If you’ve been following Nicole Ellington’s blogs, you’ve probably learned about a wide variety of ways to keep your kids entertained while visiting the parks (check her work out here); however, I recently noticed a gaping hole in Nicole’s extensive body of work.
For many of us, visiting the parks necessitates a stop in the vast concrete desert of the Disney parking lots. Depending on where you’re able to find a spot, the walk to the monorail or the trams might be a few minutes or a few weeks. How can you expect your children to remain soaked in the Disney experience when the walk from the car might require more preparation than hiking the Appalachian Trail? Here are seven tips for keeping those attention-starved little monsters occupied when their arms are too tired to hold their tablets in front of their faces any longer.
Marvel at Man’s Ingenuity
Obviously, to get to Orlando, some people must travel from quite far away. As you make your way through the parking lot, look for especially dilapidated cars — you know, the ones that look like cousin Eddie’s RV from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Point out to your children the various ways in which people use their cleverness to keep their cars on the road and their Disney destination in their sights. Who knows? Perhaps your five-year-old will be so inspired by the beer can oil filter that he’ll grow up to be an engineer — or at least have a better understanding of which light beers can be used to repair a car in a pinch. If you see an especially dirty car, don’t waste time with the usual “wash me” nonsense on the rear window. Be more creative. Instead, leave that person a little bit of Disney magic: have your child lean against the car while wearing Mickey ears, trace his or her outline, and then leave little nuggets of quotable joy around the image. Who wouldn’t want to come out to a car decorated with mouse ears and inspirational quotes from The Lion King? You’ll be brightening another family’s day with each act of passive, temporary vandalism.
Pull a Fake Out
This one is hilarious. Well, if I’m being honest, it’s mostly hilarious for you. It’s not at all funny to the other people
involved, but this blog isn’t about keeping other people entertained, is it? As you approach the front of the lot nearest the park, walk down one of the rows towards a prime parking location such as an end spot. You’ll likely pick up a shadow, a car that’s basically stalking you to see if you’re going to get into a nearby vehicle. Once you’ve acquired said shadow, suddenly divert your family towards a large SUV — you know, something really cliche like a Suburban, or maybe a Suburban. When that car pulls up quick and puts on its blinker, because you know it will, suddenly look sheepishly at your family and scan the surrounding cars as if you’ve stupidly approached the wrong vehicle. Let your children over-act frustration and then cross into a different parking lot lane, rinse and repeat. For maximum impact, try to find several similarly colored SUVs in the same parking lot lane — like a dark Suburban — and see how many times you can pull the fake out before the shadow car starts waving his hand at you in a decidedly non-Disney fashion.
As you make your way through the concrete wasteland, keep your eyes peeled for rear window stick figure families, especially the ones wearing mouse ears. These stickers typically denote families that like to advertise to other motorists that they indeed have three children, two cats, and a dog, which is probably the most interesting thing about them. Since that’s a low bar, and quite sad, you and your family can do them an enormous favor by sprucing the stickers up a bit — and by “sprucing them up a bit” I, of course, mean creating hideous sins against nature out of their various appendages. Perhaps father would look better with a dog’s face, and maybe what sibling number two needs is a good set of ears for hands. If other nearby motorists have themed stickers (or that Dinosaur chasing the family), you might be able to create a comprehensive mosaic of insanity that will keep some boring family entertained, and likely horrified, for hours on end. For added effect, bring a few of those markers that write on glass and let your kids add their own special touches to the stick figure menagerie. Sure, there will probably be a lot of bodily fluids added, depending on what color markers you bring, but your children will have a blast.
This technique requires quite a bit more preparation and financial investment, but it teaches your children patience and allows them to stretch their imaginations when envisioning the inevitable reactions it will receive. Bring a tire iron and a portable jack or two. Find a car parked in an end spot, the bigger the better, and then jack it up so at least one wheel and tire is far off the ground. Remove the wheel and tire, place it on the ground and then walk away. No harm done. You get added bonus points for enhancing your vehicular tableau with fast food remnants or a note apologizing for fixing the wrong car. Your children will have a fabulous time adding these little touches to the scene.
Adopt a Family
This one only lasts a few seconds and requires one of your children to be quite bold, but it will result in hilarity for the rest of your family. When you see another family leaving the park, tail them to their car. This works much better if their car is really nice, like a top shelf Suburban, because if their car is a slowly disintegrating Ford van with sliding doors and no windows, this plan could horribly backfire. As the family approaches their nice car, have one of your children — preferably the youngest and cutest — nonchalantly get in the back seat with the other kids. No words are required because I imagine the reaction will be immediate and more than worth it, but your child can score mega bonus points if he or she suddenly exclaims something along the lines of “I forgot my autograph book!” or “let’s go to Applebee’s!”
Enjoy the Dining Plan
This simple idea pulls double duty as both an entertaining diversion for your children and a filling snack. Pick up a large quantity of fast food from your favorite chain, open your doors or raise your liftgate, and then sit in your car feasting on saturated fat. When people pass by, ask them if they’ve tried mobile ordering their food because it’s super convenient and you don’t have to wait in line.
Although this one is the most time intensive, the rewards are more than worth it. As you’re probably aware, Disney hosts a number of high profile races in, around, and through the various Disney parks. You’re going to create your own! Bring a large plastic table and set it up along one of the main walkways from the parking lot. Cover it in paper cups filled with water and cheer on passing families and children, offering them water and words of encouragement. If you’re really committed, you’ll dress up in running attire and “pass” the families as they approach the table, letting your kids hand you a water, which of course you must sip and then splash into your own face. Make sure your outfit is a Disney bound of some kind and see how many families briefly pause to wonder if they really have inadvertently stumbled into one of the many races hosted by Disney. Depending on how many children you have, it might be wise to make some encouraging signs to wave enthusiastically. Who knows, perhaps you’ll accidentally start the next Disney Amateur 500 meter Parking Lot Dash.
As you can see, keeping your kids entertained at Disney is no small feat. Nicole has given you myriad tips for making your time within the parks as enjoyable and engaging as possible. Hopefully, using my amazing and completely realistic parking lot tips, you can guarantee that the good times will begin before you’ve even entered the parks. Best of luck, have a wonderful time at Disney, and try not to get arrested.
Rad Dad, out.