Our ‘Parent Fails’ During Megatron’s First Disney World Trip

Baby Bricker’s first visit to Walt Disney World was perfectly imperfect, and this trip report covers the challenges we faced as new parents in taking Megatron to Magic Kingdom (and beyond). This features thoughts on adjusting her sleep schedule, split stays, surfaces, screen time, and doing a Moderate Resort, plus a few photos (mostly unrelated to the commentary).

This is the third part of our Walt Disney World trip report, continuing from the first installment of ‘What Went Right’ during that family trip and the second installment of Walt Disney World vacation highlights. Overall, this was fun and immensely satisfying as we rediscovered Walt Disney World as parents. If you’re looking for the positives from this trip (and the overwhelming majority was amazing), check out those first two parts. They’re the heartwarming stories and photos from Baby Bricker’s first vacation to Walt Disney World.

By its very nature, this post is less endearing and uplifting. In addition to being amazing, this trip was also a huge learning experience and went far from flawlessly as we basically relearned Disney as new parents. But we wouldn’t trade this trip–warts and all–for anything. We love her so much and Walt Disney World so much, and taking our favorite person to one of our favorite places for the first time was a true joy that we’ll cherish forever!

As mentioned before, we’re not posting any embarrassing stories or things that Megatron would be mortified to read when she’s older. We want to share our experiences while also preserving her privacy (hence the fake name and no face photos). That also means that what went wrong with Baby Bricker’s first trip is really what went wrong with the Bricker Parents’ first trip to Walt Disney World.

That makes more sense, anyway. Babies aren’t exactly out there making mistakes left and right while traveling. They are…being babies, doing baby things. Babies are also a fairly known quantity; they’ve been around since at least the mid-1980s and their key features haven’t really changed since then.

It’s really more about how we, as parents, adapted to navigating Walt Disney World now that we’re no longer a childless couple and are instead tasked with caring for the needs of a small but mighty human. That’s probably at least somewhat obvious, but a lot of the emphasis in parenting is placed on the baby (“every baby is different”)–but it’s the parents who have vast amounts of lived and learned experience, and come at this from very different perspectives as a result.

And while the post is titled “parent fails,” that’s honestly too harsh of a term. We didn’t necessarily make any major mistakes–it’s really more about the challenges we faced, what we wish we would’ve known before going, and what we learned along the way. That’s not as concise or catchy of a title, though. Regardless, hopefully other new or future parents can put some of this to use before their first WDW trips with babies, and those of you seasoned parents can relate to our experiences…

Sleep Schedule – Sleeping is probably the biggest issue for any new parents, and we are no different. This trip to Walt Disney World was a perfect storm of sleep schedule issues, though. First, it was our first time traveling with Megatron and we were working against a 3-hour time change. Even the start of Daylight Saving Time back in March had an outsized impact on her sleep schedule, so we were dreading what a 3-hour change would bring.

Second, we had just started transitioning from her bassinet to a crib before the trip. We knew this would be somewhat of an issue as we’ve done hotel stays around Disneyland since January, and those have never been smooth sailing. As it turns out, home court advantage is huge for us. We have a routine at home and a full toolkit, so to speak, to assist with the sleep process.

You don’t fully realize this until you’re on the road and realize that some of those little things you lean on at home aren’t available to you–and also that there are externalities beyond your control. I don’t even mean sleep accessories–helpful habits you develop may not work while traveling. Conversely, noise from neighboring rooms or the hallways can disrupt the sleeping schedule.

Finally, just the differences in the routine can cause changes to the sleep schedule. Megatron loves to sleep in her carrier, pressed up against one of us. She loves to sleep outdoors. Walks around our neighborhood in her carrier are one foolproof (knock on wood) way to soothe her when all else fails.

Well, about 75% of every waking hour at Walt Disney World she spent in that carrier and outdoors. That meant a lot of daytime sleeping–more than normal, including times when she otherwise might’ve been playing and burning off energy. We tried to take plenty of breaks to give her tummy time and playing, but it still wasn’t the same as at home. Even had none of the above issues existed, this last one alone would’ve been incredibly disruptive.

Suffice to say, I have fond memories of doing laps around this fountain in the Magnolia Bend section of Port Orleans Riverside. The carrier and the outdoor air and the soothing sound of the flowing water was the perfect recipe, and she’d be out in seconds. All it took was a few laps to calm her. (Not to make myself sound like the hero–Sarah is the one who does the nighttime heavy lifting, as I’m literally not equipped to address Megatron’s middle of the night needs!)

The problem came with going back into the room, closing the door, and transferring her to the crib all without waking her up. During the day, she’s able to sleep through bright light, loud cheer groups, dance parties, and just about every attraction…but the quiet “click” of a hotel room door instantly puts her at high alert. So I tried to not just get her to fall asleep while making laps of the fountain, but get her to a state of deeper sleep. (Odd as it might sound, but these really are fond memories–I look at the above photo and smile, and that fountain will always hold a special place in my heart now!)

Even once she’s asleep, Sarah and I have both developed this weird state of ‘anxious awareness,’ for lack of a better term. It’s kind of like that scene in Jurassic Park where the velociraptors are in the kitchen–you’re doing your best to remain silent and still, worried that any sudden move and you’ll have to repeat the process all over again. And like a velociraptor encounter, your heart is racing afterwards.

We can both be beyond exhausted, but wound up and not able to fall asleep because of this–or worried that she’s not actually down for the count. On the plus side, that time decompressing is great for looking through photos from that day of our baby’s first trip to Walt Disney World…a good reminder at 2 a.m. that it was all very much worth it and that we wouldn’t trade those sleepless nights for anything!

Split Stays – I regret to inform you that you were all right. Split stays are more difficult with a baby than just two low-maintenance adult travelers. Who could’ve guessed, right?! It actually wasn’t an issue with Megatron–as soon as she gets in the carrier or car seat, she’s cool as a cucumber. She also loves all forms of transportation at Walt Disney World.

The actual process of the transfer also wasn’t all that difficult. Thankfully, it was really smooth on both ends. Our luggage arrived before the scheduled time and we had zero wait to get a crib at the Contemporary. I’d give Walt Disney World a 10/10 score on the whole process, and that’s not always the case with split stays!

So what, exactly, went wrong with the split stay? The biggest issue was packing and unpacking. This has never been a problem for us–it typically takes the two of us 15 minutes from start-to-finish to leave a hotel room. Totally different ball game with a baby. They have more stuff, and it’s just not nearly as easy to get out of the room. It took us over an hour and was more stressful. I can’t even quite articulate the why of that…it just was. We also had less park time per day in the first place, so this just felt like an unnecessary layer of complexity.

Part of it might be a “skill issue,” and we’ll likely (hopefully!) hone our approach and become more efficient with resort room changes with a baby. I am still, perhaps foolishly, convinced that split stays can work just fine for us. We just shouldn’t have done one on the first visit. There were already too many moving pieces and areas for uncertainty. Having the resort and room be a constant would’ve been nice.

It also didn’t help that we psyched ourselves out. Some reader ‘words of warning’ about split stays were fresh in our minds, and we definitely overthought things. We fretted too much about being separated from our luggage, not having access to things until late at night, or issues with the crib at the resort.

As a result, we overpacked our day bag and also brought our pack ‘n’ play from home. With the benefit of hindsight, both of these were poor decisions. And while I can appreciate that preparing for all possible contingencies gives some parents peace of mind, it just isn’t us. 

We’re more roll with the punches kind of people. I like to know what could go wrong, but just to have an idea in mind ahead of time about how to adapt for a scenario…not to be prepared for it. (If that makes sense.) One of the more difficult adjustments in being a new parent is adjusting for this. When it comes to generalized advice, we know what works and doesn’t for us and can weigh it accordingly and apply it to ourselves.

With a baby, we don’t have that. At least, not as much. There’s this pressure not to screw things up, and err on the side of not making any errors. I know this isn’t unique to us, and one of the most helpful pieces of advice that many readers gave us back during the pregnancy was the importance of ignoring advice because nothing is one-size-fits-all. Only you know what’s best for your family. We’re already seeing just how true and important that is…but it’s also easier said than done.

Moderate Room – Traveling with a baby has already given us a whole new appreciation of hotel rooms and also caused us to reevaluate our priorities and preferences. Before, we never cared all that much what type of room we got. A standard room was a standard room–it didn’t matter whether it had two queen beds, one king, a pull-down table/bed combo, etc. We also weren’t that preoccupied with square footage. We traveled light and thus didn’t need that much storage space, and having empty areas of floor also made no difference.

Having a baby means far less flexibility. Now we know that we want one bed for us and free space on the floor for playtime, as well as for a crib or pack ‘n’ play. We learned this the hard way with the Royal Rooms at Port Orleans Riverside. The room itself held a lot of appeal–Megatron loved the light-up headboard–but the layout and space was too cramped. I honestly don’t know how families of 5 do this all in a single room. (I’m guessing/hoping that it gets easier and that babies have unique space needs–we’ve crammed 4 adults into Value Resorts before and don’t remember space being this tight!)

Honestly, we would’ve been better off at a Value Resort. The new style with the second bed folding up into the table opens up floor space. I think that would’ve been more practical for our purposes, and we’ll probably do that next time over standard rooms at a Moderate. The DVC style rooms really seem ideal–even just the studio. I can understand now why so many parents praise the 1-bedroom layout and get addicted to adding on points!

Surfaces – We’ve read plenty about mouthing, but like so many baby things, I think it’s impossible to fully appreciate the extent to which it happens until you experience it firsthand. Again, not unique to us, but I feel like the baby literature folks could put this in blunter terms: infants are basically like a cross between goats and Slimer from Ghostbusters, and their mouths have a gravitational pull on any object in their vicinity.

Obviously, this is something we experience at home…and everywhere…and wasn’t unique to Walt Disney World. The unique part was my sudden awareness of just how many easily accessible and lickable things are all over Walt Disney World. Handrails on buses and monorails, lap bars on rides, high chairs and table cloths, stanchions, literally the entire queue in the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh–the list goes on and on. We were on constant guard to keep things from getting licked.

Unlike other things on this list that I feel like are going to get better as we gain experience, I’m guessing this only gets worse. If Megatron managed to almost (our success rate at stopping her was 100% outside of restaurants!) get so many things in her mouth with limited mobility, I can only imagine she’s going to have far more success in the coming months and years as her skills improve.

The scientists say this is actually good–that mouthing functions to accurately calibrate the developing immune system and facilitate antibody production…but did those scientists study the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh queue?!? I feel like that’s ground zero for new diseases.

Screen Time – In family updates over the holiday season, we mentioned how the witching hour was tough early on. During one of these long evenings, I inadvertently discovered the perfect solution to this. Megatron was in her carrier and I was bouncing around, as one does, to rock her to sleep. To keep myself calm and cool, I put on the cathartic visuals of the NHL. Shortly thereafter, she calmed completely. I had done a great job! 

I had not done a great job. As it turned out, she had caught a glimpse of the cool glow of the television, and was entranced by the bright lights and high-contrast of hockey. I was mortified. We had been attempting to avoid all screen time until she’s 18 months old, and here I had just let her watch hockey at like 3 months old. And it wasn’t even a good game!

In the months since, we’ve come to embrace a more nuanced view. “Hey Bear” sensory videos are our break glass in case of emergency option, and a couple minutes of those can quickly calm her. (Side note: Disney needs to acquire the theme park rights to Avocadosaurus ASAP.) I’m also mesmerized by them. While we defer to experts, they also say to always eat your steak well-done. In a real world scenario, it seems better to have a baby who has been quickly soothed by a screen than one who is agitated indefinitely.

Anyway, there are a surprising amount of screens at Walt Disney World. I had never thought about this–after all, Universal has the reputation for an over reliance on screens. They’re all over resorts, restaurants, and even attractions. For example, did you know Journey into Imagination not only has several screen-based scenes, but also screens throughout the queue? Well, it does…and that’s probably a part of why it was so captivating for Megatron!

In hindsight, that hockey mistake might’ve been a blessing in disguise. It got my screen freakout out of my system then, read scientific studies about detrimental effects, and had a more relaxed reaction to the screens at Walt Disney World as a result. We still made a point to not take her on any screen-based rides, but a few fleeting screens likely isn’t the end of the world. But I guess if she doesn’t get into MIT, now we’ll know why.

Okay, I’m going to cut this short here. This was originally intended to be a single post, but in typical fashion, I got carried away and ended up writing nearly 5,000 words…and still had a few more things to say. So we’re going to split it into two posts, like Avengers: Infinity War (but not nearly as good). I think it actually works better this way, as our “parenting fails” are distinct from things that just happened to go wrong for reasons beyond our control. Anyway, we’ll be back with the final installment very soon–I’m ready to wrap this up to focus on fewer firsthand accounts and more substantive planning resources.

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

Thoughts on our challenges we faced and things we learned during Baby Bricker’s first trip to Walt Disney World? 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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