At Walt Disney World, Planning is the Key

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Friend and colleague Emily Beaumont took her family on a trip to Walt Disney World and shares with us her itinerary.

Trip to Walt Disney World

Going to Walt Disney World is a magical—and expensive—experience that many families hope to enjoy together at least once. With the pandemic, a lot has changed, but, to be realistic, it has always taken a lot of planning to prepare for this trip! 

When our family went to Disney World back in 2007, we spent months beforehand gathering advice and lining up a ton of reservations: our flight to Orlando, the shuttle to the parks, our stay at the Polynesian Resort, dinners every night, tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, and a visit to Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boutique. It really is a big effort, but it’s so worth it!

We planned our trip for the week after Thanksgiving because it would not only be less crowded, but the parks would also be newly decorated for Christmas. The children were in 1st and 4th grades, and their teachers were kind enough to send assignments home before the holiday, so their homework was completed before we left—and they didn’t fall behind while we were away. Another bonus is that Orlando is still warm enough in November that you can enjoy the resort pool. Here’s how we spent our wonderful week.

Monday: We flew from Birmingham, Alabama, and arrived in Orlando later that morning. The Magical Express shuttle took us from the airport to the Polynesian Resort, where we checked in. We soon hopped on the Monorail to visit Epcot. Here, we quickly found a kiosk with autograph books and Sharpies, right next to a character-filled station. We saw Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, and Goofy right away! After visiting the countries of the world, we had dinner at Nine Dragons at the China Pavilion. 

Tuesday: We rode over to Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs) for our daughter’s appointment at the Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boutique. While she was being given the Cinderella treatment, my husband took our son to the nearby LEGO store.

After lunch at the Rainforest Café, we ventured over to the Magic Kingdom. We made it back to Epcot for a late dinner at Coral Reef, and then we enjoyed the Candlelight Processional and reading of the Christmas story with John O’Hurley (who played J. Peterman on Seinfeld). 

Wednesday: We took a bus to the Animal Kingdom, where we loved the Kilimanjaro Safari! We saw alligators, hippos, flamingos, antelopes, lions, elephants, and more. And two of us enjoyed the Expedition Everest roller coaster.

That evening, we had a magical dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table at the Magic Kingdom. On our way, we had our picture taken in front of the castle—a photo that would be featured on our Christmas card that year.

It was wonderful spending time with Cinderella at her meet-and-greet—and then watching the fireworks from inside the castle.

Thursday: We returned to the Magic Kingdom, where we would spend the whole day. We really loved dinner at the Crystal Palace because we met Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and—my favorite—Tigger!

That night we attended Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, complete with a special parade, fireworks, cookies and cocoa, snow on Main Street, and Santa. And, yes, the kids got Santa’s autograph too.

Walt Disney World Trip planning

Friday: We went back to Epcot for Soarin’ and more exploring. After relaxing by the resort pool in the afternoon, we had dinner at ‘Ohana at the Polynesian—a perfect way to end our vacation. 

Additional Tips

1. Taking the children at ages 6 and 9 was ideal because they were old enough to walk everywhere and remember the experience, plus the cost of tickets went up at age 10.

2. We brought a large, empty suitcase with us because we knew we would need to carry souvenirs home.

3. To keep souvenirs (and spending) to a minimum, I gave each child this rule: You may select one item per day, with a $50 limit. (And, no, you can’t have 10 things that cost $5 each.) Over the course of the week, our son chose a Zurg toy, a large LEGO set, a Playstation game, a Pirates of the Caribbean T-shirt, and a toy rifle from Frontierland. Our daughter chose a Cinderella doll, Cinderella costume, a stuffed Simba toy, a Minnie Mouse T-shirt, and a set of Disney Barbie dolls. 

Whether this is the year your family can make the trip or not, it’s never too early to start planning. Talk to friends and neighbors about their favorite experiences and restaurants, and, of course, read The Unofficial Guide To Walt Disney World With Kids. Then you’ll be the most prepared visitors at the Happiest Place on Earth!

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