Disney Trip Rituals


Sometimes, without knowing it, we develop certain rituals within our lives that help to enhance our experiences in some way. My family is no exception to this rule and we have some trip traditions that we have been following for years. We did not set out to develop these rituals, but nonetheless they are a large part of every planned Disney World trip.

I am not talking about doing things just because they are good ideas, like getting a fastpass for Rock N Rollercoaster or stopping your newspaper delivery before each trip. I am talking about traditions developed during our trips, specifically for our trips. Does your family have traditions when traveling to Disney? See if any of ours sound familiar to you:

  1. Grumpy and Dopey lead the way. We always have Grumpy and Dopey leading the way. My husband’s mascot has always been Grumpy (as he has been known to be a little grumpy) and mine has always been Dopey (because I mostly live life with my head in the clouds). We purchased our stuffed Grumpy and Dopey during our first trip and, as you can see from the picture, you can find them on our dashboard during every trip.
  2. Up at 2 and out by 3. We always have a quiet house by 8:00 the night we leave and depart our driveway at 3:00 a.m. My hubby does most of the driving, so he is in bed at 6:00 p.m. and the rest of us at 8:00. At 2:00 a.m. we wake up, fix to-go cups of coffee for my hubby and me while the kids grab their pillows and blankets and we are on the road at 3:00. We avoid traffic this way while allowing the kids to get some more sleep. 
  3. Familiar family breakfast. We always stop at the same family-style restaurant for breakfast. Since we leave at 3:00 in the morning, the kids go back to sleep and without fail wake up about 45 minutes before our breakfast destination. By the time we get there, we are more than ready for coffee and breakfast and so are they. The place where we stop is right on the highway, has great food and is perfect timing for us. Since it is a perfect fit, we have never had any reason to change it.
  4. State plate game. We always played a game with the kids when they were growing up and they still make us stick to the bargain. Once we arrive at our Disney resort, the first one to spot a Texas license plate (besides ours) wins a prize. This is always a Disney-related prize and now that they are older, they are cut-throat, trying to keep each other from seeing out the windows. It is hilarious to watch and a fun way to start off the trip. 
  5. First day at MK. We always visit the Magic Kingdom on our first day. For us, nothing says “Welcome to Disney World” like being on Main Street USA. When we arrive into the park, we stand there staring at the castle for a little bit and breathe in and out to let ourselves know that, yes, we are truly back home.
  6. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. We always attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party on our first night. It is wonderful to spend five hours being enchanted by Christmas at Disney. We watch the parade and the shows, ride all of our favorite rides over and over again and eat Christmas cookies and drink hot chocolate while snow falls on our heads. We wait all year to view the most breathtaking scene Disney has to offer, Castle Dream Lights, and it is always well worth the wait. What a welcome gift.
  7. Family picture. Every year, we take a Photopass picture of the whole group in front of Cinderella’s castle. I have the exact same pose in the exact same spot for the past ten years. This is a neat way to watch how the family has grown, and I do mean grown as we started visiting when my youngest was 6 and he is now 6’3”.
  8. Matching t-shirts. Each year, I purchase new matching shirts. This is an easy way to spot each other in a crowd and it makes for a good picture in front of the castle, as well as Christmas card picture. We have had orange, chartreuse (twice), blue (twice) and this year we will be in red. So, if you see a tall family in red shirts standing in front of Cinderella’s castle in November, stop and say Hi. Even if it isn’t us, someone will be glad you did.  
  9. Christmas card photo. We always use a picture of us in our matching shirts for Christmas cards. We like using the Photopass pictures because you can add borders and captions and really make them personal. Sometimes our card picture is taken in front of the castle, sometimes in front of the huge gingerbread house inside the lobby of the Grand  Floridian or sometimes in front of the tree at the resort where we are staying. There are a number of opportunities for good pictures at Disney World.
  10. Incorporating something new. When you have been to “the World” a number of times, it is important to incorporate new ideas into your trip. When planning our itinerary, I always include an activity, show or restaurant we have never been before. This way, we always experience new things along with the familiar favorites.
  11. Cast member thank yous. Before we leave it is my great pleasure to make up business card-sized thank you cards for extraordinary cast members. This is not something I thought of on my own, but I read long ago about the idea and fell in love with it. My cards have Disney characters on them and generally say things that convey how they made our trip extra special. I carry these cards in my bag and whenever a cast member does something extraordinary, which has been quite often, I give them one and thank them for their help. I must say that I get so much more from that gesture than they do. This is one of the things I enjoy immensely when visiting the parks, resorts, riding the bus, etc. The cast members truly care about making the guests happy and, to me, they really deserve recognition.
  12. Mousekeeping envelopes. We always have specially decorated envelopes to leave in our room for Mousekeeping. These cast members work hard and I appreciate it. In my experiences with them, they have been very polite, considerate, helpful and fun-loving people. They leave us towel animals and we leave them a tip in a decorated thank you envelope.
  13. Commemorative pins. Our pin purchases are not like everyone else’s. We do not trade our pins, we collect them. Each pin is associated with a memory from one of our trips. Each year, we purchase a pin commemorating the resort we stayed in that year. We also buy a pin for each ride that is new or show we have seen for the first time.
  14. Mickey & Minnie annual toys. We always purchase Mickey & Minnie holiday stuffed toys with the year under the foot. We have them for each year and set them out to share the holiday season with us once we get home. They are part of our joy at Christmastime.
  15. Christmas ornaments. One of the things our family really looks forward to is going to the Days of Christmas store in Downtown Disney and purchasing the current year’s ornaments. Each of us gets one new ornament every year. When we get home, we have the pleasure of decorating our tree with all of our specially chosen ornaments while reminiscing about our trips throughout the years.
  16. Chef Mickey’s goodbye. On the last day of our vacation, we always eat at Chef Mickey’s character breakfast. We enjoy great food, a great atmosphere, and talk about how wonderful our trip has been. We also talk about what new things we might enjoy for next year.

I think the traditions we develop seem to make everything run smoother. They are not rules so if one of them wasn’t followed it wouldn’t ruin our trip, it just makes it comfortable and extra special to us. 

What rituals has your family developed through the years? If you haven’t started any yet, I hope this year will be the beginning of something new. Whatever your favorites are, I hope you will have a lot of time to enjoy them together and I hope that all your trips will provide you with opportunities to discover more and more special traditions for you and your family.

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Chip and Co Past Writers and Friends