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Editor’s note: This is the first in a six-part Q&A series on “Bringing the kids to Disney World.” Get expert advice on everything from healthy meals to hotel recommendations.

By Robin Gallagher

Robin's niece (age 5) with Mickey

Robin's niece (age 5) with Mickey

At a recent play group several moms, we were discussing the age-old question: When will our toddlers (along with everyone else in the family) be ready to enjoy a family vacation to Disney World? As we watched our 3- and 4-year-old boys run around with endless energy, pushing shoving and, of course, hugging, we talked in circles. One of the moms said, “Don’t you work for Orbitz, you should have an idea.”

Gulp. I had to come up with something quick, so I said, “Well, it really depends on your child.” (I knew this to be true and had to come up with something quick to maintain my expert status among the moms.)

The truth is, although I had been to Disney several times as a child — and only a year ago as an adult — I still had some questions that I needed answered. I was on a mission. I asked the Strategic Account Manager that handles Disney for Orbitz if he could put me in touch with a Disney expert to answer my most pressing questions. And he did. I asked Jonas Lehmann-Karp from The Walt Disney World Moms Panel six questions, and now I can finally share them with my fellow super moms, starting with this one:

Q: My boys have absolutely no patience. I am very concerned about lines and the wait times at the parks. What suggestions do you have for parents with toddlers who have a hard time standing in lines?

A: I understand your concern. Not only do my two young boys, a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, not like to wait on lines, but neither do I.

First, let’s address the hard truth. Like other theme parks or popular destinations, you’ll likely encounter at least some long lines during your trip to Walt Disney World. But here’s the upside: If you are going to have to wait on a line anywhere, the best place to do it is at Disney World.

By and large, the Disney queues are well themed, entertaining and full of distractions. Probably the best example is the new Toy Story Mania ride, which always attracts long lines. During our last wait on Toy Story Mania, our family started our wait entertained by the audio-animatronic Luxo Jr (a.k.a. the hopping Pixar desk lamp) as well as a trio of Toy Story Green Army Men characters marching up and down the line. As the line progressed inside the building, our family marveled at the giant pictures, murals and oversized toys from childhood adorning the walls of the queue. Nearing the end of the line is a 5-foot-tall Mr. Potato Headaudio-animatronic, playing the role of carnival-barker, who interacted with guests and really caught our kids’ attention.

Next, let’s discuss a few quick tips to help avoid lines in the first place: (1) use FASTPASS, Disney’s free service that saves your place in line for an attraction while you enjoy the rest of the theme park, (2) arrive at the park early when the crowds are smaller and lines are shorter, and utilize Extra Magic Hours, if staying on property, (3) if you have toddlers who can afford to miss a few days of nursery school, visit Disney World when schools are in session. Crowds tend to be light during this period, and it’s also usually less expensive to visit Walt Disney World during these times as well.

Even with those line-avoiding tips, you’ll still hit some lines along the way. To help keep an impatient toddler entertained, my first line of defense is to play a good old-fashioned word game, such as 20 Questions, I-Spy, and Rock, Paper, Scissors. I’ve also found that small surprises from the dollar store at home, like a toy figure or glow stick, can help pass the time. Consider spending some time in line searching for Hidden Mickeys, which are images of Mickey Mouse concealed in a Disney ride or attraction. Snacks, such as fruit, goldfish or granola, also help prevent toddler melt-downs on line.

One tip I believe parents sometimes forget about is to engage your children in conversation. I usually hand my kids a park map, show them where we are in the park and ask about other attractions they may want to see later that day. If I’ve been on the ride before, I’ll tell my boys what they may expect on the ride. As a last-resort, I bring out my smart-phone. The boys enjoy when I take pictures and shoot a short video and show it to them. We even pretend to write Mickey e-mails on the phone. If nothing else works, I start making silly faces and otherwise make a fool out of myself, which always cracks my kids up and distracts them (and others in line) for a bit.

Robin Gallagher is a Senior Market Manager for Orbitz Worldwide.  She is a busy working Mom with even busier boys who are 3 and 4. As you can imagine, family fun time while keeping the interest of boys with 20-minute attention spans, has become a mission for her and her husband in life and in travel!

Tagged: Disney, Family time, Florida

Note: Orbitz compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

MaryJo Lipman

MaryJo Lipman

MaryJo Lipman

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