Many of us wish we could live in Walt Disney World, or at least live within a short drive to the parks. But for the majority of visitors, a trip to Disney World is a rare special occasion, and often something that is greatly anticipated for a long time.
Over the past few years, my family of four has really gotten hooked on Disney, and we travel to a park as often as we can. Right now, that’s about once or twice a year. However, it seems that the more frequent our trips, the more we are left longing for the next one! What do you do when you have just returned from a trip, or when it will be a while until your next one?
Show your Disney Spirit
I’ve found that I am my best self when I’m on vacation in Walt Disney World. I don’t get annoyed at my kids, and I don’t stress out about work or anything else. While in Disney, I also often find that I am nicer than usual. The awesome cast member interactions make me want to be super nice right back at them and to other people. Sure, sometimes there are some negative experiences with cast members or even other guests, but surprisingly, I even tend to respond to these experiences with positivity — nothing can get me down in Disney! A negative person really just inspires me to be extra nice. So, over the past few years, I’ve made a conscious effort to bring a little more of my Disney Spirit into my everyday life and I’m definitely better off!
Visit a Disney Store
While Disney has closed some locations in recent years (including one that was five minutes from my house), many malls and cities still have a Disney Store. For example, there is a store located just a few minutes from my office, and every once in a while I’ll just stop in to enjoy the Disney atmosphere. Sometimes I don’t even buy anything! Okay, that’s a pretty rare event, but seriously, just walking into the store and hearing the music and interacting with the cast members can really put a much-needed dose of Disney into my life. I’ve also heard that if you are the first person in line when the store opens, you get a special Disney key, but I have never experienced this — it sounds very magical!
I was so happy that a new Disney Store recently opened up in the mall by my office!
Get Away — Even If It’s (Gasp!) Not Disney
While there’s no vacation better than a Disney one in my family’s book, we also try to get away for shorter, often less-expensive, vacations between trips. For example, if you or your kids really spark to rides like Space Mountain, try a Six Flags Park or other local amusement park. Then you can have endless debates and conversations about which rides you like better and why. In my family, whenever we are lacking a dinner time topic it inevitably turns into a conversation like this.
If your kids like characters, some parks have licenses with Sesame Street or Looney Tunes, or they might just have their own characters. You might say these are a poor substitute for Disney characters (and yes, I’d agree), but oftentimes little kids get such joy out of seeing and interacting with characters like these that it can recreate a little bit of that magic you might experience at Disney.
Even non-Disney characters (like Zoey from Sesame Street who is pictured here) can bring a huge smile to a child's face
See a Disney on Ice show
Many major cities will host a Disney on Ice show during the year. I’ve found these shows to be very high quality, with talented ice skaters, some fun special effects, and of course familiar Disney stories. Over the years, I’ve found that my kids have gone from just being in awe at seeing Disney characters, to now being interested in the skill of the ice skaters and the production of the show. These shows can appeal to little kids, big kids, and adults — just like Disney World! Plus, there is tons of merchandise and food to help recreate that theme park experience.
Make Vacation Videos or Scrapbooks
Years ago, travelers would return from a trip and bore their friends and family with a slideshow of pictures from their trip. (Back then, slides were actual physical things.) In this digital age, vacationers are taking more pictures and video than ever, and my family is no exception. At end end of a Disney trip, it’s not unusual for us to have taken hundreds of pictures and video, plus we have the fun ride videos and magic shots from our Disney PhotoPass Memory Maker. These pictures and videos are priceless, but they can get lost in the tens of thousands of pictures we have stored on our computer.
So, after a major vacation, my husband or I will sit down to organize our pictures and videos into a video story using iMovie on our Apple computer. The videos wind up being anywhere from 5-10 minutes each, and we set them to music that we enjoy, so it’s like our own music video. We’ve got these videos loaded onto our phones and iPads so we can relive our vacations whenever we want. The software was relatively easy to learn, and if you don’t have an Apple computer there are other video editing software systems that are similar. Making these videos has become a fun hobby, and it’s nice to be able to enjoy some memories along with fun music at any time. If videos are not your thing, traditional scrapbooking is a nice option as well!
Here's a screenshot of the intro to one of our family vacation videos. This one is 8 minutes long, and the music we include makes it very re-watchable (in my opinion).
Plan the Next Disney Vacation
I left this one for last, since I feel it’s the most often given response for what to do between Disney trips, and it’s certainly true for my family as well. We are always either planning, or at least thinking about, when our next Disney trip will be. We’ve expanded our Disney destinations to include Disney Cruise Line, Disneyland, and we are even considering Aulani in Hawaii. According to this DIS Contributor article, I believe I’m a "Type D" planner: I like to work on spreadsheets and plans for our trips. And it's fun to include the whole family in the planning and the fantasizing about the next trip, even if it’s months away. FastPass Day (60 days before our trip, when we can finally make our FastPass reservations) is a much-anticipated event in our house.
And of course, sites like wdwinfo.com and all the DIS Podcasts give me that Disney fix whenever I need it, and they also help me anticipate and plan the next vacation.
These are just a few of the ways that my family fills the gap between our Disney trips. I'm sure there are many others as well. What do you do to fill the gap between Disney trips?
This is one of our color-coded family vacation planning spreadsheets. No bathroom stops allowed! Just kidding...kind of.