- I planned a trip to Disney World with my twins when they were 13, but it got canceled three times.
- It was our first vacation with just the three of us.
- I was worried that at 16 they would be too cool for Disney, but they loved it.
In 2018, when my twin sons were 11, my wife and I took them to Disneyland. They loved admiring the characters, shows, rides and food. They ended the day by matching Disney t-shirts and Goofy hats – we had created Disney fans for life.
At least, that’s what I hoped.
As a theme park lover, thinking about our next trip, I decided that I wanted to spend a week in Orlando, Florida, and go to Disney World – during those seven days I had planned to go to six theme parks. While this would be the perfect vacation for me, my wife had set a personal limit of two theme park visits per year. She told me to go ahead and book the trip for me and our sons without her; it would be a boys trip.
So at the end of 2019, I booked the September 2020 trip for me and my two boys, Charlie and Thomas.
Three years after we started planning, we finally got to go on our dream Disney vacation.
Unfortunately, due to COVID, we were forced to cancel and reschedule this trip three times. During this time the boys have matured, and when we were finally ready to make the trip from Melbourne, Australia to Orlando, Florida for our long-awaited vacation in September 2022, they were 16 years old. At that time, they were taller than me. , had started shaving and were more interested in girls than cartoon characters.
I asked them if they wanted to cancel the Disney trip and take our boys somewhere else.
As I waited for their response, I held my breath, hoping they would say “No”.
“Of course we still want to go, Dad! We love Disney!” Charlie said with much more enthusiasm than I could have hoped for. Thomas nodded enthusiastically; the trip was still ongoing. I had never been so happy.
Getting up early was tough for the boys, but a crucial step to enjoying the parks
Since our previous trip to Disney, the boys’ routines had evolved as well. In 2018, they were always up early, ready to tackle the day with the enthusiasm of kids in a candy store — which I guess they were in many ways.
Now they rarely get out of bed before noon, unless it’s a school day. They’ve gotten into the habit of going to bed late and waking up for breakfast while I’m having lunch. While that laziness is okay at home on the weekends, the key to getting the most out of a Disney vacation is having a strategy — and that strategy involves getting up early in the morning. Early in the morning.
Most people on vacation like to sleep in, so to avoid the crowds and the inevitable long queues, you have to “let go of the rope”. It’s Disney-speak to be at the park before it opens and on the front lines when staff drop the rope to let people in. Of course, as a Disney geek, I am well aware of all the terms used by Disney aficionados.
I was concerned that my sons sleep routine would make this impossible, but we quickly struck a deal – they would stick to my rope drop strategy if I factored in downtime later in the day. It was a win-win situation.
Having the right Disney strategy saves time and money
Making a deal is different from keeping it, and I wasn’t sure if the boys would hold their end of our deal. We were at Disney’s POP Century Resort, which offers free transport to the theme parks, and I wanted us to be on the very first bus to the park. When I woke up at 6am on the first morning to the sound of loud snoring, I started making alternate plans.
However, a few minutes later the alarms on both their phones went off and my worries eased as they ignored the temptation to press snooze and jumped out of bed. A few minutes later we were on the first bus to Animal Kingdom. While I was having coffee to wake me up, the excitement of the boys going to a theme park worked as a natural equivalent of caffeine.
Being there early before sleepers we went on all the big “E-ticket” attractions, which is another Disney term used to define the best rides. At 1:30 p.m. the lines for these rides were huge and it was time for me to hold my end of the bargain. We returned to the hotel to rest.
As a bonus, the return in the afternoon also allowed me to save money. Rather than buying lunch at the theme parks, we could eat at the hotel – food that I had pre-ordered for delivery by Amazon Fresh. Of course, that didn’t stop us from enjoying plenty of tasty treats during our visit, like Dole Whip in the parks – a classic.
Every day we would take a nap or relax by the pool to allow our batteries to recharge for a few hours. This would allow us to return to the parks at night with more energy. As we walked back to the parks, we watched the weary families, dripping with sweat in the Florida humidity, who had spent most of their days queuing for an extra hour or two of sleep. For six days, we followed the same routine, with great success.
The family that Disneys together stays together
Getting up early to ride rides is one thing, but I also wanted my sons to get into the Disney spirit. I’ve been a fan since I was a kid and used to watch “The Magical World of Disney” every Sunday night. I grew up in Australia, where Disney was a world apart, and unfortunately my parents could never afford to take me to the United States, so taking my own children to experience the magic of Disney was a real gift. Now I hoped I could pass on my love of Disney to my children as well.
I was excited when on day one Thomas suggested we get matching Disney t-shirts to wear as our official uniform when visiting the parks. We spent a few hours browsing stores, looking for the perfect outfits, and ended up buying several t-shirts and an abundance of merchandise. Although I don’t wear them outside the Orlando boundaries, I loved Thomas’ suggestion and was swept away by the father-son bonding session and Walt Disney magic.
That’s basically what I wanted to achieve. Quality time with my kids, away from the phones and out of bed, enjoying each other’s company.
I’m now a proud Disney dad, and my boys and I have a new tradition
I have to admit, even with all my excitement, I had some apprehensions about this vacation. I worried whether the boys would enjoy spending time with me or be bored, even despite their enthusiastic agreement to keep our reservation.
I wanted to be the cool dad and worried that I might be the embarrassing dad or the sleepy dad instead. But I quickly realized that I had nothing to worry about. We had the most magical vacation, and I discovered that I had a new title, of which I am very proud: the Disney Dad.
And I’m glad to see that I’ve passed on the Disney gene – Charlie and Thomas are already planning our next trip.
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