I still remember a few of my thoughts when I first saw that positive pregnancy test. The moment was wonderful and surreal but I remember thinking:
1. I can’t wait to tell family.
2. We must decorate the nursery with Baylor University accents regardless of gender.
3. I can’t wait to take my baby to Walt Disney World.
Baby Markey is now three and a half years old and we took her to Walt Disney World this past December. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for a vacation in all my life. For me going to Disney is like looking at pages of the story of my life. I’ve been too many times to count and have precious memories there from various ages and stages of my life. This includes memories with grandparents that are no longer with us. I couldn’t wait to introduce my daughter to a place that I found to be so much fun, special and just down right magical.
Even with all my excitement, I knew that planning a Disney vacation with a preschooler would be a different ballgame then what my family was used to. The last time we went to Disney my husband and I had been married over a year. It has been a very long time since anyone from my family has been to Disney with a young child. The last time was when my younger brother was little and for this trip he would be going with his wife! So a lot of research was required to pull off the perfect family vacation.
To make this the best experience for my daughter we began what I called her “Disney training” nearly a year out from the booked trip. This included watching any animated Disney movie or reading any Disney books that I thought she would like. We focused on the classics and the most recent films, this way she would know the characters when she saw them. We talked about the movies and how she would meet the characters when we went to Disney World.
In planning our time at Disney I took into account Baby Markey’s schedule. Every young preschooler needs a break in the day especially at Disney when so much stimulation is being tossed at them. I scheduled breaks for her in the afternoon. I also know the benefits of taking advantage of the extra magic hours you can get when you stay at a Disney resort. I learned what parks opened early and scheduled for us to be there when they opened. Baby Markey does best in the morning so I knew we could get a lot done then. I was right. Really, when planning a Disney trip keep in mind your child’s schedule. They set the pace and the tone. Make the fun work to suit their needs.
I made sure to book all dining reservations just as soon as I was able to. This way I could get the character dining experiences that we wanted. You can also book sessions at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique 90 days out and I recommend doing this. Plan ahead. Know the reservations that you and your child want and then have a plan B so if anything is full.
Let the Fun Begin
Our trip to Walt Disney World was as magical as I wanted it to be. My daughter loved it all. In my opinion she was the right age. The key to going to Disney with any small child is to know that they are a small child. This may seem obvious but it really isn’t. It’s easy to be tempted by the fun and keep going but you must take that mid-day rest or the evening will be hard on everyone.
I do wish we would have practiced waiting in line prior to the trip. My daughter did not like that part but who can blame her? She was prepared to see the characters but that first dining experience when she realized the characters weren’t just there for her was a tough one. I wish I would have explained to her in advance how the characters go around to all the tables. This may seem obvious to us but of course it isn’t for her.
We were correct that she did best in the mornings. Sorry morning haters but this may be the best time of day to get the most out of your Disney trip with a young child.
One thing that we did as part of our preparation was show her some of the shows and parades on Youtube. You can find so much online these days. Showing her shows like “Fantasmic” did not spoil them but prepared her for the sudden sounds and lights. This took a potentially scary moment and turned it into a magical and anticipated experience.
At Disney World magic is everywhere but nowhere is it so strong then in the awe-inspiring expressions of your child. My favorite moments were looking at her and seeing her look of wonder. As adults it’s easy to get caught up in real life and forget about wonder. As an artist, both a writer and a dancer I need wonder. I want those who see my dances or read my words to feel it. Feeling the wonder and magic in life is just like being a kid at Disney World. Unfortunately we can’t always be at Disney World. I love spending time with my daughter in her playroom because she gets excitement over the littlest of things. That wonder is contagious. Play with your child and capture the essence of magic. Use it in your work and daily life. Getting to be a kid again with your kid is one of the best parts of parenthood.
Our Disney trip was a success and an experience we can’t wait to live again in a few years. For now though I play around the house and look for the magic in my daughter. We’re back to “real life” here in our Saudi home. Life is busy but there’s always time for a little magic!
Have you recently taken your children to a Disney park? Are you planning a trip? How do you experience the magic of childhood wonder at home?