Monday, August 29, 2011

Still Learning After All These Trips

If you've stuck it out with me over the summer, you've read an in-depth trip report from our Disney Dream Cruise and Star Wars Weekend vacation.  Thank you so much for taking the time to read the report.  It is my sincere hope that it entertained you and possibly even gave you some good ideas for your own future vacation.

That being said, I think it's time to wrap it up.  As I did with the cruise portion of the trip, I want to share some things that I learned from our time at Walt Disney World.

1.  Taking it slow really is the way to go!
Now I know that many might argue this one with me, but I have to say, even with the madness that was Star Wars Weekend, this had to be one of the most relaxing vacations in Walt Disney World that we have ever had.  Granted, we've visited many times, and we plan to visit many more.  So we didn't really feel the urgency to rush around and "see everything" as so many travelers do.  If you are able to visit WDW this way, then please take the time to do it.  Figure out one or two "must do" things in each park, then take your time.  Meander a little.  Enjoy the view, the atmosphere, the people around you.  Enjoy each moment.  Savor your lunch rather than snarfing it down and running to the next thing.  You'll be surprised how relaxing WDW can actually be.

2.  The Force was with us.
When we decided to go to Star Wars Weekend, I was excited but I was very nervous.  I knew that the crowds would be bad.  I knew it would be hot.  But I never in my wildest dreams imagined that it would be so much fun!  If you are a Star Wars fan or have a Star Wars fan in your house, you need to do this at least once.  And though the crowds were pretty intense at times, and yes, we did encounter a few fans who probably needed a tranquilizer dart to the backside, overall everyone was having a great time and the energy was awesome!  We met some really cool people in lines waiting to meet characters.  And it was so much fun having the interactions with the Star Wars characters!  They really got into it.  And honestly, it didn't get stressful.  We utilized the divide and conquer strategy, enjoyed some relaxing meals, and made the best of a torrential downpour.  If we are able, we will definitely do it again.  And this time we will go to more of the shows!

3.  We love the dining plan!
So I know that there is much controversy out there right now about whether or not Disney's dining plans are worth the money.  I've heard many a person say that they could eat much cheaper than that or that the plan should go back to including appetizers and tips.  What I can tell you is this:  because we didn't have the dining plan this year, we might have saved a little bit of money, but the stress was not worth it.  We agonized over absolutely every dining decision.  When we finally got to to to Le Cellier, we ate burgers.  Not steak, burgers.  Now I love my burger, don't get me wrong, but it's a steakhouse.  I wanted steak.  But I couldn't bring myself to pay that much in cash, knowing that it was our first day at Disney and not knowing what we might need to spend that money on later.  We nickled and dimed ourselves to death on the food.  When we finally broke down near the end of the trip and went to Boma because we love it, I nearly cried after we payed for it.  For our family, having the assurance that our food is paid for before the vacation, and that with a very few exceptions, I can order absolutely whatever I want without concern of the cost, is worth it to me.  So bring on the dining plan for our next vacation.  I'm tired of worrying about food!

4.  Take time to swim.

Now for many, this might sound sacrilegious.  You are at Walt Disney World, you have four theme parks, two water parks, a shopping district, and a partridge in a pear tree.  Why on earth would you hang around at your resort?  Because it's magical, that's why!  If you stay on property especially, your resort can be just as magical sometimes as visiting a park (or at least as magical as Downtown Disney).  We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Animal Kingdom Lodge this year, and spent far more time in the pool than we have on previous trips.  In fact, one night while we were in the pool, the staff brought out an inflatable movie screen to show "The Aristocats."  Now yes, we did stay at a deluxe resort, but honestly, every Disney resort has some fun and relaxing options for you.  Swimming pools with amazing themes, arcades, gift shops, activities for kids and adults, and the amazing atmosphere that Disney is known for.  And guess what's great...everyone else is at the parks!  Resort time during the daytime is quiet and relaxing.  And so worth it.

(borrowed from flickr & edited)
 5.  Revisit the classics.
I think probably one of my favorite things we did this trip is take Payton on some of the "classic" Walt Disney attractions.  When you visit WDW often, sometimes you tend to gravitate toward what's new.  But it was truly a joy to get back on The Jungle Cruise again (esp. at park closing, it was kinda creepy!) and to sit and enjoy the Carousel of Progress.  We cannot predict what Disney will keep long term and what they will decide to change, so be sure to take in some of the true Disney classics.  I can't wait to get back and see the original Enchanted Tiki Room now that it's been restored to it's truest form!

There are so many other things I could say, but many would be a recap from the trip reports so I'll just close with this:  no matter what your plans are when you visit Walt Disney World, don't let them get in the way of the magic.  Take a breath.  Hug your kids.  Hold hands with the one you love.  And let Walt's dream soak in through your skin.  Play, have fun, and keep the magic alive.

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