This time, it's about air travel.
The itinerary was pretty laid back: Fly to Orlando Monday evening (with Lilly in her jammies), arrive around 10:30pm. Spend Tuesday at Magic Kingdom, and the rest of the week at Grammy's playing in the pool. Fly home the following Tuesday, skip work Wednesday and roll back into the office Thursday for a two-day week. Here's how it shook out:
Day 1: Left Rainy Connecticut only 1/2 hour late at the tail end of the worst nor'easter in April in the history of nor’easters in April in the northeast. Whatever that means. Tommy killed time in the airport staring at a Magic Kingdom Map and plotting his strategy (see tip # 2 below). Lilly spent her time running ("I win!") and climbing over the endless rows of seats. We landed in Orlando a little after 11:00 and caught a cab to the hotel ($47 + tip). Too late to get a cold bottle of beer at the lounge (further support for tip #5 for traveling with kids).
Day 2: Arrive Magic Kingdom around 11:00. Most advice we had read said to arrive before the gates open. This just doesn't sound realistic for younsters. The next thing they tell you is to take a nap in the afternoon. That's maybe a good idea if your hotel is inside the park, but ours wasn't. And a fourteen-hour day anywhere sort of sounds too long. Twelve hours seemed realistic. Our whole objective in this excursion was to give Tommy a fantastic day, so we took the same approach as we would for a kid-friendly city visit: Don't try to do too much, do be flexible, and don't forget the snacks.
We knew that we wanted to end the day with fireworks, (starting at 10:00 pm) so we worked back from then. Why drag the family out of bed early, rush through breakfast, and get worked up into the rush, rush, rush mentality if the point is to be flexible and have fun? And here's another point: if the kids are tired after twelve hours of stimulation and you arrived early, isn't it going to be difficult to convince then around 8 or 8:30 pm that it's time to go? Isn't that one of those critical times in a family excursion where meltdowns occur? Why create haste in the morning when you can end the day with fireworks and Tinkerbelle? It's a pretty magical ending, and when the fireworks are over, everyone starts walking out of the park. "Sorry buddy, the park's closed. Sure was fun though huh"?
Rather than rush, we ate a big, leisurely breakfast in the hotel lobby, goofed around in the playground in the hotel courtyard. Around 10:30 we left Lilly with Grammy and caught the shuttle to the monorail at Epcot Center and then caught the boat over to the Magic Kingdom.
Disney World Tips and Observations:
Observation #1: People with young kids (under 6) weren't having much fun. And the youngsters weren't having fun either. It was a good idea to leave Lilly with Grammy, and to let Tommy explore, because if Lilly ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. Besides, all they can go on are the kiddy rides, and you can ride the kiddy rides for a lot less the $70 at most amusement parks. Save the $70 for making magic with. Six years old is a great starting age because the Haunted mansion scares the hell out of them, as does Space Mountain.
Tip #1: Bring bottled water. Refill the bottles at the drinking fountains and flavor them with flavor crystals (Gatorade, lemonade, whatever). This is a good idea because the drinking water at the fountains doesn't taste so good. Single serve crystal pouches are really, really convenient. Good fountains: the lower one by Jungle Safari River Ride in Adventure Land and the one near the steamboat ride in Liberty Village. I wish I took better notes on which ones dribble, but I was a little busy having a blast. But I do remember that the fountain near Pirates of the Carribbean was a dribbler.
Observation #2: The boat ride seemed quicker than the monorail. You get to and from the Magic kingdom either by boat or monorail. Getting in isn't such a mob scene (at least at some times of the year), but escaping after the fireworks can get crowded. Most of the herd seemed to flock to the monorail; we went to the boat. It was less crowded and quick.
Tip #2: Print a map. Have the kids study the park beforehand, and list the rides they want to go on. It'll keep them busy planning their strategy in the days leading up. If you print the map real small, it'll take them twice as long to figure it out.
Tip#3: Don't go during the summer. It's too hot! New England has school breaks in Feb and April, where the rest of the country seems to have spring break in March (that may explain why there were so many Red Sox hats roaming around). Mid to late April is an excellent time to visit because the weather is fantastic and the crowds are manageable.
Days 3-7: Goof around by the pool. Tommy and Lilly were wanting to be in the pool at Grammy's house by 10 each morning, and they didn't get out until suppertime. We visited Homosassa Wildlife Park one day (tip: stay away from the hippo's butt), but other than that it was swimming with the kids or reading the paper. And it was quite nice. We flew home without a hitch: the car wasn't stolen, and the house hadn't burned down. Best of all though there had been a springtime transformation when we got home. Daffodills, crab apple, and dogwoods were flowering, and the grass was actually green and growing.
What are your tips and observations about visiting Disney World?
This time, it's about air travel.