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How I Survived Disney Alone with 3 Kids

July 19, 2013

Written by Marykate O’Malley, mother of three wonderfuls, Gladwyne PA


When I told someone I was taking my three children to Disney alone she said, “you are brave”. And I replied “maybe,  and maybe I have really good children”.

And like anything in life – success has its seeds planted in planning, execution and a whole lot of grace. And in my case, mostly grace.

That said, here is my Disney survival guide.

1. This is our third trip and I learned to stay somewhere with a fridge. It is most important. I make a store run upon arrival and stock up on milk, cereal, yogurt, lunch essentials, waters,  juice boxes, pre packaged snacks and fruits. We eat breakfast in the room and I pack snacks and lunch. In my case it is peanut butter and jam varieties – plain pb on whole wheat, jam on whole wheat and pb and j – that would be mine. Peanut butter is the most perfect food – non perishable, healthy and delicious. We stop for a picnic lunch preferably somewhere shaded and work in at least 2 ice cream trips – who can resist Mickey Mouse ice cream sandwiches. I have found this approach saves time, money and is usually a lot healthier.


2. Be flexible. When discussing our agenda we started with 2 days magic kingdom and 1 day sea world. We ended up at Blizzard Beach and Magic Kingdom and one day at the hotel pool. This all following their lead – let’s face it Disney can be exhausting and when the kids are waving the white flag and want a day at the pool it is time to give in and agree. I don’t buy tickets until it is real time to allow for flexibility.

3. If you have a princess in the family or a Mickey fan use the funds you save on packing lunches for a meal at Cinderella’s palace or Chef Mickeys. Watching your children experience this is worth every penny. Please note, you have to book this a few months out – just plan around whatever reservation you get.


4. When you get the park have an idea of what rides are must do’s and do them first. The fast pass is your friend and so is time – be the first to arrive – the lines grow throughout the day.

5. We have stayed on site and off. If off site rent a car. We rented a Nissan Versa – my son chose it I think because it was electric blue. I was invited to preview this car and fell ill and couldn’t go – how serendipitous that we ended up in one! It fit all our bags – we had a lot and all three kid in the back easily. This allowed us to visit downtown Disney and get to the parks and leave on our own schedule. Waiting for shuttle buses can make a long day a lot longer.

6. For airplane survival think occupied children. My crew each had a backpack packed with snacks (of course), an electronic, books and summer workbooks. I found if they were occupied they were a lot less bored and less likely to annoy each other. They are good yes and they are also children, and siblings who do sibling things. We took a lot of turns while away. My oldest told me she felt like she was being homeschooled. I took it as a compliment.

7. Enjoy the moment. I am a stickler for bedtimes but while there we stayed for the fireworks and light show, and stayed up one night to watch the all star game. If you are a scheduler like me – this is a time to let go and enjoy the moment.

8. Have a handy dandy backpack. I felt so good about this purchase – it fed 28 people and got me through 5 days in Florida. It held all essentials – this is survival ladies – the military color is intentional. Check out Feed
– the cutest clothes and bags and every purchase “feeds”!

9. Rent a stroller. Even with older kids it is needed. It will give them stamina and shelter from the sun. By the end of the night I was pushing all three in mine.

10. Allow yourself to get completely swept away. My youngest made a wish while there that when she grew up she could work at Disney world. My son made the same wish a few years earlier. The parades, the characters, the music and pageantry – no one does it better than Disney. And the messages – I leave you with some of my favorite Disney quotes:


All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.

All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.

A man should never neglect his family for business.

I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.

I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.

You reach a point where you don’t work for money.



Always Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide – Jiminy Cricket
Second Star to the Right and Straight on till morning! Peter Pan


When You Wish Upon a Star

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you

If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do

Fate is kind
She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of
Their secret longing

Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true

Fate is kind
She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of
Their secret longing

Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true





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  1. Joanne

      on July 20, 2013 6:59 am

    The closing poem have me goose bumps! I guess I had never heard the whole thing before. Your trip sounds divine and your advice so wise! And your kids ARE angels!! I may be going to Disney w/ Anne, Greg and the boys in Nov. She must’ve been inspired by you!!


  2. Anne Schenendorf

      on July 20, 2013 7:23 am

    MaryKate, I love this!!!! A labor or love and as is all parenting, worth every second. I’m glad I’m not the only one so moved and inspired by Disney quotes. I cried when I read yours. Love!!!! They can get you through anything. After baby Gerard I often found myself thinking ” a dream is a wish your heart makes when your fast asleep. In dreams you will loose your heartache… No matter how your heart is grieving, if you just keep believing, the dream that you wish will come true.” I often thought who ever wrote that must have lost a child. Btw, speaking of dreams, Seany and Jack are snuggled in bed between Greg and I watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. God has a way of giving back twice as much. 😉 xxxooo


  3. Lauren Deets

      on July 20, 2013 7:44 am

    This was so wonderful to ready this morning as I am packing our bags for a 10 day trip to Florida. We will be spending 2 days in Orlando 1 in Sea World one at Epcot. You story gives me great ideas and peace on mind. Thank you so much for sharing, and being such an awesome mom!


  4. Marykate

      on July 20, 2013 7:57 am

    Joanne – I love it too – love “fate is kind, she brings to those who love”. So hope you go – it is so magical and the twins are going to be in heaven!
    Anne – love that one too! And I love “welcome home”. That is so beautiful Anne, thank you.
    Lauren – have a blast!! The boys will be in heaven!!! Please post pics!!


  5. Cathy Baker

      on July 20, 2013 4:13 pm

    LOVE your bag! :) How fun it would be to vacation with you!


  6. Marykate

      on July 25, 2013 10:24 pm

    Cathy – it would be! We all really need to meet up at some point!!


  7. Anita

      on September 17, 2013 2:42 pm

    LOVED THIS Mary Kate!!!! You are such a good writer and you just nail it on the head!!!
    xoxoxo Anita


  8. Marykate

      on September 20, 2013 7:35 am

    Thanks Anita – and you are such a good friend!! XXOO


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