Why We Haven’t Gone to Walt Disney World Yet

We’re currently in the brainstorming phase of planning our summer family vacation – it’s always a bit of a dance to figure out a location that works within our budget and peaks our interest. We have at least one weekend trip planned each month leading up to our ‘big’ vacation plus our Spring Break trip so we’re not working with unlimited funds. We were able to go to England and France last year – we’re hopeful we can swing something just as amazing this year but only if the good deal fairy sprinkles some dust in our direction. I’m not sure about you guys but whenever we engage in conversations with other parents about summer travel, it is always inevitable that Walt Disney World comes up at some point.

A trip to Disney World feels like both the ultimate parenting benchmark and the pinnacle family vacation. While we’ve spent three days at Disneyland a couple of years ago (and loved it), we have yet to jump into Disney World pool for a variety of reasons. We have many friends who have had truly wonderful vacations to the most magical place on earth (to be fair – we also have friends who sum up their Disney World experience with an eh). There has to be a valid reason why 52 million people visit interior Florida…

…so why haven’t we gone yet?

It’s expensive! With a simple Google search, you can find a plethora of information about planning a Disney World vacation with various budgets. Money.com broke down various Disney World vacations that rang in between $3500 and $10,000. As a family, we love to travel. Our children have seen over two-thirds of the United States and have stamped passports. But we do not have an unlimited vacation fund – we have IRAs, 529s, real estate investments, youth sports, and extra-curricular activities that all need money in their respective pots before cash is even placed into our vacation fund. Simply put – if we spent a lot of money on a Disney World vacation, we wouldn’t have the funds to travel anywhere else for the year.

For the record – we priced a trip to Disney World last year and with what we were quoted (including military discount) for 5 days at Disney World was higher than what we ended up spending on our 8-day trip to Europe – including airfare.

There has been a lot of talk about whether Disney is pricing out the middle class. For some families, Disney World is an annual trip. For others, it is a once-in-a-lifetime vacation that will be referenced for years. There are no shortage of articles and opinions about how Yes – I know there are tips and tricks to bring the cost of a Disney World vacation into a more reasonable range but that brings me to my next point…

The planning process is overwhelming! It’s impossible to ask a question in a Facebook group about Disney World without a handful of people offering their services as a Disney planner. Going to Disney World isn’t as simple as buying tickets and securing a hotel. There are FastPasses that need to be booked, dining reservations to be made, and I’m pretty sure a blood oath is required at some point. As someone who hasn’t experience Disney World since childhood – the process of planning a trip there in the 21st century is overwhelming. When we travel, we love to see where the day takes us based on recommendations of locals and people we meet along the way. A Disney World vacation is the complete opposite of how we travel so spending hours planning our days ahead of time feels quite foreign. Not wrong per se, but certainly different.

It’s in Orlando. There are few places I dislike more in the world than interior Florida – especially during the summer. I’m sure that we will go to Disney World at some point but I guarantee that it won’t be during June, July, or August. The fact that it is in Orlando is a major buzzkill for us. For that reason, planning another trip to Disneyland in California is much more appealing than dropping $5000 in a place with 99% humidity and no ocean. Sorry Orlando lovers – it just isn’t for us.

The crowds. Disney World is family-friendly, magical, clean, escape from the regular world so I can’t really begrudge people for wanting to go there. While there are peak and off-peak times to visit – there will always be crowds. One thing that Disney does great is make waiting in line as enjoyable as possible so while waiting 60+ minutes for a ride isn’t preferable, it is at least more enjoyable at Disney theme parks than other ones. But it is still crowded.

There are other places we want to go more. The cost combined with the fact that there are simple other places we’ve wanted to go more in the world are the two main reasons why we haven’t gone to Disney World yet. We feel that our trip to Disneyland ‘checked the box’ so-to-speak for our children so we don’t really feel the pressure to take them to Disney World anytime soon. We may not know where we are going this summer but it definitely won’t be Disney World. We haven’t ruled it out in the future but it just isn’t for us right now.

Disneyland Splash Mountain

Have you gone to Disney World yet? Do you find it to be the best place on earth or completely overrated or somewhere in between?

Walt Disney World – What We Liked and What We Did Not

When we told people that we were finally going to Walt Disney World, we received a wide range of reactions. Some people would scream, “Oh my gosh – you are going to LOVE it! You’ll have such a magical time!” While others would say, “Good luck with that; you couldn’t pay me to take my kids to Disney World.” I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise – we do live in polarizing times, after all. While we did enjoy ourselves at Walt Disney World and made some fantastic memories, I’m not quite sure it was the most magical place we’ve been as a family.

We were eating lunch on the day we woke up ridiculously early to compete for a Rise of the Resistance boarding group when I turned to Clay and informed him that I thought I was finally feeling the infamous Disney magic. He then asked me, somewhat cynically, if I was sure it just wasn’t the margarita I happen to be drinking. We laughed and braced ourselves for an afternoon of dodging scooters, strollers, and overstimulated toddlers. I’ll be honest – we had high expectations for our trip. And I think because they were so high, we inevitably set ourselves up for disappointment. We know we are going to go back in the next few years – after all, we now know what we like and what we don’t. We want a mulligan. Not because our trip to Disney World wasn’t fun (far from it!) but we know we can do it better next time.

What We Liked: The Disney Dining Plan. Clay and I are self-proclaimed foodies and our kids are thankfully beyond the ‘eat only chicken nuggets and macaroni’ stage of childhood so we knew we wanted to experience Walt Disney World’s food scene. Additionally, the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts took place during our visit so we wanted to take full advantage of the offerings at each country. We initially decided not to do the Disney Dining Plan because we figured that we wouldn’t get our money’s worth (it’s a lot of food!), but after taking with friends and crunching some numbers based on what we’d order, we’d realize that worst-case scenario we’d lose about $100.

Adding the Disney Dining Plan was one of our best decisions! We loved not having to worry about how much everything cost and the freedom to order whatever we wanted really added to the all-inclusive feel that we were wanting at Walt Disney World. And if I’m being honest – having an alcoholic beverage included in every adult meal was worth it’s weight it gold. I don’t usually order $15 margaritas for lunch but at Walt Disney World I do!

What We Didn’t Like: Fort Wilderness. We stayed in a cabin, which was very nice – no complaints. However, we didn’t utilize the full kitchen, nor did have any desire to take advantage of the Fort Wilderness offerings so it seemed like a waste for our family to stay there. When we planned the trip, we were offered a discounted military-rate for a regular room at the Contemporary Resort and a cabin at Fort Wilderness. Because the Fort Wilderness quote was about $800 cheaper, we chose the cabin over the regular room. However, if we had to do it all over again, we would’ve paid the extra money to stay at the Contemporary Resort. Fort Wilderness was too big and took forever to get around and the transportation was annoying and very inconsistent. And we weren’t fans of the hootenanny music.

What We Liked: The rides! When we planned the trip, we made a pact that we we’d ride every single ride as a family. We had no desire to rider swap – we either did as a family of four or we didn’t do it at all. We rode Tower of Terror, Expedition Everest, Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain, Flight of Passage, Rise of the Resistance, Smuggler’s Run, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Soarin’, and every other ride that was running. We opted not to ride Rock’n Roller Coaster because Violet was not tall enough this trip (next time!) and Mission:Space because we can’t handle being spun in circles super fast (puke city!). And unfortunately, riding Slinky Dog Dash wasn’t in our cards this trip because the wait never fell below 75 minutes and that isn’t how we wanted to spend our time.

And yes, all the rumors are true – Rise of the Resistance is amazing!

What We Didn’t Like: The Walt Disney World bus transportation system. The United States isn’t known for their public transportation so it should I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that Walt Disney’s World bus transportation was lackluster. During our next visit, we will definitely choose a resort that doesn’t rely on buses to get from Point A to Point B. When on a schedule, we much preferred to use an Uber or Lyft. We also liked the Monorail and we really liked the Skyliner.

What We Liked: Jedi Training: Trails of the Temple. This originally wasn’t on our list of must-do’s but when we found ourselves at Hollywood Studios at 6:00am to compete for a Rise of the Resistance boarding group, we were able to sign-up immediately after the park opened for the day. Both kids learned basic lightsaber tactics with their group and then fought Darth Vader. The kids proudly wore their Jedi pins the rest of the day and enjoyed being congratulated by cast members.

What We Didn’t Like (as much): Magic Kingdom. I know – right? Our first Disney experience as a family was Disneyland, which is far superior to Magic Kingdom in our humble opinion. Magic Kingdom felt the dirtiest of the four parks (especially Tomorrowland) and the food options pale in comparison to Hollywood Studios, EPCOT, and Animal Kingdom. That’s not to say that we didn’t enjoy aspects of Magic Kingdom (we really liked Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Haunted Mansion, and Space Mountain) but there is something so magical about Fantasyland at Disneyland that is missing from Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World.

We We Liked: EPCOT. Even though it was under construction during our visit and will be for some time, we still really enjoyed the time that we spent at EPCOT. Going during a festival is key – being able to use Disney Dining Plan snack credits for the food stalls is clutch. Honestly – no complaints about EPCOT other than Figment, who has sort of become an inside joke for our family.

What We Didn’t Like: The crowds. We went during a historically ‘low’ time of year and we still found the crowds unbearable at times – especially at Magic Kingdom. We were in the parks from Sunday to Friday so I’m sure being in the parks on a Saturday is just that much worse. We also were rammed by strollers and scooters more times that we’d wish to remember. All part of the Disney experience, I suppose.

What We Liked: Saturday Brunch at Chef Mickey’s. We ended our trip at Chef Mickey’s. We found the brunch menu to be really diverse and tasty for a buffet and the characters were great! We likely won’t incorporate character meals into future trips but we’d probably consider a visit to Chef Mickey’s again.

There you have it – some things we liked about Disney World and some things we didn’t. While we have no desire to make a yearly pilgrimage to the ‘Most Magical Place on Earth’, we haven’t ruled out a future visit and look forward to doing things a little differently. All in all, it was a great family vacation and certainly won’t be one we’ll forget!

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