Dr. Darria Goes To Disney:
I am firmly convinced that Disney World pumps Oxytocin (the hormone that causes you to forget the misery of childbirth, or you’d never have more than one child) into the air: while you’re there, there are moments you swear “we are NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN!” And then on your way home, you say “We should probably start planning our next trip!”
As having now attended Disney for my first time as a mother with a 1-year old and a 4-year old, I can reveal that (a) this experience was sharply different from coming with my girlfriends after senior year of high school, and (b) I now consider myself somewhat of an expert in Disney survival.
To enjoy (aka ~ survive) Disney with a young child or two, here’s what you need to know.
(1) Put hooks on your stroller specifically for hanging water bottles for easy access. Not only is it so easy to get dehydrated in the heat, we confuse thirst with hunger, which leads everyone to overeat (and what’s always in reach at Disney? CANDY and sugary drinks = later meltdowns). Keep bottles in reach for a quick water break every 20-30 minutes, and everyone will be happier. Besides, having them on hooks prevents you from having to dump out your Mary Poppins-style carpet bag of everything you brought just to grab a water. Oh, and unless you’re at Disney to run the Disney marathon, no one needs sports drinks – water is sufficient.
(2) Just go with it. Don’t try to optimize your FastPass schedule (spoken as a recovering FastPass junkie – I played that like some people choose their derby horse bets). Don’t try to cram in too many rides, because the best plan will inevitably fail when baby decides to fall asleep right before It’s a Small World. Acknowledge that sometimes getting in lines for a Disney ride will feel only marginally less pleasant than standing in line for TSA and probably closer to the DMV. That said, hearing your child squeal with laughter and throw their arms up in the air when you make the 7-foot drop on Seven Dwarves Mine Train makes it all worthwhile.
(3) Require that either your child’s lunch or breakfast have a lean protein and fruit or vegetable. I care about your child – I really do. But this one is for you. Because the only people who say “My family is going to eat healthy at Disney” have clearly never been to Disney. You’ll go crazy trying to get everyone to eat balanced meals, so simply make at least breakfast or lunch what I call “anchor meal” where your child gets lean protein, fiber (fruit, vegetable, and whole grains), and water, and you can worry less about what they eat the rest of the day in the park. (And Disney: you can make elephants fly and candlesticks dance, surely you could help a mama out with a few healthier options?)
(4) Plan indoor time (meals in air-conditioned restaurants and indoor rides) every 1-2 hours. In case you have never used Waze, Disney is in Florida, which means it is hot. Like, even in March. So, it’s easy – particularly for little ones who have more surface area than we do – to overheat. Alternate indoor and outdoor rides to have a heat-break or select lunch or snack spots that are indoors for a little AC every 1-2 hour when you’re traveling with littles.
(5) Stop by Joffrey’s for donuts some mornings. Just do it. You have to ask where the stand is in each different park, but after you’re handed a warm donut the size of your head, you will thank me. Because even with staying hydrated and cool and trying to eat a good meal here or there, it’s still Disney, and that means that donuts are absolutely required. Doctor’s orders.
As a friend told me, “If they took pictures of families as they leave Disney parks at the end of the day, NO ONE WOULD EVER GO.” That’s not why you go – you go for the anticipation, for the opportunity to be reminded that a group of flamingos is a “Flamboyance of Flamingos” (when did Elton John become an anthropologist?), to see your spouse become a 12-year old again on Space Mountain, and to get to see everything for the first time again, through the eyes of your child.
Because the truth is, the real magic of Disney is the magic of being a kid and getting to re-experience that special time with your child.