As parents, we’ve all had that dreaded moment where our kids throw a massive tantrum in public. That moment when you just want to either curl up and hide or simply run away leaving your children behind. Vacations bring out the best and worst in our little ones. At home, it’s easy to put misbehaving kids in time out, but if you’re on vacation dealing with misbehavior takes time away from everyone’s enjoyment. These are simple, common sense approaches to avoiding meltdowns at Disney World.
- Don’t Push It: By this, I mean keep your expectations realistic. You’re not going to see and do EVERYTHING at Disney in one vacation. Know that you’ll be back and that this trip is not the end all be all of vacations. Aim to tackle your three fastpass+ attractions and that anything else is bonus.
- Stick to Routine: Whatever your routine is at home, try to mimic it while on vacation. For me, changing from central to eastern time zones can be a challenge, but we commit to eastern time from the moment we cross over. If your kids wake up at 7am at home, plan to get up at 7am on vacation. If your children take a nap in a bed at home, they should take a nap in a bed on vacation. Same goes with meals. The one thing that I learned day one of our first family vacation was bedtime. My kids will not go to bed at their normal time on vacation so we get back to the resort at a reasonable time and then wear them out exploring the resort well past their bedtime.
- Food: Feed your children often. Yes, this is obvious but sometimes on vacation it gets tough. If you have your noon lunch reservation at Crystal Palace and they’re not hungry yet… well you have to go to your reservation to avoid fees. If they don’t eat then you know they’ll be hungry the moment you’re in line for Peter Pan so be prepared. Not only will you feed your children three meals a day, but you’ll always have a backpack full of snacks in the event that they declare that they’re starving the minute you are about to get on Peter Pan. I will admit that this is why I limit dining reservations to breakfast. My kids are always hungry for breakfast. Last, even if you’re on the dining plan, always have plenty of snacks/food in your hotel room. Always.
- Take a mid day break: Before kids, I never did this. I pushed myself each day and was absolutely exhausted by day three. When I took my family on our first vacation, I built a break from about noon to four into our schedule every day. I really didn’t know how that would work out leaving the park for awhile. Would that be a waste of time?? I was willing to give it a try and this has been one of my best tips ever. I’m not saying everyone needs a nap. As toddlers turn into preschoolers, naps can be hard to come by. If you have a napping child, by all means they should take a nap. If you have a husband that needs a nap (like mine), let them take a nap. Older children will benefit from taking a break from the parks even if they don’t take a nap. Let them cool off in the pool. If you’re lucky enough to stay at a resort with a community room, this is a good time to check it out. When we were staying at the Boardwalk, I’d take my non-napper around to all of the Crescent Lake resorts or even pop into International Gateway to people watch in the France Pavillon. When at AKL Kidani Village, I would take my infant for a break at the bar in Sanaa and then sit out on the overlook of the savanna and just rock for about an hour.
- Reward them: Some may call this bribery, but I’m in the camp that does whatever it takes to keep the peace. Sure, you might be planning on getting a Dole Whip after dinner because YOU want it, but if you tell the kids that they can earn some ice cream if there’s no fighting and everyone is happy, then it becomes something that they can have ownership over.
- Look Out for Warning Signs: You know how YOUR kids act just before they act out. Look out for those behaviors. Those of us trained in behavior analysis call this ‘antecedent behaviors’. Yes I’m a geek and it’s because of this that I’m always on the lookout. If you notice an antecedent behavior, address it. Do they need a snack? Do they need a quick break to the bathroom? Do they need a break to burn energy? Figure it out… fast!
Traveling with young children does not need to be stressful. Embrace the journey and enjoy every minute of it!