This week my family and I took a trip to Orlando, Florida for some fun theme park’n fun. The trip was great, but of course just a tad bit complicated.
We stayed at the Hyatt which is a 4 star resort normally pricing at $250 a night, that we scored an $80/night deal on Priceline. (For those of you wondering my thoughts- quickly, I will say it was a clean hotel for the most part– though a bit more of a business-y feel with tons of conferences being held, than a fun family resort. I think staying in a Disney Hotel or even the Nickelodeon hotel may have suited our trip better.)
We rented a “mid size car” and got a Ford Focus (Not sure in what world Enterprise lives in that The Focus is considered Mid Size? What is a small size?)
And the weather?… unseasonably cold. … some mornings bone chilling cold.
We started our vacation with Gatorland, and was pleasantly surprised at what a great time we had.
We got to feed the animals, go into the bird observatory… it was a lot of hands on fun. We all had a blast.
The best part I think was that Gatorland was the perfect thing to do for a 1/2 day. We were able to spend 3 hours there and then go back to the hotel to get some rest for the big theme parks the next day.
The Complicated boy is 4 and The Princess is 18 months. So when we went to the theme parks we knew there would be rides and attractions not suitable for them, but thought for sure there would be plenty that were…and figured with the help of Disney’s Parent Swap we would both get to go on rides with our son- and as a bonus he would get to ride twice!
Which all very easily could have happened… except The Complicated Boy threw us curve balls. The first day he was fighting the fun all together – melt down after melt down- he just wanted to go to the Gift Shops. He swore he didn’t like rides before he even got on. Looking at all of the other kids skipping around with Kool Aid smiles on their faces left me choking back tears behind my big sunglasses. I could not understand how could my child be such an unhappy child? Right away, the mommy guilt set in– It must have been something I did wrong that he cannot enjoy “The Happiest Place on Earth”.
However I learned something about my son that I did not know before. It’s not that he was miserable or even that he didn’t like rides. Sometimes, places like Disney can just be overwhelming to a child (like mine) who’s imagination is like no other. No matter how much you tell him something is fake, its just a ride– he believes it is real. To him- the Buzz Light Year ride, was not just a ride… it was where Buzz and Woody lived… the “real” Buzz and Woody. Imagine, really believing everything you saw in Disney is real? … That’s a whole lot to take in! So we would get to the parks at 8:30am and it would take him until sometimes 4pm to absorb the park and all of its “fantasy life” before he was ok and ready to really have fun.
But at least he had fun right?
We did a lot of meeting with the characters, collecting autographs. He loved that- but the rides sometimes seemed to be too overwhelming for him (cause remember– its all “real”).
So although a ride like “A Bugs Life” sounded harmless enough– but when the (pretend) wasps stung us with their pointers and larger than life spiders dropped from the ceiling…. my son FREAKED!
We thought the Great Movie Ride at Hollywood Studio also seemed harmless, but the tour guide being kidnapped by a 1940′s mobster- left my son crying to get off.
When I posted about this to my Facebook page, someone mentioned that they had the same experience with their preschooler and The Snow White Ride- the dark nature of the witch through out the ride left their daughter extremely scared… So obviously, we skipped that one! (Thanks for the tip!)
The last day when we went to Universal, I basically dragged him on the Jimmy Nutron Ride. It was not scary. Not dark… and NOT a roller coaster (which was his biggest fear)…by the end of the ride- he liked it and laughed about how silly he was crying “O man, O man.. I’m not going to like this. I want to go home.” …. but still the initial getting him on the ride was rough… I am sure every parent on that line passed a judgment.
What I learned about this trip is that you have to really do your homework, know your child and their imagination and be prepared for things to not go exactly as they go on the commercials.
Get to the park early, and definitely schedule a nap time… if possible take a trip back to the hotel for a break in your day for some lunch and nap time.
One of my son’s favorite things to do? … watch “The Must Do’s” on the Disney attraction channel in the hotel. He even asked us last night when coming home from my Mother’s house “When we go home, can we watch the Must-do channel?” lol.. Go figure- you can spend $130 a day on a park hopper pass… and all the kid wants to do is watch some chipper bubbly chick on tv talk about her very short “MUST DO” list on loop ..ha
As I type up this post, my son is busy dressing up in his superhero costumes and asking me to ask him for his autograph and pose for a picture. So, although it wasn’t as picturesque as I planned… and my son will clearly be in therapy from a few of those ‘harmless rides’, he clearly has made memories that will last him a life time- and isn’t that what its really all about?
Here is a list of my MUST DO’s for preschoolers:
-Disney Parades- my kids had a blast at Hollywood Studio’s Block Party and Magic Kingdom’s Street party. They got to dance in the street with their favorite characters… and in some cases this was the only place to catch some of the characters without a crazy long wait.
- Buzz Lightyear in Magic Kingdom over the Hollywood studios Toy Story Mania. I’m not sure what the draw is to the new 3d ride but the fast passes are gone by noon and the wait can be up to 80-min! Its cute and all but my son LOVED the Buzz Lightyear ride in Magiv Kingdom Most of all. Went on 3 times!– the kids who was afraid of everything
- Universal has a much better experience meeting their characters. No crazy long waits, they’re much easier to access and meet.
- Suess’s landing at Universal is adorable and can make anyone ready for some theme park fun. My son went on all of those rides over and over.
Here are some resources I’ve found that may be helpful if you are planning a trip to Orlando any time soon: