Mom and Dad: The end of August is almost here. The kids will be done with their organized activities and slipping into a state of primal boredom. You'll be dragging at work and needing to steel yourself for the post-Labor Day productivity ramp up. What are you going to do? I have a suggestion: Go to Disney World.
"What?," you cry. "Orlando in the summer? What about the three H's: heat, humidity, and hurricanes?"
Though I understand your concerns, I have just two words for you: NO LINES.
And besides, it's hot everywhere else and everything is air-conditioned in Florida, including the waiting areas for the Disney attractions. (But there's no waiting, remember?) Granted, you are taking a bit of a gamble with Mother Nature. That's what trip insurance is for.
Why do I bring this up now? Because if you heed my advice, you still have plenty of time to plan your trip.
(One caveat: If you live in some parts of the country, such as the South, this timing isn't going to work for you since your children will already be back in school. But that's a big reason there are no crowds for the rest of us, thank you very much.)
It so happens that exactly one year ago, my sister and I were making plans to take my boys, then 8 and 5, and her son, then 11, to Disney World during the last week in August. It was the smartest vacation scheme we ever cooked up (even though we arrived in Florida at the tail end of Hurricane Katrina.)
As one of those parents who dreaded a trip to Disney but figured it was part of my contractual duty to my children, I was going to do it once--and do it right. By going when we did, in three days we thoroughly covered the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios, and the Animal Kingdom parks with time for afternoon rest periods by the pool. We never had a wait of more than 10 minutes, and if we liked a ride, such as the ever-popular Space Mountain or the Kali River Rapids in the Animal Kingdom, we'd get off and right back on as many times as we liked.
If I've tempted you at all, let me offer a few personal survival tips:
* Start by investing in one of the Disney travel guides, such as Fodor's Walt Disney World with Kids. It will spell out all the strategies for getting around the parks, where to eat and stay, etc.
* Try to make sure the youngest child in your group is at least four-feet tall. That will pretty much guarantee access to every popular ride (so you don't have to return one day for the kid to do Space Mountain.)
* If you're an AAA member, look into their Disney packages before you book anywhere else. Not only did AAA give me by far and away the best price for hotel and Park Hopper passes, but they threw in a free Disney meal plan that was worth several hundred dollars. (Disclaimer: I don't know whether AAA still offers this perk.)
* Stay at a Disney resort with access to the free transportation system. It doesn't have to be on the monorail, unless you plan to spend all of your time in the Magic Kingdom. The shuttle buses and water taxis work just fine.
* Pick a place with a good pool. This is essential if you're going in the summer. You'll want to chill out poolside in the afternoon heat. We stayed at the Beach Club Resort, which was walking distance to Epcot. Its pool area is like a private water park, with a long waterslide that starts atop a shipwreck.
* Book "priority seating" at the restaurants of your choice now (407-WDW-DINE.) My one recommendation: Have dinner at the Coral Reef restaurant in Epcot.
To my great surprise, I enjoyed our Disney World trip tremendously. What definitely made all the difference was avoiding those endless lines.