sucked into the crazy. yes, Disney.

January 24, 2013 |  Category:   life travels


So…we’re going to Disney World next month (thanks again to everyone who weighed in with Disney advice, btw). I pulled the trigger and exchanged our cancelled trip tickets from November and felt pretty good about myself for redeeming those doomed airplane tickets before it was too late. At the time of that advice seeking post, the whole Disney experience was overwhelming to the point where I just didn’t know where to start. I knew nothing about Disney except for a few fuzzy memories from my 14 year old self, namely the time we all rode Space Mountain and my mom turned white as a sheet and couldn’t move afterwards (I seriously thought she was going to die from that ride). But thanks to those stupid cookies that browsers place on everything you look at on the internet, those Disney ads started following me around the web, reminding me of my ineptitude and procrastination in planning this trip. So I dove in one weekend and started researching hotels and resorts. I started learning the lay of the land, the location of the resorts relative to the parks and found myself pondering the meaning of terms like “extra magic hours” and “magical express” and debating on whether or not we needed all that magic on our trip.

And then I came across stuff like this and this.


Lordy. There is a whole lot of Disney analysis out there on crowd levels and wait times and strategic planning of which parks to avoid on which days based on historical data. I’d never planned a vacation like this, ever. And because of the anal retentive nature that I have (as much as I’d like to think that part of my personality doesn’t exist), I got sucked into statistics and spent days plotting the 4 days that we’d be there, trying to get insights from the dozens of websites and blogs that exist solely to help you strategize on how to beat the crowds. Some of these sites go as far as planning your itinerary by the minute, guaranteeing that by sticking to The Plan, you’d minimize wait times dramatically (and you can’t veer from The Plan because if you veer, you lose!).

Oh, and then there is the food. It’s a whole other category of confusion and choices. Should we do the Dining Plan or not? Or should we try and strategize (there’s that word again) by filling one suitcase with cereal, granola bars, bread and fruit and attempt to get away with eating only 2 meals out a day? When I learned that you have to make reservations at restaurants far in advance and that I might already be too late booking restaurants for February I was all, “but…it’s Disney, not Per Se! You mean it’s hard to get reservations?” Lo and behold, after doing some research on restaurants that I thought might interest us, those sites were right – I did get shut out at some places. Damn. But the competitive side of me didn’t want to give up, so I went back to my makeshift little spreadsheet of mapping out which park to which days, rearranged a few things and checked the reservations again until I made it work.

In other words, I got sucked into the crazy, despite my prior ambivalence to the whole Disney vacation (remember, it’s my mom’s whole “it’s part of the American experience!” spiel that finally pushed me over). I’m easily overwhelmed by crowded amusement park settings and I have visions of a long recovery after a vacation of standing in lines for too long which is the absolute worst thing for my sciatica. This is the reason why my mom, who suffers from the same afflictions and who previously envisioned herself taking her grandchildren on a Disney World vacation, decided that she would duck out and let us have “The American Experience!” all to ourselves.

But I have to be honest with you. We are getting excited. It’s unlike any vacation we’ve ever taken since all of our vacations usually center around visiting family. I really can’t imagine what a surreal, alternate reality this trip is going to be. Probably the furthest thing from relaxing, but we are up to the challenge. And I’ll admit, I’m more than a little relieved that the girls have no interest in seeing characters or princesses come to life. They were a bit appalled by the idea of “character dining” where Disney characters and princesses walk around the restaurant and stop by your table while you eat. I guess my girls are my girls because while I can suspend my disbelief and get sucked into the fantasy surrealism of most everything, a guy in a furry suit watching you eat is exactly that – a guy in a furry suit watching you eat.

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  • Darcy January 24, 2013 at 8:21 am

    we just went a few weeks ago, my girls are about the same age as your girls – here are some of the things we liked – (I hope it helps)! I actually love Disney World, kitsch and all. Though the food is really quite bad, I highly suggest staying off site or bringing your own food.

  • Janine January 24, 2013 at 9:10 am

    Ha ha, I enjoyed reading this! You will, like me and my husband (who have a horror of amusement parks) end up really enjoying yourself! The food is not that great but not as bad as Legoland Windsor(uk) which was so appallingly bad my daughter refused to eat it. Have fun. I’m not sure if the rides are the same as in California but we loved Star tours the best. Don’t make the mistake of putting Claudine in the very front of the log flume ride.. My 6 year old son was traumatised – we hadn’t explained the ride and he accidentally got put first.. Hysterical crying for about an hour! Also don’t get hung up on all the rides -our favourite bits were the incidental things like the bands and cars and buses and boats.

  • annie January 24, 2013 at 9:16 am

    Don’t overwhelmed yourself. This book was great help for us:
    I’m anal retentive so it helped me plan every day down to meals.
    Are you staying at the park? we rented a house through airbnb, great price and full of amenities.
    Get the park hopper ticket.
    Go early for a few hours, around lunch go to the hotel and relax, let the girls play in the pool, recharge and go back later in the day.
    It’s always busy, use the fast passes… and have fun!!!!

  • Jenna January 24, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Oh @Annie, yes anal retentive – that was the word I was looking for. Must amend my post! Thanks for the tips

  • Denise in PA January 24, 2013 at 11:38 am

    I know exactly how you are feeling, Jenna! Back in 2000, we were taking our first Disney Vacation, which included the Disney cruise. I was so overwhelmed by the whole thing, I didn’t want anything to do with the Parks part of the trip, only wanted to go on the cruise. Well, with two weeks of coming back from that trip, we were talking about when we could go again and within two years we were members of the Disney Vacation Club and now go at least once a year. We were sucked in big time – and we love every minute of it! Here’s hoping you do to! It IS magical! o:)

  • jen January 24, 2013 at 11:52 am

    have fun! also, depending on the weather that day, i’d recommend going late afternoon or early morning since the humidity can wear everyone out very quickly.

  • Elle January 24, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    If you want more advice to follow, I’d say:

    1. Pick one of those insane guides and loosely follow it. Don’t spend any more time trying to plan it out, if you don’t get to it all… eh.

    2. Pack water and snacks and sit down somewhere regularly to rest and people watch.

    3. Try not to rush to see everything in the smallest amount of time. Enjoy your being together with your family and even those kid rides (like Dumbo and Alice in Wonderland teacups) are pretty fun.

    Don’t forget your hat + shades + sunscreen!

  • Susan A January 24, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    I have never been but have a 6YO and know that the time will come soon to take that leap in DisneyWorld. I had never thought about the planning that goes into a Disney trip. I just figured, I would choose a date that was convenient for our family and go. Guess I am being naive. I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

  • Nancy January 24, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    Yay for Disney! We booked a trip for the tail-end of April vacation. I haven’t been there since I was a kid and I certainly never stayed at a Disney resort when we went. We booked the Caribbean Resort, with pirate rooms. We also sprung for the Dining Plus plan (1 meal a day, 1 snack and 1 quick service) and booked brunch with Cinderella, since it’ll be my youngest’ 3rd birthday while we’re there. From what I hear, you no longer have to wait on line anymore. They have this FastPass thing (I think that’s what it’s called), where you get a number and a time to come back to the line. Also, when you stay at the resort, you’re admitted to the park an hour earlier than the general public!

  • Noe January 24, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    You are your little family are going to have such a lovely time! I can’t wait to see all the pictures and read all about it 🙂


  • LeaAnne DeRigne January 24, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    There is no reason to eat at the parks. Go in for a few hours (pack snacks) then return to your hotel for rest and meals. I find that 5 hours is all the time you can stay at a park in any one visit. We always stay at nice hotels with great pools and the kids enjoy that just about as much as the parks. Have fun.

  • Jenna January 24, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    Thanks for more of your input everyone! Since we are going in February I am hoping that humidity isn’t an issue. And we live in NY where we are fairly used to humid weather in the summers. But yes…I’m not sure I would be able to do it in more humid heat.

  • hnahk January 24, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    i cannot wait to read about your experiences. i am also planning our first WDW trip in may but my kids are much younger (4 and 3). i’ve been loosely gathering info since last year but its been full blown planning since we booked plane tickets and off site accommodations earlier this month. my craziness resides in evernote, links, tips, budgets, to do lists. the price of park tickets made me vomit in my mouth. i was certainly naive about that. husband and i have never been and never had any desire to but having kids, we figured, i guess, what the heck.

    and if you plan on visiting seaworld, legoland, space center, etc…i would love love to read about it. hope you guys have a blast!

  • Jenna January 24, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    @hnahk we are only going to be there for 5 days (really just 4) so it’s a short trip. We’re only going to stick to the 4 parks because we won’t have time to do any other parks outside of disney. There is a special right now where you can get a 5 day parkhopper pass for the price of 3 days, but you have to travel before april…you should look around at specials like that for may. I bet they’ll have something!

  • joya January 24, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Um -wow. Slightly frightened after reading this. Ha- my poor kids.

    I also had the “American experience” growing up, as my Dad ( immigrant from India) took the three of us daughters there yearly. And any relative visiting that year from India 🙂

    But, this is the exact reason I don’t think I’ll be taking my three boys there any day soon – all the pre-planning, crowds, craziness is so not my style. Can’t wait to hear from you how it goes!

  • Sora January 24, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    I know your girls will have a great time and they will probably remember this trip for the rest of their lives. We live in Socal so we get to go to Disneyland often…still we have floated the idea of one day taking our kids to Disney World. Not sure how serious we are about that idea though. Have a wonderful time and hope you reap the benefits of your thoughtful planning.

  • Kat January 24, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Looking forward to hearing more about your family’s experiences. Have a four year old and debating when to take her before she starts kindergarten and we have to deal with school schedules!

  • Sally B January 24, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    my advice… decide to have fun regardless. Our son, at age 3, handed over his binky to Micky Mouse. The story was that Micky would pass it on to a baby that was ready for it now that H no longer needed it… really? Well, if I could have gotten off property to buy one about 2am that night, I would have. So… you just have to decide to have fun anyway. And since you are at Disney after all, fun should be a given… right? Maybe. It’s up to you!

  • Jennifer Bohrer January 24, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    My friend won a trip for 4 way back during the 1st gulf war, so we ( 4 adults) were there in February and the weather was lovely and warm. Crowds were light, lines weren’t bad…it was great. There are lots of pretty little out of the way spots to find quiet when you need it…enjoy the gardens too.

  • karen January 24, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    requisite one time reader, first time poster disclaimer:

    i live in orlando and i have to tell you based on waaaaay too many trips to disney and epcot, most of the eating we do there is grazing and walking (which allows you to use your fast passes and get on rides quicker) so you might be safe to bring along the suitcase of snackies and granola bars and do the two meals a day instead of committing to a meal plan.

    also: if you have time for epcot: do it. (and by it i mean the margaritas in Mexico 😉

    have a great visit! it is amazing how easy it is to get sucked into that place and just enjoy it for the sake of enjoying it. i hope you all have a great time (and make sure to youtube jim gaffigan’s disney commentary post trip)

  • Jeanne January 24, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    I worked at Disneyland in high school and have taken my kids there many, many, too many times, since we only live 20 min away. Coming from another who is tired by crowds and is anal retentive, my advice is to have a general plan and just go with the flow. Don’t be overwhelmed trying to pack everything into every minute. You’ll end up worrying more about what you’re missing and lose sight of the great things you’re experiencing. Have a lovely time!

  • Lila January 25, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    I think you are going to have the best time out of your whole family! I know I did. Disney made me feel like a kid again. Can’t wait to hear about it. Have fun!

  • Kyra January 25, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    I lived in Florida for 7 years, it’s absolutely perfect weather this time of the year! I hope you and your family enjoy my favorite state!

  • Susan January 25, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    I will be anxious to here about your experience, as I am one who said NEVER (even though I went at 12). But now with two children I understand the desire to do anything that makes them light up, and we plan to go when they are old enough to enjoy it and not be afraid of things.

  • Laura January 25, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    We went when Florida was hosting the Super Bowl, and it was like, “Line-ups? What line-ups?” We were able to walk onto every ride, and only waited once, at the Expedition Everest ride, for about 10 minutes. My husband hates lines, and so planned that part. The kids were 12 and 9, the best ages ever. We just laughed at all the parents that were dragging screaming toddlers behind them. Bring umbrellas, just in case.

  • Julie January 26, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    I’ve gotta say, as a veteran of 3 trips with kids (multiple more without), that the last trip we took, where we utilized’s (customized) plans and app was our most pleasant. We didn’t waste time with the requisite, “what should we do now” questions as we got off of rides – we had an plan and for the most part, we followed it. When we veered off, we were able to click the fabulous “optimize” button in the app and it would retool the schedule. As skeptical as we were going in, it took about 3/4 of one day to be totally and completely sold. We most definitely spent far less time waiting in line than ever before … a huge benefit with kids (and in-laws)!

  • Jenna January 27, 2013 at 12:46 am

    @Julie that is interesting about the touring plans feedback. I have heard from others that it works. Didn’t know there was an app?

  • Mariana January 31, 2013 at 7:31 am

    Hi Jeena. Your experience is global! Travelling from Argentina, we had the same previous madness and doubts about location, meals, extra magic hours (I recommend that!) and read so many blogs! But the fact is that we had that unforgettable magical vacation that makes you think of planning it again and again and again. Enjoy!

  • sue b. January 31, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    hahahahahaha! I can’t help to laugh… this is too funny! it brings memories of the crazyness!! We loved Disney when we went… and I am sure you’ll have a good time too… just try to rest, it’s very tiring walking around all day.

    As for the dining plan, we didn’t do it… we did bought cereal, granolas and snacks to have in our suite (we had a mini refrigerator) Have Fun!!