I usually can’t stand places that are geared specifically toward “family fun”. I get irritated with the lines, rude people, misbehaving children (yes, my own included), and shockingly expensive (and unhealthy) food. So, maybe it’s because I was expecting the worst that I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe it’s because it had been a brutal year and we were all just so grateful for an escape together. Maybe it’s because I’m softening my stance as a travel snob and succumbing to the ease and comfort of places that cater to families. We enjoyed our visit to Walt Disney World – and here’s why…
WHY WE LOVED WALT DISNEY WORLD:
It was clean, spotlessly clean… My usual experiences with theme parks involve accidentally stepping in something sticky and/or gross, risking multiple wasp stings as I try to use the garbage cans, and trying to convince my public-toilet-phobic daughter (in full potty-training mode at the time) that the washroom’s not THAT dirty. I appreciate the effort all the Cast Members (disney-speak for employees) make in keeping the areas clean, and I’m happy not knowing why there weren’t any stinging bugs.
It was completely accessible… Even the most severely disabled person could enjoy some rides, and because the parks are so accessible for people who really need that access, it made getting around with the minor encumbrance of a stroller a total breeze. For those traveling with babies and toddlers, each park has a baby-care centre with quiet and cool spots for feeding and changing baby. The tiny toilets went over extremely well with our potty-training miss.
It had healthy options! And recycling! I was pleasantly surprised at the healthy food options available – they weren’t just an iceberg lettuce afterthought - and all kids’ combos automatically came with veggies and milk instead of fries and pop. During that whole trip, Walt Disney World was the only place in Florida we saw that recycled, and had separate bins for recyclables.
It wasn’t THAT expensive… Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, things at Disney cost money. However, I was surprised at how often I WASN’T a victim of sticker shock when I looked at a price tag or a menu. Plus, the quality of Disney stuff is really good, when you compare it to other food and shopping options nearby.
But it’s not perfect… for the life of me I’ll never understand why a grown woman would butt in line in front of a toddler to hug someone in a Winnie The Pooh costume, why parents would wait for eons in line (in the blazing sun) so their child can get an autograph from a movie character (umm – you know that’s not really Ariel, right?) and I didn’t love that a few rides let out conveniently into a gift shop.
My advice for Disney skeptics? Arrive prepared – I learned the hard way that you have to plan for certain things months in advance (ie. character dining), and have an itinerary roughly sorted out beforehand. Disney is more than just the Magic Kingdom and you’ll need to figure out just what you can and can’t miss. My friend Sandra runs her own travel agency called ClickTheMouse and I was lucky to have been “armed” with her Tips For Walt Disney World With Toddlers before our visit.
We somehow managed to visit Florida this year without a visit to the Mouse, but it’s not just my daughter who wants to return. I can’t wait to see my little bub in a pair of mouse ears.