The Whiny Hiker’s Takeaways
We took a Disney Trip! All 9 of us loaded up our backpacks and headed to the airport, bound for sunny Orlando. Keep in mind as you read, I am not a Disney blogger, not even a travel blogger. There are several really good bloggers, websites, You Tube videos and probably podcasts now about how to “hack” your Disney trip. They were very informational on how to save, where to eat, what the rules are and all that jazz. We needed to know what the post COVID rules were so they were very helpful. However, our type of trip is not one of the hard core Disney travelers that have all these hacks committed to memory. We are also not the type family to have enough discipline to stick to a strict travel itinerary. Also on this trip, the kids (they aren’t kids anymore) took the lead in planning so the Sheriff and I were following their lead. That was different for us. But as always, it turned out perfect. The planning was perfect, the parks were perfect, and the weather was fabulous-because we were together and in the end that’s all that mattered.
There were a few things that we did and things that we noticed that might be helpful if you have a laid back travel style like ours. If you are planning a family Disney trip, read all those other blogs, watch the videos, and listen to the podcasts, they will be super helpful but maybe these few pointers will help you as well.
1.Expenses-We are not a “go to Disney every year” type family. We are actually a “go as many different places as we can whenever we can afford it” type family. That means we may want to go on another vacation or two over the next year, so we needed to do this as inexpensively as possible. Buying park tickets can be the biggest expense and it’s a whopper of an expense. You can check out the park prices here. We have been preparing for that particular expense for years. For Christmas, birthdays, and other special occasions, I have been buying Disney gift cards for our kids. They are grown-ups and gainfully employed now and are mostly able to handle their own wants and needs as far as “stuff” goes. They don’t need me to buy them more things for their next yard sale. The seven-asaurus and million-dollar girl had racked up quite a few gift cards in their young lives so far. Their mom and dad were able to entirely pay for their family’s tickets with gift cards. The Whiny Hiker takeaway? Buy time with your kids. Buy experienes with or for them. Take them whereever they will go with you as long as you can. So consider changing out gift-giving habits from buying things to buying time-time with your kids and/or grandchildren. I promise it will be worth it.
2, Transportation-I can thank COVID and travel restrictions from last year for enabling us to fly all 9 of us. We were all very unlucky last March, last April, and last October to have multiple trips canceled. The airline made up for it by doubling my frequent flyer miles but they had an expiration date. We weren’t necessarily planning on going in the midst of a pandemic but I couldn’t let those points go. The Whiny Hiker Takeaway? Timing is always a factor. Maximize your benefits vs taking a risk of traveling. Never let frequent flyer miles expire.
3. The Parks-Newsflash! The parks are still unbelievably crowded. Park capacity numbers are not necessarily public record but its estimated that Magic Kindom can handle up to around 100,000 people. So if they’re open at 30 percent capacity, you are still dealing with 30,000 people. Since all the shows, some restaurants, and some stores inside the parks are still closed, that puts all the people in all the lines for the rides. Also, there are no FAST PASSES now, you can’t schedule your rides. Be prepared, you will still stand in lines. They were averaging around 45 min per ride and seemed to keep moving at a steady rate. The Whiny Hiker takeway? The lines are not as long as the last time we visited but there were still times we just didn’t want to stand in line, just don’t! There are nice places to spend some time resting your feet, getting a snack and wait for the Cavalcades to come through.
4. The Technology-Magic bands make life easier. The first park day, I didn’t think the Sheriff and I needed them. I thought they were just the latest trendy gadgets we didn’t abosolutely have to have. Since we didn’t have them, we had to go in old school pulling out ID’s and wait for cast members to scan park tickets on our phones which they had to convert to actual tickets. It was not a big a deal but the second park day, we were able to scan ourselves into the park in the blink of an eye. It was so much easier. There are also tons of other perks to having the bands that you can find in various other Disney Blogs but the best thing is the photos that will pop up on your phone as you get on rides and attractions. Speaking of phones, be forewarned, everybody will be on their phones. Just accept it. Don’t judge! You will need your smartphone for other things besides Instagrammable opportunities. You will need the My Disney experience App on at least one phone to make your park reservations, find wait times, and order food. There is a great interactive map that tells you where everything is and how to find it. You will also need the app to order your food or make dining reservations. It makes getting food a lot easier than the last time I was there trying to wrangle three hungry boys into Pinocchio Village Haus behind 200 other people. The Whiny Hiker’s takeaway? I hope the mobile order option remains after other pandemic conditions lift. It made life so much easier because you can preorder, prepay and schedule your sitdown time from the app. Try the footlong hot dogs at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe. It will feed two adults and there are plenty of tables to sit down and rest your weary feet.
5. Celebrate-Find a reason to celebrate. It was our million-dollar girl’s second birthday and she was able to get a button to commemorate that day. We just stopped in the first gift shop we came to on Main Street and it was free. I tried to get the Smartest Boy in the World to get one to celebrate his remission from Hodgkin Lymphoma but he decided to let her have her day. The Whiny Hiker takeaway? If there is something for free at Disney World, get it!
6. YOU-You will be so tired! Expect it. Your feet and legs will hurt because you can and will average about 8-10 miles per day per park. Wear your comfy shoes, buy blister packs (and take them in with you into the parks), and take some sunscreen. But when you are weary, find a spot and rest in the Hub Grass, watch several Cavalcades since there are no parades, eat a hotdog, or get some Dole Whip but just rest yourself. Your feet and legs will thank you. Your family will be able to possibly avoid a meltdown or two. You can re-energize so you can stay longer or stand in another line. The Whiny Hiker take away? Build yourself some rest days in between parks. There are no rules saying you have to visit parks consecutively. Lying around your hotel pool in between park days was a lifesaver for our cancer survivor and Lupus warrior. They needed the break. The Sheriff and I, being the elderly couple of the bunch enjoyed the hot tubs to rest old achy bones after walking a mere 25 miles during the week. A second Whiny Hiker takeaway? Count those miles toward your 52 hike challenge for the year!
However you do Disney, let it be how you want to do Disney. Don’t model your trip after what you read or hear about how it is “supposed to be.” Don’t kill yourself to get it all in. The worst case scenario is that you miss a ride or two while you rest but maybe you will get to see a character or two come by. We saw Piglet! Just let it be your experience, your family’s quality time and experience together. I promise that they will remember the time you spent together over whether or not the Hall of President’s was open. Truth be know, they probably watched a YouTube video already.
Hopefully our takeaways can help you and your family prepare for pandemic travel. Do check out rules and regulations about COVID rules (we know they’ve got them), travel restrictions, what is open and what is not so you can plan accordingly. Take the opportunity to enjoy your family time like we did. Click on over to other posts to introduce yourself to my family members since they’re basically what I write about. Thanks for reading and following along.
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