A few years ago, during our first trip to Walt Disney World (WDW) where we stayed at an actual WDW resort, we instituted the “mandatory family rest time” policy. What started as a way to make the most of our investment in the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) became a catalyst for family vacation harmony. Because we had the convenient Disney transportation system at our disposal (our resort only a 20 minute bus ride away) we decided to utilize this convenience as much as we could and head back to our resort in the early afternoon each day for a little downtime. We figured we were spending quite a bit of money to stay at the famed resorts and really wanted to take advantage of the amenities offered, such as a the pool area. We had no idea how greatly this change in our normal Disney game plan would affect our over-all vacation enjoyment.
The first time we stayed at a WDW resort, half of our children (we only had 4 at the time) were still taking regular naps. Our usual course of action was to spend all day at the park and let our little nappers sleep in the stroller. Since we were so close to our resort and did not have to drive ourselves, we figured why not go back in the mid-afternoon, utilize the pool while our nappers slept back in the room. Okay, so it sounded like a really good idea in my head, but it did not fare well with our nap takers when they learned they would be sleeping while their non-napping siblings would be having fun in the pool. So, changing our plan a bit, we decided to let all the kids swim for a bit and then we would all go back to the room to rest. After about an hour of water fun, we headed back to the room, where ALL four children napped, without a SINGLE complaint. Really! Once everyone had a rest, we headed back to the park for the rest of the day. The day was enjoyable and meltdown free all the way to the end of the fireworks show.
Since that trip, we have family rest time every day. While our oldest son, now 12, isn’t required to sleep, he is expected to veg out on the couch and watch TV during this time. Our other kids, who no longer nap at home (except Baby Girl, of course) will sleep for at least an hour without complaint. This rest time had GREATLY reduced the number of meltdowns and crabby child moments because the kids are not tired. Since we always leave the park in the middle of the day, we avoid the heat of the day, which also contributes to child (and grown up ) fatigue. Now, I know some of you are thinking “My child hasn’t napped in years. Why would I take time away from the park (for which I payed a good deal of money to enter) to get my child to sleep?”. Well, remember, a day at Disney is not your typical day at home. There is a lot of walking and way more stimulation for our little ones at the parks than they experience at home. Couple that with the heat and the fact that excitement probably awakened your child earlier than necessary that morning, you have makings for one tired kid! While I understand the financial aspect of trying to get your money’s worth at the park, I, personally, think missing a few hours in the middle of the day is better utlization of my money than dragging around several children who are whiny and crying and just plain exhausted. That is not fun for me and it is most certainly not fun for them. While you may be spending a few less hours at the park, the total time your family spends inside the gates are more relaxing than going full throttle all day with crabby little ones in tow.
Our purpose for taking our families to Walt Disney World is to create magical memories. I think by allowing for a little down time during your park day, you can cut down on the end of the day crankiness and spend the remainder of your Disney Park day having enjoyable family time.