A Dad’s Guide to Disney


We’re back, flights to and from Florida completed without incident. The 2017 family vacation to The Happiest Place on Earth now nothing more than memories.

Upon returning home we found that our time away had been approved, a letter from the kindergarten’s school administrator informing us that because of her previous attendance history a few days missed would’t adversely affect her learning progression. This was a great relief as we had neither asked permission nor intended to alter our plans in any way had we been denied.

This is in no way meant to imply any lack of respect for scholastics or educators and in that spirit I have decided to pass along some of my own knowledge, a dad’s moderately constructive guide to surviving Disney, minimizing stress and helping you have at least as good a time as I always have.


1.    Regardless of whether or not this trip is a surprise and when the big reveal comes, that initial excitement wears off quickly and the plane ride becomes a torturously long and tedious exercise in patience. Alaina spent both rides contentedly watching movies and munching chips while all around us families bickered about who’s responsibility is was to make sure that kid’s electronics were charged. Pack snacks and remember that if you guess wrong about your child being responsible enough to charge their own device, you will now be responsible for their on-board entertainment.

The youngest was so content and excited about her first plane ride that after landing in Orlando she thanked us for her surprise and asked if we could stop at a restaurant for dinner on the ride home. It wasn’t until we pulled into the hotel that she started believing that we hadn’t just flown in a big circle and landed at the same airport.


A Dads Guide to Disney
Ready for “blast off”


2.  Spend some time researching and thinking about what you are looking for regarding accommodations. One of the recommendations that most Disney bloggers make is that by staying on-site, you remove the need for a rental car, are able to enter the parks earlier than the general public, and have a place to take an afternoon break before returning in the evening. These are all very valid points, but they are also staying for free in exchange for these “tips.”

For roughly the same amount of money as a moderately priced room for four at a Disney Hotel, we stayed in a three bedroom, two bathroom suite about twenty minutes away. The car was an added expense and we definitely would have gotten more of our dollar’s worth out of the park tickets, but we did have a pool with a kick ass pirate ship water slide. Also, did I mention that it had two bathrooms? Decide on what to prioritize in order to keep your family happy.


A Dads Guide to Disney
Now that’s a water slide


3.  If you have a family member or members that take an excruciating amount of time to get themselves ready at home, don’t think that it will be any different on vacation.  A lesson that I learned a long time ago that I will reiterate here is that the fastest way to start your day off wrongly is by appearing anxious to get going or trying to rush somebody out the door. Get ready, get out of the way, and tell them how beautiful they look. This tip is transferable to any time or any place you are ever going for the rest of your life.


A Dads Guide to Disney
My lovely ladies


4.  Have a plan.  Don’t make it a supremely detailed, step by step plan for what you want to do every minute of the day, I’ve done that before and was surprised to find that it wasn’t as appreciated as I thought it would be.  Have a plan for the rides and attractions that are your “must do’s” and make an effort to do those things first. There may be backtracking and added distance walked later as you go back and hit your secondary targets but this will ensure that nobody leaves disappointed if you leave sooner than you had expected or if longer lines and time constraints leave you unable to do everything, an impossible task to begin with. Little feet get tired, flip flops break, hunger and heat lead to crankiness.  A full day at a Disney park is a grueling test of endurance that can break even the strongest of wills.


Dads Guide to Disney
Space Mountain, our first stop of the day


5.  Know the height limits of the various thrill rides and decide on their appropriateness.  Disney roller coasters have a shorter minimum than most other amusement parks but some of these rides might be too scary for children able to reach the mark.

The highest threshold and the only one that my five year old couldn’t meet is 48″ at Hollywood Studios Rock N’ Roller Coaster, a ride that starts off by launching you from 0-57 mph in 2.8 seconds. The minimum for Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror is only 40″ but features a 130 foot free fall at 39 mph.  Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom has a minimum of 44″ and moves at a relatively slow 28 mph, but is very dark with flashing strobe light effects.  Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom is also 44″ and features a main drop of 80 feet and reaches speeds of 50 mph. There is also a Yeti chasing you.  It was my daughter’s favorite ride of the weekend, but she is a complete lunatic and probably a bad example.


A Dads Guide to Disney
This is a “big girl” roller coaster


6.  This will probably be less of an issue after Pandora – The World of Avatar opens in a few weeks, but for now I continue to hear people describe Disney’s Animal Kingdom as being nothing more than an expensive zoo and the park to skip if that decision needs to be made. I strongly disagree. Besides being home to the previously mentioned Expedition Everest coaster, the best in all the Orlando Disney parks, the Kilimanjaro Safaris offer a guided, motorized animal watching experience I have yet to find anywhere else.  Along with The Magic Kingdom I think these are the two “must hit” parks for those burdened with small children.


A dads guide to Disney
I just need five more minutes


7.  If you are staying off site and have access to a rental car, take a quick ride into Kissimmee for a dinner show. There is an Al Capone themed one, another based around the story of the Titanic, magical comedy, several mystery dinners, and three different pirate shows, one of which is adults only and on the list for the next time we are down there without kids.

We stuck with the classic Medieval Times and it was as fantastic as I remembered. With all the knights, princesses,  falconry, jousting and sword fighting I was surprised that my daughter actually ate her meal. She loved cheering on the Red Knight, the hero who’s section we were seated in, and booing the others.  The first time in her life that I’ve seen her speechless was after catching a rose thrown her way by that dashing fellow and I’m fairly certain she may have developed her first crush. It was one of the highlights of our trip.


A Dads Guide to Disney
won the tourney, defeated the bad guy, stole my daughters heart


8.  Pick accommodations that have a pub within walking distance.  If you can manage to have children twelve years apart, start working on that now in order to have your own babysitter for after the youngest crashes for the night. If this is unrealistic, consider bringing somebody else along for that purpose. It may greatly increase the overall cost of your trip, but can you really put a price on a nice, cold pint and watching the game in peace after a long, hot day surrounded by thousands of children?


a dads guide to Disney
last stop of the day


9.  Prepare yourself the night before for the inevitability of check out.  It’s OK to feel melancholy but a full tantrum and locking yourself in the bathroom because you don’t want to go home is a horrible example to set for your children. Pull yourself together, gather your belongings and don’t look back. Spend the entire plane ride home daydreaming about your next visit.


A Dads Guide to Disney
The Mouse Himself


10.  Know ahead of time that this isn’t a cheap, relaxing vacation, and be OK with it.  Take lots of pictures, cherish every smile and make lots of memories.  Expect to come home broke, a few pounds heavier, and even more tired than when you left. If you aren’t than you’re doing Disney wrong. Try harder next time and re read this before you go. Tell anybody you know that is planning a trip to Disney World that they should probably read this too.



55 thoughts on “A Dad’s Guide to Disney”

  1. My trips were generally to the “real” Disney- in Anaheim. And, we never stayed at those overpriced captive sites. The money saved, the better food choices, and just removal from the hype were worthwhile.
    My youngest (the surprise child) did go to Orlando. And, we followed the CA rules there too.
    My biggest b…h- the folks who go to Orlando have no clue how to travel through airports. I am thrilled to have enrolled my entire family in the “avoid TSA lines” programs. It kept our sanity during the travels.

    1. I’ve found that in Orlando also. I was pleasantly surprised with how smooth it went this time around

  2. As a two time Disney survivor your tips are spot on. Both times I went we went balls out staying on the resort blah blah blah. It’s my biggest gripe with Disney is just how much it freaking costs! Even cutting corner anywhere you can it’s still equivalent to three trips to the beach for me, but the kid(s) love the place so what are you to do?

    1. Its an arm and a leg for sure. I would have liked to have tried to get more of our money’s worth, but there is the possibility I would have been fed to a gator if I pushed too hard.

  3. Great advice — but I have some too. Don’t go to Disneyland until you’re 50 years old — and without your kids! LOL That was me! I was 50 when I first had the pleasure of visiting the happiest place on earth. And the reason it was a happy place was because I didn’t have the kiddos with me and I could enjoy the experience.

    Now, I don’t you to think that I’m a horrible mom – but my ex-brother-in-law would take them to Disney World when they were small….Whew, God bless him. I was off the hook. There were tons of other things I did with my girls. This mom took the girls to see the Mets when we lived in NY, vacations to the Catskill Mts, long treks to Jones Beach, picnics at a park along the Hudson River, NY Museum of Natural History, Metropolitan Museum of Art, etc. So, I don’t feel any guilt at all about not taking them to DisneyWorld.

    Life is good when you have a brother-in-law like I did.

    PS. In 2015, he took them all again to Disneyland. We lived in CA by then. My girls were 30 and 33 at the time. Plus he took the grandkids too….and me. I got sick on Space Mountain and spent about 1 1/2 hrs in the infirmary. When I got out, everyone was at the other end of the park. Wow – I had about 2 hours to spend (while trying to catch up with them) by myself at Disneyland – doing what I wanted to do. Life is good. LOL

    1. We have friends in Florida that we visit fairly often – without the kids. We usually fly into and out of Orlando and then drive to whatever part of the state we are visiting so that we can spend a few days at the parks by ourselves. Its a totally different experience

  4. I still opt to stay on site when I visit, well that is before I lived here. No one paid me to write it in my blog. 😉 When traveling with very young children, staying on campus is the easiest way to go about it. 😀

    With older kids I’m sure it’s much easier to do the Kississime thing. We have done Medieval Times I couple of times, and all the time talk about taking in the Capone dinner theatre, but when it comes time for date night we always forget about it, of course. 😉

    1. We’ve also stayed on site before and there are lots of advantages. If we had only brought the youngest that would have been the way we went. I doubt I’ll be able to score a free room either!

  5. I visited 20 years ago, as a teenager, and loved it. We went as a large family group (I think there were 10 of us) and we rented a villa somewhere in Kissimmee. Just reading through this, it’s amazing how much seems to have changed there, the Tower of Terror was brand new when I visited. I’d love to go back one day, I nearly got the ready made babysitter thing right, 9 year gap takes a bit more waiting but it will be worth it. Great post!

  6. Some really good and funny tips, especially number three! Women always take longer. Only ever been to Disneyland once and that was to see Cirque du Soleil (amazing show) in Florida. Never ever wanted to visit it as a child but now that I have my own I definitely want to take her – Disneyland Paris for those of us in the UK as much closer but Florida would be the goal! #ThatFridayLinky

    1. The Cirque de Soleil show in Florida is actually closing I believe. We never made it there, which is kind of a shame. My wife and I saw one of their shows in Vegas and it was pretty impressive

  7. Looks like you had a fab time. We went when the girls were tiny and it was indeed brilliant but very full on and tiring. #ThatFridayLinky x

  8. Sorry for the late comment, it was a busy weekend! Fab post! We’re off to Disney soon so this was a great read! Thanks for linking up to #ThatFridayLinky

    1. I only did my commenting this morning, no need to apologize. Hope you guys have a great time, looking forward to reading about it

  9. Looks like you had a awesome time mate we are off to Disneyland Paris in two weeks great post Thanks for linking to the #THAT FRIDAY LINKY come back next week please

  10. I would absolutely love to take my kids here one day, at just 3 and a baby though I will definitely be putting off for a few years yet though, if I only a had a 12 year old who could babysit….Useful, honest tips here, if anyone tells me they’re off to Disney I’ll send them your way x #kcacols

  11. Haha oh I loved your tips and one day I hope to be able to put them into practice, especially the locking yourself in a bathroom and not wanting to go home one! My family have been looking into a trip there either next year or the one after. 6 kids and 7 adults, we will definitely be needing some tips #kcacols

  12. Wow that’s a lot of advice to take in! Now all I have to do is work out how I’ll afford to get across to America to give it a go!! Disney Paris is way more achievable though so definitely use the plan the route but not carefully tip if I make it there!! ‪Thank you for linking up to the #familyfunlinky‬

  13. Wow! I come from a background where if you get to Disneyland florida then you have made it in the world. It’s on the bucket list for when little one gets older. Fab post with some great sounding places to check out.

    Thanks for linking up.

  14. Aw I so wish you were a travel blogger – I have to read so many terrible posts in the name of charitableness. I’d love to read more of your travel stories, this one was hilarious! And so true (been there, got the oversized t-shirt) The height/rides bit made me laugh especially, seeing as my (then) 7 year old screamed loudly after I took her on that one at animal kingdom where the track breaks and you go backwards, shouting that I was a terrible mother for forcing her on it (I didn’t force her – I merely trusted Walts height guidance). Rinse and repeat after tower of terror too. What can I say – she’s a wuss. #kcacols

    1. lol. That’s the one I was talking about as her favorite. I’d been on it years ago and remembered it being no joke, I was a bit nervous about how she would handle it. I’d love to be a travel blogger. How do I get places to let me come check them out for free?

  15. Great tips! We went last year and hired a villa – I agree that it’s better to stay at a Disney hotel for the reasons you mentioned, however staying elsewhere and having a car does mean you don’t have to be at Disney 24/7! #KCACOLS

  16. I have never been to any Disney resorts. the hotel you stayed at off site looks fab though with the pirate ship. ive been to orlando many times for work but never to Disney. I find Orlando lovely though and the hotels I’ve stayed in always fab! #KCACOLS

  17. I don’t expect any relaxing holidays now I have a kid. Hell, taking lions on holiday would probably be easier. Great tips though, definitely worth taking them on board for any trip. #kcacols

  18. We have stayed at that exact hotel! One of our last trips to Florida (when we toured Universal) we stayed there and my kids LOVED that pirate ship/ water slide. However, we have stayed on site for most all of our Disney trips…. but pricing it out this year I have found that prices went up a LOT in 4 years.

  19. OhMyGoodness, this was a fabulous, hilarious post! I loved it! Your advice was fantastic — and I should know, because I grew up in Orlando and my parents still live there, so I, uh, know a bit about Disney… Oh, and I have chosen this to be my feature for the week! #FridayFrivolity

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