10 Things Our Disney Vacation Taught My Kids
We took our oldest child to Walt Disney World for the first time when he was nine-months-old. We planned to fly that trip and I asked our pediatrician for tips on flying with an infant for the first time.
Our dear doctor looked at me like I was crazy and said, “You know he won’t remember any of this trip.”
He was right. I knew it even then. That first trip was more for my husband and me athan it was for our son. I do not regret one minute of that trip. We had a wonderful time and it stands out as one of our best Disney vacations ever. Our son has been to Disney six times in the last 13 years and our daughter has been 4 times in the last nine years. Luckily we live close enough to visit every couple of years.
If you’re looking for a laid back vacation, Disney isn’t going to fit the bill. But if you like adventure, thrills, and amazing customer service, book a trip to visit the mouse. You won’t be disappointed.
This particular trip I began to notice some new maturity in our kids and some of that comes from lessons we’ve learned through all our trips into the heart of Florida.
You don’t just go to Disney on a whim. We knew four years ago that we’d be back this summer. We started anticipating the trip last summer and planned most of the details 3 months in advance. Many people book their tickets 6-12 months in advance to take advantage of special pricing. A certain joy exists in anticipating a big trip. We talked about what we wanted to ride, watched videos from the newest rides and laughed about memories from our past trips. Want to help your kids understand the benefits of delayed gratification in a world that promotes instant gratification? Plan a trip to Disney.
While Disney isn’t a laid back vacation for beach-lovers, it’s not always a fast-moving trip either. We created a plan to make the most of their FastPass system, but we still ended up standing in line quite often. With instant access to video games and television, our kids don’t know how to manage boredom and neither do we. My husband and I had our phones in the parks, but our kids did not have their electronics. Disney has a new app with games you can play with your family that relates to some of the rides and we took time to take in the scenery, which is pretty fantastic. It was a great opportunity to cut the cord for a while and spend some time together.
For the first in forever (please say you sang that with me) everyone in our group was tall enough to ride everything. Our youngest child has never been a big fan of roller coasters although the rest of us love them. We were concerned after one ride she’d back out and someone would have to sit out with her. One flip through Rock ‘n Roll Roller Coaster though and she came over to our side. We did spend some time preparing her for all the rides, but she faced her fear like a champ. Better than her mama did, in fact. After riding Tower of Terror the week I turned 18 in 1996 I have successfully avoided this ride for over 20 years. Until this last week. Because I love my family and they wanted to ride I went on it with them. You can see what I think about this ride while my entire family looks at me and laughs. That's me front row, left side, fourth seat to the right. This picture was taken in the middle of the ride and it was not staged. Let’s just say we all faced some fears this last week.
We stay on the Disney property and ride their buses to and from the park every day. Seating is limited and the bus drivers will fit as many people as possible on the bus. That means you’re often standing uncomfortably close to strangers who have also been in a very hot park for 12+ hours. Don’t worry. You can’t smell them over yourself. :) On many of our past trips we were pushing a stroller and carrying little ones onto the buses. Someone always stood up so I could have a seat with our little one. This year was our turn to give up a seat. My kids willingly gave up their seat for a mom holding a baby, little ones who didn’t need to stand, and the elderly. We don’t live in a place with a mass transit system. The Disney buses gave them a new perspective on kindness.
Close to kindness is Disney’s unparalleled hospitality and customer service. Their entire goal is to ensure their guests have a good time. If something doesn’t work out the way it should, they are quick to hand out extras without giving it a second thought. And they do it with a smile. All of their employees, from the person who takes out the trash to the one dressed a Cinderella, are called Cast Members. When they clock in they are all on stage as performers in your vacation. Disney knows you’ve spent a ton of money just to walk through their gates. They don’t apologize for their pricing but they also ensure you receive everything you came for.
One of my favorite parts of Disney is walking through the museum dedicated to Walt in Hollywood Studios. I’ll never tire of reading his story. He started from nothing and grew an empire that nearly a century later is going strong and entertaining millions. That’s a legacy!! We walk through and read the plaques every time we visit. Even if my kids catch just a glimpse of Walt’s vision and entrepreneurial spirit each time we visit, I believe that’s enough to stir a little bit of awe in them.
Not Getting Everything We Want
I love souvenirs and almost every kid wants one of everything when they walk through the gates of the Happiest Place on Earth. We limit our kids to one souvenir from the trip. That means they need to consider what they request carefully. It also has to be a reasonable request (no, we did not buy the $90 fully sequined mini-backpack however darling it may have been).
On the flip side of inspiration comes disappointment. Some rides we could only ride once because the line became so very long. And when you lose the one souvenir you picked out on the second day, we can’t always go back to look for it, especially when you discover it’s lost just as the park turns out the lights for the fireworks show and you are hemmed in by a thousand people.
I know, everyone’s mourning the loss of our kid’s carefully chosen souvenir. We could not retrace our steps to recover the water spritzer with a fan attached because we were in the smack middle of the crowd watching the closing fireworks and the park lights had been turned off. Once the show was over we were doing our best not to get run over trying to get out of the park. My dear husband looked at me and suggested we stop by guest relations to see if the water bottle had been turned in. I had already planned to suggest this but he got to it first. I’d guess they sold hundreds if not thousands of those spritzers every day, and we weren’t the only ones to lose one. We stopped by guest relations. They looked in the back and, wouldn’t you know it, they had one just like ours in the lost and found.
Sometimes things don’t go the way you planned. It rained every day. Some rides were shut down when we had a fast pass. The restaurant where we liked to eat had been turned into a reservation-only facility. Things happen. Our kids learn how to be flexible by watching how we manage the unexpected. I can’t promise we always handled it perfectly, but we tried to remember it was a vacation and the goal was fun, even if we had to rethink our schedules.
We can find many ways every day to teach these same lessons to our kids. You don’t have to spend money on a vacation or even leave your house to do it. Sometimes at home the busyness of everyday crowds out the lessons we want to teach our kids though. Getting out of our routine helps us to see what we couldn’t before.