the one about disney {part 3}

Well, I assume you are here because you're lost. I'm sorry.

If you're not lost, you probably are here because you have read the first two installments of my first Disney adventure. If you haven't read them, you can find them here: Part 1 | Part 2.

This post will be devoted entirely to THE MAGIC KINGDOM! (You have to read that out loud like a football announcer in order to get the full effect. Go it.)

I'm organizing this post into "Myths and Facts" because I started planning my trip under the influence of many myths. Read on, but only if you can handle the truth.

Myth: If you only visit one Disney theme park, you're a Disney loser.

Fact: Not true. We took into account the ages of our girls (3 years and 9 months), and we decided that they would get the most enjoyment out of THE MAGIC KINGDOM. Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and the Animal Kingdom didn't really appeal to us or them. So, we saved the money and the heartache and we devoted our focus to THE MAGIC KINGDOM.

Myth: You have to spend at least 2-3 days at THE MAGIC KINGDOM (Ok, I'm done) in order to accomplish anything.

Fact: Nope. We spent only a day and a half at the MK, and we got to do everything we wanted to do. The first day, we arrived around 12:30 so that we could all go over together after Luke's medical conference finished for the day. Keep in mind that this was July 4th and incredibly busy. However, we walked in during the 12:30 parade and ended up with an amazing view of the characters coming down the street. This set a great tone for our day. The second day, I got up and out early with the girls by myself and was there an hour before the park opened so we could get in a full day's worth of fun. You'll read more about that later.

Myth: You must strategically plan out every attraction to visit and every character to meet...or ELSE!

Fact: No...kinda. I saw people enter the park with notebooks, lists, and maps, circled and highlighted and dogeared and all kinds of crazy. I saw people make bee-lines to rides' FastPass stations and nearly plow small children over in the process. I have to say that I think a lot of this was because people purchased expensive Park Hopper options and thought they just HAD to ride Space Mountain before they left to head to Epcot later on in the day. They didn't allow themselves enough time to enjoy the park in its entirety. I didn't have a scripted plan, but I did have an idea of what Noelle would really want to see and do, and I made sure to make that happen for us.

The first day, the half day, we didn't plan on any princess encounters or really anything. We took the time to get a lay of the land, scope out what we wanted to come back to, and we rode any ride that had a quick line or FastPass turnaround time. If you can do it, I highly advise that you start with a half day to scope and scout, and then go back for a full day the next day. It took a lot of pressure off of us and allowed us to enjoy our time, even on one of the busiest days of the year.

Because I knew that the princesses would be a hot commodity and really the only reason why we were there, I made sure to get to the park one hour before it opened the next day to be ahead in the line and get right to the princesses. An hour early sounds excessive, but there were hundreds, if not thousands of people who had the same idea. If you want to be "first" or at least ahead of tons of other people, get to the park at least an hour before it opens.

Myth: If you don't use FastPass, you're an idiot.

Fact: 110% true. Seriously. Why stand in line when you don't have to? FastPass is a genius little system that allows you to get a ticket that gives you a return time (a 1-hour window) to come back, hand your ticket to a park worker, and literally jump the line to the front. Your wait is usually less than 10-15 minutes at that point.

A couple of things about FastPass.

1) I thought that the kiosks to print your FastPass tickets would be right next to the attractions. No. They are usually in a very random location in the park and you have to ask and follow signs in order to find them. Don't look like an idiot...just ask someone.

2) You can only get a FastPass to one attraction at a time. You can't go around to every FastPass kiosk right when you arrive and print a FastPass for each ride before you even start your day. That would be amazing, but it doesn't work like that. You typically cannot print another FastPass for another ride until you have already used the current FastPass ticket. So, you do have to be somewhat strategic about which FastPass you print first. If you get one that has a return time in like 5-6 hours (like Peter Pan's Flight), you won't be able to print another FastPass for a different ride until you've used the Peter Pan one.

3) Sometimes you get lucky and feel like a real Disney genius. Example, on the 2nd day, when I took the girls to the park by myself in the morning, I decided that I would print the FastPass tickets for Peter Pan's Flight for all of us right before we left the park to head to the hotel and get Luke. I knew there would be at least a 3-4 hour wait before the FastPass tickets could be used, which would be perfect since we would be returning later in the day. I scanned our park tickets and printed the FastPasses for Noelle and me. When I scanned Luke's ticket, it printed a pass that said since his park ticket hadn't been scanned yet (he wasn't with us yet), he wasn't eligible to print a FastPass yet. Well, I took the little pass it printed anyway and kept it. When we returned, I wanted to see if they would let us on anyway, so I just hid his little defective FastPass under mine and Noelle's and handed them to the park worker. She didn't even look at them and let us all on. We didn't have to wait at all while the non-FastPass users were at a 90 minute wait. To be honest, I have NO idea why people wait that long for Peter Pan's Flight. It really wasn't any of our favorite ride, but we had to see what the fuss was about.

Myth: Disney World is the "Happiest Place on Earth" and everything is fairy farts and rainbows.

Fact: Do I really even need to give an answer? Disney World is an amazing place. Rides, attractions, characters, castles, great food, fun music, whimsy, joy, Tinker Bell, pixie dust, never growing up, $10 balloons...I mean, it's all awesome.

However, kids will be kids. They will be tired and hungry. They will cry. They will request that you go back to the hotel pool while you are waiting in line for a ride. They will want a $10 balloon, $15 ice cream sandwich, and $65 princess dress (that's how much they cost there...not kidding). They will scream at you, throw a fit, maybe even throw themselves on the ground. It is sad when this happens because you have so many great expectations. My best advice is to try not to let this get to you. It WILL happen. We even (gasp!) pulled Noelle out of line for Enchanting Tales with Belle (a 50 minute wait) because she was screaming and being selfish about an umbrella. We were embarrassed and didn't want to do it, but we are not "Give 400 warnings and a glare" kind of parents. We act. If we threaten to do something, we make good on doing it. This doesn't make us better or worse, but it is what we do. We didn't change our parenting styles for the trip. I don't recommend that you do either. At the end of the day, you will leave the Happiest Place on Earth and return home with your kid, and you need to make sure that your parenting balls are still there. We ended up returning to Belle once she calmed down and ended our day on a high note. Besides, outside of Beast's castle made a truly picturesque place for a time out.

That said, you can do things to help your child have a good day. Bring snacks. Bring and drink lots of water. Use the mini spray fan that I advised you bring. Bring extra clothes, comfy shoes, and take breaks. If you stay on Disney property with transportation, it is a wonderful thing to use the monorail and go back to the hotel for a mid-day break or nap. We did this, and it really helped. The monorail, if for no other reason, is totally worth paying 3 times more for the Grand Floridian.

Also, adults will be adults. Some of the worst behavior I saw throughout the entire trip came from adults. They will push your kid out of the way to make sure that their kid gets in first. They will stand in front of children at shows and parades without considering the small people in the back. They will argue with park workers and make the poor college kids feel like losers (yet they're not the one in adult-sized Pooh t-shirts...just sayin').

For example, on the morning when I took the girls to the MK by myself to get there an hour before it opened, I was just standing behind the few people in front of me, minding my own business. It was hot already, the girls were squirmy already, and I was regretting this decision already. However, I had Noelle decently entertained by watching something on my phone, and I was just trying to keep them shaded and cool. I started noticing a ton more people filling in behind and around me as it got closer to the park's opening hour. The next thing I knew, I stood up from talking to Noelle in the stroller to see a whole family of adults, no kids at all, standing so close to the back of my stroller that they were resting their hands on it. I stood up, whipped my backpack around and nudged them out of the way. They continued to press into me, trying to push forward and around me. I could hear them strategizing how to get around me and eventually they accomplished their goal. So, once the gate was opened and people began pushing through, I got behind my double jogging stroller and headed in. I may or may not have "accidentally" rammed the ankles of the family of adults who decided to cut me with my massive stroller, and I didn't care at that point. Shoulda stayed behind me!

Another example was on July 4th when we decided to head back to our resort to watch the fireworks from there. We had no interest in standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands of other people to watch the fireworks inside the MK when we could easily see them from the shore of the bay from our hotel. We thought it would be fun to catch the water taxi back to our hotel, so we waited for it to come and get us. We were 2nd in line. Luke had to fold up our stroller in order to board the boat (HUGE pain in the bum bum and reason enough to never ride the thing again), so he was holding that while I was holding Charlotte with one arm and Noelle's hand with the other. The other 20 or so people behind us decided to take advantage of us with our arms full and blew right on past us so that we were the last people on the boat. No one offered to help. No one cared about nearly knocking Noelle over to get on the boat. One lady even took her own stroller, threw it in the center aisle of the boat near where we were sitting, and ignored the driver when he told her that it couldn't be in the aisle. She sat in the front of the boat and left Luke to hold it out of the aisle along with our own stroller and our two children. It was crazy! We were shocked at how rude and selfish grown adults acted.

My advice is to try not to be in a hurry if you can at all avoid it, because if you can take a step back, let pushy people through, or catch the next water taxi, you will be safer and probably less annoyed by the process. The thought of losing Noelle was ever present in my mind, and it happens to kids, especially when adults wedge themselves between kids and their parents so that they can be first for something. We brought a "leash" for her (one of the animal backpack things with the strap) but didn't use it because the stroller helped to contain her for the most part.

Lastly, I will end by a simple take it or leave it rating system for THE MAGIC KINGDOM (had to).

Monorail (no stroller folding, fast!)
Characters (the princesses spent a quality amount of time with Noelle and were wonderful! Princess Tiana & Jasmine + Aladdindidn't have to park the stroller, so I could stand in line with it without unloading the girls!)
Parade (really fun to see all the characters up close and hear the music)
Buzz Lightyear ride (my favorite, so fun! FastPass!)
Under the Sea with Ariel ride (Noelle's favorite, rode it twice! FastPass!)
Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor (really cute, did it twice, usually short wait)
Enchanting Tales with Belle (a different take on the princess experiences...interactive play the kids can participate in...she just doesn't sign books and no flash photography)
Dumbo ride (fun ride, FastPass!)
Aladdin's Flying Carpets ride (similar to dumbo but no FastPass)
$10 Balloon (you have to)

Water Taxi (have to fold stroller, annoying adults will push in front of you)
Peter Pan's Flight (don't wait longer than 5 minutes the FastPass line for this)
Carousel (ride it at the mall or the zoo instead...)
Pineapple Dole Whip (got one because I heard they were amazing...waited in line for like 25 minutes...didn't change my life)
Fireworks (stay if you can and/or you aren't staying at the Grand Floridian or the Polynesian, but if your kids are over it and you don't want to start finding a place to sit 2 hours before they start, I'd leave an hour before and watch them from your resort...less crowded and you can still see the amazing show)

I think I have said it before, and I will say it again, please always remember that this trip is for the kids. Take them into consideration and think about what they would enjoy doing...the characters they love...if they even like rides...their nap and eating times...their safety. Remember that you want them to come away with wonderful memories.

Noelle didn't really care if she saw everything, but she did care that I spent that time with her and tried to make her dreams come true...even if her dream come true was a Mickey ice cream sandwich for breakfast. Make it happen, I did, and to her, that was magic.

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