For all you planners out there, the planning process is nearly as enjoyable as the vacation itself. Carefully creating a calendar or spreadsheet with your daily itinerary, opening it every day and going over it with an expert eye wondering where you may have made a mistake. Planning out the tempo for the week and thinking what the best order is for going to the different parks, all the while anticipating your window for booking Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR) and scheduling your FastPasses. The exhilarating feeling of scoring that elusive FastPass or ADR that you weren't able to get out of the gate.
These are all the things you enjoy and live for in the six to twelve months leading up to your next Walt Disney World vacation. Oh what's that? You have kids and they're not worried about that nearly feral look in your eye as you hunch over a few extra spreadsheets? Well then that means you need to bring them into the process and pass the passion down to the next generation.
Let's take a look at a few age brackets and get a few ideas on how to bring them into the planning process. Just because they get older doesn't mean they can't do things in the younger age brackets. Every age bracket includes those ideas in the younger ones.
Three and Under
There isn't much a three-and-under child can do to actually help you. They just want to feel included and be part of that excitement. Your passions are often their passions at this age, so there are a lot of things to give them an outlet to express that excitement.
A Disney countdown calendar is a perfect way to countdown to the day you leave for Walt Disney World. Go out and buy a bunch of Disney stickers and a piece of poster board and draw up a three month (or more) calendar. Have the kids decorate it, and every day they can put a sticker on the day in the morning.
Visit a nearby Disney Store and let someone know you're heading to The World soon. Sometimes they'll put your names up on the screen and make an announcement. While you're there you can pick up small toy for them to keep while they wait.
Four through Seven
Kids all have varying degrees of reading skills and understanding of technology, so these age brackets are only general ideas for kids of this age. No judgement!
We want to get the kids involved in making decisions and picking out places in the parks they want to see. As they get older, they'll be a living and walking touring plan.
Print out maps of all the parks and have the kids create their own touring plan or itinerary. Ask them about their favorite rides. Have them draw routes and paths on the paper and talk about it together. As your kids get older, they'll be studying the maps and memorizing them more and more.
Give your child a computer/tablet and have them watch the fireworks or shows (assuming we're not worrying about spoilers!) and review them for you. Make your choices based on what the kids want to see.
Eight through Ten
Now we want to get the kids to get more involved in the details, which include wait times, travel times and the awareness of crowds. Depending on your child's ability to use Google Maps and/or your allowance of them being on the internet, here are a few activities you can give them. If you don't want them using a computer, give them general travel times listed below and have them figure things out.
Use Google Maps and have them discover how long it takes to fly or drive to Orlando. If you're flying, figure out the time it takes to drive to the airport. Have them figure out when the family needs to wake up and be out the door. Then have them figure out how much time is left in the day once you land and arrive at the resort.
Have them look up average wait times or the popularity of all the rides they want to go on and ask them what part of the day and what order is best to go on them. Make them part of the process in determining FastPass+ selections.
Use Google Maps and have them explore an aerial view of the resort and the parks. Have them figure out how long it takes a bus to get to and from the parks and when the family needs to wake up each day to get to the parks.
Show them how to use Google Maps in street view so they can walk through the parks and explore them on their own.
Eleven and older
Now you can finally bring your kids into the planning process with details. Have them look for flights, assist in finding hard-to-get ADRs, look up restaurant reviews and plan out where your family will want to eat.
Depending on where you are in the planning process and how comfortable you are in sharing the financial end of things, have your kids help look for good deals on flights or look through different package offerings on the Disney website. Bring them in at the very beginning of the planning process; have them do it with you so they have some ownership of the whole vacation.
Have them select a few restaurants they want to go to and incorporate them into your plans.
Have them coordinate FastPass+ times, show times, and firework times. Give them a copy of your spreadsheet/calendar for them to manipulate and compare them once a week.
There are many other ideas out there and these are only a few, but our goal is to give our kids different ways to be excited about your Walt Disney World vacation. The larger the sense of ownership your kids have of the vacation, the more they will be engaged. If you bring them into this process, the older they get the more awareness and appreciation they will have of what it takes to plan a great trip. You'll also be teaching them valuable skills, like the awareness of time and it's management, logistics and an appreciation of the cost.
Ultimately, it's just another family activity that will bring you all closer together.
Top Image: Disney
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