Walt Disney World is a great place to escape reality and make incredible memories. The experience comes with such high expectations that almost any bump in the road will cause more stress and dissatisfaction than it would in one’s everyday life. It can seem like the most trivial things can change the mood of anyone or everyone in the party. I would like to say that we have figured out all of the answers on how to keep these things from happening but unfortunately there is no such remedy. Meltdowns will happen. These meltdowns will not only occur with the children in the party. Walt Disney World has a way of bringing the child out in all of us and with this also comes some childish expectations and behaviors. What we can do as adults is plan accordingly in the hopes that these preparations can help us to curb the meltdowns that inevitably await us on our fairy tale trip to Walt Disney World. What follows are issues we have encountered that have led to meltdowns. From personal experiences I will share what we have found to help in those situations. I will also share what I believe to be the main reason for adults to have meltdowns. This you will need to wait for until the end. It is at that point that you should realize that everything that I have mentioned up until that point really is only an issue because of this one underlying challenge. Don’t worry; it is a challenge that can be met with a little work.
The weather at Walt Disney World can be beautiful but can also be brutal. No one single factor can cause so many meltdowns as the weather. Whether it is sunburn, becoming overheated, getting soaked to the bone or yes, even being a bit chilly the weather can cause some tense moments while touring the parks. Ways to help these meltdowns are pretty straight forward. Wear sunscreen and be sure to bring it with you to reapply as needed throughout the day. Stay hydrated! We bring a small cooler in with us that fits under our child’s stroller to pack Gatorade, water, or juice to keep ourselves hydrated throughout the day without the need for paying large sums of money. We also pack a poncho for each person and one for our stroller. We learned to bring one for the stroller the hard way when a downpour pretty much made our stroller useless for the rest of the day. We also throw a couple small umbrellas in the bottom of the stroller for the short term showers that may not necessitate the hassle of a poncho. During hot or rainy times it is also good to know the places that you can duck into that will help get your body temperature back down or keep you somewhat dry while not taking away from your enjoyment of the park. Check out my article “Being ‘Weather Wise’ at Walt Disney World: Park of Choice During Extreme Heat and Rain” for more information on this topic. As for the days where it can get a bit chilly we just wear layers. Having that jacket or long-sleeved shirt available can definitely help with any possible meltdown.
This is something that along with weather we, as locals, face more than any other. Because we visit Walt Disney World so often we cannot afford to eat like we are on vacation each time. More often than not we eat at home before we head to the parks with the understanding that the snacks we pack are to hold us through until we get back home. Now if this is going to be a longer visit we will of course plan accordingly. Even though this is something that our 10 year old is quite accustomed to we still have issues with him begging for snacks and meals throughout our visit. This situation was much worse when we would only visit once or twice a year. What we have found to somewhat work is setting the expectation up front. We allow him to help with the snack packing and he knows that these are his options once we get to the parks. Having snacks on hand is always a great idea. I have even found myself hitting the snacks. We also have certain snacks that we enjoy every once in a while and we will splurge and get those at just the right time. Who doesn’t love a good Mickey Ice Cream Bar or Dole Whip from time to time? If you can be prepared for the begging for food ahead of time this can definitely minimize the meltdowns and also gives you the chance to be the parent who solves the problem without having to say “no”.
Crowds/Waiting in Long Lines
You are at Walt Disney World. There are going to be crowds, sometimes worse than others. This is a fact that you will have to face when deciding to visit Walt Disney World. Even though we all know that they are going to be there we still tend to become irritated quickly and often by their existence. This is one of those with which I have a hard time. I cannot stand to be walking on someone’s heals and even worse have someone right on mine. Some ways that we have found to get through it is just breathing and having compassion for other guests. I like to think of myself as a person who wants everyone to enjoy their visit at Walt Disney World. For that reason I try to smile and understand that the person that just cut me off with a stroller has a legitimate reason for doing so. Maybe they do not but it doesn’t matter, you will never know and that is ok. What matters is that you keep your cool and not let it send you into a rage. I cannot always do this. As a matter of fact I did something that I now regret but I will share with you as an example of a meltdown. My two year old was screaming as I am carrying him through crowds of people who were insistent upon standing in the walkways to try to view the Street Party Parade at the Magic Kingdom as it was making its way back down Main Street U.S.A. from the hub. I knew that I had plenty of time to step into the street to get around the stagnant onlookers and get back on the sidewalk. At this point I made eye contact with a Cast Member who I knew was going to give me a stern warning. Before he could open his mouth I screamed “I know, I am getting back on the sidewalk” like a crazy person. I am not proud of this event. I had a Walt Disney World Meltdown. This Cast Member was simply doing their job to ensure my safety and I screamed at him. These are the types of things that we do when we lose control. The point of telling you this story is in the hopes that when you are faced with the same situation you will remember this and the regret that I now have and know that you do not want to feel the same way. So crowds, they are not fun, but with the right thoughts in your mind and just taking a few deep breathes you can make it through. Oh and utilize FastPass+, it is a life saver when it comes to the crowds. At least you know that you have at three attractions you can visit with minimal waits.
Children Wanting Everything in Sight
Walt Disney World has some great merchandise! I have a hard time telling myself “no” let alone having to tell my children “no” when they want something, and they don’t just want something they want everything. We handle this the same way we handle it with ourselves. Either we have a “we are not buying anything today” policy or we allot ourselves a certain amount of money each to spend how we wish guilt free. It is amazing how much more selective a child, or adult for that matter, will be when they only have a certain amount of money to spend for the entire day. This is another circumstance where you can keep from saying no and use phrases like “we talked about this earlier” or “are you sure that this is what you want?”
For some this may not be a problem but for others the amount of money that a Walt Disney World vacation can cost has the ability to send you into a meltdown at some point or many points during your stay. With this the only advice I can give is to know ahead of time how much you will need and then have a buffer on top of that for things that you didn’t plan for. This way you have the ability to enjoy yourself and not constantly worry about how much it is costing. Somehow little things always pop up on vacation and you want to be in a position that it is not going to cause you panic or worry. That just takes away from the magic.
The Biggest Reason for Meltdowns
As promised I will now reveal the reason why all of these issues tend to cause meltdowns at an alarming rate at Walt Disney World. Are you ready? We as adults have too high of expectations and do not allow ourselves to go with the flow. That’s it. Too often we spend so much time saving, planning, and anticipating this perfect vacation that we forget that it is not perfection that makes for a great vacation. Planning is crucial but so is the ability to stray away from that plan when need be to enjoy ourselves or allow our children to enjoy themselves. The great thing about Walt Disney World is the ability to be a kid again. It allows us to have fun like we did when we were children and for our children to see us having the time of our lives right beside them. When we focus too much on things going perfectly we start to notice everything that is going wrong and multiply it by 1,000. We cause ourselves to have meltdowns and ruin our fun and the fun of those around us.
Instead of being upset when it rains, dance in the rain with your children. Instead of being upset by the crowds, realize how many memories are being made around you. Instead of worrying about spending a little extra, go unexpectedly share an ice cream with your children. Instead of complaining about waiting in lines, take the time to take it all in or take that precious uninterrupted time you have with your children or whoever you are with to talk to them. Walt Disney World is an amazing place to enjoy time with the people that you love without all the distractions of life. Don’t allow meaningless distractions take away from that. It can be a magical place and I hope that in my own long winded way I have helped you with your next trip.