First off, thank you so much for all of the kind words on Matt and my engagement! We appreciate it so much and I REALLY appreciate you all being so patient while I get back into the swing of creating regular content. Let me tell you, between work and wedding talk I have been a busy lady.
This post is not going to be all about the warm and fuzzy though. It is going to be about the truth behind my vacation and Crohn's issues. The reason why I am doing this post is because I need to be honest and real with you all. On Instagram it looks like I am living the dream on vacation, eating, drinking, literally loving my damn life. And yes, I am loving my life, but there is a side that I don't share in the Instagram captions. For me, this was the first vacation since my Crohn's has gotten really bad that I actually listened to my body (for the most part) and didn't feel guilty. That being said, I really enjoyed myself and I navigated the complications in a way that I could deal with.
We were in Disney World for 10 days (including travel days) and I was definitely anxious when planning the trip. I absolutely LOVE Disney World but at the same time it is incredibly draining to walk around in the 90+ degree weather for over 12 hours everyday. Since Matt and I hadn't been together before we were really looking forward to this and I wanted to make the best of it. Lucky for me, Matt is so incredibly understanding of my situation and is just very "go with the flow" so it makes vacation plans pretty easy. Since I had been to Disney before it was fine if we didn't do every little thing in the park and Matt was just happy to be doing what I wanted to do which was really sweet. My sister is a Disney fanatic (even more than I am) and staying in the park from open to close every single day that she was there. I took the exact opposite approach. I used Fast Passes to my advantage to schedule my day and I stack ranked what I wanted to get done so that I could do my top priorities first incase I started feeling sick. I mapped out bathrooms and breaks throughout the day so that I could keep myself going as long as possible. I feel like I actually developed a pretty good strategy for tackling the Disney World parks so I wanted to share my tips, in hopes that it can help you all if you ever decide to take on the most magical place on earth.
1. Use Fast Passes to your advantage
Fast Passes were a lifesaver for us. Disney has seriously upped their game with Fast Pass + so that you can prebook Fast Passes a certain amount of days in advance depending on if you are staying in a Disney resort (60 days out) or have pre purchased a ticket (30 days out). By planning Fast Passes you can ensure that you get the main attractions that you are interested in done and done in a timely manner. By knowing that I had already scheduled my top attractions I was able to more leisurely go through the rest of my day. This is really helpful because it eliminates unnecessarily waiting in lines and having to sprint from ride to ride to get things done. Once you utilize all three of your Fast Pass + vouchers you can book another. If you book your passes in advance and show up to the park early you should ideally be able to get all of the main rides done with minimal lines and far before the fireworks start. I was there during the height of summer vacation, booked 30 days ahead instead of 60, and I barely waited for any attraction.
2. Get there early
We made sure to get to the parks right when they opened or before everyday. I know myself and I know that around two or three o'clock I start to crash hard. That being said, I wanted to get everything done as early as possible so that I could enjoy every second of it. In addition, getting to the parks early helped to cut down on wait times. This especially was helpful at Animal Kingdom where the new Avatar ride had a three hour wait less than an hour into the park opening. I don't know about you all, but I was not about to be able to wait in a three hour line with limited water supply, no bathroom breaks, and no seating. I hate to sound like I am preaching first world problems here but I wanted to ride that ride! Luckily, my sister's friend worked at Disney before and has a season pass so she knew the tricks to getting ish done. She advised us to get to Animal Kingdom at 7:30am to get in line for the Flight of Passage which we did and we are SO happy that we did. No line and we were able to get everything else done pretty early. Unfortunately there is no pattern on how I feel sick on rides so I went on Expedition Everest which I have always loved and got super sick on round one. I had to sit some things out for the rest of the day and even by dinner I wasn't feeling any better. I got extremely sick after we ate (despite the amazing recommendations from the chef, it was all my temperamental intestines not the food). We skipped out on the fireworks which was disappointing since they are new but it was worth it to get to be there early to ride the new Avatar ride and to be able to wake up refreshed and not so sick the next day.
3. Stack rank what you want to do so that you aren't disappointed if you have to tap out before the day is over
Matt and I did this everyday. We decided what were our "must do's" our "try to do's" and our "skips". This was great because it kept us on track tackling what we wanted to do and not wasting energy on things that didn't mean as much to us. We made sure to include meals in this too which is something I feel like I potentially could have looked over. When we had dinner reservations that we really, really wanted to make sure we were there for, we paced ourselves to make sure we took breaks and rested so that we could last through dinner. This also proved to be a great strategy for parks like Hollywood Studios where once we finished our to do's we were able to go back to the resort and enjoy some relaxing pool time which proved to be better time spent than roaming the park based on our analysis.
4. Don't push yourself by trying to stay from park opening through the fireworks every night
This kind of piggybacks off of the get there early thing. It can be a little different though. I know for me, I function better when I wake up, get stuff done, and then can rest. Some people function in the opposite way and can enjoy the parks later after sleeping in. The latter can definitely pose a problem if you are looking to hop on rides without a Fast Pass, but if you are just hanging out this can be a great strategy. When we went to Epcot to just hang out and look around on our second day there we waited to go to the park until the World Showcase opened at 11am because we knew we didn't need to be there beforehand to get on any rides. That allowed us to stay at the park later than we would have if we would have gotten there unnecessarily at the crack of dawn. There is no right or wrong way to plan this out but I do recommend you decide which fireworks shows you MUST see and plan your days to accordingly start later. If you know you need to do an open to close day (aka what I did in Magic Kingdom and it was so worth it) make sure to plan that day either as your first full day there or after a break day.
5. Use the Disney World app to find bathrooms quickly
The Disney World app is so darn helpful. Everything from wait times to restaurant menus are at your finger tips. Despite all of the really cool features and information, I have to say one of my favorite ways to utilize this app is locating the nearest restroom. I honestly feel like this should be a thing just in life. An app where you can find the nearest bathroom?! HOW COOL. Not to mention, at Disney you already know that the bathrooms are going to be clean and well kept (yassss!.)
6. Map out breaks throughout the day
Breaks are crucial to surviving a long day. Whether it is planning some extra time hanging out at a restaurant or enjoying the AC at an indoor attraction, all of the parks have at least a few areas where you can kick back and relax for a few. At Magic Kingdom I like hanging out behind Cinderella's castle near the gardens. There is some great shade back there during the afternoon hours and it isn't a hugely traveled path. I know this may sound crazy but Enchanted Tales with Belle is also a great way to relax and escape the heat. It is all air conditioned and you get to sit and watch the performance which is always super cute. In Animal Kingdom I like the Finding Nemo show and The Lion King show to relax, rehydrate, and cool off. Epcot is a little easier because of the ample restaurant areas and indoor attractions but when in doubt Living With The Land and Turtle Talk With Crush are always more chill options. Hollywood Studios is more of a half day park right now while they are going through renovations but if you do need a break there are some cool Star Wars shows going on throughout the park as well as an indoor theater that shows about a 10 minute film on the history of the Star Wars Brand... aka there is air conditioning involved.
7. Stay hydrated
Drinking water is not my forte. I am actually so bad at it. I forget to hydrate and often times I end up hydrating with wine instead. When they give you free champagne at every meal in Disney because of your engagement, can you really blame me? If you answered yes, then stop reading. Just kidding. I had to actually, consciously, hold myself accountable to drinking at least one bottle of water per hour. I filled it up via water fountains to don't worry I wasn't spending a fortune but I was holding myself accountable to not passing out.
8. Utilize the wait staff/chefs to decide what to eat
One of my favorite things about Disney is their amazing customer service. This includes their amazing dining experiences which they put full effort into whether in a food court or a sit down dining facility. There was not one restaurant that I went to where the chef did not come out, talk to me, and help me figure out what was best for my diet. The gluten free options are plentiful and the chefs are more than accommodating for any other needs you may have. With customer service like this there is no reason for you not to take advantage of consulting with these amazing chefs and the talented waitstaff.
9. Take a nap on your first day there
Traveling is hard. I like to make sure that on my first day on vacation, if I can, I arrive early enough so that I can get settled in the hotel and then take a nap. I love being able to nap for a good few hours on the first day. This may sound ridiculous because "I should be out having fun and exploring" but I am so exhausted by time I get to a vacation that it is almost guaranteed I will get sick if I do not get a day to nap. Now that I know this about myself, Matt and I always try and factor in that "nap period" into our vacations. Not going to lie, he likes a good start of vacation nap too.
10. Schedule a break day if you can
I know this isn't doable for everyone but if you can, a break day is so helpful. Being on your feet, in the sun, and being super active for full days at a time can be rough if you have a chronic illness and aren't usually able to do so. By allowing your body a day to rest, you may feel like you are wasting precious time but really you are gearing up to tackle the rest of the week. Usually I like to schedule these midweek and spend them reading by the pool. If I can, I schedule two break days to allow for ultimate relaxation and rejuvenation. If you can, book a spa day at the Grand Floridian followed by High Tea. You won't regret it.
11. If you have to cancel a reservation, its okay
Disney staff is incredibly understanding. I'm not saying that you should make a habit of having to cancel reservations but if you have to they are extremely understanding. Usually there is a charge for canceled reservations within a certain period of time, especially within 24 hours. Thankful when we had to cancel a dinner reservation because I was really feeling sick, Matt explained my situation with Crohn's and they were quick to wave the fee and send me well wishes.
12. Enjoy yourself and be in the moment
I feel like I always end my travel advice posts with this. Enjoy every second of your vacation and especially revel in the moments where you are feeling well. It is easy to get down on yourself if you aren't feeling your best but positivity is crucial in those situations. I used to put so much pressure on myself to get everything possible done when I was traveling but I had to change my tune a little. As long as you get out of it what you want then you are doing it right in my book.
I hope this is helpful for my fellow spoonies and Disney fanatics, alike. I also have a few more posts coming up about some Disney trip related topics that, if you like this post, you will hopefully find those valuable as well! If you are planning a trip coming up and have any questions about my experience or want some great recommendations shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blonde babe. Maryland native. Crohn's crushing puppy mother to two sweet rescues.
Welcome to my unfiltered commentary on crushing chronic illness in your 20's and everything that goes along with that.