Baby Bricker’s First Trip to Disney World: Planning & Pre-Report

It’s crazy how some things in life can come full circle. The last time I wrote a pre-trip report for Walt Disney World, this blog was not yet even a twinkle in our eyes. Such a ‘post’ would’ve come via Flickr and forums, to satiate our own excitement and solicit feedback on Advance Dining Reservations and our daily itineraries for the parks.

Fast-forward over 15 years, and we’re back at it. Like those, this pre-trip report is mostly a matter of having an outlet for our excitement and way to count down the days. I cannot express the emotions we’re feeling for Megatron’s first visit to Walt Disney World. It’s the most or second-most excited I’ve been for a Walt Disney World vacation, right up there with our honeymoon or November 2007 trip.

I had been anxiously-awaiting that Christmas 2007 trip for several months, as it’s when I planned on proposing to Sarah. I was a ball of nerves, knowing that–for better or worse–that trip was going to change the trajectory of my life. (Spoiler: it turned out to be for better!) While I don’t have the same nagging fear of rejection–even if there is a lot riding on Megatron’s first Figment meet & greet–it is a similar flurry of feelings. But mostly just unbridled enthusiasm and excitement, as we open the next chapter of our family vacations to Walt Disney World!

We haven’t really shared any family updates since Christmas, save for a few offhand mentions in other posts, but we’ve been having a fantastic time visiting Disneyland in the last couple of months. After an incredible first visit for Christmas, Megatron’s next half-dozen or so days at Disneyland were fairly uneventful. Before we got inside either park, she was always asleep. We have a lot of pictures with characters pretending to sleep or doing the “shhh” signal. The only two times she was awake, she’s making (for lack of better term) a WTF face at the characters.

Then came the visit that was like a revelation. Not only did Megatron meet a character while wide awake, but she had her mind blown (figuratively) by the experience. She also debuted a new feature that we’ve come to call “Dolphin Mode.” (Her best mode.) During Dolphin Mode, her eyes get really wide and filled with happiness as she flaps around her arms and legs. She makes a high-pitched chirping noise and tries to, I guess, echolocate the character. It is literally the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen, and watching the videos we have of her doing this can instantly fill me with joy no matter my mood. If they were VHS tapes, I would’ve worn them out by now.

It feels like we’re only just starting to scratch the surface of watching her grow and change with Disney, and we couldn’t possibly be more excited. We are very much looking forward to taking her “home” to Walt Disney World, and experiencing those parks for the first time through her eyes.

And while it wouldn’t sting quite as much as a rejected proposal, there’s a lot riding on that first Figment meet & greet. Some adorable echolocation action would probably break me, whereas a WTF face would not. (I guess we need her to meet Figment before she rides Journey into Imagination in its current state. So far she only knows the character and ride through the excellent Figment Little Golden Book, which is read to her at least once per day.)

Anyway, on with the pre-trip report and planning for Megatron’s first trip to Walt Disney World…

I’ll start with where we started, which was choosing dates. We deliberated long and hard over when to make Megatron’s first trip to Walt Disney World, and ended up changing our travel dates a couple of times. In a perfect world, we would’ve gone in January or February, during one of the ‘valleys’ between holiday long weekends and sporting events. But we’ve been trying to err on the side of caution and mitigating risk by avoiding prolonged indoor activities during the peak of respiratory illnesses season. So that was never really a serious contender. Next year, though!

Instead, our preliminary plan was to target the sweet spot before Spring Break kicked into high gear. The very first week of March would’ve been ideal, but that just seemed too early as we were still in the midst of midnight feedings and witching hour. Then came a brief window where we felt like we were on top of the world, Parenting Pros who could travel anywhere. At this point, mid-March looked like a good option.

Right as we began firming up plans, something called “sleep regression” started. I had heard tall tales of this in the ‘How to Be Parents’ books we read, and perhaps underestimated it. When you’re feeling like Ishmael after slaying Moby Dick (a weird way to word “getting a few weeks of near-normal sleep,” but that was our white whale), you maybe develop a bit of overconfidence? Suffice to say, sleep regression is a thing and it very much spooked us. No longer Parenting Pros, we instead felt like we needed to pick up Parenting for Dummies.

As the quality of the writing here over the last few months probably demonstrates, I’m sleep deprived and not completely coherent. (Or maybe it’s always been that way.) Whatever I am, double or triple that for Sarah. I honestly do not know how she gets through the day. The idea of having to navigate Walt Disney World as zombies, potentially talking to people and who knows what else–all while not having the home court advantage and fighting a 3-hour time change–was just a lot. 

Not that we’re complaining. It’s been a wild ride so far, but an amazing one. We’ve never been so happy to be so tired. Each day, her personality starts to crystalize a little more. She reminds me of Sarah when giving me a “sympathy smile” in response to a hilarious joke I tell her. She furrows her brow when we introduce her to a new not-good food. Conversely, her face lit up when we gave her avocado for the first time last night. We got so excited when she rolled over for the first time that she got excited in response. She feeds off our energy, we feed off hers–tired or not.

All a long-winded way of saying that we delayed Megatron’s first trip to Walt Disney World by over a month. We’re now going in the second half of April, hopefully after Spring Break season fully finishes. Aside from sleep, these dates were also more desirable from the perspective of pricing on pretty much everything (airfare, hotels, etc). So that certainly made the decision easier.

We considered waiting until even later in shoulder season, pushing off until May 2024 in the (unlikely) hope of previews for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. Dates we considered then also would’ve had even lower prices–not as much as going from mid-March to mid-to-late April, but still better. Another big point in favor of May was that when we started making reservations, sleep regression was still in high-gear, so going sooner felt like a major leap of faith. Nothing like a slight sense of dread before a trip!

The case against May was weather. We’ve developed divergent views on this, as I suspect Sarah has been away from Florida for so long that she’s begun to forget–or mentally block out–how hot and humid it gets. Meanwhile, I’m practically scarred from the triple-digit ‘feels like’ temperatures of last summer and early fall.

There’s also the fact that we’ve become avid babywearers. That works wonderfully where we live and at Disneyland; it’s been cold or at least comfortable since Megatron’s arrival. Walt Disney World seems like it’s going to be a whole different babywearing ballgame. Even April is playing with fire when it comes to WDW weather; May is juggling incendiary grenades.

Speaking of weather, it’s one reason we’ve opted to rent a stroller rather than bring our own or rely solely on babywearing. While we do it all the time at Disneyland and at home, opting only to babywear at Walt Disney World seems like walking a tightrope without a safety net. It’s presumably going to be hotter and is also a longer timeframe. It’s one thing to babywear for 4-5 hours once per week at Disneyland, another entirely to double that amount of time for a full week.

As for renting a stroller, this honestly wasn’t even on our radar until Sarah talked to some of her friends. Many of them rent strollers, as opposed to taking their own, due to the rain and other factors. Obviously, rain covers exist. So we could just use that. But I’ve funkified enough pairs of shoes in the Florida monsoons to know that doesn’t always work out as planned. Not to compare our stroller to one of my nasty shoes, but I’d prefer to keep our stroller nice for as long as possible–especially since we have other trips on the horizon.

Another thing we (over)thought long and hard about was flight scenarios. Specifically, 3 vs. 2 seats and whether to do nonstop flights. These deliberations alone could be a full post–and probably will at some point, since we have every “type” of flight combo booked for future trips.

After originally only booking 2 seats in bulkhead on nonstop routes, we spooked ourselves into buying a third. Neither of us love this, but it’s a long flight and we have a lot of fear of the unknown. Plus, the post-spring break airfare was a lot more manageable–to the point that 3 seats in late April cost less than 2 in mid-March. (As of right now, several rows around us are empty…it’s going to be a bit bittersweet if they stay that way and we could’ve gotten that extra seat for free.)

The next component was choosing hotels. We debated a lot of options here, with the most consideration given to the Crescent Lake and monorail resorts. We briefly thought about doing a serious ‘TREAT YO SELF’ vacation given all of the savings last year from cancelled trips and me traveling solo to Walt Disney World and almost always booking the cheapest options. (Accordingly, the two resorts I ruled out were All Star Sports and Coronado Springs. I’ve seen enough A.S.S. in the last year for a lifetime.)

We priced out the Garden Cottages at Boardwalk and Club Level at a few resorts…and very quickly ruled all of that out. After developing a taste for the cheaper stuff over the year, that was a bit much of a splurge. Definitely want to do both now that we have a baby, but we’ll wait until the rate charts are even more favorable during the off-season.

Still, we landed on a split stay between a Royal Room at Port Orleans Riverside and the Garden Wing at the Contemporary. Not exactly bargain basement resorts! We’re a bit weary about this after all of the recent reader comments about the challenges of changing resorts with babies, but on the plus side, it gives us a chance to field test our own advice under changed life circumstances.

We’re really looking forward to that, and both resorts. It’s been a while since we’ve stayed at Riverside, so we’re due for a return. Sarah also pointed out it was where we stayed when we got engaged, so it feels like a bit of a full circle experience. (Prices have gone up slightly since then!)

Contemporary was our pick for a number of reasons, the first and foremost being that we wanted breakfast at Chef Mickey’s to be Megatron’s first character dining experience. These firsts are very important to us, and a big part of that is watching her grow up at Walt Disney World. So we can have memories and photos of her as a baby, toddler, preschooler, etc., all in the same place.

Consequently, we want to choose firsts that are meaningful, iconic and (hopefully) enduring. While Chef Mickey’s is not our favorite character meal at Walt Disney World, we actually do enjoy breakfast there (it’s dinner that was on our “never again” list…but we will be doing it again, so scratch that, I guess).

Regardless, we figured Chef Mickey’s is more likely to be around in 20 years than the current incarnations of Cape May Cafe, Topolino’s Terrace Crystal Palace, or (hopefully) 1900 Park Fare. The experience at Chef Mickey’s is just so iconic and memorable that it’s hard to imagine it ever changing. Then again, I would’ve said the same thing about the name “FastPass” a few years ago, yet here we are. So who knows. Maybe the new “wishers” meal at 1900 Park Fare will outlast ’em all.

Speaking of which, 1900 Park Fare was the next character meal we booked. No interesting explanation for this one, it’s very much for the blog. Even as we’re taking Baby Bricker’s first family vacation, we will not forsake our solemn obligation as Disney bloggers. We’ve already sat Megatron down and explained to her that the camera always eats first. To prepare her to take over the family business, her first high chair is actually a trash can. (Not really, but that does feel like a missed opportunity.)

It’s the other ADRs where we’re struggling. We currently have Garden Grill booked for the day of our resort change, but we’d prefer to do breakfast at Crystal Palace. The issue is that we waited too long, later seatings weren’t available, and we’re doubtful about our ability to get out the door for an ADR before 10 am. We’ve also noticed a lot of Walk-Up Waitlist availability for Crystal Palace in the last couple of months; we’re going when it’s even less busy, so we think winging it might be the pragmatic course of action.

Story Book Dining at Artist Point is another option about which we’re on the fence. ADRs at this point are a no-go, and we’re not sure that we’d want them, anyway. But I think we can probably score day-before or even same-day reservations for Artist Point, should Megatron be game for it.

This lack of ADRs and ‘wait and see’ approach is purposeful. One of our goals has been to avoid overplanning, as we don’t want to set expectations at an unrealistic level. We’ve already seen (many times) that the best laid plans often go awry. That’s just true in general, but especially so with a baby. There’s also the reality that we’ve done a grand total of 4 sit-down meals in the Megatron era.

She’s done very well, but all of those meals have also been outdoors with pretty much no one around. (For whatever reason, she loves being outdoors.) How she’ll react to eating indoors in a crowded and chaotic dining room remains to be seen. Point being, we don’t want to make and get excited about a half-dozen ADRs, only to have the first meal be a nuclear meltdown that annihilates the plan.

Which leads to another point. We’d like to do an actual trip report for Baby Bricker’s first visit to Walt Disney World, but that may not happen or may occur in condensed ‘highlights’ form. As we’ve mentioned a few times before (and probably will again since not everyone reads every post and this is understandably an area of confusion), we want to be conscientious about her privacy and judicious about what we share. That’s why we’re calling her Megatron (not her real name, sadly) or posting full-on photos of her face.

That means not writing anything that Megatron would be mortified to read later in life. I remember being embarrassed when my mom told certain stories about when I was a baby…and that was just to close friends, not immortalized on the internet. We keep reading horror stories about ‘social media kids’ growing up and hating their parents. We obviously don’t want to do that, or anything even approaching it. We love her so, so much and are terrified of doing anything that could jeopardize our relationship with her later in life.

It’s also easy to see how it happens. You take an adorable video of your daughter in Dolphin Mode when meeting Goofy, and there’s a pull to share that with the world! But then I think back to those horror stories–and I also believe that there’s going to be a “correction” when it comes to privacy, and young people valuing it more in the future. Everyone has to determine what’s the right level of sharing their family’s lives (we aren’t judging anyone else), but the line we’ve drawn is privacy and embarrassment.

Then there’s also a tension if I write a trip report, but leave out major chunks of the day or play loose with things to stay on the right side of those lines. We pride ourselves in not pulling punches with the good, bad and ugly of Walt Disney World–so I don’t want to present a ‘carefully curated’ trip that omits the bad/ugly and pretends we’re perfect. We don’t want to misrepresent our lives that way, as it’s no one’s reality.

Given all of that, it might be better to take what we learn from this (and other) trips and, rather than writing about it in narrative form, to distill it into tips & tricks and recommendations of that nature. Just kind of thinking aloud, and giving a bit of context into our thought process.

Obviously, this doesn’t cover the entirety of Baby Bricker’s first trip to Walt Disney World. There actually is still a lot we haven’t determined, both so we can savor spontaneity–not everything should be scripted–and because we’re still unsure of some things.

Speaking of scripted, that brings us to the final point of this post, which is to flip the script and solicit reader feedback. Usually we share our planning advice with you, but this time, we want you to share your expertise and experience with us. Not necessarily for first ride or park or that type of thing. I don’t want to pretend this is up for a ‘vote’ when that really isn’t the case. (C’mon, does anyone really believe that EPCOT and Journey into Imagination aren’t going to win out for first park/attraction? Especially with Country Bear Jamboree currently closed?!?!)

Truthfully, I don’t know what type of advice we’re hoping to receive. What I do know is that there’s a lot that we don’t even know that we don’t know about visiting Walt Disney World with kids. The amount of random knowledge gaps we’ve already discovered at Disneyland have been surprising, and it’s usually the case that you can multiply by five for the complexities of Walt Disney World. The advice to rent a stroller due to weather, for example, was something that never crossed my mind. Another occurred when readers told us about the delay in receiving a pack ‘n’ play when doing split stays.

Suffice to say, we’re incredibly excited (and a tad bit anxious, if we’re being honest) about Megatron’s first trip to Walt Disney World. This feels like our first trip all over again, which is a ‘magic’ that I never thought we’d be able to recapture. We know it’s not all going to go according to plan, which is why we’re incorporating going off-script into the plan itself. No matter what happens or doesn’t, we’re overjoyed at the experience we’re about to have…and hope to share parts of it with you!

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Any random recommendations for Baby Bricker’s first trip to Walt Disney World? Thoughts on choices for character meals or anything else? Anything else you’re interested in reading about with regard to Megatron, babies in the parks, etc? Anecdotes of your own about first visits to the Disney parks? Any other questions? Hearing your feedback is always appreciated, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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