Photo Credit: Iain A Wanless/Flickr/Creative Commons Photo link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/reemul/15575463743/sizes/l
I’m the type that would rather go somewhere for a little while than not at all. When we found ourselves with one weekend to burn, we decided to fly to Orlando for a long epic day in the Magic Kingdom. Here are 10 things I learned about Disney with teenagers:
1. Disney Gives You What You Need
We booked the least expensive hotel, because we only needed a place to put our heads. I asked for a room near transportation. But Disney in their wisdom gave us the very room the farthest away from the buses that we could possibly be.
Why? the All-Star Music resort is crowded, busy and loud. But by the time you walk the five-building walk to the country-music building where our room was, it’s quiet and desolate.
Our room had two double beds. I can’t imagine that kind of room gets a lot of traffic, because a single adult with a teenage child is probably not a common Disney traveling party. The room backed up against a swamp. The room was small, dated, and a perfect place to rest our heads for two short nights. I slept like a rock.
2. Bring Breakfast With You
We brought our park-day breakfast in our carry-on bags. It was bananas and rice krispie treats. The plan was to eat breakfast in line, waiting for the bus. But when we got to the bus stop at 7:30 a.m., the bus was already there.
We hopped on and made it to the Magic Kingdom by 8 a.m. We took our spot at the left-hand entrance to the park, and sat down to eat our breakfast. This saved us time, and the price of an expensive breakfast.
3. And Bring Line Snacks
In addition to bringing breakfast, we brought line snacks. When we found ourselves in an appreciable line, we whipped out our snacks, specifically Triscuits (an Alex favorite), Keebler cookies and Cheese-Its. Alex said my snack selection was “not bad.” Disney allows guests to bring in snacks. This not only saves the money of purchasing two snacks (2 Disney snacks = $9.00), but it saves you the 10 minutes of standing in line at a snack cart.
4. Get There The Minute It Opens
Getting to the park an hour early to wait for the rope drop was worth every minute. My teenager got to experience the thrill of being first in line, and marching down main street behind the ropes to open the day. We were on the first run of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We saved at least an hour of wait time by being there at the beginning of the day.
5. Predicted Line Times Are Generally Accurate
I used this website to plot out our schedule for the day based on projected wait times. Our day went almost completely according to plan. The plan included all of the teenager hot spots as well as the classics such as Dumbo and It’s a Small World. If you’re planning a trip and you want to pack it all in, I’d recommend using the site to plot out the day.
6. Save the Line-Free Attractions for the Afternoon
Our plan used the first hour to do the popular attractions without a wait – Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean. Then we went to some short-line-in-the-morning attractions, specifically the Haunted Mansion, Small World, Dumbo, the Minnie Mouse meet and greet, and Under the Sea.
After a quick lunch of turkey legs we used our first fast pass on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train before heading to Tomorrowland. in Tomorrowland we used our second and third fast passes on Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear.
By now it was mid-afternoon and the lines were at their peak. So we knocked out the People Mover, Stitch’s Great Escape, and the Carousel of Progress, attractions that don’t have long lines. Our longest line of the day was a 30-minute wait to drive on the Tomorrowland Speedway, but Mickey ice cream bars in line dulled the pain, as we had burned through our snacks by that point.
After that we headed back to Main Street to buy Alex his Mickey ears before getting on the train and taking it around back to Fantasyland, where we rode the Barnstormer. The Barnstormer definitely wouldn’t make my priority list, but we had FastPasses, so why not?
Then we headed over to the Hall of Presidents, where we both agreed that if the Donald wins the election, we’re heading back to the Magic Kingdom just to see what they do with it. Then we had dinner at Columbia Harbor House.
That was the end of my itinerary, and it was only 7:00. We packed it all in and the day was only two-thirds over. We had five hours of Disney-ing to go. What should we do?
So we kind of started over. We hit Big Thunder Mountain Railroad two more times, Splash Mountain three more times, Pirates of the Caribbean again, and then we threw in Aladdin’s Magic Carpet and the Jungle Cruise. After that it was time for fireworks, and we watched most of the evening show as we moseyed from Frontierland back to Tomorrowland.
Back in Tomorrowland it was 11:00. We hit the Astro Orbiter. I found it terrifying but at the same time I was about to have a panic attack Alex was yelling “Altitude!!! Altitude!!!” at the top of his lungs. We went to the Monster’s Laugh Floor where the monsters picked Alex to help tell jokes and he did a great job. The Monster’s Laugh Floor is the most underrated attraction at Disney. The next time I go, I’m doing it twice.
One more round on the People Mover and it was midnight. All in all, 32 attractions in 15 hours. We averaged slightly better than two attractions an hour and that included stopping for meals.
We got back to the resort at 1 a.m. and treated ourselves to a pizza. Unfortunately, after I ordered it, I found out that Domino’s only delivers to the lobby , so I walked Alex the 10-minute walk back to our room so he could get started packing and then I headed back to the lobby for the pizza. We had a 1:30 a.m. pizza party and then poured ourselves into bed at 2:15 a.m. Our total in-Disney spending for two nights, six meals, and souvenirs was only $160. That made the total cost of this trip from start to finish approximately $900. Disney, for less than $500 each? Yes!
7. Disney With a Teenager is Fun!
If you think Disney is for little kids, you’d be wrong. During the day, I saw lots of crying kids and their exhausted parents. By contrast, when my teenager has to go to the bathroom, all I have to do is say, “I’ll wait for you right here!” When he wants a second churro, all I had to do was say, “You have a magic band, I’ll wait for you right here!”
You don’t have to carry a teenager around and they have more stamina than you do. In fact, I’d recommend you save your pennies in your Disney jar and consider taking your kids when they’re older. Teenager is the perfect age for Disney.
8. Disney With a Small Number is Fun, Too!
You don’t have to plan a family reunion to have a great time at Disney. With only one kid to focus on, we ate when he was hungry, when he wanted to go on a ride off we went, and it was always his time to talk. For a teenager, I’d call that a magical day.
9. Use a Disney Travel Agent
This was my first experience using an agent to book our travel. And she hooked us up with some pretty sweet perks – free mini golf, free admission to the ESPN zone and shopping discounts. We would have utilized all of these things if we had a longer trip, and they would have made for full and economical off-days from the parks.
Our agent also did a lot of paperwork for us that made my life easier. Since I kept the destination a secret until the day of the trip, she was also someone to share my excitement with. Even if you know your Disney stuff, I’d recommend using an agent for all these financial and convenience perks.
10. Disney Resort and Off-Site Hotels Both Have Good Points
If driving is not your idea of a relaxing vacation, stay at a Disney-owned hotel. The bus system is absolutely convenient and getting around is easy, fast and stress free. There’s even Disney television on the bus! Watch television or drive in busy Orlando? Hmm…easy decision.
If you’d rather drive, however, you can get a bigger hotel room for your dollar if you stay off site. Of course, you’ll need a rental car and you’ll pay parking fees, but your room will be twice the size for about the same cost. Having done both, I’d say cost wise the two options average out, so take your pick based on your preferences.
Photo credit: Author, personal photo
At the end of the day, I said, “We’ll have to do this again sometime.” In all seriousness, he looked at me and said, “When, exactly?” I’d call that Disney magic.