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I love Disney Parks! And I love experiencing the magic of Disney with my children.
But no one loves tantrums. Yet, as every mom and dad knows, tantrums are a part of parenting — and they are a part of vacations too.
I have taken my family to Disney World six times, which includes twelve hour travel days for us to get from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Orlando, Florida. Over the years, I have learned some tricks on how to minimize the number of tantrums and how to deal with them when they happen.
Both my children have ADHD and sensory issues. And my daughter also has Stereotypic Movement Disorder (SMD). I have had more than my share of tantrums and meltdowns every day of the year, wherever we happen to be.
With a bit of extra planning and preparation, you can help avoid tantrums and minimize them when they start to brew.
1. Adjust Your Expectations
The most important thing we can do as parents to get the most enjoyment for us and for our children when vacationing in the Disney Parks is to set realistic expectations.
Whether you have small children or not, no one can get everything done in one day at a Disney Park. If you are vacationing in Disney World, you have to take into consideration that there are four parks, each packed with rides and sites to experience. And it takes time to get from one park to another.
Give yourself time to do everything you want to do. If your vacation is short, don’t focus on doing it all, focus on enjoying what you are doing. If you don’t make it on every ride, no worries. Check out our list of the top 10 rides and try to make it to a few of those. And of course, there is always your next trip. *wink*
2. Expect Some Tantrums
Depending on the age of your children, you need to expect some challenging moments and tears. Obviously, children get tired, over stimulated, and frustrated.
When you have young children, or children with extra needs like my son, you simply know that there will be episodes or tantrums. The key is to take them in stride and not let them define your day. Kids cry. Expecting some tears and keeping things in perspective will keep you from wanting to cry too.
3. Plan for Your Family’s Style
What works best for one family, may not work best for yours.
While hitting the parks first thing in the morning can be the best time to avoid long lines, harsh heat, and cranky kids, I never take my kids to the park first thing in the morning. I am not a morning person and my kids love to stay up late and see the fireworks.
So, since we are on the pacific time zone and three hours behind when we hit Orlando, I simply keep my kids on the pacific time zone. They get to stay up late and I get to sleep in. We may have longer lines and have to deal with more heat, but it works for OUR family.
Understand what is most important to your family and plan with your children’s personalities and schedule in mind. If it works at home, it will work on vacation as well.
4. Be Age Aware
What I love most about Disney is that they make a magical experience for every member of the family. No matter your age, Disney is determined to give you the vacation you want — and to make your feel like royalty along the way.
When planning out your trip, ensure that each member of the family has the chance to hit some of their favorite places each day. Fortunately, Disney does an incredible job of making their rides and experiences appeal for a wide range of ages.
5. Divide and Conquer
If your family does have different ages and tastes, divide and conquer.
My husband and I take turns with our kids. One of us will take our son on the fast rides while the other one takes our daughter to her favorite rides and shows.
6. Bring Your Stroller
Even if your children are no longer riding regularly in their stroller at home, bring your stroller to the Disney Parks!
Strollers are indispensable for toting all the extra gear that children require and even older children need a break from walking. From toddlers napping to worn out five year olds who need a bit of shade and some rest, a stroller is your best friend in the parks.
My sister Susan brought her double stroller even though her oldest is seven. Both of her kids, her four year old and her seven year old, (albeit she is a tiny seven year old!) were grateful to have the chance to be pushed through the park when they got tired.
7. Pack Snacks
Disney is great at providing a variety of healthy food and drink options. So I don’t pack too many extra snacks when we head out to the parks.
But having healthy snacks, especially protein and water, handy and ready to go is perfect when you are waiting in line or want to save time as you run from one attraction to the next.
8. Use Apps
Smart phones make a day at the Disney Parks SO much easier. With helpful apps you can easily save time and plan out your day.
9. Keep the Kids Playing in the Lines
Not only is your smart phone allowing you to scope out character locations, find out wait times, and make restaurant reservations, but your phone can keep your kids playing games and having fun in the lines.
And don’t forget your phone’s camera.
While you may be focused on getting your shots on your “real camera,” let your kids capture Disney through their eyes using your camera’s phone. It will keep them entertained when they have to wait and it will inspire them to look for the photo opportunities all around them.
10. Plan Time for the Pool
While the main attractions are happening at the Disney Parks, don’t forget to schedule some down time at the pool.
We always stay at Disney Hotels because of all the great features they offer their guests. And one of the most important parts of our Disney vacations is our relaxation time at the incredible Disney Hotel pools.
It is amazing how refreshed everyone is after a cool swim and some relaxation by the pool. A few hours at the pool and you will be ready to get back to the fun at the parks!
Whether you are heading to Walt Disney World or Disneyland, you will undoubtedly have a wonderful, magical time. There may be some challenging parenting moments, but with some planning — and some perspective — tantrums will NOT rain on your parade.
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Written by Janice Croze, co-founder of 5 Minutes for Mom.
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