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DON’T DO THIS:
Johnson Spiterick is bringing his family all the way down from the frozen boondocks for a fun-filled vacation to Orlando, Florida! His specific mission is to enjoy all the amenities of THE mouse-sponsored theme park. His kids are two and three, and Wifey Spiterick is 7 months pregnant.

Johnson thinks he is smart by traveling late in September, when all the kids in the United States will be in school. He books a reservation at one of the el-cheapo hotels in Orlando. Johnson drives down from the ice-covered tundra in his aged sedan with the busted air conditioner.

The JS's drive south while the temperature climbs. After arriving, they locate their hotel somewhere adjacent to the “red light district” (every town has one). They discover that the Disney property is not EXACTLY in Orlando. It is in Kissimmee. The constant screaming in the car makes Johnson wish for earplugs; Mrs. S. will not shut up.

After a fitful sleep in a hotel room that also has a broken air conditioner, the Spitericks set out at 8 AM to find Disney. Johnson merges onto a highway to find that he has inadvertently taken the Florida Turnpike. They are heading toward Miami. His wife cries. The kids cry. Johnson cries.

They finally arrive in Kissimmee by eleven and head for the World. By a stroke of luck (and Disney’s signs), he enters the property. The beauty, the landscaping, and the lack of traffic mesmerize them. Soon, they are in a Disney bottleneck.

They snake along for several minutes. Johnson shells out part of their lunch money for a parking pass. They leave their car in the lot and follow the others like lemmings to the tram stop. At the front gate, Johnson has to pay a small fortune for he and Wifey to enter the park. He is flabbergasted at the prices.

They do not have a baby carriage. They have to stand in line to rent one, and they stuff the two babies in it. They enter Main Street. It is literally packed with people sitting on the curb and standing on the sidewalk. They are waiting for the parade to start. Johnson notices there are kids running around everywhere. The Spitericks are woozy from thirst.

They have to wait for the parade to end, wait for the crowd to disperse, wait for a table in the restaurant, wait to see the sites, and wait to experience the attractions. By 2 PM, they made it through Cinderella’s Castle, It’s a Small World, and the merry-go-round. The kids are ready to leave. In six hours, they will all discover the pain of Florida sunburns.

DO THIS INSTEAD:
There are a few things to remember when visiting Central Florida for vacation.

1. It stays hot all year long. There MIGHT be a couple of nippy weeks in January or February. Make sure your air conditioner works in your car.

2. Sunburn comes cheaply in Central Florida. Wear sunglasses, a hat, and plenty of sunscreen. The pavement in the theme parks reflect UV rays brutally.

3. Wear tennis shoes at the theme parks if planning to go on the rides and attractions. Leave the sandals and flip-flops back at the hotel.

4. Keep water, juice, or soda handy all the time. Avoid alcoholic drinks out in the sun. Staying hydrated will keep your energy level up, even if you’re hungry.

Johnson Spiterick would probably have done better waiting a few years to visit the Disney theme parks in the Orlando area. Parents are limited because they cannot go on any of the cool rides like Space Mountain with babies. A good time to start the theme park experience is when the kids are tall enough to go on the smallest roller coaster, like Thunder Mountain.

Johnson should have made a reservation on the Disney property. The reason? Free shuttle service. It is worth it. There are a slew of hotels on the property. Disney’s All Star Resorts is one relatively inexpensive choice. Fort Wilderness allows camping and RV hook ups. Disney is ALWAYS building more.

Another reason why it’s good to stay on the property is that Disney takes turns opening its parks TWO HOURS early for Disney guests. Call Disney ahead of time and find out which park is opening early during your visit. One day it may be the Magic Kingdom, then MGM Studios, then Epcot, etc. Get down to the shuttle stop at the hotel between 6:00 and 6:30 AM to catch the bus there. The shuttle will take you all the way to the front gate, so you won’t have to mess with crowds, trams, and parking fees.

From 7:00 until 9:00 AM, you can enjoy your theme park with MUCH shorter lines. Plan strategically what to do first, second, and so on. For example, in the Magic Kingdom you may want to do Tomorrowland first. Get Alien Encounter and Space Mountain out of the way. OK, do Space Mountain two more times.

Go quickly from one attraction/ride to the next. Do not stop to eat or shop. You want to hoof-it through the park as quickly as possible before general admission starts. THEN set a more leisurely pace, eat a muffin and buy a T-shirt, whatever you want to do.

In addition to Tomorrowland, Adventureland is known to have long lines. Splash Mountain and the Haunted Mansion may open at 9:00, so make sure you’re strategically planted to be among the first on board. If you have questions, call Disney for assistance.

Johnson Spiterick will hopefully learn from his errors, and Wifey will hopefully forgive his gaffes. Plan ahead of time. Disney knows what’s happening MONTHS in advance. So should Johnson.