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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How to do DisneyWorld

We have been to DisneyWorld A lot.  We didn't miss a year from 1999-2007 and we loved every minute of it.  Then life got busy and it's an expensive trip so sadly, we haven't been back.  I heard REpeatedly over the years, "why are you going back there again"?  "Your kids aren't going to remember it"?  "Don't you want to try somewhere different"?  "I HATE Disney".  And, the answers are..we loved it, the kids DO remember it, the trip was different everytime and how can you hate Disney?? 

After listening to their horror stories and some were horror stories, I found the common denominator was they didn't know how to relax and just have fun.  It's an expensive trip so they crammed every second of everyday with an activity and that isn't fun on a beach or at a cabin, it's really not going to be fun at a theme park.  It reminded me of something my Dad overheard a guy say to his 5 year old, "We paid a lot of money for this trip and you are going to have fun if I have to beat you"!  That's our weird family joke, but we don't think this guy was kidding and we felt bad for his whole family, him included.

A few years later a friend at work was leaving for Disney and she was like a deer in headlights.  She was completely dreading the trip.  So, I compiled our, "How to have fun at DisneyWorld list" and gave it to her.  Her and her family had a fabulous time.  I've given it to a few people and always hear back how much fun they had.  Someone that I gave the list to, passed it on to someone else and I ran into that person last Sunday.  She pulled me aside and said, "Thank you so much for the Disney list.  We had an absolute blast".  So, I thought maybe I should share with all of you:)  Remember, my last trip was awhile ago but not much changes around there so it should be pretty close. 

Let me start with my honest and best advice...have everyone pick one thing that is a MUST do for the day.  Depending on how many people you're traveling with, you might have to adjust a little bit but say 4-6 people are going, 6 things are not overwhelming and anything else you get to do is a bonus.  NO ONE can complain about the things chosen or you lose your choice.  Anything you missed, well, you missed it and it's OK!  It's OK to go back to your hotel and enjoy the sunshine by the pool.  It's OK to pull the plug because the kids or you are tired.  This is a vacation and just because you're at Disney does not mean you HAVE to be doing something every minute just because it's available.  Give yourself permission to relax!

If you can take the kids out of school and travel during non-peak times, like early December, you'll enjoy your trip that much more.

If you're not morning people, don't get up at the crack of dawn to "beat the crowds".  Everyone will be cranky because they got up early and guess what, if it's going to be crowded, it's going to be crowded.  Isn't it better to face the day well rested?  Other than Animal Kingdom, we sleep until we wake up.

I love the Disney hotels.  They're just fun and I don't have to worry about driving around or fighting traffic after a long day.  But if it's not your thing, I get it.  BUT, if you have small children, stay on the grounds.  It is SO much easier to pack up a tired 2 year old for a short bus ride back to the hotel.  It's worth it, I PROMISE.

I’d eat breakfast at your hotel because it’s hard to find food in the morning anywhere.    And, because my son is a "lay in bed and watch cartoons to wake up kid", I actually packed single serving cereal and Pop Tarts that he ate in the room.

NEVER go to the park that allows Disney guests early entrance, those parks are always the most crowded for the day.

I usually budget $100 a day for the four of us and usually am pretty close. I started giving my kids, Disney Money (I think you have to get gift cards now) and they were to spend on whatever they wanted but when the money was gone no whining for more. It was their vacation money.  I got them at the Disney store (and people gave for birthday gifts), you can also get them at the hotel. Anyway, whenever they started in for something I didn’t want to buy (the $15 face paint at Animal Kingdom), I’d say, “Do you want to use your Disney dollars??” Whining was done and when the money was gone they didn’t ask for more.  It was pure genius!
If you have a little girl, bring her Princess outfit, she'll want to wear it at least once.  If you can get shirts on sale at the Disney store, BONUS less to buy and pack on the way home.  Here is one of my FAVorite photos.

I brought tons of snacks and carried some into the parks each day, including juice boxes (my kids are big snackers).

Pretty much all the food tastes the same at all the parks unless you are doing one of the special places or eating in a country at Epcot.

The children pasta meal is a decent size for an adult. Kids chicken nuggets are similar to McDonalds. Most pizzas are a large paper plate size.

You hardly EVER see fruit except at the hotels. It’s expensive, but if you want fruit and you see it, buy it, you don’t see it oftenJ

There is a McDonalds at Downtown Disney (used to give a 10% discount if you are staying on Disney property if you show your room card) and Wolfgang Pucks has specialty pizzas, salads and sandwiches and it’s one of my favorite places to eat.

 My cousins ate at the Chef Mickey breakfast (you need reservations) at the Contemporary and really liked it. There is also a metal Mickey sculpture thing in the back of the Contemporary that is fun to take pictures on. 
Magic Kingdom

 Our DON’T miss list

            Small World
            Haunted Mansion
            Pirates of Carribean
            Buzz Lightyear

If your child is a thrill seeker then I would add

            Runaway Train
            Splash Mountain
            Space Mountain

These are all rides that may need to be Fast Passed
We also enjoyed Monsters Inc, Laugh Floor.

Character Meals we’ve had that we made reservations the day before:

Crystal Palace with Pooh and the Gang is a good lunch buffet the characters come to each table and sign autographs. 

Liberty Tree Dinner with Minnie, Goofy and Pluto.  It was roast beef and ham with all the fixings (home cooking).  The characters came to the table and were around a lot.  Food was pretty good, kind of pricey though.  Had lunch there and the Clam Chowder was really yummy.

Spectra Magic…is the night parade.  It is my ABSOLUTE favorite parade.  It’s usually only two nights so be sure to check.  You need to get to a spot early 1-2 hours to save a spot.  We usually sit under the train station as you enter because the parade starts there and when it’s over you are one of the first to your bus to get home.

Epcot~Every Person Comes Out Tired
Here's a little secret.  This has been our favorite park for years.  Even when the kids were little, they loved Epcot.  I think it's because it's our Stop, Look and Listen park.  We chill out, look around, watch random shows, eat some great food, have a glass of wine or a beer if you want and just enjoy the day. 

We usually go at around noon and we do the countries first because the rides are less crowded in the afternoon.  In your first country look for the “Tot Spot” or ask, it’s easierJ  When you enter the World Showcase, if you go to the left, Mexico will be your first country and the “Tot Spot” is inside the building just at the bottom of the stairs.  The kids start a mask and then continue through all the countries to finish the mask.  Each country stamps the stick that holds the mask with that countries stamp.  There are always markers to color in every country (so you can move the kids along when you’re ready to go with the promise they can color more in 5 minutesJ) and some offer fun extras like stickers or bells. 

Mexico has a fun little ride inside the building, very tame but one of my kids favorites.  The fast food in Mexico (the outside restaurant) has a good combo platter if you like Mexican.  My son loves the churros.

Norway has an excellent Chocolate Mouse cake (Claire's favorite) in the bakery to the left as you enter.  The ride is fun, has a small flume, my 2 year old loved it, the 5 year old, did not??  At night we sat right by Norway (between Norway and Mexico along the fence, close to the water) to watch the evening Illuminations, great spot to see, watch out for trees, you need a direct view of the pond and above.

The Princess breakfast in Norway was also a hit with both of my kids.  They only serve breakfast food and pastries and if memory serves, it was family style.

China, I’ve only eaten at the “to go” and it was very tasty and the acrobat shows is one of my son’s favorite things to watch.

In Italy and France look for the human sculptures, not always out, but fun to see if they are.  And, Italy has Mimes and performers.  My kids LOVE Italy.
Stop in the bakery in France.  The loaves of french bread are my kids favorite.

Character Sightings (look for Mickey’s glove on the map to find them at any of the parks, it took us a few trips to catch this oneJ)

Beauty and the Beast is in France

The Genie from Aladdin is in Monocco as are belly dancers who Max thought were real life Jasmine's:)

Pooh and the Gang is in the UK

The Rides

Fast pass the Test Track and Soarin, it isn’t worth an hour wait in my opinion.  I’d go to Soarin fist thing when you get there.  You can only Fast pass one ride at a time and only one person needs to go to the ride with all the tickets (your ticket to get in is how you get the Fast pass and one person can feed all of them into the machine).  The line at Test Track tends to slow down closer to closing.

Body Wars is a fast ride in Wonders of Life building.  Cranium Command is also in Wonders of Life and another favorite of the kids.

LOVE Turtle Talk with Crush in the Living Seas.

Imagination is our favorite place to play.

I’ve never eaten at the sit down restaurants but Canada was recommended multiple times the last time we were there for having wonderful steak.
Animal Kingdom

This is the day you want to get up early.  Wear good shoes, it feels like you are walking uphill all dayJ, it’s very humid in there and it seems like you walk miles to get anywhere.

To avoid the wait, we get there when it opens and go to the Safari Ride first thing.  Awesome ride, especially if you like animals.

Pizzafari has good pizza and to the right of Pizzafari if you came out of the doors, Lilo and Stitch are usually signing autographs.

You would head up the hill from Lilo and Stitch to the Lion King show, it’s OUTSTANDING, don’t miss.

Great place to meet and greet Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Donald and Daisy is right outside the Lion King performance (We make sure we do this so that we don’t have to stand in the horrible lines at Magic Kingdom in Tune Town, same characters/hour wait sometimes).  The lines are almost non-existent especially if you go there when the show is about ½ over, get your autographs and then wait in line for the show, if you can get a front row seat, they pick kids from the audience to participate, but there really isn’t a “bad” seat.

Tough to Be a Bug was a new favorite.  3D thing, but if you’re scared of bugs I guess you shouldn’t go.

Expedition Everest is their roller coaster and it isn't for the faint of heart.  It goes backwards FAST and almost was a day wrecker for me because I had just eaten.

I also really enjoyed Finding Nemo AND it's air conditioned!!

There is a water ride here, you GET wet, can’t think of the name, Huge hit with the kids.

On your way to Dino-Land, on the right is Pooh and the gang.  It’s down a path (like I said, you walk a long way for everything) and you need to look for it.

Dino-Land is the place to dig for bones and a giant play area, our kids could have spent hours there.  Two fun rides, one very similar to the Dumbo ride at Magic Kingdom and one faster roller coaster/mad mouse type.  McDonalds chicken nugget happy meals can be found to the right as you enter Dino-Land, right past the ice cream stand.


There is a big chalk type board at the end of the main street when you walk in on the left side of the street by the bakery, it gives you wait times and meet and greet times.

Tower of Terror, LOVE this ride, you drop several times.

Hard to find food at MGM, lots of sit down restaurants (we haven’t eaten there but I guess there is a restaurant that is a 50’s type and the wait staff makes the visit, telling you to put your elbows on the table and such, if that interests you, you may want to ask when you check in because I think you need reservations a few days in advance).  Food place on left as you are walking to Tower of Terror, Burgers, turkey legs, fries and ice cream.

Rock and Roll Roller Coaster is a REALLY fast roller coaster and you have to be 48” to ride.  Takes off FAST so make sure you’re looking forward or you’ll wrench your neck (yep, learned that one by experienceJ).  You will probably want to Fast Pass this one when you get in.

Star Wars is another fast one, you are in the fighter jet.

Pizza Planet has a meet and greet with Woody and the gang.

Back Lot Tour is a must do, try to go there first thing to avoid lines at the end of the tour the kids can play in the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground.

Great Movie ride is fun.

Animation is a walking tour of how it all gets started, great for kids who like to draw.

Little Mermaid show, Beauty and the Beast and Indiana Jones are all good shows.  Lights, Camera, Action (stunt show), wasn’t my favorite but everyone else loved it. 

The Disney playhouse is fun for those under 10.  You’re sitting on the floor…so you’re warned.

Fantasmic is the evening thing, all the villains are there and at the end a boat comes around with all the characters waving.  You usually have to get in line an hour before it starts, I don’t think there is a bad seat but just so you get one.

SIDEBAR ON FAST PASS...You are allowed only one fast pass at a time.  You scan your park ticket to get your fast pass.  Sometimes the fast pass "time" isn't for hours.  So as an example.  You're traveling with 4 people and only 2 like fast rides.  Fast pass your first ride with 2 tickets, go and fast pass another with the other 2.  Also, one person can run with all the passes and do the fast passing.

So there you have it.  We've been to Disney with 20 people and we all had a good time because we just let the day take us where it needed to with a little bit of structure.  Relax and enjoy!!

1 comment:

~mj~ said...

Perfect! We LOVE Disney, though we haven't been there as much as you. ;) We did implement your advice on letting each family member vocalize one priority for the day. It helps keep over-anxious kids calm if they know their voice has been heard and that their priority WILL happen. We are hoping to go again this year. This only made the itch more intense. :)