winter break atDisney World


She didn’t want to wear the outfits I painstakingly purchased. Heck, she didn’t want to wear shoes. She wasn’t interested in meals. The only thing she wanted to do with great enthusiasm was take a bath in the hotel room whirlpool tub each night with her mermaid tail on (and meet princesses… and shop… and eat ice cream…).

So we went with it.

Clara is now 4 and William 6. We’ve been to Disney four times as parents. Each time I am brought to my knees by how things have changed (in a great way!) and how, you know, there always seems to be a new struggle.

The airplane ride, for instance, was heavenly! I WATCHED A MOVIE (a first in more than 6 years of air travel). Contrast this with the early flights spent pacing in the aisle with knowing glances from other parents. Or that nightmare red eye to California where everyone got to experience the power of Will’s lungs and we both ended up in tears.

Still, we go.

We go with very few expectations and a bare bones agenda. And then there’s little room for disappointment. And plenty of opportunity for happy surprises.

We celebrate the present and reflect on how far we’ve all grown. They can hang at the parks until the sun sets, and still be up for catching a nighttime swim. Amazing! Don’t want to wear shoes? No problem. We’ll just swing by a nearby pharmacy and grab some flip flops (her first pair, which she loved. Yahoo!).

It’s always a whirlwind. But it’s always worthwhile.

As a photographer, each vacation comes with it the same dilemma: how to document the trip but also enjoy it. Last year that question was answered for me as I broke my camera on the very first day (ack!). This time two sets of grandparents tag-teamed our stay and I wanted to be sure to make nice images. But it was clear to me after a day and a half that I needed to let it go. I needed to leave that heavy box in the hotel and be with my family. REALLY be with them, not thinking about compositions or moments or focal lengths.

So I did.

And I posted a few pics on Instagram (collage below) instead.

Do I regret it now? Sure. Did I then? Not once.

Because I was able to breathe. Be in it. And my heart will never forget it. ❤️

Age specific tips (for previous years, click here):

  • We only brought an umbrella stroller this time, which was perfect for Clara to take quick breaks. Will walked the whole time. Win!
  • If you don’t get a FastPass to the hottest ride (Frozen Ever After at Epcot), get to the park before it opens and BOOK IT to the World Showcase. The line moves quickly because FastPasses don’t start for it until 11a.
  • Similarly, we didn’t have a FastPass for Animal Kingdom’s Kali River Rapids ride. We went over at 5:30pish and there was no line. We literally went on it (and yes, got soaked) 5 times in a row! There are free lockers by the ride’s exit. Put your things in there and have some extra clothes on hand… if you’re in the wrong (right?) seats (not telling!), ponchos won’t help keep you dry.
  • The best food and experience for a character meal, in our opinion, continues to be at Magic Kingdom’s Crystal Palace. Without characters, we still love Whispering Canyon Cafe at Wilderness Lodge the most.
  • We continue to be fans of staying off-site with a full kitchen and washer/dryer. This time we had a 3 bedroom at Floridays Resort with plenty of room to spread out with the grands.
  • In previous years we’ve broken up park days with pool days. We had a shorter stay this year with just one down day, but the kids were still ready for something (and the hotel pool wasn’t cutting it for much more than an hour) so we went to Blizzard Beach (Typhoon Lagoon was closed). We all loved it!
  • The best deal in Disney is the popcorn buckets at the vendor stands… refills were just $3, if I remember right, and a perfect snack throughout the day.
  • If you’re looking to cuten up your athletic shoe attire but need more support than sandals, try All Birds wool kicks. Breathable, light as a feather, no socks required. I was practically dancing on air all week long!

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Bring your kids to Disney. You may not like crowds or rides or waiting in lines. But when you see their eyes light up to meet their favorite character or crest the top of their first roller coaster, you will totally get it. And then you’ll start saving to do it again next year!

disney_toddlers_emilie_inc_0002 disney_toddlers_emilie_inc_0003 disney_toddlers_emilie_inc_0004 disney_toddlers_emilie_inc_0005 disney_toddlers_emilie_inc_0006 disney_toddlers_emilie_inc_0007 disney_toddlers_emilie_inc_0009 disney_toddlers_emilie_inc_0010 disney_toddlers_emilie_inc_0015

Processed with VSCO with b1 preset

Thanks for a great time Muffy & Papa and Nana & Grampy! We love you! disney_toddlers_emilie_inc_0014