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Simple Tips for Avoiding CRANKY KIDS in Disney World
If you have ever taken the kiddos on any sort of day trip, you know how easy it can be for their mood to go from idyllic to utter meltdown in a matter of seconds. Most kids possess the uncanny knack for being able to go from happy to inconsolable with little to no warning. While this is totally normal and well, kid-like, there is nothing worse that spending a ton of money to go on a big trip and have meltdown after meltdown from the youngsters. A trip to Disney is most likely NOT a trip that you will take “on a whim.” Disney Trips are typically booked months, if not years, in advance. So while you are devoting countless hours and thoughts to planning your perfect Disney vacation, including dining reservations, hotel stays and Fast Pass selections, don’t forget to put some contingency planning in your master plan. Travel times, weather, ride wait times, tired kids are all unpredictable and highly likely to occur during your trip but if you plan for these things to happen, you can often avoid complete and under kid meltdowns.
*Disclaimer: the above photo was staged. I’m not saying that we haven’t had our share of Disney-rific meltdowns over the years, but this was not one of them. The kids thought this was hilarious. The park photographer thought we were weird. I knew I’d eventually write this post, so why not get the perfect blog photo while in the World?
Midday Meltdowns Can Occur at ANY Time
It only takes a few hours on your first day in Disney World to learn how delicate the balance can be between happy visitors and cranky ones. There are so many factors at play. The weather in Florida, especially during summer months, can be scorching hot with very high humidity. It’s the kind of weather that seems to just suck the energy right out of your body! Random thunderstorms and downpours happen frequently and many times occur without warning. Despite Disney’s intricate transportation system, there really is no quick way to get anywhere.
How to Avoid Cranky Kids (and Adults) in Disney
We have logged a whole bunch of Disney World trips with kids ranging from infant (5 months old) to 9 years old. We have definitely learned some helpful pointers when it comes to avoiding impending meltdowns.
Plan Your Trip with Your Kids in Mind
I know. That sounds silly. But I’ll say it again: “Plan Your Trip with Your Kids in mind.” I say this because kids have shorter attention spans than adults and get tired quicker. They do well with frequent breaks and time to explore without having to stick to a schedule.
There is so much to do in Disney World, sometimes you need to remind yourself that there is absolutely no way to do it all. You HAVE to pick and choose and you MUST keep the kids’ energy, interests, naptime, mealtime, etc in mind. When you plan the trip and book your dining and Fast Passes and other itinerary items based on what YOU want to see and do, you run the risk of enduring cranky kids and meltdowns when they are stretched beyond their limits.
Schedule Breaks in Your Vacation Schedule
Think about all of the things you may find yourself scheduling when you travel to Disney. This list can include: dining reservations, airfare, hotels, grocery delivery, fast passes, car rental… why not schedule some downtime into your plans? By not booking yourself down to the minute 24/7, you create some time for a much needed rest and escape from the heat/humidity/crowds.
Some of our favorite rest options in Disney include: relaxing at the hotel or spending some time at your resort pool. Of course, sometimes just getting into some air conditioning for a little while can go a long way. This is why making at least one dining reservation during each day of your trip is never a bad idea. We like to book a late lunch or early dinner most days that we are in the Parks. It’s always a welcome hour or two that we can get out of the heat, have a spot to sit, and hydrate before heading back outside.
Be Willing to Ditch THE MASTER PLAN
Look, I LOVE a great vacation plan. I’m Type A all the way, and this is ESPECIALLY evident when we are on vacation. Remember Danny Tanner’s Clipboard of Fun? He’s my hero.
But sometimes, you simply must be willing to ditch your plans to avoid epic meltdowns. When you see that your kids are starting to show some telltale signs that a tantrum or meltdown is on the horizon, you must be willing to take your amazing (maybe even laminated) master plan and toss it to the wind. Kids wilting in the heat? Perhaps it would be better to head to the pool or at least some AC instead of that outdoor amphitheater show you got fast passes for. Meal time has come and gone but you were in line for that ride you couldn’t get a fast pass for? Maybe it’s time to head to a restaurant instead of watching the parade (hint: there are always more parades!).
Set Expectations with Your Kids BEFORE You Arrive
While this might need repeating several times and the youngest kids won’t really “get” it, prepping your kids for what they can expect usually goes a long way. Use the weeks leading up to your trip to explain that they will need to practice being patient as the Parks will be crowded and they might have to wait in long lines to do the things they want to do.
Set expectations regarding gift shops and other souvenir situations (parade light up toys, balloons, etc). However you plan to do souvenirs (buy some, buy none, buy everything), prep the kids ahead of time. I’m not saying they won’t still ask for something in every. single. gift. shop. in. Disney, but it will help if you have already set some sort of rule, even if that rule is flexible.
Bring Snacks and Drinks
We learned quickly when traveling to Disney with a toddler, that bringing our own food into the park is not only a big money saver, it was also a sanity saver. Having a cooler bag full of snacks (our favorites include granola bars, trail mix, Smucker’s Uncrustables and pretzels) along with some water bottles and juice boxes makes long lines, parades, breaks from the crowd, or even waiting for your restaurant table, a bit more bearable. Do yourself a big favor and bring some basic snacks with you into the Parks, even if you have dining reservations.
Did you know you can ship snacks to Disney?
Bring or Rent a Stroller, Even for Kids Who Don’t Usually Use a Stroller
Last fall we were down to the last bit of packing for our Fort Wilderness RV trip. We went back and forth on bringing a stroller for Landon. I can’t remember the last time he used a stroller here at home. Occasionally he’ll hop in our collapsible wagon if we bring it to a horse show or parade, but other than that, he’s happier walking. So imagine our surprise (and disappointment) when just hours into our first day in the Parks, he wilted like a little flower and refused to walk anymore. He only wanted to be carried. If you have ever carried a 50 pound kid in 90+ degree heat through crowds and across miles of theme park, you can probably imagine our moods by the end of the evening.
We drove to Walmart that night in search of a cheap umbrella stroller (it was too late to rent one, the Disney area stroller rental company that we used two trips ago was all out). Walmart had no strollers in stock, and there we were the next morning, plunking down almost $50 on a cheap umbrella stroller at Hollywood Studios (that our kid was about 5 pounds over the recommended weight limit for). It didn’t work great, but it worked. I can’t stress this enough: consider bringing or renting a stroller for your kids, even kids as old as 8 or 9. Disney is huge and requires a TON of walking. Even kids with a high amount of physical stamina get tired hiking around Disney. We usually log about 10-15 miles PER DAY when we are in Disney.
Consider (and Prepare for) Heat, Rain, Chilly Nights
Weather can vary greatly when you travel to Disney World! Summer days often bring unpredictable thunderstorms with heavy rain. Winter evenings get chilly and breezy. The temperatures fluctuate anywhere from sweltering heat and humidity to overcast with a chill depending on what time of year you are in the World. Prepare in advance by checking out average Disney temperatures and rainfall for the time of year you intend to travel.
Some of our favorite things to bring with us (emphasis on bring with us if you want to save some money!):
There is No Such Thing As Quick Transportation in Disney World
While Disney Parks and Resorts are all in close proximity to each other, getting from one to another is anything but quick. You should always allow for at LEAST an hour to get from one resort or Park in Disney to another. Sometimes the Minnie Van Lyft Service is a little quicker than the bus, monorail, ferry options, but now that they have rolled the Minnie Van service out to all resorts, I have heard that the wait times might outweigh the original conveniences.
If you’re at a Park or Resort and your children are already starving, don’t kid yourself that you’ll just “hop right over to XYZ and get some food.” Because you won’t. Nothing is quick. You are much better off finding food (or at least a snack) at whatever location you are currently in, because you’ll be looking at another hour (easily) until you get food elsewhere.
Make sure you factor these transportation times into your thought process as you work to avoid overtired, hungry, cranky kids.
Try Not to Let Disney Stress Get to You
Disney is an intense vacation. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Tired kids are pretty much inevitable, but in most cases, you can turn a situation around before it gets out of hand.
What are your best tips for a great Disney trip?