Family Trip Do-Overs

by Adrienne Krock, staff writer

As parents, don't we often learn a lesson or two and wish we had done something differently? This week we wondered if our Parenting panelists had any their Disney vacation "Do Over" lists to share. We asked: Looking back at past trips, what would you do differently with your kids?

Chris, also known as GusMan, is always planning his next family trip to the Walt Disney World Resort and loves to help others plan their trips, as well sharing his experiences. Chris writes:

Recently, I was trying to rearrange some of the thousands of pictures and dozens of hours of video on my computer. While there were many family events captured in my archives, I can honestly say that most of my files were related to our Disney trips. Of course, when undertaking such an effort you start looking through the pictures and think back to those trips, going into a vacation memory la-la land of sorts.

A lot has changed during the past 10 years of trips. There were many "I remember that day when…" sort of memories, as well. There were also a few things that I would surely have done different. I would not call these things "mistakes," but allowing hindsight to take over a bit and really think about how I could have done things better. Here are some of the highlights of my "Disney lessons learned."

  • If at all possible, leave the computer at home. Sure, I used the excuse of dumping pictures from my memory card onto the hard drive in order to justify bringing it, but I learned that if you get sucked into something work-related, chances are, you are going to make your kids wait. To be honest, I realized after that when you invest this much on a Disney vacation, you need to do your best to either leave work at home or wait until everyone is sleeping to avoid missing out on memory-making moments.
  • Having a touring plan during peak season is a must - not following it if you have one is silly. You learn real fast that there are people who take great effort to create plans so you don't have to. They can really be a lifesaver. Don't try to outguess them as chances are, you will not succeed. And when you don't succeed, you look silly in front of your kids (think about sarcastic comments like "good choice, dad…").
  • Driving all night to get to the Disneyland or Walt Disney World resorts might sound like a good idea, but you will change your mind if you have never done it before. Granted, this really is a "your mileage may vary" sort of thing, pun intended, but if you have never done anything like this before, at least have some sort of contingency plan on how to get some rest if you find that the energy drink that you just drank is actually making you more tired. We did this once. We now take the time to stop after 12 hours of driving. For us, it's a safer, more sane alternative and still cheaper than flying.
  • Your family may be the biggest "foodies" in the world, but the heat changes your appetite. During our first August trip to Walt Disney World, we learned this the hard way. We were somewhat disappointed at this revelation as well since we considered Disney dining one of the highlights of the trip, as well. However, when it is 95 degrees out and 99 percent humidity, you don't always think that the dessert selection is all its cracked up to be afterward. You know you had too much food when you don't even want a Mickey ice cream bar.
  • You don't have to take advantage of every fun thing, but you really should enjoy what you choose to do. I say this because the biggest mistake many rookie Disney guests makes is trying to do everything. Instead, really absorb the fun with your family in everything that you do. Be a good guide as a parent, but take cues as to what your kids want to do and really get into the spirit. This makes the kids happy and you might even find that you, as a parent, are nothing more than a kid at heart.

I have to admit, I don't have many "horror stories" from our Disney trips. But I can say that I always wish I had one more day during each trip. It would not matter to me if it was only to get one more family picture or ride one more ride with my kids. All I really want is to make memories that will last a lifetime. Who knows, maybe some day when my grandkids go to Disney, they will hear stories about how when their grandfather and great-grandfather took their first ride on Space Mountain together as they board it for the first time, as well. Your kids are only young once what you can to make it magical!

Elizabeth, who posts on our MousePad message board as eabaldwin, has been a Disneyland Annual Passholder since 2010. She and her husband have two daughters, Katie (3) and Josie (14 months). Elizabeth writes:

We just made a big (for us!) trip to the Walt Disney World Resort. It was my first trip since I was 8, our first trip with our kids, and a big learning experience for us. We decided that, coming from the West Coast, two things would be key. First, when booking our flight, we needed to avoid anything overnight or leaving too early (where we have to wake them up before 6 a.m.). Our girls simply don't sleep well enough on a plane to recover lost sleep from their beds. Flying during naptime is fine, since they are perfectly fine napping pretty much anywhere. Second, we needed to have no set plans, and definitely no parks planned, for the first day we were there. We could hang out at the pool or walk around Downtown Disney, but we needed to take it easy. We hit Disney's Animal Kingdom Park on our first day there. Our young (3 and 14 months) kids were exhausted. We did have a "break" built in the next day, but they were already so tired it was almost too late.

Our girls do not do well when they are tired, as most young kids do. We will definitely take more precautions to keep them more well rested on our next trip.

On our trips to the Disneyland Resort, since we usually just go up for the day, we tend to reflect on our drive back home about how our day went. We have learned to make sure to pack enough snacks. And make sure that everyone, especially our older daughter, gets some form of nap in the stroller. The stroller has to recline to some extent and provide shade. We keep the stroller moving while someone is napping, and take turns going on adult rides. Another thing that we have learned is that a little adult time is a good thing. Even if we have to ride a coaster by ourselves, at least we get to experience it. We do enjoy eating in a table service restaurant for dinner. We grab pizza or a corn dog for lunch, but dinner is more "adult" food. I think the important thing is that we are constantly tweaking what we do on our trips to keep them enjoyable for all of us. But as our kids grow up and can go on more attractions, our experiences will change. Learning never ends. Even when it comes to trips to Disney!

It's your turn—keep the discussion flowing!

Visit the Parenting in the Parks forum on our MousePad discussion board, and share your opinions about this topic or many others, or send your suggestions via e-mail. Reader-submitted tips might be used in a future article, and you might be selected to participate in an upcoming panel discussion!



  1. By Moms

    GusMan mentioned driving all night to get there.... We have a 27 hour drive with 3 small kids to get to Disneyland. So we always leave right after work the first day and drive about 5 hours while the kids are sleeping. It's not much, but it's less that they have to sit through awake.

  2. By GusMan

    I know many who drive all night to get there and they do it without a lot of problems. For us, we did it once. It was very difficult. 5 Hour Energy only lasted 15 mins for me. There is also the concerns about places for fuel and the like being open that late.

    I think we can do about 12-14 hours at a time before we say that we really need a break. We usually start out around 4 AM and make it to our first stop around 6 PM. Thats 13 hours, counting for the time change, 1 fuel stop, one meal stop and a few bathroom stops.

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