Francesco's 1st Trip to Disney World
Oh boy. I can’t even believe 6 months have passed since our trip to Disney World for Mickey’s Christmas celebration. My intention was to post this much earlier but with the holidays, tax season, and the fact that Disney was a whirlwind, here I finally am. I can’t fully remember the extent of it at this point, but luckily I wrote this a while ago and was just waiting to upload my pictures (there were a LOT).
I’ll start by saying, I’d always dreamed of bringing my kids to Disney. I wanted to go on one last trip before Francesco turned 2 so he could fly for free. When my sister threw the idea of Dinsey out there, I was happy to get on board. I figured it would be a good opportunity to see how Disney with a toddler really is. The great thing is that he was free to fly and kids get into the parks free up until 3 YO. I’ve seen so many people start kids off young at the parks so, why not give it a whirl?!
I look back and laugh now because I was most stressed about the flight. We were going to a new destination and I only had 1 person to help me with multiple bags and a stroller. Turns out, that was the easiest part of the whole trip! He slept nearly the whole plane ride, there and back. And when he was up, he calmly played with toys or watched a movie with me.
Mom Travel Tip: My trick is to take night flights, around his usual bedtime so that I can give him a bottle during takeoff and he generally sleeps the whole flight.
We hadn’t been to Disney in forever and since we had a toddler on our hands, we decided to do it based on convenience vs. on a budget. We stayed on Disney property at the Yacht and Beach Club, walking distance from Epcot, giving us close access to the monorails, buses, boats, etc. The hotel was amazing! We didn’t do the dining plan or “take advantage” of any other Disney package deals, and I think that was a good choice because most restaurants didn’t have reservations available. We planned our trip only a few weeks before leaving so even with a dining plan, I’m not sure we would have gotten our moneys worth. Staying on Disney property did get us magic bands and a few other conveniences for “free” and those were nice to have.
Side Note: I used a travel agent to help with the booking process. She had traveled a lot to Disney with her kids starting as infants so she really helped me understand the good and bad about it. I was glad to have her insight and also glad that she helped coordinate all our details. She made all our arrangements, watched out for restaurant reservations/cancellations, coordinated fast passes, and lots more.
The trip overall was a bit overwhelming but I tried to set my expectations super low. Disney in December is probably their busiest time of the year- kids are on winter break and people travel from all over to see the Christmas celebration. I thought the hardest part of being at Disney would be having a toddler on our hands, but now I know I was wrong. The biggest factor is the weather. We went during one of the coldest weeks in Florida, which completely threw us off the most and if it was 70 and sunny instead of 40 and raining, we probably would have had a much different experience. It was freezing. Like, we wore our WINTER jackets from Chicago nearly the whole time!! The first day we got there it was 80 and sunny. Every 12 hours it dropped an additional 10 degrees. By the end of our trip we were in the 40s/50s and cloudy. On Day 2 it rained from morning until night. We swam for a few hours on Day 1 but then after that we had to constantly walk past the most gorgeous pool and couldn’t go in it. Francesco loves to swim so we really had envisioned being at the pool a lot, and that was our main drive in choosing the hotel we did. I think that was the most difficult part of the trip as it really forced us to be at the parks more than we wanted.
My ideal schedule going into the trip was going to a park in the AM, coming back for pool/nap/lunch and then going back to the park again at night for dinner and fireworks. I thought that was a fabulous plan. Instead, it was more like sleep in, go for brunch, take our time getting to the parks, stay as long as we could/all day and Francesco just happened to nap in the stroller on the go (I wasn’t expecting that). Definitely wasn’t ideal and I so wish I could get a do-over!
I know it was a fluke and that’s just how the cookie crumbles so we tried to make the best of it, we went to an indoor mall, and took our time to relax and enjoy. But honestly, we didn’t get anywhere close to our money’s worth of our hotel stay or park admission and Disney is expensive. We also didn’t get to ride the ferry boats or do anything super fun and unique to the Disney property experience. We were just way too cold and constantly worried if Francesco was ok or not. The last thing I wanted was for any of us to be sick when we got home.
The Magic of Disney
Ok… now that I got all of the “negatives” out there, let me focus on the positives. For starters, the look on my son's face. He was in awe and amazement at everything! He recognized and understood a lot more than I thought he would. The beauty of Disney (especially Magic Kingdom) is that a lot of the rides are geared towards younger kids. Now, I set my expectations super low because I knew the lines would be horrific. We were able to ride a few things tho and OMG did he have a blast. We went on It’s a Small World and Peter Pan and they were by far his favorite things ever. In fact, since we’ve been back, he watches Peter Pan regularly and I swear he puts 2 and 2 together! Hearing the gasp of excitement at every turn of the ride and his twinkly baby blue eyes made my heart so full. Some of my fondest memories from childhood are at Disney with my family and I’m so happy to experience that with my son.
The other thing about our trip was that since the rides were kind of hard to get on, we took time to character chase and get his autograph book signed and take pictures for his book. My best friend was so sweet and made Francesco a Disney backpack with a ton of toddler essentials for the trip, including his autograph picture book. We didn’t get many due to the lines, but we did get all the main ones (minus Minnie). He loved/analyzed all the characters from afar but up close he panicked and cried. I’m so excited he will have a book to look at when he’s older and he has plenty of room to gather more signatures later on. We sometimes look at the pictures and re-watch the castle fireworks and he is aware that he was there. He still tells me he was scared!
But lets be real, the only reason anyone braves the long lines and crazy weather is to see Disney at Christmastime. They know how to celebrate right! The lighting of the castle, the firework shows at the park each night, and Mickey’s Christmas Parade. Let me tell you… the Christmas Party was wonderful. I’m so happy the weather cleared up a bit for it because it was a special night. They start by lighting up the castle and doing fireworks. After that, Mickey and Minnie have a parade and Santa comes along in his sleigh. The most special part? They made it snow down all of Main Street. My dad had Francesco on his shoulders and he loved the lights, music, & dancing. When the snow started, he was opening his mouth to catch the snowflakes, and I have no clue where he even learned to do that! Since it’s always cold in Chicago when it snows, you can’t really enjoy it so was really cool to have the feeling of winter in “warmer” weather.
Also wanted to mention that Disney Springs is free and has a ton of outdoor shopping and fun things for kids (the Lego store, rides, etc.). It’s a good place to go without breaking the bank so I wish we had gone there sooner. They also have some of the bigger souvenir shops so I recommend stopping there for any Disney memorabilia you may need. They can also wrap it all and have it delivered to your hotel if you’re on Disney property. This would have definitely saved us from shopping at the parks and wasting time in multiple long lines.
All in all, the trip wasn’t a total loss. I am happy we went but I’ll probably plan our next trip for when he’s older and can walk around without extra cargo. Carrying a diaper bag to the park, having to park the stroller to do anything, and coordinating nap times was really challenging. Francesco slept A TON. For lunch one day, we ate at Be Our Guest restaurant and waited in line for 45 minutes, he slept the whole time, all through lunch and on the way out. The greeter was in shock that he hadn’t woken up at all! And my next trip will probably be during one of the less busy and warmer seasons just so that we can do water rides, be at the pool and not wait in as many lines. It’s also nice to see the fireworks which usually are around 9 pm so it’s easier to make those when kids don’t have a 7:30/8 pm bedtime.
If you’re still reading, I swear this is the end! This was a long post to write AND to read. I’m glad it’s finally done! Sharing some pictures below. Hopefully this helps anyone who is considering on going with a toddler. Feel free to ask any questions below as well.
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