Let me introduce you to my two children, and you might understand some of the issues we have when traveling to Walt Disney World. Our firstborn, a 10-year-old boy who keeps to himself, likes to read, and is into Star Wars, Marvel super heroes and action, we call The Hobbit. Mainly we call him that because he, like hobbits, eats about 12 meals a day and also likes to stay in his room. His sister, a 5-year-old-girl, is a princess in every sense of the word. We call her Her Majesty, because she is outgoing, always needs to be dressed to the nines, loves the Disney princesses, calm rides, and girly stuff. You can see that balancing the needs of these two on a Disney vacation might be difficult.
So how do we do it? Well, lately, we just leave them at home. Just kidding…mostly. But in all seriousness, figuring out a way to keep both kids happy is serious business. The Hobbit loves the mountains, especially Expedition Everest and Splash Mountain, while Her Majesty is a big fan of Voyage of the Little Mermaid and Dumbo. It makes for an interesting challenge. Here are some strategies for how to deal with it:
Be honest and realistic– It’s the dream of every parent to take your kids to Disney and make their every dream come true. But the dream is just that, a dream. No matter what your kids tell you before you leave, they will never be able to ride everything they want during your trip. They’ll see something they want to ride that you’ve never heard of before, or something you just can’t fit into the time before that urgent dining reservation they begged you for a month ago. So be honest with both kids and let them know that they won’t get to every single thing they decide is important on the trip.
Prioritize – I’ve shared this tip before, but it’s probably the most helpful one I can share. Make the kids give you a list of attractions they absolutely must ride. Depending on how long the trip is, we usually give them 2-3 attractions per day that they can put on their list. And we make them write it down, so there’s no quibbling about what they actually said. We make it a priority to hit those attractions, and Mom and Dad get to make a list of their own. That way, everyone in the family is seen as important, and the kids learn the skill of prioritizing.
Split your focus – Both of the first two tips are good ways to prepare, but when you get to the parks, you may have to shift tactics. One of the things that has always been a help to us is splitting up time. For example, on our trip last summer, each child had a day to pick their favorite activities, and we also scheduled some surprises for them. So the Hobbit got to get made up like a pirate at the Pirate’s League, rode Big Thunder, Everest, Splash Mountain and more. Her Majesty began the day with Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, had dinner with the Princesses at Restaurant Akershus, saw Voyage of the Little Mermaid and generally had as much girliness as her little heart desired. At the end of the trip, both of them were happy because the focus was on them for at least part of the bigger experience.
Find the complex middle ground – Let’s face it, no matter how much you prepare, you won’t be able to always satisfy everything the kids want to do. In that case, it’s a good idea to find compromise areas. I’ll give an example. The Hobbit was dead set on one of our trips last year to ride the Maelstrom. Her Majesty is “scared” of the Maelstrom. I was the only one there to make this decision. I was able to use a Viking cookie from Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe to convince Her Majesty to ride, in exchange for a promise from the Hobbit that we would then go ride Journey Into Imagination for her. Neither of them were in love with the idea, but it worked out and we were able to enjoy the afternoon.
Keep moving – This is probably the most important one of all. The more time you spend waiting in line or sitting around, the more the kids’ minds wander to all the things they wish they were doing instead. Every time I take my kids, I use a Touring Plan. This is not because I blog for this site, I was doing this long before that ever happened. By using the Touring Plans, Lines, and the Crowd Calendar, I’m able to keep the wait times to a minimum and keep the kids riding attractions, which makes them less focused on what they are not doing and more focused on having fun. Even if it’s Carousel of Progress or your second or third time around the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, keep them moving, and things work out pretty well.
Those are the ways that I plan things to keep both of my kids happy. What are some of your tips?