Planning to take your brood to the Magic Kingdom for spring break? It's truly worth the extra planning and penny pinching to get there, but after three exhausting days, two near-abductions and one high-speed water slide wedgie, I decided that Disney definitely isn't for sissies.
By all means, go. Don't let me scare you, but do take a lesson: my family's recent Disney vacation was a little too much of a good thing-too much Mickey and not enough nappy.
Fly convenient, not cheap
Let's start with those seductive early-morning flights. In a word, don't. They're cheaper for a reason, folks. If I had it to do over I'd go with my original instinct to sleep in and take the mid-morning flight so we'd all have been better prepared to tackle the theme parks.
Avoid advance scheduling
Avoid over-scheduling dining reservations months in advance of your trip. How can you possibly anticipate when and where you'll be when hunger strikes? Don't be a slave to your schedule or you just might need a vacation from your vacation.
For better and for worse I scored a highly sought-after lunch at Cinderella's Castle for when we first arrived, so in spite of our kids' pleas to first take a break and swim at the hotel pool, off we went. Cinderella waits for no one, not even Prince Charming.
Another night I boldly scheduled a 9:30 p.m. dinner-theater meal at the famed Hoop De Do Musical Review. I'd originally reserved a more civilized time, but we were running late and inquired about a later reservation. Suffice it to say, I way overestimated my family's emotional mettle.
We weren't the only ones suffering from fun overload. One afternoon after the kids developed a serious case of the crankies, we made a lame threat to hire Donald Duck to babysit. Upon hearing our distress, another parent jokingly asked if he could share him and split the cost.
Don't overdo it
Know your family's limits. If your clan is a hardy crowd of never-say-never roller coaster enthusiasts with endurance to spare, knock yourselves out. But what if you've got a few who aren't? Divide and conquer. Those needing rest can enjoy some down time while the others go off to conquer the coasters. Noah and I struck out on our own one evening after Holly crashed early for the night and my husband stayed behind to rest.
I'll try anything once. I may have met my match in the Summit Plummet water slide at Blizzard Beach, however. Twelve stories, 60 mph and eight seconds later I felt like I'd been pummeled by a dozen angry gorillas. I limped away from that stupid slide, my bruised backside throbbing.
"Mom, wasn't that awesome?" Noah asked. He'd gone first. "Mom? Are you laughing?"
"No," I whimpered tearily, as I struggled to yank an industrial-strength wedgie from my backside and return my bathing suit skirt to a more lady-like position. What's worse, one of those over-eager Disney picture-people had apparently captured my humiliation for posterity.
Keep your eyes on your kids
Keep your kids close no matter how tired you are. An hour later, still damp from my high-speed thrashing, I hissed at my 7-year-old platinum pixie, Holly, to quit interrupting as I struggled to comprehend directions issued by the Disney bus driver. Holly finally snuck past me to climb on the bus so I grabbed her hand and held her back.
She tugged and implored "Please let go!" her voice oddly unfamiliar; I ignored her. She finally gave up and looked beseechingly at my husband, willing him to make it stop. I couldn't believe my mistake. It wasn't even Holly!
Later that night I nearly did it again, as a cashier rang up my purchase and I wearily leaned in to embrace the child standing beside me (this one wasn't even blonde). I stopped short when I realized my error and the child's mom chuckled and confessed to making the same mistake twice herself.
On our last Disney day, Holly begged to take my picture, but I'd submitted to enough photo ops by then. She was persistent and quipped: "It'll be perfect, Mom. Dreams do come true."
Sure thing, Tinkerbell. Maybe next time.
Tips for maintaining family harmony
• Pick one 'can't miss' attraction for each family member, hit those first and remember you just can't do it all in one trip.
• Limit the number of meal reservations.
• Occasionally forgo the soda and fries and instead drink water to keep you cool and stay energized.
• Daily rest periods are non-negotiable. Sitting while on a roller coaster does not count.
• Avoid long lines and whines: start at the back of the park and work your way forward.
• Avoid overcrowded buses between Disney destinations. Standing in the aisles is not a safe bet for tired tykes and their weary folks.
The Dubose children with Snow White and after conquering the Matterhorn.