What to Expect While Vacationing at Disney World with Kids

If your family ever vacations at Disney World, whether it's your first visit or a favorite destination, the trip will be steeped in expectations.  Obviously, you'll expect adventure and fun -- and hopefully good weather and good health during the trip.  You'll expect crowds and lines.  You'll expect parades and princesses, rides and roller coasters, sights and shows.  You'll expect pictures, memories, and probably a few souvenirs.

These expectations are all givens.  Today, however, I'm here to share some lesser-discussed things you should expect when traveling to Disney -- observations that might not make a brochure, but tried and true ones nonetheless.

Expect odd text message sequences.  During your time in the parks, you will send an inordinate number of text messages to your spouse, most of which will be devoted to asking and answering the question, "Where are you?"  Looking back you'll realize that nearly all of these messages would be incomprehensible without the proper context:

Had to walk to China to use the restroom. 
Waiting for pirates. 
Villains parking. 135 Scar!

Expect germs.  Your kids will touch surfaces that thousand of other people have touched -- tables, rides, railings -- and no matter how frequently or persuasively you urge them not to put their hands in or near their mouths, they will.  You'll badger and cringe and distribute hand sanitizer, but at some point, you'll simply hang your head and think, "Just go ahead.  Just lick the ground now, too."

Of course, you won't verbalize this because you know that at least one of your kids might take you up on the suggestion.

Expect collisions.  As if they want to get trampled, your kids will suddenly stop walking the moment they step directly in front of you.  Repeatedly.  If you're observant, you'll witness the near-trampling of several other children who aren't your offspring when they stop walking directly in front of their own parents.  You'll feel a little badly, but then you'll quietly chuckle.  And probably trip on your own child again.

Expect at least one moment of panic.  At some point you might be walking along with the crowds and realize that you're missing a kid, a realization that causes your heart to pound, senses to heighten, and search and rescue skills to kick into overdrive.  Typically, you'll find them just a few paces behind in an entirely innocuous activity, like tying their shoe, gazing at the castle, or wandering toward an ice cream cart.  Because you're used to your kids being directly in front of you (see above), this will throw you for a moment.

To combat this, you'll obsessively count heads -- one, two, three, got 'em.  You'll even count other people's children for them.  You're welcome.

Expect fashion highs and lows.  Despite the fact that you're gallivanting with princesses and posing for pictures on a much greater frequency than normal life, you will look (or at least feel) slightly disheveled at all times.  You will look at other parents, commiserating with their overstuffed backpacks and the child propped on their hip who, like a true toddler, keeps messing with their hair.

In light of this, you never will understand how some women are walking around in heels.

Expect sugar.  Even while adhering to some modicum of good sense and parental responsibility, you will let your children eat what they normally wouldn't.


Expect high mileage.  The sugar will be okay because you'll walk at least ten miles daily.  If you stay at Disney for awhile, it's like doing half marathons repetitively over sequential days -- just half marathons that take twelve hours to complete and are paused for parades, meals, and greeting people wearing animal costumes.

Expect tears.  Tears in Disney?  These are inevitable.  And that's just on your behalf.  Your kids might even momentarily melt down along the way, too.

Expect magic. You know it sounds cliche, but you'll watch your children's eyes widen and you'll suck in your breath from time to time and realize, "This really is special."  You'll think of Walt Disney's quote, "I don't want the public to see the world they live in when they're in the park.  I want them to feel they're in another world."

Nailed it, Walt.  You nailed it.

Have you ever been to Disney?  What else would you add to the list?

Image adapted from Brian Williams.
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  1. I would add to NOT have too many expectations. This was one thing that kept our trip fun for all. We didn't expect our kids to love the characters (and the one actually disliked them). We didn't expect to ride many rides - we actually exceeded this expectation. However, upon being spit on by Stitch, we found that my younger son was actually frightened of all of the 4D rides. With a lack of expectation for how the trip would go, we just changed plans and worked around the bumps in the road. Canceled the second character lunch we had planned. Took turns riding the 4D rides with my older son. Had a magical, wonderful time. The one thing I completely didn't expect, though with the mentioned 10 mile walks, I should have known, was how exhausting the trip would be. So rewarding and fabulous, but completely exhausting.

    1. I completely echo the themes of rewarding, fabulous, and exhausting, Shavahn! Sounds like you managed beautifully, and I'm so glad you had such a wonderful trip.

      Stitch should have better manners. ;)


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