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Disney Can Be Overwhelming For Kids. Here's How to Avoid a Meltdown

Lilo's Playhouse at Polynesian Resort

For a destination called “The Happiest Place on Earth”, it’s odd how many kids and parents look decidedly unhappy at Disney. We’ve all seen them—heck, we’ve been them. You saved up for years to give your kids the most magical time of their lives and instead of skipping together gleefully through Fantasyland, you find yourself trapped in a three-hour queue with a squirming, sobbing, scowling prince or princess who doesn't understand why they can’t see Dumbo now. The churn of crowds, the unpredictability of lines, and tired little feet can all turn a cherished vacation into a recipe for a meltdown.

There is so much to be said about traveling with kids to Disney World—trying to schedule your trip during the off-season, the benefits of staying on property, making best friends with the staff at First Aid. We found five straight up hacks to keep your kids happy and healthy on your next trip.

1. You can fly, you can fly, you can fly…

Southwest Airlines Plane

Image: Tomás Del Coro, Flickr (license)

Just surviving the flight to Orlando can be a formidable task for parents. Planes have an odd way of transforming even the most serene kids into moaning zombies. There are a few things you can do to help your kids last through that seemingly-eternal flight.

Young children may not know how to adjust the pressure in their ears when the plane reaches altitude. This can lead to headaches and crying fits. Enter the humble juice box. The motion of sucking liquid through a straw and swallowing it can help equalize the pressure. Yes, you will probably need to spring for one in the airport gift shop, but it could be worth it if this is an issue when your kids fly. Gum is another excellent choice. If you want to really get them used to flying, make a game out of teaching them the Valsalva Maneuver.

Juice Boxes

Image: Stephen Depolo, Flickr (license)

Try booking your flight as early in the morning as possible and get to the airport earlier than you normally would. While it may seem tempting to hope your little one will sleep through a night flight, some kids just can’t sleep sitting up. By leaving early, your kids can look forward to all the wonderful things they’ll see when you arrive.

The ultimate tool in your parental kit is setting realistic expectations. Nothing makes a kid crazier than not knowing what’s about to happen next (particularly for many special needs kids). A good carry-on bag full of activities is a start (don’t rely solely on an iPad), but there’s one particular hack that can really nail this.

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