In my last post, I talked about changing your expectations about Disney World when travelling with young kids. Get out of the "I have to ride everything multiple times!" mindset, and into the "What would make my children, and thus the parents, happiest?" one. Maybe that left some readers wondering what the heck I was talking about?! How can you have fun doing children's rides?! Well, I don't mean to ride "It's a Small World" ten times in a row - although if that's what will make your extremely irritable toddlers happy for a morning, you'll do it, trust me! ;-). You have to be a little more creative, and that's where doing some extra research into the available activities for little ones at Disney World would be useful. In other words, that's why you have me!
In this post, I'd like to talk about wrapping your mind around doing something other than Soarin' first thing in the morning at Epcot! Yes, there are the overwhelming crowds that arrive at the park for opening time planning to fight their way through the people for that first spot on the ride. Sure, that could be you. You could force your Maclaren stroller (and your child) into that mob and do your best to avoid tripping on its wheels as you try to speedwalk over to Soarin'. Once there, you and your partner could decide which one of you will ride first, and which one of you will wait with the child and take advantage of the rider swap. Hmm, does all that work sound tempting? Maybe. But wouldn't it be nice if you went against the grain, and did something that was a). easier to get to b). doesn't involve waiting in lines c). would make your child happier and d). provide some instant Disney magic to start your day off on the right foot? If this sounds intriguing, please read on...
This option does involve arriving at Epcot in time for rope drop (you will quickly learn that I will ALWAYS advise arriving to the Disney Parks for park opening). Now, this time I don't mean that it's sufficient to get yourself through the turnstile while the rope is dropping. No. For my plan to work, you must arrive early enough to be waiting AT the rope. Yes, right behind the rope. There is a method to my madness... please read on. I know what you are thinking, "how in the world can I get my little ones out the door in time to be at the parks for rope drop?!" Plan, plan, plan! Every WDW veteren knows that an enjoyable Disney vacation requires planning. That's just the way it is. There are too many people and too much heat to not have a plan of how you will tour the park each day. This isn't a bad thing, though. This is simply an extra step in planning a vacation that really pays off in the end! For starters, if your small children are like mine, they are early risers! You have a choice. Instead of being frustrated that they are waking you up at the crack of dawn even on vacation, work with it. Get up when they get up and start getting ready for the day! This is an awesome way to ensure you'll be at Epcot in time! If not, set your alarm (again it will pay off in the long run!). Wash up, change diapers, eat a quick breakfast (in the room preferably - this is quicker!), and get on your mode of transportation! In order for my plan to work, you should be arriving at Epcot no later than half an hour before they let the guests through the turnstiles. Well, ok, you can arrive a bit later, but you have to promise to push that Maclaren very quickly past the other guests to arrive at the front of the rope.
So, now you've made it. The rope is right in front of you. Make sure you get the optimal spot at the rope (if you get there fast enough to have a choice). The best place that my family has found is right in front of the fountain. The waiting continues, but then the characters come out and greet the guests at the rope (see, isn't waking up early already starting to pay off?!). Now any grumpiness from your children arising from being rushed around to get here is magically washed away by the simple act of a handshake from Mickey. Aww, that was a sweet moment that can be a cherished memory for years to come, I'm sure. BUT - don't put your camera away, the best part is yet to come.
As soon as the CMs (cast members) give you the green light, you're going to cut through that crowd that's heading to Soarin'...... over to Character Spot! "What? We just had our picture taken with Mickey at Animal Kingdom yesterday!". No, no, no. This isn't just another meet and greet with a favorite character. If you have followed my plan to a T and you manage to be the first family to walk through character spot, you will have hit the motherload of all character greetings! As the first family, you get to meet all the characters at once - just your family - and get indvidualized attention from each of them! The best part? A picture with Mickey and the gang all at once! Now, THAT is, in Disney terms, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a picture that will be worth a thousand words for years to come. Isn't that better than being the 20th guest to ride Soarin' that morning? No one said a Disney vacation doesn't involve some planning and some (fun!) work. But if you can commit to it, you and your family will have an amazing time.