Recently a blogger published a report reflecting on her family’s trip to Disneyland and comparing the experience to the Seven Levels of Hell. While I am sure she used this analogy to grab her readers attention, it is still an extremely harsh description for a trip that could have turned out so much better if only she had the proper guidance and assistance. As the owner of Once Upon a Time Vacations, the travel agency sponsor for Disney Mamas, I would like to address each of her “Seven Levels”. You can find the original article here.
- The Airport – Let’s be fair…unless you are driving to your destination, the airport will factor in to your family’s vacation regardless of your destination so this is not a Disneyland complaint. If you have younger children, bring a stroller and buckle them in after you get through security until you reach your gate. Airports are huge and crowded and you are probably lugging around a few carry-ons so why complicate things further by having your children unrestrained? Once checked in at your gate however, let them run around and get some energy out; they will not have this opportunity once in the air. Of course I am not saying let them run around like monkeys, climbing all over other passengers. Walk around the terminal to different windows to look at the planes, for example. Talk to your
kids about where the planes are going and what the people on-board may do when they get there. Once it is time to board your flight, do not be tricked by the offer for those with small children to board first! It’s a trap! Instead select one parent to board first with all the bags and the other parent will stay with the kids until final boarding. Again, once on-board your kids will be stuck sitting in their seats or worse, on you, for at least an hour if not three. Why extend that any longer than you have to? Once onboard, bring plenty of activities to keep them entertained!
- Park Hours – Just because the park hours are 7am – 10pm does not mean you have to be in the parks from 7am – 10pm nor does it mean once you are in the park you are forced to remain there until they close. The parks themselves are incredibly large with many audio/visual stimulants and are a lot for smaller children to handle. Stay at a Disney property, take advantage of the early morning hours (if you are early morning people), leave after lunch for an afternoon nap in the room and head back out in the evening to see the parades and fireworks. If you are so focused on getting it all in you will sacrifice someone’s happiness.
- Crowds/Waiting in Line – This again is not something specific to a Disney Destination. My family went to a local waterpark this summer and waited over an hour and a half for one ride. Lines are to be expected in any theme park; it is how you plan for them that will save your sanity. The most important piece of advice is to utilize the Fastpass system whether it is in advance at Walt Disney World or while in the parks at Disneyland. When you do have to wait in line, bring something to keep the kids busy/entertained while waiting; snacks are good and small toys and electronics will do the trick too!
- Bathroom Visits – Again, not exactly sure why this is a Disney vacation problem. Nature calls, it happens! Every Disney park has a plethora of well-tended restrooms with lots of stalls.
- Character Visits – Ok, this is a tough one. The truth is there is no way of knowing
how any child is going to react to face characters or fully costumed characters. I always recommend taking your kids somewhere local that has characters such as Rainforest Café and test the waters prior to leaving for your Disney vacation. When at a Disney Park, be flexible. If your child is apprehensive don’t push it and don’t worry about what others may be thinking. Trust me, they have either been there or are just glad it isn’t them! Let your child calm down, give it a few hours and try again, or don’t. You know your kids so do what is best for them and not what you think you need to do to fit some idea of what the perfect Disney vacation looks like.
- Food – I have to be honest…I am at a loss on this. We aren’t talking your average
amusement park food here! It is so much more than hamburgers and chicken finger baskets, and it is good. If you are looking for 5-star fine dining cuisine and butler style service, you will be disappointed but if you go in with the right expectations you should be pleased. Now that is not to say that you won’t get a bad meal, it happens…everywhere. On the whole, however, your dining experience should be better than average.
- Returning Home – On this point, I can agree, returning home is hard but not for the reasons given. Returning home means the escape from reality is over. No more clean streets and friendly cast members. No more magic and whimsy and fantasy. Returning home means back to school and work. It means cooking dinner and driving car pool and getting to practice on time. But most of all it means that all of the intrusions of the real world equal less time enjoying your family; not your everyday normal family but the family you become at a Disney Destination. A family that is truly enjoying being together and laughing just because they are happy. That is what I end up missing most.
I understand a Disney vacation isn’t for everyone and not everyone will enjoy it. I get that. I can promise you however that your family’s enjoyment will increase exponentially if you use an expert to help you plan it. When finding that expert there are a few key things to look for. First, there is no such thing as a Certified Disney Specialist (or any other word they choose to use in place of Specialist). Those that claim to be are part of an organization that is the travel industry’s equivalent of Amway, a multi-level marketing business whose profits are directly increased by the number of members they sign up. They are not a true travel agency with a vested interest in educating their members. Instead look for agencies who have achieved the designation Authorized Disney Vacation Planner from Disney and for agents who specialize in Disney Destinations. Read the agents bios to get a feel for their personal experience traveling to and enjoying Disney Destinations or ask them to tell you about it. Most of all find an agent you connect with. Most agents who specialize in Disney Destinations offer concierge level services including planning your itinerary, booking dining reservations, scheduling your FastPasses if traveling to Walt Disney World, and more. They will use their personal knowledge and experience to help you identify the must see attractions for your family as well as help navigate you through the parks to minimize waits and maximize your family’s enjoyment. And most do all of this at no additional cost meaning you will pay no more by using a travel agent than you would if you booked directly with Disney and sometimes, they can even save you money by monitoring all Disney promotions and applying them to existing bookings that qualify.
All of our agents at Once Upon A Time Vacations specialize in Disney Destinations and all are Disney fans, visiting the parks yearly, if not more often, and have been doing so for year. Our services are completely free and our agents are here to answer any questions you may have while planning your vacation and during your vacation as well. You can find out more about us by visiting our website at www.onceuponatimevacations.com or follow us on Facebook!