Planning a Relaxing Trip to Disney World

During our family trip to Walt Disney World in November 2010, the kids complained that it was not relaxing enough. That we spent too much time park hopping to do all the attractions we wanted to do and get to all the table service meal locations we made reservations for. That was the kids third annual trip and the first time we had heard this complaint. Normally, we plan park days around Extra Magic Hours and any special events, as well as advance dinner reservations. This trip was also during free dining, so we had five table service meals planned for the duration of our five night, six day trip. We normally plan to visit more than one park per day for just about every day of our trip. And up to this time, the busy schedule doing everything we could possibly squeeze in seemed to be what everyone wanted and loved. Note that this busy schedule included “downtime” and even unplanned full days. For those times we still usually elected to do something other than “relax”.

So after last years complaint about being all “go go go”, and no “relax”, and after visiting the Beach Club Resort and having the kids fall in love with the incredible pool, we planned a seven night, eight day stay for August 2011 with only two planned table service meals. One at Tusker House for lunch and a dinner at Cape May Cafe. We also didn’t plan specific days to see things like Fantasmic!, Wishes, or IllumiNations. The thought being that with fewer planned meals and attractions to get to, things would be less hectic, leaving more time for relaxing. For us, this did not work out at all.

Sandy Bottom Pool at Disney World's Beach Club Resort

Sandy Bottom Pool at Disney World's Beach Club Resort

The Problems with Traveling to Walt Disney World Without a Detailed Plan

The kids enjoy eating at all the different restaurants and trying all the different snacks and drinks, so one of the biggest problems for us was the lack of a daily meal plan. It seemed with no plan as where to eat, nobody ever wanted to eat at the same place. The two kids wanted to go to places they liked in the past and the adults wanted to try new places. In addition, the kids usually didn’t agree in their choices, or, since one has a shellfish and tree nut allergy, we couldn’t always accommodate everyone’s needs at a place that was conveniently located. So, we end up running around searching for a place to eat, and being forced to eat at off meal times, instead of relaxing.

We also thought that, since we were visiting during a slower time when the Orlando schools were in session, we would not have too much trouble with getting a table as a walk up. This was a false assumption. When we first started targeting the “off season” we were amazed at how empty the parks were. In the last couple years though, it just seems there is no off season.

Sea of Humanity at Epcot: August 25th, 2011

Sea of Humanity at Epcot: August 25, 2011 This is a bit exaggerated since it is right after morning rope drop and everyone is rushing towards Soarin' or Test Track, but it makes a point: Its usually busy at Walt Disney World!

Another problem was that, oddly, after wanting to be less tied to a schedule, the kids were always asking what we were doing next. They then ended up with their own idea of what our day was going to be and it was frustrating for them when it didn’t pan out.

Here is something I really didn’t expect while staying at the Beach Club. Seeing Illuminations almost never happened! I was hoping to see it on a few nights from a few different vantage points so I could find some new angles to photograph it from on our Pixelmania trip (without the kids) in October. You would think that being a two minute walk from the park we could find a few evenings to do this but without it being planned it just didn’t happen. So this time I was the one frustrated when my unplanned plans didn’t pan out.

IllumiNations! photographed from Epcot's World Showcase

IllumiNations! photographed from Epcot's World Showcase

After all our non-planning so we could “have a more relaxing trip and enjoy our deluxe resort with the totally awesome pool”, I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to take advantage of much of the luxury of our first stay at a Deluxe resort. Incredibly, on one of the wicked hot days near the end of our stay, instead of relaxing by the pool, everyone decided to make a second trip to Downtown Disney to go shopping! Well, everyone but me. I hung out by the pool and had drinks delivered to me in my lounge chair. At least someone was relaxing! 🙂

The Reality of What We Do at Walt Disney World

During the trip Mom and I saw the frustration of not knowing what we were doing next, as well as the fact that the kids were not all that focused on actually relaxing like they thought they wanted to. We talked with the kids about this and they agreed that the way we had planned our trips in the past worked better for everyone than what we tried this year. As the kids get older the attractions remain important and the list of attractions they want to experience is changing. Also, we all enjoy the unique food opportunities at Disney.  There is just no way around having to plan all of this.

Having everyone Involved in the Process of Planning their Disney Trip

For our thoroughly planned trips, we involved the kids in the planning process. Everyone knew long before the trip that they were going to get to do everything that was most important to them. Getting this input from them long before the trip prepares them for the times when they get to do their stuff, as well as when they need to go along with what others want to do. Once we are on vacation, the schedule allows everyone to look forward to the attractions or activities they want to do instead of worrying about when or if they will be doing these things.

The moral of the story, at least for our family, is: If you want a truly relaxing vacation at Walt Disney World, you still need to plan as many of your activities and meals as possible! Including a few hours of down time for at least a few of your days is important too. Maybe even one day thats wide open for either relaxing or making up lost time due to weather or crowds. For this unplanned day you still may want to have meal reservations or at least an idea of counter service options that everyone can agree on.

This is the way it is for our family but I imagine not everyone is the same. Do trips seem more hectic if you don’t make fairly detailed plans? Do you at least plan your meals? Let us know in the comments below!

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