I will admit, I only begrudgingly agreed to take the family to Disney World. My wife convinced me this was one of those things you HAVE to do at least once.
Now that this trip is safely behind us. WOW!, was I wrong.
I am a fully converted believer that Disney is awesome(when done right).
Don’t know if I will go back, there is just so much to do in this world, but I promised I would spread the word that Disney is in fact, a Magical Place.
First, a word on the origins of my Haterade. I went to Disney when I was younger. All that I thought I remembered was the Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain. (*This is not true, when you arrive you start to have unconscious spatial memory of what is around the next bend.)
I also took my oldest to Disney within recent memory. We flew into Orlando, left our baby with relatives in Gainesville, drove back to Disney and death marched the Magic Kingdom in one day. The kid had fun, but we were all dead tired. To add insult to injury, I only figured out how ‘fast pass’ worked at about 7:00 PM that night. That trip overall felt like obligation rather than fun or relaxation.
Fast forward 6 years and my wife is again mentioning that the youngest never got to go to Disney and we probably need to go ‘one last time’.
The difference is that this time, I had met not one, but two of those weirdo adult Disney fanatics. I mean the adults who choose to go to Disney every year even without children. Pretty much a straight-up CULT.
But I listened and I took notes. Fine, I will go one more time and this time I will do it ‘right’.
I downloaded 2 different Disney apps (1 free – Disney’s own app, and 1 not – Disney World Line from TouringPlans $14.99). I scoured the internet for deals. Learned the layout and studied the TripAdvisor comments. A plan formed.
I used the Disney website to book the whole shebang. (I can’t believe Spell Check let me use ‘shebang‘. No way I thought that was really a word).
Anyway, here was the general outline of our stay. We booked a five night stay on the grounds at the Coronado hotel. Bought the passes that allowed us to move freely about the different parks. Lastly, we opted for a meal plan; 1 fancy, 1 quick, 1 snack, and 1 additional beverage per person per day. This last part was free because of the 5 night stay.
Total all in at this point $2,700 (family of 4). We choose to drive down, because what else are Minivans for and I am disgusted by airline prices. Between souvenirs, travel, extra hotels (1 night on the road there and back), and assorted discretionary spending, all told the trip costs us $3,500.
Look, I know this is not cheap. Not everybody can do it this way. I am just saying that if you can fork it over, it made Disney a great experience. We were able to be thorough, rested, well fed, efficient with our time, and able to ride everything we wanted to. A true cornerstone vacation in our family’s history.
Here are some things worth mentioning;
We decided to stay ‘on campus’. Disney is as big as a small country. It has it’s own Monorail and a series of ever running buses to get from point A to point B. There are 5 different parks. This is what I mean when I say, make a plan. There is plenty of information available on the internet.
The big draw for us was the enormous pool facilities. My kids would have been happy just using the pool all week. Because we stayed at the park over 5 nights, we did not have to ‘squeeze it all in‘. Every night we came back and had some pool time after dinner and into the night, kids happy, family happy.
Disney has SWEET rides. I do not mean like Cedar Point caliber sweet rides, I mean beyond that. Sure there are coasters and the like, but there are tons of interactive, 3-D rides that will impress even the most crusty of curmudgeons. The use of jolts,spritzes, sounds, and compressed air was delightful. Even the dated rides where special to me.
Also related, Disney bought Lucas Films, so there are tons of great Star Wars themed moments inside the park. Bonus for our family of nerds!
Fast Pass is a blessing. Each day you got to pick at least 2 rides that you were able to pretty much walk right on. Again, a short jaunt over the internet and I knew which 2 rides in each park had the worst lines and scheduled them accordingly. Another advantage to staying at the park is that you get to go in a little early each day. So we would pick a third ride in each park that would normally have a long line and shoot right to it before the hordes arrived. These two components meant we did not wait any longer than 40 minutes and in most instances less than 10 minutes (very proud of this data.)
Every time I notice that my boys smell like wet dogs, or when they break something in the house, or when they are rough housing, or respond in only monosyllabic grunts, I wonder what it would be like to have a daughter. When I saw all of those poor bastards at Disney waiting in endless lines with their daughters to ‘meet a Princess‘ at Disney, I felt a wave of relief wash over me. I knew my children would not care to do that. It looks miserable and not at all fun for the adults.
Lastly, a word on food. The Disney dining plan was worth it. Truly frugal types could get by on much less money, but for the hedonists in me, the dining plan was right on time. It included 1 table service meal per day. Disney has surprisingly high end food. We loved doing these meals at Epcot Center. Each country has a nice restaurant featuring the local cuisine.
The plan also included 1 quick service meal per day. Think of this as cafeteria style, but still decent. Also 1 snack per day, good for on the run Churros. 1 Beverage per day was also included, fancy lemonade…This plan was a good pace for us and anything more and I would have felt like we for forcing ourselves to eat just because it was already paid for.
There are even more DELUXE options for people willing to pay, but this level adventure was perfect for us. Disney is a well oiled machine, well thought out and well executed.
P.S. A word on the staffing. Instead of recruiting from the Orlando area, Disney recruits staff from around the world. This translated to people who actually wanted to work there and was a refreshing change. It was also fun to read their name tags and see where they were from.
Back to the Travel Log.
Here is an article in the New York Post talking about Disney vacations as a benchmark for the health of our middle class. And a discussion about it on Reddit that includes the best comment I have ever read; look for ‘roxymoxi’. This is why people love Disney.