I think my partner and I made a “no Disney” pledge before I was even out of the first trimester. We aren’t big into princesses and the idea of spending our much-craved, much-saved for, precious vacation time around a million kids and families didn’t really peak our interest. So how did we become people who order specialty ears on Etsy and plan Disney-themed outfits for 3, you ask? Parenthood and real life happened. So like most well-intentioned-but-naive pre-parenthood pledges, we decided to eat our words and jump in the shallow end (for us this meant Disneyland not Walt Disney World) and go experience the magic with some of our closest friends. And while we aren’t bending over backwards to go back anytime soon, we did have a great time and learned along the way how to make the most of this type of anti-vacation. Here’s how to get in and out of the happiest (and most stressful) place on earth with your sanity intact.
1. Don’t count the 2-year-olds out. People always say “but they won’t remember it!” and I get that, but they will have more fun than even imaginable and photos will be their memories. We definitely thought our daughter was too young, but taking her at 2.5 was a great decision. First and most importantly, they are free before age 3. Free is my favorite! With two-year-olds, it’s not about carefully planning rides, character events or FASTPASS. We seriously only rode two rides in two days. For toddlers, the magic is everywhere from waiting in line for an ice cream cone right next to Buzz Lightyear to dancing in the “street” as a car drives by carrying Minnie Mouse. They are legit happy just walking around and waving to characters and sometimes even employees. Bonus tip: my favorite Austin Moms Blog contributor gave me the tip to make sure and get an autograph book, and it was KEY to the success of this trip. Characters can be a little intimidating when you are under 3-feet tall, but the autograph book provides a much needed buffer and ice breaker. Our daughter has memorized everyone’s autographs and looks through that thing at least once a week. Trust me, take the (free) toddler.
3. Bring your own stroller even though it’s a pain. My daughter is not a stroller kid, but we use our jog stroller (sidenote: best jog stroller ever) all the time, so I knew she would be most comfortable having her familiar space to rest and recharge. There are approximately eight million strollers (including a lot of rentals that all look the same) at theme parks, so knowing yours in a crowd is priceless. Our jog stroller has a huge basket, a huge sun shade, and multiple cup holders. You need all of these things as much as you need sunscreen and water. Don’t underestimate how much STUFF you will be schlepping even before souvenir shopping. Do I like airplane travel with a huge bulky jog stroller? Not really, but it turned out to be a wise choice (See number 4).