In January, we took our family on our first vacation to Walt Disney World in Florida. The only other time I had been was in 2000, so I didn’t have much to go on in planning this trip. So much has changed in 15 years, and this time around we had kids. In addition, I only brought my film point and shoot at the time so I wanted to make sure I got it right with my gear this time around so that I could create a book for my children to go through and remember our time together. Here are just a few tips I would like to share that I learned along the way to make it a fantastic family getaway!
We had been bouncing around the idea of a vacation to Disney for quite some time, but determined in November it was definitely something that we wanted to do sooner rather than later. We booked our vacation with a Disney Travel Agent in December, just 4 short weeks before our departure date in January. YES, it can be done! You don’t actually need to plan a trip to Disney in more than 6 months if you are going in their off season. To be honest, I was overwhelmed in the beginning of the planning stages, but then quickly decided it was more about being together rather than the little details.
My first tip is that if you can plan a trip in their off session, I highly recommend it. Lines were short, and one day the weather was not as favorable as we would have liked but we took full advantage of walking right onto rides that you would ordinarily wait upwards of an hour for. While the hours of the park are limited, for the ages of our kids it was perfect. We were able to enjoy the fireworks and evening festivities, but made it in to bed enough to rest up a bit for the next days activities.
After booking our vacation, my thoughts turned to the gear that I wanted to bring. I am a prime shooter, so I thought it may be cumbersome to be changing my lenses. So I promptly rented the 24-70mm and did not regret it one bit. I found the versatility of the zoom to be perfect. The other big question was what camera bag to bring. I wanted easy access to my camera at all times. A high five from Mickey was not going to wait until I pulled out my camera. So I took the plunge and did not bring a camera bag, only using my Black Rapid Strap for the entire trip. Yes, it was heavy but I was able to catch those split second moments at the top of the magic carpet ride or when we happened upon the Dance Party Parade. I also brought a ton of memory cards because who wants to be cut short of memory, right! I used a fresh one for each day. I brought 2 batteries and as soon as I got back to the hotel room, would promptly charge it overnight to be ready for the next day.
We also decided to purchase the Memory Maker Package because I thought it may not be documented that I was there if we didn’t. Every time we saw a photographer. we took advantage and had a lot of family photo’s done. Mind you, these won’t be printed as enlargements and posted around my house, they serve their purpose of adding to our family book of our vacation.
I would also recommend ordering The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2015. The amount of tips and tricks in this book is well worth the price and time it takes to go through it. I was intimidated by the size of the book, but once we had determined where we were going to stay with the travel agent, I dove right into their tips about that resort. I took note of the best places to eat and made my reservations immediately. It even gave tips on getting the best photo in front of the Cinderella’s Castle since there was some construction going on during the time of our visit. I didn’t read the chapters on the individual parks until the night before we were scheduled to visit, that way I was able to highlight what we wanted to do and have it fresh in my head. I also met other vacationer’s that cut out each chapter individually and brought it with them to the park, I definitely think that was a great idea maybe to use for our next visit.
My next tip is to be prepared for the Character Dining Experience. Each day we had made reservations for a sit down meal with some of the Disney characters. I was so excited since the kids wouldn’t have to wait in long lines and we would be able to enjoy some food too. But what I was unprepared for was the craziness that is a Character Dining Experience! It is NOT about eating, it is more about hurry up and eat so that you don’t miss the characters coming to your table. Once I realized this after our first dining experience, I felt better prepared. As soon as we were seated, we got out our autograph books I set my settings up on my camera (including the dreaded flash for some) so that as soon as I saw a character nearing the table, I was ready. (I have to admit I commiserated with some other mothers about how these dining experiences were a little stressful, so I took solace that it wasn’t just me being crazy.) Also, our last day we booked a non-character restaurant and I thoroughly enjoyed every bite of my meal (although the kids were bored, ha).
I made a conscientious effort to document what was happening, but not to force it. I could imagine lots of tears if it was all about the pictures. Yes, I have so many pictures of my kids not even glancing in my direction, but their joy is there. Just soaking in the magic that is Disney World.
I did not bring my laptop because I knew I would be pulled into the dark hole of editing, and I didn’t want to be tempted. And you know what, it was AMAZING to be computer free for 10 days!!! I honestly cannot tell you the last time I have been computer free for that amount of time. It was liberating and well worth the pile of editing I have been making my way through since then.
As we departed from our magical vacation, our only one regret was not planning in a day of rest mid-week. We were definitely on full speed the entire time and that day of rest would have served a good purpose.
I hope that these quick tips help a bit if you are looking to book a vacation to Disney World.
Please let me know if you have any questions for me by leaving a comment, or even leaving a tip you have about heading out on a trip to Disney World.
Website | Facebook | Google+ Sally Sosler is a natural light lifestyle photographer located in Orange County, New York. She is a wife and a mother to a fun-loving 6-year-old boy, a sweet 4-year-old girl, and one fur baby, a 9-year-old Siberian cat named Blitz. Sally enjoys documenting those endearing and intimate moments for her family as well as for her clients. Sally specializes in maternity, newborn, children, and family photography. In her free time, you will find Sally volunteering in her children’s classrooms as well as perusing organizing blogs and Real Simple.