Thursday, June 27, 2013

Disney World: Tips I Followed, Tips I Didn't Follow...But Should Have, and Tips I Learned On My Own

We, as a family, have completed our first trip to Disney World!  Greg's parents were nice enough to take us and our kids.  Our kid's ages are 6, 3, and 4 months so we had a wide range of needs.  I spent some time reading up on what to do, and what not to do but it seems like the info was endless.  Of course, everyone's Disney experience will be different, but here are some things that I learned:

1.  Personal water bottle fans and Froggy Togg Towels:  Best inventions ever, especially in the summer months.  The water bottle fans at Disney were almost $20, so it was great that they were pre-purchased.  My mom got me some Froggy Togg towels for my birthday.  I'd never heard of them before, but they claimed "Just Get Me Wet, And I'll Keep You Cool".  I was worried they wouldn't work, but they did!  This was great for our 4 month old.  I would lay the towel over his lower half and it would block the sun and keep him cool.
Mallory with Princess Jasmine
2.  Eating with a princess/Doing Jedi Training:  Mallory had breakfast will all the princesses while Nolan fought Darth Vader.  I bet they were super pricey, but SO worth it!  Mallory just turned 3 and she adores the princesses, and they were all in the same room!  I bet she remembers it for a while.  Nolan (just turned 6) did the Jedi Training.  We had to block off a major part of the day for Nolan, but it was definitely well worth it, he says it was one of his favorite things.
3.  Not pushing the kids:  You want to do everything/see everything, but there's a certain point to call it quits.  Ours was around 1 pm.  We would hit the parks early, leave around 1 pm or 2 pm and go back to the hotel to recharge or swim.  This worked well for us and our young kids.
4.  Patience!:  One friend said I needed the patience of a saint...he was almost right.  There's A LOT of stuff going on: strollers, wheelchairs, adult scooters, grouchy parents, grouchy adults, 90 degree weather, rainy weather...I could go on forever.  My motto was as long as we came back alive it was a good trip.  We all came back alive, so it was a good trip!  Seriously though, take a deep breath and put things in to perspective for you and your kids.  If you've walked all around the park in 90 degree heat with no lunch break, there will be a meltdown soon (and I wouldn't blame them).  If your tired, your kids are tired.  If your grouchy standing in line, your kids will be grouchy standing in line.  Do what works for you and your family.  A lousy vacation can happen very quickly with bad attitudes.
Mallory with Cinderella
5.  Gate Check your stroller:  I kept on reading about this "gate check" thing while flying with strollers.  I figured it out on our first flight.  You go through the whole airport with your stroller and carrier and even through the long tube to the airplane, and then you leave it right outside the airplane door.  It will be the last thing they put with the bags, and the first thing they take out.  When you get out at your destination, your stroller will be right outside of the plane waiting for you!  Just make sure to ask for a Gate Claim ticket!
WARNING:  Our stroller and carrier took a beating in our Atlanta layover going to, and coming back.  It's not like a spent a million dollars on the thing, but I was a little peeved when the whole mesh bag underneath was ripped to shreds.
1.  "Comfy" shoes-  I kept hearing about this comfy shoe tip.  I thought my Reef sandals did qualify as comfy shoes, but I was wrong.  You will be doing A LOT of walking.  I switched over to my running shoes on the third day, and my leg and back pain went away.  My 3 year old definitely showed me up though.  She wore her little glass slippers (plastic with 1/2" heel) and wore those things all around the park.  She was tougher than me.
2.  Fast Passes-  This something that you will figure out on your own.  It confused me reading about it, but after we actually did it, I understood.  For example:  The Pirates of the Caribbean line is super long (an hour wait).  You swipe your card and get your ticket with a time on it, such as 1:00-2:00.  You come back in that time frame and you go to the "Fast Pass" line.  You get on the ride a few minutes later, a fraction of the time than just standing in line.  We didn't use Fast Passes until AFTER we waited in the Space Mountain line for over an hour and watched all the Fast Pass people zip past us.  I DID give them the evil eye, but it was so dark in there they probably didn't notice. :)
3.  Ponchos and rain gear-  It rains a lot in Florida.  We were in Downtown Disney and got rained on for almost 2 hours.  Soaking wet, we trudged back to our hotel wishing that we had brought Ponchos from home because I refused to buy the expensive ones at the park.
4.  Stay hydrated...with water!:  I guzzled a lot of liquid, and it wasn't water.  I chose Coke Zero most of the time.  With all the heat, I knew I should have been drinking water, but I didn't.  Coke Zero didn't satisfy me like I knew water would.  Lesson learned.
Nolan training as a Jedi
1.  Disney has this bus system around all of the parks and to all the resorts.  Plus side: we didn't have to rent a car.  Downside:  waiting for buses, length of bus ride, and crowded buses.  It was especially hard waiting for a bus for 20+ minutes when your kids are exhausted and asleep on you.  It was also hard carrying on and off the stroller and carrier on the bus.  But if I did it all again, I would still ride the bus definitely beat the $15 a day parking cost.
2.  Your child carrier:  My son was not 4 months yet when we went, so a carrier (car seat) was necessary for him.  We weren't allowed to use it on the plane, and we weren't allowed to use it on any of the buses (safety issues).  So, we actually lugged it around most of the time.  If he had been a little older and able to sit in a stroller without the car seat, I most likely would have left it at home.  One last thing to drag around.
3.  Penny Squishing Machines:  Great souvenirs for little cost.  Kids had a great time finding them around the park and then turning the handle to squish the penny.  Only cost $.51 each, which is a steal at Disney!
4.  Pick a hotel with a nice pool:  It was the highlight for the kids...and me.  Nothing better to end a long day at Disney than a swim at a really nice pool.  It even had a whole kid section where the water was only a foot deep and I could let my 3 year old splash around without a life vest on.
5.  Carry ALL your formula on the plane with you:  My 4 month old only drinks formula, so I knew I would have to bring a large container with us to get us through the week.  I also purchased a formula holder that holds enough formula for 3 bottles.  I couldn't decide which one to take on the plane.  Would they make me throw away the formula in the smaller carrying container because it wasn't sealed.  Would 3 bottles last him? I decided to take both in my carry-on bag.  I made sure that the big container was still sealed in case a security person questioned its validity.  No one questioned anything.  The only thing that got tested was some water that I had already put in to a bottle for my son for later use.  I'm so glad I packed both in my carry-on.  Our resort had this great thing where they will bring the luggage to your room straight from the airport so you don't have to go pick it up from baggage claim.  What they don't tell you in the brochure is that it won't get to your room until 4-5 hours AFTER you checked in.  I would have had one mad baby on my hands if I didn't have any formula.  But I did, so he was happy.
Casey just hanging out :)

All in all, I don't think I could have asked for a better trip.  Very happy with the outcome.  The kids are already talking about going again, even though that next trip is years away.

Have fun on your adventures with your kids, make them happy moments they will remember for a lifetime!!