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Strolling through Disney World

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Strolling through Disney World
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Strolling through Disney World

    Would you be surprised to know that the outcome of your family’s Disney World trip, whether it was either a successful vacation or a disastrous waste of time, will largely be decided by what you pack before you leave?  While getting ready for your trip to Walt Disney World, for example, you have several decisions to make, one of them being whether or not to bring a stroller for your youngsters. There are definite alternatives to renting strollers in the various parks.

Just the Facts

    At 47 square miles, Walt Disney World is more than twice the size of  New York’s Manhattan Island. There are 4 major theme parks, 3 water parks, 4 shopping and/or entertainment areas and 24 resorts. Some of these resorts are so big it can take 45 minutes to get from one end to another. That’s a lot of walking which makes for some very tired legs (young and old) and many of your activities will be in areas where there are no stroller rentals.
    Cruising around the environs of Walt Disney World can make kids tired and grumpy and if you’d rather not carry your child for miles when a bad mood hits, seriously consider bringing a stroller. Before leaving home figure out your child’s energy level for walking long distances,their ability to handle stress (Disney World wears out most adults let alone our young children), and how well they take direction (“Sammy, you must keep walking because the car is still five minutes away”). Finally, don’t let your child’s age be a deciding factor in whether or not to bring a stroller. By the end of the day even a six year old would appreciate a stroller, so don’t ever feel awkward about using one. Would you rather get a few odd stares for strolling your oversized five year old or waste valuable money and minutes trying to persuade your child to walk faster so you’re not late to the $47 (per person!) Hoop-dee-doo Musical Revue?  Get the funny looks. Better to have a memorably happy trip versus a memorably horrible one.
    Considering the wide variety of activities and the massive size of  the park, Disney World provides minimal child transportation. There are only four locations that rent strollers: Magic Kingdom, MGM Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot. These strollers are single seaters except at Animal Kingdom which has double seaters. The strollers are found inside the main entrances of the parks and also at the International Gateway in Epcot’s World Showcase. Get there early since supplies are limited at all locations. They are made of hard plastic with a top shade to protect youngsters from the blistering Florida sun. The hard plastic also tends to get sweaty and un-comfortable after a long, humid 95 degree day). But at least it provides relief for tired legs. They cost $8.00 for a full day, $1.00 being a returnable deposit. If you go to another section of the park, keep your receipt and go to the stroller rental. They will re-rent you another stroller free of charge. At the end of the day you have two options. If you want your $1.00 deposit back, you must wait in a long stroller return line. If your $1.00 is dispensable, you can leave the stroller anywhere in the park.
    Disney World does its best to get you close to where you are going in the park environs but there are limitations due to the amount of visitors who show up daily. Be it by boat, monorail, bus or personal car tram, none of the park drop offs are closer than a 5 minute walk to any of the main gates. Add to this time to stand in line to go through security and then waiting in line to get through the entrance turnstiles. This can wear out little legs, all before 9:00 am. Remember, strollers are not available until you are inside the park, and the stroller rental line is another long wait!
    The Boardwalk, Disney’s Marketplace, West Side, and Pleasure Island all cover miles of walking and Disney World does not provide any stroller service in these shopping  and entertainment areas. For these, personal strollers are critical. Many stores have fragile items that small hands are tempted to touch and in addition, some stores are so large that children can be easily lost. In The World of Disney (the largest Disney store on earth), at Downtown Disney, and at the Boardwalk, your own stroller makes a great corral and comfortable place for a child to sit while the adults do some shopping.
    Make sure to bring your stroller to the water parks. People are most inclined to visit River Country, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon in the afternoon, just when our smaller folks are either falling apart or falling asleep. Having a comfortable place for your toddlers to lay down will make the difference between a relaxing soak in the sun or having to exit the park pronto. Plus, your stroller can carry your towels, clothes, and all of the other water stuff that accompanies a family on such outings.
    And possibly the best reason to bring your own stroller from home are the long lines and long waits throughout the entire park, which can reduce kids to piles of mush. Strollers are always allowed in the lines for hotel check in, waiting to be seated at restaurants, lines for boats, waiting for the monorail to show up. Strollers are not allowed in any of the ride lines.
   Personal strollers also are safe at Disney World, with too many of them around for a thief to decide to take off with yours. The only real threat is mistaken identity. Someone might walk off with your stroller thinking it was theirs but there are some creative ways to avoid this. Tie a bright red bandanna around the handle, attach a bunch of big shiny stickers, or hang a neon luggage tag, anything as long as it’s bright and stands out. There is no use tempting thieves, however, so don’t leave anything valuable in the stroller. Finally, people frequently think their stroller has been stolen when in fact it was a staff member just tidying up the area by organizing the strollers. Look around and you are sure to spot it close by.

Stroller Hotels

    For people with strollers, certain hotels have advantages over others. It comes down to how many park transportation options the hotel offers and how large the resort is. The more ways there are to get from one place to another, the easier it is for strollers. If the resort is more contained there will be less walking. Disney World charges for these conveniences.
    The Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Contemporary hotels are all part of the Magic Kingdom Resort area. These three hotels are on the monorail line, a mode of transportation ideal for strollers because you just stroll on and off the cars (transportation that does not require that you fold up the stroller is to your advantage). The monorail services both Magic Kingdom and Epcot. If these are the two parks you will be visiting the most, stay at one of these mon-orail hotels. On the other hand, the Wilderness Resort area which includes Wilderness Lodge, the Villas at the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground offers great boat transportation to Magic Kingdom. All of the resorts in the Magic Kingdom Resort area offer boats to the Magic Kingdom, but unlike the Polynesian, Grand Floridian and Contemporary boats, the boats servicing all 3 resorts in the Wilderness Resort area do not re-quire that you fold up the stroller. Picture your stroller at the end of the day filled with five souvenir bags, soda in one cup holder, juice in the other, a backpack shoved underneath, plus a sleeping child. Not having to unpack and fold up your stroller is a big bonus. If the Magic Kingdom will be your main destination, one of the three Wilder- ness Resorts will serve you well.
     Another favorite area to stay in is the Boardwalk Resort area. The transportation options from here are exceptional to two main parks, Epcot and MGM Studios and to one minor park, the Boardwalk shopping/entertainment area. The Boardwalk Resorts include the Boardwalk Villas, the Boardwalk Inn, Yacht Club, the Beach Club, the Beach Club Villas and the Swan and the Dolphin. These hotels all have boats, buses, and best of all, a walkway that connects all three parks. Each hotel has a boat launch which picks you up at your hotel (about a 5 minute walk from your room to the dock, no matter which hotel you are staying at) and goes on a circular route stopping at the Boardwalk Dock, Epcot’s International Gateway Dock, Yacht and Beach Club/Villas Dock, Swan and Dolphin Dock and lastly, MGM Dock. These boats allow you to just stroll on the boat, with the stroller and no folding necessary. While staying in the Boardwalk Resort area you will use Epcot’s International Gateway, a good entrance to Epcot. You don’t have to wait at the lines at the front of the park and you are right in the heart of the World Showcase, the restaurant capital of Disney World. World Showcase doesn’t open until  11:00 am but as you enter through the International Gateway there are ropes guiding you toward Future World which opens at 9:00 am.
    But the best reason to stay at one of the Boardwalk Resorts is the wide walkway along the canals and lake. These scenic paths lead from MGM, around both sides of  Crescent Lake, and end at Epcot’s International Gateway. You walk past water birds and turtles, get to wave as boats float along the canals, and take a peaceful break from the crowds. To stroll with your stroller from the gates of MGM to Epcot’s International Gateway takes about half an hour.
    The moderate and budget resorts are nice on the pocketbook but are more challenging for the stroller. The moderate resorts include Port Orleans French Quarter,  Port Orleans Riverside, Caribbean Beach Club and Coronado Springs. The All Star Music, Movie and Sports are the budget resorts. What all of these resorts have in common is their one transportation option, a bus. All Disney World buses require that you fold up your stroller. The buses go all around the resorts stopping at various locations, so no matter where your room is located a bus stop is never more than a five minute walk away. But remember, these resorts are huge. The following scenario is reason enough to make the decision to bring your own stroller. Let’s say your family is staying at the Caribbean Beach Club. For breakfast, the family walks the 12 minutes to get to
Port Orleans French Quarter,  Port Orleans Riverside, Caribbean Beach Club and Coronado Springs. The All Star Music, Movie and Sports, the main complex housing the food service. Once finished, trek for 12 minutes back to your room to collect your day bags and then you walk six minutes to the closest bus stop. By 8:30 am you have already walked half an hour with nary a theme park in sight. And the same situation happens at the end of the day with the only difference being everyone is tired, with hurt feet and little patience. You will be thankful you brought that familiar stroller!



 

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