Disney on a Budget, Part 10: Travel Advice

The last post I wrote was about the second day we spent at Magic Kingdom. For this last post in the series about our summer trip to Disney World I will be covering a little travel advice we have learned over our trips to Florida.

As was discussed in several posts earlier in the series, this was not our first trip to Disney in Florida. Anyone who knows me also knows that I can think of many other places I would rather be. Excessive heat, crowds, overpriced items. None of these are on my list of enjoyable activities. Florida has all three. That being said, this trip to Disney was an enjoyable experience. Yes, I said enjoyable and Disney in the same sentence.

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During our first Disney experience I wondered how in the world it could be called “the happiest place on earth.” Everywhere I looked there were exhausted, tantruming children, and exasperated parents. It was the same when I looked in the mirror. Yet our latest trip was relaxing and filled with mostly normal behaviors. From both the kids and adults. What changed? Was it only because the kids were older? Nope. In fact our first trip was made with 2 kids and now there are 3.

What changed was experience. And acceptance. We were familiar with the process this time. And we accepted that everything at Disney takes longer than you initially plan. We spent weeks, maybe months, planning for our first trip. We researched extensively online to see how long we should plan at each attraction. We wanted to get the most bang for our buck. After all, it is not a cheap adventure. All that planning backfired.

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We packed many of our days completely full. Be at the park when it opened to beat the crowds to the back of the park. Stay late to see the fireworks and laser shows. Do as many things as possible in the middle. With the exception of one “rest day” in the middle of the trip everyday was like this. These long days wore on the patience of the entire family. And we joined the masses. Tantrums and raw nerves abounded. We made it trough the trip. But it was not as enjoyable as it should have been.

Our second trip was better, but only a little. While we had some experience in the parks we added a wrinkle and brought an 18 month old with this time. We did adjust our schedule some to fit her naptime. But we still planned days that were too long on occasion. Overall, the trip was much better. We had some downtime each day to let the older kids have free play time and the youngest to nap. The parents got a reprieve from the crowds and “I want.” We had a much more realistic idea of how long things would take. We also had the big unknown of the amount of time the robotics competitions would require. That altered our schedule some too.

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This last trip was our best. We knew we had 3 1/2 days in the parks as a family. Jocelyn and I had an extra day, but we did not count that into our family planning. Since we had 3 1/2 days, we planned enough things to keep us busy for 2 1/2 days. We had finally learned the secret to a happy family trip to Disney. Plan way more free time than you think you will need. If you build your schedule and it looks like you will need 5 days in the parks, plan for 7. Or plan for two trips. The second time around is much more relaxing. You have completed many of the must see character visits and those lines can be avoided. You have also discovered what your family finds most fun.

A second trip may be more enjoyable but it is also expensive. This is why I think a longer single trip may be a more realistic alternative for many people. The Disney Park passes are cheaper for additional days than they are for the first day or two. Although, if you are anything like me there is a limit to how many days in a row you can spend looking at Mickey’s smiling face. If you have a longer trip you can consider a day at Kennedy Space Center, or Sea World to break up the trip. Sea World is in the same metro area as Disney World. Kennedy Space Center is only a couple hour car ride across Florida. While you are there you can spend some time at the beach too.

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I never thought I would say that someone should extend their Disney trip. Or even more, plan a second one. However, to get through the tantrums and exhaustion they are good options. Disney is much more enjoyable when it is a truly relaxing trip for everyone. Disney does a wonderful job making the experience unforgettable. All you have to do is figure out how to make the most of their work.

Do you have any Disney travel tips? Share them with us and our readers!