Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Unhappiest Place on Earth and My Tips for Survival

Since I've found myself giving both solicited and completely imposed advice about taking kids to Disney World in the last few weeks (like eavesdropping in the pediatrician's office), I might as well blog about it.

I have decided that I am a legitimate expert on this topic and it will probably be my only useful blog post ever. The rest will be total drivel.

My qualifications:
1) I have taken my kids to Disney about 16 times in 7 years
2) I live in Florida and I have a season pass - that makes me an expert

Here's My List of Tips:

#1: Get it OUT of your mind that this is the Happiest Place on Earth. Because it is not. It might be if there were literally zero other people there and you've had a heart-to-heart with God about giving you perfect weather and cooperative kids.

Most people smell bad and everyone else except for you is stupid and they walk too slowly.

#2: Work on your "The Last Kid That Touched That Railing Had Poop On His Hands" talk track. Feel free to use mine. It's the only thing that I've found effective for keeping them from touching or licking everything in sight. "Poop fear " works brilliantly.

#3: Rules go out the window. Don't even try. I don't know why people want to keep their kids' schedules "normal" at in real life there is a giant Mouse and a Castle too. Your kids' heads are not going to explode if they get their nap at 2:01 in a stroller or (gasp) not at all!

#4: How do you define "meal?" Disney is not the place to force-feed your kids their chicken nuggets. Remember, there are cameras everywhere and security might kick you out and there goes $400 in admission tickets down the drain. Plus, there is a jail under Disney World and I wouldn't want to have to go there for child abuse. Here they are taking a meal pit stop.

My advice: pack Uncrustables. Seriously, they keep for a day or two in the cooler and the kids are happier eating those anyway. Pack healthy stuff like cheese sticks, trail mix, baby carrots and grapes - done! These are all healthy things, your kids don't have to commit to a meal and you don't have to spend an hour eating at a counter service place. There - I've just saved you $100 and a trip to Disney jail. No need to thank me.

#5: Snagging a few pickle slices isn't really "stealing." Yes, this tip is cheesy both literally and figuratively. If you do sit for a quick meal, the best place to get the most bang for your buck is Pecos Bill's. After paying $35 to feed a bunch of people who'd rather be standing in line with the smelly Brits for Peter Pan (true story) you can at least get a bunch of sliced pickles, some shredded cheese and cheese sauce for your fries at the toppings bar for the kids who only eat junk. I do this every time. I just walk right up and act like I have 22 pregnant women back at my table all sitting with the burgers they paid for and they ALL want lots of pickles.

#6: Find your child's kryptonite. You'd be amazed at how well a contraband Pixie Stick can get a tired kid to stand in line for one more ride or keep them awake long enough to get them back into the hotel room before konking out. Bring candy from home. Lollipops work well. The Disney candy will blow your entire budget.

#7: Free COKE! The Coke place in Epcot has free samples of soda from around the world. Just be prepared for your shoes to stick to the floor. And pay no attention to which soda the other people tell you is good. Ryan and I have told people to try Japan's soda because it's really good and then PSYCH - it's nasty and then we laugh at them.

#8: The dollar store is your friend. Do yourself a favor and make a stop while you're still at home for two things: ponchos and glow sticks. Ponchos are also good stroller covers and would have been nice to have when that big nasty Neanderthal with redneck kids shoved our stroller out into the rain during the parade. "What LADY??? You want me and my kids to get wet?" (Um, yeah, they look like they need a shower anyway). Disney ponchos are mucho dinero and dollar store ones are disposable.

As for the glow sticks - the kids just want something that lights up. It can be a dollar store glow stick or a $15 light-up necklace that you have to buy three of and return to the vendor twice because it broke before Spectromagic even started. Or worse, one of those spinny things. One time Ryan fell asleep in the stroller and we told him that Pooh left the glow stick for him while he was sleeping. He totally believed it.

#9: Be nice to the Disney cast members. Flattery is everything. My kid rode on Dumbo with Minnie Mouse. Of course it was midnight and he was the only kid left in the park...He's a party animal.

#10: Stay on property if you can. Adds to the "Magic" and you get to ride a Disney bus. Consider that your kids will probably only get to go on 5 real rides in the park because the lines are so long.  When they complain about that, you can remind them that they also got to ride the bus. However, parking and riding the tram + monorail might qualify as 2 additional rides...

#11: Pin Collecting - skip it if you're kids are stupid enough to go for it. Go for pressed pennies instead. Major collecting possibilities and they only cost $.51 apiece. They have books to hold them and everything, plus collecting them is more like a scavenger hunt than a major investment. There are websites dedicated to this. Very cool. I love these.

#12: This is very important! Parents of little kids hate the parents of big kids with autograph books. My kid wants to see Mickey, he thinks Mickey is REAL. We don't want to wait for your pierced teenager to stop texting their boyfriend to waste my time getting Mickey to sign their freakin' book. (Or so I've heard).

#13: Finally a tip about Mom. Wear something cute and you'll thank me for it. You are going to be immortalized in vacation photos for all of eternity. You're going to look like a sweaty, nasty mess anyway, but wouldn't a sweaty, nasty mess with a cute necklace be much better? Keep lip gloss in your pocket.

And have fun!

Feel free to share this post with your friends - I'd hate to see all of these fine nuggets go to waste! 

Anybody want me to do a list of our favorite stuff to do and places to go? Just tell me in the comments section. 

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  1. This is pure genius. Thanks Ali!!!

  2. Thanks Ali!! Yes Favorite stuff and places to go would be awesome whenever you get a chance! Im always trying to figure out the best way to do Magic Kingdom (which rides to do when and what not)! Thanks Ali :)

  3. I can't believe you actually have a photo of Justin smiling there!!! Did I tell you about our special pass? You MUST use it next time you go, it will change your life.

  4. Send all the information you can Ali..John and I are taking the kids in September!

  5. Ok..this might very well be the funniest thing I have ever read...unfortunately, it came about 1 1/2 years to late....We took all 4 kids to Disney Fall break 2009...that would be 9,7, 3(lovely) and 13 months...I literally left my 3 year old sitting in her stroller, outside of the Crystal Palace, for 15 minutes while hiding and watching her, after she threw the biggest fit on the planet..I kept waiting for her to cave in, and it never happened. We did have a great time though..only 10 minutes of rain the entire week...we did the Halloween party (HIGHLY RECOMMEND) and all 4 kids partied until 2am (including the baby..great parenting, I know) thankfully my mom planned the entire trip (I am not a planner, more of a doer..)and she is savvy like you...thanks for a great laugh this morning!!

  6. I'm laughing. Out loud. At my desk in cubicle-land. I've never been to Disney. And I don't feel like a part of my childhood was robbed from me. Is it so bad that I don't want to take my kids either? I think they will turn out just fine if they don't go. I did. I hate crowds. I hate lines. I hate standing on concrete in hot weather.

  7. Glad that my posting of your wonderful blog got you some nice hate mail. Too bad they don't know you, it probably would have been worse.

  8. This is a totally awesome post. We are Disneyland people, much closer, but the tricks work the same. Except there is not free soda in Disneyland. We went to Disneyworld last year. Totally dug Animal Kingdom.

  9. This is such a fabulous post! I wish I had read it before our trip! But, now, I have it bookmarked, and will return to it as a reference in the future. Your meal ideas make so much sense. I made the mistake of bringing only enough snacks to last for thirty minutes on the first day at Magic Kingdom, so we ended up having to buy mostly everything at the park. Talk about expensive and a waste of money, considering that my daughter is mostly a picky eater. (sigh)

  10. I LOVE this!!! We are going at the end of the month, and although we're excited to get away from our gloomy city, we know it's going to be crowded and ridiculously expensive. Good idea on the candy. My son has no patience for waiting in long lines. Who does really?

    Oh, would love a post on favorite stuff and places to go!!

  11. "everyone but you is stupid and walks too slowly." Hahaha, I totally subscribe to this philosphy.

    The poop advice? Brilliant. Definitely adding that one to my arsenal for down the line.

    We skipped Lil' Bit's nap last weekend in favor of staying out at a local street festival. Ironically, her behavior actually improved throughout the day.

    And finally, I can't decide if you're my hero or just plain crazy for taking your kids to Disney World 16 times in 7 years. ;)