Good planning, bad trip?

I have read a lot that the people who say they never want to do Disney again are the people who didn’t plan properly. But we just finished our trip and I am pretty sure we are done for a decade or so, even though our planning worked well. We did EMM the first 2 days, and our touring plans worked great. Everyone was thrilled with how well our plans of attack worked. Even though we only did 7-3 our first day, our second day the kiddo was done before the parade and went home early (7-1:30). We dropped our Pandora rope drop plans for day 3, but used the planning knowledge to pick up FoP Fastpasses at 11:01 and 1:01. That day was a 9-4 day, but included a long sit down lunch. Day 4 was planned to be short (9-2 including a Pirates League appointment and character meal), but kiddo was done by 11 and refused to ride anything. Day 5 we planned to be short, but ended up only being 8-10 (including breakfast at Akershus). She just refused to ride or do anything and my husband didn’t want to stay without us. She doesn’t nap; she just wanted to be home playing in the pool instead of being at the parks.

It’s cool with me if all she wants to do is play in a pool, but I can make that happen for a lot less money than a trip to DW or DL. If she isn’t interested in the parks, then why spend the time and money? We had planned to go to DL in about a year and I don’t know that it is worth it. If we go again, and that is a big if, we will probably only do hard ticket events and plan to spend the rest of our time at the house or hotel. Or maybe Disney will just become an adult only vacation.

I guess this is just a vent, but, my takeaway is no amount of planning can make a kid who doesn’t want to participate have fun. And I should have expected this because we have had days where she asks to go to our local theme park and then refuses to do anything when we get there.

I’m so sorry this was your experience. It can be very disappointing to work hard, craft a great plan, and then have other members of the party not be as into it as you are. I was definitely more flexible with my family after our first trip. For our first trip, any deviation led to disappointment for me. I learned from that experience that I need to be more open to the fact that even though I planned with my family’s needs in mind, sometimes their needs were different and I needed to shift to accept that while also finding ways to enjoy myself on the trip. This has led to at least one adult-only trip (probably more in the future) and an upcoming solo trip. I think you would find an adults only trip wonderful! DH and I had such a great time and very rarely missed the littles. You might also consider doing a long trip where you start off with adults only and have a grandparent or another adult bring your daughter to join you for a few days at the end and focus that time entirely on what she wants to do. Also, she will most likely change her perspective as she ages.

All of this to say, don’t give up on the magic just yet. At least not for yourself!


That really stinks. It sounds like it was completely out of your control and that no amount of planning would have made a difference. Perhaps she will be interested when she is older. You don’t say how old she is - some kids are ready sooner than others


Not sure how old your daughter is. Mine was 4 the first time we took her. She hasn’t been back, but we are going again next year when she’s 10. We had that where she was just exhausted, refused to go on a lot of rides. But she loved meeting the characters (which we hadn’t expected because she was fairly shy when she was little).

I’m sorry to hear you had a lousy trip. I love going adults only, so there’s that.

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My kids have enjoyed it more as they’ve gotten older. I have also come to the realization that I’m the only morning person in the family. Two days starting at 7 would be way too early for us, and 7-3 is an 8-hour day, like a school day. I don’t know the age of your child but that’s a full day for a little one, though as they get older they can do that, and more.

I also don’t think my kids slept well at Disney sometimes, so maybe that was part of it?

I’d try again when she’s older. I think that will make a BIG difference. I think my kids were a bit overwhelmed and didn’t really “get” Disney until they were probably in double digits. Like @Kkerr76 mentioned, at age 4 it was just too much and not only that, they remembered very little of it. I certainly have read about many families where the kids did want to just play in the pool, too.

So I wouldn’t give up. But I do agree that the little ones do not get your money’s worth out of the parks, because they don’t have the stamina to do that. Often adults don’t, either! Mine span 8 years in age differences so there was always someone who enjoyed, but I could understand the frustration if there wasn’t. Now they’re young adults, and old enough to really “get” Disney, and get my money’s worth out of it!

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That stinks. I’m sorry your trip didn’t work out as you planned. My kids love amusement parks and my 4 year old was a trooper through our first Disney trip. He has his moments, but it worked out. I also learned on that trip what my kids can handle and about a year and a half later we did it again. That trip seemed to go much smoother. I think though some kids just aren’t ready for an extended trip in a very stimulating environment. Wait until she’s a little older and try again if your willing.

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Thanks guys for the commiseration. She is 4 and a very early riser, so the early starts worked well. I think, in retrospect, I should have planned every day to end by noon and only done 4 park days with 1 full down day in the middle. It would have meant giving up her mermaid makeover, which she did love, but probably would have gone better overall. Her main interest was definitely the characters, but waiting in line for them was hard on her. The 2 EMMs and the PPO character breakfast and the one character lunch helped her get a lot of those without terrible waits, so I think they were worth it, but I think we could have skipped basically every ride and she would have been happy. I think we also could have skipped AK and Epcot. She enjoyed the characters, but those parks had more things the grownups were looking forward to that we didn’t get to do anyway. I think if the trip had just been Toy Story Land, Fantasyland, her mermaid makeover, tons of character meets, and spending the rest of the time in the pool, then she would have been happiest. I am sure we will try again when she is older, but will probably wait a while. We may still do DL next year since we will be in the area, but will probably make it a minimal part of our trip.

I wasn’t even disappointed about the stuff I didn’t get to do. I was more disappointed by the stuff the rest of my party didn’t get to do. I was chief planner and I failed at designing a trip that made everyone happy. I felt guilty for wasting their time and money to accompany us to parks where she refused to participate and asked to go home. But, valuable lessons were learned. Maybe if we do a big family trip again, we get hoppers and take turns having grownup afternoons in the park while she plays in the pool.

This sounds exactly like her.

Sorry you had a disappointing experience. We recently finished up my 3.5 y/o daughter’s (and 1 year old son’s) first WDW trip. We initially had touring plans from 9 am to 5 pm for my daughter (we planned on nap breaks for our 1 year old son), but on our first day, we realized that we needed to make adjustments for her and take long midday breaks even though she doesn’t nap. For the most part, our days were 9:00 am to Noon at the parks, followed by a break at the resort, and then 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm back at the parks. This is not how we did the parks on our prior adult only trips or initially planned our touring plans, but we found this schedule worked well for the kids. Like yours, my daughter loved the character lunches and meet and greats, but was less interested in the rides. She was interested in a few rides like Dumbo, Magic Carpets, the Carousel, Kilimanjaro Safari, but was apprehensive about most others. We pushed her a bit to ride some (Small World, Peter Pan, FEA, Under the Sea, Pirates, Three Caballeros, River Journey) and she ended up enjoying those, but we let her out of trying Barnstormer, Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion, Nemo and many others.

I definitely had to adjust my expectations of what we would do during the visit. My wife had to point out to me multiple times that this WDW trip is all about the kids and we need to do what is best for their schedule (not what I think would allow our family to experience the most while in WDW).

Maybe try again, but with different expectations?


Did you have a stroller. WL is close to MK. Rope drop, pool in afternoon, nap and go out early evening

So someone once told me that disappointment happens when our expectations aren’t met. I have a hard time with this. I’m trying really hard to manage my expectations for our upcoming spring break trip, but it’s hard!


Me, too. I’m already taking out some attractions/events and moving others around because I think I put too much in there. I never allow enough time because I live in the boonies and imagining/remembering crowds does not come naturally.

PS how’s the kitty?

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I’d like to know if a stroller was used as well. We are taking the twin DS and DD 4’s in January. We are renting a good double stroller (no comments from the anti-mini kid bus crowd). I’m hoping this helps with the exhaustion factor as both are known to sleep well in a stroller if they need to. My twins are also early risers (5:30 at home so 6:30 Disney). Hoping our early day early bed plan works well.

Heading back to the vet. Still not eating/drinking. Thanks for asking!

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fingers crossed!

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That should be posted in big letters at the entrance to each park. Blessings be upon you and every other parent who gets it. I think I heard more parent tantrums this week than in several past trips combined.

Don’t feel bad. The larger your party the more likely that goal was beyond reach, anyway. Anyone who didn’t go into that plan prepared to compromise is responsible for their own disappointment. Especially since they knew they were traveling with a 4-year-old.


Yes, we did have a stroller. We were staying offsite and she naturally turns into a gremlin around 4-5 everyday with a 7pm bedtime, so we tried to stick to her natural schedule instead of switching to a midday break situation. She even went to bed early at 6:30 a few nights. I don’t think it was physical exhaustion. I think I overestimated her ability to mentally engage with her surroundings. That and she is a fiery little redhead with a mind of her own. I think, for her, she really needed a maximum of 3-5 hours a day at the park and an extra nothing day in the middle. Actually, if we try again in the next couple years, I may just plan a week relaxing at a villa or resort and lots of resort based character meals with maybe one day at MK or HS.

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I know my oldest who is 5 was done by lunch time everyday. Did we cut the days short? Yea. But that’s okay, it’s just the age… if you want to get full park days out of her then you are probably right to wait a few years… it’s hard but I try to keep my expectations in check. Also before leaving I read a lot on here and started to realize how important breaks were going to be for us. I hope you look back and enjoy all the fun times your trip had!

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Even though lots of people take toddlers and preschoolers, a 4 year old is still very very young so I wouldn’t just throw out a whole decade of Disney trips yet. Had you every taken a vacation with her or taken her to an amusement or theme park? Those two things will tell you a lot about what to expect from your kiddo on a Disney trip. My kid is 8 - twice as old and we still have to go at her pace not ours when traveling. Nothing wrong with an adults only trip either, it’s good for everybody! I’d hold off on planning a DL trip right now until we see what a madhouse Star Wars Land turns it into.

I love DL! There are TONS of things to do but you can still experience the Disney Magic on a smaller scale. We stayed offsite and had a less than 7-minute walk back to our hotel. DH ended up taking a nap every midday b/c our room was so close. One night we had an amazing view of the fireworks from outside the parks.

DH and I aren’t blessed with children, but we go on some of the “kiddie rides” anyway. We especially enjoyed this one:

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