I recently decided it would be a great idea to take my kids on a road trip down to Disney. I planned because I'm a planner. I didn't overdo it because I'm not a Disney freak. There were no matching, monogrammed shirts. There was no VIP golden ticket to have elite Disney experiences. We drove down, stayed at a VRBO, went to the park, and drove home. Nonetheless, I did some things right and some things wrong, so here's my Disney debrief for you, mama.
The drive down: my best advice for any long road trip is to stop at a playground, preferably not one in a shady AF neighborhood like we did. It's important for your kids to run around and get some of their crazy testosterone energy out around the half way mark of the drive like we did. Besides that, my other best road trip rules are try to drive during nap time (this does not always work out-see drive home) and pack a boatload (or carload) of snacks. Diversify the snacks. Pack any type of snack your kid has ever or would ever potentially want to try one day.
Do an intro day at Downtown Disney. Our first real day down in Anaheim was a wet one. I had checked the weather prior and knew we'd only be spending one day at the actual park, so I decided a "cheat" downtown Disney day could be a good hack for our other day in the area. When I was a kid, I visited Disneyworld in Orlando. I knew Disneyland wouldn't be as impressive (sorry, it just isn't), but I distinctly remember the characters walking around downtown Disney. No such luck here. Maybe it was the rain? Maybe not? Nonetheless, no characters and the biggest attraction for my kids was getting a Lego set at the Lego store and watching a magical water fountain. Still a good intro to the whole experience if you ask me though. I also took this day to cave on the Disney attire slightly and overpaid for five sets of ears so all our pics would be ADORABLE. They were, by the way. If you’re a better planner than me here, I’d recommend looking for these on Amazon and priming that shit beforehand. I’m sure I would have paid half had I ordered in advance. But, c’est la vie!
We stayed at a VRBO condo about a mile from Disney. They advertise walking to the park, but in all honesty, with little kids, that’s just not doable. I’m surprised my kids didn’t collapse after a 12-hour day at the park. I bet if I had made them walk a mile there and a mile home, that would have happened. The parking fee was $25 and well worth it. I had planned to leave and come back for fireworks, which you totally can do with your all-day parking. That didn’t happen either. We stayed until 8:30pm and called it quits an hour before the fireworks. The amazing part of staying so close, though, is that we could still see the fireworks from the master bedroom of the condo. Crisis averted. Other awesome amenities we had staying in this condo were:
Three full bedrooms and a “nursery” (it was in a walk-in closet, but it worked for me)
Bunk beds in the kid room, which was basically the highlight of the trip for my twins (why did I even pay for Disney when they could have just hung out on bunk beds the whole time?)
Top to bottom Disney décor in every room
Any and every amenity you could think of (cooking utensils, washer-dryer, double stroller, umbrellas, you name it)
As you can imagine, a lot of families stay here, so the place has been pretty loved. Even so, it was pretty immaculate. They ask you not to wear shoes inside, and with the exception of some stains on the carpet on the second floor, our socks were still white after walking all over the apartment. I feel like this typically doesn’t happen when you stay at other vacation rentals or even hotels. Another big reason we stayed at a VRBO is so we had a full kitchen to cook some healthy meals. I really dislike eating every meal out when I’m on vacation with my kids. It’s stressful, usually consists of junk food and soo time consuming. Having the ability to cook some meals at home and eat some vegetables that weren’t French fries was a good balance.
I know this may not apply to all reading this post, but as you may or may not know, we have a fantastic au pair. When I thought about going on this trip, I knew for sure I’d ask her to come with. It’s a total win-win to bring your au pair to Disney. All au pairs want to go to Disney. Seriously, if you ask any au pair about her bucket list of places she wants to visit during her year in the US, she will likely say Disney as one of them. Our au pair was no different. Having her there made the whole trip easier, more enjoyable, and kept me alive so I didn’t die a sad Disney death and leave my children motherless ala Bambi.
Finally, the drive home was a total shit-show. I planned to leave after rush hour traffic, around the time my toddler would normally take a nap. Neither of which worked out. We sat in traffic for two hours and my toddler fell asleep, 7.5 hours into the trip (aka 15 minutes before we got home). There was a lot of screaming and a lot of Pandora 90s RnB to drown out the screaming. No regrets though. Even with a total Disney hangover and coming home to some cold and rainy weather, taking your kids to Disney is magical, exhausting, and a totally amazing experience. So, if you can, just do it.