We did it. We took our kids to Disney World.
Full disclaimer: if you’re looking for tips and tricks on how to plan the ultimate Disney World trip, please stop reading. This isn’t that. This is more my mere recollection of my 96 whirlwind hours at the happiest place on Earth.
As a child of the 90s, I grew up on Disney. I’ve argued before that the early 90s were the pinnacle of Disney movies. I’m not sure if that’s a hot Millennial take or fairly valid, but I’ll save that discussion for another blog. Regardless I’m a Disney fan, but had never been to Disney World (neither had my wife).
Our trip was our kids’ Christmas presents. One of our family values is Experiences Over Possessions, so this gift fit this mantra.
I can’t stress this enough: my wife absolutely crushed planning our trip. Countless hours spent. Solicitation of help from not one, but two Disney-specific travel agents (yes, these are actually a thing, and I don’t know how you’d survive the trip without the careful guidance of one). She did everything. She’s a rockstar all the time. I was worthless leading up to our voyage.
We got into town mid-day, so we spent day one at the resort, settling in and swimming at the biggest pool I’ve ever seen. After the Ohio winter, a twilight dip was welcomed by us all. We booked the Art of Animation resort, which we all thoroughly enjoyed and can vouch for.
Day two was completely dedicated to the Magic Kingdom. I was a bit shell shocked upon arrival. The crowds were huge, but I’m not necessarily anti-big crowds. What took me back was the pace. Everyone is frenzied, panicked and relentlessly checking the Disney mobile application on their smartphone while sprinting to their next attraction, trying to beat line wait times. The efficiency the Disney app provides with real-time updates and scheduling is amazing and convenient, but I found it jarring to see so many people’s attention consumed by their screen while simultaneously trying to enjoy a very immersive, real-life experience.
I also underestimated the Disney fanatics. Again, I’m a fan, but not a super fan. But if you don’t have a Disney shirt in Disney World, did you really even go to Disney World? It seems the real pros design their own t-shirts. A few dads adorned prints addressing the costs of a Disney vacation. One with Mickey’s silhouette and just the word “broke” was equally hilarious, accurate and sad. This one was my favorite:
And speaking of, and this is hardly a spoiler alert, but Disney World is the most expensive place I’ve ever been. I was slapped across the face by this fact on night one when I ordered a 18-ounce beer and a small seltzer for the wife at the resort, and the total was $31.
If I do have one pro tip, it would be in the beverage and hydration department though: first aid locations across the parks have cold, filtered water available for refillable water bottles. We packed ours and stayed well-hydrated throughout our visit.
We also packed our double jogging stroller, as this was a common recommendation, even for kids our ages. Of course, on day two we got a flat front tire that could not be repaired. Kudos to the engineering prowess of BOB Gear, as this posed a minor challenge and inconvenience, but we were able to power through.
In late March, the temperatures were consistently in the 80s, which isn’t terribly hot, but enough to wear you down after cooking all day. As my wife stealthily documented, sweaty back is real, especially pushing a broken double stroller. I can’t imagine the central Florida heat and humidity (and resulting sweaty back) in the summer months.
Not surprisingly, highlights from most of my trips are the meals. Two dining options I recommend:
It was important to refuel (i.e., overindulge) given we walked 28 miles in three days spent across Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. Covid protocols across the parks were basically nonexistent, aside from not being able to touch or come into close proximity with the mascots. I found it interesting that the one job in the parks that required a huge mask was not allowed to be near the guests, but someone smarter than me can explain that one. [UPDATE: literally the same day this published, we read in one of our favorite mommy blogs that Mickey will hug again!]
All of the rides were terrific, but not surprisingly, Space Mountain was a family favorite and lived up to the hype. I highly recommend the new Star Wars section for any Star Wars enthusiast. My mind was blown by the Kilimanjaro Safari and the proximity to a variety of animals. A few others were memorable: Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Slinky Dog Dash, Avatar Flight of Passage, and the Winnie the Pooh ride (but I might be biased, since I’m a Pooh guy).
Part of the carrot for our timing of our trip, was that the high school marching band that my brother-in-law is the director for was marching in the parade. It's always awesome to see his amazing band, but Disney parades are beyond any other I've seen before.
When we’d get back to the resort at night, the kids would ask if we could go swimming. As tired as I was, this trip was once in a lifetime, so I happily obliged. I certainly have no regret ending every long day with a pool session and to hear their laughs a little while longer before passing out.
Disney World is hot, crowded and expensive, but man, you can’t beat the memories created and the wonder in your children’s eyes as they experience this mecca for family entertainment and amusement. We’ve been home a week, and my kids are still asking for and cracking up at my amateur Mickey, Goofy and Donald impressions.
I don’t know if and when a return trip might be, but I’m truly grateful we had this time as a family at the happiest place on Earth.
-Steve Michalovich, contributor, CBUS Dads
CBUS Dads is a community of central Ohio area dads balancing an active lifestyle with being an involved parent. A Saturday for us may involve enjoying morning t-ball, lunch at a new local spot and an evening at a summer festival with our families. We may live downtown, in the suburbs or somewhere between, but our common thread is that we continue to experience the community we love - now as parents.