Princesses & Pirates: Dressing Up in the Parksby Adrienne Krock, staff writer
Many children enjoy dressing up as their favorite princesses, space rangers, cowboys, pirates, and more when they visit the Disney theme parks, no matter what time of year. This week we asked our Parenting Panel: How do you manage children dressing in costumes at the parks?
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 (4) and Josie (2). Elizabeth writes:
While we don't have matching shirts or outfits, my husband and I almost always wear Mickey/Minnie/Princess/Disney shirts when we go to Disneyland. It is a fun way for us to get into the spirit of being in the parks. We often make the trip to Disneyland with at least one princess, and sometimes two. It is a fun way for them to get into being in the parks as well.
Our 4-year-old daughter would prefer to wear a sparkly, Disney princess dress every day of the year. For the most part, we let her choose her outfits (weather and occasion permitting) and often her choice is a princess dress. Her favorite place to wear princess dresses is to Disneyland. She loves to meet the princess whose dress she is wearing. We have many photos of her wearing her Rapunzel dress while meeting Rapunzel, wearing her Belle dress meeting Belle, etc. The princesses are so gracious and gush over their matching outfits. Our 2-year-old prefers to wear Mickey shirts, although she does request a Minnie dress or princess dress occasionally. Usually her Mickey shirt is paired with a tutu, which is her choice as well.
We bring a change of clothes along with us when we go. They always have the option to change out of their dress (they haven't yet!), and I like to have a spare outfit just in case. I always bring pants and a sweatshirt or long-sleeved shirt to wear under, or over, a dress for when the weather gets cooler. And, the pants and shirts must match or coordinate with the dress! Because their dresses are so "well-loved" and have been washed so many times, they are not very itchy. My girls have no issues with wearing them all day. Personally, I find it easier for them to just wear them than to deal with taking it off and on throughout the day.
Our children are very good about wearing their sneakers, or Keen sandals usually, with their dresses. We do have a few pairs of plastic princess shoes and they know how uncomfortable they are. That is one area where we do not budge, with footwear, because there is way too much walking to do at Disneyland!
For us, bringing a couple of little princesses is just another way to add to our magical experience when we go to Disneyland. They enjoy dressing like a princess and we enjoy watching them be a princess for the day!
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:
Usually when I think of how my family dresses on a Disney vacation it simply includes figuring out how many of the basics I need for the trips duration. At the same time, there was a time where it was a bit more complicated. With certain plans came specific outfits for my daughter. In some cases, it was to match her favorite character at dinner. For others, it might have been for a party in the parks. Even I, at one time, would have been caught in a costume—but that is for a different article.
While my daughter has not dressed in a costume at the parks in many years, there are no shortages of younger guests dressed in some of the most detailed costumes. These outfits (and I say outfits because I have seen some very dressed up young pirates out there) transform the wearers into their favorite characters and you know that they were not inexpensive to acquire either. But one has to ask—are these outfits even that comfortable to wear in the parks? In August? In 95-plus-degree heat? With humidity levels that are off the chart? And before you think that these are judgmental statements—these are actually sincere questions as I have no idea. I can only guess since the outfits now seem to be much more complex and detailed than the ones offered a decade ago. Even then, the idea should give parents something to think about costume choices.
For our family, costumes were used strategically. We planned our day around the wardrobe. Considering some of the factors that come into play such as weather, rides, time away from the resort, we were mindful about letting my daughter get into character while still maintaining a good comfort level throughout the day. One year this meant that we carried our costumes to the parks and changed right before a party. We kept everything in a locker till later that evening.
At the same time, the costumes we chose were comfortable for the time of year that we visited. My daughter's Minnie dress would have been super warm during the day, but it was perfect for the evening when it got a bit cooler during that specific trip. We also made sure that the shoes we wore looked the part but were comfortable enough to walk around the parks for several hours. We tested this at home beforehand just to be sure. In fact, we tested all our costumes out before we left on our trip to make sure that we were not going to regret the wardrobe change later.
While our costumes have not seen the light of day in years, we still tend to plan out our wardrobe to make our trip a bit more special. As an example, we take changes of clothes with us if we know we are not going to be back at our resort before we have dinner at a nicer place like the California Grill. We know it's not necessary to "dress up" at Disney restaurants, but to us, it's something different. Besides, there is nothing like a clean shirt when sitting down to a nice meal.
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!