Well GEMs, it is that annual rite of passage for the Parham family. We, along with hundreds of thousands of other families, will brave the sweltering heat, afternoon thunderstorms, overpriced food and astronomical fees to get into the parks for some forced family fun in Orlando, FL.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Orlando but when I see photos like this,  the opening of Harry Potter World at Universal Orlando, I want to run, screaming in the other direction.

We have been doing this for 11 years now, having been suckered into experienced the joys of owning a timeshare there. In that time, Good Enough Mother has learned a thing or two.

  • EASY DOES IT:  When our kids were small we got into a great habit of getting up early, being at the park as soon as doors opened and being out by noon when the sun was starting to really beat down.  We would have lunch off the property and then be back at the timeshare for an afternoon nap. After an early dinner we went back to the park for another couple of hours. The kids were rested and so were we, the crowds had thinned out (a TINY bit) and it made for a better experience.
  • BRING A PLASTIC PONCHO! As sure as the sun rises, it will rain in the middle of the afternoon in Orlando. You have two choices. You can be at the mercy of the merchandising geniuses at the parks and pay through the nose for ponchos for each member of your family or you can hit up Wal-mart for the same poncho, minus the cute Disney character, and pay about a third of the price. Listen, the poncho-over-cargo shorts look will not be made better because yours has Pooh bear on the front of it.  Suck it up, function over fashion on this one. Besides saving money is always in style!
  • MEAL TIME: You can bring food into the parks, but no alcohol or glass containers. When I was a kid, my folks did just that. I wanted to crawl in a hole and die, being forced to eat a smashed-up, bologna sandwich while everyone else had delicious hamburgers with piping hot fries.  I promised myself then I would not do that to my kids so I just suck it up and know I’m going to pay (A LOT) for food. But I will bring in water bottles and that saves a little. Freeze the water the night before and it’s nice and cold when you want it.

  • DON’T GET SUCKERED INTO PHOTOS AT PARK ENTRANCE: Yes, they’re nice and you have the great background behind you but honestly, are they worth 15 bucks? Nearly everyone has a digital camera nowadays and they take great photos. Bring yours. Snap away.
  • USE THE STROLLERS FOR AS LONG AS YOUR KIDS WILL STAY IN THEM! The ones they rent in the park are good, but if you’re saving cash, bring your own. These parks are ENORMOUS and even though Sally and Bobby are old enough to walk, little legs get tired fast. Then you’ll have them on your shoulders, risking permanent damage to your C4 vertebra as you hoist and carry them for hours on end. AND IT’S FRIGGIN’ HOT! Don’t do it. Just don’t.
  • USE THE FASTPASS: In the Disney parks, it’s basically appointment riding, especially for the popular attractions. Figure what you want to ride, pick up your FastPass, which is a piece of paper that will tell you when to come back to ride. Go do something else until it is your time and when you come back, you will walk past the stares of furious customers who decided to wait in line for 90 minutes instead of using the system. You can almost walk right into the ride. Almost.

  • SOUVENIERS: Skip the shops at the parks and go to the outlet malls. There are two big ones on either end of International Drive, Prime outlets Orlando and Orlando Premium Outlets .Both have a Disney store and carry merchandise from past seasons (come on, who’s gonna know?) for a fraction of the cost.

  • FIND OTHER, NON-PARK RELATED ACTIVITIES. Point Orlando is a cool mall with a movie theater and tons of places to eat. Nothing better in the Florida sunshine than sitting in a cool movie theater. Also check out Wonderworks,a cool place full of hands-on activities for kids.  Or just hang by the pool. With wine.

  • BE FLEXIBLE. It might not go he way you want it but remember, you are on vacation so relax. Remember what it was like to have candy with breakfast or stay up late at night watching the fireworks.

How do you survive vacation to Orlando or other vacation sports? Do tell!

Rene Syler is a wife, mother, breast cancer advocate and television personality whose burning desire to tell the truth about modern motherhood led her to create When not spending time with her family or burning something for dinner, Rene travels the country as host of Sweet Retreats on The Live Well Network and Exhale on Aspire.


  1. DawnKA

    June 22, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    This is great!! Our children ranging 24-14 all want us to have a family trip there. Who would think that all those years of been there done that would apply here too – not so. We’ve always had lots of fun – we’d go to the park and let them run themselves ragged – no nap breaks when we leave that’s it until the next day. On other family trips, we plan different things to do for each day and it’s usually fun. However, looks like we’ll be heading there (Disney) in the fall/winter vacation time. Who knows we’ll probably have a blast – they’re older and no whining ( I pray).

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  3. Mim Belcher

    June 23, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Rene, you hit on everything to do right at Disney World. For some reason, folks just do not use the Fast Passes or strollers as they should. It is dang hot in Orlando in the summer and young kids get tired. Our 7 year old sat in a stroller at Disney World when she was tired!

  4. denyse

    June 25, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    There are definitely tricks to surviving those theme parks! Good read and excellent tips Rene! Don’t forget to check out ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’!

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  8. Allison @ Slice of Heaven

    March 23, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Great tips! I especially like the tip about the strollers. This past trip there for #disneysmmoms, we had 3 kids for the first time adn our sit and stand had all three on it for most of the time!!!! Hard to push, but worth it not to hear the whining and complaining! LOL.

  9. Rene Syler

    March 23, 2011 at 10:17 am

    @Allison: EXACTLY! Mine are 12 and 14 and I’m gonna see if they’ll still fit in the strollers this year. KIDDING (sort of)

  10. Debra @ A Frugal Friend

    April 12, 2011 at 12:36 am

    Great post Rene!

    I love the PhotoPass photographers at Disney….after they snap a photo of you with their camera, they are more than willing to do it with yours. Same great background….and not $15. 🙂

    We still use our stroller too…….I love it in the theme parks and the airport too. I don’t want to drag a preschooler around an airport walking incredibly slow. I want to hustle. LOL

  11. Rene Syler

    April 12, 2011 at 12:38 am

    @Debra: Hey thanks! My daughter’s taller than me now so the stroller’s out of the question. Unless I curl up in in, LOL. Thanks for the tip in the photo!

  12. QuatroMama

    April 12, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Great advice, Rene. We’ve somehow survived Disney with quadruplets 2 years in a row, which has to be screaming book deal, right? =) Appreciated your presence and talk at Disney Social Media Moms – an encouragement to us all!

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