We’re already starting to plan ahead for Megatron by building her bucket list for Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and beyond. Making some conservative assumptions about quality of life in the future, she should have roughly 347 years to accomplish all of this (part with her mind uploaded to a robot, naturally).
Given that, we’re going to narrow the scope just a little bit and treat this more like a combined bucket list + 2024 New Year’s Resolutions + Disney rite-of-passage checklist. In other words, these are our goals for Baby Bricker in 2024 and probably beyond, rather than a traditional bucket list. That wouldn’t really make sense for an infant, given the origin of the term.
In the spirit of our past bucket lists for Disney, we’re going to include goals ranging from easily accomplishable to relatively unattainable. Part of that’s because we’ve learned to aim high and try to make our dreams a reality. It’s pretty wild to look back at our first Disney Bucket List from 2012. At that time, we had only ever visited Walt Disney World and Disneyland.
Internationational travel felt out of reach; the kind of thing reserved for only fancy businesspeople and the McCallister family. So our “Very Ambitious” and “Relatively Unattainable” categories contained doing Tokyo Disney Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and opening day at Shanghai Disneyland.
One year later, we had knocked out all of the operational international parks. A few years after that, we were on hand for Shanghai Disneyland’s opening day. Sarah is very assiduous and I’m super stubborn (two words that essentially mean the same thing, but with different connotations). Over the years, we’ve found that if we set goals for ourselves that are within our control, we typically do what’s necessary to accomplish them.
It’s with that same dogged determination that we’re making this list, which could end up getting us into “trouble” because Megatron may have other goals in mind…or something like that. (More accurately, we may not have realistic expectations for traveling with an infant.) We could find that the practical realities of a baby may butt up against our cabin fever and desire to get back out on the road after a very light travel year.
Before we get going, it should go without saying–but we’ll say it anyway–that we have been incredibly fortunate in our experiences at the Disney Parks. We are well aware of the fact that for most Americans, a vacation to Walt Disney World or Disneyland is a once-in-a-lifetime experience–itself a bucket list item. There’s truly no need to pile more on top of that, as the trip alone is truly magical–and something the vast majority of people will never experience, period.
We don’t want to diminish that, and do want to acknowledge that we’re incredibly grateful for the experiences we’ve had. We’ve been able to see and do so much in the last decade, and now get to visit and revisit places anew with our baby. Nobody’s life is perfect, but we truly feel like the luckiest and most blessed people–and would feel that way even if we were locked at home all year with Megatron!
Hopefully our dreams listed in this post don’t come across as entitled Disney fans unappreciative of what we already have. We are well aware that we’re very fortunate for all we’ve been able to do; it’s a privilege that we do not take lightly. We hope this post is taken in the ‘for fun‘ manner that’s intended.
Anyway, on with our Baby Bricker Disney Bucket List slash Infant Travel Goals slash New Year’s Resolutions for 2024 and Beyond…
Baby’s First Ride – We really wanted Megatron’s first ride to be “it’s a small world” holiday as she’s absolutely enamored with the lights on the exterior, and watching those has become our #1 thing to do at Disney these days. (I’m not complaining!) Part of that is because we’re trying to err on the side of caution by avoiding prolonged indoor activities for Megatron’s first ~6 months and during the peak of respiratory illnesses season, which means no rides or restaurants.
After seeing her react to those lights on the exterior of “it’s a small world” holiday, we’ve been trying to think of a way to do the attraction while mitigating risk. We could be the first people of the day and have a boat to ourselves by showing up at rope drop or go at the very end of the night. Thus far, neither of those things have happened–and realistically, probably won’t.
As such, we’re still unsure of what her first ride will be. The regular version of “it’s a small world” is the leading candidate, and feels like a good symbolic choice for a child. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is also up there. Regardless of what her first ride is, there’s only one pick for first show (and first UNESCO World Heritage Site): Country Bear Jamboree.
Baby’s First Hotel Stay – We’re hotel people, so this is a big one for us. In addition to that, sleeping outside the familiarity of our bedroom for the first time feels like both a major milestone and a terrifying prospect–like tightrope walking without a harness. (Okay, slight hyperbole!)
Because her first stay wouldn’t be exciting enough on its own, we’ve also opted to add to the intrigue by booking the smallest hotel room possible. Literally. We’re doing the Duo Studio at the Villas at Disneyland Hotel. (For those unfamiliar with it, this is comparable to the tiny Tower Studio at Disney’s Riviera Resort.)
Baby’s First Flight – This is another milestone that I’m very ready to cross off the list. Part of this is because I’ve only flown alone for the last 13 months, and I’m getting really sick of it. (I don’t know how business travelers do it.)
The other part is because I really want to see how she handles flying. As discussed below, I’m really nervous about this and have been obsessing over it. I’m not so worried about the first domestic flight–we’ll fly Southwest, so the stakes are low. I just want it to be done with so I can see how it goes and have more clarity.
Baby’s First Haircut – My grandpa was a barber, so when we first daydreamed about having kids, part of their firsts involved him cutting their hair–a family tradition. Sadly, he passed a few years ago so that can’t happen for Megatron.
While that exact tradition can’t live on, the first haircut itself still has immense importance. It’s a chance to recognize a milestone for her, pay tribute to him, and carry on the tradition in a different manner.
Baby’s First Character Meal – When I asked for Sarah’s input on this list, literally half of her suggestions were character dining experiences. Choosing the “right” one for Megatron’s first character meal is very important to Sarah, but she hasn’t yet settled on what that will be. Here are the contenders, all picked by Sarah:
Topolino’s Terrace Breakfast
Cape May Cafe
Topolino’s Terrace is Sarah’s favorite character meal and features Mickey & Minnie in iconic looks. Megatron is already part of Pooh’s Posse, so Crystal Palace is another logical choice. We have a lot of sentimentality towards Cape May Cafe and it’s another great costume spot, so that’s in the running. Goofy’s Kitchen is another iconic (and convenient) one.
Baby’s First Early Entry – “I need to do it to prove the haters wrong!” is a common expression in our household when a great goal comes to mind. It’s said by me to Sarah, who responds with some variation of, “I didn’t say you couldn’t do that, I said it wasn’t a smart idea.” (Perhaps it’s one of those you have to be there type of things.) She is almost always right, of course. I do the thing, and it turns out to have been a dumb idea.
One recent example of this was my excellent idea to have Megatron’s first Magic Kingdom Early Entry be at 7:30 am, with me and her setting out to accomplish both Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight. There are a few reasons why this is probably is not-so-smart, but there’s one why it’s downright impossible unless she has a nicegrowth spurt in 2024. Fingers crossed.
Even though that particular plan has been (mostly) ruled out, doing Early Entry with Megatron at all 4 parks is oddly important to me. I want her to have street cred as a serious rope dropper. Yes, I really am an endless fount of bad ideas, with a specialty in unimpressive accomplishments!
First Visit to EPCOT – I swear this isn’t just a list of “firsts,” although those are a lot of the experiences we’re really excited for! EPCOT specifically is really, really important. For as much as I complain about it, that’s coming from a place of love–I want the park to be the best version of itself. (See Why We Can’t Let EPCOT Go.)
More than anything else in my life, EPCOT shaped who I am today. That might sound corny and cliche, but it’s true. As a child, the park sparked my imagination. Figment and Dreamfinder inspired me, fostered my creativity, and so much more. Other pavilions piqued my curiosity about manatees, dinosaurs, and more. I didn’t care much for school, but EPCOT made me excited to learn (okay, it tricked me into learning.)
As adults, World Showcase expanded our horizons. My worldview was embarrassingly Amerocentric well into my 20s. International travel was not something I had done or had much interest in doing–I didn’t have a passport until 2012. World Showcase was a catalyst for this, and it fueled a tremendous amount of personal growth. Suffice to say, EPCOT has changed our lives for the better.
Every parent wants better for their kids, and for us, a big part of this is exposing Megatron to different cultures and customs early. Interacting with Cast Members in World Showcase, introducing her to different cuisines, and doing everything possible to show her how both big and small the world really is.
I highly doubt Future World will do for her what it did for me–or a better job than the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and other real-world spots we plan on visiting–but I’m still very excited for her to meet Figment. And ride the ride, I guess. Living with the Land and the Living Seas pavilion are also high our our list.
4 Parks in 1 Day – Honestly, I’m not 100% sure whether this is something we’ve ever done. If we did it as a challenge or concerted effort, it must’ve been a while ago and wasn’t particularly memorable, as I’ve somehow forgotten. More likely, we did it by accident. Back in the halcyon days of late 2019 when Extra, Extra Magic Hours were a thing, we were going hard and enjoying the low crowds. I think there’s a decent chance it happened then, but inadvertently. (The months leading up to March 2020 are now a bit of a blur!)
In any case, we really want to do it (again?) with Megatron. Not just to prove the haters wrong, but to see if it can be done with an infant and what we can actually accomplish as part of a challenge with baby. As a future fan herself (fingers crossed), I also think this will be cool bragging rights someday with her friends. “Have you ever done the 4-parks, 1-day challenge?” “Pffft, I’ve been doing that since before I turned one!”
Dine at More Character Meals – Probably not a surprise to see this make the list given Sarah’s suggestions revolved around character dining. But actually, that’s not the sole motivation for this entry.
It’s been at least 4 years since we’ve done most Walt Disney World and Disneyland character meals. Even shortly before the closure, we had been waiting to revisit some of them until we had a baby–it just made sense. Then March 2020 happened and…I don’t have to spell out why we didn’t/couldn’t do character meals the next two years.
In any case, one of our big Disney New Year’s Resolutions for the last 2 years has been to start revisiting the character meals. With almost all of these experiences finally back to normal, 2023 was going to be the year when we finally buckled down and did them again as a couple. Once again, we didn’t–but couldn’t be more pleased by the reason why this time! 2024 is finally, for real, going to be our year.
Maximize the Disney Dining Plan – This sort of goes hand-in-hand with the above. The last time Sarah and I did the Disney Dining Plan was March 2020, right when the then-new, now-defunct Disney Dining Plan Plus came out. It was a lot of fun at the time to do a bunch of character meals back-to-back, but now it’s morphed into a memory we associate with COVID. Not so fun.
Doing another round of DDP maximization gives us a chance to paint over that old memory, forces us to be serious about ADRs, and means a lot of character meals again. One stone, multiple birds.
Our Favorite Week as a Family – As intimated above and elsewhere, all of my trips this year have been solo. I used to actually enjoy trips by myself when they were infrequent and a change of pace, but the novelty wore off long ago and I’ve come to loathe it. (No disrespect to the single riders out there–to each their own!)
For two consecutive years, we haven’t been able to do our favorite week of the year at Walt Disney World together. It didn’t seem like a big deal last year–we had a scheduling conflict and it arguably made more sense as we could cover more ground and dates, while we took turns keeping Yossarian the Cat and Walter Dogsney company. Little did we know at the time that it would become a trend lasting until the following Christmas.
Suffice to say, we are beyond ready to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party as a family. To see Candlelight Processional together (probably from outside the amphitheater, but it still counts). To interact with the Merry Menagerie. To attend Jollywood…eh, maybe we’ll give that one a pass! 😉
Very Merrytime Cruise – We previously did one of the Christmas sailings aboard Disney Cruise Line in late 2019, and I was a bit underwhelmed at the time. (See our Very Merrytime Christmas Cruise Review.) Time has been much kinder to those memories, and I now think I was way too harsh. Funny how that works.
In reviewing all of Sarah’s photos and hearing what she had to say about Halloween on the High Seas last year, it made me eager to give the Very Merrytime cruise a second chance. So, we were going to do precisely that for Christmas 2024.
We’re also just generally more excited for cruising with Megatron. By all accounts, it’s the easy vacation with a small child, and I’m going to have to “learn” how to slow down. If anything, that makes me feel vindicated by my past reluctance to cruising–there are still a ton of itineraries we haven’t done and will get to experience as a family!
Cinderella Castle Dream Lights – The ball is in your court, Disney. Do the right thing, bring back the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights, and win over the hearts and minds of disgruntled fans. And the eyes of our daughter, who is absolutely transfixed by Christmas lights. (I’m honestly not sure if we can ethically take down our Christmas tree at home next week!)
There’s a version of this list that’s entirely Christmas. It’s our favorite time of the year at Walt Disney World and is always on our minds. But nothing else compares with the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights, though. As cheesy as it sounds, there’s something truly optimism-inducing and awe-inspiring about Magic Kingdom’s icon being illuminated in thousands of brilliant lights. I really, really hope we get a chance to spend a chilly late night on Main Street as the crowd clears out, the glow of Cinderella Castle is reflected in the pavement, and the cheery background music sets a festive mood.
Disneyland & Walt Disney World in the Same Day – This is from our original Disney bucket list, and we still somehow haven’t done it. At the time, this was our goal while living in Indiana. We’ve since resided in both California and Florida, but still haven’t managed the feat.
Doing this feels like yet another opportunity to prove the haters wrong (“who is even saying you can’t do that?!” ~Sarah), embracing our inner dorkiness and getting photos of us holding up the day’s issues of the Orlando Sentinel and Los Angeles Times in front of Cinderella Castle and Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Traveling Outside Disney – World Showcase definitely opened my eyes to the world, but I don’t want to diminish what my parents did. My family traveled a lot when I was young, and I’m incredibly thankful to my mom and dad for taking me camping, traveling to National Parks, and visiting so many states–from West Virginia to Washington. That also shaped me.
We want to do the same for Megatron. America is an amazing and beautiful place, and there are wonderful people, cultures, and sites within our 50 states–every single one of which has something incredible to offer. It worries us that so many young people and the terminally online don’t recognize this, so we want to do everything in our power to show our daughter that America is one of the greatest places in the world. To have her see that we’re more alike than we are different, and to instill in her a sense of inveterate optimism early-on.
Disney in the Snow – This has made every single incarnation of our Disney Bucket Lists or New Year’s Resolutions–it’s our white whale. I grew up in the snow belt of Michigan, and was exposed to the “Lake Effect Snow Machine” throughout my childhood. That started a lifelong love of snow, and there are few things I find to be more beautiful than a fresh layer of powder blanketing the trees. Of course, California and Florida are out when it comes to significant snow accumulation.
Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland are different stories, and it seems to snow about once per year (give or take) in each. A couple of years ago, we spent much of the winter in Japan, but had no such luck with snow. We’ll either have to do that again (which seems unlikely) or get lucky with timing a trip. Cold weather without snow is no fun, so the latter is a pretty big gamble.
Baby’s First International Flight – I am terrified for this. I’ve lost count of how many articles I’ve read about flying internationally with a baby. The success stories. The horror stories. (If anyone would like to share their experiences–good or bad–in the comments, I’d love to read them!) I’m preoccupied about this to the point that I’m having dreams about it.
We’ve talked to friends about flying internationally with a baby, and almost all of them have allayed our fears and sometimes-enthusiastically recommended traveling as close to the 6-month mark as possible. They’ve described this as the “sweet spot” before the baby is really mobile and active, but after they start sleeping more and are less fussy.
Rationally, this makes complete sense and is very much our plan. But right now we’re in the eye of the storm, so to speak, and it’s hard to envision a time when the dreaded witching hour isn’t a thing. We’ve gotten pretty good at soothing, but that requires moving around (often outdoors!) with the baby carrier, which won’t always be possible on a plane.
We also are incredibly cognizant and apprehensive of being “those people” who are a burden, in the way, annoying, etc. (I think maybe this is a Midwestern thing?) Again, rationally we know that everyone was a baby and people need to get places regardless of age. It’s just a fact of life. And we ourselves have never been annoyed by crying babies on planes, so there’s no hypocrisy guilt…but there’s still a very big mental barrier.
But we’re going to do it, and I already know it’s going to be the most satisfying feeling ever once that plane lands (hopefully not for an unplanned stop to kick us off!). I’ll be kissing the ground and high-kicking the air once we cross this off Baby’s Bucket List!
Opening Day at Fantasy Springs – That first international flight is how we get to Japan for the opening of Fantasy Springs at Tokyo DisneySea, which we’ve been anxiously awaiting since watching its construction from our hotel room at Christmas 2019. Every day during that visit while walking in front of the site access point to the monorail station, Sarah would say ‘ohayou gozaimasu‘ to the construction worker on guard, who would enthusiastically (shockingly so!) say the same in response to her.
It’s no secret that we love Japan and Tokyo Disney Resort and would want to take Megatron regardless. But this in particular feels like a full circle opportunity, closing one chapter and starting another. It’s difficult to fully articulate, but the point is that this is meaningful for both the substance of the thing (we’re really excited for Fantasy Springs!) and the symbolism of it.
Even if we’re somehow not even able to get into the new land or do a single attraction, opening day is still something we very much want to be there to experience. That may not make sense, but it’s nevertheless the #1 entry on our Baby Bricker Bucket List in terms of importance.
It’s been fun crossing items off of our Disney bucket list over the course of the last decade-plus, and helped keep the parks fresh for us even after numerous visits. There’s always something we haven’t done, whether it’s a new seasonal event, restaurant, etc., to help keep things fresh. With Baby Bricker yet to experience so many firsts, it feels like we’re starting over from square one with a blank slate and fresh list. We absolutely cannot wait.
What do you think of our Baby Bricker Disney Bucket List slash Infant Travel Goals slash New Year’s Resolutions for 2024 and Beyond? Any other meaningful milestones you can think of for an infant or toddler at Disney that we should add to the list? Do you agree or disagree with our picks? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!