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If you spend any time on the various travel forums, you will eventually see some brave soul post a question that goes something like this…

“So, how do you….um….you know…when you’re on family vacation to Walt Disney World?”

The responses generally include undocumented references to the liberated practices of Eskimos in igloos, Europeans, and Native Americans in their tipi’s. The problem is that most of us are not Native Americans or Eskimos and we haven’t been Europeans since our ancestors stepped onto Ellis Island at some point in the distant past. To further complicate things, I’ve never actually seen a post that begins, “I’m an Eskimo. When the family is all in our igloo and the mood hits, my wife and I just….” So, those responses may best fit in the “internet legend” category.

Other responses are equally fantasy based – at least for most of us…

“My husband and I had the most romantic time on our last family trip to Walt Disney. We just booked two suites in a deluxe resort and we brought the nanny. She had a wonderful time with the children.”

Okay, this is how my family vacationed at Walt Disney World a few years back... We did get connecting rooms at a Disney Value resort. My parents and my two youngest children shared one room while my wife and I shared the other room with my mother-in-law. We kept the door between the rooms ajar in case one of the kids needed us. Can you feel the love tonight? Yeah – I didn’t either!

Here's the score, Buddy, you already "scored"... that’s how you got those kids! "Those kids" are why you are at Walt Disney World instead of nestled into a romantic pension in Paris. You don’t have two suites in a deluxe resort because you have a mortgage, music lessons, sports uniforms, and even food to pay for. You always knew you would love your kids but never realized that squeezing a Disney trip out of the family budget would one day make more sense to you than say…buying a boat or getting really good season hockey tickets. Let’s face it…somewhere along the way you became “a family man.”

I started in on this “family man” thing early – marrying at 21 and subsequently fathering four children, with an eleven year span between the first child and the last. Here’s what I’ve figured out along the way.

Try to have a good relationship with your wife year-round so that the romance factor on any one trip does not make or break the marriage.Pretend you’re teen-agers again and sneak in a few kisses in the back seats of rides like “The Many Adventure’s of Winnie the Pooh” or “Journey into Imagination with Figment”.Here’s the best “trick” we’ve managed to come up with - it’s not much but it’s all I’ve got. Tell the kids, “We’ll let you get ready in here where there’s more room. Your mom and I will get ready in the bathroom.” Have the TV on to the Disney channel or whatever program usually makes them super-slow when you’re trying to get them out the door for school. At the very least, you may get a shower together.

Programs for Children at Disney World that will give you a little “Alone Time”:

These activities have extra costs associated with them but may be the best option for families traveling alone.

Some of the Deluxe resorts offer evening childcare programs – for a price. You don’t have to stay at these resorts to use these programs but advance reservations are a good idea because that hotel’s guests get priority placement. Some wives are okay with traveling to another state and leaving their children with complete strangers in resort “Kids Clubs” but mine is not. She feels that there is a disconnect in the logic that says “talking to strangers” is dangerous but “staying with strangers” is okay. But these programs get great reviews and will give you some time alone. It is also important to note that children generally must be at least three and be fully potty trained.Disney offers some fun Specialty Cruises like the Albatross Treasure Cruise (Yacht Club resort), Sassagoula River Adventure Cruise (Port Orleans Riverside Resort), and the Islands of the Caribbean Pirate Adventure(Caribbean Beach Resort) for kids ages 4-10. These are generally 2 hours long and cost $28.17 per child. If you’re not staying at those resorts, you probably won’t have time to get back to your own hotel room but you can enjoy a little time alone and maybe a nice lunch date.

Traveling with friends & family:

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It seems like it should be pretty easy to spend a little time alone with your wife when you are on a trip with friends and family but this can be surprisingly tricky. Here are some tips for a successful trade off:

Don’t wait until you get to Walt Disney World to make your date night plans. It is just too easy for them to get lost in the shuffle. Make plans with your sister or friend in advance and decide which evenings you plan to trade-off childcare. The evening following your day at Animal Kingdom or one of the water parks can be a great option because those parks close early. Become co-conspirers in the quest for a date night and make your Advance Dining Reservations in advance.Do your kids know these friends or family members well enough to feel comfortable with them in a strange environment? If not, you might schedule your date night for later in the trip when they’ve had more time to get acquainted.Don’t limit yourself to dinner dates or shows – consider sending the kids off to the theme park with your friends or family in the morning when they’re feeling rested and excited. Then you and your spouse can get breakfast together or just stay at the resort and…well, that’s your business.Grandparents can get really peculiar at Walt Disney World – we’ve seen it happen a lot. They sometimes decide that the WHOLE family should do EVERYTHING together. The size of the parks and the energy required to manage kids sometimes overwhelms grandparents. So, once again, we recommend that you set your plan in advance if you hope to get some time alone with your spouse.

Make a reservation for a character meal that Grandparents & Grandkids can all enjoy together – the average character meal lasts about 90 minutes. You can stretch that time by timing a reservation at Ohana(Polynesian resort – not a character meal but a lot of fun), Chef Mickey’s (Contemporary resort), or theCinderella Happily Ever After dinner (Grand Floridian Resort) to end in time to watch the Electric Water Pageant.Dinner shows like Hoop Dee Doo Revue (Ft. Wilderness Campground), Mickey’s Backyard Barbeque (Ft. Wilderness Campground), or the Spirit of Aloha Luau (Polynesian Resort) are other options. Grandparents and older children or teens might enjoy a special night of dinner followed by Cirque Du Soleil’s LaNouba in Downtown Disney – this isn’t cheap but it is fun.A low cost (free) idea is to send them to the Campfire Sing-Along with Chip & Dale at the Fort Wilderness campground. Just remember that Grandmothers have a sneaky habit of deciding the grandkids are tired or cold and they could show up sooner than expected.

 In all probability, your Walt Disney World Family Vacation will probably not win any “Most Romantic Vacation Ever” awards but – with a little planning and a little luck – well, you might just get lucky.

Article written by Stephen Johnson, owner of Build A Better Mouse Trip. 
This article may not be reprinted without the permission of the author. 
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