Tagged with "childhood"
8 Jul
2015
Posted in: travel
By    Comments Off on Planning for Walt Disney World

Planning for Walt Disney World

Arch into Walt Disney World property Florida

I have two words for potential visitors to Walt Disney World: be prepared. Seriously, don’t arrive in Orlando thinking everything will be magical without planning beforehand. There is a lot happening at Walt Disney World. It’s important to know your options and fit those with your family. Everyone’s trip to Disney World looks a little different, much like a fingerprint.

1st visit badge Walt Disney World

Our visit was fast and furious. We’ve visited Disneyland in California twice and felt our experiences there would be helpful. I’m glad we had visited the smaller Disneyland before hitting Disney World. We knew what we should expect. Yes, Disney World is much larger than Disneyland, but as far as the feel and concept, the parks are similar. Walt Disney World is Disneyland on steroids.

Mickey Mouse head-shaped electrical tower

Our visit to Disney World was part of a three-week road trip from Wyoming to Florida. Our stop in Orlando was a small part of our overall adventure, but it was the most researched part. I read books and blogs. I chatted with anyone who would talk with me about what to expect when we hit Mickey’s house. I can’t imagine how stressful and miserable Disney World would have been for us if I hadn’t put in the time to understand where we were going.

Disney World bus to Magic Kingdom

I knew we would have to balance our three boys’ love for anything adrenaline-inducing with our daughter’s adoration of all things princess. We resigned ourselves to spending some time apart at the parks which ended up working wonderfully for everyone. I wouldn’t visit Disney World without staying on property. The theme park covers a great deal of land. I liked having access to the bus system for dropoff and pickup at all places in the park system. It was nice to know we could leave Magic Kingdom at 1:30 a.m. and not worry about driving.

sign at All-Star Music resort Disney World

We stayed at the older lower-tier All-Star Music hotel, mainly because of price, but also because it offered a 6-person suite (only a few other Disney hotels do). We’ve stayed in nicer rooms, but we knew we wouldn’t spend much time in the room. The hotels vary greatly on price and amenities. All-Star Music was clean and Mousekeeping even left us a few towels shaped as Mickey’s head and a flower. Our family wanted to spend time at the parks, not next to the pool or spending hours each day eating at a restaurant we had to book 180 days in advance. That’s not how we travel. An All-Star resort was perfect for us. If you plan on spending quite a bit of time at your hotel, I would look at spending more money on a newer, on-property hotel.

All-Star Music resort bed with Mickey head-shaped towels Disney World

Another advantage to staying on-property is being able to secure FastPass reservations 60 days before arrival. Those passes are essential. They allow visitors to by-pass the standby line at given timeframes. A person in a standby line may wait 90 minutes for some of the more popular rides, while someone with a FastPass will wait less than 10 minutes. In our experience, most FastPass timeslots were spoken for on the headlining attractions within the first hour of our 60-day window. We had to stalk the Elsa and Anna meet-and-greet for a week before I was finally able to get FastPass reservations for two of us to visit the much-anticipated queen and princess.

Disney World Magic Bands in shipping box

MagicBands are part of the package when you stay on-property at Disney World. If you stay off-property, they’re available for purchase separately. These make life at Disney World much easier. The bands act as a key to your hotel room, a credit card can be linked to them to make purchasing souvenirs and food in the park quicker, and they’re your admission ticket into the park. We didn’t have trouble remembering to wear ours each morning, but were on the bus one day when a nearby mother realized she had forgotten her band. You don’t want to do this. Unless you happen to have your backup credit card-like ticket in your wallet, you can’t get into the park without your MagicBand. A couple of our kids are still sporting their bands for the last few weeks. Each person in your party is able to pick the color of their band. They arrive in the mail prior to departing on vacation in a themed-box, and each band has the person’s name printed on the inside. Disney does details well.

Family wearing Disney World Magic Bands

Not everything is magical at Disney World. The FastPass system is a mess. Before the implementation of the bands, there were kiosks throughout the park. Visitors had to go to the kiosks and print passes for rides. It would have to be purely by chance that a person could arrive at Disney World and secure FastPass reservations for attractions. Allowing FastPasses to be secured online gives roughly 30,000 people the chance to get a small number of passes on any given day. At least walking to the kiosks gave the advantage to people who really wanted those passes to make the extra effort to search them out.

All-Star Music resort room table Disney World

Each person is allowed three FastPass reservations to begin with each day at a park. You can’t get another FastPass until you use the first three passes. Disney wants you to use their app to then get additional passes. We couldn’t get the app to work inside any of the parks to secure more FastPasses…not once. We had to search out kiosks for use if you don’t have a smartphone or the app isn’t working. From the lines at the kiosks, it seemed as if others were having trouble with the app — Disney definitely has some kinks to work through on the app. Our FastPasses were spread out throughout the day. By the time we had used all three, there were hardly any attractions left with a FastPass available. Plan ahead and know which three attractions your family must visit. Book those three from home and work out the rest in the park.

view outside rooms at All-Star Music resort Disney World

If you’re traveling to Disney World with children, have a talk about souvenirs and what you’re willing to purchase while in the park. The options are endless for all-things Disney. We gave our children a set amount of money to spend for the entire three weeks we were on vacation. They were very good about thinking through purchases. Not much was purchased from Disney World aside from food.

Happy Anniversary badge Walt Disney World

Our souvenirs of choice at Disney World are the free badges you can get from the concierge at property hotels. There are badges for various celebrations. Our kids wore ‘First Time Visitor’ badges while Craig and I wore ‘Happy Anniversary’ badges. We had several cast members wish us a happy anniversary throughout our stay.

a $1 Disney Dollar bill with Dumbo

We like to exchange money for Disney dollars which can also be done at property hotels. There are different denominations to exchange, and the Disney dollars can be used in place of dollars on property. We save ours.

Our favorite travel souvenir are elongated pennies. We carry quarters and pennies in the park and are on the lookout for penny machines. We left Walt Disney World with quite the collection to remember our trip. At 51 cents a pop, the elongated pennies do add up over time.

We carry two small backpacks into theme parks. Disney World allows visitors to bring food into the park. We bring water bottles and refill them at water fountains throughout our day. We also bring snack items like jerky, dried fruit, granola bars, and nuts into the park. I like the freedom of having food with us and being able to stop and snack whenever hunger strikes instead of relying on reservations I made months prior.

Loaded waffle fries at Magic Kingdom Disney World

Our kids weren’t interested in reservations at any sit-down restaurants while we visited. I know there are some fabulous choices, but we chose to stick with counter service food, which didn’t disappoint. We enjoyed loaded waffle fries, giant waffle sandwiches and amazing Moroccan food while in the parks.

Family portrait behind the castle Disney World

Photos are important to me, but I end vacation with very few photos that have me in them. In our experience, it’s hit-or-miss when it comes to stopping a stranger to take a family photo for us. We’ve never had anyone turn us down, but theme parks tend to have people rushing around like the attractions will disappear if they don’t hurry to them. We purchased the Memory Maker PhotoPass which was attached to our MagicBands. Disney has employed photographers throughout the park, and we used them quite often. It allowed all six of us to be in photos at Disney World landmark spots as well as gave us access to ride photos, and video in the case of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. We have hundreds of photos on our account and some candid moments caught with several characters that are special reminders of this vacation.

Finally, acquaint yourself with the park maps while you’re visiting. It’s helpful to have some knowledge of where things are located in the park. We were there in early June, which draws larger crowds, and were overwhelmed at times by the number of people and strollers. It was nice to know which direction we needed to go without having to pull out a map. The crowds during holidays tend to be some of the largest Disney World will see all year. I cannot imagine Thanksgiving or Christmas at Walt Disney World and would never go back during a peak time. If you have freedom to book a vacation in the off-season, you’ll be grateful for the smaller numbers. If you’re stuck with one of the busier times, be prepared for even more frenzy.

 

Follow our 6,025-mile adventure.
Previous:
Universal Studios Florida
Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom
Walt Disney World: Star Wars Weekend
Walt Disney World: Animal Kingdom


 
Florida: Universal’s Islands of Adventure
By     |    Jun 30, 2015
Posted in: travel     |    Comments Off on Florida: Universal’s Islands of Adventure

Florida: Universal’s Islands of Adventure

The main draw for us to visit Universal Orlando was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Harry Potter books captured my imagination in college and now I have my own muggles who wield wands and casts spells like their favorite Hogwarts characters. Universal Orlando consists of two parks: Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. In order to tour both parks, visitors need to purchase park-to-park tickets granting access to both parks. I’m going to discuss the parks separately,... [Read More]

Read more
Percy Jackson Birthday Party
By     |    May 18, 2015
Posted in: parties     |    Comments Off on Percy Jackson Birthday Party

Percy Jackson Birthday Party

My favorite birthday parties to plan are based on books. Our third son turned eight this weekend and celebrated with a Percy Jackson themed party. Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan is a family favorite. Our son is well-versed in mythology and has a passion for weapons. We knew there would need to be training worthy of demigods. Characters in Riordan’s books train at Camp Half-Blood, so our basement was transformed into camp for the day. At... [Read More]

Read more
Summer Reading with Children
By     |    May 15, 2015
Posted in: reading     |    Comments Off on Summer Reading with Children

Summer Reading with Children

The school year is winding down and papers are arriving home with ways to keep children reading over the summer months to avoid the summer slide. Public libraries run reading programs along with publishing companies and book stores. There are quite a few options, more than I remember as a child. Reading is part of our family lifestyle. We have bookshelves, book baskets, book bins and use books for decorating. We’re known to ask our children to put the book... [Read More]

Read more
Confidence Built Through Music
By     |    May 6, 2015
Posted in: parenting     |    Comments Off on Confidence Built Through Music

Confidence Built Through Music

Sometimes my feelings seem too much to handle. Life hits me hard, the good along with the bad. Yesterday was intense, in a fantastic way. I was weepy on-and-off and spent parts of the day with a big grin on my face. I watched our middle son stand in front of several groups and play a solo on his flute. His band, from a local performing arts center, was touring schools talking about instruments and music opportunities for the summer... [Read More]

Read more
There’s a What Today?
By     |    May 3, 2015
Posted in: parenting     |    Comments Off on There’s a What Today?

There’s a What Today?

I know better than to be cocky about this parenting thing. Yesterday I rocked motherhood. Today I managed to avoid a motherhood disaster. Our oldest had a track meet 90 minutes from home yesterday. Friday night he and I engaged in a passive/aggressive argument about whether or not the family should make the trek to the meet for the morning and come back to town for other obligations that afternoon.  I knew he wanted us to come. I also knew... [Read More]

Read more
Take a Trip: Theodore Roosevelt National Park
By     |    Apr 22, 2015
Posted in: photography, travel     |    Comments Off on Take a Trip: Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Take a Trip: Theodore Roosevelt National Park

In honor of National Parks week and because I have a crazy passion for the National Park Service, here’s another flashback vacation memory. Most vacation destination lists don’t have North Dakota on them. I’m a collector of states. I want to visit as many as possible. We hadn’t visited North Dakota and were looking for a vacation destination there. The answer was Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We could add another state and a national park. Honestly, I didn’t have high... [Read More]

Read more
Essentials for Family Road Trips
By     |    Apr 2, 2015
Posted in: travel     |    Comments Off on Essentials for Family Road Trips

Essentials for Family Road Trips

It’s spring break, and we’re staying home for the first time in years. We have an epic road trip planned this summer and vacation days are being stockpiled for the adventure. I’m antsy to hit the highways, Interstates and (sometimes) unpaved county roads to discover new places in the USA. Even though we’re months away from our next major family road trip, I’ve already started packing in my head. I have lists tucked away in notebooks for items to pack.... [Read More]

Read more
Broken Dryer and a Clothesline
By     |    Mar 31, 2015
Posted in: uncategorized     |    Comments Off on Broken Dryer and a Clothesline

Broken Dryer and a Clothesline

Laundry is one of my least favorite household chores. It’s never-ending, multiplied by six. It turns out, laundry without a functioning dryer is flat-out ridiculous. My dryer decided to quit blowing hot air Sunday in the middle of a giant load of jeans with another large load of clothes in the washing machine. I know there are far worse problems to have, but I was annoyed. A call Monday morning to a repair man ended with an appointment on Wednesday... [Read More]

Read more
Our Last First Lost Tooth
By     |    Mar 25, 2015
Posted in: parenting     |    1 Comment

Our Last First Lost Tooth

Last week I noticed our five-year-old’s bottom teeth looked crooked. I assumed molars were making an appearance and crowding the front teeth. A few days ago, she asked me to touch one of her bottom teeth. What I thought was a crooked and firmly planted tooth was actually a wibbly, wobbly tooth trying to vacate its spot. She was excited. I was appalled. How dare our baby girl loose a tooth? While something exciting was happening in her world, a... [Read More]

Read more
Cleaning, Rearranging and Clearing Clutter
By     |    Mar 23, 2015
Posted in: projects     |    Comments Off on Cleaning, Rearranging and Clearing Clutter

Cleaning, Rearranging and Clearing Clutter

Recent bright blue skies and sunshine kicked me into spring cleaning and organizing mode. I’ve cleaned closets and drawers while loads of curtains stripped from grimy windows washed. Furniture was moved and vacuumed under. Trim paint was touched up, and that’s just the start of my spring cleaning list. I’m energized by taking care of our home. I’ve learned when I feel motivated to clean, rearrange and clear clutter, it’s best to buckle down and go with the urge. Actually... [Read More]

Read more
St. Patrick’s Day Leprechaun Mischief
By     |    Mar 17, 2015
Posted in: parenting     |    Comments Off on St. Patrick’s Day Leprechaun Mischief

St. Patrick’s Day Leprechaun Mischief

I’m a sucker for fairy tales, unicorns and magic. The wave of a wand, pixie dust and true love’s kiss were the root of my dreams as a little girl. Daily life  can be harsh, unforgiving and difficult to navigate. I try to fill childhood at our house with a little bit of magic and wonder. Our house has hosted a wee mischievous leprechaun for quite a few years. She makes an appearance while we sleep March 16. There’s always... [Read More]

Read more