Yes, I know I am certifiably insane. We are going back to Disney this March. Not my idea. My amazing, generous mother-in-law has arranged for us to stay at the Grand Floridian to celebrate my younger daughter’s 6th birthday. Well, the older one had her 6th birthday at Disney, so…
I hope I’ve learned a few things from my horrendous November 2013 experience at Disney. This is #1:
1) Do not eat off property with the kids for dinner. Whatever hotel you’re at, that’s where the kids eat. Better yet, cook in your room if you can.
* Young kids are EXHAUSTED by the afternoon. Adults are EXHAUSTED by the afternoon. But adults can rally. Kids break down and are miserable and can’t bounce back. Then they are wired and up late and can’t get up in the morning and the misery snowballs. We tried fun experience restaurants with them and it was DISASTEROUS. Why?
* It takes 3x as long to get from wherever you are to where the restaurant is. Looking at the resort map and the distance to be covered, it seemed like maybe 20 minutes tops to get from my hotel, the Bay Lake Towers at the Contemporary Resort, to Le Cellier at Epcot. In reality, it took 10 minutes to get to the monorail, almost 10 minutes before we got on a monorail due to long lines (off season, not during school breaks), about 15 minutes on the monorail, then about 10 minutes to get through security and about 15 minutes walking to get to the restaurant. We left enough time because that’s the way I am. We were on time for our reservation. That’s about one hour door to door if anyone’s counting.
* A reservation doesn’t mean you are seated at that time. No place took us fewer than 30 minutes past our reservation time. I was able to book coveted dining experiences at different locations and thought “Wow! This will be great and really add to our experience.” But I learned to pack snacks for the kids to dole out waiting for our dinner reservations. In the above example, Le Cellier kept us waiting for 45 minutes before we were seated. They gave the kids crayons and paper (yay?) and had us wait in a cave-like place nearby because there were too many other people waiting. Then it was about 10 minutes after we were seated to get bread (and we had to ask for it). Then they had items like salmon on their short kids’ dinner menu. Yes, fish is healthy. But my kids don’t eat fish. Not even fish sticks. This is Disney: Serve the five food groups: 1) chicken nuggets 2) pasta with tomato sauce 3) macaroni and cheese and 4) pizza 5) cheeseburgers everywhere. Le Cellier had to go to another restaurant for red sauce for the pasta. Really?! We had our meals in front of us more than one-and-a-half hours after we were seated. Then we had to get back to hotel.
* There are kids’ activity centers and in-room babysitting. If there’s a restaurant you want to try, by all means do it without the kids. When we ate at the California Grill, we had a middle age in-room sitter and she was professional and awesome. This year when the adults have an early reservation at Victoria & Albert’s (no kids under 10; AAA Five Diamond; TripAdvisor’s top restaurant in Orlando 5/5 stars with 3,142 people voting) we are leaving the kids at an activity center in a neighboring hotel, the Polynesian. Disney doesn’t give much info in its website but my travel agent said to look at YouTube and there it was — a fun, informative, short video about the experience. To summarize, the kids get to pick out their dinner, there are all sorts of play areas including dress up, video games, and crafts. But of course you will have to have an early enough reservation to be able to pick up the kids early enough to get them to sleep early enough to get them up early enough. If not, get a sitter.