Whether it’s their first trip or 50th, kids will be even more excited about going to Disney World than their parents. One of the best things you can do to set the stage for a fantastic vacation is to get your kids involved in the process of preparing for your trip. Here are the top five ways to prepare your kids for a Disney World vacation.
8 – Surprise Announcements
A simple search on Google will give you many ideas for ways to break the news to your kids that you are going to Disney World. Christmas presents, special deliveries, special gifts, etc. can all be used to share the news. Of course, you don’t need to go over the top here. A simple conversation and announcement of the trip will likely be enough to send your kids through the roof. Guess what? We’re going to Disney World !!!
It can also be fun to surprise the kids by arriving at Disney without any warning. We did this with great success. Our kids at the time were 6, 4, and 3 years old. We told the kids we were taking the “long way” to their Aunt Shari’s house. Our oldest was just young enough to be tricked into not realizing that the standard two-hour drive had actually turned into a twelve-hour drive. All of a sudden, they saw the glorious Walt Disney World Welcome sign and went crazy. Thankfully, I have the whole experience on video, and it’s turned into a fantastic family memory! Others have told kids as they arrived at the airport. You can be creative here as well!
7 – Build Excitement by Counting Down
If you’ve chosen to break the news early, the next question, the kids will likely ask you is, “WHEN are we going?” A four-year-old might have a tough time understanding what three months means when they want to go NOW! A great way to stem the constant stream of questions of, “Are we going yet?” is to create a countdown calendar. This can be as simple as having a dry-erase board with a number that you change every day. Or you can create a more elaborate design.
6 – The More They Know
When planning our Disney vacations, one of our favorite things to do was watch the Disney Vacation Planning video, read books, and discuss all of the wonderful possibilities. Don’t forget to include your kids in these activities. The more you can involve them, the more they will “own” the trip. If they have never been, it’s hard to imagine what Disney World is like. Watching the planning video is a great way to introduce the parks to them. Also, remember that kid’s memories are not as developed as adults. If they went as a four-year-old and you are now taking them again at age eight, they likely don’t remember much of the first trip. Another great way to build excitement is to educate them on their options. Which leads us to the next tip.
5 – Have Them Participate in the Decision Making Process
While you don’t need (and probably shouldn’t) open up the entire decision-making process to your children, you should get their input on what they will like to do. As their age dictates, you can get your kids involved in making decisions. Ask younger children what characters do they really want to meet? What kinds of foods do they want to eat? Or if they are older, what restaurants do they want to try? Ask all kids what their can’t miss attractions are.
So they don’t feel overwhelmed, and so you can guide them, it is helpful to give them three choices to pick from. For instance, you could ask, “Out of these three rides, which would want to do the most?” Making decisions can be difficult for anyone when confronted with a multitude of choices at Disney World. Help them by giving them opportunities to help plan the trip. Then when you experience something they chose, you can say how much you loved it, and you are so glad they chose it. It will delight any child to receive that kind of praise!
4 – Get Them Walking
Just as adults need to prepare themselves for the many miles of walking they will do at Disney World, so should you prepare your children. Get them walking now. Of course, children have stamina and strength that baffles many adults, but usually, even the most active kids may not be prepared for the amount of walking (and standing) they will be doing while on vacation. Many guests report walking anywhere from 7–10 miles a day! So get those kids walking every single day at home leading up to your vacation. Even if younger children will spend time in the stroller, they should spend some time out of it to be active. So don’t be afraid to train your toddlers as well for some walking!
3 – Prepare them for them Parks
The final step in getting your kids prepared for Disney World is to prepare them for what a day in the parks looks like. Granted, you can more easily have this conversation with older children, but all children should be told what to expect. This can be especially helpful for children who have sensory challenges. Disney World is a loud and busy place. It can be very overwhelming for anyone, but especially children. We are firm believers in building proper expectations. Let them know it will be busy and loud, but that they will still have a fantastic time, just like all the other people at Disney.
2 – Have a Backup Plan
For safety reasons, be sure to discuss what they should do in the (unlikely) event that they get separated from you. We always told our children to look for anyone with a name tag and let them know that they needed help. Older children should have their parent’s cell phones memorized. We’ve also seen parents write their cell phone number on a hand or arm with a sharpie. We are huge fans of Road ID, and our children wore basic ID bracelets when in the park. Many parents take pictures of their children the morning of so that they will have a picture of them with the clothes they are wearing. Thankfully, Disney World is generally a safe place for lost kids, but there is no reason to take extra chances.
1 – Mind Your Manners
Finally, prepare your children with basic etiquette behavior that will be expected of them. Set proper expectations for behavior in attraction queues, for restaurants and for meeting characters. This means let them know how things will work. Characters need to be treated with respect. They need to wait patiently in lines, etc. This shouldn’t be too different from how they behave in the normal day to day life. No matter what, let them know they can expect to have a fantastic time!
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