Recently I had the privilege of taking my 16 year old son to Walt Disney World—just the two of us. The gods of high school final exams smiled on us and the stars aligned in a way that allowed us to add 3 nights for just the two of us to a vacation we already had planned for the rest of our family. Before the others arrived we planned all kinds of fun things that we just couldn’t do with everyone: tours of the Magic Kingdom and Epcot (he has been counting down the days until he turned 16 to go on the backstage tours), dining at restaurants they wouldn’t care for, and just relaxing together. While extended/multi-generational family trips and trips with all of your family are definitely wonderful, if you have the opportunity to take one child with just you, I highly recommend it. Here are my top 4 reasons to work in a parent/child Walt Disney World Vacation:
4. You can focus on each other
I have 3 boys and I adore each of them, but when they are all together it is not always a harmonious picture of Pinterest perfection. One likes coasters, one doesn’t. The youngest still wants to meet characters, the older two couldn’t care less. My oldest loves to eat good & unique food, my middle wants chicken nuggets and pizza. I think you get the picture. When you are able to take all of the extra out of the picture and focus on just one child you can have such an amazing Walt Disney World experience. You eliminate the arguing, the compromising and trying to please everyone, and you are able to cater to that one child and let him or her be the king or queen. And when you get right down to it, this opens the door for all kinds of in-depth conversations and memory making opportunities.
3. You can focus on a theme
Depending on the age of your child and their interests you can turn a parent/child trip into a themed extravaganza! Are you taking your 5 year old princess loving daughter? You can make it a princess trip with appointments at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table, breakfast with the princesses at Akershus, tea at the Grand Floridian, and rides on all of the princess attractions. Going with your 11 year old dare devil? Make it a coaster themed vacation! You could even hit four parks in one day: start at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and ride Expedition Everest and Kali River Rapids, hop over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to ride Rock n Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror, then walk to Epcot for Test Track, Soarin and Mission: Space, end your day at Magic Kingdom hitting all four of the mountains (maybe catch the fireworks while riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad). I’ve actually taken all 3 of my boys on trips by themselves. With my preschooler it was all about the characters, with my 10 year old it was to take a YES (Disney’s Youth Education Series) course where we went backstage at Hall of Presidents (one of his favorite attractions)—but both of those trips involved other adults as well. When I took my 16 year old in June it was just us. And we are both Disney history loving, Imagineering fan geeks, so our trip was all about behind the scenes tours, good food and a little extra time at Star Wars Weekends.
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2. Do Different Things
When my family visits Walt Disney World together we tend to have a more standard touring plan—hit all four parks, eat at our favorite restaurants, spend some down time swimming at the resort, and a little time shopping at Disney Springs. We feel like we have to do all of those things, despite the fact that we visit fairly regularly. When taking one child you can give yourself a little more freedom to explore and try new things, not necessarily worrying about experiencing every attraction. In our case this freedom was to take behind the scenes tours, eat at some fancier restaurants, rent a boat to tour Seven Seas Lagoon, and visit parks just to eat or watch fireworks (not ride a single thing!). Other ideas would be to play mini golf, do the waterparks, play golf, take an archery class, reserve a private fireworks cruise, or go parasailing at the Sammy Duvall Watersports Centre at the Contemporary Resort . . . any number of options to make it a special and unforgettable trip.
1. And he thought we were just going to Walt Disney World
Any Walt Disney World vacation is going to result in many happy memories made, but when you are one on one with one of your children it is precious time . . .time that I don’t get nearly enough of in my everyday life. My 16 year old may have thought we were just getting a few extra days on our Walt Disney World vacation, but I knew it was far more than that. In these fleeting years that I know are going to be gone in the blink of an eye and off he will be at college on his own, these moments and memories are priceless. As we walked down Main Street USA I saw glimpses of that 5 year old on his very first trip, so excited and overwhelmed by it all; a quick vision of the 10 year old when we went on one of our first guided tours together wearing his Steamboat Willie mouse ears; and then back to the nearly grown boy I am so proud of and so happy to share a passion for the Disney Parks with. Yes, folks, it was just that sappy. Priceless precious moments that I would not trade for all of the Disney Dollars on the planet.
Have you taken a mother/son, father/daughter, mother/daughter or father/son trip to Walt Disney World? Tell us about it!