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in the Park
Tips and ideas for the traveling family
|Adrienne Krock, editor|
Guest Columnist Mary Kraemer (or as Adrienne refers to her, Exceptional Mom Mary) completes her special two-part column about taking multiple children, including her 4 year old twins, to Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
Part Two: Up, up, and away (to Walt Disney World)
If you read my first article about my family's experiences of traveling to Disneyland with my 4-year-old twins and their siblings (ages 3 and 13), you probably understand that we're familiar with what a road trip and theme park weekend entail. We're comfortable with it, and to pinch a current Disney buzzword, we're in the groove.
Then I got ambitious and thought it might be fun to go to Walt Disney World [WDW for short] and have my parents join us there to celebrate my father's 80th birthday and my youngest daughter's 3rd birthday. Even though we go to Disneyland fairly frequently, at least by Northern California standards, planning a trip to WDW seemed daunting. However, I felt that by planning, planning, planning, it could be done and that everybody would have a good time. Of course, I was right.
Making a list, checking it twice
First, I did my homework. I asked veteran WDW travelers -- friends and family -- about their trips. But almost everybody gave me a different answer, so I had to pick and choose. I also got some 'reference' books: Bob Sehlinger's "Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids" (there are other editions, but I chose this particular one since we'd obviously have a kid focus on our trip); Birnbaum's "Walt Disney World: Expert Advice from the Inside Source," which is updated annually; and Birnbaum's "Walt Disney World for Kids by Kids," which also is updated annually. (The links above open in new windows, and allow you to purchase the books from Amazon.)
I read a lot, and I found a wealth of great, practical advice in the Sehlinger book as far as being realistic about your planning; knowing how well your family travels together; and tips on packing, getting around, seeing characters, knowing limitations, etc. The "WDW for Kids by Kids" book was interesting to my 13- year- old, and he was its intended audience anyway.
I also got the WDW promotional video from Disney. This was a really good thing for the planning aspects of the trip, not just so we could see the WDW 'advertisements,' but it was something that our kids wanted to watch. It helped get them excited about visiting WDW and seeing things that they couldn't see or do at Disneyland. Because of this video, for example, our youngest daughter was completely determined that she had to go on the new Buzz Lightyear ride at the Magic Kingdom. To this day, she'll emphatically tell you that it was her favorite attraction.
Because we had such a large group (and the fact that my parents were also going to have an electric conveyance vehicle for the duration of the trip), our first decision was to stay onsite and not rent a car. That decision made, we did not take our car seats or booster seats with us on the flight.
We arranged our Florida transportation through a service called Tiffany Towncar, which actually sent a van to haul all of us. They provided car / booster seats (let them know in advance if you need them). There were several great things about this service; a driver met us at the gate when we arrived in Orlando and helped us with our baggage; we were the only family being shuttled to WDW, so there were no other stops at other hotels; and there was a half-hour stop at a local grocery store for provisions.
I highly recommend this service over the shuttle services (like Mears) that take numerous passengers and make numerous stops. After a long flight, that's the last thing you want to deal with! Also, even though our flight was delayed five hours, it was no problem; the driver showed up when we arrived, just as he would have if our flight had been on time, so we weren't stranded. *Nice! *
Unlike our trips to Disneyland, we wanted the focus of this trip to be a vacation, not just a marathon amount of time / energy spent in theme parks. We wanted rest and relaxation, which also played into our decision to stay onsite.
We decided to stay at the Polynesian because it had ambience that we loved, seemed very relaxing, and was also a very prime location for all our transportation options (monorail stop at the hotel as well as close proximity to the Ticketing and Transportation Center). We got a lagoon view room, so we could see the Grand Floridian, the Magic Kingdom, and the Contemporary from our room; at night, we could see the fireworks display at the Magic Kingdom. It was magical. Our kids completely loved it, from the view to the beach to the swimming pool that has music piped into the water. Our oldest son was able to go out on the lagoon in one of those fast little water mouse boats; he spent many happy hours zooming around and getting sunburned!
OK, the trip planning is all set, but I've gotten ahead of myself in places... let's talk about the plane trip!
My first suggestion is to try to get a direct flight (we used frequent flyer miles, so we had to change planes). I can't emphasize this too much. I think that getting on a plane in one place and getting off the plane at your destination is *the* way to travel. Less likelihood of your bags ending up in Kalamazoo. Less likelihood of missing your connection. Less likelihood of experiencing a mishap like having the connecting airport shut down due to bad weather.
Our little kids had only flown on hour- long flights before, so the prospect of going cross- country with them was intimidating, simply because of the length of time that they'd be cooped up on planes. But they did great, even with a five-hour delay for our connection. I like to think that I had a lot to do with that success, by having entertainment and food for them. We had a carry-on bag stuffed with toys and activities. We took a cooler bag with drinks and snacks. In addition, I had another carryon bag that contained two sets of clean clothes, in case somebody needed to change. It's a lot to schlepp around in the airport, but it was all very necessary.
To help haul the kids and bags, we used our double and single strollers. I cannot imagine going without them in airports. We simply gate check them when we board the plane, and they're waiting for us when we deplane. It would be too difficult to manage the kids and bags without them. Plus, we used the strollers while we were at the theme parks and didn't have to bother with renting them (even though WDW does rent double strollers, unlike Disneyland).
On airplanes, people seem to either like kids or really dislike them. To the latter kind, it doesn't seem to matter how well behaved a child is; they will be visibly annoyed simply because of the child's presence. That annoyance doesn't multiply when you have twins or more little ones - it's exponential. My advice is to smile at them, ignore their negativity, and focus on keeping your kids happy. The ones who like kids are understanding and helpful. The best you can do for the happiness of your child, yourself, and other passengers, is to keep your little one(s) occupied and quiet.
With that in mind, I packed our toy and activity bag. I gradually collected new (and cheap) things to help entertain my kids during the flight. I emphasize new, because new stuff always fascinates kids for longer periods of time, and cheap, because it won't matter if it falls down and rolls away under the seat (and you probably can't retrieve it anyway because of the lack of leg room on planes). For my little ones, I picked some Colorforms and other plastic sticker scenes that can be reused and rearranged (my kids like dinosaurs and Thomas the Tank Engine scenes), some cardboard 'lacing' shapes (I got a package for each child, so there were no conflicts), new crayons and coloring books, small party- favor size cans of Playdoh (a big winner), small plastic farm and zoo animals, a variety of Hot Wheels type cars / trucks, books, 'glitter' colored art- project pipe cleaners (which could be twisted into various shapes and connected together), and write- on, wipe- off board books that had drawing surfaces and games such as connect- the- dots.
Introduced gradually, with lots of time for each new activity, it can give kids lots to do during flights, especially if you intersperse the toys with snacks. The cooler bag was helpful to provide drinks for the kids for take off/landing. The kids could munch on snacks at will, not being dependent on airline food service. We pack juice boxes, sippy cups with milk, fruit roll ups, raisins, baby carrots, small apples, crackers, etc.
Since our trip to WDW, I've learned about a service, InMotion Pictures, that rents DVD players, movies, and headsets. In my first article, I mention how much I adore our 12-volt TV / VCR for road trips to Disneyland. I extrapolate that renting a DVD player for a flight would be equally helpful for travelers with children (at least the pre- GameBoy set like my younger kids). The players can accommodate two headsets, so if you're traveling with twins, it's perfect!
Last Friday, we launched a new section of MousePlanet The Magic Years with the first column by Casey. This Friday, Jewel will debut her first column.
If your kids are interested in Disney, too, I encourage you to share this neat section with them!
Casey and Jewel, our Magic Years team, are anxious to answer emails from their readers. They will not have access to email addresses sent in by readers and will only answer emails through their columns.
If your kids have questions about Disney stuff from a kid's perspective, comments they'd like to see addressed on The Magic Years, or if they would like to respond to Casey and Jewel's columns, please send them in to CoolKids@mouseplanet.com
Adrienne gathered experience taking kids to amusement parks when she worked as a day camp counselor and director. She was an elementary school teacher before she started her favorite job, being Matthew's Mom.
Adrienne and Matthew visit Disneyland several times a month, usually with Daddy, too.
Besides Matthew, Adrienne and her husband Kevin created and maintain The Happiest Potties on Earth website.
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