Walt Disney World (FL)

A Disney World Trip With My Non-Disney Family

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If you have been reading the TouringPlans.com blog for the last few months, you may remember I was gearing up for a trip with my family, all of whom are not Disney fans. You see, I’m the only Disney World nut in the Helmstetter clan, so it was up to me to show them the ropes on our recent family trip. I will write about many of our activities in more detail in coming blog posts, but I wanted to take this week to do an overview of how things went since I know a lot of you have been following my story since the fall.

Our first day started out early with a smooth flight from Newark to Orlando.  Once we were all situated on our plane we were ready to get this vacation started!  When we arrived at in Florida we boarded Disney’s Magical Express to whisk us away to our resort.  The Cast Members working at the Magical Express couldn’t have been nicer to my mom who was using an airport wheelchair. I had no idea how wheelchair or ECV accessibility worked on the Magical Express, so it was wonderful to be so well taken care of.

We stayed at the Disney’s Polynesian Resort which was luckily the first stop for our bus! Everyone took a breather while we checked in, picked up my mom’s ECV, and got access to one of our rooms. We lucked out with rooms in the Rapa Nui building, which may be a little stroll away from the Great Ceremonial House, but is just a hop, skip, and a jump over to the Transportation and Ticket Center. We could take the ferry or the monorail to the Magic Kingdom with ease, and we could get to Epcot without having to transfer monorails. I highly recommend requesting this building if you have a garden view. Not only was our building great, but our rooms worked out well, too! I shared with my parents a handicapped accessible room that had a wheel-in shower. We had a connecting room with my brother and his family, which made life easier for us all. I think everyone really liked our stay here since we were conveniently located and the scenery was calming during our chaotic vacation.  The kids loved the pool, my parents loved the atmosphere, and everyone was happy.

After settling into the resort we headed to the Magic Kingdom. I knew it would be busy, but it was packed! My family was completely overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start. They couldn’t believe I knew exactly where to head to avoid the masses. I think they realized at that moment that my work with TouringPlans.com isn’t just fun and games. They finally appreciated all the work I do! My sister-in-law kept saying, “Thank God you’re here. If we didn’t have you we would have just stood there not knowing what to do.” A lot of circumstances on our trip didn’t allow for the use of any specific Touring Plans, but my general knowledge of the plans and my use of Lines helped push us in the right direction. This just goes to show the plans are not the gospel, but can be tailored to your family’s needs. My family is also a great example of how everyone should prepare prior to a Disney World adventure. They figured they could just rely on me to get them around and didn’t do much preparation. If they had been alone, they would have had a miserable time since they didn’t know which end was up.

Unfortunately, shortly after we arrived we were faced with a medical emergency. My mom has really bad ulcers, and she had a flare up after only experiencing one attraction on our arrival day. Without getting into too much detail, she had to be taken out of the Magic Kingdom by EMTs and spent the night in the hospital. She came back the next day, but obviously this threw a wrench in our plans. My brother, sister-in-law, and the kids wound up spending a relaxing evening back at the Polynesian rather than staying in the parks. The kids swam and were happily oblivious to what had happened to Grandma. After the rest of the family headed to bed, I was glad to have dinner with some local friends to distract me from the situation.

The next day we started over again with an early ADR for the Crystal Palace. Everyone but Mom was able to attend and watch the kids in their first character experience. The youngest of the kids loved every moment with Pooh Bear and friends while the older ones had to warm up to characters.  We did some attraction touring before the girls had an appointment at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. My nieces loved their experience, and I’ll be sure to write about it later. The rest of the day was full of Magic Kingdom rides, a break at the resort, and a family dinner when my mom came back from the hospital.

We all headed to Epcot on Thursday to spend the day taking in all that my favorite park has to offer. My family wasn’t sure they wanted to spend any time here, but shortly before our trip started, they made a last minute decision to dedicate a day to it. All of our time in Future World was spent in the Seas with Nemo and Friends. If you have little ones, they’ll really enjoy checking out all of the fish. I think my nieces and nephew could have spent all day here! We only left because we had a lunch reservation at Via Napoli. After a yummy lunch we wandered World Showcase, did a few attractions, and soaked in the atmosphere.

Our final day was spent in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Since we got a later than expected start with having to pack and check in for flights, we didn’t do as much in this park as I would have liked. We rode Kilimanjaro Safaris, which seemed to thrill everyone from grandparents to toddlers! Since my nieces love animals, we also walked along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, where the gorillas were a big hit. We dined at Tusker House (where characters are now featured at lunch) before we made a mad dash back to the Polynesian so the family could get back to the airport.

My family headed home on Friday while I stayed through the weekend. We said our goodbyes and turned in my mom’s rented ECV (which was a great service), and they were off to fly back to Newark. Aside from medical emergencies and the occasional cranky kids, I think the trip was a great success! My mom is already talking about going back with me next spring to check out the Flower & Garden Festival. I’m not so sure any of the other adults in my family is in a big hurry to return, but I think they all enjoyed their time at Disney World and our time together as a family. I was so glad to experience one of my favorite places with my family! While it certainly wasn’t perfect, we made the best of it, and I’d do again any time they wanted to go.


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Kristen Helmstetter

Kristen Helmstetter is an Unofficial Guide researcher who will share her 20-something perspective of all things Walt Disney World with blog readers. Kristen’s email address is khelmstetter05@yahoo.com. You can also follow her on Twitter: @khelmstetter.

3 thoughts on “A Disney World Trip With My Non-Disney Family

  • I’m so glad to hear that things (for the most part) went well for your family. I’ve been following all of your pre-trip blogs about this trip and I’m excited to read your personal blog for more details.

    I think this little summary is proof that even when things don’t go 100% as planned, a family Disney vacation is magical 🙂 Great job keeping Team Helmstetter together!

  • Just goes to prove, the best laid plans of mice (Mickey) and men (ok, women)…. I think this was a great experience for you though to see how the more people, and the less WDW knowledge they have, can impact the touring plans. It would be fun if you could work out a formula of something like Touring_Plan_Percent = ((# of people with 5 or more WDW trips * 100) + (# of people with 1-4 trips * 50) + (# of newbies * 0)) / (total number of people)

  • It’s awful to be sick at Disney World. 2 years ago we went and I ended up sick the whole 6 days we were there. I spent most of my time in our room at the CBR. Wish I could have been able to see more of the grounds. 🙂 Of course the great thing about Disney World is that even if you aren’t feeling too great, you can still make great memories. I didn’t get to go on any rides that year, but hearing my 2 year old autistic son say “bye” to Piglet was a moment I will never forget. We have great pictures from all of the character meals that week too. And the kids loved the water play area at the CBR. I don’t think my daughter even realized she was missing out on anything. I LOVE Disney!! No matter the stress, or illness you can always make amazing memories there. Glad to hear you had a great time with your family. 🙂


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