Posts Tagged ‘disney world’

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.

+

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!

Related posts:

Lake House Photos (But Not The Usual)
My Week(159) in iPhone Photos
5 Tips For Taking Newborn Photos Yourself

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.

Related posts:

My Week(254) in iPhone Photos
My Week(257) in iPhone Photos
My Week(344) in iPhone Photos

Our First Disney Trip: Non-Park Days

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

We’re back from Disney World! Well, actually we’re not back, we’re still on vacation. But we are no longer in Florida and I’ve finally had a few minutes to look through the 1800 pictures I took and start to recap our trip.

Even with that many photos, I feel like I missed A LOT of moments. It is hard to take pictures while wearing a baby and I was wearing a baby 75% of the time. I knew that going in and promised myself I wouldn’t be disappointed, but I still am a little bit. I do have a ton of cell phone photos and video, plus the PhotoPass pictures the Disney photogs took, so it’s not like I’m actually missing much. My recaps just won’t have as many *good* photos as I wanted.

The first day and a half we were at Disney World we weren’t actually in any of the parks. This was a good choice. We went to Disney Springs the night we checked into the hotel, did some shopping to get our ears and see the Lego store and ride the boat shuttles around, then had dinner. If it hadn’t been raining we would have spent a lot more time wandering around and checking out the stores – we never made it to the pin store or the Christmas store – but it was fun even in the rain.

I had made dinner reservations at Bongo’s Cuban Cafe based on good internet reviews and a lot of interesting menu choices. I almost canceled them the day before, because I wasn’t sure the kids would be able to handle 7:30 dinner at a “grown up” restaurant. I am so glad I didn’t! When we checked in the hostess warned us our seats were on the dance floor and there was a show tonight; would we like different seats? No way! It worked out perfectly. The music was loud (in a good way) and we loved watching the salsa dancers who were right next to our table. The show was interactive so several times Caroline was up on stage with the dancers or doing a congo line around the restaurant. The food was also delicious. I had a giant plate of seafood, E had some sort of meat and even though the kid’s menu offered interesting choices they also had nice safe mac & cheese for Evan. I recommend the kid’s ham croquette appetizer – I would have eaten a dozen of those.

Caroline declared this dinner the “best night of her life”, so I think she would also recommend Bongo’s.

Dessert was this key lime mouse thing. Desserts were included on the dining plan (I’ll write a lot more about the dining plan later) so we ate a LOT of dessert.

After dinner we caught the bus back to our hotel to get some sleep, since we were exhausted from two days of driving.

Note on Transportation: We didn’t drive at all while we were at Disney. We took buses from our hotel, then boats or the Monorail between parks. The buses suck. I mean, they’re better than driving and parking and they’re free and they were consistent. But they still suck. If (when) we go back, we will spend more money to stay at a hotel that offers options besides the buses because folding up the stroller and jamming onto a crowded standing-room only bus at 11 pm is no fun.

On our first full day Florida, we slept in, hung out at the pool, and then did a little resort hopping before our princess dinner.

Finding Nemo pajamas for our Finding Nemo hotel room, obviously. We stayed at Art of Animation, which is a very fun hotel that is very far away from most things. We were lucky and got a room that wasn’t super far from the main building, but if you were in a different section you could be doing a LOT of walking. If (when) we go again we won’t stay here.

A lot of my morning pictures are unusable because my camera/lenses always fogged up. The temperature difference between the inside a/c and the outside humidty was unhelpful. In the future I’ll remember to take my stuff outside 20 minutes before I want to use it.

We did enjoy a fairly peaceful pool that morning though. We were practically the only people there until after 10 am.

We spent the whole morning at the pool, then came inside for clothes and lunch. The food court at the hotel is called Landscape of Flavors and was really good. Those refillable mugs came with our meal plan. I had the combo platter – quesadillas and tacos – and a Mickey cupcake for dessert. A+ would recommend.

art of animation landscape of flavors

After lunch, we packed up and headed out to take care of some errands (trading in our MWR vouchers for actual park tickets, buying the PhotoPass) and resort hopping.

The Monorail was a) not crowded and b) air conditioned, so we rode it a lot.

Resort hopping on the Monorail was fun but tiring. You’re not allowed to use the pools at other hotels, so we mostly explored the stores and lobbies, checked out the food and let the kids trade pins while the grown-ups sat down and enjoyed not walking. It would have been a good use of 2 hours – any longer and you’ll just get super jealous of how nice the deluxe hotels are.

But because Disney is full of magic, being early to our dinner reservation led to being at the Grand Floridian during Cinderella’s Princess Promenade. Cinderella and Prince Charming showed up to greet the kids, take them on a parade through the hotel and participate in a waltz in the lobby. Caroline and Lincoln looooved it, even though we were already going to see those same characters for dinner.

Speaking of dinner, I would HIGHLY recommend the Cinderella Happily Ever After dinner at 1900 Park Fare. Actually, all our character meals were great, but if you’re thinking that this one might be hard to get to because it’s outside Magic Kingdom I promise it’s worth the effort. The buffet was delicious, the strawberry soup was as good as everyone said, and Lady Tremaine and the step-sisters were a hoot.

The only problem with character meals vs meeting the characters in their designated spots is you have to take your own photos. That’s not too bad for me, but almost none of my cell phone shots turned out, so I was glad to have my real camera ready.

Our dinner reservations were for 4:30 so afterward we had time to get back to the hotel and jump in the pool again to cool off and relax. I would suggest jumping in the pool as much as possible during your Disney trip, because being weightless and off your feet feels so good. Then we threw the kids in bed so we would be ready for our first park day in the morning: Magic Kingdom!

Related posts:

Never Boring {$100 Giveaway!}
My Week(187) in iPhone Photos
Baby #4 News! It's A...

Our First Disney Trip: Telling the Kids!

Monday, June 5th, 2017

When it came to telling the kids about our trip to Disney World, I was so torn. On the one hand, I really love the idea of putting them in the car and telling them we’re going RIGHT NOW. On the other hand, it’s going to take two days to drive there so that’ a little anticlimactic. Also, I wanted to give them time to get excited – I’ve been SO EXCITED for so many months, now they get to anticipate all the magic too.

After they ran around screaming for a while, we watched all the Disney vacation planning videos on the website then went to YouTube and watched roller coaster ride-throughs of everything I thought might be scary. This is their ONE CHANCE to ride stuff (for the next 5+ years, at least) so I need them not to refuse because they’re not sure what to expect. It was a good idea – Caroline is nervous about Haunted Mansion and Evan is nervous about the Mine Train, so I have a week to talk them both into trying it at least once. DISNEY WORLD HERE WE COME.

I’ll let the video do the rest of the talking:

Related posts:

My Week(159) in iPhone Photos
Our First Disney Trip: Non-Park Days
Our First Disney Trip: Animal Kingdom

Our First Disney Trip: Planning

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

Our First Disney Trip Planning

This is going to be an incredibly long and exhaustive series that a ton of people are not going to be interested in AT ALL, but I have gotten so much joy out of reading blogs and doing research and anticipating our first Disney trip. E and I spend many, many evenings booking, canceling, rebooking and changing dining reservations, making notes of which rides we’re prioritizing, creating list of must-see and must-eat things. We haven’t actually told the kids we’re going yet because as much as I want to share my excitement with them I don’t want to be asked 20 times a day if it’s time to leave. The plan is to tell them on Sunday since we want time for them to get excited and they’ll be missing the last couple days of school. I want them to be able to day goodbye to their classes and teachers before summer break. So until then, all my excitement has been focused on the internet.

Let me start with a disclaimer: This isn’t a Disney on a Budget guide. This is not a cheap vacation. I didn’t coupon my way to Disney or pay for it entirely with rewards points. We can only afford to go because Disney offers pretty good military discounts on both hotels and park tickets, plus we’re driving. It’s probably a twice-in-a-lifetime experience (we’ll go again when Linc and Finn are old enough to remember it) so we are throwing all our discretionary funds at this trip.

If you haven’t been to Disney in the last decade, you might not realize that planning is a HUGE part of the trip. Last time I went (2002? 2003?) we stood in a lot of lines and got one or two paper Fastpasses, if we happened to remember. Now you not only need to plan your rides at least 60 days in advance, you need to plan meals and make dining reservations 180 days in advance. NOT planning might sound easier, but unless the only thing you care about is literally walking through the front gates and being inside the park, you will proabably miss a ton of stuff. As much as I realize that making a minute-by-minute schedule when there are 4 kids involved might be pointless, NOT having a schedule would be worse. I am fully prepared to be flexible, but I’m not prepared to come home with sad kids who just wanted to meet Baymax but I had no idea where to find him. Enter: THE INTERNET!

My Disney Pinterest Board is here. I pinned everything from lists to specific restaurant reviews to Etsy shops. There are a TON of pins that relate to Disney but there are surprisingly few really great ones – a lot of links lead to sites that are mostly ads or obvious click bait. I’ve taken to searching “Disney” on Pinterest every couple of days just to see if anything new comes up.

While I was looking for real world vacation recaps and advice, I found the Disney Tourist Blog. I was a little skeptical at first, because the guy who writes it doesn’t even have kids yet. I figured his experiences with the park are vastly different than what I would be interested in. But his photography sucked me in (and he shoots with the same equipment I do, which made it even more helpful) and his site is extensive, so when I’m looking for reviews or suggestions for something specific (is the menu at X restaurant better for breakfast or lunch? If I have to choose between these two rides for Fastpasses, which one should I pick?) he almost always has the answer. He updates very regularly and revises old posts when things change. At this point I’ve read so many posts featuring Tom and Sarah if I were to actually SEE them at Disney it would be as exciting for me as seeing Mickey Mouse. Not that I’m an internet stalker or anything. I’m just a normal fan. Super normal.

Another blog I really enjoyed reading was The Frugal South’s Disney World section. She also updates regularly, is easy to read, and has real-world tips for things like Magic Bands and making room requests. She does do a lot of budget-type advice, which is helpful even if you’re not specifically trying to plan a low-budget trip.

When it came time to make Fastpass reservations, the Touring Plans blog was incredibly helpful. They have the tiers listed for the parks that use tiers, suggestions for which passes to prioritize, even times suggested for each one. I thought having a list of what Fastpasses we wanted was enough, until I actually looked at our day and realized between dining reservation and parades we had very specific windows for rides. They even have current (as in, right now, at this moment) Fastpass times still available for all rides at each park. It was helpful to look at those over a few days and see which rides ran out of Fastpasses (the Mine Train passes were gone at 7 am) and which ones we would be safe trying to book after we use up our initial 3. The truth is even though for ME the Mountains (Splash, Space and Big Thunder) are the most important rides, I need to prioritize the kid-friendly rides more and aim for later Fastpasses for the roller coasters. I never would have even thought of doing that without the info on Touring Plans.

I spent $7 of my actual real-life money for access to all the member info on Character Locator. The website looks like it was built in 2001 and there isn’t an app version so I just pinned the forums to my homescreen, but I really wanted to be able to quickly find out where we can meet characters. There’s also a thing called Characterpalooza that’s super secret and you’re not supposed to talk about (like Fight Club, except instead of punching people you get a picture with Robin Hood) but you can find out when it is if you subscribe. There are a lot of short character meets that aren’t the kind in a building with a FastPass – Belle in France, Peter Pan in Fantasyland – which means they’re easy to miss. I figured on a scale of how much money I’m spending on other things, a few dollars to make sure the kids get to meet their very favorite Disney people is nothing. It also has all the info on parade times, menus and ride info like height requirements and FastPass/Rider Swap. The super-basic layout means that stuff is going to be easy to find quickly while we’re walking around the parks.

As the trip has gotten closer, I’ve been working on adding detailed info to my daily plans. I sorted out our list of must-do rides and attractions by park, then by area, so hopefully we won’t be wasting a lot of time crisscrossing the parks. The maps on WDWInfo we very helpful, although good old Wikipedia also had lists of rides divided up by Fantasyland/Tomorrowland/etc. I’ve also made notes next to rides with height requirements since being prepared to rider swap/handle Caroline’s disappointment is important. It’s also nice to look at how many rides DON’T have any height requirements, which means I can wear or bring Finnegan with me and we can do them as a whole family.

Another thing that has made planning easier and more fun is having a Disney vacation friend to talk to. My friend Alena was planning a trip less than a month before mine AND had been to Disney World with her kids last year, so she was always ready to make suggestions and give me real life updates on what time they got to the park for castle photos and which character interactions should definitely be on my list. I had another real life friend forward me a bunch of email advice she got from a Disney Vacation Club member and I chatting with yet another real life friend about Disney Springs meal options. People who love Disney World LOVE DISNEY WORLD and are happy to talk about their past/future vacations. If you need a Disney friend, I am MORE than happy to be that person!

Next up on Disney planning: What we wore! I’ll include tons of links now and then update with actual in-park photos when we get back. I put almost as much effort into our outfits as I did into where and when to eat.

 

 

Related posts:

Sesame Place - August 2012
Let's Play with Hello Kitty and the KuKee App
Summer is Almost Here
Get Adobe Flash player