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A Collection of Tips from Ensemble Travel Agency Professionals
By Susan Milne

Janice Roberton’s family has enjoyed trips to Disney theme parks in both California and Florida. Here she shares her expertise on the favourite place for Canadian families to visit in these states.

“Of all the inquiries I get for family vacations on land, the Disney Parks are the number one request. Occasionally clients are interested in Knotts Berry Farm and Universal Studios but Disney is the main draw.”

The Disney parks certainly offer a very family-friendly vacation. Janice took sons Ethan (age 8) and Parker (age 5) to Disneyland ® park in California last January and everyone had a wonderful time. Janice has also sent family members and clients to Walt Disney World ® in Florida. They too arrived home excited about their experience.

“In order to have the best trip and get the most satisfaction out of your Disney vacation, I offer clients the following recommendations when planning their vacation:

  • Five Day Pass - The five day pass gives you enough time to see everything, try all the rides and not have to spend long days at the parks. We arrived between 10 and 11 am and left around 6pm each day. I recommend a three days minimum to see the park.
  • Fast Pass - Take advantage of the Fast Pass especially for the most popular rides – Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted House. Fast Pass lets you scan your Disney ticket to receive the time for you to take the ride. When you come back, you enter via the separate short Fast Pass entrance. Go to the most popular rides first, get your Fast Pass times then arrange your day around those times.
  • Off peak periods - Disney parks are so popular today that going during school holidays is not advisable. Queues are long and the parks are very crowded, it is not a pleasant experience. If you can take your kids out of school for a few days you will have a much better experience in off peak periods.
  • Accommodation – California - The Disney hotels are ideally situated within the park grounds but they are expensive. If you want lowered price accommodation I recommend the Fairfield Inn by Marriott or Howard Johnsons both on S. Harbor Blvd. These are kid friendly hotels close to many family restaurants.
  • Accommodation – Florida - There are many condo and house rentals available in Orlando and Kissimmee which make for a very comfortable stay. Extended families or family friends travelling together do well sharing a home which in Florida often comes with its own swimming pool.
  • Transportation – shuttle buses to theme parks are a convenient way to go. Parking a vehicle for the day is extremely expensive. Shuttles have various routes and pick up points throughout Orlando and Anaheim.

Big Kids and Little Kids

“There are rides and attractions at the Disney parks for all ages. Younger kids will enjoy Disneyland ® in California and the Magic Kingdom ® and Disney's Animal Kingdom® Park in Orlando where there are lots of rides for smaller children. My five year old, Parker loves Space Mountain.”

“In Orlando there are many parks besides Disney. On a hot day visit Blizzard Beach water park where the playground is scaled for younger kids.”

“Older kids enjoy the other parks like Disney's California Adventure ® Park where rides for those over 48 inches are the norm. Ethan, my eight year old loves the roller coaster here. One of our family favourites is the Grizzly Run which is a river rafting ride on an inner tube. You really do get wet so be sure to take a folding rain poncho for the occasion.”

“Disney California also has a Jedi training academy where Darth Vader gives instruction. This is perfect for Star Wars fans. Jedi students are chosen from the audience so there is no guarantee you will actually participate. Our kids weren't chosen but we really enjoyed the experience anyway.”

Tips for your day in the park

  • Stroller rentals are available including double strollers but there are very wide and hard to distinguish when a sea of turquoise strollers are parked together. Take a sit and stand stroller where 1 child sits and the other can stand or sit on the other side. These don't take up much room and are easy to find amongst the rentals.
  • A backpack harness that keeps your child close by is also very helpful.
  • There are water fountains throughout the parks where you can refill bottles so you just need to take one bottle for each person.
  • Meals throughout the park feature healthy choices like carrot sticks and apples instead of French fries.
  • It can be surprisingly cool at the parks in the winter months and in the evening so be sure to take along some warm clothes so your first stop isn't the clothing store.

“For the flight down and back, be sure to pack snacks and activities to keep everyone fed and entertained. We took our portable DVD player so the kids could watch a movie en route and it worked really well.”

“With some advance planning you'll have a wonderful time together at Disney.”

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