While other families plan months in advance, we’ve always been a little more on the side of “winging it.” So when at 5PM on a Thursday night my husband tells me, “You know what, I think I DO want to go with you guys and I’d like to do Disney tomorrow,” I leapt at the chance for a new family adventure.
This is an idea I had pitched on Monday. I was planning a trip to visit my mom in Sarasota and thought it would be fun to break up the long drive with a stop at Disney’s Magic Kindgom. Sean said he was going to stay home so I made alternate plans to stop at Dinosaur World instead. Much less planning involved for that adventure. So when he decided at the last minute to change plans, I leapt into action researching the best ticket options and reading a few “Disney with toddlers” type articles to get an idea of what to expect. I was super excited to be bringing Keelan to Disney for the very first time! Of course, he would spend the whole trip trying to thwart my plans to document the trip with happy family photos.
As Florida residents, we were eligible for the Discover Disney ticket, which was a great value at 4 days for $179. (Just one day was $109!) We could go back and use it anytime, for any park until June 24, 2018. I purchased the tickets online and they were ready for pick-up at the window the next morning. Keelan isn’t three yet, so he was free, which was one of the things pushing us to do Disney now, before his birthday in April.
We woke up early Friday morning, tossed clothes into a suitcase and got on the road. By the time we’d dropped the dogs off, gotten food and stopped to pee, it was noon before we arrived at Disney. We figured if we stayed for fireworks, that would be a full nine hours of family fun at the “happiest place on Earth.”
We parked on the villains side, took a short ride on the tram and then hopped on the monorail that brought us to the ticket area. Keelan got a “First Time at Disney” button on check-in and the ticket counter person asked me if I had scheduled our fast passes yet. A blank stare from me made it obvious we had not. She let me know about the app and how fast passes work. You can schedule three rides at the start and then one ride after another after that. This is something people can do a month or more in advance! You can also use it for character photos and restaurant reservations. It had been 20 years since my last Disney trip, so this was all new to me.
At first I was overwhelmed. I’d never seen so many strollers in one place. I was hit in the foot by a stroller five times (twice by my own husband) before I got the hang of navigating the packed walkways. And every area has designated stroller parking. If you don’t park in the right spot, your stroller will be relocated by Disney employees (a.k.a. cast members) to the closest open spot. I thought it was pretty funny to be circling the area trying to find a good “parking spot.” We weren’t in the park ten minutes before Keelan spotted toys and ended up with a five pack of cars. This actually worked out well because that kept him entertained throughout the day.
We were greeted by a parade of dancing characters and floats as soon as we got through the gates. Little did I know that was the only time we’d be seeing many of those mascot type characters. When I was little, the Disney characters roamed the park, taking pics with people. Now they stand in designated areas with people waiting in line for photos. The lines are quite long, but you can use a fast pass on photos as well. I wasn’t about to give up a valuable pass on getting a photo, since Keelan would barely let me take any pictures of him. He tried to humor me at one point by pulling the plastic cover of his stroller over his face and yelling “Cheeeeeese!”
We caught onto the fast pass thing pretty quickly, and learned they are the best thing ever! You basically skip the whole line and go right to the front, as long as you arrive in your designated hour window. We didn’t wait more than 10 minutes for any ride. This was crucial to the trip’s success, because any longer than that is impossible with an impatient toddler. As soon as we completed check-in on a ride, I’d scroll through the app and set up our next ride.
We hit everything we could that was toddler size. Our first ride was Dumbo and immediately after getting off, Keelan tried to run back on wanting to ride again. His absolute favorite thing was the Haunted Mansion, or as he calls it, “the very scary castle.” It seems he has inherited my love of all things Halloween. I’m looking forward to when he grows a few inches and we can start riding the roller coasters!
We rode, we ate, we bought a lot of kid stuff and finally made it to time for fireworks. They have a new display called Happily Ever After where they project a light show onto the castle and match the fireworks to that, and then at one point Tinkerbell flies out from the top of the castle over the audience. It was a pretty amazing show! Keelan was cheering and clapping and loving every minute of it, and so were we.
After the fireworks, it was time to go home. We put Keelan back in the stroller and he was asleep in about 30 seconds and slept all the way to the car. We had quite a magical Disney day! Can’t wait to go back and try out the other three parks soon.