I messed up.
This April myself and 3 of my kids headed down to Disney World with my parents and some of my siblings. Since my husband was going to miss the kids’ reaction to the most magical place on earth, it was REALLY important to me to capture the whole experience for him on camera. I bought a compact Fuji XT3 (with a wide prime lens) for the trip so I wouldn’t have to carry around my big girl camera, and I started contacting Orlando documentary family photographers who offered Disney sessions.
Here’s the deal. I hadn’t been to Disney in 30 years and had NO idea what to expect. All I heard was stories of 3 hour lines and the dreaded heat! So when I found a fantastic documentary photographer BUT we couldn’t get fastpasses together, I panicked. If 3 hours of our 4 hour session we would be standing in line in the hot sun, what exactly was I investing in?? With my husband’s encouragement, I decided it just wasn’t meant to be… and I got down to learning how to use my new camera.
My kids did have a blast, and Disney IS as magical as everyone says! We spent five days in the parks: 1 at Hollywood Studios, 2 at Magic Kingdom, 1 at Epcot, and 1 at Animal Kingdom. (Ask me about our itinerary and lessons learned- I am happy to share my newfound knowledge!) That is a LOT of time to learn how to use my new camera. It doesn’t feel so foreign anymore!
So I have a good thousand pictures of my kids experiencing Disney World – the highs of the coasters to the lows of their heat-induced meltdowns. And fantastic shots of my parents enjoying my kids. All these AMAZING memories. Like this one of my mom and two sisters ducking away from the flock of birds flying *just* over our heads…
Here’s the thing, though. I am NOT IN ONE of those photos. Not one! And those birds? I didn’t even get to experience them flying over, because I was so intent on capturing my family’s reaction to it. It’s a good thing I got to ride Big Thunder Mountain when I was a kid, because this time I was turned around taking pictures the whole time.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE taking pictures. I mean, I love it so much that I’ve turned it into my livelihood! But I ALSO like to step back and enjoy the moments that I am capturing. And on a once-in-a-lifetime trip like Disney, it’s REALLY hard to do both.
See, I was THERE. I was cradling my tired kiddos and wiping away tears and soaking in their joy. I was present emotionally, just as excited as they were. I had SO MUCH FUN! But you wouldn’t know that from my pictures. And if these photos are preserving memories for my kids, I want them to see me in there, too.
I wouldn’t say I REGRET not hiring a photographer for a Day in the Life at Disney World, because it’s hard to feel regret when the trip was SO AMAZING and we are SO GRATEFUL we were able to go down together.
But I am 100% positive that the next time we make it down to Disney World, we will be hiring a documentary photographer to trail us around for the day. (And yes, of course I will bring my camera, too, because that’s just who I am. But I will NOT be missing out on any thrills next time- birds or coaster or otherwise!)
I’m UTTERLY EXHAUSTED.
And so are my kids.
Anyway It’s taken a handful of days to recover, but we are there. And my daughter is already counting down the days until our next trip down (which is apparently 1821 days away according to her chart)!
PS Any of you parents traveling to Disney World during warmer months (April-Oct!) should consider buying some of these things for the trip- they were all lifesavers for us!
- Water Bottle with Mister – Even if you’re not headed to Disney, buy one of these. Seriously. My kids had SUCH FUN with these!
- Rain Ponchos – You don’t know how much these will cost at the park. This particular brand is on the thin side but it works just fine for a sudden rainstorm and packs really light.
- Stroller Hook – Assuming you are taking a stroller (Got kids under 7? You SHOULD!), these hooks were a lifesaver. We hung water bottles and hand sanitizer off them, along with souvenir bags that wouldn’t fit in the stroller.
- Applesauce Pouches – Works for adults or kids, and has a little fluid in them for hydration, too. Better yet, have them shipped directly to your resort.
- Small Sunblock bottle in your carry-on – We arrived early our first day and headed right to Hollywood Studios, having our bags dropped off at our resort. Which means we only had (literally) the bags on our back when we entered the park. Had we packed a small bottle of sunblock in our carry-on bags, we could have avoided purchasing the $16 small bottle in the park that day…
- Lanyards and trading pins – My kids had SO MUCH FUN trading their pins with park employees! Absolutely worth picking up some pins in advance on eBay, along with a lanyard to display them on.
- Autograph books/pen – Make sure the pens are big enough for characters with big hands to use!
PPS If YOU are planning your own Disney trip at some point in the future, be sure to check out Beyond the Boardwalk, a new website sponsored by talented Pittsburgh photographer and Disney lover Jenna with her husband Nick. Lots of great info there with more coming!
Okay, the rest of my favorite photos from our trip, in chronological order…
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