June 22, 2024

What Went Right on Baby Bricker’s First Disney World Trip: Characters, Crowds, Contempo, Etc

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We just returned from one of the best Walt Disney World vacations ever, and the first one of the next chapter of our lives. It was immensely satisfying doing WDW as newly-minted parents, incredibly joyous




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We just returned from one of the best Walt Disney World vacations ever, and the first one of the next chapter of our lives. It was immensely satisfying doing WDW as newly-minted parents, incredibly joyous to see our daughter react to everything, and also a massive learning experience.

That last part is probably what’s most interesting–what went wrong and the mistakes we made along the way. And I won’t sugarcoat or present our lives as picture-perfect or sanitized for social media; we screwed up a lot. But such is the nature of being parents, right? (Or so I’m told?) We’ll cover all of that soon, so you can potentially learn from our mistakes…or laugh at/with us, as the case may be.

For now, as we ride the post-trip high, I want to focus on a list of the highlights. Think of this as a quasi-trip report of everything that went right on Baby Bricker’s first trip to Walt Disney World and our first vacation together as a family in over a year. Even with some issues along the way, the anxiety and fears we felt while planning all melted away once we stepped off the Mears Connect shuttle. We were together at Walt Disney World again, with our daughter. Holy cow. That’s when the euphoria kicked in.

Crowds – As discussed in our Pre-Trip Report for Baby Bricker’s First Walt Disney World Visit, we deliberated long and hard on dates. For the most part, this was trying to find the right balance of crowds and weather.

We chose wisely. It was a calculated decision to head down before the unofficial end of spring break season (Tax Day), as we strongly suspected that–even with some schools in the Midwest and Northeast having later breaks–that crowds would get much better immediately after Easter.

That proved correct. Most of our days were 1/10 to 3/10 crowd levels, with “feels like” crowds to match. Sarah (snarkily) commented that for as much as I’ve complained about crowds at EPCOT, it sure felt pretty blissful to her. And she was right–our days at EPCOT were the least busy that park has felt since my visits last August and September during the off-season lows. Quite the contrast to every single visit in 2024.

It was a similar story at every other park, save for a couple of localized areas of congestion in Magic Kingdom. All in all, the crowds were nonexistent and this laid the foundation for a fantastic first visit with Baby Bricker (Megatron).

Weather – While we chose wisely with crowds, we flat-out got lucky with weather. As much as I love the low crowds of August and September, the heat and humidity can be brutal. And as convinced as I was/am that attendance and wait times will be even lower by the first week of May, I was also worried about the accompanying risk of worse weather.

I was thus very pleased with the weather this trip, which ranged from the high 50s to mid-80s. Highlighting the weather as a strength might seem useless for planners, but this is an underrated aspect of visiting around spring break. March and April are far more likely to have mild and pleasant temperatures than are other school breaks. During the holiday season, it’s often too cold; in summer, it’s too hot. Spring break weather is usually just right.

More to the point, if we visited even one week later (which is why this was flat-out lucky), the forecast highs would be in the low to mid-90s, roughly 10° hotter than our dates. I will happily take slightly higher (but still very low) crowds for cooler temperatures; it’s an easy tradeoff, especially given that we planned on doing a lot of babywearing. Speaking of which…

Babywearing – We’ve become big babywearing fans. Baby Bricker is worn on one of us in a baby carrier for multiple hours per day, and we’ve already logged a dozen Disney visits sans stroller–exclusively in a soft structured carrier. That works wonderfully where we live and at Disneyland; it’s been cold or at least comfortable since Megatron’s arrival.

We were worried Walt Disney World was going to be a whole different babywearing ballgame. Opting only to babywear at Walt Disney World seems like walking a tightrope without a safety net. It was presumably going to be hotter and is also a longer timeframe. It’s one thing to babywear for 4-5 hours once per week at Disneyland, another entirely to double that amount of time for a full week.

In the lead-up to the trip, our stroller plans changed a lot. Thanks to reader recommendations, a favorable weather forecast, and the practical reality that we were taking our own car seat, we called a relatively last-minute audible and opted to take our own stroller. The plan was for it to be a backup, and one that we’d use if/when babywearing became unbearable.

That never really happened! We only took the stroller to the parks a couple of times, and it spent most of that time parked. The stroller was more of a hindrance than a help, but we’re still glad we brought it. Had our backs started hurting or it babywearing were uncomfortable after so many hours, it was good to have the stroller as insurance.

As for babywearing, it was fantastic. Megatron loves to sleep in the carrier, so it made naptime a breeze. And although our stroller has great handling, nothing beats the agility of simply walking around like normal. She can go anywhere we go in the carrier, meaning stairs and escalators, as well as weaving through the parks with ease. No worries about curbs, queues, or tight areas in gift shops. We can also move nimbly and walk briskly with the baby carrier–do that while pushing a stroller and you turn the thing into a makeshift battering ram, dealing serious damage to the ankles of anyone walking too gingerly.

More than that or anything else, it’s so satisfying to have the baby at eye level and see as she reacts to this or that, gets excited or furrows her brow. So much of the joy of this trip was seeing Walt Disney World reflected in her eyes and I just don’t think that would’ve been possible to the same degree with her “so far away” in the stroller.

Obviously this trip was for us since she won’t remember it, but it was largely for us to experience Walt Disney World vicariously via her. Seeing her discover and react to the parks while at eye level with us in the carrier made for priceless memories. All three of us love the carrier–there’s really nothing quite like her giggling as she gazes up at us or having her spontaneously start nap time using our chests. (I could probably do without those little fingers hooking my mouth like a largemouth bass, though.)

Character Dining – Nowhere were those discoveries and reactions better than at character dining experiences. We ended up doing several of these, and I can already see why some parents love them so much. I liked them before (at least the ones with fur characters), but it was just a totally different ballgame with a baby.

Megatron has met Mickey and friends many times at Disneyland. She was asleep for over half of those encounters, and the other half were relatively brief albeit cherished memories with her going into “Dolphin Mode.” Her eyes get really wide and fill with happiness as she flaps around her arms and legs, making a high-pitched chirping noise to echolocate the character.

Almost across the board, the Walt Disney World fur characters at meals spent more time with her. They lingered and did things to facilitate good interactions, like purposefully leaning in so she could touch them. Mouse nose instantly catapulted to the top of her list of favorite toys–it was so popular with her that it honestly made me wonder if Walt knew mice would be a big hit with kids and that’s part of why he chose such a seemingly odd animal. (This probably sounds crazy, like the rantings of a sleep-deprived lunatic.)

Face characters, at least the princesses, were even more popular. We had both breakfast and dinner booked at 1900 Park Fare, and I was honestly kind of dreading that many interactions with the royalty. I’ve always been awkward and fumbled these interactions in the past, but again, totally different ballgame with a baby.

The princesses (and Aladdin) did all of the work and 90% of that was aimed at Megatron rather than us. She had a lot to say to Tiana and the way her eyes lit up when gazing at Cinderella was beyond heartwarming–I can now see why parents drop ridiculous amounts of money on all things princesses. (Yikes for our future selves.) Aladdin was much less popular, but he did compare her to Abu (ironic since she has a Grumpy Monkey book and the comparison sometimes isn’t far off).

I’m already anticipating a lot of character meals during the next…decade, maybe? It’s hard to articulate until you’ve experienced, but it’s just such a more pleasant experience to sit down, enjoy a meal, and let the characters come to you. It’s less stressful and rushed than a meet & greet, a chance to relax and decompress for a bit. Obviously this is only our first trip with Baby Bricker, but I’d imagine that character dining experiences become our #1 splurge going forward–or we start using the Disney Dining Plan a lot more.

Cast Members – Always the heart and soul of Walt Disney World, we found that Cast Members are especially great with babies. This is something we’ve actually noticed in the real world, as random strangers are more personable. People smile at us more and make small talk instead of ignoring us. Employees go out of their way to offer assistance and are incredibly friendly. (“Us” in this scenario is really just me; people have always been friendly towards and talked to Sarah.)

I honestly expected the opposite of this. Perhaps it’s the dormant Midwesterners in us, but we’ve been nervous about doing things in public with the baby and err on the side of being apologetic (to a fault) for being intrusive to others. To be clear, I’ve always felt that babies have a right to exist in public and wouldn’t apologize for that (nor would we take her to a bar or places that are very obviously not child-friendly). But I still expected some sid-eye and curt attitudes. We’ve yet to encounter that at all.

That obviously wasn’t going to be an issue at Walt Disney World. Nevertheless, it was still surprising just how much nicer and chattier the already friendly Disney Cast Members became in the presence of baby. Probably because it’s an easy and apparent area for common ground. Like a team hat, but more universal. A high percentage of the population is parents, and 99.99% of all people have been babies. (Benjamin Button syndrome afflicts less than .01% of the population, right?)

Having a pretext for interacting with Cast Members was great, and reminded me of what we used to love so much about pin trading. It was fun to hear stories or life lessons about their kids. We also enjoyed chatting with Disney lifers who were grandparents and had raised two generations on Walt Disney World.

And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it warms our hearts to hear compliments about our baby. She’s so cute/adorable; she looks just like the Gerber Baby; she sure is social; such a well-behaved baby; etc. The logical and rational part of my mind knows this is faint praise–no one is going to say anyone else’s baby looks like a hairless troll. But I guess I’m superficial and easy to please, because I love this. Why yes, my baby is the best baby ever; thank you for recognizing this!

Journey into Imagination – I regret to inform you that I now love the current version of Journey into Imagination and will no longer be the head cheerleader for its overdue demise. Kidding…kinda. But I do have a newfound appreciation for the awful attraction after seeing it anew through my daughter’s eyes.

Journey into Imagination did not end up being her first ride, as planned, for reasons that’ll be discussed in our ‘what went wrong’ follow-up post. But it was the first attraction for which she was awake and engaged, and it was beyond anything I could’ve imagined.

The look of wide-eyed wonderment the first time she saw that dancing Figment Audio Animatronics figure alone made it all worth it. Subsequent scenes proved this wasn’t just a fluke, as she was captivated throughout…including a bit too much during the skunk stench segment.

Look, I’m fully aware that the ride probably just struck the right sensory high notes and that these were reactions to the right combination of colors, sounds, shapes, etc. Beyond that, there’s undoubtedly projection on my part, as seeing Figment through my daughter’s eyes is the ultimate shot of nostalgia for when I was a kid.

But her reactions were also real and her own, and no matter the underlying rationales, it was such an emotional experience. This was one of many ‘full circle’ moments for us on this Walt Disney World trip. I cannot wait to watch her evolving reactions to Figment and Journey into Imagination, including the inevitable ‘phase’ when she writes a dissertation on why Journey into Imagination 4.0 (coming in 2034) is pales in comparison to its predecessor and is not what Walt or Tony Baxter would’ve wanted.

Joking aside, it should be no surprise that Figment resonates with children; there’s a reason fans waited in line hours for popcorn buckets, and it’s not that people really love popcorn. It’s because he represents the imaginative and inquisitive child in all of us, literally in the case of actual kids. It really will be fun to watch Megatron grow up on Figment–she already loves the character, hearing his story and song, and seeing him on a daily basis at home.

Contemporary – We’ve always appreciated resorts within walking distance of the parks or that offered non-bus transportation. That was true when it was just us, and is doubly true with a baby in need of nap or bedtime. Being able to walk from Magic Kingdom to and from the resort is huge, and not subjecting others on transportation to fussiness is nice. (Again, I know it’s just a fact of life and this is Walt Disney World, but we still feel uneasy about being a pain to others.)

The advantage of the location was completely unsurprising–and we’ve become bigger fans of the Garden Wing (great bang for buck) even before this. The surprising part was the size of the room, and how important that was for us. Honestly, even though room size and storage space are things we take into account when reviewing hotels, that’s only because we know they’re important to others. In the past, I’ve never really cared all that much about those things. We pack light, not needing much storage space or huge rooms.

As it turns out, adding one baby that’s less than 10% of the size of an adult human does not increase what you need to pack by 10%. Standard logic would dictate that, since baby clothes are quite small, that would roughly be the case. It is very much not the case. Megatron is not a light packer, and this one baby doesn’t just need as much stuff as one adult, but in fact, more than both of us combined.

In the past, we’ve also been pretty well organized (typically not even needing Mousekeeping!). Not this time. As oft-overwhelmed new parents, it looked like a hurricane made landfall in our room roughly 7 minutes after our arrival, and it never really got any better. The above photo is not representative of how our room actually looked during the trip. It is a carefully-crafted illusion.

Suffice to say, I now completely understand why storage space and square footage are such big deals for families. Contemporary offered us breathing room and a bit of a buffer, and that was very much welcome (and necessary).

Baby Care Centers – Everyone says this, but it really cannot be overstated: Disney’s Baby Care Centers are fantastic. We already knew this from Disneyland, but sometimes things are, ahem, “different” at Walt Disney World. Very happy to report that’s not the case with the Baby Care Centers. They are fantastic coast-to-coast.

For anyone who craves the exclusivity of the DVC or Club 33 lounges but can’t stomach the cost, Baby Care Centers are a great alternative. Sure, the underlying membership into the parents’ club will probably cost you more over time than Disney Vacation Club or Club 33…but it’s a fantastic and fulfilling experience.

I don’t have anything else to say about the Baby Care Centers that hasn’t already been said thousands of times, which is probably for the best. This has already gotten really long and I’m only halfway finished. So I guess it’s a good stopping point; we’ll pick up with the conclusion of ‘What Went Right on Baby Bricker’s First Walt Disney World Vacation’ next week. Along with what went wrong–so stay tuned!

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 what went right 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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