Before we went I considered asking friends for any advice on "doing Disney". I have several friends on Facebook in particular who I know have been multiple times, so they really know the "ins and outs" of the parks. But my procrastination paid off this time and I never got around to it.
Instead we just did our normal thing. Show up. Follow the fun. Stop when we got tired. Our version of "Go with the Flow".
Here are the major things that helped us stay in our flow while visiting the most magical and possibly stressful places on earth:
1) The first major decision you have to make regarding Disney is what time to get up the first day (and every other day). Do you want to get up at the break of dawn so you can be at the gates when they open?
Nope, not us. We opted to wake up naturally whenever that may be (we were still at my parents' place the first day, and had an hour+ drive to get to our hotel too). We actually were in the car by around 9 am which for us is VERY early - that alone shows you how excited our kids were. But we had to go to the Animal Kingdom Lodge where we were sleeping for two nights to check in and get our passes first. So we did that, found our room (which the kids loved!) and then eventually made our way to the park (it took some convincing to get our kids out of the hotel! They thought it was cool enough to stay and explore for a while!)
Our first day also happened to be rainy, so I'm EXTRA glad that we didn't try to "maximize" our time in the park because it wouldn't have been worth it. As it was, there was one big downpour while we were there and then it cleared up. We had a very low stress, fun afternoon. And the park closed after the 5 pm Nemo show so we headed back to our hotel where we were able to enjoy the outdoor movie showing by the pool (Brave was on that night, one of our favorites!), Marisol swam and went in the kid-friendly hot-tub, and Gerry played on the playground. Perfect first day, even with rain.
I would so much rather be rested than miserable trying to get my "money's worth". One woman told us there horror story of getting up at 4 am to fly to Orlando then taking the screaming kids to the park. She was still reliving that first day at the end of their trip. Our earliest day at the parks was the second day at the Magic Kingdom, but we still took our time. The last day we didn't get to Hollywood Studios until almost noon because we had to check out of our room first.
2) Know when to push it and when to back off. Gerry was tired and overwhelmed a lot. I brought our ergo carrier and was able to carry him and have him nap on me every afternoon. But until he napped he was pretty much not his usual happy self (aka: a mess!) The first ride I took him on at the Magic Kingdom was "It's a Small World". We went on with my mom - he was NOT happy about it as we got in line. But I put him in the carrier and nursed him while we waited, and when our turn came he happily got on the boat and LOVED it. Later, he didn't want to go on the Peter Pan ride and we didn't push it because it was obvious it wasn't the time (plus we only had 3 fast passes, so Marisol, Mike, and Grandma went.)
Towards dinner time on our second day the kids were tired and Mike was ready to head back to the hotel. I could tell my mom was a little bummed we didn't get a few more things in. But I agreed to heading back and calling it a day. On our walk we came across the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House and both kids wanted to climb it - I think Gerry was just waking up too, and running up and down the stairs and jumping was the perfect activity to revive him!
After that we ended up doing a couple more rides and having dinner! In fact we outlasted my mom and stayed for the fireworks! It was the perfect example of going with the flow - there were no arguments or hurt feelings, we just did what felt right and actually ended up staying a lot longer!
3) Listen to your kids. On day 3 we went to Hollywood studios. Marisol REALLY wanted to do the "Tower of Terror" ride. I thought the kids would enjoy going to a cafe for lunch with characters. We stopped by the cafe first to find out how we could get in. We could have gone in with only a short wait - about 15 minutes - right then. If we waited we were going to run into the lunch rush and they weren't taking any more reservations. Because we knew that Marisol had her heart set on the ride we opted to do the ride first, even though it didn't make as much sense to my adult minds. The good news was they only had to wait 20 minutes for the ride. After, both kids happily waited 45 minutes for a seat at the cafe and LOVED seeing the characters. (And who knows, if we had done the opposite order the ride line might have been a lot longer - and we might have all been grumpy!)
Later, Gerry and I waited at least least a half an hour to see Lightning McQueen and Mater from "Cars". I was so excited for him - and of course I wanted a picture of him with his favorites! When we got up there he did NOT want a picture though. And I didn't push it - he got what he wanted, to touch Lightning. And I got some pictures without him. (Plus I *did* get a couple pictures of him with some other favorites earlier - Handy Manny AND Jake the Pirate!)
Of course we had our "moments". The morning we went to the Magic Kingdom was probably the most stressful, with longer lines, more people and a mix-up at a fast pass station. But overall I was really happy with our time at Disney and impressed with how well we stayed in our flow.
I just love Disney shows! They are always so good and their messages so wonderful - even (especially??) for adults. This clip is from the Nemo show at the Animal Kingdom. You have to watch this turtle sing about going with the flow - it's so beautiful. And he gives some great parenting advice too ;-)
Dude, you have traveled far..
You must be swimming under a lucky star!
You're exactly where you're meant to be...
So grab some shell and surf the EAC with me!
Go with the Flow!
Go with the Flow!
Go with the Flow!
Don't be a high-strung fellow,
Kick back and keep it mellow,
oh, oh oh, Go with the Flow!
Kill the motor dude,
Why don't you take it slow?
Let us see how quirt does flying solo.
Squirt: Dad, did you see what I did??
"You so totally rocked it Squirt! You're such an amazing kid!"
It's awesome, they're eggs on a beach,
then coo-coo ka choo - they find their own way back to the Big ol' Blude
Marlin: All by themselves? But what if they're not ready? I mean - How do you know??
Well you never really know...
But if they're ever gunna grow
Then you gotta let 'em go, ya know!
Just go with the flow...