Lifestyle,  Motherhood

The Disney Debate: World vs Land & Everything In-between

My family has been fortunate enough to be able experience the Happiest Places on Earth, Disney World AND Disneyland, in the last 8 months. Having these trips this close together has not only filled my opinion bucket on traveling with young kids and a big family (that Blog post needs a little more time to write…) but it has also given me a fresh perspective on all things Mickey Mouse. 

I do need to preface my experience with the fact that the basis of each trip was very different. When we took to Florida, the trip was a gift from my Mom. It was a once in a lifetime vacation: my Mom, oldest brother, brother plus his wife and three young kids, my aunt, my adult cousin, and my family of six, of course. Fifteen people, which created so many core memories that the 800 photos doesn’t even come close to doing the week justice. 

Our most recent travels to California were to visit my in-law’s at their place in Palm Springs. Since we were already flying all that way and Anaheim is just a two hour drive from our home base, we decided to spend a couple days with Mickey. Although a smaller group than our last trip, we still managed to rack up the head count to seven: Josh and myself, the four kids (8, 6, 5 and 3) and our babysitter turned family member, who accompanied us on the whole trip. 

Both Disney World and Disneyland are places equally destined for magic, but there are enough differences between the two that I do prefer one over another. Hold on tight for that comparison because first I want to talk about traveling to Disney in the most general sense. Disney is amazing all on it’s own, but there are most definitely ways you can make it better (or worse).

So with that, let’s dive ears first into my list of Disney non-negotiables:

💫EXPECTATIONS. The only thing you should be leaving at security check point is your expectations. Scratch that, you are best off going back a few thousand miles and leave them entirely at home. You may think you know what you are getting into or how your kids will react or even how you will feel throughout the trip. Sure, you may have some kind of clue but in reality, anything goes. Don’t just be okay with that, but believe and embrace it. Let it be the only thing you expect: anything and everything, end of story.

💫YOUR ITINERARY. Stop comparing your trip to others; they will never be the same. There is too much to do and see, too many varying factors, and above all, our families are just different. I encourage you to take other’s advice with a grain of salt, just as I do my own words here. You can gather information and share ideas, but by no means should anyone else’s trip dictate how you do yours. You will notice I won’t go into details about the specifics of the how/when/where of my own trip. Because, to you? It doesn’t matter. Your itinerary is your itinerary, not their’s, him’s or her’s, or mine. 

💫BE A PARENT. Just because Disney offers you every opportunity imaginable, it doesn’t mean you have to do them all. Do not force a ride or experience just because it’s what everyone else says is a “must do.” Know your own kid’s likes and dislikes, thrills and fears. But most importantly, also respect them. Vacation is not an automatic right of passage to create a new rule book along the lines of “you have to because we paid for it.” If it’s not cool to my own kid, it’s a hard pass. I’ll encourage, explain and show them everything I can, but ultimately I will let them decide what line is worth waiting in and what character they want to hug. Short and simple: be the parent you know how to be, just as you are at home. It’s going to cut the meltdowns way down, and better yet, none of them will be irked by you if you just listen and be patient with your kids’ needs and wants. 

I’d be willing to bet no one is going to push back on the points I just mentioned. If you do disagree, well then maybe this Disney post simply isn’t for you. The way I see it, all of the above is common sense, but nonetheless, things we all need to be reminded of. 

Now these next few points is where I may ruffle a few feathers in differing opinions. But as a family of six traveling with young kids, I stand strong in proclaiming that the ticket to absolute Disney happiness is convenience. And I suggest doing whatever it takes to secure it…

💫ALWAYS GET THE STROLLER. Not the hard Disney ones, but rent from a company on property (so dang easy!). It’s a necessity not only for tired little human legs, but it also gives your kids a break from a hot sun to a much needed nap. A stroller also allows your kid an escape, a barrier if you will, from the overstimulating environment all around them (most adults would appreciate this same space for themselves!). 

Needless to say, two years old or six, I still say stroller. You be the judge on where the cutoff is, but I will tell you my 8 year old had his own seat in a double BOB when we went in the July heat, and it was a lifeline I (and he) was beyond thankful to have. 

Arguably the even bigger convenience of a stroller: what these babies can store! Water bottles on stroller hooks; autograph books immediately accessible in the handlebar caddy; food + clothing layers + purchases all stored in the bottom. The stroller takes literal pressure off your back, and for that, I am here for. I know stress-free where my stuff is (and bonus, my kid too!), which just adds to the reasons why I am Team Stroller. No busy crowds, stroller parking, or any other small inconvenience (hello, bus rides) will change my mind on this one. All our young motherhood, we are trained to manipulate a stroller in all situations. It’s. Not. That. Hard. In fact, its quite the opposite. The stroller makes life easier in Disney.

💫STAY ON PROPERTY. Disney is not a vacation to penny pinch. Everything you do, from the Mickey shaped ice cream, to park entry, to your hotel stay, will be expensive. I whole heartedly think a Disney resort stay is worth it- for the convenience (in all the things, especially direct access to the Monorail or Skyliner), the extra magic in cast member service, the WOW factor in the experience. There are other small things you can do that all add up to help save, and even varying levels of Disney properties to help you meet your budget. But don’t skimp out completely by staying somewhere else- I think the regret would eat at you even more than the hole in your wallet will.

💫TAKE THE EXTRA HELP. Could Josh and I manage our 4 kids alone in Disney? Absolutely. Did we want to? Hell no. 

The extra hands are beyond appreciated. You can stroll through the days more easily with the help, and manage long lines like a pro. But the perk of being able to divide and conquer ran a lot deeper than the line to meet Anna and Elsa itself. 

I have four kids that each independently want my full attention all the time. Wandering off at Disney with just one kid at a time (or even two at a time, out of the four, felt like a luxury!), was something I am so thankful for. And the reunions back with the group was just as special because the kid(s) who weren’t with me, lit up like a Christmas tree when telling me what they got to experience. It’s these types of reactions, watching the pure joy through my kids’ eyes, that truly filled my heart each day. 

So in my #momof4 opinion, if you have a large family like me (and honestly, even if you don’t), find the friend/family/babysitter to go with you. Nothing ever felt like a chore; we navigated our two double strollers without missing a stride; every adult knew their role and each kid soaked in every bit of magic. All while zero meltdowns (kid or adult!) accompanied our trips. We were just a big family enjoying each other’s company and dominating Disney while doing it. 

💫GENIE+ (and ROPE DROP). I said I’m not going to go into details of our itinerary, but I can’t leave my fellow introverted, crowd avoiding Mamas feeling unnecessary overwhelm. I’ll keep it short and sweet: 

If you want to have any chance at smaller crowds, even if for a few short hours, you must go at rope drop (another reason to stay on property). Get all your tiny little asses out of bed and you’ll thank me later. 

Genie+ is worth every penny. Familiarize yourself with the entire app and learn it all before you go. You will book your rides quickly and save your family a hell of a lot of headaches and running around in circles. **disclaimer: this system was far superior in Disney World than Disneyland, from the view of what our young family was interested in experiencing.**

That wraps up my “Know Before You Go” portion of Disney. And leads me right into the great debate: Disney World versus Disneyland.

As I mentioned, the two trips of ours were booked with two very different goals in mind- one a trip of a lifetime, with the whole nine yards attached to it; the other more of a side trip, with just enough squeezed in to still feel the Disney magic. With that in mind, I may be partial to Disney World for the sheer premise of not being able to replicate the caliber of that memorable vacation. But I remain neutral in my comparison, as the facts are the facts. 

Let me organize this in a way that is easiest to follow along, categorizing in what I think, are the main topics that come to mind when talking Disney.

🌟CAST MEMBERS

There is no doubt specially trained people work here and I believe this is pretty standard across the Disney board. Maybe a fluke or possibly some truth to it, but we did experience more pixie dust in the Florida cast members as a whole. We also had a Club Level room in Disney World (I told you this trip will be hard to top!), where the conceriege felt like my best friends and customer service was above and beyond. They made for the best daily experience I’ve ever had in a hotel. For this reason, Disney World outright wins the hand here.

🌟CHARACTER INTERACTIONS

Cast members make for a special experience, but the characters are who we reallyyyy all care about, right? A trip to Disney wouldn’t be Disney without a hug from Mickey Mouse himself. So you better believe that interaction matters big time. And in Disneyland, they do it right. Characters are more freely walking around, even riding the teacups and carousel with us. They seemed to really take their time with the kids and bring the extra magic. For that, Disneyland, I applaud you.

🌟PARKS & RIDES

This is a tougher one to compare as everyone has their own interests. There is a ton of crossover between Disneyland and Disney World, but also plenty that is specific to each. Personally, I love the huge variety (and physical space!) Disney World offers amongst its wide spread -out four parks. There is always something for everyone to like and hands down, the Animal Kingdom Safari experience takes the throne. 

On the flip side, I will say that I LOVED Disneyland California Adventure Park. This is definitely unique to the Land and definitely has me wanting to go back for more. Avenger Campus was just as amazing as meeting Spider-Man himself and Cars land left us in awe. Pixar Pier was the perfect ending to a perfect day spent here. 

So, it’s fair to say personal preference reigns true in this department of comparison. For me, I’m equally pulled to different aspects of the parks in both Disneyland and Disney World.

🌟CROWDS & WEATHER

I can argue this is a mute point. You can plan all you want, watch the radar and follow the trends, but these factors are simply uncontrollable. 

One may say Disneyland is less busy. In our experience, this couldn’t be further from reality. The crowd was so dense in Disneyland Park, it left us frozen in our footsteps at times. Planning both vacations during supposed “slow times,” I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a disappointment. Just another reason to leave your expectations at the gate. 

We also experienced unseasonably February cold temps in California, while we melted under the 103 degree July sun in Florida. I was fully prepared for each and although at times intense, I still preferred the extreme heat. It forced us to slow down, take breaks, and enjoy what was right in front of us instead of rushing by. 

Again, to each their own. Decide for yourself if you’d rather pack sweatshirts or stroller fans, dodge thin or thick crowds spanning across two parks or four. Either way, choose wisely but know you can get a taste of both whether you fly South to Disney World or West to Disneyland

🌟SIZE & PROXIMITY 

Disney World is easy to get to (says the Midwest girl). Airport transportation to your resort is a breeze, the monorail/skyliner even easier to get between parks and Disney resorts. The only downside is the darn Disney bus that no one wants to rely on. However, plan accordingly with your resort location (ahem, are you still tallying the benefits to stay on property?) and the dreaded bus rides will be minimal to access the parks. 

Now, a whole different story lies on the other side of the country. 

Everything in Disneyland is close. An unwavering huge plus in terms of convenience and ease. 

However, when coming from the Midwest (or East coast, for that matter), travel to get there is not so easy. I’ll go ahead and take my stance: traveling West is a bitch. A full day of travel is exhausting on tiny little humans let alone the adults, on top of the two hour time change that no one adjusts to. 

Disney will leave any human, super powers or not, tired. Disney tired (yes, a term dubbed because it really is a whole different level of feeling). I’d rather Disney fun be the sole culprit of this state of mind, not because of also adding another layer of travel exhaustion.

So, despite any bonuses that tipped the scale in favor of Disneyland, for traveling purposes alone, I will always choose Disney World.

Disneyland or Disney World alike, you are something special. I remember going to Florida as a kid, but going with now with my own kids, has given me an entire new outlook. A love for the incredible Disney magic and appreciation for being lucky enough to make these forever memories with my family. 

We have no current plans to book another Disney vacation. But we will be back. The overpriced popcorn buckets, bubble wands and character meals will still be waiting for us. You better believe we’ll do it all again… and then some. 

The right way and the only way. To go all in.

Until Next Time, Mickey❤️