Monday, November 29, 2010

Preparing the Kids for a Trip of a Lifetime

Emily in October 2008 with Stefanie in Biergarten
With just about 6 weeks until our trip, I have made many of our vacation arrangements. Our flights and hotel are booked. I made all our dining reservations and, even more exciting, I was able to book them at the exact times we requested. Finally, our rental car has been reserved, courtesy of my parents. Now, I am getting the kids prepared for a week away from home. Walt Disney World can be overwhelming to some children (and adults too), so it is important to do everything you can before you leave to prepare them for what’s ahead.

One of the most important things we do when we are within two months of leaving is buy each of the children new sneakers and have them start “breaking them in.” There is a tremendous amount of walking when on a Disney vacation and having a comfortable pair of shoes is a necessity to enjoy it. Plus, it is also important before leaving to start having your child build their endurance by walking everyday. I know many adults who were not physically prepared for the amount of walking required. They ended up with blisters and sore feet and legs, meaning they missed a day or so in the parks to recover. So if an adult can be run down, imagine a child!

The kids in their Patriots gear ~ October 2008
On our last trip, my son was three and a half. Since many of the rides are enclosed and he couldn’t see them, I went on You Tube and found a few videos of some of the rides he might like. When we got to the parks he immediately was able to recognize them and some of the anxiety was reduced. But before you talk up a ride to your child, make sure she is tall enough to ride it. Imagine your child being excited about how great Splash Mountain is for weeks before leaving, only to arrive and find she is not tall enough and unable to ride. For more information on height requirements, head to WDW Guru Travel's Height Requirements page.  Any ride not listed does not have a height requirement. Also, to avoid disappointment about missing a ride, make sure you check our Refurbishment List about rides being refurbished while you are in Disney.

Another resource for preparing your child is Disney’s free Vacation Planning Video. You can order the DVD right from Disney’s Official website. It is a nice overview of what you’ll see in each of the parks, as well as Downtown Disney, the hotels and special events throughout the year. There is even a section to help you plan your upcoming trip. There are quick clips of rides, shows and parades from each of the four theme parks, as well as the two water parks. My kids love to watch it and tell us which rides they are going to go on when we are there. It is a great conversation starter.

Finally, the best way for us to get the kids ready is to look at our photos from previous trips. I have many formats that I use to show off our pictures. We, of course, have the traditional photo albums. I make a family one, as well as one for each of the kids. I also love to scrapbook. This is a great way to preserve our memories and add in park maps, tickets, and any other little souvenirs we gather during our trip. For our last trip, I made a photo montage, which I put on DVD. This has turned out to be one of the best ways to share our photos. Between my mom, sister-in-law and myself we took over 900 photos, so I had plenty to choose from. The DVD is a little long (about 20 minutes), but my children love seeing themselves on TV with their favorite characters or in the pirate pool or riding a particular ride.

What is your best tip for preparing your children for Disney? 
Feel free to share your best tips below!


christina said...

I have been reading all of your posts and I must say that I have gotten some great tips for our very first family trip to Disney, thanks so much. I was wondering if you had any tips for Winter Rains? We are planning on going next week and it is supposed to rain at least one of the days while we are there. I have been looking up things to do at Disney in the rain, but they all seem to be geared towards summer rain storms. On the day that rain is most likely we are planning on being at Animal Kingdom, any suggestions?

Beth Doda ~ disneymom2jhe said...

Thanks for reading, Christina! Congratulations on planning your very first family trip to WDW! Our family just loves it there. I wish we could go more often, but right now we go about every 18 to 24 months. It is such an amazing family experience. But I will say as great as all our Disney vacations have been, our first one still holds some of my most memorable moments!

When it rains, we definitely still go to the parks and just walk faster between attractions! :-) But with Animal Kingdom, there are a lot of outdoor areas. If it is just misting or there is just a little rain, I would recommend touring Animal Kingdom as you planned. I would only change your touring plans to another park if there are heavy rainfalls. Usually, when we travel we are so happy to be away from the cold and snow, that the rain doesn't bother us!

But if the weather is too rainy to be outside, I would head over to either Epcot and hit the World Showcase attractions. There are several pavillions with movies showcasing the different countries' landscapes and cultures. I'm not sure how old your children are, so that may not be the best attractions for young ones. But my kids could spend hours inside the Seas with Nemo and Friends Pavillion and the Imaginatin Pavillion. Nemo offers plenty of things to do and see. There is an amzing amount of sea life in the tanks, plus an interactive Crush show and several other learning areas. Imagination offers an area to play and jump around. My kids could also spend hours here. It has very interactive things to do for kids of all ages. You could also make your way to Downtown Disney and shop with just quick walks between stores. Once Upon a Toy has a large Mr Potato head area where you can dress up Mr or Mrs Potato Head in several outfits (my kids love this and could spend considerable time just playing here).

I am so excited you have been able to learn a few things from my blog! Let me know if you have any other questions. I am always looking for ways to talk Disney! But like I said, unless the weather is really pouring rain, I say head out to Animal Kingdom and tour the park as you planned. It has been our experience that when it does rain, it is for short intervals and we are able to accomplish everything we set out to do!

DisneyBabies said...

Beth - I think we did similar posts today! You'll be getting there within a week or so of us leaving.. too funny! No getting the kids ready here just yet.. He knows Mickey and Minnie very well, but doesn't remember his 6 month trip,so it will be like the first time again! Very exciting!

Days In The Park said...

Enjoyed the post, Beth.

Measuring your kids before you go to make sure they are tall enough is so simple to do, but I'm sure it goes overlooked all the time.

I really liked that. :)

Beth Doda ~ disneymom2jhe said...

I actually wrote this before our trip this year. I am posting my articles for WDW Daily News here so that I have an archive of my column. Since they only originally go in the newsletter, I figured I could post here and have permanent copies for them. This one is from January.

Jenn - Travelling to WDW with kids is a whole new experience. I thought I was such an expert at touring the parks, until the trip that Joey was 3.5, Hayley was 2 and Emily was 10 months. That trip taught me a lot to say the least. Plus, my parents, brother, sister-in-law and 1.5 year old nephew came with us and I was the organizer.

Chad - I can only imagine how often this happens. For us we have the opposite problem because Joey and Hayley are off the charts for height at their age, that they have been tall enough to ride almost anything, but not old enough! That was tough, but luckily, the next trip they should all be tall enough and old enough to ride most things.