Archive for the ‘Disney’ Category

Our First Disney Trip: Epcot

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Previously: Non-park days, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios

Our Thursday at Disney World was supposed to be all Epcot: a calmer day to walk around the World Showcase, ride a couple exciting and a lot of less-exciting rides, eat things, drink things, and meet a bunch of princesses. But because our Jedi Training on Wednesday was cancelled, we had Jedi Training at Hollywood Studios first thing in the morning before we even started Epcot. Because Epcot didn’t open until 9 and our check-in for training was 9:40, we actually had a “relaxing” morning. We got to the park right after they opened and E and Caroline got to ride Tower of Terror with only a couple minute wait. Evan did not want to do it again, so he and the babies and I found a coffee stand near the exit and ate donuts the size of our heads while we waited.

Then we headed across the park for Jedi Training, past the lake with the dinosaur. The kids were obsessed with this dinosaur.

Here’s my short review of Jedi Training: I loved it. The kids also thought it was “cool”, but I am not sure it was the super duper awesome amazing unbelievable thing I thought it would be for them.  To sign up, you have to rope drop the park, run to the sign-up area, stand in line and then hope your spot doesn’t get rained out later. It gets rained out a lot, especially in the summer thunderstorm months. I don’t know if we will bother to make that effort if (when) we go back, unless the kids specifically ask for it. Or if Linc wants to do it (he was too young this year).

It was worth it at least once for the photos though.

The PhotoPass photographers took a LOT of pictures of the show too.

That’s the Seventh Sister, she’s a Jedi hunter trained by Darth Vader. *takes off dork glasses*

On the way out, the kids talked us into buying lightsabers. I wasn’t THAT hard to convince. Mostly so the Photopass person could take this pictures.

The park looks really crowded in those photos, which is weird because I don’t remember it being crowded.

Even though we had planned just one day in each park, we had purchased park hopper passes (thanks military discount!) so it wasn’t a problem to get into Hollywood Studios and then hop over to Epcot. We choose to take the 30-minute boat ride instead of the 10-minute bus ride, because I hate the buses. On the boat, we got a nice view of several resorts and we didn’t have to fold up the stroller. I recommend the boat.

Our original plan was to get to Epcot super early – they opened at 8 am for Extra Magic Hours – to rope drop Soarin’, since we used our Tier 1 Fastpass for the Frozen ride. But because Freddie The Best Castmember Ever had booked us those spots in the morning Jedi Training, he also turned our two morning Fastpasses (which were for a character meet and the Nemo ride) into magical, open-ended Fastpasses, good for anything in Epcot. That allowed us to start our day in Epcot with our princess lunch at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at noon, then use our original Fastpass for Frozen and the two special ones for Test Track and Soarin’.

Our princess lunch was SUPER. I had heard mixed things about the restaurant because it’s located in the Norway pavilion and serves actual Norwegian food. Not everyone is a fan of pickled fish, but the way the menu was set up meant there was PLENTY of choices. You order drinks and a main course and then can eat from the “appetiser” buffet as much as you want. But we could have made entire meals of the buffet – meats and cheeses and salads and fruit and rolls. The non-meal-plan babies ate a TON of food. I had a delicious seafood casserole, E had meatballs, and the kids had pizza and mac & cheese, so don’t be afraid of Akershus.

Also, it was a really pretty building with good light, so my photos of the kids with the princesses look great.

This Ariel was amazing. She spent so much time with Caroline, admiring all the sea animals on her dress and whispering things together.

I mean, look at that. That’s Caroline’s best life.

We were all STUFFED by the end of the meal but dessert is included so they brought us two of these trays. The apple cake in the middle was definitely the winner. It was SO good.

We also met Belle at that lunch! I let the PhotoPass photographer take that one because the alcove was sort of small.

Lunch was right across the pavilion from both the Frozen ride and the Anna and Elsa meeting spot. The ride was really fun and I was super glad we had the Fastpass, because the wait time was around 45 minutes. But for some reason the wait time to meet Anna and Elsa was…nothing, basically. It was amazing. I’m almost sad we just walked through the whole line, because we missed getting to look at all the fun details Disney puts in the buildings so you forget you’re waiting in line. But not THAT sad. When Frozen first came out, the wait times for Anna and Elsa were FIVE HOURS OR MORE. 5 minutes was way better.

 

And then I made Caroline pose for a few photos.

Don’t you love her very authentic crocs with socks look?

After we were done in Norway, it started to look like it might rain and we wanted to make sure we did Test Track before they closed it due to weather. So we headed in that direction with a quick stop in Mexico to ride the dark boat ride there. We managed to knock out Test Track with the FP and rider swap, then Soarin’ with the FP and rider swap, and then Spaceship Earth before it started to POUR. We were prepared with ponchos (although we forgot the stupid rain cover again!), so we dashed across the park to the character spots to wait for Mickey and friends and then Joy, Sadness and Baymax.

I was not expecting Epcot to be the park where we met the most characters, but I think it wins!

The wait for Joy and Sadness was the worst wait anywhere that week – the line moved soooooo sloooooow and it was just a back-and-forth line in a big empty space. We were really tired, and damp, and it was boring, and we didn’t have the stroller so we had to wear Finnegan. I made the kids pose for photos to keep us all amused.

It was only sort of pouring when we left the characters, so we hiked over to the Land and Sea section and finally rode the Nemo ride. It was adorable and there was NO wait. There’s a real aquarium at the end so it looks like Dory and Nemo and Marlin and Crush are swimming with the real fish. There was a ton of stuff in that area that we skipped, so Epcot is top of my list for parks to go back to if (when) we visit again.

We decided it was too wet to try to do anything else right away, so we caught a bus back to the hotel to change clothes, pick up the stroller rain cover, and unload the lightsabers. The middle-of-the-day buses are less terrible than end-of-the-night buses, so it was an easy trip. Right after we got back to the hotel, it completely stopped raining and the sun broke through the clouds. We decided it was a good time to go back to Magic Kingdom to try to ride Splash Mountain (which we had missed the first day because it was broken). We checked the app and there were still Fastpasses available for around 8 pm, so we snapped them up and headed back.

On the bus to the park, we noticed a rainbow. When we got into the park. you could still see the rainbow. And then as we headed towards Frontierland, I realized if I could stand in the right place, we could see the DOUBLE rainbow leading right into the castle. I took probably 300 rainbow photos (as did every other person at the park).

 

Between the sun coming out and the rainbow and the general feeling of magic in the park, we all forgot we were tired. We used our Fastpasses to rider swap Splash Mountain. By the time I got on it was sunset, which was super fun. Then we tried to grab dinner but it was 9 pm and the quick service places were closed. So we decided to go try and see Tomorrowland, since we had missed most of it on our Magic Kingdom day. We also wanted to let Caroline ride Space Mountain, since I had previously told her she was too short but I was wrong. The fireworks were going on as we crossed the park, so we cut through Fantasyland behind the castle. When we got to the other side, we realized almost everyone in the park was still watching the show, so the wait for Space Mountain was almost nothing. E and the kids hopped on. About 5 minutes later, the fireworks ended and at least a hundred people RAN towards Space Mountain. The wait time went from 10 minutes to 45 minutes almost instantly.

Once I met up with the coaster riders, we decided to do the Toy Story ride before we left, just because Linc loves Buzz Lightyear so much and had been such a champ with not riding Splash Mountain or Space Mountain.

Then the park was closed, so we (and eeeeeeeeverybody else) left. The bus was stupid again. It was 11 pm before we got back to the hotel. And no one had eaten dinner. The kids were too tired to care and E chose sleep over food, so I went down to the hotel food court on my own and got a huge plate of pasta and some cupcakes. Finn nursed SO MUCH on this trip, both for comfort and to stay hydrated in the heat, so I was constantly starving. No skipping meals for me.

Because we had such a late night, we adjusted our plan for Friday just a little bit. Although we did still rope drop Animal Kingdom. There were no days off during this vacation.

Next: our LAST DAY in Disney at the Animal Kingdom and the new Pandora world!

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Our First Disney Trip: Fashion

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

I wrote most of this post before we left on vacation, so I’m just adding notes and photos, which is why some of it sounds like we haven’t gone yet.

This is where I admit I went WAY SUPER OVERBOARD with our Disney trip outfits. I started with a plan to get us matching family Disney shirts for just our first day in the Magic Kingdom. Then I decided we needed matching family Disney shirts for EVERY day of parks. I eventually backed off the fully-matching idea and went with park-themed shirts for each day, plus a few extra shirts (it’s June in Florida, I have a nursing baby and a toddler, we all need extra shirts) and a princess dress or three (oooooor a few more) for Caroline to wear to character meals. Oh and pajamas. And maybe a bathing suit or two. I bought all those things. (Many links in this post are affiliate or referral links – if you don’t want me to get any pennies for your click just type in the stores and search for the items instead of clicking through.)

Short version: I found that the best sources for Disney t-shirts were normal stores – Target, Old Navy, Kohl’s – and sometimes the Disney Store. I did almost all my shopping online. For custom shirts, Etsy was my go-to. My NUMBER ONE TIP if you’re shopping for Disney shirts would be to sign up for Ebates. Everywhere from Etsy to the Disney Store to Target offer cashback – I’ve made almost $40 with the shopping I’ve done for our trip, and that doesn’t include extras like new prescription sunglasses. If you use my link to sign up, I get a bonus and you get $10 free to get you started. Ebates are great, sign up even if you don’t use my link, then get the plug-in for Chrome so it alerts you when they’re available.

Long version: Day by day guide with sources!

FREE DAY/PRINCESS DINNER

We have reservations at 1600 Park Fare the night before we start doing the parks. Beginning with a magical princess character meal means even if every other day is a hot mess, at least we get to meet Cinderella and Prince Charming.

I am wearing a princess tank top from Zulily (if you haven’t purchased from them before and use my link to sign up, I get a credit). E is wearing his Gaston t-shirt also from Zulily. Caroline is wearing a vintage Mickey print dress made by Rainbow Waters, who I’ve recommended before as one of my favorite spots to buy Caroline fun clothes. Evan is wearing his Kylo Ren t-shirt from the Disney Store. Lincoln is wearing a Moana shirt from Old Navy and Finnegan is wearing a Mickey shirt from The Disney Store. I also bought Disney bathing suits for most of the kids. The two best were the absolutely fantastic Stitch full-body wet suit for Finnegan and the Moana bathing suit for Caroline, both from The Disney Store.

Disney bathing suits

Various Nemo pajamas were super on sale from Target online.

Finding Nemo Pajamas


A note about costumes: Caroline owns a lot of princess dresses and is generally a kid who LOVES to play dress up. Since we’re going to be eating character meals with several princesses I wanted to make sure Caroline had the option to wear her dress up. Unfortunately, a lot of our dress up isn’t really Disney-World-friendly – either I bought it too big so she could get more years of use out of it, it’s too long for walking around, or it’s the cheap kind that gets itchy pretty fast. People in one of the Disney FB groups I joined highly recommended Mom Approved Costumes and I ordered a couple dresses for Caroline and Jedi capes for the boys. I LOVE them. They’re packable, machine-washable, have completely finished interior seams and no itchy parts. If you use my link you’ll get 10% off your first order and I earn points in their loyalty program. The dresses run about $30 a piece, which is more expensive than the cheap ones you can get from AliExpress or even the toy department at Target, but a lot less than the nice ones from The Disney Store. I’m bringing: Elena (from The Disney Store), Cinderella (from AliExpress), Ariel ballgown (Mom Approved), Ariel day dress (Mom Approved), Anna day dress (Mom Approved),  Moana (Mom Approved), a Dark Side cape for Evan (Mom Approved), a Jedi cape for Linc (Mom Approved), and pirate costumes for both boys (AliExpress). The princess dresses ended up working out perfectly but the boys never wore the pirate costumes because of time. Next visit we’ll do more pirate stuff.

Caroline wore all but one of her princess dresses and said she found the Mom Approved Costumes even more comfortable than her regular clothes. She bonded with all the princesses over her great outfits and reveled in being called princess every day (to be fair, they call all little girls princess, but she felt extra special).

princess dresses at Disney

Caroline also ended up in Linc’s Jedi robes, because he didn’t care about them and she did VERY MUCH. There weren’t any other kids at Hollywood Studios with their own robes, so ours were a big hit and I would definitely recommend them.

 

MAGIC KINGDOM

We are all wearing our Best Day Ever shirts from MouseApparel. I cannot recommend this shop enough, the owner was helpful and gracious and almost as excited about our trip as I am. She went out of her way to make sure every detail of our shirts are exactly what I imagined. She even wrote me back immediately after I asked my first question even though she was AT Disneyland. My in-laws kindly embroidered the kids’ names on the backs of their shirts.

family disney shirts Best Day Ever

Family matching Disney Shirts

EPCOT

We have a princess lunch booked, so we went with a Frozen theme. This was the moment I knew E was going to be just as into this whole over the top Disney thing as I am: when I showed him these shirts and he said “Definitely order those.” Sandwiches shirts from Once Upon A Mickey Tee. Caroline’s Frozen tee is from Kohl’s, Finn’s tee is from The Disney Store, and the two Miles from Tomorrowland shirts are from ThredUp (if you use my referral link, you and I both get a $10 credit), which is a website/app that consigns kid’s and women’s clothes. Lincoln’s is new with tags and was only a few dollars. I would start browsing there as long in advance as you can, since they add new stuff all the time.

family disney shirts Epcot

Family matching Disney Shirts at epcot

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

Our plans for Hollywood Studios are 90% Star Wars, so that’s our shirt theme. My husband and oldest child insist they are Sith Lords (There are always two) so they get dark side shirts from Teepublic. The rest of us are good people, so we’re on the right side of the rebellion. All our shirts are from Kohl’s. Linc was BB8 for Halloween, so he’ll wear the hat from his costume too. He wears it all the time. I cut my Rebels t-shirt into a tank and a friend hemmed the edges for me. Then I decided I needed a second Star Wars shirt and bought one that says “A Woman’s Place Is In The Resistance“. Perfect for Hollywood Studios AND everyday life.

family disney shirts Star Wars Hollywood Studios

Family star wars shirts

ANIMAL KINGDOM

The shows and characters at Animal Kingdom are animal based (duh) so I went with animal movies for our outfits. My shirt and E’s shirt came from Teepublic (I spent a lot of time browsing there, they have some really great shirts). Mine is hard to see but it has Disney birds in cages – Donald, Kevin, Zazu, Wise Old Owl, etc. The kids thought it was HILARIOUS. Evan and Lincoln’s shirts came from ThredUp. Caroline’s Lion King shirt came from Kohls’ and Finn’s shirt came from The Disney Store. I was worried Linc’s shirt would be way too big for him, so I did some more browsing and found a Mickey-lion shirt on the Disney Boutique Custom Resale group page. People destash all the shirts/dresses/shoes/things their kids wore ONE time in the parks, so it’s a great place to look for discounted but original stuff.

family disney shirts Animal Kingdom

Family animal kingdom shirts

I also ordered two custom embroidered shirts to put over our Tulas. Lincoln and Finn both love being worn. It’s also the easiest way to nurse Finn without having to take lots of sitting-down breaks. After reading some advice in the Tula Love group, I ordered a 4T for Finn’s standard Tula and a size 8 for Linc’s toddler Tula. Using a t-shirt as a cover is cheaper and easier than either buying new Tulas or having custom covers made, even if we only use them for this one week. The shirts worked well! I didn’t get a SINGLE good photo, but we got tons of compliments. Unfortunately, the white shirts got filthy pretty fast and I ended taking Finn’s off.

To prepare for our trip, I’m collecting all the clothes each kid needs each day (shirt, shorts, socks, underwear) into large Ziploc bags and labeling them by day/park. That way when we’re trying to get out of the hotel at 6 am no one struggles to find their shirt or puts on the wrong one. I’ve also packed separate Ziplocs for each kid to bring to the park with back-up clothes. I plan to put the bags they take their clothes out of each day into our park bag, so I have large Ziplocs available for storing dirty/wet clothes, protecting electronics if it rains, or holding unfinished snacks. This system worked really well. It was great to streamline our mornings and make sure nothing was missing.

Post-vacation note: BRING EXTRA CLOTHES FOR EVERYONE. Even if you’ve been carrying them around for 3 days and no one has needed any extra clothes and you think “We’re fine, I can stop lugging this extra stuff around.” No. You cannot. That is the day you will need them and buying shorts at Disney World will cost you at least $25. 

May I also strongly suggest these Old Navy compression capris I now own in four different patterns? Yes, we went in June and it was very hot, but I haaaaate shorts and I needed something that prevented thigh chafing and wouldn’t fall down or stretch out. These leggings were perfect. They dried quickly when I got wet, looked cute, and some even had cute matching sports bras to wear under my tanks. I actually saw at least half a dozen other moms wearing those pants, so I’m not the only one who thinks they’re perfect for Disney.

Another note: Crocs were great for the kids. They were a good choice and I’m super glad they broke them in ahead of time. 

Ok, one last note: You can wear almost anything you like and will be comfortable in. No one will care. You can’t be too earnest or too dorky at Disney World. I’d say about 30% of people were wearing Disney shirts, 30% had matching family shirts, and 30% were just wearing regular clothes. So don’t let it become something you stress about too much, unless you are like me and having things to stress about is actually part of the fun of planning.

Let me know if I missed anything you were looking for or need help finding Disney shirts!

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Our First Disney Trip: Epcot

Our First Disney Trip: Hollywood Studios

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

Previously: Disney Non-Park Day, Magic Kingdom

Right now (Summer 2017), Hollywood Studios is majorly under construction. They’re adding Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land (rumor says those will open in 2018 and 2019, respectively) so the park feels a little…messy. But some of my all-time favorite stuff is at Hollywood Studios, so we planned a full day at the park – and still ended up missing a bunch of things! Honestly, I used to think people who spent 10 days at Disney World were crazy, but after this trip I totally get it. If (when) we go again, it will be for a full week at minimum.

We got to Hollywood Studios before rope drop because we needed to get to the Rock’n’Rollercoaster as soon as they opened. I used my Tier 1 FastPass for the Buzz Lightyear ride and since we had our special Star Wars tour starting at 2:45 we couldn’t afford to stand in line for too long. Just like at Magic Kingdom, they let us part of the way into the park before officially opening and then held us at the end of the street until the real rope drop. We ended up stopped right in from of Starbucks, so I popped in and got two enormous mint frappuccinos (enormous frappuccinos are still only worth 1 snack credit each on the dining plan) and we got our morning buzz while we waited. It was perfect. Once 9 am hit, we scurried over to Rock’n’Rollercoaster where E and Evan basically walked right on. Caroline, Linc, Finn and I watched the line go from nothing to SUPER long, back to reasonable length, so my advice would be if you’re running 5-10 minutes late and aren’t there right at open, give it a few minutes before getting in line.

I rider switched with E, rode Rock’n’Rollercoaster with Evan (who loved it), and then we ran – almost literally – around the park to get all our other non-Star Wars stuff done as fast as possible.

We had a Fastpass for Disney Jr Live On Stage. We didn’t actually need the FP but I super recommend the show if you have little kids (or even medium sized kids) who like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Sofia the First or Doc McStuffins. Linc lost his mind and even the big kids had a great time.

PhotoPass pictures from meeting Pluto:

We had another character meal planned for lunch at Hollywood & Vine. Sometimes it’s a Minnie Mouse and Friends lunch, but this month it was Disney Jr characters again. It worked out perfectly for us because we didn’t have time to do the character spots outside the show but all those same characters were at lunch. Once again the food was good, they let the babies eat as much as they wanted, and the characters were great with the kids. It wasn’t crowded and it took the right amount of time – long enough for us to take a rest in the air conditioning, but not so much time we got off schedule for the day.

We also stood in line to meet Buzz and Woody. 10000% worth it. 1000000000%. No matter how long that line is, we will always stand in it.

PhotoPass Photos:

Look at this photo. I can’t even handle this photo:

Right outside Buzz and Woody we ran into Green Army Man who was also an amazing meet. The kids played with him for a long time.

In the afternoon we had a Tower of Terror FastPass. E was kind enough to let me go with the kids first, but then we ran out of time for his turn before our Star Wars tour. (Don’t worry, he gets to ride it eventually.)

Caroline and I loved it. Evan, not so much.

And then it was time for our Star Wars Tour!

Here’s our two sentence review of the tour: It was fine, but not the best to do with small kids. It was ABSOLUTELY worth the money.

And here’s the long version: They took good care of us. We got ponchos and water and a chance to preorder whatever food we wanted for everyone (including babies). There were electronic earpieces so we could hear the tour. Our guides, Freddy and Harry knew a TON of stuff about Star Wars, the history of Stars Wars as it related to Disney, trivia about the rides and shows and other Stars Wars stuff. We got a tour of the concept art gallery, front row seats to the two Star Wars films, a ride on Star Tours, and a delicious dinner at the Backlot Express where we were stopped and questioned by Storm Troopers (which was super cool). Unfortunately, the weather was bad so the afternoon First Order parade was canceled, which was, like, the #2 reason I signed up for the tour. Even worse news, the Jedi Training also got canceled because of the rain, and that was definitely the #1 reason we paid for the tour. I started to worry we were going to miss everything I had really cared about and I was pretty bummed. We were not the only people on the tour missing those things – half the people didn’t care because they were grown-ups, but everyone with kids had signed up basically just so they could get guaranteed spots in Jedi Training. (Freddy and Harry told us that was a surprise to Disney. They thought the tour would be mostly adults super into Star Wars who wouldn’t care at all about missing Jedi Training, so having to come up with a way to fix it for people like us was hard.) But during dinner when they warned us things might not work out they also said: “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you.” And they absolutely did.

It turns out Freddy had the power to give us pretty much anything. He looked at our schedule for the next day, booked us spots in the 10:10 am Jedi Training, changed our scheduled Epcot Fastpasses to magical, open-ended Fastpasses that worked on any ride at any time in Epcot, and then set up meets with Darth Vader not once but TWICE during the tour. He said if we hadn’t had park tickets for Thursday he could have gotten those for us too. And when we got to our rescheduled Jedi Training, one of our new tour friends told us his request had been both Darth Vader and Kylo Ren in the show, so that happened too (those photos are in tomorrow’s recap). Freddy even showed up on Thursday to make sure we were 100% happy. The level of customer service was everything you would expect from the most magical place on Earth.

But I’m getting ahead of myself!

 

In the evening, we went to the dessert party in the Launch Bay. You can buy tickets to JUST the dessert party, and I would absolutely recommend it. We might even do it again, because it was so fun.

I had read on some blogs that if you bring things to trade with the Jawas who hang out in this area they will give you droid parts or other small things. There isn’t a lot of advice on the internet about what, exactly, they will trade for, so I brought a baggie full of various things: dress up beads, marbles, Happy Meal toys, and a sparkly hair tie. The Jawa was super aloof and uninterested in us, refused to trade and kept walking away, so went to the dessert party. A while later we came back and Caroline tried trading her hair tie. The Jawa was much nicer that time, checking out her trade and admiring it because it was very sparkly. He (she?) ended up trading Caroline the tie for a glowing bouncy ball. Then the Jawa started “talking” to Lincoln, and a romance was born. They LOVED each other. It was honestly the cutest thing I have ever seen. E took some video of them, but there was another 10 or 15 minutes where they played together. The Jawa pretended he was going to keep Linc and I am pretty sure Linc was totally ok with that. Then I offered to take the Jawa home to Connecticut, but he didn’t know where that was. I told him “a galaxy far, far away” and we had a moment where he was very excited about my answer. At the end of the video you can see the Jawa tell us to wait there, which we did. He went and found another glowing ball to give Lincoln, even without anything in return.

Seriously, it was one of the absolute highlights of our trip and maybe the best character interaction the whole week. There were other kids and grown-ups around who took pictures with the Jawa or tried to trade – including one adult man who tried to boss the Jawa around – but none of them had much luck. I would recommend being as nice and gentle as possible. DON’T be pushy. The Jawa did not like pushy people. And bring the sparkliest things you can think of to trade.

Part of the dessert party was getting to meet BB8, Chewbacca and Kylo Ren. Because we were tour guests we didn’t have to wait at all, but even for just dessert party guests there was almost no line. That meant Chewy could spend a ton of time with the kids and again Disney showed off why their character interactions are SO amazing.

After dessert and drinks (alcohol for the grown-ups, all included) we were collected by the Storm Troopers and marched out to the special center-of-the-park viewing area for the Star Wars Gallactic Specactular. I am pretty sure there are regular Hollywood Studios fireworks earlier in the evening, but we didn’t see them. The Star Wars ones were very cool.

hollywood studios star wars day

 

hollywood studios star wars day

hollywood studios star wars day

And here are our PhotoPass pictures from all the Star Wars stuff:

And then we were done with Hollywood Studios day! Although we weren’t quite done with Hollywood Studios, because we came back for Jedi Training in the morning. Up next: our crazy Thursday where we went to THREE parks.

p.s. We did see Indiana Jones in there…somewhere. But we missed The Muppets and The Great Movie Ride. Next time!

p.p.s. I would REALLY love if they added Rey and Jyn Erso character meets. I realize they don’t currently have any Star Wars face characters (like the princesses in other parks) but maybe once they open Star Wars Land. I’ll go back pretty much just for those photos.

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Our First Disney Trip: Magic Kingdom

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Previously: Days 1 & 2 in Disney (but no parks)

We planned our first park day for the Magic Kingdom because I wasn’t sure the kids would really understand they were actually at Disney World until they saw the castle up close. It’s also the park with the most stuff and non-negotiable fireworks (meaning we HAVE to stay for the fireworks) so we knew it would be a very long day.

We got to the park an hour before they officially opened because we wanted Main Street photos with the castle before the park got TOO crowded. We also had breakfast reservations at 9:10 at the very back of the park and needed to be at least at the castle by 9 am. Between security and time to take allll the photos, it was a good call. Disney has done a great job speeding up lines of all kinds – E was chatting with a security manager and he said not having a long line for bag checks is a huge priority for them and we could definitely tell – but being prepared to have them slow you down a little is a good idea. So we got into the park before “official” open time and were right at the front of the castle when they did the morning opening show. It is definitely worth catching if you have kids – that first glimpse of Mickey and Minnie blew Linc’s mind and there were a bunch of characters we only saw during that show. I might have (definitely) cried a little.

These are our PhotoPass pictures:

And these are my photos:

The moment Evan saw the castle:

You’re never too cool for a Disney World castle selfie.

Right after that they lifted the ropes and we walked straight back to Be Our Guest for our breakfast reservation. The breakfast system was incredibly efficient. You placed your order on touch screens, scanned your magic band to pay/use your dining credits, and then picked a table anywhere. I wanted to see the West Wing so we walked through the gorgeous main ballroom (it looked exactly like where Belle and Beast dance in the movie) (also it snows outside the “windows”) and got a table RIGHT under Prince Adam’s ripped portrait from the movie.

Every 5 minutes or so there was a thunderstorm and the portrait would flash with the Beast’s picture instead. It was super cool. Lincoln did NOT like it, so if you have a possibly-scared toddler I would recommend just coming in to visit the West Wing and sitting in a different room. Seconds after we sat down, a waitress brought our food to our table. How did she know where we were??? Ther wasn’t a number or a tracker or one of those buzzers or anything that tied us to the order we placed at the touch screen. I might have been more amazed by the service than by the magical portrait or the very awesome magic rose:

After breakfast, we had time for some stuff with short lines – the carousel, Small World, watching the Sword in the Stone show, and visiting Elena before our first fast pass for the Seven Dwarves Mine Train. There are a lot of rides in Fantasyland.

Cinderella’s slipper at Fairytale Hall:

I surprised Caroline with the Elena dress and crown because I knew she was extra exicted to meet her:

Elena photos (and basically all the character meet photos NOT at a meal) are from our PhotoPass. I recommend the PhotoPass.

Linc doesn’t look thrilled in this photo, but he was SO EXCITED about the “diss” from a princess.

This is the part of my recap where I’m going to pat myself on the back a little bit for all that planning I did. It was SO GREAT to be able to tell the kids “don’t worry, we have a Fastpass” for almost every ride they wanted. We also really benefitted from the rider swap system. We would all show up at the entrance and scan our bands to “clear” the FP from our account, then one of the grown ups would go with Evan and Caroline and get a rider swap pass. Sometimes it was a tag, sometimes a ticket, but either way as soon as they got off the ride they passed it to the other grown up and the big kids got to ride again. It was SO GREAT for the big kids, because they got to ride everything at least twice. In theory we could have doubled our FP options with rider swap because only one of us HAD to scan in to get into the FP line. There are other blogs that could explain that method better than me, but we a) weren’t 100% sure it would work on the most popular rides and b) didn’t feel right “cheating” the system even if it wasn’t really cheating. Plus between the Fastpasses I booked 90 days before the trip, shortish lines, and the ability to book more Fastpasses after our first 3 were used, we were fine.

One of the things you don’t need a Fastpass for is Dumbo. They’ve changed it a lot since the last time I was at Disney, so now you go inside to a playground and the kids play (in the air conditioning) while you wait for your turn with a buzzer, like they give you when you wait for your table at Chili’s. It’s great. All four kids got to play while I got to sit down. And then it was time for some classic Dumbo action.

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Then we met Ariel! Mermaid Ariel, which was very cool.

We tried to watch the 3 pm parade…but the weather turned and they canceled it. Then we made our biggest mistake of the day and got in a 60-minute long line for Haunted Mansion. Ugggh. But it was under awnings so we weren’t in the rain and it moved pretty fast and it was on our must-do list so I’m glad if we were going to waste some time in line it was for something good.

 

The rest of our afternoon was spent in Adventureland and Frontierland. We did the Swiss Family Robinson tree house, and the Jungle Cruise and Big Thunder Mountain and Pirates and Aladdin’s flying carpet and the Tiki Room and…I can’t even remember. All of it, I think, except Tom Sawyer’s Island. We even saw the Country Bear Jamboree, which I don’t think I have actually seen before. It was HILARIOUS. And not for children. But hilarious. I laughed so hard I almost cried.

It was REALLY hot so I didn’t care at all if the kids threw themselves in the fountains.

After we exhausted ourselves in all of the park besides Tomorrowland, we headed to dinner at the Jungle Skipper Canteen restaurant (the eatery themed to go with the Jungle Cruise ride). It was not at all crowded, our server was fantastic, and the bread they brought to serve the table was delicious. They just kept bringing more and more and more bread, so Linc and Finn stuffed themselves with that instead of having to share our food. I was going to order a noodle dish, but the server suggested the steak instead which ended up being a much better choice. After I sucked down my first Diet Coke in like 5 seconds, the waitress said “Oh, mama needs more Diet Coke. I gotcha.” And then for the rest of the meal I never had less than two sodas next to my plate. We tipped her extra.

Caroline accidentally spilled soda on herself so she changed into her back-up clothes. And then after she ate she fell asleep on the bench.

After dinner we planned to finish out the roller coasters. We had a Fastpass for Splash Mountain in the evening, but the ride was temporarily broken. They emailed us to let us know we could either use our Fastpass whenever it started working again OR we could use it on something else. Something else = Space Mountain! First we stopped to watch the 9 pm fireworks show, called Happily Ever After. I definitely recommend watching from Main Street. On a different day we saw it from the back of the castle and you miss sooooo much. Even if it’s crowded, find a spot and stand there for the 18 minute show.

p.s. Even when you think the show is over, stand still for a few more minutes or you’ll miss Tinkerbell.

For some reason I thought Caroline was too short for Space Mountain, so we hung out and watched the second fireworks show while E and Evan went to ride. Then we walked over to wait for them so I could rider swap. A lot of people leave after the first fireworks, so we were able to stand right up next to the castle for the second show.

While I was in line for Space Mountain, I noticed the height restriction was lower than I thought so Caroline could ride. But by the time we got off and met up again it was late and all the kids were exhausted. Beyond exhausted. So we just made a note that if we made it back to the park for Splash Mountain we’d try to get Caroline a ride on Space Mountain too.

My main lesson for our Magic Kingdom day is that it is definitely a 2-day park. Maybe even a 3-day park if you’re trying to do absolutely everything. I’m already making a list so if (when) we go back we can finish everything we missed. We never even did the spinning tea cups!

Up next: Wednesday at Hollywood Studios. Star Wars day!

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Our First Disney Trip: Stuff To Bring

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

This post contains affiliate links, so if you click through I make a few pennies. I purchased everything in this post with my own actual dollars.

Disney trip packing list

As part of my Disney World prep research, I’ve found lists on lists on lists. Disney packing lists, lists of things you can buy before your trip, things you can bring to make your trip easier, things you absolutely must not forget, things you should have shipped to your hotel, things you can get cheaper before you go and obscure things you never would have even thought to pack. (My Pinterest board has a lot of those lists saved.)

It’s a lot of lists, is what I’m saying. I bought almost everything on every list I found because a) I like to be prepared and b) I like buying things. It turns out some of this stuff was WAY more useful/fun/important than others, so I’ve added notes explaining what changes I’ll make if (when) we go again.

Weather related:

Rain cover for Disney World

  1. Second seat and rain cover for our stroller. I have a gorgeous Joovy Caboose Ultralight Graphite stroller that has a sit-and-stand rear bench seat. But because I have two kids who will need to nap during the day I wanted two full seats for resting. I got the rain cover because I took the “June is the rainiest month in Florida” advice to heart. Aaaaand then I forgot to pack the stupid rain cover. Good news: Amazon Prime delivered one to our hotel on day 2. And it was totally worth it – it rains every day in Florida in June and the days with the rain cover were way easier than the days without the rain cover.
  2. Cheap ponchos. Kid-sized ponchos for the kids and grown-up sized ponchos for me and E from the dollar store. We all own perfectly nice raincoats, but who has room for raincoats? Ponchos are the way to go. Post-trip advice: The Disney ponchos you get in the parks are WAY nicer than dollar store ponchos. They gave us a set as part of the special Star Wars tour we did, but next time I will just buy the official park ones if we need them.
  3. Cooling towels. I’ve been meaning to buy one of these for a while to help keep the baby cool when I wear him during hot summer months. This seemed like the right time to invest in a couple and see if they really help. (They helped enough to be worth the purchase.)
  4. Sneakers PLUS extra shoes. I bought these cute, super lightweight sneakers for myself a few months ago and broke them in. My back-up shoes are my trusty sparkle flip-flops from last year . E bought sneakers and waterproof shoes from Land’s End. I got new shoes for the kids a few weeks before we left and had them break them in – second-hand Crocs for all three kids, plus sneakers.
  5.  Sunscreen. Tons of sunscreen.
  6. Rechargeable misting fan. This was great both as a way to cool down and as a way to distract a bored toddler.

Souvenier related:

  1. Lanyards to hold Disney pins. I ordered 3, because I figured I should include Linc even though he’ probably too small to really understand pin trading. Plus the little pouches on the end will be good for holding pressed pennies (see #3).
  2. A whole bunch of pins for trading. This post is a great explanation of pin trading and I took his advice and found a reputable seller on Ebay to order some pins for the kids to get started. I was pleasantly surprised with what we got – lots of princesses and Mickeys, not just junk. When I divided 50 pins up by 3 lanyards it filled them almost completely, so the kids will be able to trade as much as they want. Here is my pin trading advice: it is really fun, but it is time-consuming and the backs fall off the pins A LOT. We ended up buying extra backs at the park because it got so annoying. We will probably do more pin trading on future trips, but I wouldn’t put it on my must-do list for kids at Disney.
  3. Change for the pressed penny machines. My kids LOVE pressing pennies – there are machines at a lot of New Englandy tourist attractions, so we do them fairly often. I decided to plan ahead for Disney with as much advice as I could find. I sorted our change collection to find pennies from before 1982 so they’re all solid copper. I cleaned and polished them with white vinegar. And then I stacked the pennies with 2 quarters into a mini M&M’s tube, so it’s easy to grab correct change each time we see a machine. I even made a cute label for the tube. Post-trip advice: you don’t have to make it a huge thing like I did, but the penny machines are everywhere and really fun. Bring some change.
  4. Secure a toy leashes. I figured at some point, Linc would talk me into buying him a plush and then we would probably lose it immediately. I tried to prevent that by being prepared to attach his new lovey to either the stroller or the Tula. Good news: this worked with the Woody doll. Bad news: I didn’t put one on Pluto and we lost him immediately.
  5. Over the door organizer for our reusable drink cups. I saw this on a blog and thought it was GENIUS. These cups are going to be super popular this summer back at home, so I really wanted to make sure we held on to them. Real world experience: Meh. We brought the cups to the parks 2 days and never actually filled them with water. You only get free soda refills at the resorts, so although they were good at the hotel they weren’t worth dragging around the parks. Our meals came with drinks so we mostly just drank during meals and the kids used water fountains in between.
  6. A whole bunch of glow sticks. We have plans to hit light shows/parades/fireworks at every park. Planning ahead will hopefully save me a bunch of cash and let my kids share with other kids around us to make our evenings more fun. A+ IDEA, will do again.
  7. An autograph book. I bought the official Disney Parks one from the Disney Store. Then I also read a great tip that a book of Disney characters makes a fun souvenir kids can look at and re-read long after the trip. I figure the kids could spend time in lines, at meals and between attractions marking pages and looking for the characters they wanted to have sign their book. I also bought mini sharpies for the kids to keep on their lanyards and fancy pens to use with the princesses. Some of the advice I read said things like that make it easier for the characters to interact with you, and since we’re doing several character meals I wanted to make sure the kids have great interactions. <—— Get the book, this was SUPER fun. Linc pointing at the picture of the character he was meeting and saying “You!!! You!!!!” was adorable every time.
  8. Rainbow Wikki Stix for the kids to play with while waiting for meals.
  9. Jedi Academy books. Evan loves these, I figured a new one would be a good surprise.
  10. A few small stuffed toys from the Disney Store. Definitely cheaper to order online during a sale and pull them out as surprises instead of paying the in-park mark-up.
  11. Tiaras from Claire’s at the mall. Again, cheaper to bring than buy!
  12. Other small toys – a Moana doll for Caroline, some Star Wars stuff for Evan, etc – collected from Target, Amazon, Disney Store over the past months. We ended up buying 3 pirate swords, ears for everyone, and 3 Jedi light sabers, but bringing surprised toy gifts definitely saved me from buying more expensive stuff in the parks.

Pin trading at Hollywood Studios

Pin trading at Hollywood Studios

Alternative to a Disney character autograph book

 

Health-related;

  1. Disney band-aids. Because everything has to be Disney themed.
  2. New skin for blisters.
  3. Tylenol and Advil in dosages for every family member.
  4. Zip-lock bags in big a medium sizes.
  5. BIG band-aids for skinned knees.
  6. Anti-chafe gel, for me.

Other stuff:

  1. A cheap waterproof holder for my phone.
  2. A new strap for my camera so I can wear it cross-body.
  3. A portable charger for the cell phones. I would honestly recommend getting one of these to anyone. We’ve used it a TON before we even leave for vacation – it’s so handy to charge my phone in my purse while I shop at Target or wait at ballet.
  4. Two Pokemon Go Plus devices. Don’t judge! As a family we all still love to play, but I don’t want anyone staring at their phone (including me!) while we’re in the parks. The kids love carrying these and seeing them light up and buzz.

And here are the things I would add to the lists:

  1. Baby carrier(s). E and I both wore both kids every day. I wore Finn constantly (it felt like constantly at least) because it was the easiest way to nurse. He also napped better on me. And in the evenings when it was time to go back to the hotel and Linc was passed out in the stroller, it was great to be able to put him on our backs when we had to fold up the stroller for the bus. I was a little worried there would be a lot of rules for wearing on rides, but only one time did anyone say anything about turning Finn around.
  2. Diaper cream. HERE IS MY BEST DISNEY TIP: Bring diaper cream. Even if you don’t have kids in diapers. It’s very, very soothing on any chaffed skin or rashes or sore spots. My husband would recommend boxer briefs over regular boxers and I would recommend cotton underwear and we both really recommend diaper cream.
  3. Sunglasses for the kids. When it was sunny, it was REALLY sunny, and they were grumpy when they didn’t have their sunglasses.
  4. Googles. We forgot ours and had to buy them in the hotel shop for the day we spent at the hotel pool.
  5. Batteries. You’ll need them for something, at some point, and they’re way cheaper when you buy them outside of the parks.
  6. A large, comfortable backpack to hold all your stuff. You can take your bag with you on almost every ride (worst case is you leave it in a cubby like on the Avatar ride) and if you have kids you’re carrying a lot of stuff, so make sure you have a bag you don’t hate carrying. And pack efficiently, because if you do have to fold up the stroller for transportation, you need to get all the junk you’ve shoved into the basket of the stroller back in the bag.

Babywearing at Disney World

If you’re lucky enough to be going on a kid-free Disney trip, let me condense the list down for you: Cell phone, comfortable shoes, diaper cream, sunglasses. You DSLR if you’re someone who likes photography. Don’t carry anything you don’t have to, because you’ll need your hands free for snacks, drinks and pointing and laughing at all of us who are schlepping tons of stuff around for the kids.

I JUST REMEMBERED SOMETHING ELSE! I ordered BitBelts for our Magic Bands and they were a lifesaver. They saved everyone’s Magic Bands from falling off at least once. Totally worth a couple bucks, because losing a Magic Band would be such a hassle and could ruin all your plans for the day.

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