Disney Tips for Dads (from a Dad)

Disney Tips for Dads

I once heard Jim Gaffigan compare a vacation at Disney to waiting in line at the DMV, except that it’s 100 degrees outside, so it’s like “waiting in line at the DMV on the surface of the sun.”

After waiting over 90 minutes to ride the Peter Pan ride in the Magic Kingdom, while holding a miserable baby who was clearly overheated, I have to admit the description felt apt. Particularly when I finally got to the end, only to realize that the ride was only about 30 seconds long. (Note: I do not know how long the actual ride is- this is just a very scientific guess based on an empirical, unbiased survey of grumpy dads... or really just myself.)

Of course, the entire Disney experience for me is greatly enhanced by the fact that my 4-year-old’s favorite ride is “It’s a Small World.” I have made several good-faith attempts to explain to her that this ride makes her Daddy have violent thoughts about animatronic dolls, but she remains undeterred. Such is life for a father with a small daughter- I tell myself that I am in charge, but I know deep down inside, that I am the subservient one in this relationship. The scary part is, that I’m fairly certain she knows it, too. So, I’ve learned to swallow my pride. Though I would never admit this in public (except in a public blog, apparently), I secretly cherish the way her face lights up whenever we go on that ride together. For all of you who have “It’s a Small World” stuck in your head now- you’re welcome.

Of course, despite my blustering, I actually enjoy our Disney vacations and genuinely look forward to each one. I am keenly aware that Disney is not for everyone, but our family is a full-blown Disney family; as often as is practical, we make our family pilgrimage to one of the various Disney attractions and have no plans to stop. With that in mind, I’ve developed a survival guide for Disney dads. Here are my tips to get through the week relatively unscathed.

This is the one time you get to let your true morning self out- and embrace it.

At Disney, no one can justifiably give you a hard time waking them up at the crack of dawn. It’s Disney! Get out of bed.

Of course, there is a method to my madness. As I mentioned above, many of the Disney attractions are in warm places. The parks open early, typically around 8 am, but the crowds don’t get too large until around mid-morning. If you plan it right, by the time the rest of the world shows up, you and your family will have already hit some of the more popular rides. Our family operates on this schedule normally. That allows us to grab an early lunch and then make our way back to the hotel to relax during the heat of the day. Your children might give you that look that says, “Maybe my old man isn’t so crazy after all.” More likely, though, they will continue to regard you with general apathy, but at least you know you’re smarter than the average bear.

(Full disclosure- my wife is the one who actually plans our Disney schedules, but that doesn’t stop me from taking at least a little credit.) If you’re like me, you find it difficult to sleep for too long in the mornings. Any sleep past 7 am is wasted time! Of course, your neighbors love it when you mow the lawn before sunrise on Saturday, but hey, if they have a problem with that, THEY can mow your lawn. I’m not spending precious weekend time cutting grass.

Your hair is never growing back- protect your noggin.

 I spend a few small moments looking in the mirror each morning, willing my hair to grow back again. Alas, my luxurious mane is no more. So, I’ve taken to collecting hats. I get a few strange looks from time to time, but that’s better than the alternative; have you ever had a sunburn on the top of your head? Well, take my word for it- it’s miserable.

The downside to all of this is that I usually end up with a circular tan line around my head where my hat rests, but again, that’s still better than the alternative. If you still don't believe me, you can tempt fate, but I promise it won’t end well. Why not lather up in sunscreen, you might ask? Well, there are few things more unsightly than a bald man with white cream all over the top of his head. Just trust me and wear the hat.

On a related note, I happened to marry a wonderful woman who may be even paler than I am. As a result, our children are exceptionally pale. They may actually be ghosts. The jury is still out. So, while you’re in the gift shop picking out your next hat, maybe just grab one for everybody. You don’t want to have a family of lobsters.

It is okay to have fun at Disney, so relax. 

I see a lot of grumpy dads at Disney. I admit that occasionally I am that grumpy dad, but I try to genuinely have fun while I’m there. Yes, it’s true: Disney is a place where you take your children to meet fictional characters, and you tell them with a straight face that they really did meet the actual [name your child’s favorite character here].

It’s also a place where you spend way too much money on souvenirs that you’ll probably throw away later if you don’t lose them in the park first. And that mom behind you, clipping your heels with her stroller because you apparently aren’t moving through the thronging crowds fast enough, yes, she’s there, too.

The reality is, it’s okay to have fun while you’re at Disney. Nobody cares about your pithy observations about loopholes in Disney films, so just chill out. Would you rather be back at the office? You have a whole lifetime to be a working stiff, but you only get a few small moments with your kids. I swear every time I blink my daughter is a year older. Soon she won’t want to ride “It’s a Small World” with me anymore, and then my world will really be upside down. I’ll be that old guy riding it by himself for the nostalgia.

More importantly, everyone else is having fun- why do you need to be the only one who is hating life? Nobody around you knows who you are, so wear your Mickey ears and cheesy family t-shirt with pride. And try not to throw up on the teacups (your child will almost certainly do that, so you’ll need to be ready).

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