There are hundreds of “How To” books, web sites and travel shows dedicated to helping the average family navigate the gargantuan, wonderful world of Disney. If you happen to be an older parent, aunt, uncle or grandparent to young children, a day at Disneyland – or any other amusement park for that matter – just isn’t the same as it used to be.
Suddenly, you’re paying attention to the health warnings on rides. You have less patience for massive crowds, long lines and are conscious of every penny spent on souvenirs, junk food and basic hydration. Not to mention, dreading the thought of cramming your middle-aged, out-of-shape ass into every teeny tiny amusement park ride seat.
If this sounds familiar, here are a few tips that may help you better enjoy your next visit to the Magic Kingdom without driving yourself insane.
- Bring An Older Child. My teenage nieces and nephew were life savers on this trip to Disneyland. They happily assisted with watching over the little ones. These built-in babysitters helped raise our level of patience while providing invaluable comic relief. Teenagers also have smaller asses so they can help to better balance out rides. You can even do some guilt-free watching from the sidelines if your own ass doesn’t make the cut.
- Wear Comfortable Shoes. This is no time to sport those cute beaded flip-flops with the miles of walking, public restrooms and mystery puddles that await. Don’t be too proud to pull out the Clarks. I chose a pair of water-friendly, RYKA sneakers. You’ll need them. See “Splash Mountain.”
- Alternate Slower Rides With Roller Coasters. Nothing like cooling down on a relaxing boat ride in “it’s a small world” or slowly cruising through the 100 Acre Woods in a cute little honeycomb to lower your blood pressure after riding on Space Mountain. Just make sure the people sitting in front of you are wearing deodorant. An important note, don’t overlook the Jungle Cruise. This attraction features a myriad of plastic jungle animals which is not incredibly exciting but the kids running the boats are hilarious.
- Don’t Look At Price Tags. You’ll make yourself crazy if you are concerned with every nickel and dime you drop on food and Disney-inspired souvenirs that your kids will never play with once they leave the park. It’s very easy to get caught up in the magic. Those oversized Mickey hands and cute little Minnie ears with the red polka dot bow will suck you in sooner or later. So, loosen that tight grip on your wallet and have some fun.
- Dust off Your Fanny Pack from the 80’s. Wear some type of fanny pack or bring a smaller purse you can easily drape over your shoulders. You don’t want to spend half of your time finding someplace to store your Golden Girls purse on every ride and then have to worry about it flying out of your Space Mountain rocket ship.
- Pick A Shady Spot to Eat. The Troubadour Tavern in the Princess Fantasy Faire area has a great shady spot to eat and is generally not mobbed with people. You can also catch a coronation show if you time it right. They even have light princess fare such as yogurt, string cheese and baked potatoes with broccoli. Or, if you’re like me, your inner-stepsister comes out and you chow down on the brat with sauerkraut nestled in a huge pretzel bun. I know it’s not Weight Watchers friendly but I needed to carb up for the hour-long wait at Space Mountain. You can’t tell me that Cinderella didn’t sneak a brat or two when she prepared meals for the step sisters. She could not have had the energy to clean on yogurt alone.
- Think Twice Before You Take A Ride On Space Mountain. This is the true test if your goal is to be the cool, middle-aged mom or aunt who is not afraid to ride a roller coaster. There are health warnings posted on this Disney creme de la creme super coaster for a reason. It will absolutely scare the hell and literally knock the shit out of you. I can’t tell you what the inside of the ride looks like because my eyes were closed the whole time. I don’t think it is normal to break out into a cold sweat at the end of the ride but trust me, it happens. The brat could have caused the nausea but I’m thinking it might have been my middle-aged ticker. Bottom line, it’s a health risk, but well worth the gamble.
- Bring A Rain Poncho. If you get on a water ride such as Splash Mountain, you will get wet. Let me clarify that, you will get drenched. Getting wet is part of the fun but make sure you go on this ride while the sun is still out. And ladies, don’t wear a white t-shirt or brightly colored underwear unless you want to become part of the show.
- Smile At The Thrill Ride Cameras. I completely forgot that every thrill ride has a camera. The red flash goes off just as you’re making the final plunge down the hill in Splash Mountain or at the final drop in Space Mountain. It’s important to remember…the teenagers you brought have no shame when it comes to posting embarrassing photos and tagging them on Facebook. I no longer have to wonder what my near-death face looks like thanks to my nephew posting our Space Mountain thrill ride photo on my Facebook wall. Besides, you may end up on the giant slide show on the side of the “its a small world” building at the end of the evening. So smile, you’re on the thrill ride camera!
- Leave The Park Right Before The Fireworks Begin. You’ll save yourself one last traffic jam, spare the little ones from hearing expletives as a result of road rage and still be able to enjoy the fireworks from the car on your way out.
All in all, how can you really have a bad time watching your kids get the thrill of their lives? And hey, who doesn’t get excited when they see the big castle? Have a great time and take lots of pictures or take a shot of Ginkgo so you’ll always remember your day at Disney.