For many non-Florida residents, a trip to Walt Disney World, whether it’s a yearly visit or a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, is packed with anticipation and high expectations. Unfortunately, it’s also packed with heartache if those plans fall short. For type A personalities, Disney makes it easy to feel in control with so many ways to schedule your trip down to the minute, but what they don’t give you is a planning grid for when things go sideways. There is no check-list to manage expectations… or in my case, Momspectations.
Like any well-versed Disney planner, a few Saturdays ago I awoke at 6:15 to brew the coffee, log on to laptops, and wait for our FastPass+ window to open. As the primary Disney planner for my family, I found myself thinking about my expectations for our trip while I waited for the clock to hit 7:00 AM. My Momspectations leading up to our trip are high. I want every table service meal to be perfect; I want each attraction experience to be wonderful. But… what if our much-awaited ride on Slinky Dog Dash doesn’t happen? Perish the thought!! What happens if everyone hates the meal I have researched, planned and booked 180 days before check-in? What if the dessert party I paid hard-earned dollars for is moved inside?! How can I ensure, no matter what circumstances we encounter, that we will have a genuinely magical vacation?
While as of today, there is no mandatory Disney pre-trip webinar about successfully managing expectations during your vacation, I’m hopeful that the following 5 tips will serve as a start!
- Remember that there is not ONE thing that will make or break your trip. If the success of your vacation hinges on riding Flight of Passage or getting the perfect unobstructed view of the Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, it’s time to readjust your mindset and priorities. We all want everything, especially out of a Walt Disney World vacation, but the truth is – it’s just not realistic. Whatever group makes up your travel party, this sentiment rings true. If you’re traveling with children, they will take emotional cues from parents – so be warned. The best part of having smaller children is that sometimes they don’t even realize they’re missing out on something if you don’t clue them in. Groups of adults tend to emulate each others’ comments. If you set your mind on positivity, you likely can sway the group – even when your careful planning is falling apart.
- Develop some daily goals (and make sure they are attainable). I find that when I think in terms of: “meet a few characters after lunch” or “ENJOY attractions in Adventureland” I’m less likely to throw someone overboard if Pirates of the Caribbean is broken down. It’s an easy way to feel a sense of accomplishment, but also follow rule #1. It’s also important to remember that daily goals should always be in your control. If you’ve booked an extra event like a dessert party and it rains, you have no control over the location, but you do have control over your enjoyment.
- Do not underestimate the power of downtime. If you are hitting the parks hard, exhaustion and disappointment are a dangerous cocktail. Whether it’s making sure you give yourself plenty of time to relax at a dining reservation, recharging at your resort, or just grabbing a drink in the shade, everyone NEEDS to rest. The aforementioned type A personalities should carefully think about this before scheduling minute-to-minute. Flexibility can often be the key here; every so often (and most definitely before standing in a long line) take the emotional temperature of your group. A Mickey bar and a break might be exactly what is needed to ensure that your vacation is as smooth as Soarin’.
- Remember you will not experience everything. In conversations with friends and families who have tried to pack in too many attractions, shows, parades, or character meet & greets, their experience is never as great as their expectations. Feelings of joy are replaced with feelings of being rushed and frantic. And… ultimately failure. Coming back to your Momspectations – if you realize and accept before day #1 that you cannot experience all that Walt Disney World has to offer, you can hold off any disappointment. My family and I are planning one evening at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and we know (and accept) that we can’t possibly do it all. We will pick and choose what is most important to us and then just enjoy the ambiance of the park.
- Take a deep breath before using Disney transportation. As the unofficial planning expert among my friends, one cautionary tale I tell is about Disney transportation – whether by bus, ferry, or monorail. Realize early and quickly that Disney transportation, while free, should come with a list of possible side-effects, like a new prescription medication. In your dreams, your Momspectations may have you leisurely riding the ferry to the Magic Kingdom with the wind in your hair, however, the reality may be standing in line for a bus for 45 minutes after Happily Ever After. My family and I rely solely on Disney transportation from the time our flight lands until we are back at the airport heading home, so I am fully in support of utilizing this free way of getting around- but with expectations in check. Remembering that tons of other families are doing the same, be kind. Remembering that you can’t leave your hotel 30 minutes before your FastPass+ reservation, plan ahead. Remembering that transportation could be frustrating, take a deep breath and manage those expectations.