This time last year, my father-in-law found out that the nagging case of pneumonia and bronchitis, from which he’d been suffering for a couple of months, was something far, far worse; he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.
After a year of cancer-related illnesses and complications, rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, and a couple of experimental therapies and clinical trials thrown in for good measure, my father-in-law received news that a.) the cancer was finally responding to treatment, and b.) he was cleared for travel by his doctor.
A huge Disney fan, my father-in-law expressed the desire to make one last Disney trip — sooner rather than later — and wanted us to come along so that he could experience it through the eyes of our four-year-old son. For two days, it seemed that we would be able to share a timeshare that was being gifted to him by friend, which meant the financial burden of the trip would [simply] be travel, park tickets and meals. Then the timeshare fell through, with dates being snatched-up in a matter of hours.
To be honest, Disney’s never really been on my radar — I’m more of a Universal Studios kind of gal — but my husband has always maintained that it is a childhood rite of passage (somehow I survived without that trip, but…). While my husband and I had talked about taking our kiddo on a trip to Disney…someday, we had not planned to do so this soon — I now know why people plan so far in advance. I. Am. Overwhelmed.
I have spent the better part of this week, trying to find ways to cut costs on this trip, as we’d not budgeted for it, as well as educate myself on all things Disney. Seriously folks, three weeks to plan? And try to cut costs? Someone please hold me.
A quick glance at Disney resorts proved two things: 1.) there’s a reason why people plan far in advance – rooms are pretty booked-up three weeks out, and 2.) unless we want to pay, at minimum, upwards of $600+ a night for hotels, we have to find something off-property.
This, my friends, is where you come in — I need your help! We’ve booked our hotel (staying a mile off-property at a hotel where I get a friends and family discount — it has two bedrooms, so we scored — check!), we’ve not yet purchased our park tickets (my head is spinning just from the choices), and [I think] we’ve decided to drive (save me now!), because trying to figure out how to travel with a car seat (plane, shuttle, taxi, Uber, etc.) is just something I can’t figure out [and would rather focus my mental energies elsewhere]. But honestly, I really don’t want to spend 15 hours in the car (save me now!)!
So, friends, how the heck to I make this trip magical, while staying off-property and trying not to break the bank (if that’s even a possibility)? Here are my questions, for those of you experienced Walt Disney World travelers:
What do I pack? To wear? For days in the parks?
How to survive the car ride? Do I make up a travel pack with activities for the ride? What do I put into it?
What to take into the park? We’ll pack lunches to save some money, but how does that work, exactly? What gear is absolutely essential to pack in a bag for a day in the park? What kind of bag works best? Gah!