Once upon a time, my husband and I were both awake when our six kids were asleep. This, in and of itself, was a VICTORY. We sat on the couch drinking wine and talking when he came across crazy cheap airlines tickets to Orlando. “We could go to Disney,” he said. I almost spit out my wine (I’m not that crazy) and did a double take. I quickly seized on his momentary weakness, excitedly saying “YEAH!! Let’s do it!” A few clicks later, our Disney “vacation” (this was a trip, not a vacation) was really happening.
That’s the quick story of how the eight of us, along with my mom, ended up at Disney recently. That’s three toddlers (yes, triplets), one preschooler, two school-aged kids, two 38 year-olds and one grandma. (We were totally outnumbered, right? I digress.) Here’s a quick list of Disney do’s and don’ts based on our trip. Enjoy!
DO some pre-trip strength training and conditioning.
Disney is a strenuous trip. You should prepare for it by strapping all your children and luggage to you and running around your yard. Or, if your gym has a sauna, strap weights to your chest and pace back and forth while you shout, “no this way! We’re going to the Magic Carpets! Stay with us!” Even if you don’t physically prepare for your trip, you should at minimum mentally prepare for the marathon days at Disney. It will be nonstop, so get in a good headspace so that you’re up for the challenge.
DO keep it a surprise, if you can.
On the day of the trip, we picked the big girls up from school, came home, and told them we had a big surprise. “You’re having three more babies!” Molly guessed. Um, no. “We’re getting a dog!” yelled Lucy. No again. Thankfully, they weren’t disappointed when they learned that Disney was the big surprise. Keeping the trip a surprise helped set the tone for a relaxed, fun trip; they hadn’t had weeks or months to think of all the rides they wanted to go on, etc. Instead, they were just happy we were going.
DO buy the entire athleisure wear dept. of Target, but DON’T bring it all with you.
Go ahead and give up any idea that you can look stylish at Disney. Because you know what? YOU’RE AT DISNEY, PEOPLE. Think athleisure wear (athletic/leisure aka athleisure) for the trip, unless you’re going in January. I bought pretty much every item in Target’s athleisure dept., then pared down my selection to a few key things I could wear more than once. Capris may be out, but I rocked some athletic capris most days because they dried quick and were comfortable as we slogged our way around the park.
If flying, DO pour some sugary sweetness on the ticket agents. They can help you big time.
Checking in at the ticket counter, we were quite a sight to see: bags stacked high, babies in the triple stroller, big girls dancing around the open areas. As the ticket agent enjoyed the spectacle that is the Roussel family, I kindly asked if we could be spread out over three rows, and she happily obliged. That meant we had a baby, big girl, and grown-up on each row—lots of room. Thankfully, the flight was quick and fairly uneventful. I can’t remember now who had a screaming baby but it wasn’t me. The only thing I remember about that is that it wasn’t me who had the screaming baby (#winning).
Do KNOW THYSELF when picking a hotel, deciding how long to go to the park, etc.
This is big. You have to know your group and consider what’s going to be realistic for your days at the park. If you’re taking triplet toddlers to the park, you can’t expect to stay there from morning to midnight. It’s not going to happen. That’s where we were this trip, so we stayed as close as possible to the Magic Kingdom (Contemporary Resort) so that one of us could go back to the hotel with the babies mid-day.
As for setting an agenda for your park visit each day, I think it’s wise to keep your expectations ridiculously low. I asked the biggies what one ride they wanted to go on while we were there, and we made sure we did those rides. Otherwise, we loaded up our fast passes and tried to do as much as possible before our group disintegrated each day, which typically happened around the 4-hour mark in the park.
DON’T wait in lines for rides all day.
Disney loves you and your army of small children, so they have all these ways to make sure you don’t wait in lines forever. Take advantage of the fast passes, where you can reserve a time window for riding popular rides. If you have little kids that can’t ride certain rides, ask for a rider swap, which is basically a fast pass good for whichever parent is stuck waiting with in the little ones. Your lucky big kids (up to two) will get to ride the ride again with you. Along those same lines, don’t completely lose it when you HAVE waited in line for 20 minutes and your preschooler declares she has to pee RIGHT NOW—they’ll give you a fast pass to get back in line. My last piece of advice is to get the park EARLY in the morning because it is so much less hot and crowded.
DO bring snacks and water bottles into the park.
Disney doesn’t care if you bring snacks and drinks into the park because they know they’ll still make a small fortune off you. Seriously. We brought water bottles, goldfish, granola bars, baby smoothie pouches, etc. so that we had food and drinks at the ready. That left us with more time for rides, buying overpriced souvenirs, crying, bathroom breaks, you name it.
DON’T bring everything you need, Amazon Prime has your back, as always.
Even when we pack “light,” there’s just so much stuff. We brought a double stroller, a triple stroller, a backpack for each girl, and one large suitcase full of miscellaneous stuff—with only two checked bags, that was pretty light for us. We Amazon Primed diapers, wipes, rash cream, sunscreen, snacks—anything we could. Amazon Prime, you always come through for me, so thanks for that. I love you.
You can also order groceries online and have them delivered to your resort. That was amazing! We had milk, bread, fruit, wine, etc. waiting for us when we checked in at 11 p.m. We used Garden Grocer but there are a few stores that do this.
DON’T lose your sh*t when the wheels fall off, literally or figuratively.
Oh y’all. Let me paint this picture for you. It’s a good one.
Seth was in charge of the babies while I rode some rides with the big girls. I get a call from him as he’s exiting the monorail and heading the park that our COMPLETELY ESSENTIAL triple stroller had broken when a front wheel snapped off. As my friends said, NOT THE TRIPLE STROLLER! Seth wheeled the gimpy stroller, holding three screaming babies, into the Magic Kingdom. We met up on picturesque Main Street. We unloaded the babies and Seth sat on the ground trying to fix the stroller with duct tape (a ha ha ha ha ha). Meanwhile, the babies were eating popcorn, dropping most of it, and eating it off the ground.
At this point, Seth and I are both sweating buckets and cursing under our breath when some passersby tell me, excuse me, just so you know, your babies are eating popcorn off the ground. I said thanks and waved them along from our sh*tshow. I was actually aware they were eating popcorn off the ground, and was ok with it, because it meant that they weren’t all running away. With only one of me and three of them, they could scatter fast and get lost in the crowd.
At that exact time, a double decker bus pulled up, and I shout, DOUBLE DECKER BUS, BIG GIRLS, GO GET ON IT! I knew how much Lucy wanted to ride a double decker bus (how does she even know they exist?) and I thought, I’ll be damned if my broken stroller crushed those dreams. I continued trying to corral the babies, still eating like birds off the ground, when I see Emily dart over to the double decker bus. Seth, meanwhile, was holding onto shreds of hope that he could fix the stroller. I repeatedly tell him it’s a lost cause. I may have started singing Let It Go, I don’t remember. I keep my eyes on the three babies and Emily, who’s off in the distance about to get on the double decker bus alone. After more urging, Seth finally agrees and runs to get on the bus with Emily and the other big girls.
The babies and I schlepped back to the hotel. I don’t know if you’ve ever pushed a double stroller up a steep incline while also holding a toddler too, but it is hard. Really hard. You’ll be glad you’re wearing those lightweight athleisure pants and shirt.
DO ask for help when you need it.
I decided it’d be a piece of cake to take the triplets on It’s a Small World by myself. I was wrong. Actually, the ride itself was great but disembarking with three toddlers was basically impossible. Cue the lovely French-Canadian couple sitting in front of me with their 4 year-old twins. The multiples bond runs strong, even at Disney. Each of the parents carried a baby off the ride for me and I carried the third. They were the loveliest family and we sat visiting for a while outside It’s a Small World. Because, y’all, it IS a small world after all, where Canadians helps Americans when they need a few extra hands. Isn’t that amazing and unexpected? I only regret I didn’t get a photo with those nice people.
DO take a few photos.
You need to have photographic evidence of your fun. Trust me, you do. Your kids will look at the photos and talk about how fun it was (or they’ll see them on your phone, because, let’s face it, we’ll never get them developed). They won’t remember the crying, the sweating, the bickering. They’ll remember the time together. Be sure to snap a few.
DO pause to take it all in when you see the joy on your little one’s faces.
I think one of the most fun things about being a parent is seeing the joy on your kids’ faces when they experience the same fun things you did as a kid. That’s how I felt on It’s a Small World. It was my Dad’s favorite ride, and I remember riding on it with my Dad and my whole family. On this trip, baby Ruby LOVED every second of the ride. She clapped and smiled and laughed the entire time. It was also fun to see my other girls laugh and smile on their favorite rides. Lucy loved Splash Mountain, while Molly loved the water ride at the Animal Kingdom. Emily couldn’t get enough of the Peter Pan ride, as evidenced by her detailed description of each part of the ride. The other babies seemed to enjoy watching the crowds and the Main Street parade. In short, there were so many moments of happiness and joy that it made all the schlepping and sweat worth it.
DO toast yourselves when you make it home.
I ransacked our kitchen for our best champagne, which, ironically, had been purchased on a fabulous trip to Napa sans-kids several years earlier. Home never tasted so sweet. You conquered Disney and won. Cheers to THAT, friends.
DO start planning your next trip.
I’m kidding. I know Seth says we’re not going to Disney again until the triplets are 10, but I think he’s wrong. Because here’s the thing—he will eventually remember that, although it was hard, it was worth it. Like most things in life. So the next time he has another momentary weakness and suggests a trip to Disney, I’m going for it. Or should I say, we’ll go for it, and head back to the most magical place on earth.
A version of this post also appears on my blog, http://rousselsixpack.blogspot.com.