19 Priceless Disneyland Tips for Introvert Mothers

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Are you an introvert?

Are you a mother?

Are you an introvert who just happens to be a mother?

Then you will know you’re different from the rest of the population who likely make you feel pathetic and unconfident, virtue of all the exciting things they accomplish.

You might even feel sneered at as you do things quietly, with lowered expectations and cautious progress.

For introverts, a few days in a theme park from dawn to dusk can conjure up ideas of some kind of nightmare in hell similar to the Indiana Jones Adventure ride but for real.

A few days in a theme park can cause even the most adventurous of introverts to wilt into a runny puddle at the thought.

And for those of us who happen to be mothers, who usually get quite enough stimulation just dealing with our kids’ needs in our own homes where we have everything more or less as we like it, the demands on our psyche can turn what everyone wants to be a happy, memorable family time into a miserable, unpleasant one with everyone snapping at each other.

We don’t do a lot of vacations in our family.

Mostly because they are stressful for me.

I prefer to stay at home and do day trips, clearly remembering the words of a friend of mine who took her 3 month-old twins, husband, nanny AND mother on vacation and who still said ‘it was just like being at home without the convenience.’

We didn’t go on vacation until our boys were six because of that comment.

But I felt it was finally time.

I was ready.

I prepared as well as I could; it was my first time at Disney as a mother.

I polled a few friends for advice ahead of time and made the rest up as I went along.

If you are a introvert mother and contemplating a trip to a theme park like you would a night of bingo with 150 other women – with leaden feet and a drooping posture, wondering what you’ve let yourself in for and hoping it isn’t as bad as you suspect – have a look over my notes.

 

19 Priceless Disneyland Tips for Introvert Mothers

 

1. Wait until your children are older

This is the most important tip. Every time I saw a mother get out her powdered formula to mix a drink in the boiling heat or change a diaper after she’d been standing in line for fifteen minutes or struggle with a stroller, I practically fainted. Introverts are not made for that kind of mothering, IMO.

Wait until your kids can go to the bathroom by themselves, order their own food, and tolerate lines of 25 minutes so that you can focus on participating with them, leading the what-shall-we-do-next discussions, and providing a few limits or words of encouragement as needed.

2. Don’t cave to pressure

No-one can accuse Walt of sensory deprivation with his theme parks and a visit always has the potential for disaster if limits aren’t set appropriately, adequate preparation and maturity. When sensory load reaches capacity, things get ugly. As the mother, you are the one to mop fevered brows, dry the tears and calm the anguish, so remember that you are the one to control if, and when, you visit.

3. Avoid the hot season

The weather for us was only so-so in mid-June. It was overcast until early-late afternoon and we even wore sweaters on some mornings. The cool temperatures greatly added to our ability to keep going. August would be unbearable.

4. Stay close by

Driving to the park, unloading your clobber, waiting for a shuttle bus, riding it, unloading…Ugh. As Jaymi says on the Facebook page, just this can take an hour. You’re exhausted, and sweating, before you start.

We stayed at The Candy Cane Inn, a 7-minute walk to the park turnstiles. We could watch the fireworks from our room. I don’t know if it was the cheapest but frankly, if I couldn’t afford to pay for accommodation this close, I would forget making the trip altogether. It’s that important to the overall success of the visit.

5. Keep parent to child ratio at 1:1 or more

One of the things that warms my heart about Disney is the number of grandparents who attend with their adult children and grandchildren. The ideal is to have more adults than children (in any situation, I say. ;-)) or at least as many adults as there are children. Once you get outnumbered, you’re asking for trouble.

6. Wear decent footwear

Sounds obvious but it needs to be said. Painful feet make a visit less enjoyable for introverts and extroverts alike. Pay attention to the kids’ shoes, too. What works around the house or at school may not be cushioned enough for several miles and hours of walking and standing.

7. Set expectations ahead of time

Cut down the incessant requests for food and souvenirs by telling the kids ahead of time what you are, and are not, willing to purchase. By setting these limits and keeping to them rigidly, you reduce the asking to almost nothing.

For example, before you even get in the park, tell them you will buy a lunch and two snacks, and maybe set limits as to what these need to consist of. We weren’t willing to eat at Blue Bayou (apparently the most romantic place in the park to eat if you can ignore the people wearing their Mickey Mouse ears.) I wasn’t swayed by the fact that the heart-attack-on-a-plate Monte Cristo sandwich was  supposed to be delicious, we were not going to eat there.

Also tell them what you are willing to pay for in respect of souvenir purchases – for us it’s a t-shirt bought on the last day. Anything else, well, that’s what allowances are for.

8. Get in the park early

The park opens at 8am most days and it is definitely worth it to get to the park as soon as it opens. It is less crowded and the lines shorter. You can easily take in three or four rides before the crowds really start to arrive if you do this and with some planning you can hit the popular rides without fast passes or long lines.

9. Expect some overwhelm

For introverts, and maybe extroverts as well, Disneyland is a lot to take in. We wandered around in a daze for a while trying to absorb it all. I was a bit frustrated that we didn’t hit the ground running, dashing here and there, but need to take my own advice in future and accept overwhelm as part of the process.

10. Develop a plan

Although the park is overwhelming at first, having a plan is grounding and satisfying as you accomplish what you set out to do. Spend the first morning exploring, trying the odd short ride, understanding the fast pass system. Then develop a plan of sorts. Identify rides family members want to do. And do them.

On your last day, write a list of all the rides you haven’t yet done or ones you want to do again and map out a route. Make sure everyone’s favorites are included. We didn’t get everything done on our list and we exploited a couple of opportunities like a short wait time for what turned out to be a brilliant ride – the Astroblast – but having that list made everyone feel purposeful and included.

11.Organize the party more, participate less

Do not go on too many rides outside your comfort zone in any one day. Particularly Not even if your children start waggling their elbows and make clucking noises. (Of course, my children would never do that, oh, no.) Experience the occasional adrenaline rush from doing something scary but don’t overdo it.

As the mother, our main roles tend to gravitate to those of party organizer, team coach and dutiful packhorse. If we’re dancing to the music, the drinks will run out, and the festivities fall flat. Sit out, observe and take satisfaction that your guests are having the time of their lives, creating memories they will never forget.

12. Get your fast passes here!

Fast passes enable you to return to a ride within a particular time frame and get priority in the line. They are not available on all rides.

You can only have one fast pass open at a time so every time we used one, we got another, filling in our time in-between with other rides or shows or just hanging out. Using the fast pass system adds structure to the day by giving you a commitment, forcing you to organize. Ultimately you will get more out of your limited time in the park where there is more to see and do than you can reasonably accomplish in the time and with the energy available. Prudent use of fast passes mades a real difference to the overall enjoyment of our trip and kept down line waiting frustration.

13. Mix it up

Mix up thrill rides with passive rides, see a show, and simply explore. This way you can meet different needs, give your feet an occasional rest, your minds too. We all have our limits for queuing and changing it up is a good way to maintain interest and keep whining down.

14. Keep hydrated

Even when it’s cool, keep some water to hand to keep energy up and dehydration down.

15. Take breaks when you can

We introverts need to recharge, quietly and alone. It is possible at Disney despite being surrounded by thousands of people.

You can offer to park yourself on the curb to get a good spot to see the parade (Disney has just started a new parade that runs at 4pm) while the others go off to ride something you’re unable to tolerate at that moment. With a cold drink and a shady spot, watching people go by for an hour is an education in itself, is pleasantly relaxing and you’ll be in prime seats when the parade proper starts.

Finding a quiet place and preferably a bench while waiting for the others to finish a ride also helps and I insisted on a cup of tea and an ice cream in the afternoon while some of us read books. I’m sure Disney don’t see too many families who do that (!) but it worked for us.

16. Have family meetings and commit to stay together

When you have family members with strong, very divergent personalities and interests, it can be easy to divide and conquer with individuals going off on their own to meet needs separate from the rest. The problem with this, however, is the family unit is not strengthened and reinforced like that. And isn’t that one of the main purposes of a vacation?

Make it a priority to stay together but in a way that accommodates all your individual needs so that everyone goes home feeling satisfied. And even challenged a little.

By having family huddles and involving everyone in discussing, negotiating and planning your time, you can stay together virtually the whole time (except perhaps when the introverts need a rest.)

My kids loved Space Mountain and went on it three times. I went on it once. I felt part of the family unit by going on it even though I was very challenged by the thought. And proud of myself once I’d done it. My extrovert son was persuaded to ride the monorail round the park when he’d rather have headed for Splash Mountain but he visibly relaxed as he was transported silently around.

So we can all adapt a little, just not so much we get exhausted or frustrated.

17. Don’t try to do it all

Unless you live locally, the temptation is to see as much as possible in the time you have available. And while that’s certainly a goal, don’t bust a gasket trying to achieve it. It’s not worth it. One overloaded person can ruin the trip for an entire family so be conservative with what you set out to achieve.

We didn’t get to see the World of Color show in the California Adventure Park, get to a couple of the outer areas of the park, do Space Mountain as many times as the kids would have liked or ride Splash Mountain at all. It just wasn’t possible without one or all of us tipping into overwhelm.

18. Enforce a curfew

See the fireworks once. Even if you’re there three days. (Insider tip, shhh: It’s the same each night.) They are a marvel, especially Tinkerbell (is that a real person, anyone know?) but it is late, you’re tired, the kids are tired and it is always better to err on the side of caution.

I was appalled to see families walking in with children in strollers at 10pm and equally appalled by the parents of a young child at our hotel who was beside himself with exhaustion and raging out of control as a result. Not only was everyone woken up at midnight but the poor mite was a victim of a form of child abuse, IMO.

19. Abandon ye all hope but just in case, take some protein powder and nuts

The food options were my least favorite part of the whole trip.  I tried to avoid our free-of-charge, and also, sadly, free-of-protein breakfast at our hotel but then found that the Disneyland restaurants didn’t open until 11am and doing the Indiana Jones ride on an empty stomach wasn’t a good idea.

Even when the restaurants opened, the healthy options were limited. I tried to eat salads and I’m sure I once saw someone eating meat atop something green but whenever I ordered one, it always came in a sourdough bowl.

There is a Target a couple of miles up the road and next time we visit, using milk from there or the breakfast bar, I’ll rustle up a protein shake every morning using a blender bottle and take nuts to the park in my pocket.

And yes, you read that right.

‘Next time.’

For our disparate little family comprising two innies and two outies, Disneyland could have been a disaster.

But by employing these tips, it was a great adventure.

(And my kids should have a T-shirt that reads: ‘I made my mom ride Space Mountain and I survived!’)

So how’d we do, veteran Disneyland-goers? Do you have any other advice for us introverts to cut down the stimulation and overwhelm? Or do you think I’m being overly cautious? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to share the words, stumble, tweet or ‘like.’ There are buttons to the top, bottom and to the side. 😉

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Green Bean
Twitter:
June 21, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Avoid the hot season! Boy is that right!!

We’ve actually been to Disneyland 3x with the kids and had the most fun when we went with extended family (cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles) so that people could break off and do their own thing. The dads could do the thrill rides. The littles could do Pooh and so on. We’ve not been in a while but appreciate the tips as we’re planning a trip in lieu of birthday parties later this year.

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Alison Golden July 5, 2011 at 8:14 pm

I think a trip in lieu of birthday parties is a great idea, Green Bean. And I bet it’s a load of fun with a bigger group – able to put like with like.

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Gwynne June 21, 2011 at 9:33 pm

I have to say that these are very sensible tips even for us Outies. 🙂

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Alison Golden July 5, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Are they? Oh, interesting. Thanks for letting me know.

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Ann
Twitter:
June 22, 2011 at 5:58 am

Great suggestions. The other thing that helped when I took my niece was we went to the park at opening, came back to the resort pool in middle of day then went back to the park in evening. This avoided a lot of mid-day crowds and was a nice cooling, relaxing break. And staying on Disney property is a huge help.

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Alison Golden July 5, 2011 at 8:17 pm

I would have loved to have stayed in the Grand. I’d heard great things. Budget didn’t quite go that far, however.

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Glynis Jolly
Twitter:
June 22, 2011 at 6:48 am

Alison, it isn’t just theme parks that can drive you crazy, it’s all amusement parks. You should make this a pdf report and offer it. All your suggestions are good and good for grandparents too.

I’m with you though. I love the day trips. They’re fun, exciting, and when you go home that evening, you truly are done.

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Alison Golden July 5, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Glynis, we finally invested in season tickets to our most local amusement parks. But ONLY now the kids are older. Way too much stimulation when they are younger. For me anyway 😉

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Charise
Twitter:
June 22, 2011 at 9:12 am

Great advice! I’m dreaming of the day Baby is old enough for Disney, but this advice reminds me to be realistic about my expectations.

Stumbled.

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Alison Golden July 5, 2011 at 8:27 pm

I think one of the reasons we waited, Charise, is that we haven’t been steeped in Disney since birth. Our kids were never terribly interested in the films and in fact, one of my sons was terrified of the evil characters until he was older than you would expect. So it has been quite easy to resist the lure.

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Mimi June 22, 2011 at 10:02 am

I’m definitely NOT an introvert, but I think these tips are extremely helpful to those moms and other moms alike! Very sensible! You would not believe our 2nd trip: 8month old, 4yo, 10yo, 12yo, husband, me AND 2 other families! Of course I thrive on that chaos and loved it! =)

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Alison Golden July 5, 2011 at 8:28 pm

I could not imagine taking all those children! But then perhaps that’s why i only have two, 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Mimi!

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Bibi June 22, 2011 at 11:45 am

I am total introvert mom and Disneyland is so stressful for me. Even with my boys being 8 and 13 last September when we went I was exhausted and stressed out. We did take an advantage of front of the line pass since my older is considered disabled child which made it much easier. I can’t even imagine going without it….

Great tips for parents who never been.

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Alison Golden July 5, 2011 at 8:29 pm

I was certainly worried that it would be a complete trial. I can see how that would be. I’m glad you got some breaks with the fast passes, Bibi.

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Kristl Story June 22, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Great tips…even for extroverts! stumbled!

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Alison Golden July 5, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Thanks for telling me that. We introverts sometimes think we’re the only ones who have to deal with these things and the rest of the world has it easy.

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Julie June 22, 2011 at 5:15 pm

FAST PASS tip, for those who don’t like commitment, you can not use it before the time it says, but you can use it ANYTIME later that day. It does not need to be within the designated time slot on the pass. And other fast passes are avail to you as soon as the time of the last one “expires” whether you’ve used it or not. This is a VERY good thing for us extroverted, fly by the seat of our pants types! I would never be able to get back to a ride within that hour window! But they are good for the rest of the day! You can collect a few in the morning and then go do the more crowded rides any time!

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Alison Golden July 5, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Listen to Julie, she is the Disneyland Queen (and not an evil one either!)

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Erin June 22, 2011 at 8:55 pm

After reading this, I don’t want to take my kids to Disneyland. 😉 We live an hour from Disney World and have annual passes. I am definitely an introvert with an odd affinity for theme parks. The World has healthy food options, especially for kids. I was VERY pleasantly surprised by this on our most recent weekend trip there. My tip for going with kids is to keep the general schedule the same. My daughter wakes up about 8:30, she gets milk and watches Mickey, then we head out for a park. We get lunch about 12 and head back to the hotel for nap time still around the 2:00 mark. Quiet time for about 2 hours, then a snack and back to the park for attractions and dinner, with bedtime pushed back to 10 instead of 9. We had no issues.

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Alison Golden July 5, 2011 at 8:34 pm

I love how you call it ‘The World.’ I can tell you’re a regular 🙂 I did think of the break in the afternoon but it was so cold it wasn’t worth it, we just kept going and left early around 4pm. If it had been hot I can see we’d have taken a completely different tack. And yes I’m going to be much better prepared next time about the food.

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bluecottonmemory June 22, 2011 at 9:06 pm

One of the things we did was to go early, take an afternoon break and return for dinner (Epcot is great at this time) – everybody is leaving. Since we had a bazillion boys, my husband would take the older ones to the water park and I took the little ones to the pool for half a day. With larger age groups, it made it much more enjoyable to break in half. You have a ton of great points! BTW – your share tag hangs down the middle of your page making reading difficult:)

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Alison Golden July 7, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Having been to Disneyworld twice, I missed Epcot this time around. I loved it. It is its own little fantasy world.

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Mary E. Ulrich
Twitter:
June 23, 2011 at 5:01 am

Alison, you always make me smile and appreciate practical advice. The only problem with taking grandparents, is they sometimes are worse than the children. Personally, like they rent strollers, I think Disney should rent out “nanny’s” “tour guides” or “park companions” to make up the extra adults. Then you would get someone who knew where the bathrooms were, the short cuts, and be available to make the day a pleasant experience. Our Disney trip was the stuff of nightmares. Some day I’m going to Epcot, without the kids.

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Alison Golden July 7, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Is that so, Mary? Grandparents, huh? Apparently you can hook up with a tour guide (celebrities do that but you don’t have to be one) and that might be worth it for your first time. I hope you get your wish and you get to Epcot soon. Maybe when you go back to Myrtle Beach? I could meet you there 😉 And we could go to the T-Tapp annual retreat! Hey my next vacation already planned 😉

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Galit Breen
Twitter:
June 23, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Love it lady! I need to print this and keep it with me as plan our {gasp!} first Disney trip next year!

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Alison Golden July 7, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Watch out Disney! 😉

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Beth
Twitter:
June 24, 2011 at 3:40 am

Alison,

When I was first married, but before kids, I swore that I would NEVER take a toddler to Disney. I saw too many exhausted, SCREAMING toddlers and stressed out parents there. I’ve kept to my promise, but now that my girls are a little, it’s time to start planning the Disney trip. THis list will come in so handy.

By the way, I have a sister in law who swears by staying at a hotel with a pool and doing Disney in the morning, lunch, rest and a little bit of pool time. She says mixing it up and not doing an intense all day at Disney really helps keep the crankies away with her kids.

Thanks,
Beth

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Alison Golden July 7, 2011 at 2:50 pm

I have to agree. It wasn’t too hot so we didn’t need to do that but I remember when I was younger before I had kids, having that break was the only way I kept going. Obviously my stamina has increased since then…

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SagePixie June 25, 2011 at 1:02 am

Yes Tinkerbelle is a real person

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Alison Golden July 7, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Really, wow! Who would do that job? So scary! I hope whoever she is, she gets paid a LOT of money. Thank you SagePixie for clearing that up. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

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Sarah Thacker June 29, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Great tips! With 5 kids, I don’t see myself going anytime soon… but I think the tips you gave could apply to lots of different situations!

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Alison Golden July 7, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Yes, perhaps they would, Sarah. And with 5 kids, no, I wouldn’t either. 🙂

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DrJulieAnn aka The Modern Retro Woman
Twitter:
June 29, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving an introverts’ perspective. People are always surprised to find out that I’m a raging introvert because I’m such a people person. 🙂

We live an hour from Disneyland and everyone we know has annual passes. They don’t understand why The Mister and I don’t. Simple: We don’t have children (and, even if we did, they would be in their 20s by now) and we find the whole thing rather overwhelming. For us, it isn’t The Happiest Place on Earth.

Good tips!

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Alison Golden July 7, 2011 at 2:54 pm

I wouldn’t go either if I didn’t have kids. I can think of lots more things to spend my time and money on than days at Disney. Having kids does give it a different dimension because you see it through their eyes and enjoy seeing them having fun but just adults? Nah, I don’t think so.

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Marie
Twitter:
July 1, 2011 at 9:06 am

Great tips, Alison. As a Disney veteran, I think you covered all the bases well. Every time I’d think “what about. . .” you’d cover it in the next point.

By the way, I stayed at the Candy Cane Inn on my first trip to Disneyland 40+ years ago. I’m not sure why it is so memorable, but there you go. . . .

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Alison Golden July 7, 2011 at 2:55 pm

It’s the name, the name.

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Feyella
Twitter:
July 2, 2011 at 9:54 am

Very good list that will be helpful for all types. I definitely agree with the “wait until your children are older”. I have no intentions of taking my boys to DW until they are at least 5 or 6. They Type-A in me won’t allow it.

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Alison Golden July 7, 2011 at 2:55 pm

I think it’s great that you’ve recognized that in yourself, Feyella!

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Caveman Home Companion July 5, 2011 at 11:40 am

Lots of good advice here, Alison.

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Alison Golden July 5, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Glad it was helpful, CHC.

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Linda
Twitter:
July 9, 2011 at 7:38 am

Alison–

Great tips! I’m a huge planner, especially since I’m a gold card carrying member of the I-have-the-patience-of-a-toddler club. Oh, the sensory overload of it all….and yes, Walt, spared no sense in the rather lovely sensory overload of it all.

I haven’t been in a couple of years, but one thing that saved me from the overwhelm was the impeccable manner that the place is landscaped and cleaned. I read an interesting story about the night cleaning crew–I mean, the place never sleeps (neither do the majority of the patrons after a day there), but there’s hundreds of night elves who work the late night shift.

I thought the food selections were sorely lacking, too. They allow you to bring food, so we ate lunch with food we brought, and waited until dinner to eat at a restaurant.

It’s crazy how the place gets packed. We arrived well before 8am, and were able to jump on a few rides, but within 30 minutes, the place was jammed.

Ahhhh–after reading this, I’m thinking it might be a good idea to wait until fall. Yes, I’ll be that mom who allows her child to miss six hours of educational time, in order to save a few precious brain cells.

Love your accent(s), btw;).

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Alison Golden July 9, 2011 at 3:49 pm

LOL! Both of them? I really need to more video. Maybe as I’m in a bit of a writing slump at the mo I can get on that.

I didn’t know that about bringing your own food in. Hmm, I assumed it was like everywhere else and we had to eat their Frankenfood. Next time…Thanks for the tip!

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