All posts tagged 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 2: Revenge of the Sweat

We are finally recovered from Disney and I’ve got a bunch of posts coming on our visit, tips, my favorite things and the Wilderness Lodge. For today, I went back in time, way back, to day 2 of our Disney World vacation. Feel the history…..

Day 2 was fantastic…until we over did it! It started out great. We got there at 9am and left before anyone was too grumpy around 2. One of the best parts of the day was getting a delicious Disney treat. The baked goods at Disney are phenomenal. We told the boys they could get one treat each day that we were at Disney. If we hadn’t, Carter would ask for ice cream every half hour starting at 9am. So the boys chose these adorable ice cream cones.

Adorable and delicious

Adorable and delicious

I got this massive chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich because I’m a pig.
Aww yeah. Come to Mama. She's judging me. I can see it in her eyes.

Aww yeah. Come to Mama. She’s judging me. I can see it in her eyes.

Seriously, you are burning a lot of calories at Disney World. Eat the treats.

Seriously, you are burning a lot of calories at Disney World. Eat the treats.

What could be better than that after a hot day? Actually, it’s pretty disgusting eating so much sugar in the hot, hot sun. But I don’t care. I’m on vacation and I’m gonna make it work.

Ok so, we actually broke our one treat a day rule on the second day, but it was a lollipop, so that doesn’t really count. They could barely eat them they were so big. Aren’t they delightful??

boys and their lollies

boys and their lollies

On day two, I think I really nailed it on food. We didn’t spend a dime, aside from the treats (take that Disney – ha!). For several reasons I like to bring my own food to the park. Mostly because I’m frugal. Disney is a very costly vacation and worth every penny. They do the most wonderful job with hospitality, entertainment, herding the crowds and keeping so many moving parts organized and coordinated. I don’t mind paying for quality, but Disney food (aside from the the aforementioned treats) is not all that great.

So that morning, I packed sandwiches for us. I also chopped up a watermelon which was the most welcome treat at 11:15 when I was hot, hungry and thirsty. The best part about bringing your own food is that the kids can just eat it in the stroller. So no matter where you are, you don’t have to rush to find a table or a bench to sit on. If they are hungry, I just hand them a sandwich and they gobble it up. It takes very little time and we can be on the move while they eat. Plus you avoid the frustration of trying get a table at a quick service restaurant or spending an hour in a nice restaurant only to leave and still be in the park. I know people that love the dining plan. Maybe when my kids are older it will be worth it.

We do eat out at Disney. We did two character meals that were great and two other meals that were up and down. I actually cancelled one dining reservation the day of (Wednesday) and they didn’t charge me (there is usually a cancellation fee) which was nice. We were all just too tired to go to a restaurant. That’s the problem with having to make the dining reservations so far in advance, you just don’t know how you are going to feel that day. You can always cancel the night before though without a fee. So definitely book any meals you think you might want as soon as possible. Restaurants like Crystal Palace, 1900 Park Fare and 50’s Prime Time usually have availability about a month or two in advance. Be Our Guest, Chef Mickey and the Cinderella castle meal have to be booked on the day the reservations open up which is 6 months from the day you want to go. You can book everything on the Disney app (which I highly recommend), by phone or on their website.

Anyway, we got back to the hotel and I did laundry while Craig took the boys to the pool. I met them out there and then we came back to the room, bathed and I made dinner. It was a nice break from people and having to be somewhere and act appropriately for a restaurant. We should have probably just stopped there and rested up for the next day. But we didn’t, oh no. We were out until 10:30 – gasp! And we were all terribly exhausted the next day. Cardinal rule about Disney – don’t over do it! You can’t do it all and that’s fine. Sometimes you just have to say, no. But of course, I didn’t do that.

Also, we sweated a lot on day 2, in case I forgot to mention. Disney = Sweaty.

image

Disney Day 1

WE ARE AT DISNEY!!!!!! This is already a very different Disney trip than our first one and it is only day one. We got to the Magic Kingdom around 12:30. Last time, we were leaving for the day at 12:30 – off to the hotel to swim in the pool for the afternoon and hope the boys would nap. I have been so looking forward to this trip, remembering the sweetness and rather ease of our first visit. We walked in and there were three times as many people there as when we came in September two years ago. Near the castle, they were having one of the dance parade thingies and the music was blaring. As we walked up, they announced the next song, “And now we’re gonna get down to ‘Shut up and dance'”. Really Disney? That’s the song you pick for a theme park geared toward 3-6 year olds? The word “Shut Up” is in the title. I thought to myself, “What did I ever like about this place? There are too many sweaty people here and my children are freaked by this over stimulating parade.” So we ran from the dance party as quickly as we could. It had only been ten minutes and the back sweat was already collecting.

We went to the Swiss Family Robinson Tree because the boys loved that movie. From there everything got much better, even though it was crazy crowded. The sweetness all returned after the boys road “Goofy’s Barnstormer” and “Flying Dumbo”. We finished up the day with Buzz Lightyear and Winnie the Pooh. Then we got one of the amazing cake pops that have frequented my dreams since our visit in 2013. They did not disappoint. The baked goods at Disney are the BOMBDITITY! Just look at these treats.

YUMMMMMM!!!!

YUMMMMMM!!!!

But when we went over to catch the boat back to Wilderness Lodge there were no seats. Ok. We can handle that. We also had to fold up our stroller – not a big deal. What ruined the magic was that they just kept letting people on. It was more crowded than the 6 train at rush hour. Oh but this boat has no air conditioning and is filled with sweaty people who have been at Disney for 8 hours and may or may not have remembered deodorant this morning. And I’m holding Henry because he’s 4 and he’s exhausted. I often say to my self, “Will he remember this? Will he remember riding the flying Dumbo ride and putting his sweet pudgy hand on my leg?
I have this same picture from when he was two and we came. I love it! It's maybe the reason to come.

I have this same picture from when he was two and we came. I love it! It’s maybe the reason to come.

Will he remember that I put him on my shoulders in the blistering heat so he could watch the fantasy parade and he was completely sitting on my hair the whole time causing my neck to rear back? Will he remember our sweaty embrace on the Wilderness Lodge boat? My knees shaking as I was about to drop him because we waited for twenty minutes while they let 500 people on the tiny boat? No, he won’t. I probably will because I’m making a mental check list of pay back items for them :).

Anyway, that was disappointing, but nothing else was. The Wilderness Lodge is fantastic!! It is so perfect for kids. The theme and decor is adorable and my boys notice every little detail. Carter loves all of the Native American headdresses and tools and Henry keeps saying things like “this whole building is made of wood. They built it up, up, up..” After dinner at Whispering Canyon they were positively giddy.

Whispering Canyon is so fun for the kids

Whispering Canyon is so fun for the kids

It is such a fun place where they yell and bring twenty ketchups to your table and then you do the same to another table.
Henry looks unenthused by all of the ketchups, but he loved it!

Henry looks unenthused by all of the ketchups, but he loved it!

They loved our waiter!

They loved our waiter!

And the food was really good. My boys love the pool and they got to roast marshmallows. There is going to be a water balloon game on Wednesday. Tomorrow we are doing a sing a long with Chip and Dale. It’s the best. But they need bigger boats though with more seating and a big place for strollers and possibly a bar on board. I know it’s only a 15 minute drive, but sometimes there is traffic on the waterway.

And let me tell you who the real heroes of this trip are so far. These crazy water bag things from Target!

If you find one of these awesome bottles, never let it go.

If you find one of these awesome bottles, never let it go.

Holy crow – I am always griping about water bottles because they are hard to clean or don’t hold enough water. These suckers are the best. They hold 22 oz and are BPA free. You can put them in the freezer and they stay cold for hours, even in the heat. I got them at Target before we left because they were on sale and I thought – “well, I’ll try this.” But assumed they would leak or suck in some significant way. Couldn’t be more pleasantly surprised. Even if they only last through this trip, they are totally worth it. $5 (on sale from $10) go get one.

My other tip if you are going to Disney is bring water. OMG the water here tastes like liquified toots. Blech! I had to run out to a super target to get some (which BTW is not all that far and very handy).

That is all for now. Tomorrow we are back at Magic Kingdom. I am going to pass out now.