Always Have Snacks

Kristy Eckert

I stood in the cafeteria line at our Walt Disney World resort, my simultaneously exhausted and exhilarated then-3-year-old gently grasping my hand.

Behind us, a woman began yelling - I'm not lying, yelling- at her bewildered husband, who she was certain picked the wrong food line to wait in first. (Because, you know, waiting an extra three minutes in a line at Disney is totally worth screaming over.)

Almost simultaneously, a woman in front of us slapped one of her two antsy kids. (Because, you know, over-tired, over-sugared kids at Disney should be expected to behave perfectly.)

Ah, the most magical place on Earth indeed!

I'm not any more a parenting expert than any of you, and goodness knows I still haven't figured out how to get my now-4-year-old to sit still at dinner. But a few trips to Disney have taught me valuable lessons in how to avoid the point where you're screaming, slapping or begging your kid to pick Epcot, where you know you can grab a good beer in Germany. (Actually, there's nothing wrong with that third point. Lure them there with the Nemo ride and the opportunity to talk to Crush, then enjoy your drink.)

So, for those of you making the trek to Orlando, a few big-picture pointers on taking the 5-and-younger set:

Live in the moment. This is easier said than done. Nearly all other tips circle back to this idea.

Do not schedule anything - no breakfasts with Mickey, dinners with royalty or otherwise expensive events that require you to be at a particular place at a particular time. There are too many landmines to do this to yourself - accidents that force you to return to your room to change clothes, bus running late, your kid's nap schedule whackily off thanks to long drive/flight/general excitement.

Operate on a 15-minutes-or-less policy. If a line is 15 minutes or less, the ride's a go. If it's longer, just move along.

Always have snacks. Actually, if I wrote a book on parenting in general, this would be its title. For good reason. Same goes in Disney. If you are relying on overpriced ice cream treats that aren't nearly as available as one might think to get you through this trip, you are going to regret it.

Remember who the trip is for. Again, easier said than done, because we all know you spent a pretty penny to make this the perfect vacation you dreamed it to be. But if your kid just wants to play in the hotel pool all day, or ride Pirates of the Caribbean five times in a row, or skip the Animal Kingdom animals to frolic on its massive playground, why not?

The magic really is in the moment. You just need to pause there long enough to find it.

And then - "Oh, kids, how about Nemo at Epcot?!" - go have a drink.

-Kristy Eckert is the editor of Capital Style.