Go to Walt Disney World, they said… It will be fun, they said…
Family drama is an unfortunate reality of many Walt Disney World vacations. It can take a magical day from “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah” to “But in mind THE JEDI are evil!” in no time. While there are plenty of tips that can be applied to reduce stress in a Disney vacation (such as planning your visit during times that aren’t as busy), can anything actually be done to help prevent family drama on a Disney vacation if it crops up every time you visit the Most Magical Place on Earth?
It is possible! Even if your family is crazy, here are some of our favorite tips to mitigate family drama and hopefully bust it before it starts.
1. Have a plan…
Spontaneous Walt Disney World visits are a blast, but for a significant family vacation, a good plan can solve many problems.
One quick reason why families devolve into drama at Walt Disney World is because no one is on the same page. The kids want to go on Expedition: Everest but grandma wants to take a leisurely stroll through the Discovery Island trails. Your brother wants to eat at the Rose and Crown, but your sister is insisting on La Cantina de San Angel. No one agrees.
Thanks to My Disney Experience, it is possible to plan out key elements of your trip in advance. For families, this can help give everyone a clear view of what is coming each day. Ideally, have one person (or two people who work well together) handle the core planning. This can be a difficult job as it involves being sensitive to the needs of the people in your party while establishing a shared timeline, but the end result is worth it.
First, come up with a loose idea what parks you will be visiting which days. Our family is very introverted, so we tend to avoid whatever park is having Extra Magic Hours that day. We also do some park hopping and plan some “freebie” days where people can go wherever they want. Once you know what days you’ll be in which parks, make dining reservations. We tend to write down all the major restaurants we want to hit and space them out throughout the trip.
Finally, make some Fastpass+ reservations. The general line in the sand for picking attractions is usually which party members like thrill rides and which don’t. Set up Fastpass times that aren’t too smooshed together (or close to dining reservations) for E-Ticket rides everyone agrees on first, then make reservations for the thrill ride fans. Finally, get Fastpasses for the rest of your party on non-thrill rides that match the schedules of your more adventurous party members (it is generally easier to get Fastpasses for these rides than the thrill rides anyways). If anyone in the party doesn’t like your plan, they can always change their personal passes. You don’t have to make everyone’s reservations either. Just plan the key stuff you guys want to do together to give everyone clear expectations.
2. …but give some grace
This is a tough one for micro-detailed planners, but there will come times on a family Disney vacation that you may have to adjust plans and be flexible. Stuff happens, people get stressed out, and sometimes the best way to nip drama in the bud is to go with the flow.
This is one of the areas where visiting during times that aren’t peak busy helps. It is much easier to change course on a Disney trip if you aren’t dependent on making irreplaceable Fastpass+ and dining reservations. Stress levels can soar quickly when a situation is all-or-nothing. In scenarios where flexibility just isn’t an option, plan ahead if you have family members who tend to be late or bust plans. Set rendezvous times that are well ahead of reservation times, for example.
For detailed planners, resist the temptation to micromanage. Over-packing a Disney day with activity and ignoring Murphy’s Law are both surefire recipes for family drama at Walt Disney World. Have a plan but leave some buffers and room for adjustment. For example, you might be able to walk back and forth across the parks six times, but your older family members can’t. Kids may get sick or skin a knee and need to detour to First Aid. Your ideal Disney day may be the stuff of nightmares for a member of your party who has a different personality, like trying to force a teenager to stay all day in Fantasyland for their little brother when they just want to ride Space Mountain.
The key is to leave some room for flexibility, and if things need to adjust, do it.