Taking Babies or Toddlers to Walt Disney World – Yes or No?

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It’s an age old question…or is it a question of age? Should you take your baby or toddler (say, ages 0-3) to Walt Disney World? Will the kid remember it? Will it be worth the money? Will you drive yourself nuts trying to take care of the child instead of having a good time? I am here to provide the answers, at least as much as I can based on my experiences. After all, I have two darling children, ages 10 and 5 now, who both ended up taking a trip before they were a year old.

Taking my kids was no problem, even at 11 months old.

First things first, if you don’t enjoy Walt Disney World, then there is absolutely no reason for you to take your toddler. None at all. Don’t even think about it. Even if you think you have the world’s smartest 15-month-old child, he is not going to remember every detail of Pirates of the Caribbean. So, if you are looking into a trip for your toddler but you are not interested in Disney, figure out something else to do.

If, however, you were a Disney devotee before your little bundle of joy came along, and you enjoy what the parks have to offer, then you have cleared the first hurdle towards taking your toddler. The trip should be about two things – a vacation that you can enjoy that will also allow you to entertain your child with some of the best visual stimuli in the world. Your toddler, no matter the age, will enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of Walt Disney World much more than almost any other vacation you could take.

Second, if it’s a question of money, you probably don’t want to go to Disney, anyway. A Disney vacation can be more expensive than most other vacations, no matter whether the toddler is with you. However, depending on how much time you take and what you are doing, money might not be as big an obstacle as you think. Consider that kids under age 3 do not have to pay for admission to the parks, and your food bill will be minimal. So the real cost is your hotel and the meals and tickets for adults in the party. This is a big reason I say that any trip with a toddler needs to be about what the adults want to do rather than trying to cater to the toddler.

Kilimanjaro Safaris is an example of a ride both my kids and I enjoyed when they were younger.

Right after I say that, however, I will take you to my third point, which is that your pace when taking a toddler is going to be much slower than if you are touring by yourself. There are stops for diaper changes, feedings, and general rest. Kids of this age have to take a break during the day. They can’t make it through a rope drop to park close kind of schedule. To be honest, neither can their parents. Fortunately, Disney is one of the best places to take a child of this age, since every park has a Baby Care Center that is relatively nice, and transportation back to the resorts is easily accomplished with Disney transportation.

If none of those three things scares you off, then I would say you are ready to take a trip with your little one. As I mentioned above, I took my kids before they were a year old. My son went when he was 11 months old because my wife and I needed a break. We had a fantastic time and were so convinced of the fun of it that we then took my daughter when she was six months old. Again, no issues to speak of on that trip. Here were some tips that we learned along the way that will help keep you sane if you choose to follow the same path that we did.

1. Keep the schedule – Before you go, you will probably know your child’s nap schedule, as well as preferred feeding times. While you are at Disney, you should keep the same schedule. If your child is a late sleeper, don’t bother with rope drop. If your little darling takes an afternoon nap at 1 p.m., then make sure you grab an early lunch and head back for nap time. Keeping the kid on schedule keeps him from being majorly disrupted by the craziness that is Walt Disney World.

2. Schedule table service meals – On both of the aforementioned trips, we were told by the “experts” that our kids were too young for sit down meals. We ignored this advice and scheduled table service meals for dinner, similar to how we would do things at home. The respite from the heat was just what the doctor ordered for a fussy child, and enabled us to enjoy a nice meal wherever we wanted without worrying about the baby.

Naps are a must.

3. Use a Touring Plan I know, I know, it sounds like I’m just promoting what you can find here on the site, but it’s the honest truth. Using a touring plan is important with a full family, but with a child it’s essential. Smaller children do not mix well with lines. Using a touring plan and FASTPASSΒ is the best way to keep things moving and keep the child entertained while not losing your mind.

4. Know your child – This is the most key. If your child can’t handle characters, don’t force him to approach Goofy on the street. If your 2-year-old watches Disney Junior every day, make sure you go see the show at Hollywood Studios. Plan ahead, know the things your child should enjoy and the ones you should avoid, and tailor your touring to that, while squeezing in things that you really want to do.

Those are my overall tips on heading down with a small child. As you can see, I’ve done it many times. One of my best trips was taking my daughter when she was just about to turn 3 years old. So it can be done, and you can have a great time. Do any of you have that experience? What did you do with your young children?

32 thoughts on “Taking Babies or Toddlers to Walt Disney World – Yes or No?

  • April 9, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    My niece was 1-year for our first visit and I don’t really care if she remembers. I remember and I have photos for her to see when she is older. That trip wasn’t about her it was about me and her parents watching her enjoy it.

    • April 11, 2012 at 1:52 am

      Amen!! People tell me all the time that they want to wait until their kids are old enough to “remember”. We took our two girls (ages 3 & 1) and then our three girls (ages 6, 4 & 1). I don’t know what, if anything they will remember, but watching their faces and amazement are things that I will NEVER forget!!

  • April 9, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    Ryan, your advice is wise. Trips with tiny ones are fine as long as you know what you’re getting yourself into and plan accordingly to meet your kid’s needs.

    It worked well for me when my son was both 2 months and 8 months old.

  • April 9, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    I just took my 3-year-old and 6-month-old to Disneyland. Keeping their schedule was definitely key. Because we knew that we would be spending afternoons at the hotel as well, I made sure to choose one that had nice rooms and wasn’t just a place to crash. Also, the only day out of 3 that was not much fun for anyone was the morning we thought we were going to “push” the kids and ride a bunch of things we wanted to go on. It was miserable. When we just accepted that my 3-year-old didn’t care about making sure we did everything and just wanted to hang out in Toon Town and about 1/2 of Fantasy Land we had a fabulous time. She went on the roller coaster no less than 5 times! The more dark and sinister rides, like Snow White, freaked her out though. My biggest regret is pushing her to ride some of the dark rides first thing in the morning. It almost ruined another day. The carousel fixed it and she was much happier on the cheerful rides, like the teacups, insisting on going on them multiple times in a row!

  • April 9, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    I’d love to see the follow-up… taking preschoolers. Pro/con.

  • April 10, 2012 at 12:26 am

    I think yours is the first article I’ve read that mentioned if you don’t love Disney yourself, don’t bother going. That is good advice.

    My daughter is 3 years and 2 months and she just went on her 4th trip to Disneyland. Her first was at 10 months. We go because we love Disney, and have kept taking her because she loves it, too.

    It is also nice to have a trip without kids once in a while.

    Also, I always suggest to parents to try a trip anywhere before the baby can walk and want to wander around.

    • April 10, 2012 at 5:44 am

      Yes, a million times, yes! If you’re going to a Disney park simply because that’s what you feel you should do for your kids, then it’s just not going to go well.

      I am so glad that my parents have always been such total dorks, and that I have married a total dork. It makes for far better trips. I know that in September, my dad is going to put on a pretend American accent and say “and no flash photography!” as much as possible, and my husband is going to (quietly) make up rude versions of all the attraction songs, and that’s a good thing. Kids feed off their parents’ moods so much, and if you’re having fun, then your kids will enjoy it more.

  • April 10, 2012 at 12:49 am

    Our trip to WDW was 6 days in the parks with boys ages 7, 4, and 2 (and one on the way). We did rope drop to closing, but about half the time we took a lunch/nap break. The fact that it was off season meant closing times were earlier and that helped too.

    The 2-year old was great. He made a good stroller buddy for those speedwalking trips to acquire Fastpasses. He loved to “Defeat Zurg.” He laughed hysterically on the Tomorrowland Speedway every time the guide rail jerked the steering wheel out of his hands. After Toy Story Mania he exclaimed “Let’s do it again!” And of course he did the Barnstormer again. He pointed to the Astro Orbiter and proudly declared that he had ridden Space Mountain.

    The last day we didn’t take a nap break, but he took a nap in my arms. It started on Winnie the Pooh, continued through the Haunted Mansion and It’s a Small World, and then ended just in time for him to ride the Carrousel with gusto.

  • April 10, 2012 at 8:57 am

    We’re expecting our first in August, so we are skipping the usual Fall trip, but still plan on keeping the spring trip next year. A little nervous about taking an 8/9 month old but posts like this really help!

  • April 10, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Yes! Take them! We took our three kids for the first time when they were 18mos, 3 1/2 and 8 and it was a blast! The two younger ones were able to be in strollers so that worked out great. We have gone to WDW for the last three years and it has been fun seeing how they experience it differently each time. My youngest was diagnosed with Autism when he was 2, and it has been amazing to see how all of the stimulation at Disney gets him talking! πŸ™‚ He said ‘bye’ to Piglet at Crystal Palace and it was awesome! I love taking them there, no matter what the age. It was great last year because all of our kids were over the 40″ mark, making it easier for us all to ride alot of the attractions together. And my kids all love the thrill rides which works out great. My daughter is 6 and barely made it into a stroller. She was so tired after one day that she actually fell asleep in the stroller! I would seriously consider renting a double stroller from the parks next time since the double ones are bigger. Should be interesting once they’re all tall enough for Rock ‘N Roller Coaster! Oh, and I don’t think it’s a great idea to try to knock out a park in one day. It’s exhausting and you’re asking for meltdowns (from parents and kids) if you do it like that. We prefer to get Park Hopper so we can be flexible with our planning. My biggest tips? Strollers, naps and don’t over plan. Take your time to enjoy the parks with your little ones. πŸ™‚

  • April 10, 2012 at 9:56 am

    We will be taking our 4-month old for a family trip in November. I really have no worries about it, because A. We’re staying at Bay Lake Tower, so the convenience of going back for nap time is great, and B. We LOVE WDW, and feel that we’ll know how to navigate any baby-related issues throughout our trip. It also helps that the in-laws will be coming along for some extra support. I’m glad we’re going when our little one is so young, so we’ll start the traditions and know what to expect each time we go!

  • April 10, 2012 at 11:02 am

    I know people love their kids and all that, but those giant strollers are the fly in my Disney vacation soup. I think kids should be old enough to walk themselves around. I was 6 or 7 the first time my parents took me and I barely remember anything except for Future World at Epcot.

    • April 10, 2012 at 1:47 pm

      Waiting until a child is 6 or 7 means missing out on much of the pure magic. My children are 4 & 6. We took them last summer for the first time and we will be taking them again this summer. It was wonderful for everyone, and my kids were young enough that they still truly believed in everything. My kids have not stopped talking about the trip for 6 months. Maybe they won’t remember details about these trips, but they will remember the feelings associated with taking these family trips together (the same way I remember the feelings from my childhood). I am sorry that our big stroller may have bothered you while we were building family memories. Perhaps, if strollers irritate you so much, you should consider vacationing somewhere that doesn’t draw so many families.

  • April 10, 2012 at 11:30 am

    My advice is to include as many adults as possible on a trip with young kids. Many grandparents, aunts/uncles and family friends enjoy seeing little ones at WDW, especially if it is their first visit. This also provides parents with “back-up” and potential sitters. If a parent is tired or frustrated, then it may be helpful to have another adult to help out. We went as a large group of 15, which included 6 kids (ages 2-11) and were able to break up into groups based on level of interest in particular activities and stamina. We had enough adults to ensure that everyone was able to do the activities on their priority list (including plenty of pool time).

  • April 10, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    I’ve posted this elsewhere, but another very important thing to plan for is that your kid-management skills need to be turned up to eleven — but you also need to keep as much of your daily routine close to “normal” as possible. Yes, this actually makes sense. As others have posted, kids pick up on your mood, and if you’re frazzled, they’ll be that much more prone to breaking down themselves. There will be enough opportunities for mood breakdowns while on vacation that you don’t need them to come from things that you also do at home.

    Planning for every eventuality is great…but if you aren’t used to carrying around a giant diaper bag, the parks aren’t the place to learn how. On the other hand, if your normal routine is to carry a pack that would make a Marine wince, don’t ditch that for a smaller bag (or two, split between parents) in the name of efficiency — your own routine as a parent will be disrupted, and you’ll drive yourself nuts looking for things that aren’t where you’re used to finding them.

    Scheduling table service meals can be a good thing, but if your child is a handful to manage at a table service restaurant at home, they’re not going to be any easier to deal with at Disney where the restaurants are probably going to be louder, more crowded, and (if nothing more) a strange new experience. So practice how you handle your child at a restaurant with getting in and out of a commercial high chair easily, using folding changing tables in the restrooms, and so forth. Oh, and the whole eating thing.

    Same thing goes for stroller management. You should be well versed with folding and deploying your stroller, and with getting it into and out of a vehicle, before you set foot in a park. This is especially important if you’re renting a stroller while on vacation, since it probably won’t be the model you’re familiar with. Get some practice at the resort.

    Our goal for our daughter’s first trip at age 6 1/2 months was for us to tour the parks as lightly and as easily as we did going to the mall at home. We succeeded in all counts, especially in regard to making sure she handled herself well in restaurants (which we had been working on almost since the day she was born). She’s almost 2 now and recognizes photos of the parks, even when we’re not in them.

  • April 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    YES! We took our daughter last May when she had turned 3 in February. SHE still talks about every detail to this day and has been planning and asking about our next trip. We spent a lot of time waiting in lines for characters and eating at character meals. Because that is what she was into and enjoyed. We saw several shows, Belle, Ariel and Turtle Talk. We only hit a few rides in MK and that was just enough. She enjoyed the Muppets and Philharmagic too. It allowed for quiet time in a cool place. A stroller is a MUST.. We brought our own from home.. as it was a small umbrella one that folded up nicely for the buses and we were able to have her sit from the hotel room to the bus stop and through the parks. She actually sat in it most of the time we were walking as it was warm and little feet tire out easily. Was fine by us as we didn’t have to worry about her in the crowds. She really enjoyed fireworks.. and the castle show and parade. But would have been happy just riding the monorail all day! We even did the Hula Show at the Poly.. well worth the money for us as she loves hula dancing and wore her own outfit!

    Plenty for everyone to enjoy at any age.. as long as you plan and cater to the party as a whole and take time to enjoy what you are doing and seeing and not cram too much in. Bedtimes stay the same as do nap times. Disney transportation helps make that easier!

  • April 10, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    We took our 3 and 18 month old last May. The three year old was so excited he stayed awake for the whole of the journey from England and finally gave up long after we had checked into the hotel. I agree with all the tips here except we opted for quick service to give us more flexibility when we ate. We also discovered some handy ways to occupy the children whilst we went on the adult rides. The best of these was taking their wetsuits so they could play in the fountains at epcot. We varied our days so sometimes we would do rd and have an early night and other times had a long afternoon nap so we could do the late shows. The latest we did was 1am with baby asleep in the buggy and 3yr old wanting to keep going. They still remember it…and we often show them photos and videos. Even the little one still talks about meeting Minnie!

  • April 10, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    We’ve been many times with infants/toddlers. Knowing your kids is really key and being flexible/aware of their needs- more so than sticking to your usual schedule. Mine don’t nap in hotel rooms- it’s too different from home, too much to look at I guess. Instead they fall asleep in our arms when they are tired, so rather than return to the hotel mid-day for naps, we just take it easy in the park whenever they pass-out. I sat in the Baby Center with a sleeping 1 yr old for an hour in January. Baby-wearing (whether it’s a Bjorn, Snugli, ring sling or whatever you have) is our life-saver. I’ve even had my 40lb 4 yr old fall asleep in a baby carrier for over an hour walking around Epcot… back ache, but he was content. Since they don’t sleep real well in hotels… we do rope drop to dinner, then head back for their normal bedtime to keep them reasonably rested.

    Same goes for table service restaurants. The trouble with Disney dining is that many times you wait for quite a while even with a “reservation.” If you tell the toddler “dinner” and then stand around for 45 minutes, they might melt-down. It’s okay to give them some (healthy) snacks while you wait. Better to spoil their dinner, than yours.
    Most of this article applies to preschoolers, just as well as toddlers. It’s still more about you watching them enjoy it than them remembering it, knowing your kids, and keeping a child-sized pace- except now you have to pay for them. Once they hit 40 inches they can ride a lot more, but some of it is still too intimidating. Our newest 40 incher opted out of everything but Test Track this past January (but he’s the child that doesn’t like Dumbo because it’s too high/fast).

  • April 10, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    We have taken our kids to WDW every year since they were born. We just used the strategy of following the young ones’ lead — rest when they usually want to rest, eat at the usual times, go only on attractions that we felt there was a reasonable chance they’d enjoy. We have had such wonderful times at the parks with our little ones that it just makes me sad to think of all the parents out there denying themselves those joyful moments because the kids won’t remember. When I look at our photos of our sons at WDW when they were 2 1/2 and 7 mos., it makes me seriously verklempt! Our older son was delighted by the magic everywhere, and in every photo he has a giant grin; our younger son was just in awe of everything, staring at all the unbelievable sights. It was such a magnificent time, I’m only sorry we don’t have twice as many photos from that trip. Now that they’re 11 and 9, we love looking at all those old vacation photos together.

  • April 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    @Meredith I’m pretty sure I didn’t run into you the last time I was there. I’m entitled to my opinion like everyone else and for the life of me I can’t imagine why it would bother you so much. At any rate, I hope you have a fantastic time on your next visit! πŸ˜€

    • April 10, 2012 at 5:22 pm

      It really didn’t bother me. It’s not my problem. You’re not the first person who has expressed their disdain for our double strollers and suggested we wait to go to Disney until our kids can walk; in fact, people often complain about them TO us while we are at the parks, on elevators, on buses, etc. I was just trying to state my viewpoint that, although I’m sorry our stroller can be bothersome, we have kids and we are taking them to a kid-friendly destination where strollers are commonplace. Your opinion is that we shouldn’t bring our kids; my opinion is that you shouldn’t go if it bothers you so much. You’re absolutely right; we are all entitled to our opinions…

  • April 10, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    I agree with all of the advice wholeheartedly. With a little planning and flexibility, bringing toddlers and preschoolers can be amazing because they completely believe in the magic of the experience!!

  • April 10, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    We went when our kids were almost 2, 5 and 6. Relatives were supposed to come with us to help, and then bailed on us so we were on our own. I go to WDW for all of us, DH and me, not so much for the kids, honestly I could take them to the local sandpark and watch them smile and play, it’s awful expensive to do so at Animal Kingdom boneyard! My youngest remembers a few things, the older ones much more. We used a backpack to carry one, an umbrella stroller for the 5 year old and the six year old was expected to walk. We would switch them around, but always had one locked down so that each parent could take care of a untethered child πŸ™‚ We live in a big city and are used to having to get on and off public transport quickly so travel very lightly and I refuse to have a big suburban stroller.

    The baby swap worked great. What we like the best however, was the two nights that we got Disney babysitting and did EMH as a couple and ran like crazy teenagers throughout the park while our kids were in good hands.

  • April 10, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    Last august grandpa and I took the 5 grandkids, ages 5, 4, 2 and 20 month old twins (plus their parents) for our first vist home to BLT. It was a trip we will all treasure forever. None of us will ever forget their smiles and excitment, especially at the first rope drop at the Magic Kingdom. Was it work, yes , but was it worth it, ABSOLUTELY. Now we are all can’t wait for the next visit home next year.

  • April 11, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Thank you for a fantastic article. I would say that I agree 100% with everything stated above. My 3yo has been three times and 1yo has been twice. Our last trip was for two weeks and we’ll be going again a couple weeks.

    From the beginning everyone told us we were crazy to take children that young, but the trips weren’t for them – they were for my wife and I. The kids just came along for the ride. We already had learned that breaking the schedule was a big problem. We have our own agenda we follow on most trips and having that plan helped a lot (as it does with or without kids). Plus, like you said, we could tell when our kids were getting tired or when my 2yo was gonna be freaked out by Flik.

    Our experience with our kids has allowed us to substitute No. 3 (table service) for finding a quiet area to eat a meal you bring or a counter meal. On our last trip Tortuga Tavern was rarely open or hardly busy if open, so we sat in the back dining area and usually had the room to ourselves. It was a quiet, out-of-the-sun, meal as a family.

  • April 16, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Any trip with a kid who is less than a mature 4-years old (unless one has other older siblings) is merely a nice photo-op. The kid won’t remember it.

    If it’s for *you*, sure.

    If it’s for the *kid*, in a word: No.
    Take them to a local midway ride place.
    Or to any place that has a pool.
    The kid will like it just the same & you’ll save a ton of money & hassle.

  • April 17, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Thank you for a great article. So often this topic brings out nothing but naysayers! We are currently preparing for my 3 year old daughter’s 4th trip to Disney World, and the experience of sharing in her total, unquestioning belief in magic has been one of the highlights of my mothering years thus far. Sure, most kids won’t remember trips taken when they were young. But memories don’t have to last a lifetime to be worthwhile; my daughter learns new words and new skills on every trip, and she takes traveling in stride. And my husband and I, our older kids, and the extended family we’ve traveled with will always remember.

    And to EJ – we’ve been to a lot of local fairs, midways, and resorts with pools or even waterparks. My daughter doesn’t love any of them the way she loves Disney World. She might not remember any of it when she’s 30, but right now she walks around singing the Imagination song and any time I tell her we have something special planned the first thing out of her mouth is ‘Mickey’s House?’. No other place, not the indoor waterpark resorts or the local midways or zoos or children’s museums or even Cedar Point, has made that much of an impression on her.

    • April 17, 2012 at 11:20 am

      @Colleen, I think that’s great. It’s nice that your daughter is the exception. Walking around the MK last week revealed a lot of whining, tired, entitled little faces & a few really happy ones that age. I’m sincerely glad one of the happy ones was yours. They should all be like that. I’m willing to bet she likes the pool part the best though, yes? πŸ˜‰ Best to you. πŸ™‚

  • April 29, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Please don’t delay a trip to Disney because you think they are too young to remember – they can enjoy Disney whatever age they are. My daughter was 13 months old her first visit (she’s now almost 16 and about to take her 6th trip) and everyone thought we were crazy taking a baby to Disneyworld especially with the 9 hour flight from the UK but she took it all in her stride. She loved all the bright colours and couldn’t get enough of the characters, I remember one particular occasion, when we had practically the whole of the Liberty riverboat watching her as she laughed and laughed with one of the country bears who was about 10 times as tall as her. If she was tired during the day she slept in her pushchair (stroller) and often at night she fell asleep whilst we ate in a restaurant (she had already eaten) and was no bother at all. The only problem I remember is being worried she wasn’t eating as much as usual – until I realised that we weren’t eating as much as usual either because we weren’t used to the heat! Sure she can’t remember any of that particular holiday, but we have loads of photos which she now LOVES looking through, and for us, her parents, the memories are always there. Plus I can say she took her first steps in Disney walking towards Mickey Mouse!

  • May 29, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    I took my 6 month old in March and I’m so glad I did. He loved every minute of it. I’m a bit more nervous about our trip next year, we will have a 4 month old, a 1 year old, and a 5 year old. But we’ll throw a double stroller in the car and make it work. The main thing to remember is that it will be a much slower pace. I’m used to running from ride to ride, and with an infant, it’s just not going to happen. We managed without leaving the parks midday. I totally agree about the sit down meals. The best thing we did was take turns with my older son on the big rides. We got rider swap passes. This gave us time for one of us to find a quiet place with baby and sit down, change diapers, feed, etc. We also avoided all lines. If a ride had a long line, we either got a fast pass or didn’t ride. We didn’t want to carry baby without a stroller through long lines, or be seperated for hours for just one ride. It worked well. We rode all of the big rides many times and only missed one, Tower of Terror. One of the best trips we’ve ever had!

  • May 31, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    I have 3 kids 9, 6 and 1. We’ve been to Disney World 4 times and are planning a trip this summer (baby’s first visit). I took both older kids when they were as young as 18 months and they both had a wonderful time. I agree that you have to know what your kids can handle and what you can handle. I know that I personally could not fathom taking a child less than 18 months just because I find it challenging on a day-to-day basis to manage them at home. All parents are not the same though and some may find infants easier to manage. I think the best advice is to focus on minimizing your OWN stress and enjoy yourself. If you are having fun, the kids will have fun too. Rest is key and pushing to fit everything in just leaves everyone tired and miserable.

    • May 31, 2012 at 2:35 pm

      I would also like to add that I have encountered an equal or greater number of tired, cranky and rude parents at Disney World. So again, know what YOU can handle too- it’s not just the kids who have the potential to make it a miserable experience! πŸ™‚

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