Disney World 2011: Lessons Learned from Disney Two Years in a Row

Magic Kingdom

This month, I’m writing a series titled 31 Days of Disney! In this part of the series, I’m reviewing past Disney trips and lessons learned along the way. Today’s post is a review of our fifth trip to Disney World as a married couple; the trip marked our second Disney vacation as a family of four. If you’re considering a family vacation to Walt Disney World or Disneyland, love Disney or just want a fun and easy read, this post is for you!

Quick Summary of Our 2011 Disney World Vacation

Our 2011 trip to Walt Disney World Resort was unique (or not) in that we had just been on a week-long Disney World vacation in 2010. Hmmm…you wonder why in the world we would do that? Our 2010 trip was such a success that we decided we really wanted to experience Disney all over again.

We intentionally designed our 2011 Disney World vacation to be very similar to our 2010 vacation. One week long. Same Disney Value Resort, just a different building. Same dining plan. Fresh autograph books for each child. And all four Disney parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. The only real difference was that since we’d just been there one year earlier, we felt like we really knew the ropes and inside tricks for experiencing Disney’s best.

No surprise, we had an another amazing Disney vacation!

While our 2010 Disney vacation provided the most significant, big-picture, long-term lessons, our 2011 trip helped refine our approach to Disney World so we could tailor our vacation to meet our family’s special needs and preferences. In other words, on this visit to Disney World, we really narrowed in on what we loved and did those things as much as we could.

character dining

Lesson 1: Character Dining is Awesome. Go all out!

On our 2010 vacation to Disney World, we greatly appreciated the Disney dining plan, so we purchased it again on our 2011 vacation. One of the things we LOVE about the Disney dining plan is the option for character dining. Character dining is a sit down experience – table service or buffet – and is available at all Disney parks and numerous Disney Resorts. Various characters come to your table while you’re dining so you can take photographs, get autographs and “chat” with them a bit. If you’re “talking” with Mickey Mouse, the interaction is all nonverbal. If you’re chatting with Snow White, she’s fully in character, voice, mannerisms and all. It’s pretty cool. We loved the character dining experiences so much in 2010, that we booked ALL of our sit down meals (1x/day) at character dining locations in 2011. It did require the Disney dining plan and more advance planning for reservations to pull this off, but it was so fun and totally worth it. For anyone traveling with children of ANY age, we highly recommend character dining. Each character dining location has a different set of characters, so you can choose your dining based on WHERE you’ll be that day and/or WHO you want to see! Character dining offers Disney guests the most close-up and personal interactions with characters, hands down.

parade at Disney World

Lesson 2: Do NOT leave to get a snack right before a parade starts (or you might look like this across from the rest of your party)!

Yes, this is a small, but important lesson we learned the hard way on our 2011 Disney vacation! I was in my first trimester of pregnancy with our third child during this trip, so the kids and I were eager to get a snack to eat during the parade at Hollywood Studios. We thought we had enough time to get over to a snack location, purchase something, and get back in time for the parade to start. NOT SO MUCH. We didn’t find a snack as quickly or as closely as we expected. The line was longer than we expected. And it took us longer to get through the parade crowds than we expected. In other words, we did NOT make it back to the parade in time! My husband sat on one side of the parade, while we stood (then sat) on the other. Once the parades get going, there’s not a chance to cross over. So if you must have a snack during a parade, make sure you get it well in advance of the parade, just to be sure! I’ll admit. This happened to me in the past at Magic Kingdom, but I was by myself. This time it impacted our whole family. Guess we learned our lesson! No big deal really, but a good insight for future reference.

Pool at Pop Century

Lesson 3: Get the kids some pool time!

We learned this lesson when we brought our son to Disney World for the first time in 2007, and we learned it again on this trip. Make sure to give your kids some down time in-between time at the parks! The best way to do this is to go back to the hotel and let them swim. It’s fun for the kids and relaxing for adults. It’s also surprising how many people are back at the pool in the middle of the day, even on property at Disney Resorts. You assume everyone’s at the parks, but there are plenty of people relaxing at the pool. Enjoy your time there, too. It’s all part of a great family vacation, and helps rejuvenate the kids for more fun at the parks!

Animal Kingdom

Lesson 4: Disney pin trading is super fun for kids and nerdy adults alike!

See those things hanging around our necks? Those lanyards? Yes, there’s something I haven’t told you yet. Something my husband and kids are especially obsessed about when it comes to Disney parks. DISNEY. TRADING. PINS. Yes, everyone in my family LOOOOOVES Disney trading pins. They’re collectible trading pins you can purchase at Disney Parks and Resorts, and cost anywhere from $7.95 to $14.95 each, depending on how fancy the pin is. At my husband’s suggestion, we started collecting pins on prior trips, but on this trip, my family members went all in. When I say “my family members went all in,” that means I’m NOT the big pin collector, but I AM along for the ride! I choose 2-3 special pins on each trip, but my husband and children buy more. They have 2-3 lanyards each. I have one and I’m sticking to it! My husband is the most obsessed, but he’s also the one who was obsessed with collecting Disney movies when I first met him in college. So there you go! Anyway, I have to admit. Collecting Disney trading pins is fun for the whole family. You buy the Disney pin of your choosing. Stick it to your lanyard. And wear it around Disney everyday during your vacation. There are a bunch of us pin-collecting nerds around the place. You can’t miss us. We’re totally geeky. And we love pins. Want to join us? I’ll be talking a lot more about Disney trading pins later this month in a post titled “Disney Pin Trading Secrets.” It’s something I’d never choose to do on my own, but is a fun family tradition and memory. Who knows? It might be for you, too?!

Thanks for sharing the Disney love, friends! That’s all for today!





31DaysofDisney_medium2This post is part of a month-long series titled 31 Days of Disney! If you’d like to read more posts from the series, click here and you’ll be directed back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page. ALL posts from the series are linked within the body of that post. Find a title or topic that intrigues you, click on it, and the post will pop up for your Disney reading adventure!

I also placed the series graphic on the right sidebar of my blog’s home page, so click it anytime and it’ll bring you back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page where all 31 posts are listed and linked.

You can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/AmyBPederson where I’ll tweet links to all 31 posts using hashtag #write31days, and I’d LOVE to connect on Facebook at facebook.com/AmyBPederson. You can also find me on Instagram at instagram.com/AmyBPederson, and I might even do a few scopes live from Disney World, so follow me on Periscope at @AmyBPederson to see if I get brave!

So glad you stopped by! Make yourself comfortable. Take a peek around the place, and know you’re welcome back anytime.

  1. Hilary says:

    Great post, great ideas! Totally true about a snack before a parade! 🙂 *found you on 31 days! 🙂

  2. Tom Baunsgard says:

    Great post Amy!

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