Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Experiencing Disney: Tips, Tricks & My 2 Cents

When we started planning our trip to Disney in January, I was clueless about where to go, where to stay, how long to be there, what to pack, etc. Luckily, I have a bunch of wonderful friends, family and blog readers that took time to share their advice and experiences. So, I thought I would repay the favor to anyone else thinking about a trip to Disney with small kiddies. Plus, I feel like this is the best way to get through the millions of pictures and stories from tour trip :-) So...let's get started shall we?

Traveling

This was the one and only thing I was not looking forward to on our trip. Most of you already know this, but I am the worst flier ever and then when you add two young kids to occupy for 2.5 hours trapped in a little coffin...I mean plane...it equals one stressed mama. And stressed I was that first morning. Luckily, I was the only one. EVERYONE else was ready to party. In Addie and Blake's eyes, the Limo ride to the airport was one of the best parts of the trip...


I think my Dad would beg to differ, however. He was only one stoplight away from losing his breakfast. He isn't the best traveler either :-)

Next came the dreaded plane ride. The part I have feared for MONTHS!! I was ready with coloring books, crayons, treats, surprises, movies, etc. But of all of it was unnecessary for this kid...


Blake slept half the plane ride there, and the entire plane ride back. I may or may not have given him Benadryl for his allergies...but you know...whatever.

Addie didn't really need a backpack full of distractions either. She spent the majority of her plane rides chatting with other kids. Go figure :-)


And I successfully made it through two plane rides without having a panic attack or tossing my cookies. WOOHOO!

So here's my 2 cents on traveling with 2 kiddies:
* Be prepared with snacks, drinks and treats...just in case.
* Bring snacks for yourself too. You'd be surprised how good those goldfish crackers look when you are still an hour from landing :-)
* Bring some sort of device that plays movies. I still think watching a movie made Blake fall asleep.
* Remember you are not the only one with kids on the plane. Most parents on a flight to Florida will understand if your child cries. Don't freak out :-)
* Finally, bring as LITTLE as possible on the plane because juggling multiple bags and kids is tough.

Accommodations

I realize that not everyone has a choice in this matter. Some people have time shares, some have unbeatable deals at a particular hotel, some people have family or friends to stay with, etc. But if you are considering renting a home instead of staying in a hotel, let me just say...GO WITH A HOME! Especially if the price is right like ours was. We were able to get a 3 bedroom home for a TON less than any hotel in Disney. And it was so worth it for so many reasons.

 For starters, we got to spend our nights (and some parts of our days) hanging out in this great family room/kitchen...


Or in this sweet game room...



Or in the fabulous pool and hot tub.


The weather was still a bit cool in Florida, so we mostly hung out in the hot tub. But if you travel in the summer, that pool would be amazing.

I was also extremely grateful to have multiple bedrooms. Addie thought her room was the coolest place ever.


We considered putting Blake in the room with her, but when we saw how nice and dark our walk-in closet was, we thought that might work better. So...Blake slept in a closet.


Don't judge. He actually slept amazing this trip, even if it was in a closet. You gotta do what works :-) Oh, and the pack-and-play he slept in was waiting for us in the house. We didn't have to lug that with our luggage. SCORE!

We also didn't have to bring our big double stroller!!! The housing company told us the house had an umbrella stroller we could borrow and take to Disney for the day. So we only had to bring one light-weight stroller with us and that was AWESOME!!


The house also had a high chair, a bunch of games and Disney movies, a PlayStation and a ball pit for the kids. It was so nice having all of this waiting for us when we got there!!

So here's my 2 cents on staying in Disney with 2 kiddies:
* Unless you are set on staying in the park (which also has a ton of advantages), I would consider renting a home, especially one that provides lots of amenities like ours did.
* Call ahead and see how many items you can skip packing (crib, strollers, etc.)
* If your house comes with a washer and dryer (like ours did) consider that when you pack. You can always do a load of laundry if you run out of clothes :-)
* Make sure you use Google Maps before you book a house. Ours was listed as only being 10 minutes from Disney but with normal traffic flow, traffic lights, etc., it always took us at least 20-25 to get there. Not a big deal if you are only going to the park once that day. But if you came home for naps and then went back, it was another 40 minutes of driving.
* Remember that with a home comes a FULL kitchen. You can save a TON of money by cooking there and taking all of your lunches and treats to Disney. Groceries are way cheaper than food in the park.

Enjoying the Parks

It's funny...in one of my first Disney posts I talked about us only going to the park for two half-days. I find this HILARIOUS now that we've gone because I honestly don't know what we would have done with all that extra time! I also don't know how we would have made it to even a fraction of all the places we ended up going. I also mentioned just going to Magic Kingdom and then a few weeks before we left, I found a discount ticket website that offered a 5-Day park hopper ticket for the price of a discounted 3-Day park hopper ticket! It was an incredible deal and even though we only spent a few hours at the park the first night, it was still totally worth it.

As I look back at all our pictures, I can't believe how much we were able to do with the kids. Magic Kingdom was by far the most geared towards Addie and Blake's age group. If we did have to pick one park to visit, it would be Magic Kingdom hands down! There are still so many things at that park that I remember from when I was a kid. 

You know...like the Electric Parade...





And the huge, over-priced balloons that just make your day...



And the sheer excitement of waiting for your favorite characters to round the corner...



And the Christmas decorations that hang from every inch of the buildings...




And the castle. Ohhhhhhh the castle. My FAVORITE sight of all...


Is there any sight more magical?


Well...I guess seeing ALL of your favorite characters on stage at once isn't half bad either. We were able to catch the Dream Along with Mickey show and it was fantastic!


Addie and Blake both loved it.




In fact, both kids loved just about everything we did at Magic Kingdom. We were able to ride It's a Small World...



The Safari Cruise (which Papa has pictures of), Pirates of the Carribean, Haunted Mansion (Blake was sleeping in his stroller with Nana and Papa for that one) and Peter Pan's Flight (which was Addie's FAVORITE!) It's my favorite too :-)

And then as a very special treat, we all went back to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party and that was SO MUCH FUN!!!! 


Seriously...if you are heading to Disney while this party is going on, you must get tickets. Blake slept for most of it because it was late in the evening, but Addie thought it was "totally awesome". 


The decorations were great, the atmosphere was perfect and the kids went bonkers over the free hot chocolate and cookies....




They also made it snow on main street which was so neat. And then of course, they ended the party with an amazing fireworks display set to Christmas music.




I just love Christmastime at Disney :-)

So here's my 2 cents on taking 2 kiddies to the Magic Kingdom:
* If you can only go to one park, make it this one.
* Find time to see some of the live shows. They are the best way to catch all the characters in one place.
* Get to the park early and get fast passes for the popular rides. Peter Pan was ALWAYS over 30 minutes.
* Find a seat for the parades about an hour, to 45 minutes before it starts. It's worth the front row view.
* Order your embroidered ear hats when you first get to the park. The wait is crazy by the middle of the day.
* Use your photo pass. It was the only opportunity to get everyone in the same picture :-)

If I could pick my second favorite park for the kids at this age, I would choose Hollywood Studios for two reasons:

1. The Disney Junior Live Show...




2. The Pixar Parade









The kids had such a blast at both events...it made our Hollywood Studios trip TOTALLY worth it.

We also got to meet a ton of characters at Hollywood Studios, which was definitely one of Addie's favorite things to do. We met the Little Einsteins...


Blake was all about June...



But not so much about Handy Manny...


So Addie took her picture alone.


I was designated Autograph Book and Pen holder :-)


Turns out Blake wasn't really into Annie or Leo either...


So Addie flew solo again...


And again. But really...does she look sad about that?


Like I said, the characters were awesome at Hollywood Studios. The lines were reasonable and even though the characters took their 3-minute break EVERY time we got to the front of the line...it was still worth it to see the kids faces.

And you know what else is worth the money? These $4 Mickey Ice Cream bars...




So here's my 2 cents on taking 2 kiddies to Hollywood Studios:
* See the Disney Junior--Live on Stage show. You can watch cartoons in line and you get to see all your favorite Disney Junior characters. Plus...they make gold dabloons fall from the sky!
* Stay for the Pixar Parade, especially if your kids like Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and Ratatouille as much as my kids do.
* Don't take your kids to Indiana Jones, unless you are cool with 5 minutes of action and 25 minutes of BORING! Although, Eric would like me to write that he loved it. And so did Addie. Whatevs :-)

Our final stop with the kids this trip was to Animal Kingdom. We made the choice to come here instead of Epcot because we thought it had more to offer the kids. And now that we've gone, I can honestly say it was the BEST choice. We had a ton of fun at Animal Kingdom.


We started the day with the Bugs Life 3D show it is still one of the things Addie talks about most. The kids really enjoyed it wearing their bug eye glasses :-)







After Bugs Life, it was off to the Kilimanjaro Safari and it was SO COOL!


We saw so many animals that were literally a few feet from us!





I loved seeing these animals up close, except for these guys of course. I'm glad we were far...far away :-)


After seeing some animals, we hung out in Africa for a while. Addie made some music...




And got a Tinkerbell Makeover...





And then we went to check out some Dinosaurs.



You know...this chick really surprised me in Dinoland. I was SURE that she would want nothing to do with the scarey DINOSAUR ride or the flying Dino-Rama...and yet here she is!



She just kept running out and asking to go again!



And while she was all over the park riding rides and hanging out with characters...


Blake was perfectly content just walking around with Papa :-)


This boy loves to explore and so does Papa so they were like two peas in a pod. In fact, all the guys did a lot of bonding this trip, which was great because us girls had a lot of bonding to do too :-) But that comes next.

So here's my 2 cents on taking 2 kiddies to Animal Kingdom:
* Stop and really look at the Tree of Life. It is truly amazing.
* See Bugs Life 3D. Twice, if you can :-)
* Go on the safari and make sure you sit on the outside for the best pictures.
* Explore Dinoland, even if you think the kids are too young. They might surprise you.
* Don't forget to explore Camp Mickey Mouse like we did. Whoops!

Getting a Princess Makeover

Is it expensive? Yes. Is it over the top? A little. Is it worth it?

ABSOLUTELY!!!!!

Aunt Di gave Addie this makeover for her birthday and it's all she's talked about ever since. And I think you'll see why. I'll just let the pictures tell the story.





This is her serious princess face :-)



And this was the big reveal...


I honestly expected her to jump out of her chair when she saw her pretty face, but she sat stunned for a while. Confused, for a second, like she wasn't sure if it was her!


And then slowly her smile grew and grew and she said, "I'm a beautiful Pwincess!!!"

That you are, my darling...that you are :-)

As you may have noticed, Addie is in a brand new princess dress (compliments of Nana and Papa) and Addie said she chose Snow White out of all the other dresses because she gets to a be a princess from the front, and a super hero from the back :-)


What a sweetie. That makeover was just too much fun. I will so be taking her back to Bippity Boppity the next time we visit :-)

And speaking of places we would love to visit again, let's talk about...

Eating at Chef Mickey's

Even though my mom and I almost had a heart attack when we saw the bill, eating at Chef's Mickey's was an amazing way to start our trip. 


I mean...getting to eat Mickey shaped waffles while getting to meet some of your favorite characters?!! Could it get more awesome?






I think not :-)

Enjoying All the Fun Things You Didn't Plan For

I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I had this trip planned down to the minute. I knew I only wanted to go to the parks two days, I knew I only wanted to go to Magic Kingdom and I knew I didn't want Addie to get a new dress for her princess make over because we already had so many.

But then a dear friend told me that I needed to go into Disney with an open mind. Have fun, explore, go with the flow. She said I should just "enjoy all the fun things that I didn't plan for." You know, like having a hot air balloon fly RIGHT over our rental house!





Or letting my mom buy Addie another princess dress so my peanut can come home with a wardrobe like this...


Or discovering that my kids don't need a big fireworks show to have fun. Just a couch and some Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas...



Or getting to meet my LONG time mommy-chat-board BFF Ashely and her two BEAUTIFUL kiddies.


Addie and Sean hit it off immediately. Of course. You know Addie and her boyfriends.


They were even doing a little snuggling in the booth watching a movie :-)


We tried so hard to get a picture of all three kids (Blake was home napping) and this is the best we got :)


It was so fantastic to get the opportunity to meet Ashley after almost 5 years of being friends online. She is as beautiful and sweet in person as I expected her to be. Great seeing you girlfriend! I hope we can meet up again soon!!

***


The fact is, no matter which park we went to or how many parades we made it too, the kids were going to have the time of their lives. And so did we. Our trip was more wonderful and more magical than I ever could have dreamed.

I'll admit...there were tough moments. We had tears, we had tantrums...but all that was expected. And all those moments were erased within minutes because when people say that this is the happiest place on earth...they mean it.

I was so sad to say goodbye...


But Addie already has her bags packed for next year :-)


CONGRATS! You made it through the longest post ever :-)

8 comments:

  1. Must be something in the air with long posts today. I wrote a very long one today too! Seriously though, I LOVED this post. I read & absorbed every single word. It looks like you all had an absolutely magnificent trip. We are heading to Florida in December. I think we are going to stay in Daytona for a few days, Orlando for a few days & possibly Savannah Georgia for a few days. Merry Christmas to us!!! We thought about doing Disney but our youngest is 15 months so I'm not sure he would have any interest. My other child, a daughter is 13 years old & I'm thinking Disney might be more geared to smaller kids. I think we are opting to do Sea World, The Beach & Busch Gardens instead. I am definitely taking Little Man to Disney when he gets older though. That place is so magical :)

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  2. I'm so glad you guys had such a good time!!! I LOVE the pic of you & your dad w/bug glasses. Too funny! And Addie's princess make over is priceless, you're right! I remember having breakfast with the characters when my parents took us the first time too. It would be interesting for me to go to DW to see the differences from DL. Although, I'd have to get over my fear of Florida... hmm... Oh, and how cool that you got to meet another o/l friend!!! Her little girl is adorable!

    Now, as a reward for making it through the longest post ever... I think you need to call me soon!!! ;o) Ha! And no, I'm not pregnant. :( Just didn't want you to get your hopes up! LOL!

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  3. What a wonderful post! Those are some memories Addie and Blake will have for years to come! I love the princess makeover!! So glad you guys had such a wonderful trip!!

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  4. LOVE IT! I'm so glad you had such a magical time, and Addie and Blake will love looking at all of the pictures and remembering the trip.

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  5. Love it!!! Thanks for sharing, now I REALLY want to go!!!!

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  6. Loved the post. I want to go tomorrow! I also love the pic of you and Ashley, so strange to see you two together instead of exchanging words back and forth on the mommy chat board!

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  7. Glad you guys had fun! I loved reading everything!

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  8. awesome post!!! I will have to re visit this when we are planning our family trip to disney some day. Thanks!!!

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