On several occasions I’ve come home from a trip to Walt Disney World, looked at my husband and proclaimed, “I need a vacation!”
While I’m always happy to have a Disney visit, with all the walking in the heat, staying up late for Extra Magic Hours, and frantically trying to experience every attraction in the parks, I’m often more tired after my trip than before I started. It’s a great time, but it’s not really a true vacation.
Believe it or not, there is another way to do Disney. Let’s call it the Relaxing Way. With a Relaxing Way Disney trip, you come home rested and refreshed, ready to conquer the real world with renewed energy. Here are some tips to make the Relaxing Way a reality:
1. Choose Your Resort Wisely. While I have been to every Disney resort hotel many times, earlier this year I was on a research mission and visited ALL WDW hotels for several hours each during the course of one six-day period. This concentrated visit highlighted some of the resort intangibles in a way I hadn’t previously noticed. A few of the resorts just feel lazier (and I mean that in the best possible sense) than the others. My family usually stays at the Beach Club or Bay Lake Tower for quick park access. That’s great if you’re spending lots of time in the parks, but having that quick park access also makes me feel guilty if I don’t take advantage of it. (Epcot is RIGHT THERE, Goooo!) The deluxe resorts are lovely, but the tenants there are decidedly type-A. However, I felt absolutely no sense of urgency or stress among the guests at Old Key West and Fort Wilderness. Folks there were puttering around, riding bikes, fishing, playing catch, having a beer at the poolside bar, and just generally chilling like regular human beings on vacation. For a relaxing trip, it can help to surround yourself with people providing a good example of relaxation.
2. Choose the right time of year to visit. Sometimes schedules don’t allow the luxury of an off season Disney visit, but if you can possibly make it work, try planning your Disney trip for times like November before Thanksgiving or January after the marathon. The weather will be cooler, the crowds will be thinner, and the prices will be lower. Any one of those things can reduce your stress level, the trifecta is positively blissful.
3. Use a Touring Plan. And no, I’m not just saying that ’cause I work here. A well-crafted Touring Plan can take hours of waiting around time out of your day in the parks. Less waiting = more relaxing and more fun.
4. Take a nap. As noted in our recent post on the Art of the Walt Disney World Nap, taking a snooze break in the middle of the day can mean the difference between sanity and meltdown. You’ll be more relaxed if you avoid a daily meltdown.
5. Spend time outside the parks. I love the theme parks, but even a Magic Kingdom addict can get sensory overload. When you’re in the parks, every one of your senses is fully stimulated: non-stop music, busy colors, fragrant popcorn, and constant motion. It’s a lot to process. The pace outside the parks is significantly slower. Take a walk around your resort, take a dip the pool, watch an outdoor movie, or even skip town and head to the beach for the day – anything to dial down the influx of stimulation for a while.
6. Have some non-walking physical activity. Using your body for exercise is a great way to burn off physical and emotional stress. Many of the WDW resorts have fitness centers with a full complement of exercise equipment. You could also go for a run, play golf (even mini-golf works), play tennis, waterski, rent a traditional or surrey bike, just get moving.
7. Have a date night. Yes, it’s a family vacation, but sometimes hanging with your kids 24/7 can get to be a bit much of a muchness. Give everyone a break by sending mom and dad (or mom and mom, or dad and dad) off for some quality time on their own. Both individual and group childcare options are available at Walt Disney World. A glass of wine and a nice dinner away from bickering kiddos can do the grown-ups a world of good.
8. Make dining reservations in advance. It’s stressful to think about where you want to eat six months in advance. You know what’s even more stressful? Waiting an hour and a half at Chef’s Mickeys to see if there’s a table available for you and your cranky five-year-old. Give yourself one less thing to worry about during your trip by planning your vacation dining while you’re still at home.
9. Keep yourself physically comfortable. Physical discomfort is a big stress inducer for everyone, including kids. Avert problems by keeping cool, staying hydrated, eating on a regular schedule, not overeating, wearing comfortable shoes, resting when appropriate during the day, and going to sleep at a reasonable hour at night. There – I bet you feel better already.
10. Try something new. New stimuli are candy for your brain. If you’re a frequent Disney visitor, actively seek out new rides, restaurants, and other experiences that you haven’t done before. The happy center in your head will thank you.
11. Give yourself permission not to do something. It’s simply not possible to do everything at Walt Disney World in a single vacation, so stop trying to make that happen. Once you give yourself permission to not visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or not go on a less important ride, or not stay up for Extra Magic Hours, the layers of stress just fall away.
12. Don’t compare your vacation to someone else’s. Several years ago, a neighbor of mine took her kids to Walt Disney World for a five day vacation. I took her to lunch and spewed information at her for hours about all the incredible things she could (SHOULD!) do at all four parks. When she returned from her trip I was horrified to learn that she went to the Magic Kingdom every morning, hung out at the pool every afternoon, and never made it anywhere else. As I tried to wrap my mind around the countless number of things she missed out on, she explained that her kids were having a great time and she didn’t want to mess with something that worked. She decided to tailor the vacation to her family’s vision of fun and not my vision of fun. Smart lady!
13. Evaluate your transportation situation. I hate to drive, so I adore the Disney free transportation system and often opt to use that over renting a car. Other folks may love to drive and hate waiting for public transport to arrive. They’ll be better off with a rental car during their Disney visit. Choose the option that’s going to make your world a better place to be.
14. Communicate your expectations to your kids. Are you a vacation rule keeper or rule breaker? How will you handle your child’s souvenir budget? Will the kids take turns choosing activities or will mom set the pace? Whatever your family’s hot button issues are, make sure your kids understand the situation. Lots of stress can be avoided by simply letting everyone know what’s going on.
So peeps out there, do you come home from your typical Disney vacation refreshed and rested, or ready for a nap? What are your tips for touring Disney the Relaxing Way?