In much of the United States, most kids wouldn't their childhood slip by without trying to persuade their parents to take them to Walt Disney World in Orlando.
This year, we set aside our concern about costs and decided to make the trip. Then came the task of figuring out the logistics for ourselves, our daughters, 10 and 4, our son, 7, and our au pair.
We ultimately settled on four days at Disney World using the four-day Park Hopper pass and staying at a hotel close to -- but not inside -- one of the theme parks. We avoided overplanning how we'd spend those four days to make sure we were doing what the kids wanted to do rather than dragging them to what we wanted to do. We visited all four parks.
Here are some tips based on our experience:
1. The Park Hopper pass is great for people wishing to visit Disney World parks for several days. A Disney Club member got us the tickets at a 10 percent discount: $196 for adults and $157 for children. The passes give you unlimited movement among the four primary parks: Magic Kingdom, Disney-MGM Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom and Epcot. If you visit the parks just two or three days you can keep your pass for a future visit.
2. If you plan to visit Disney World for four days, build in at least one day off. Four consecutive days at theme parks was too much for us -- the adults and the kids alike. We spent only about four hours at Disney World on the final day because we were just too tired.
3. Our hotel offered bus transportation to and from the Magic Kingdom every half-hour. From there we could take Disney World buses to the other theme parks. We found it was easier to drive ourselves and pay the $6 daily parking fee. The daily parking pass allows you to park at other parks during the same day.
4. Beware that children who normally nap in the afternoon will have a tough time getting through the entire day without a break -- and this gets even worse as the days go on. Our youngest, almost 5, became tired and cranky at some point every day.
5. Consider renting a stroller for your young child. We didn't do this until the final day, and I wish we had done it sooner. It helped us get through the cranky periods.
6. Carry bottled water that you freeze ahead of time to give you a lasting supply of very cold water. We also carried a change of clothes for the little ones in case of accidents, rain ponchos that we bought at Magic Kingdom during a cloud burst on our first day, maps and a guide book. Be sure to carry hats and/or sunglasses.
7. I was surprised that my kids enjoyed the live shows at Disney World as much as the rides. My husband and I enjoyed them more than the rides, and they provided a nice break from the heat and from being on our feet.
8. Use "Fast Passes" to avoid standing in line for a ride. In essence, a fast pass is a reservation to go on a ride at a particular time -- usually about an hour later. Each person can get just one fast pass at a time. These cut our waiting time from about 40 minutes to about 10 minutes or less.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun