All posts in disney

My Disney Advice

Screen shot 2015-06-16 at 8.24.02 AMI’ve been to Disneyworld twice as a parent. Once with a two year old and a four year old and most recently with my six year old and now four year old. There are definitely people who know more about Disney than I do, but I did manage to pick up a few pieces of wisdom for anyone planning a trip. So here it goes:
1. Do bring a Stroller.

Happy, relaxed with lollipops

Happy, relaxed with lollipops

Unless your child is over the age of 9, you are probably going to wish you had a stroller. There is so much walking at Disney. Everyone was much happier with the kids in a stroller. here are some of the reasons:
a. There are so many people there that it is hard to keep up with everyone. When the kids were walking, I was all panicky checking to make sure that everyone was there every two minutes. It’s far more relaxing to know they are in the stroller.
b. It keeps the sun off of them. My little Irish boys really can’t take Florida sun for several hours a day four days in a row. The cover on our Bob stroller kept them protected.
c. You can stow a lot of stuff in the bottom of the stroller. I brought snacks, lunch and water for the day. It was so handy. Also if you buy anything, it’s nice to be able to put it in the stroller. I never worried that someone might steal my stuff, everyone is too focused on getting into the Splash Mountain line.
d. It keeps them from getting overly tired and grumpy, though they will be exhausted.
e. It’s a nice break from all of the stimulation. They will definitely need it.
FYI: Disney does rent strollers, but they look incredibly uncomfortable. They are hard plastic. Also, you have to return them before you leave the park. This is a blessing and a curse. The blessing is then you don’t have to deal with the stroller anymore. We rode the boat every day and almost always had to fold up our double bob when we boarded. That was a pain, but it was a long walk from the boat to our hotel, so we were glad we still had the stroller. Did I mention that my four year old is not fond of walking?

2. Do pace yourself.

Exhaustion

Exhaustion

The first time we went, we didn’t even ride that many rides and that was totally fine. The boys were young. At 4 and 2, they could ride the same things like Dumbo, Peter Pan and It’s a small World. That year, we got to the park when it opened and left around lunch time. Then we just played in the pool all day. We never went back for the fireworks or anything. This time we went back and I think we would all agree it was a mistake. It ruined us for the next day which was Hollywood Studios (so not that big a deal).

3. Do put a large, preferably laminated, name tag on your stroller. They have stroller parking near the rides, but while you are in line or riding, the workers move the strollers around. So it is almost never exactly where you left it and inevitably someone will have the same stroller as you. Make it easier on yourself and label yours. I didn’t do this. Wish I had.

4. Don’t do the Meal Plan.

my boys love Donald!

my boys love Donald!

This is if you have kids 6 and younger. It really seems like more of a hassle to me with that age group. I’ve crunched the numbers and I don’t think you really save much money with the meal plan. We got a room with a kitchen, so we made breakfast and packed a lunch most days. Even without a kitchen you could order pizza or make PB&J in your room. We always ate out once a day though and that was more than enough time in a restaurant with excited young kids. At those character meals (which I totally recommend. It beats waiting in line to meet a character) they don’t eat because they are too amped up. Definitely plan some meals (like Crystal Palace and Whispering Canyon), but I wouldn’t want to attempt to eat in a Disney restaurant for every meal.

5. Do bring LOTS of water!!! Don’t leave your water bag/bottle on a ride.
IMG_5531Our beloved Darth Vader water bag was left somewhere between Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan. Sigh.

6. Do take cell phone pictures. Don’t bring your fancy camera to the park.

sweetness

sweetness

I saw several people with really nice Canons and Nikons at the park. What a headache to have to carry it around and worry about your $700 camera. And really, you will be totally sweaty. You don’t want 8×10 glossies of those photos. Cell phone pictures will serve you just fine. If you want a really nice one, just grab one the photopass people. They will even take photos with your cell phone for free if you ask.

7. Speaking of photopass. Do use Disney Photopass Tutorial to get your photopass pictures for free! I was not able to get high res pictures with this tutorial. So I’m not sure if Disney has fixed the loophole or not. I was still able to download them for free, but they are only good for web use.

8. DO GET THE CAKE POPS!!! AND THE RICE KRISPY TREAT MICKEY DIPPED IN CHOCOLATE WITH SPRINKLES. AND THE ICE CREAM AT THE ICE CREAM PARLOR!!imageIMG_5961IMG_5675

9. Do take a ride on the people mover. It’s a great palette cleanser after all of the fast moving, action packed rides. So is “It’s a small world” (actually one of my favorites).

10. Do bring Purell. This is a great distraction in the Winnie the Pooh line. IMG_5808Disney is brilliant because they have included all of these entertainment spots for kids in line for “winnie the Pooh” and “Peter Pan” etc. The kids love it. So do the adults. They all wipe their hands all over it. So yay – that was fun. uh oh, you just got Ebola. Purell it away :).

11. Do the pirate treasure Hunt in Adventureland – especially if you have a 6 year old boy. OMG IT IS THE BEST! Here’s one of the maps.

One of the Pirate hunt maps

One of the Pirate hunt maps

There are 5 hunts and they are masterfully laid out in Adventureland which is very easy to move around in. You don’t have to do it all in one day either. Here is information about the Pirate’s Treasure HuntAlso there is a “Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom” hunt that you can get at the firehouse on Main Street. In it, you become an apprentice of Merlin and fight the disney villains like Ursula and Scar. I’m so sad that we didn’t have time to do that one. It goes all over the park.

12. Do set up some expectations or limitations for your child ahead of time.We told our boys that we would buy them one souvenir and that they could spend $20 of their own money to buy another souvenir. We also told them they could have one treat a day – be it ice cream in the afternoon or a dessert after dinner. So they had to really think about it when they wanted something. They also didn’t ask us for things every time we turned around. If they did, we just reminded them of the limits. It made it much more pleasant not to have to say ‘no’ all the time.

13. Do get a personalized souvenir.

Silhouettes of Carter and Henry

Silhouettes of Carter and Henry

They are delightful. When I went to Disney at age 5 (I think) my mom got silhouettes made of us and they still hang on her wall. So I got one of the boys this year (one for her too). They are so sweet and inexpensive ($16 with the frame – which is plastic, but still). It doesn’t take that long either. They can be found in Liberty square just before the bridge. There are lots of other personalized items to get (the mouse ears, of course), but be sure to allow enough time. I wanted to get a parasol for my goddaughter (they are so cute. They paint their name on it and flowers or a character. And they have mini ones). I went to the booth the day we were leaving and she said it would take four hours. I asked if I could get it in two and she said ‘no’ (not very Disney of her IMO). Still, wish I had gotten it the day before. Most of the items you buy in the park can be sent back to your hotel if you stay at a Disney resort. If not, I think they will hold them for you until the end of the day.

14. Do eat in any of these restaurants if you can: Cape May, Crystal Palace, Whispering Canyon. They are fun and have good food.

15. Do enjoy your Disney resort.

My boys look like roasting a marshmallow is the most serious job in the world here. There isn’t a ton of time left after the parks, but it would be a shame to miss out on some of the awesome experiences at your hotel. We stayed at the Wilderness Lodge and loved it. I took a run twice on their jogging path which was so quiet and secluded. We took the boat to Fort Wilderness for a campfire sing-a-long with Chip and Dale. They also have complimentary marshmallow roasting and movies after dark (which was too late for my kids). We even saw a few bunnies on the grounds of our hotel I did wonder for a second if a “cast member” had just let it out of a cage to add to the atmosphere.

16. Do visit Tom Sawyer Island while in Magic Kingdom.

The fort at Tom Sawyer Island

The fort at Tom Sawyer Island

The kids will love exploring there. It gets you away from the crowds. Done.

17. Do the Jedi Training at Hollywood Studios. We didn’t do it, but wish we had. Carter was very tired that day (it was the day after the fireworks) and he just couldn’t muster up the energy to get on stage. We watched it though which was really fun enough! Darth Vader comes out. It’s very cool.

18. Do get a pressed coin.

Making pennies! for $.50!

Making pennies! for $.50!

It’s a cheap and easy souvenir. It give the kids something to do in line and it beats collecting those pins. You can get a different type all over the park and resorts.

19. Do see the Electric Light Parade at Magic Kingdom.

Electric Light Parade at Magic Kingdom

Electric Light Parade at Magic Kingdom

We enjoyed all of the parades, but this one is worth staying up for. It’s at 9, so not too, too late. It’s not nearly as hot as the ones in the daytime (which are awesome to watch nonetheless).

20. Do remember these sweet moments forever.

And when you get too old to remember them, look at the pictures and think, “What a happy family. I wonder who these people are. The wife is very tan. Why is her husband so pale? He should spend more time in the sun. Where did I put my teeth?”

And that’s all I can think of for now. I hope you go and I hope you have a blast like we did. IMG_5938

People were loving this sight!

Disney Day 4 and 5: Treasure Hunts

On the fourth day, Carter was asking if he could go back to Hollywood Studios since he decided not to do the Jedi Training, but had since changed his mind (this is a common occurrence for poor Carter). We had NO desire to go back to Hollywood Studios. We had spent very little time there and felt like we had done as much as we wanted. It’s for bigger kids and adults. The reason to go is for the Jedi training and the Star Wars toys. Also, we didn’t get park hoppers so we couldn’t do two parks in a day, nor would I want to.

Then, we found the Pirate Treasure Hunt over by Pirates of the Caribbean. This is exactly why Disney World is genius. I noticed this little sign over a little room that said, “Pirate Treasure Hunt”. There was no line and no one seemed to be using it. I thought Carter would like it. OMG – it was the BEST thing we found at Disney(besides the cake pops, obvs). If you have a 6 year old boy, you HAVE to do this.

So you go into the little room and they have 5 maps and an interactive screen. A person explains to your child that they need to touch their fast pass (that sounds wrong) to the symbol on the screen. When they do, it tells them which map to pick up. The maps are old looking and very cool.

the five treasure hunt maps

the five treasure hunt maps

Inside of one of the maps

Inside of one of the maps

The treasure hunt is only in Adventureland so you aren’t having to walk all over the park. It is mostly in the gift shops, of course (DISNEY. Always there for the money grab). All over the gift shops and the park there are trunks and baskets and boxes that look like they are just decoration to enhance the “Adventureland” feel. Most of them are part of the treasure hunt. The map tells you to find a symbol and gives you the general area where it is. It is not too hard and not too easy to find. Then Carter had to put his fast pass (they call it ‘talisman’. All of this sounds really dirty – haha) on the symbol. When he did we heard a magic sound (kind of like tinkerbell) and then at each location something would open up or happen. At one location, a canon fired across the way and rang a bell. At another, a basket popped open and a cobra snake (fake) pooped out. At one inside the gift shop, a laser hit something in the room on the other side of the wall then sounded a trumpet (or something). There were kids in that room doing the dress like a pirate thingy. They started singing “Oh a pirate’s life for me”, which I guess they had been told to do anytime that trumpet sounded. It was BRILLIANT. After the initial event, Jack Sparrow’s voice (or another character from pirates of the caribbean) would come on and tell you about the next clue.
One of the Treasure Hunt clue locations.

One of the Treasure Hunt clue locations.

We did three on day 4 and two on day 5. Carter went to bed talking about it and woke up talking about it. He forgot all about the Jedi training. Henry was not much into it, but he had some fun too. It took about two hours to do all five, but you never had to wait in line and it was so active. In the end, you find the treasure, but you don’t get to take anything with you. It’s the thrill of the chase, ya know.

The other thing we enjoyed on Day 4 was Tom Sawyer Island. When we first got on the little raft, Craig and I were like, “uh oh. how long does this last?” Carter and Henry loved it. It’s self guided so you can stay or leave whenever you like. There were so many boys over there beaming with excitement. They just explored the island.

My little explorer.

My little explorer.

There was a rope bridge, underground mine, a fort from the civil war and a hidden escape tunnel where I actually had to use my cell phone flash light because it was so dark.
The fort at Tom Sawyer Island

The fort at Tom Sawyer Island

Highly recommend this for 6 year old boys and younger. There is also a shaded area for a picnic lunch and it wasn’t crowded at all.
Henry rockin' a tank top

Henry rockin’ a tank top

OMG we went to Downtown Disney that night for dinner at the Rainforest Cafe – DO NOT DO THIS! OMG! BIG MISTAKE! HUGE! TRUST ME ON THIS ONE! They are doing construction at Downtown Disney and it is so difficult to get anywhere. Even if you took the bus, which is no fun, it would take forever. We were late. Everyone was hungry. The food was so so. It was expensive. The boys barely ate. we had to walk two miles to get back to our car. UGH! On the up side, I got this awesome shot.

People were loving this sight!

People were loving this sight!

Normally, I’m sure Downtown Disney is great. It seemed like lots of fun, but we just had to get out of there and get to sleep. Don’t go. Eat at the hotel or wherever. T Rex and Rainforest are not worth it.

Day 5 was a special event that only happens once a year: 24 hour Disney! They opened at 6am and didn’t close until 6 this next morning. For half a second, I thought we should get there at 6. I mean, we would be able to ride all of the rides with no waiting or fast pass. It wouldn’t be hot. We were leaving that day anyway. Then I realized that I didn’t want to get up that early. Also we had to pack. We got there at 8:30 and it was fine. We stocked up on cake pops and rice krispy treats for friends and ourselves. The one thing that irked me was the lady at the parasol booth. I had decided to buy a mini parasol for my god daughter. They are so cute. They paint your name on it with flowers or Disney characters. It’s adorable. I went to the booth at 10:30 and she said she could get it for my by 1. I told her we were leaving and she said “sorry”. Not very Disney. She had lots of other orders. So I asked if she could get it by 12. No dice. I felt like she could have done that. Whatever, just not a very shiny happy thing for our last day. But my god daughter would have probably destroyed that mini parasol in five minutes flat. Moral of the story, if you want a parasol, get it before your last day.

Coming up tomorrow: my tips for your next Disney trip!

Day 4!

Day 4!

Disney Day 3 – Exhaustion

Too tired to finish Day 2 post yet. Here’s a quick one on Day 3. Everyone was beyond exhausted this morning after staying up for the Electrical Light Parade Tuesday night and it was TOTALLY WORTH IT! It’s an awesome parade! IMG_5739 We were leaving right after that ended at 9:30, but then Carter wanted a hot dog. And then we got to the dock to catch our boat and it was 9:45. The fireworks start at 10 and both boys were wanting to see them. Carter said, “That’s ok. We can come back another night to see them.” I had to catch my breath. OMG no. I cannot try to do this again. Craig was ready to go. God bless him, he let me take us back in to see the beginning of the fireworks. I know that sounds crazy. We could barely keep our eyes open, but there was no way we would come back another night. Oh hell no. So here is what my boys looked like at 8pm tonight.

didn't nap.

didn’t nap.

did.

did.

My boys LOVE breakfast with Donald Duck at Cape May. So, we had to get up early this morning to get there by 7:30. We have now entered the “trying to do too much phase”

my boys love Donald!

my boys love Donald!

Carter could no longer fit into his Donald Duck costume so he handed it down to Henry. But Henry would only wear it for 5 minutes. That’s enough time for cute pics though. Not sure why Henry dissed Minnie, but he was excited to meet Goofy.

We took the boat to Hollywood Studios from breakfast. Carter ONLY wants to travel by boat. It is really fun. We were so tired that we only did one thing there, which seemed like enough. Signed up for the Jedi Training at 6pm for Carter then went home for lunch and rest. Door to Door took an hour to get back there for the training and he changed his mind and didn’t want to do it. Henry fell asleep on the way there, missed it all.

Henry fell asleep on the bus to Hollywood Studios.

Henry fell asleep on the bus to Hollywood Studios.

Oh well. We did get awesome toys at the Star Wars store.
Carter and Henry playing Star Wars all over everywhere. So cute!

Carter and Henry playing Star Wars all over everywhere. So cute!

So tired, I have to (honk shew, honk shew – this is the sound I make when I snore).