I admit that I am a vacation nazi, and I'm not going to change in the foreseeable future. I plan my guts out for weeks, sometimes months, before a trip or any big event in my life. I did it for my wedding, the births of my kids, birthday parties, family vacations...I have no control over it. The up side is that because of all this planning, I can really be chill once the trip, party, event begins. If I haven't planned it by then, there is nothing I can do about it. So far, this anal retentiveness has worked out for me.
We're preparing for our annual trip to Disney in a few days. Here is my bag of tricks for surviving the "happiness" with 3 children and a Big Guy in tow.
1. Before the trip I purchase a subscription to Ridemax This is a God send for planning psychos like me. You can get lots of insider's tips about how early to get into line, when to pick up your fast pass, where to sit for the best view, the best plan of attack, etc... You can even choose the attractions you'd like to see each day and print up an itinerary that literally holds your hand through the park, saving you time, waiting, and walking.
This was so valuable for me the first time I took my three boys to the park alone while Hubs was at conference. I was unfamiliar with the layout (I have no sense of direction) and didn't know where to begin. We followed it loosely for the first few days until we got the hang of it, then didn't need it for the last few days. I'm not really regimented about the itinerary, it just gives me some direction when we're all standing there going, "What do you want to do? I don't know, what do YOU want to do?"
I purchase the 90 day subscription for under $20.
2. I always dress my three boys in matching shirts and hats each day we are at the parks. It is easier for me to locate them and if one gets lost, and I don't have to think about how to describe their outfit to the security. I can just point to one of my others and say "he looks like that!" Disney Shopping has a great outlet where you can get cool licensed Disney T's that even my 11 year old will wear for under $5.
Some of my friends think this is overkill, but I also carry their most recent school picture and the student ID cards they get from school with their height, weight and eye color, and fingerprints on them. I just do NOT want to loose my kids, I'm a little paranoid about whack-jobs that prey on little kids.
3. If they wear a Star Wars t-shirt to the Jedi Training Academy show, it will greatly increase their chances of getting called on stage to train for battle. If they get called on stage, it will greatly increase your chances of not listening to them whine the rest of the day. Bonus.
4. Pack lunch in snack form and refill water bottles throughout the day - stick each person's food in a lightweight string backpack. Once they eat, the small backpacks will fold up neatly and fit into your backpack. I made it through each day by spending less than $10 (for a snack) in the parks each day. We ate breakfast at home, ate our lunch on a bench and refilled bottles, then waited for the Big Guy to take us out for dinner at night. The kids didn't complain, because granola bars, gogurts, and goldfish didn't seem like boring home lunch.
5. Keep a master packing list on the computer. I add to it when I get home if I've forgotten something and print out the new one each year. I do this for vacation, camping, beach trips, etc... It saves time and assures that you will remember everything, and you just check off items as you pack them.
6. Do homework in the morning before you loose all leverage. You can't go play until you finish a page of school work. No homework no Mickey.
7. Bring a couple pairs of shoes on the trip in case one pair causes a blister from walking, getting wet, whatever. For some reason, shoes my kids have worn for months with no problems cause blisters when walked in for 5 miles a day/3 days in a row.
To the park always bring bandaids, neosporin, moleskin, and children's tylenol. Trust me, one of them will spike a fever when you are there and that stuff costs a mint in the park.
8. Pay attention to the Magic Hours schedules and do NOT go to those parks on those days. I know it seems counter intuitive, but they will be the most crowded parks on those days due to that little "perk" they dangle in front of all the on-grounds guests. Stay away, far away!
9. Purchasing your tickets through AAA will get you up-front parking for no additional fee. Oh, and make sure to keep a pen and paper on you, all of those characters names and numbers begin to run together after about the 3rd day there. (Were we in Pinocchio 17 or Tinkerbell 71?!? Wait, where am I? Who am I? How did I get here and why am I so happy?!?)
10. Collect fast passes all day long and use them when kids are the crankiest, and less able to wait, in the afternoon. In the morning when it isn't busy, you can usually get a fast pass every 15 minutes or so, then stash them for when the "magic" is wearing off, and the lines are getting long, from 3-6. There is a window of time when you are supposed to return, but they only check to be sure you aren't coming early, you can get in line late.
11. Tips for travel to and from Disney can be found in it's own post tomorrow.
If you have any tips you'd like to add, please add them to the comments section. Happy, happy thoughts!