How to do Disney with a large family and not break the bank  

Part one in a series of how to do Disney as a large family


I grew up on Disney. My Dad was a weather man on TV in Florida and we were only about two and a half hours from ‘the happiest place on earth’ so we went quite often. Disney has a lot of nostalgia for me. From the cool air that you feel as you get closer and closer to the front of the line on water rides like Pirates of the Caribbean and Splash Mountain to the spookiness of the haunted mansion looming at the back of liberty square on a breezy night. Well that was then and this is now and six kids later it’s a little hard to come up with the cash for a yearly visit. But just recently we did it! We pinched and saved and put in extra hours and we took the kids, all six of them, to Disney! And surprisingly with two double strollers, one teenager, two moody toddlers (who are under the impression they are princesses), two rambunctious boys, and a 9 month old it actually went great!! So great that three weeks later the lot of them are plotting how they can sell their toys and clothes and get back! We learned a few things on the trip. First of all staying on disney property is well worth it! We drove there, parked our car and didn’t have to step foot behind the drivers seat until we left six days later. I did a little investigating and found that the cheapest way to stay at Disney is either camping out (which I’m not against but wasn’t quite ready to do with a nine month old) or getting two adjoining rooms at a value resort. We have tried all three all star resorts. The pool at the all star movies resort is amazing. Even the look of the kiddie pool is pretty impressive compared to the other all star resorts.Although it helps to remember that this resort is the most popular of the three so it will always be slightly higher in cost than the all star sports or music resorts. The secondary pool at this resort is the mighty ducks pool. Nothing special, just a hockey themed pool. The music resort has a comparably great pool (I mean it’s not ‘sorcerer Mickey shooting out three sprays of water’ cool like the movies resort,but it’s good). The all stars music pool has three characters in the center of the guitar shaped main pool. Two of the characters spray water at passerbys. There is also an adjacent kiddie pool. The secondary pool at this resort is shaped like a piano but other than that no frills. It does have a cute Ariel statue that makes for a great photo op. all star sports character pool isn’t quite as visually impressive unless you just really like sports/baseball. The baseball diamond shaped pool has just one character who sprays water in the center. The main pool at the sports resort has a cool wavy shape to it and is surrounded by surfboards but for little ones the lack of characters might be a little disappointing compared to the others. And no getting sprayed for youngsters at this one either.The art of animation resort and the pop century resort are also value resorts but on the higher end cost wise of the five value resorts Disney offers. We have 8 in our family and you can technically get 10 people in your two adjoining rooms at the all star resort as long as 2 of those 10 people are under 3. Each room can have 4 occupants and one guest under 3, so five total per room. So we had grandparents join us on the trip and stay with us and still stayed within the occupancy limits. As the kids get older we won’t be able to do that and Mimi and Papa will be out of luck and booking their own room but it was nice this once. I’ll try to write a little each day about the tips and tricks I’ve learned in making a disney trip go just a little bit smoother with so many littles in tow. I came home with a feeling of ‘Wow, that actually went better than expected’ and it was as near perfect as you can get considering the age and number of kids. There are a few things I would do different next time and I’ll definitely be sharing those as well in the days to come. Planning the trip was almost as much fun as going so before I start planning again I’ll spend a little bit of time writing about it to feed my Disney appetite. Who am I kidding, it’s insatiable!!

Day two at Disney world

It was day two. We slept in and had all kinds of plans for the day… swimming, putt putt, disney springs for lunch and meeting an actual Disney sketch artist, and then fort wilderness for dinner and the campfire sing along and movie! But Disney time is different. You don’t factor in crowds and walking and waiting on buses and riding on buses…buses that make other stops. 

Anyways we decided to start the day with a late breakfast and then use our free vouchers that came with the Magic your way package to play a round of Disney putt-putt. We boarded the bus to blizzard beach to go to the winter summerland golf course. 

They have a summer course and a winter course. We did the winter course because I’m a sucker for Christmas music! The course had all kinds of neat effects on it. I will say though that it was a pretty hard course overall. After the fourth hole of counting past 6 trying to keep scores for littles I decided to stop keeping score and by the 7th or 8th hole we had thrown out rules altogether as we swept the ball into the hole or decided to do a ‘restart’ if the ball veered in a direction we weren’t too keen on. But it was still fun and the kids had a good time (despite the look on their faces in this picture).It takes a lot longer than expected to get 10 people through 18 holes of mini golf especially when four of those people are littles, ages 2-8. And we had the unfortunate experience of having a couple who were trying to see how fast they could get their two kids to speed putt through the entire course right behind us. We finally moved aside and let the kids putt through and get in front of us (which took all of about 16 seconds, wish we had done that five holes sooner!). With the lack of speed through the course and our reliance on Disney bus transportation we were running late for our meet and greet with the Disney sketch artist. You never factor in the Disney transportation time. The buses are great, don’t get me wrong but they’re also not just for you and so they actually make other stops and so it’s never a straight shot to your destination. We were supposed to be at Disney springs at 2 to meet Fidel. It was 1:40 and we were still makings stops. So I emailed Fidel and told him we were on the way and as soon as we finally made it to Disney springs I hopped off the bus with Aiden and Gabe and made a B-line to the art of Disney shop leaving everybody else in the dust..couldn’t have the double strollers slowing us down. We made it just 8 minutes late. I’ll tell all about the amazing meet and greet Aiden had with Fidel, the Disney sketch artist later.Disney artists are just so cool. 

On a side note: One thing I’d do different in the future is have more days just staying at the resort without going into the parks. There is sooo much to do and most of it is free or very little money. And to littles like mine they’re still so excited to just be at Disney. Whether it’s a theme park or just the resort pool they’re still experiencing some kind of ‘disney magic’. We missed out on a lot of the ‘free things’ I had planned because we just ran out of time. One day wasn’t near enough for non-theme park Disney time.

First night at Disney world 

The night we learned never to forget the stroller

We had finally made it to the Disney all star music resort 12 hours later…The magic bands they give you are….magical. They set them up remotely so you can do online check in, get your magic bands in the mail, and then go straight to your room when you get there. Skip the front desk completely. In theory it’s great. But we like to complicate things and so we had two reservations linked together. One reservation for each of our adjoining rooms. The problem is magic bands can only be linked to one room at a time apparently so we got there and could only get in one room and so skipping the front desk didn’t work out quite like we had planned.

 When we made it into the rooms for some reason they were both missing the colorful comforter. We’ve stayed before and they have a fun colorful bedspread and usually a washcloth or two shaped into the face of Mickey on the bed like this picture:but for whatever reasons ours were missing the bedspreads…and the Mickey washcloths. I know what you’re thinking, “how on earth could you possibly enjoy your stay without the infamous Mickey washcloth face?!” It was a tough one but somehow we mustered the hopefulness to go on. And it was a good thing to because when I mentioned to the concierge ( I like that term so much better than ‘front desk guy’) that the beds were missing the bedspreads and the before mentioned ‘washcloth face’ he gave us a $50 credit on our magic band to use! And to tell you the truth I’d rather have the $50 and no bedspread or cutesy washcloth art so that worked out nicely.

 Well here it was, 6:00 pm and our plans to swim and then catch the chip and dale sing-along and movie over at fort wilderness were not going to work out so we decided to just save that for tomorrow and head over to the Polynesian to grab a bite to eat and ride the monorail.

Things always sound so easy when you plan them in your head, ‘ oh yes, let’s just skip on over to the Magic kingdom entrance, hop aboard a monorail train and then it’s off to have a delicious Polynesian dinner! ‘Sounds great. ‘Sounds’ being the operative word there. Since it all sounded so quick and easy we decided we wouldn’t need the two strollers we had brought with us.  We started out the night with light steps and smiles on our faces. Giddy with excitement, we boarded our Disney bus and were off to the magic kingdom. We arrived just before fireworks that evening, which you think the monorail wouldn’t be crowded at this point. You would be wrong in thinking that…

The monorail.

We waited and waited and waited in line, as I told the kids about how great the monorail was and how I liked it so much as a kid. I told them it’d be kind of like getting to ride their first ride at Disney. We finally get up to the front and they open the gates. Everyone scurries like lemmings over a cliff into the various open doors. 

Now remember there are 10 of us. My large family of 8 and Mimi and Papa. We stand there holding babies and toddlers, with strollers jabbing into us and nothing to hold onto but nearby strangers.  We are all being shoved into the center and I’m thinking ‘this is not exactly the monorail experience I invisioned.’ The children stand, necks extended up trying to get air from their low point on the ground, while the hope of seeing out the window (or even SEEING a window for that matter) seemed an impossibility.

 In my head we were sitting in a quiet dark car. Yes, ‘sitting’. And we were looking at the animal shaped bushes and ‘eeewwwing’ and ‘aaawwwing’ as we passed space mountain and made our way through the Contemporary resort. That’s what I imagined. 

In actuality it looked more like the episode of Seinfeld where Elaine gets stuck on the subway and you hear everything she is thinking and then the lights go out and she starts screaming. Yeah, this was more like that.

My Dad was the last one to get on. Or at least get a leg on. A woman kept saying just come in more! You’ve got to get in more! Ummmm…. where? My dad made the executive decision to abort. And the other 9 of us followed. ‘See kids, isn’t Disney great!! Don’t you love the monorail?’ Their sarcastic glares answered that. By this time the kids were getting heavy. But we caught the next monorail (first ones on!) and eventually made it to the Polynesian just in time to catch the fireworks from the beach there and have a chance to eat a delicious 8:00 dinner at captain cook’s and get a break from holding 20 and 30 pound kids. 

Unfortunately, despite our kids very cute faces they wouldn’t let us crash at the Polynesian so we had to take a monorail to the magic kingdom again where we had to make the long walk (it seemed far longer when you’re coming back from dinner) to the resort bus pickup.

There were four adults taking turns holding 3 kids and those kids kept getting lower and  lower to the ground. We started out carrying them with a spring in our steps and up on our shoulders and swinging them around.And now…now we were a sad sight… walking with a hunchback, Igor sort of look, dragging our feet in zombie-like fashion and staring at the hotel door that seemed like a desert mirage far off in the distance. Arms burning, I rushed through the door of the hotel and I dropped (safely of course) that baby on the bed as if he were a rock of molten lava. Turning around to the couple of kids who had survived the ordeal, I  slapped a smile on my face, my mangled arms dangling lifeless at my side as I tried to convince them that Disney is the most wonderful place I’ve ever been. Disney-1 Snyders-0, we were off to bed with king of queens lulling me to sleep on the tv. 

How we turned an 8 hour drive into a 12 hour road trip

A ‘don’t do what we did’ story

It was the day before the big trip. A Friday.

I picked up the kids from school and we hurried home. Luggage filled our living room.

And the kids were still skeptical if we were really going. 

Sadly our family seems to have this tradition of planning trips and fun weekend get-aways and then never actually going on them. The car breaks down and needs a costly repair or some other financial problem arises and we have to cancel. It’s become kind of a running joke to tease about planning a great vacation so we can not go on it. 

This trip was no exception. Two and a half weeks before the trip Dad comes home from work sick. It was Valentine’s Day. There would be no celebrating this year for sure. So Valentine’s Day plans cancelled he was off to bed. Long story short it was the flu which he was kind enough to share with all but the two oldest boys ( thankfully after several trips to the doctor and the fourth sick kid she gave me a flu preventative antibiotic for the last two kids) and then to make matters worse we were down to one week before the big trip and Dad gets diagnosed with pneumonia. Was this really happening!? The trip was paid for all we had to do was get there….healthy!

Thanks to modern medicine we did recover in the nick of time! We packed the car up on Friday night and I let the kids stay up late so they would sleep in the car. Dad and I turned in early so we could get up at 4:15 in the morning and be out the door by 5.

Well, we were out the door about 5:20, but close considering there’s 8 of us. 

I can’t believe how much littles have to pee. It’s mind boggling. You think well, it’s because they don’t have a large bladder. But that logic falls apart when you think well they also don’t have a large bladder to fill. But anyways yeah it seemed like once an hour there was a kid who needed a restroom visit. And I’m thinking I really don’t see these kids going this much even when they’re home! We got a pretty good tour of all the rest stops between here and Orlando! 

There is one hour of our twelve hour journey that can be accounted for. It was well spent having lunch with my best friend from high school and her family in my home town of Jacksonville, FL. Well worth adding another hour to our time to get from point a to point b. 

So here comes the advice… do not use the address that is online for the all star resorts. I cannot stress that enough. It’ll say, depending on which one you google the address for, 1701,1801,or 1901 buena vista drive Orlando,FL and if you gps this address it will get you to the middle of nowhere on Disney property. Somewhere near Disney springs. Then you’ll spend about an hour driving around Disney property with kids who have to pee, yet again, and you’ll be on the phone with lots of different Disney people all giving you different ways to turn, all of which, also don’t get you to the resort you’re trying to find. You’ll become desperate to not stop again and, in a moment of sheer mental exhaustion, hand your young son a bottle to pee in….You’ll have several blankets and a small pillow to wash pee out of when you finally do make it to the resort. You’ll find yourself on the same road over and over in a twilight-zone like state, trying to convince the kids ( who have never been before) that Disney really is great. Just save yourself the headache and go in the MAIN disney entrance and FOLLOW THE SIGNS. Simple as that. And so, 12 hours later, we had finally arrived.

Well, it was something to laugh about later anyways….much later.

Packing for eight for a six day trip!

It’s one week before the big trip. I’m getting exciting emails from Walt Disney world reminding me of how close it’s getting on an almost daily basis. In the mail we get our welcome packet full of coupons,discounts and 8 vouchers for free putt-putt at the Walt Disney world putt-putt course located right by Blizzard beach. There were also 8 vouchers for free admission into the espn wide world of sports which we didn’t even have time to use. I started packing a week in advance because I have six kids and only one who is capable for successfully packing for themself so I like to start with plenty of days to get the job done so I have time to wash that favorite shirt and so I can go back through the suitcases a few times to make sure I’m not missing something. One thing I learned this time around..don’t overpack! It just makes for lots more work when you get home. You come home with 6 days worth of laundry for 8 people and on top of that whatever clothes there are that weren’t worn on the trip now have to be put away. More work. Unless you have a baby or toddler who has accidents one outfit a day is all you need..you’re at Disney, unless you’ve made a special dinner reservation somewhere you won’t have time or a reason to change. And bathing suits! What was I thinking?! Like the kids would need four swimsuits for five days. We used one or two per kid. The kids always have a favorite swimsuit and they just end up hanging it on the door when they’re done and then wearing that same one over and over. So that’s my thoughts on packing…keep it simple and make things easy for yourself when you get home because yes, you do have to come home. 

How our trip to Disney with 6 kids wasn’t a disaster

Part 2

So one thing I love about Disney is the amazing customer service! I was able to book our all star music value resort directly through Disney. There are travel agencies that can get basically the same pricing and sometimes offer incentives as well…like small world vacations and the Mouse for less/the magic for less. Definitely worth checking out your options to get the best deal. Disney was offering a play stay and dine package at the time so it was a good discount so I just went through them but I’m pretty sure the others offer similar if not the same packages. It’s great because if a better deal comes up before your time of travel Disney will change your reservation and apply the better discount, even if it’s months after you booked the reservation. You’ll get email notifications from Disney of all current discounts and offers as they become available. A couple of things I didn’t realize are the rooms come with a complimentary pack and play for sleeping a child under 3. So we were able to get one for each room. That’s a lot of extra room in the suburban for packing everything else needed. All rooms also have a mini fridge. One thing I packed and didn’t realize they provide is life vests for the pool. Yes, even that Disney has covered! They have complimentary life vest in various sizes and colors and in a couple of different styles! More room in the suburban! We packed lots and lots of drinks! Gatorade, soda, juice pouches and lots of bottled water and I’m glad we did because every night we would fill the refrigerator full of them and the next morning we’d pack our soft sided strap style mini cooler full and the days we weren’t at the resort and able to use our refillable mugs, the cooler full of drinks kept us hydrated without costing us a snack credit or 3.50 per drink! When you’re walking at a brisk pace pushing giant double strollers full of 20-40 pound kids through a crowded park for 12-14 hours anything over 80 is hot. So drinks are definitely worth packing.We ordered our magic bands online through Disney. I customized them online as well. It’s free to do that on the my Disney experience website. So we all picked a color (they have lots to choose from) and they even will let you have your first name printed on the inside of the band. Those came in the mail just two weeks before our trip. That was so exciting!!! We opened the boxes and saw the Disney castle picture printed on the inside of the box. There they were ,four in each box, lined up neatly, each one bearing a family members name. Yes this was really happening, no turning back now. We are actually going!! I had bought magic band sliders on eBay and stuck a couple in each kids stocking at christmas (although I confiscated them after the gifting was over for fear the kids would lose them…been there,done that). Now, I know magic band sliders seem silly, an unnecessary waste of money but boy was I glad I got those things and I’ll tell you that story later. Anyways the magic bands. Yes the coveted magic bands arrived to the gitty squeals and shrieks of excitement from the younger 4 children… the baby and the 14 year old were excited I guarantee it, but they tried to maintain their composure. The boxes also contained luggage tags. Yep cute little, nice quality, disney character wielding luggage tags! For free! Our trip was right around the corner and so was feeling that cool, cave-like pirate air!!