I don’t know about you, but the very first time I went to a big theme park with my kids, I thought it would be a good idea to hop on Pinterest and get all the tips and tricks for making sure our trip was super successful.
And, suddenly, I felt like I was going to hyperventilate. I started to think – we can’t do this. We aren’t ready. We need months to prepare for this and we’re going in just a few weeks. HOW am I going to make this happen?
We were going to Disneyland, one of the happiest places on earth, and I felt anything but happy. I felt like it was going to suck the life out of me trying to prepare.
I had two goals basically – meet Elsa and Anna because Frozen had just come out, and have fun. That was it.
At some point, I gave up on getting it just right. I couldn’t handle trying to decide which of the 5,398 insider secrets I found on Pinterest were the most important ones. I just wanted to have fun with my family.
And, so we just went – with almost no plan.
And, you know what? It was magical. It was Disney – how could it not be?
So, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to plan every step of the way perfectly to have fun. In fact, I would almost argue that if you don’t plan, there are no expectations to live up to. No one to disappoint. And, no need to fear if there is a hiccup in your plan.
That was four years ago, and I’m dying to go back.
This past Spring we decided just two weeks before to take our kids to Universal Studios. And, again – we had zero plan – except to take full advantage of all the Harry Potter rides and drink all the butter beer we could consume.
Again – it was a success.
Did we have to stand in the occasional long line? Of course. Did we sometimes wish that we would have bought the fast passes? Sure. But, the truth is – we were once again in a very magical place with our kids. And, even with zero plan. We had fun.
So, here are my tips for having a magical vacation with almost zero planning.
Pick the right time of year to go. Yes, this is my only tip that involves actual planning. I do think it makes a difference in your fun if you can plan this one thing just right. For us, we knew we would hate Florida in the summer (too hot). So we went in Spring (exactly perfect). When we went to Disney, I thought it would be magical to catch the Halloween festivities, but we went in September when the park was already decked out for Halloween but the crazy crowds hadn’t descended yet. So, plan the perfect time for your family and priorities, and leave the rest to go with the flow.
Prepare your kids for long waits. We talked to our kids a lot ahead of time about how waiting in line was just normal for these types of places. It sets their expectations just right, and helps you not hear so much whining. It’s so much easier to shrug your shoulders and say, “I told you this is how it would be.”
Divide and conquer. Be prepared that your family will have to split up while you’re there to please everyone. If you want to see and do everything, it’s fun to sit down the first day with your kids and grab a map, and have everyone point out the thing they will be disappointed if they miss. Divide and conquer right away to get those things done, and then spend the rest of your time together as a family seeing everything else that time will allow.
Over-budget. Every theme park costs more than you think when it comes to souvenirs, snacks, and meals. Even if you plan your meals perfectly, or pack just the right amount of snacks and drinks, someone is bound to throw a royal fit for something they see, or some meal they have to have. Plan extra money for this, and you won’t be upset when it happens.
Be OK with things not going according to plan. There is nothing worse than being tired and grumpy and having a fight with your spouse in the middle of the happiest place on earth. Remember that you’re there to have fun. You’re there for the kids. It’s OK if you don’t do everything perfectly. Kids are bound to be disappointed no matter how much you plan, so you might as well not plan and be prepared to go with the flow.
Preach this to your kids, too and I promise you will all end up having a magical time. Even without a plan.