By Shannon Stuemke
Recently, I have started a new Facebook group called Traveling to WDW with Kiddos. There are many, many Facebook groups related to Disney in some form or another. There are many about traveling to Walt Disney World with kids. Still, I decided that even though many of these groups exist, I still have something to offer that I think will benefit my clients and other families traveling to Walt Disney World with little ones. Traveling to Disney with littles is a whole different animal than traveling with older kids or adults only. The stakes are even higher when it is your kid's first trip and you want it to be perfect. Trust me, I know. My husband and I did nothing but talk about how great it was going to be to take our non existent kids to Disney World one day. Then, when we became pregnant with my twin daughters, we talked about it even more! We set a plan in place to take them when they turned 5. We were so excited about the opportunity to share this place that we loved so much with them that we decided we couldn't wait one more year. 4! 4 would be the perfect age to take them to Walt Disney World.
So, we did just that. We talked this trip up to them for over a year. We told them about the great things they would see and do. I read everything there was to read about traveling to Disney with preschool aged kids. We practiced what it wold be like to wait in lines, to go through airport security, and to ride on an airplane for the first time. I ordered birthday t-shirts for the girls and Halloween t-shirts for the Mickey's Not so Scary Halloween Party we would be attending. Tinkerbell gifts! I wanted this trip to be extra magical because every 4 year old needs more magic on top of Disney's already existing magic. I scoured dollar stores and Target for the perfect Disney themed gifts to hand over to my children every morning that we were on the trip. We made our Disney countdown calendar and on 0 days until Disney, we embarked on the most magical vacation ever known to mankind!
Our first encounter with "magic" occurred at the airport. Getting checked in and security actually went pretty smoothly. Remember, we practiced "airport" several times at home before the big day. Once through security, we decided that we needed to eat before getting on the plane. After spending a million dollars on airport food, we sat the girls down to eat and over goes the chocolate milk. It went a lot of places but mostly it went all over my child's brand new backpack that I picked out especially for this trip and loaded down with all the recommended items that I needed to keep her busy on the plane. Also, the contents of that bag included the extra pair of clothes that were highly recommended in case a child say...spilled milk all over the outfit she had on (which is where the other half of the milk landed). Good thing she has a twin sister that wore relatively the same size as her. Off to the restroom to change her!
Speaking of restrooms,..have you ever taken a 4 year old into an airport restroom? Have you ever taken two 4 year olds into an airport restroom? Can you say...sensory overload? Toilets flushing non stop and hand dryers going off ; it is a complete nightmare! This is where our next piece of "magic" came into play. The screaming and crying of two 4 year old little girls yelling "are they automatic flushes" draws a lot of attention. It not only draws attention from other passengers but from airport security as well. Apparently, two little girls yelling "don't make me go" from the men's restroom at an airport is a problem. Pure magic! The good news for you is...because of this personal experience, I have a couple great tips to help with these types of situations.
Our flight went smoothly except for the fact that both girls told us for 1.5 hours on the airplane that they had to go "pee". If you think I could talk them into using the airplane bathroom then you must not have read the above paragraph. Thank goodness for the family restroom located right by where we disembarked once arriving in Orlando.
I'm going to jump to the second full day of our trip. This was my twins' 4th birthday. Of course I had planned a ton of extra magic for the day. Although I had tried to keep the day before their birthday on the calm side, (no park visits that day) they still were not feeling or behaving very magically. We had our first meltdown of the day as we were trying to make our very early reservation for breakfast at Be Our Guest located at Magic Kingdom. This pictures above depict the meltdown of my daughter Madison and the "I'm over it already" look of my daughter Mackenzie. (Thank you to our friend Jay who was traveling with us with his family for capturing these moments.) The second meltdown of the day occurred when my mom, who was also traveling with us, wanted to see her grandchildren ride "It's a Small World." This is her favorite ride and she had been talking it up to my girls for almost a year. After waiting in line for close to 30 minutes we arrived to the front of the line. My daughter Mackenzie took one look at the first dark tunnel that you enter and decided she was not going on it. Cue meltdown number 2 and number 3 all at the same time. If Mackenzie was not going to ride, neither was Madison. There was no convincing them that this particular ride is the calmest ride not only at Disney World but on the face of this planet. They were not going and everyone in line now knew this as well. Very magical! My husband quickly led them across the boat to the other side and by the time my parents and I completed the ride, the girls had passed out for a nap in their strollers. The rest of the day went much smoother after some much needed downtime.
As the week progressed we had our share of meltdowns from our daughters. There were several times we both said "we should have waited until they were 5 to come here." They loved Mickey who didn't talk and about came unglued when we went to see talking Mickey. It was kind of a game of hit and miss and walking on egg shells with what they would and would not like. The great part is, there are so many families there with young children and they have all had their moments of tantrums and meltdowns so they get it! On our very last day, we witnessed a couple traveling with their tween daughter and teenage daughter. You could tell the teenager was sulking and my husband and I heard the mom tell her she was basically being a brat and needed to get over it because they were at the most magical place on Earth. This encounter confirmed for us that although we were blaming our daughters' age on the meltdowns, less than magical behaviors can occur for children of any age even when traveling to the happiest place on Earth. I'm not sure if that made us feel better or worse but at least we knew it was not just because they were 4 years old.
Even through all the tantrums and not so magical moments, there of course were the moments that we will never forget. Seeing the look on your daughters face when she meets her favorite princess, watching fireworks in front of Cinderella's castle, and having your kids fall asleep on your shoulder during the long bus ride back to your resort are the ones that will keep us going back for more. It is all about the expectations. Traveling to Walt Disney World with kids is a whole different ballgame. We were well prepared but our expectations for what two little girls could handle were way too high. I have not wrote this article to scare you or discourage you from taking your preschoolers (or teenagers) to Disney. You really should! Just do your homework and go prepared with lots of handy tips for managing the vacation. The magical moments will be there and you will look back and think it wasn't all that bad. I guess that's why we are undertaking another "magical" vacation to Disney with them again in the Spring.
As I mentioned earlier in the article, I have a Facebook group called Traveling to WDW with Kiddos. This is the place to be if you are planning to take a Disney Vacation with your children anytime soon. It is also a great place to offer your tips and tricks for managing a Disney Vacation. I would love for you to join!
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