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Disney_family By Mark Michelon

With our twins who are 5 and a third child who is 3, we felt it was time to try our first family vacation on an airplane, and where better to go than to Walt Disney World?

We were all excited and wanted to see everything, but we decided to treat this as our “first of many” trips. We wanted to be as realistic as possible with three small children and follow as much of our typical family routine within reason. This was a very difficult task, with so much fun at our fingertips. Some research on Disney World vacations was going to be needed, so we obtained a guidebook, which I highly recommend.

Planning for peace

Our children are unable to be on the go all day long, especially for a few days in a row, without us expecting a major meltdown.

To avoid the meltdown situation, we took a recommendation from our guidebook and planned out our days. Now I don’t mean planning what you will do every minute of the day. Instead, breaking down the day into morning, afternoon, and evening categories and deciding what you would like to do. For example, you may choose the Magic Kingdom in the morning, relaxing by the pool in the afternoon (or the little ones can take a nap), and a character dinner in the evening. This helped us decide how many park tickets we would need, and if we needed to purchase the Park Hopper option (the ability to “hop” between parks on the same day).

A great way to decide if a park is right for your family is to determine how many rides the family will be able to experience based on height requirements. Most guidebooks or even the Walt Disney World Web site have this information. Once you have determined what rides your family can experience, make one of the FREE personalized Disney maps of each park you plan on visiting. These maps can be made from the Disney Web site. Plus, they are a great keepsake of the trip.

Hotel choice: Home away from home

Mickey_and_boys If your travel budget will allow, I highly recommend a Disney property rather than off-site Orlando hotels. They provide the comforts of home with a Disney-themed feel. We stayed at Disney’s Old Key West Resort and really enjoyed the laid-back feel after a busy day at the parks. The other nice thing is having a kitchen available to make quick breakfasts, light lunches or snacks. If your kids are like ours, sitting down in a restaurant for 3 meals a day is NOT a vacation.

Eating with Mickey

If you plan on dining at a Disney World park or hotel restaurant, make reservations as soon as you plan your vacation dates. We were amazed at how quickly the dining times booked up. This is especially true if you’re planning a character meal. We dined at Chef Mickey at the Contemporary Resort. During your meal, you are visited by all the classic Disney characters (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, etc). The food is buffet style and very kid-friendly.

Get in earlier

Be sure to check with your hotel concierge for the park schedule
allowing early entrance. Disney hotel guests can arrivean hour early
at select parks. I recommend visiting those parks on the days that have
the early entrance. The park will not be as crowded, and you will be
able to ride the more popular rides with a shorter line or retrieve all
of your Fast Passes. Disney Fast Passes are tickets that
indicate a time when to return back to the ride. When you return at the
designated time, you will enter the ride from a different entrance with
little to no waiting time. Lastly, most young kids are up earlier and
ready to go. Take advantage of their more cooperative, cheery

Have a blast getting wet at the water parks

Our family loves the water, so visits to the Disney World water parks were a must. We enjoyed both Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach equally, and both had adequate areas for the youngest guests. Both parks have sand areas for castle building. Don’t worry about bringing sand toys — the kids’ lunches at the snack shops come in a beach bucket with shovel. The lunches are big enough for two small children or even an adult!

If you have a late flight on your last day, take advantage of the water park. You can still have a great day of fun. Both parks have shower and locker rooms, to freshen up before flights, and kids will have a chance to burn off some energy before boarding the plane home.

Special days

Be sure to let Walt Disney World know of a special celebration. Our youngest son was turning 3 years old on our trip. He was given a birthday pin the first day of our trip and was told to wear it wherever he goes. Any time a Disney employee saw him, they would make a point to say hello and Happy Birthday. He felt very special!

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Mark Michelon is the father of twin 5-year-old boys and a third boy who is 3 but thinks he is 5. While his wife is surrounded by men, she is able to keep her sanity by assisting Mark in planning fun family vacations to any location with a pool and plenty of activities to wear out their 3 sons.

Tagged: Disney, Family time

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