Posts Tagged ‘vacation’

My Week(347) in iPhone Photos

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

Plugging on, while I have two kids passed out and two kids watching Lord of the Rings, which should keep them entertained for approximated 4832 hours.

Sunday:

Matching father-son kayaks

THIS is a vacation

Moana needed help with the wifi’

Monday:

Pretty serious relaxing

Rain delay

Dreaming about Disney World

Tuesday:

It’s tubing time

Big helper

Really excited about watermelon

Wednesday:

The only photo I took, but at least I got everyone in it.

Thursday:

Busy baby

Headed to swim call

Dinner at the club

Friday:

Actual thing my dad got for Father’s Day

MY CORN DON’T TOUCH IT

Saturday:

Waiting for his waffles

Boating is exhausting

Finn screams the whole time on the boat unless he’s nursing

We’ve been go go go go all week – basically just to keep us sane and out of the house and not sitting here in the heat wanting to strangle each other – so having an at-home day feels SO PRODUCTIVE. I cleaned things! And put away laundry! We finally called my mom for her birthday! I did a bunch of stupid adulting paperwork! I might even have time to finish setting up my bullet journal because I am determined to get organized so my life doesn’t collapse this fall when I have 3 kids in school and/or activities.

Literally as I typed that the baby woke up, so now I’m done being productive for a while.

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My Week(346) in iPhone Photos

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

This was Disney Week, which is incredibly depressing now. I mean, don’t get me wrong, looking at the pictures of our awesome time is awesome. But right now life is so so so so so soooooo not as fun and carefree and awesome as Disney World. Disney World had delicious food and working bathrooms. My house has Pop Tarts and construction.

Sunday:

Linc likes everything about Disney World

Including the hats

I liked my giant plate of seafood

Monday:

Stitch can’t swim

Mickey cupcakes

Princess dinners

Tuesday:

Happy place

SO HAPPY

Can we go back now?

Wednesday:

Excellent lunch, would recommend

WELCOME TO THE DARK SIDE

Finn meets a wookie

Thursday:

Test Track car A+ design skills

They loved meeting ALL the characters

Joy and Sadness

Friday:

Considering we were there during a “busy” time, seating was never a problem

Elephants

I made this the wallpaper on my phone

Saturday:

Back to the real world where everything isn’t shaped like Mickey

Big Kid

Looooooong driving day. Florida is very far away.

Ok, I made it. I think the next week is going to be a short post because I was so busy not doing ANYTHING that I barely took pictures. It was great.

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Our First Disney Trip: What I Learned That Can Help You Plan

Friday, July 7th, 2017

 

I am not, nor will I ever claim to be, a Disney World expert. But considering our trip was the first time I had been in 15 years and the first visit with kids, our week was remarkably smooth and fun. So here is a summary (ha! as if I am capable of writing a summary instead of a novel) of the best advice I have for Fastpasses, dining, and more.

FASTPASS+

Most of the popular rides at Disney World have two lines: standby, which is the regular line, and Fastpass, which is for people who made a reservation for a window of time where they can come back and ride with minimal wait. They’ve updated everything about Fastpasses in the decade since I was that there – no more paper tickets! You want Fastpasses. Because we stayed at an official Disney resort, we got Magic Bands, which are digital wristbands that hold all our stuff electronically, including our Fastpasses. It also meant we could make our Fastpass reservations online 60 days before our actual trip – if you stay off-property your reservations can be made 30 days in advance. Here is the TouringPlans page with all the technical details of how to make FP reservations. Read it and be prepared to book as soon as your window opens. Once you know how to book FPs, here is what I would recommend:

  1. Book your first Fastpass for 30 minutes after the park opens. If you are like my family and want to spend as much time in the parks as possible, you can get there before they open and be one of the first people in (it’s called “rope dropping”) to get to one popular ride first thing with almost no wait. But after that, you’ll be in the park with all the other people who came early, so ride times immediately go up.
  2. Book all your Fastpasses before noon (if you can). Once you use up your 3 FPs for the day, you can get one more. Once you use that one, you can get another, and so on. But you HAVE to have used up your first three to book a fourth. If you have one at 9 am, one at 10 am and one at 5 pm, you’ll be standing in regular lines for that whole middle part of the day. Plus as the day goes on they run out of Fastpasses for popular rides, so after about 2 or 3 pm your choices for FP are limited. We had no problem getting a 4 pm Pirates of the Caribbean FP around noon in the park the day of our visit, but Space Mountain wasn’t available anymore.
  3. Understand the tier system. All the parks other than the Magic Kingdom now have tiers for their FPs, so you can only hold one top tier FP at a time. Decide which tier 1 ride is the most important to you and then plan to rope drop the park for a second tier 1 ride and hopefully book your 4th FP for a third. Another method would be to plan to do more than one day at each park, because you can have 3 Fastpasses each day of your visit. We will do more than 1 day per park if (when) we go again, so I’m looking forward to that plan.
  4. Get a Fastpass for Flights of Passage in Pandora. Don’t bother with one for the other Pandora ride. The line for FoP was never less than 120 minutes while we were there, so we were super glad to have the FP. They’re currently full 30 days out, so be sure to do that one FIRST as soon as your window opens.
  5. Rider swap + Fastpass = BEST. Rider swap is for families with kids who are too short or too scared for some rides. There are a lot of rides with no height restriction at all, but when babies or toddlers can’t ride they will give you a ticket so the other grown up can wait with them and then use the Fastpass line (even if you didn’t originally have a Fastpass). But when you combine them, both parents get to ride and the kids get to ride twice all in usually under 30 minutes. Also good to note is the rider swap paper pass is good for a long time – several days or more – so if something comes up and you don’t have time a chance to ride right away you can come back and do it later.
  6. If you’re doing rider swap on a ride you have a Fastpass for, make sure both grown ups swipe their Magic Bands to “clear” their FP. While the kids and I were on Big Thunder Mountain, E waited with the babies. Because that was our last Fastpass, E booked us our fourth FP from his phone for Pirates later. But since he hadn’t scanned in his band when we checked in for rider swap, he couldn’t book his own fourth FP because it still had one for Big Thunder Mountain. He didn’t NEED the FP for Big Thunder Mountain because a rider swap pass IS a Fastpass. This is also how in theory both grown ups could have ridden Big Thunder Mountain (or other rides) twice each using the Fastpass line. It works like this: I check in for rider swap with my FP and the kids, scan my band, and get the rider swap ticket. When I get off the ride with the kids, E takes the rider swap pass and rides again with the kids. Then when he gets off, HE swipes his FP, gets another rider swap pass, rides with the kids. Then he gives me the rider swap, I take the kids and we ride again. Then both grown ups have ridden twice and the kids ride four times. I have seen various opinions of this on the internet, both for and against. The consensus seems to be that cast members don’t mind as long as you’re not rude about it. But I wouldn’t try it on something super popular, like the Pandora rides, and I wasn’t comfortable “cheating” the FP system even if Disney allows it so it’s not actually cheating.
  7. Be on time. If you are significantly early or late you might get turned away. We were less than 60 seconds late for a show FP and it was fine. We were 20 minutes early for another FP and they flagged us (the band scanner flashed instead of glowing green). The cast member waved us through with a reminder to check our window, which was kind of him, but I saw other people turned away because they were more than an hour outside their window. But also remember your FP window is a WINDOW. If you have a FP for Peter Pan’s Flight at 10:30 and it’s only 10:15, look around and see what the wait time for Small World or the carousel is. You can be on and off those in less than half an hour and still be right in the middle of your Fastpass window.
  8. Fastpasses for Character Meets are a toss up. They’re good because character lines can be REALLY long and they’re usually also really boring. But those wait times tend to vary, so you might be better off using FPs for rides and keeping an eye on your wait time app (see below) for a shorter line. If (when) we go again, the only character meet I will get a Fastpass for is the Mickey Mouse in Magic Kingdom who talks. Even the “40 minute wait” for Elena wasn’t that bad.

 

DINING PLAN

There is a lot of discussion about whether or not the dining plans are a good deal. I do not know. I am very detail-oriented about a lot of things…but not when it comes to money (I’m a terrible adult). I did not make spreadsheets to figure out if we could save money on food if we paid cash instead of adding the dining plan to our room. And I am fine with that choice. I LOVED the dining plan. We used almost all of it correctly and only had to use up a few extra snacks on road trip food on our way out. Here are the things I loved about it and the suggestions I have:

  1. You need to plan dining ahead if you want to eat at sit-down restaurants. There were so many people who walked up to the podiums and said “Hi, how long is the wait?” and the hostess was like “…for dinner…today?” Figure out where you want to eat ahead of time so you can make reservations ASAP.
  2. Book character meals. Most of our sit-down meals (called Table Service) were character dining: Princesses at 1900 Park Fare, Disney Jr characters at Hollywood & Vine, more princesses at Akershus, and Mickey and friends at Tusker House. They were ALL great. They were also all buffets, so it felt like a good value. Babies who are too young for the dining plan (under 3 years old) can eat whatever they want at buffets.
  3. Use your snack credits. We were really busy the first day and only used 3 of the 8 snack credits we were given. They carry over, so we used them eventually, but it we should have used them more regularly to grab stuff anytime we wanted it. Especially on drinks. Just get a bottle of soda if you’re thirsty (or a Starbucks, those count as snacks). Don’t agonise over it.
  4. We did not eat any of the food I brought from home in the parks. We did eat granola bars and pop tarts in our room for breakfast a couple times, but I WAY overestimated how much food I needed to bring on my own. I won’t waste space or money on those snacks again.
  5. Our dining plan came with refillable mugs. They’re ONLY refillable with soda at resorts, not in the parks. We brought them to the parks to use for water and then never actually used them. Don’t bother dragging them around all the time – if you really need a water bottle to refill, just bring one you like from home. (The line for Na’vi River Journey has this new drinking fountain/bottle filler station in it. I wouldn’t be surprised if they started replacing drinking fountains with those, since every time I saw a drinking fountain someone was using it to fill up mugs/bottles.)
  6. There are a lot of lists called “best foods to try at Disney!”. I thought everything was the best. You’re at Disney, even plain old ice cream sandwiches taste better when they’re shaped like Mickey Mouse.

TECHNOLOGY

Disney World is firmly caught up to the times and having a good smart phone, portable battery and a charger will make your day a lot easier.

  1. The official My Disney Experience app. Use this to make and manage your Fastpasses, find bathrooms, check wait times, look at maps, and more. You can even see your PhotoPass pictures almost immediately. It’s a good app.
  2. A free app called “Wait Times for Disney World”. It loads faster and is quicker to check than the official app and we found it to be very accurate. It has all 4 parks.
  3. Character Locator. I just pinned the homepage for the site to my screen like an app. I also paid the $7 for full access. It was a great way to find roaming characters and has important info like “do they sign autographs?” and “do they talk?” It even has suggestions for how to have fun interactions. It has a lot more than just characters (park hours, height requirements, menus) so it was great to browse while waiting in lines or during meals so I could plan what was next.
  4. Make a schedule of the park hours, your Fastpass times, dining reservations, any shows or parades you want to watch, then take a screenshot and make it your lock screen. You need to communicate times and locations to the people you are with constantly. This is a very fast way to check your schedule.
  5. We bought the Memory Maker photo package so we got all the pictures taken by the PhotoPass photographers and it was absolutely worth the money for us. We got all the “important” photos done with the official park photogs and I was free to take pictures of the kids when I had time. The only photos they don’t cover is character meals. Plus they do hilarious, awesome magic photos like this one:

OTHER STUFF

Here are a few things we learned on this trip:

  1. Staying in a nicer resort is more money because it’s worth more money. The pools have water slides and the transportation to the parks is better. Even if you’re just taking buses, the pick-up spots are closer to the park exit, they aren’t as crowded, and there are more of them. We saw 3 Wilderness Lodge buses for every Art of Animation bus that stopped. Even if it means we have to split our trip between two hotels – a nice one for the first park days and a value resort for other days – we’ll stay somewhere with boat, monorail or even walking park access next time.
  2. Don’t be mad when you can’t do everything. We never even did the spinning teacups. Or Enchanted Tales with Belle, or the baby rollercoaster for Linc or anything in the dinosaur section, or most of Tomorrowland. And we missed two fireworks shows AND the parade. It’s fine. No one but the grown ups even realised we miss stuff and we can do it next time.
  3. Starbucks is a snack credit. We only did it once but I would have been a MUCH happier mama in the mornings if I had a huge coffee for breakfast every day.
  4. Try not to carry around more stuff that you have to. And revisit what “have to” means each day. I should not have brought two cameras. We didn’t need to do pin trading EVERY day. We also didn’t need to bring our mouse ears to every park because no one wore them after the first day. All those things add up and the fewer things you have to carry and/or push in a stroller the better.
  5. If at all possible, schedule a vacation after your Disney trip. Because Disney is a trip, not a vacation, and you will need a vacation. We went to visit my parents for the week after Disney World and it was a great plan. We didn’t have to walk anywhere, we didn’t have a schedule, we didn’t have to set any alarms. I also got to do all our laundry, so we came home with mostly clean clothes. Or if you can’t do a whole extra vacation, plan a day in the middle to relax and a day at the end to relax.

 

 

 

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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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Lake Compounce 2017

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Lake Compounce provided us with free tickets to visit this month, but all opinions, statements, and photos are my own.

Here is the Top 10 List of reasons we had a great time at Lake Compounce:

  1. Right in the middle of Connecticut, so it’s close to us and lots of other places.
  2. Tons of rides in the kid section that everyone over age 2 could ride without grown-ups.
  3. Super fun scary roller coasters for the grown-ups.
  4. Wicked friendly employees.
  5. Lots of shade and places to sit down when you’re tired.
  6. Free fountain drinks all over the park so no one ever complained they were thirsty.
  7. Stroller-friendly.
  8. Nursing-friendly.
  9. Parent-friendly (My husband changed all the diapers all day, because the men’s room had changing tables.)
  10. Just the right size to spend the whole day.

E and I took Evan to Lake Compounce several years ago, back when he was Baby Evan, and had a great time then too. But I had a very tiny Baby Caroline and didn’t get to ride very many things myself, so I mostly remember just the toddler area. Since then, they’ve done a bunch of renovations, added new coasters and spruced things up so even though it’s the oldest amusement park in the country it’s beautiful and clean. Don’t worry, about the nostalgia though, because it’s still got plenty of that.

We got there at 11 am on a Sunday and the kids walked on to every ride until at least 1 pm. They’re the only ones on those drums!

The only photo of me from the day: Caroline LOVED this thing and was super mad she couldn’t go on the grown-up version.

We got free soda while we waited for E to ride Phobia. It took me several more hours to decide if I was also going to ride Phobia. I did. It was fun.

Praise hands for this Joovy stroller we still love. Finn was happy riding/sleeping/chilling in it all day, between rides in the Tula so I could nurse.

After Evan suddenly, drastically changed his mind about roller coasters (Saturday: “I WANT TO RIDE THEM ALL!” Sunday: Won’t even get on the kid-sized coaster Linc rode with his arms up) I wasn’t sure he would try any of the rides. But he loved the log flume.

Evan also loved the Ghost Hunt ride, probably because he likes shooting games. I did not partake, because haunted houses are not my thing. Caroline and Linc both rode, because they take after their father.

That is possibly the best picture I’ve ever taken.

I don’t remember the dinosaurs from the last time we visited, but the kids loved it.

Caroline clearly didn’t enjoy herself at all.

Despite Evan’s skeptical face, we rode Thunder Rapids twice in a row and got SOAKED. It was great.

The lake/waterpark opens this weekend. I promised the kids we could come back for it later this summer.

I bought extra clothes JUST IN CASE they got wet, which is why they’re in different clothes than the beginning of the day.

Goodbye Lake Compounce! See you again soon!

If you’re in the New England area, I would definitely recommend making the trip to Bristol to have your own super fun day. You can use this link/code to get a discount on your internet tickets:

Link: https://www.lakecompounce.com/blogreader?promocode=BeBehSBlog17

Promocode: BeBehSBlog17

Thank you again to Lake Compounce for providing us with the tickets (p.s. kids under 3 are free)!

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