our almost minimalism, at the big Florida theme parks
(In order, we went to Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios/ Islands of Adventure, Hollywood Studios and Epcot.)
Today's topic is how we applied our usual almost-minimalist approach to traveling to our theme park going.
(Note: these are not affiliate links nor did I receive any freebies for review purposes.)
Getting there (by airplane): carry on only.
Take what you need and only what you need.
For this plane ride, everybody had their own suitcase and backpack/ case.
Usually with a trip that's less than a week, I'd share a suitcase with my ten year old, but not this time. In hot, humid, maybe-downpour-raining Florida, having two changes of clothes a day is essential. That's double what I usually take. It's not technically minimalist, but I wasn't about to spend time doing laundry this trip. So it's a "what brings me joy" situation. Which is exactly my style of minimalism.
(Shorts and skirts can likely be reworn, but socks, underwear and shirts or dresses are most likely going to need changing, after your afternoon swim/ siesta. Which, as I wrote in my second wrap up, I highly recommend.)
In the parks, use cargo shorts and waist belts instead of backpacks and purses.
Note: I did take a small sling style bag to Magic Kingdom, the first half of the day. I didn't make that mistake again. (Plus, one of the zippers broke, which is why I'm not linking to the bag I bought.)
Having to go through the bag check lines is a drag! The rest of the trip, I only took what fit in my cargo shorts and this waist belt.
Remy, who doesn't have any cargo shorts with zipper pockets, also had a waist belt for his (new to him) cell phone. Which he may have used to take photos but didn't need for texting or calls. (It's an emergency phone.)
Our essential supplies, split between the pockets of two adults:
* Travel sized sunscreen (body and face stick).
* Flushable wipes.
* These small pocket fan/misters (we really only needed one, but I bought two in case one died).
* The LED wristbands Remy used in dark rides.
* My allergy/asthma medicines and ibuprofen.
* Nuun active rehydration tablets, when we went all day (to Universal) or in the earlier hotter part of the day.
* A reusable water bottle (pro top: fill up with ice water at counter service restaurants!). Ours was dropped and broken on the second day and it took me a day and a half to find an OK replacement (it needed to have a carabiner so we could attach it to our belts).
* A small pad of paper and pen (for Remy). The pen was his first day souvenir - a red pirate sword pen! He carried this in his own waist belt.
In addition, we each had our own cell phone and (at Universal) I carried my ID/ credit card (and lost it, after I put it away in the bag of bandages accidentally that evening).
At the urging of the Internet, I also took blister bandages the first few days and a lipstick style portable charger for our phones, which we never once needed. They're not bad items to have with you, just in case, but I stopped bringing them after a few days.
(I did not bother with extra socks or clothes or shoes, which I've seen in other lists. That's just not stuff we need anymore and I know that from experience. If you usually need it, bring it!)
We also each had a hat - that was something I thought I needed my sling purse for, but it turned out to fit stuffed into the biggest pocket of my shorts. Or tied to the fan's cabiner clip, if the ride we were going on wasn't too fast.
(Side note, I prefer hats to sunglasses, but I could have fit a pair of sunglasses in my waist belt.)
In addition to a hat, I also took a buff, which I bought here on etsy. I wet it with cold water after each time I washed my hands and then used it as a head or neck band - very refreshing!
(I'm still using it this week, since we're having a heat wave here in NJ.)
Taking photos: go as light as possible, given what you want to capture.
Note: we did not use Memory Makers or take posed photos, they're just not our style. I think Memory Makers is a great way to stay more minimal in what cameras you bring to the parks, but it would have annoyed my whole family to have to wait in more lines!
I shot the vast majority of photos on my iPhone.
In the daytime, outside, the iPhone 5s has a camera that I am comfortable with. It's easy, it's fast and it's good enough for memory keeping and social sharing purposes.
For evening and indoor shots and some "wow" photos I'll eventually print, I brought my Panasonic GM5 (with this new sling style strap) with me about half the time we went out to the Disney World parks.
I didn't bring it to our day at Universal, because I didn't want to carry the weight (light as it is).
In retrospect, having better photos/ videos of Diagon Alley (especially of the wand choosing Remy!) would be nice. Would it have been worth the extra weight? Especially given that I had a rough time that day, as it was? Probably not. I made the right choice, given what we were doing.
The times I did bring the GM5, I mostly used prime lenses (I have the Panasonic 14mm and 20mm). I also have a long zoom (35-100 my) which I used on our day at Magic Kingdom. It's my newest lens, and I'm not used to it yet. Prime lenses are my jam, so I mostly stuck with them.
I wish I'd had our waterproof camera, to take photos in the pool, but I accidentally left it at home. Oops!
Clothing and shoes in the FL heat/ humidity/ air conditioning: dress to sweat, bring a light cardigan if you dislike cold a/c.
Note: I bought rain ponchos (like all the guidebooks and blogs suggest) but it never rained during our trip, so they stayed in my suitcase. We did see people wearing them on water rides, but we enjoy getting slightly wet.
(Do protect your electronics! I wrapped my phone in my hat, stuffed in my pocket. That was fine.)
I wore my normal summer clothes to the parks, which varies from capri length cargo shorts and soft t-shirts to short skirts or dresses with short leggings underneath. I didn't Disney Bound (buying new clothes is not high on my list of fun things to do), but I appreciated the people who did!
Because I dislike being cold and the air conditioning in the South is often turned down way too low, I tied a cardigan around my waist to wear indoors. That may seem silly when the outside temperature is well over 90* Fahrenheit, but my fingers hurt when I get cold, so it isn't silly at all, it's just doing what needs to be done.
Which is essentially my travel/ life philosophy: do what works best for you.
Which brings me to my final, and most important, point.
Attitude is everything: go with the ebb and flow.
Have a plan that works for you (whether you're very detailed about it or more go with the flow).
Know that you'll probably have to let go of some of your expectations (it would be difficult to stay for the Last Kiss if you're also planning on getting up early for rope drop) or you'll run yourself - and your family - ragged.
I think the most "what brings us joy" aspect of how my family approaches traveling in general (and Walt Disney World specifically) is that we do it our way and let go of a lot of excess "shoulds."
For us, that meant not standing in line to meet characters or get photos, with one noteable exception. Remy originally wanted to meet Kylo Ren. But once we got into the meet and greet, it was just far too real for him. Kylo Ren is taller than Remy imagined, and far more menacing. (He knows it's an actor. It's still very real for him.) He decided to stay at the back and not do the meet and greet. And that was OK. We didn't push him, once it was apparent it was causing him anxiety. We heard far too many other parents yelling at their kids to do something they didn't want to do during our trip. We did not have the expectation that he would do something that would scare him beyond his ability to practice bravery.
(Oh, how much bravery he practices! He amazes me.)
We walk this line a lot, in our day to day life. We don't always make the right call, but we do our best.
And meltdowns happen anyway. To all of us.
It's not that there's a perfect way of doing theme parks (or life) where you'll never ever have a meltdown and everything will be completely 100% awesome 100% of the time. That's not life.
Meltdowns happen. Ebb and flow happens. Mistakes happen. Going in with a plan and knowing you'll need to let go of some expectations reduces the chances of everyone melting down at the same time.
If just one adult - or even one kid - can stay calm when everyone else is freaking out, things will go back to calm much faster.
And that's the best way I know to maximize your fun, in life and at theme parks.
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