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.
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. 😉