Disney, almost by necessity, requires a lot of planning. Our family planning starts at least a year out. Ideally this gives you the most options, and makes it easier to budget. But how do you keep the kids involved? With our kids we do several different things. We have countdown contests – a real hit with my competitive bunch! There are several different types we have. One is a quick, how many days do you think it is until Disney? Usually we are in the car when I ask this. I have a countdown calendar app on my phone. Sometimes I’ll ask how many weeks, sometimes it is how many days, and for fun I sometimes add days, hours and minutes. This is just for the fun of being right, or wrong. Having one child who doesn’t quite get ‘time’, it helps for him to see it is coming up.
By far, the kids favorite countdown contest is our weekly trivia contest question. Starting a year out gives them the chance to get multiple ‘points’ with the winner getting a gift card! It is really nice to do when you have multiple families traveling! In this case it is best to use an email set to go out at a set time once a week. When we have multiple families playing we like to have 2 points for the first correct answer and one point for the remaining correct answers. For our extended family, it is a blast! We are very competitive!
Other things we have done in the past include having Dinner and a Movie night. Since we normally leave on a Friday or Saturday, we choose that as our Disney night. When they were younger, we would choose a Disney movie and try to theme our dinner around the movie. Sometimes this is an easy feat, while others no so much! On those nights it becomes Pizza and a Movie night.
Once we get within a set time frame (maybe thirty or sixty days) we start a calendar in the living room. Sometimes those have been simply a chain made from red, black, and yellow rings that are torn off each night. In years past, back when paint samples came on Mickey Heads, we made a calendar on poster board. Each night one of the heads were pulled off to reveal a specific Disney chore. Like ‘where is your swim suit?’ or ‘it’s time to polish pennies for pressed pennies’.
Last year we tried something a little different. I painted clothes pins red and black. I used a Mickey Head punch and wrote the date on them. Then I took a large yellow rick rack and hung on the mantle. Each night they would remove on of the pins and put in the plate on top of the mantle. Nothing special, just another way to mark the days.
We always make our ADR date a big deal. So, as the kids got older, we had them make lists of top two restaurants they want to eat at in each park. Then I try to get at least one of their top two each time. Then we also ask what one place we’ve never tried they would like to eat at. There are always duplicate restaurants between the four of us, so we manage to get most of their favorites for each trip. We try to get at least one new restaurant each trip, but after so many trips it is getting harder and harder to manage.
We try to watch the Disney planning video at least once during the planning process. It gives us some new ideas and helps to pump everyone for the upcoming trip. It always brings up some different rides that someone is wanting to make sure is on the top of our list!
Depending on the age of the child, there is always something they can do to help in the planning. For the smaller ones, using a countdown for only a week or two will help them to get excited for the trip and ‘help’ with the planning. They can help plan the movie they want to watch either on the night before they leave, or if you are driving and have a DVD player in your car on the drive down; or on the plane ride down. They can plan on ONE stuffed animal to take on the trip, or maybe one stuffed animal to purchase while you are there. As they get older they can help plan what things they can have with them to occupy themselves during the trip.
For us, one year both kids got iPods for Easter (to be filled with their favorite Disney songs); one year they got small cameras for Valentine’s Day. One year, for Back to School Day they got a new DVD player for the car. By keeping in mind things you might want to purchase for the trip throughout the year you can make them a special part of birthday celebrations and other gift giving opportunities through the year.
Now my kids have specific chores to get ready for Disney. One makes sure all the wireless headphones are in working order with batteries. One makes sure all the travel pillows are in the van and ready to go. They both have responsibility for some of their own packing.
If you are a matching shirt type of family, let each child pick out one shirt for the family to wear on a particular day. As a side not, let me tell you that wearing matching shirts at Disney not only lets the kids have part of the fun of planning, but also make packing easier! Once you get the shirts, put them in the luggage right away. None of that 'I can't pack until its time to go because I am packing the clothes I wear every day' problem. And if you have a runner (like we do) it is easy to say 'he's the tall kid wearing a shirt like mine!'...especially if you forgot the #1 rule in traveling with a runner - Take a picture each day before you leave for the park!
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Most of the content is written by people at JMorris Travel. Every once in a while we will have a guest blogger, usually it is part of our 'family'.Always with a nod to Family Travel!