Several months ago, the CMB writers got together for a planning meeting to discuss the coming year and pitch ideas for topics we might like to tackle. When my turn came around, I joked that, because I’m not one to shy away from controversial topics, I’d like to write something about Disney World. A few mild chuckles ensued, but then really quickly, side conversations started, and we got way off track, talking all things Disney. It basically reiterated to me what I already knew when I made the joke. And that is this: people feel reeeeaaallly strongly about Disney. People have intense, passionate feelings on the subject. I have intense, passionate feelings on the subject.
Too many for one post, in fact, so I’m going to break it down into a little miniseries about “The Happiest Place on Earth.”
My husband and I first took our son to Disney World two years ago, just after he turned two. We treated it as a fact-finding mission, really. My son got into the parks for free and ate for free, so we thought it would be the perfect time to make sure it was something we could really see ourselves doing in the coming years. Neither one of us had been in roughly 15 years, so who knew if we’d even like it?
Well, let me just say, when you experience the joy that is Disney through the eyes of a child, it’s really hard not to drink the Kool-Aid. We were officially hooked.
I learned a lot on that first trip, and then on the subsequent trip we made last year. Upon returning from each of those trips, I immediately wrote down my takeaways and things that I didn’t want to forget for future trips, so I want to share with you two of the biggest things I learned. You can love ’em or leave ’em. The bottom line is that, despite what some people may tell you, there’s no wrong way to do Disney.
Plan. Plan. Plan. There’s vacation planning, and then there’s Disney vacation planning. And I might just love this part as much as I love the actual trip, because planning is one of my favorite pastimes. Okay, this is where I might start to sound like a crazy person, so bear with me. I listen to Disney podcasts year round. I’m not suggesting you do this, but I am saying it might be really handy maybe a month or two before your trip to download a few and have a listen. These won’t just pump you up for your trip, they will give you handy info that will probably be pertinent for your trip such as ride closures, special events that might be happening in a certain park, etc.
My personal favorites include:
–Mousechat.net is a group chat atmosphere with really fun Disney planners who have a wide range of opinions, and bonus, one of them really loves to come up with puns on the fly, so that sealed the deal for me.
–WDW Prep To Go features one woman, Shannon Albert, who has the best voice and delivers straightforward news and quick tips, but my favorite episodes are the ones where she’ll interview a first-timer before and after their trip.
–The WDW Radio Show is hosted by Lou Mongello, who has been doing this podcast since 2007, so he’s pretty much the authority on all things Disney, plus he likes to quote the movie “Clue” a lot, so you know he’s a good dude.
–2 Men and the Mouse is a little different from the others because they cover news, but they also do things like deep dives into a ride’s history, or create fantasy leagues full of Disney characters.
Another way we love to prep at my house is to watch YouTube videos about Disney. What is great about this is that my four year old really gets into these. Our favorite YouTube channel is MrCheezyPop. Maxwell Glick is a really fun, genuine guy whose earnest love of Disney is infectious. As of this writing, his video on mickey shaped treats has been viewed 18,350 times, of which I believe my son has accounted for roughly 18,000, but I digress…Here’s the link to that video to give you a taste of his channel.
And one final note on the planning side. As much as I love planning, I still have loads of questions every year, which is why I use an official Disney Vacation Planner. My planner, Allison, focuses on all the nitty gritty minutiae for me, finding me the best prices and deals, and she helps me cater my trip to my family. It’s no cost to me, and I get to support a friend’s business, so everybody wins.
A lot of people, myself included, are going to tell you specific things you neeeeeeed to do while you’re at Disney. But there’s only so much time on your trip, and there are only so many things you can squeeze in, even with the most efficient touring plan. But if I learned anything from those first two trips, it’s that your version of magic is no less magical than someone else’s. Disney can easily become the most expensive vacation option going, so we have decided to do it on a really tight budget so that we can try to go every year. There are so many add-on options that a sense of FOMO can slowly creep into your mind, and Disney is really smart about trying to up-sell you on a lot of cool experiences. We just can’t do them.
Would it be nice to stay at a luxury resort steps away from Magic Kingdom? Absolutely! But to be honest, the theming is really great for toddlers at the Value resorts, and I really appreciate that. Plus, my now four year old wouldn’t really grasp it if I tried to explain to him how expensive everything is at Disney. Cause believe me, I’ve tried that. I tried it the first year, when my son’s favorite thing the entire trip were these smooth rocks he found on the ground at Animal Kingdom. We have rocks at home, I screamed! I tried it again last year, when it was the miniature train in Germany at Epcot. We have trains at home, I shouted! Alas, he didn’t seem to care. But now we have these hysterical memories that I’ll never forget.
So my best advice is to refer to takeaway #1, and plan the heck out of your trip, but also be prepared to ditch that plan in favor of unexpected moments and don’t seek out certain rides or shows or hotels or restaurants just because they are the ones that everyone else says are the must-dos. My must-do list may look radically different from yours, and that is perfectly fine. The magic can happen anywhere and everywhere. Make the trip yours.