Families are filled with different personalities, and the experience that each of those personalities brings to a vacation makes for a unique trip. As a Disney-loving family of four, we have found that we each enjoy different things about Disney. Most of the time, compromises need to be made so that everyone can be satisfied, but we are also firm believers that the key to keeping the Disney Magic alive is to allow for Family Time, Our Time, and My Time.
This is probably the most traditional way to enjoy a Disney park: as part of a family vacation. Adults and kids travel together, and sometimes extended family is included as well. In my experience, this type of vacation also requires the greatest amount of compromise. But most of the time, the benefits outweigh any drawbacks, and an awesome time is had by all.
For a long time, “Family Time” was the only way my family experienced Disney. Don’t get me wrong, it was great, and it still is. We try to get to Disney World or Disneyland once per year as a family. However, we live in the Northeast, so it’s not so easy (or so cheap) to get the whole family to Florida or California. The cost of airline tickets, park tickets, and food really adds up for a family of four or more. And since all four members of my family love Disney, there is always something that we wish we could be doing.
This is what is some might call a “couple’s getaway.” In our case this usually occurs when something awesome is happening at Disney that either the kids wouldn’t appreciate, or that interferes with school. A perfect example of this for my family is the Walt Disney Marathon Weekend. A few years ago, my husband and I had a strong desire to complete the Disney World Half Marathon, but it takes place in January (right after the winter break). Our kids needed to stay in school, but we really wanted to have this experience. So, we decided to take a quick trip to Disney World together, staying three nights so we could participate in the race. Luckily, we were able to have a grandparent visit during that time; the kids got some special bonding time with a grandparent, and we got to have an experience we otherwise would have had to wait years to have.
During another “Our Time” trip (to celebrate a milestone birthday) we experienced a behind-the-scenes tour at Magic Kingdom: The Keys to the Kingdom. This is something I have dreamed of doing for years, but it’s just not appropriate for my young kids. Plus, since we “saved” so much money on that trip we decided to do the Animal Kingdom Ultimate Nights of Adventure VIP Tour as well. This was a big splurge for us for sure, and only somewhat affordable because there were two of us instead of four of us.
In my opinion, this is one of the most underrated ways to experience Disney — all by yourself! Some folks call this a “solo trip” but in my family we call this a “me-cation” (pronounced mē-ˈkā-shən). It’s an opportunity to get away and do Disney on your own terms. Sometimes my job will bring me somewhere close to Disney and I’ll add a vacation day to the end of my trip. But sometimes, I will take a trip without my husband, without my kids, without any friends, and just do whatever I want!
My husband actually does this every fall, traveling down to Universal Studios Florida for Halloween Horror Nights. This is an event that neither myself nor my kids have any interest in, but he loves it. By going on his own, he can enjoy this event without worrying about us, and it’s much less expensive for one person to go instead of four. Also, it’s during the school year, so not an ideal time for the entire family to travel. Plus, my girls and I take this opportunity to have some mother-daughter bonding at home.
I had the opportunity to take a trip on my own to the very last Star Wars Weekend at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This is an event I had heard about for years, but due to the timing (late spring), and the type of events offered (lots of lines/meet and greets, etc), I knew I couldn’t take my kids. Even though my husband would have liked to go with me, he happily had his own father-daughter bonding time at home while I went and had the experience of a lifetime. Almost three years later, I am so happy that I took this opportunity, as there were no more Star Wars Weekends offered after that year. If I had waited until the kids were old enough, I would have missed the opportunity and probably regretted it.
Can’t get away for a full me-cation? Consider mixing things up during your next family vacation. If you have young kids, one parent can tour the park at night while the other one stays in with the kids. Or if the rest of your family like to sleep in, consider hitting the park for rope drop and then meeting up at lunchtime for the rest of the day. There are lots of ways to fit in Family Time, Our Time and My Time on your next Disney vacation.
Given my family’s intense love for Disney, we have found that allowing ourselves to experience it in these three different ways enables each trip to be different, and even more magical than the last.