BEFORE YOU GO:
If you have a princess-obsessed daughter, go to the Disney Store before you leave. There, you can let her pick out a princess/fairy/enchanted gnome queen costume for a fraction of the price it will cost you in the park itself. The park is TEEMING with little princesses, all dolled up in their own fancy dresses, and it's easier to have this in your suitcase for when your daughter notices this, and wants to be one, too. Which will happen. I have a Tangled lover on my hands, as you can see. This was basically the highlight of her life, and I may have gotten a little teary, myself:
- Shit be expensive in the parks. Order a case of water and other essentials from a local grocery delivery service. I am in no way receiving any compensation for this, but we used Garden Grocer. They make a point of the fact that they deliver to Disney resorts, and the stuff gets there whenever you want it to (provided you order with sufficient advance time). Having cold water and other snacks on hand, and in our bags before we headed out for the day was so convenient.
- Location, Location, Location. If you can stay on-premises, do it. We were in a great suite at The Bay Lake Towers, in the Contemporary (we went with my parents, who are awesome), which I highly recommend. The rooms, views and the pool were great...
...it was under a ten minute walk to the Magic Kingdom, and the monorail runs right through the lobby, which, in addition to the convenience factor, will blow your kids' MINDS.
WHEN YOU GET THERE
- Get a stroller, oh my god, get a stroller. It just makes everything easier. Also, while I did not procure leashes for my kids, I did tape our last name and cell phone number inside their shirts each day, with the instructions that if they somehow got lost, that they should find someone with a name tag and show them the tape. (It didn't happen, THANK GOD.)
- Fireworks strategery. Fireworks are beautiful and magical, and also the main viewing area (in front of Cinderella's castle) where everyone congregates is a horrifically frightening crowded deathtrap with no lights (they turn them off for the show). Basically, you are probably going to get pickpocketed and/or pregnant, is how close you are crammed in to the people next to you. Instead, watch the fireworks from BEHIND Cinderella's castle, right by the carousel. There is basically NO ONE THERE, you can pull up a chair from the (empty) restaurant-thing, and enjoy. And the view is still great. See?
- People are weird. Can we talk, for a brief moment, about how super weird it is to see adults waiting in line to meet, say, Ariel and Prince Eric (somehow this was weirder with the "real" people characters, as opposed to, say, Pluto), and then having lengthy and earnest conversations with them? And then getting their autographs? For this is super weird.
- Your children may not have the same irrational childhood fears as you. Donald Duck's beak: Not scarring a new generation!
- You can, however, develop new fears. Getting stuck on Spaceship Earth next to a humanoid moving animatronic...thing for an excess of two minutes will haunt me for a very long time.
- FINE. FINE. I WILL READ HARRY POTTER. YOU WIN, SOCIETY.
- Sometimes, a little self-imposed time out is a good thing.
All in all, I can say without a shred of irony that it was the best vacation I've ever had. I've been lucky to have gone on some great trips, and visited some beautiful places, but for pure feel-good, cheek-hurting smile enjoyment, oh my word, Disney with your kids is where it's at.