Soon after Tiny Traveler was born Richard and I realized – to our dismay – that traveling with a child meant that sooner or later we would have to go to Disney World. We made the inevitable and dreaded trip when she was nearly five. And like so many others we became quick converts who now tell other reluctant parents, “You have to go. You’ll really enjoy it!”
Sure, we enjoyed TT’s speechless excitement when she met Cinderella, got it on video when she danced with Goofy and even got a kick out of her endless (endless) fascination with It’s A Small World. But we weren’t just enjoying watching her enjoy it. We actually relaxed and had fun ourselves, far more than we thought we would.
For those parents who are still skeptical, I’ll tell you why Disney World made me happy.
Read More: Find all our Disney World resources under Disney World at a Glance.
I spend a lot of time planning and managing the logistics of our family vacations and it continues even while we’re away. So the best thing about Disney World for me was that it was an environment where most of our practical details were taken care by someone else and anything I asked for was easily arranged. Knowing this, I could forget about all practical stuff and focus on the fun things.
For example, when we left home we put Disney tags on our luggage, said good-bye to it at JFK airport in New York and saw it again when it was delivered to our room at the Wilderness Lodge. The day we left our boarding passes were delivered to our room and our bags were whisked away again.
Almost daily a staffer pointed out to me a cheaper, easier, better way to arrange whatever activity, meal or ticket I wanted to set up, no kidding. I have never been so well taken care of at a resort in my life.
Visiting amusement parks with an only child usually means I spend the day either standing around watching TT go on rides, or squeezing myself on to rides for which I’m way too big when she doesn’t want to be alone.
At Disney World, rides like Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh and the Pirates of the Caribbean are about exploring immersive environments rather than being spun, dipped or whipped all over the place. These rides, along with more typical ones like Dumbo and the Tea Cups, are designed to hold adults and kids comfortably. Everyone fits and enjoys the ride (literally).
Disney Understands Grown-Ups
Traveling with a kid doesn’t mean you want to be treated like one.
Rich and I wanted at least one high quality, sit-down, not-fast-food meal every day. And we found plenty of appealing options in the hotels and Epcot Center. For example, for lunch at the Whispering Canyon Café at Wilderness Lodge, my Southwestern salad was full of items you don’t see in salads every day, like fresh jicama, nopales and black beans.
At Epcot, dinner at The San Angel Inn was the best Mexican food we’d had since visiting Mexico City. We weren’t surprised when the waiter told us that the folks running the restaurant also own a top restaurants in that city.
The cast at the Hoop De Doo Review and the “tour guide” on the Jungle Cruise both offered a steady stream of groaner jokes that mostly went over our 5YO’s head. But we chuckled and liked that they were willing to play to the grown-ups while she enjoyed other aspects of these activities.
For two hours every afternoon staff would play games with kids who were at the pool. It looks like yet another thing for the kids. But really, I think it’s Disney’s way of giving us parents a few minutes to ourselves to lounge in the hot tub or catch a nap the middle of a kid-filled day.
Several Disney hotels also offer babysitting, spa services and even no-kids restaurants. So if you’ve ridden It’s A Small World one too many times, you can take a break and get some needed couple time. (We didn’t have time on our last trip but will consider it next time)
Disney Understands Kids
With all the exciting activities all over Disney World, it’s still helpful to have Lincoln Logs and crayons in a restaurant, so a child can play while she waits for a table or her food. Disney understand this and it’s yet another thing that helped us relax and enjoy.
They understand that despite the many fancy and expensive gift shops that are everywhere my child will still be thrilled to pick a cheap plastic party toy out of treasure chest after winning one of the afternoon poolside games. They have just such a treasure chest.
Most of all, they understand that while the parades and light shows and fireworks and characters and rides are all incredibly exciting, kids need quieter things interspersed with them to avoid being overwhelmed. We took time out to play checkers in the fort on Tom Sawyers Island.
We toasted marshmallows and listened to cowboy songs around a campfire at the Wilderness Campground. And after Pirates of the Caribbean scared the wits out of Tiny Traveler, we chilled out by watching raggedy bears sing off-kilter blue grass tunes at the Country Beer Jamboree.
She thought these anachronistic bears were hilarious. Suitably cheered up by them she set off looking for our next adventure.