Ten Tips for Surviving Walt Disney World with Young Children

I’ve slightly irritated myself before I’ve even started this post by putting ‘surviving’ in the headline. To be honest, I’ve done it to pander to the kinds of ways I see people talking about this (ergo, perhaps, searching for it). Let me reassure you, there is no survival involved, although you might occasionally get a bit shirty with one another. It is, genuinely, meant to be fun. Sure, there’ll be at least one moment where you’ll threaten to sell your kids to Mickey for a Dole Whip and five minutes’ peace, but come on. You’re in Walt Disney World. You are not suffering. That happens when you get home.

So, that said, there are certainly ways to make the process smoother and ensure that more of the family gets to tick off the things on the wish list without too many rows. Continue reading →

A brief personal history of Walt Disney World, with pictures

No-one who knows me IRL can fail to have heard about my family’s upcoming trip to Walt Disney World. It’s going to include quite a few members of my extended family, all packing our noisy selves into a villa barely seven miles from the Epcot parking lot.


Now, I could write a whole lot of actually useful stuff about using My Disney Experience (excellent customer service when something weird – not Disney’s fault – went wrong with the tickets), booking FP+, making our Advance Dining Reservations including a date night at Le Cellier… but, you know, the world is already heaving with places to find that information. I’m totally happy to answer questions and share tips, but there are people who devote their entire lives to WDW holiday planning (not least the Disney Parks Moms Panel) – more people than you can shake a stick at, frankly. And instead, I just want to share my excitement through photos.

Don’t get me wrong, I know things have changed. Obviously things have changed. I mean, my Dad labelled one of the photos below as “E.P.C.O.T. Center” (yes, with the unnecessary dots and yes, he can still tell you what it stands for). There are attractions that are never coming back (we don’t have to name The One; come to think of it, maybe we all have a different One). There are attractions that are changed beyond recognition, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. The place that I fell in love with when I was four is not the same place that my daughter, aged four, will now fall in love with. There’s a part of me that’s a little sad about that, but it’s a mistake to ever try to recreate your experience in your child; you are not the same people. It is not the same time. And, as for yourself – well, you can never really go back. I’ve made my peace with that.

But I’m also aware – and, honestly, grateful – that I will carry with me the rose-tinted specs of 1984 and see things through that lens. The new memories I create will be drawn on the top of the ones that are already inked on me, a hundred hidden Mickeys stamped all over, invisible but indelible, each layer smudged, blurred but never wiped out over time.

This week, I found these photos from my first visit. They are the set which went with this one.  They make me very, very happy. I cannot wait to have the uniquely wonderful experience of seeing it all unfold through R’s eyes; I got a hint of it at Disneyland Paris, but this is it – the Mother Ship!

And no, I will not be wearing short shorts.




Review: The Epcot Explorer’s Encyclopedia – R. A. Pedersen

It seems that now I’ve started blogging more, I can’t stop.  And since I’ve just read a book I really enjoyed, for a number of reasons, I feel the need to share this with you.

It’s no shock to anyone that I’m a big Disney parks fan, and anyone who’s ever asked knows my favourite park is Epcot. Since I first visited a mere two years after it opened, it’s always been the park I’ve looked forward to the most. Being a bit techy, a bit foodie, a bit of a traveller, a bit of a geek, it’s the best possible theme park in the world (or World) for me. And knowing that it started life intending to be the model of a future city is just insanely appealing. But I’m an Epcot fan, not an Epcot history buff; I live too far away and visit, by financial necessity, too infrequently to spot every update or track every plan for the space.

Pedersen, a former Unofficial Guide researcher, has taken all that insane appeal and married it to an Epcot (and EPCOT Center) geekery that is truly admirable and a little scary – in a good way. This is not a guide book but a history; it describes the evolution of every single attraction in the park, from Mission: SPACE to the Mexico pavillion and back again. Drawing on planning permits, information released by Imagineers, decades of Walt Disney World promotional literature and much more, it balances scene-by-scene detail with little forays into fun fact territory.

Picking apart an attraction might sound negative, but it’s actually fascinating. Far from destroying the magic, it heightens it; in the case of lost and lamented Horizons, it’s practically the only way those of us who can’t make it to a WED Convention might hope to relive it and share it with those who never got a chance to experience it. The encyclopaedia* layout also means it’s easy to skip over parts that are less personally interesting; I admit the development of Innoventions etc. is not half as interesting to me as the growth of the World Showcase pavillions, so I more-or-less skim read the list of stalls and stands.

I was not tempted to skim elsewhere, however, because the writing style is full of wit, lightheartedness, self-awareness and passion. It made me laugh out loud a couple of times, and smirk a few times more. It could do with a little tidying because annoying language fascists like me might be a little distracted by the odd typo, but given the overall eloquence I feel I’m nitpicking. (Now you know how much I liked it; when have I ever been that laissez-faire about language before?!)

Really my only criticism is that there isn’t more of it. The abrupt ending after the last bit of World Showcase miscellany has been thrown in made me feel a little bereft, especially as there was an engaging introduction. Admittedly I’m unsure what else there was to cover, but I was sorry to see it end and somehow wasn’t expecting it. Perhaps that’s the curse of the Kindle.

The UK edition is currently available from Amazon for Kindle, but a paper copy is forthcoming. You can also follow the author, @EPCOTNRG, on Twitter and visit his website, devoted to the ‘flora, fauna and fun of the world’s greatest theme park’.

*US spelling in the title, UK spelling in the review. So there.