sheer size of it can be overwhelming, to decide where to go, what all rides to do, which ones to skip is a tough thing because it is impossible, in my opinion, do be able to do all the rides, in all the parks. I also hated the fact that there were queues EVERYWHERE and massive ones( we went in august and apparently that is the worst time) and also, many rides either stopped working, had technical issues and what not. That’s when I realised, although other Disneys around the world are smaller and have lesser options, it’s still better because they’re easier to traverse and definitely lesser crowded!

    • Reply
      April 1, 2018 at 8:49 am

      Thanks, Medha. Yes, I would guess that it might be much less overwhelming at smaller Disney venues. Orlando’s is really too much for me. But they are really man-made wonders, right?!

  • Reply
    April 1, 2018 at 9:15 am

    Ohh I’m in love with Disney Parks! πŸ˜€ and I want to spend 3 days there haha. I feel like a child there and I want to try everything, everything is just “must” when you’re there, isn’t it?

    • Reply
      April 2, 2018 at 8:21 pm

      There’s so much! It is amazing, and it is overwhelming. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Suburban Traveller
    June 14, 2018 at 12:25 pm

    Great blog!! Couldn’t agree more about Disney. I’m so glad we went, but we won’t be rushing back anytime soon. There’s a big, beautiful world out there and we want to see it all! πŸ™‚

    • Reply
      June 14, 2018 at 12:55 pm

      Thanks! Well said. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    June 15, 2018 at 5:45 am

    You tried to cram Disney World into 3 days? No wonder nobody wants to go back. Visiting Disney World is like visiting a very active city. You need to go in with a plan and prioritize. There’re also many ways to save money. I think it’s a great value for all that you get.

    • Reply
      June 15, 2018 at 6:04 am

      I’m glad you love WDW (I really do understand why), and I totally get that there are bargains to be had and better ways to see it. We were very aware that we wouldn’t see it all in three days, but that was all we could feasibly budget financially and time-wise. If it were more our kind of destination, we’d find a way to visit again with better planning, now that we know more of what to expect. But since we weren’t into it enough with the sampling we got, we likely won’t return. To each their own.

  • Reply
    June 24, 2018 at 9:37 am

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Disney. I want to move into an apartment overlooking Main Street USA and eat breakfast with Minnie Mouse every day. Not that we go often…. I haven’t been inside the parks in 8 years, but we’re taking our 4 year old this fall. My husband is, like your family, a BIG national parks guy. I hate camping and I’m not an outdoors person unless you’re talking about the beach. Where is the compromise for our future vacations? Basically, he’s very lucky to have me because I want to go to ALL THE PLACES and DO ALL THE THINGS. I’m planning our Disney trip, our 10th anniversary trip to Boyne, Michigan, a cruise for his 50th birthday, another trip to Disney and a family trip to the Grand Canyon – so basically the next 6 years of vacations! I saw a blog post (from a Disney fanatic that goes several times a year,) that said, “Remember that the World Showcase in Epcot is just a theme park – go see the actual world it’s showcasing.”

    • Reply
      June 24, 2018 at 10:57 am

      Sounds like you have some awesome trips lined up! It is all about balance, right? πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    September 4, 2018 at 6:10 am

    Informative & well explained article. Great tips. Thanks for sharing such an valuable article.

    • Reply
      September 4, 2018 at 9:39 pm

      Thanks David!

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