Planes, beaches and theme parks — oh my!
5 tips for not only surviving a Florida vacation with little ones, but enjoying your vacation with little ones!
What?! Fly to Orlando with 3 small children all by ourselves?! Sounds crazy, but the truth is, it can be done and it can be done well! Vacation season is upon us so let me share with you my 5 tips to not just survive vacation to Orlando with little ones, but let me help you make it easier so you can create memories of joy and not regret.
Tip #1: When given the option to fly or drive, always fly!
We have flown twice and driven once from Missouri to Florida (20ish hours) with our 5 year old, almost 3 year old and 4 month old. The kids were great. The parents, not so great. It took us a good 2 days to recover once we were there and that made it hard to jump right in to all the fun. We did it, but flying is highly recommended! This year we flew with our 6 year old, 4 year old and 18 month old and the 2 1/2 hour flight was a little rough with the 18 month old, but I will take that over a 2 day drive any day! Here is your tip within a tip: Practical distractions for the 18 month old on a plane are stickers, window clings, snacks, snacks and more snacks. You're welcome.
Tip #2: When your husband says not to bring the double stroller, do it anyway.
Now, I'm not an encourager of always going against the grain of what the head of the house may say, but I promise you, bringing the double stroller will save your life more than once. Not only was it crazy handy through the airport (how do you get those car seats to the check-in counter? You got it, stack those seats right on that stroller!) but it was also a life saver when we needed to take our weeks worth of groceries up to the 14th floor at our resort. Then there is always the super practical money saving argument for the theme parks and you will definitely need the handy basket your stroller has for the accumulation of snacks and souvenirs. Gate check that double stroller, you will thank me when it is all said and done.
Tip #3: Do not try to fit in 7 theme parks in 7 days.
Seriously. Don't do it. It is completely exhausting and you will feel like a bus hit you when you get home. I will briefly share the parks we have been to and where I think your best value lies.
- Legoland — great park to visit one time with your 5 year old.
- Animal Kingdom — great to visit once, but the walkways seem narrow and can get super crowded on a hot busy day.
- MGM — great for adults. Disclaimer: we last went when Jude was 3 and Lila was 10 months old. Toy Story land was a hit and meeting Buzz and Woody were fun, but that only lasted an hour at most. I know they are getting ready to add more to Toy Story Land and Star Wars so I can see a trip in the next few years when we can check out the new areas.
- Epcot — we actually have never been, but we talk about taking the kids when they are a bit older as part of a homeschool "field trip". If you've been, please share your thoughts on the perfect age to go.
- Magic Kingdom — is wonderful for the littles (perfect for age 4). 4 is the age where everything is still magical, they can remember the characters and rides and the parades are my favorite part of this park. We do not love that it takes an hour to get into the park and a long haul back to your car after a long exhausting day, but worth it for the 4 year old.
- Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure — get the park hopper and plan on staying a few days. We LOVE these parks for several reasons. Easy to get in and out, something for everyone and what we appreciate best about these parks, is the fact that they have child swap. That's right, move through most of the line together as a family and then get hustled into another line or room where a parent/child can get on a ride, come back and sit with the younger children so other parent/child or same child can hop right on the ride. They usually have a buy 2 days get the 3rd day free and it is perfect so you do not feel rushed through the parks and you can be sure to not waste most of your day waiting in lines. Tip within a tip: try a butter beer in Harry Potter World and one of Lard Lad Donuts in The Simpsons area of Universal, so yummy!
- Build in a beach day! You need a day of rest in between all the hustle and bustle of the parks. Going to the beach puts a little bit of peace and perspective in the week. We always choose to go to Cocoa Beach because well, for one that is where our honeymoon was so it is a bit nostalgic and two, it is only an hour away from Orlando so it is an easy road trip. Don't forget cash for the tolls!
Tip #4: If you choose one meal to eat out, choose dinner.
We have found that it works best to grocery shop for easy breakfasts, high protein snacks we can pack in the backpack to get us through a morning and lunch at the park and then grab a big mid-afternoon dinner on park or off park. Who likes to make a full dinner after they have been to a theme park all day?! Not this Mama!
Tip #5: If possible, plan your Orlando vacation in the off season.
We have found February and early March to be the perfect time for your theme park fun. It is not as crowded and definitely not as hot. Upper 70s to low 80s is perfect theme park weather and the beach is still nice as well. We went late April this year and it was nice for the most part, but the one day we chose to go to Magic Kingdom it was in the 90s so you get 3 small kids who are tired, whiny and hot mixed with 2 grown adults who are tired, whiny and hot — and it can make for an interesting memory. ;)
The moment my husband said he wanted to go back to Orlando again, but fly, I had immediate anxiety. All I wanted was a nice relaxing beach vacation. Let's be honest, relaxing and beach vacation is pretty much an oxymoron when it comes to vacationing with 3 little ones. We love every minute of our time in Orlando, the memories are priceless. In fact, we usually are already missing it before we pull out of the parking lot of the resort to head home.
If you have any great tips and tricks for taking littles to theme parks, please share them with me! I am sure there will be another trip in our not-so-distant future. Honestly, looking back at all our pictures makes me miss it and I am realizing how many pictures we have not shared. Be sure to follow me— @happylittlemessblog on Instagram because I think I will share some of those photos this week.
"Work hard, play hard." This statement could not be more true in the Stewart household. We feel incredibly blessed by this life and thank God for every moment and memory he allows us to make together. Make time to get away and share those special moments and memories with your people and do it often.