mama monday III: Let’s Do Disney

Mama Monday Disclaimer: I am nowhere near an expert mom. I am on a mama journey just like all of you are. However, I’m more than willing to share my experience with you guys. If today’s topic is something that you have an experience with then I hope you’ll share too…either on your own blog (be sure to leave us a link) or in the comments section.
I realize this is a pretty narrow topic that won’t be helpful to everyone but there seemed to be enough questions about our trip to warrant a post. I know there are lots of you who have already done Disney vacations too so there are lots of “experts” out there. I’m going to just do this in list form and stick things in as I think of them…in other words, there will be no rhyme or reason to this post.

Here we go.

1. Disney DOES allow you to bring in your own food. We loaded ourselves down with food for all three days and ended up only buying cotton candy, a mickey rice krispie treat and two cokes during all of our time there. I am just too cheap to pay those prices! 🙂 I know that they do have some sort of meal plan though so if you are traveling with a larger family or just don’t want to worry about packing your own food definitely look into that.

2. Hearty snacks. I made sure to pack things for us that were going to hold us over for quite a while – in other words no 100 calorie packs for this trip! We packed a ton of granola bars (I love the kashi kind…they stick to your ribs), apples, oranges, nutrigrain bars, pretzels, etc. Typically I steer clear of prepacked, individual-serving foods but found them to be useful for this trip. Jif peanut butter makes individual 1/2 cup sized portions that are perfect for dipping pretzels or apple slices. They pack something like 380 calories so they’re sure to fill you up. Also, I picked up a couple of tuna lunch packs for Brent and me. They come with the tuna, mayonnaise, relish and crackers (and even a mint to get rid of your stanky fish breath!) and don’t need to be refrigerated.

3. Lots of water! For the three of us – plus enough for E’s bottles we took about 6 bottles in per day. We stored them in the bottom of the stroller so we didn’t have to lug them around in bags. If you wanted to bring your own reusable bottles though there are water fountains throughout all parks.

4. Early mornings. The earlier you get there, the lighter the crowds. We were there during spring break which is possibly one of their busiest times of the year. The parks open at 8:00 for most of the year. We got there around 9:00 and people were pouring in but the lines were still much shorter. By 11:00 things were really crowded.

5. Figure out the fast-pass system right away. All of the super popular rides and attractions have a “fast pass” option available at their entrance. This will spit out a ticket with a time slot telling you when to return. Then you can trot right to the front of the line and wait about 5-10 minutes versus upwards of 45 or even 90. Plan ahead the night before so you know what you want to do/see and then collect your fast-passes first thing so you have your day all planned out.

6. All of the biggest characters (Mickey, Minnie, Princesses, etc.) are positioned at designated stations now rather than wondering all over the park. The later in the day it is, the longer the lines so get there early if you want to see the characters. Sarah, of course, wanted to see Cinderella so we headed there first thing on our last day…the wait was 30 minutes but was still shorter than the 75 minutes we’d seen on our first day there.

7. Also, lots of kids in the park buy autograph books for the characters to sign with a slot for their photographs. If you want to save a little money it would be a fun project to help your kiddo make one before you go. Maybe buy some Disney stickers and pretty-up a regular 4×6 brag book. Our kids were too little to get into that but I’m sure when they’re older we’ll do something along those lines. There are Disney photographers stationed with all the characters and they’ll take photos of your kids and then give you a link to check them out online. You’re still allowed to take your own pictures though and you really should…I was less than impressed with the shots Disney did (and not just because I’m a photographer!)

8. You can bring your own stroller but you can also rent them. I don’t know how much the stroller rental is but it really wasn’t a hassle at all to bring our own. The only slight annoyance was having to break it down to get on the tram from the parking lot but that’s just once a day. Also, if you have any sort of baby/toddler carrier, bring it. I love my Over the Shoulder Baby Holder. (recommended by J.J.)

9. Go at your kiddo’s pace. We found that our days were much more enjoyable when we just let Sarah take the lead and do what she wanted. Granted she’s little and was a bit overwhelmed but I’m sure the same is true of older kids too. There’s definitely an adult desire to “get your money’s worth” but I think that’s what leads to Happiest Place on Earth meltdowns. On our last day there Sarah played in one of the little kid playgrounds for almost two hours. We kept trying to get here to go see Ariel or ride another ride and she wanted nothing to do with it. In the end, I’m glad we didn’t push her. It pained me just a bit because I kept thinking “this playground cost me $500.00!!!) but she left happy and, therefore, so did we.

10. The above-mentioned playgrounds are really great. There are at least a couple in every park and are geared for kids ages 2-6 or something like that. Many of them have water features so bring a change of clothes for your little ones or even a swimsuit. They were never really that crowded and we found that they were great places to have lunch.

11. Ooh. This is a biggie. 2008 is the Year of a Million Dreams at Disneyworld. I’m not sure what all this entails but I do know that the gist of it is that they’re giving away one million special things – big and small. For example, Sarah and I were waiting in line to ride something and the lady behind me politely asked the man running the ride how long the wait was. He said, “come right this way” and whisked her off to the front of the line and made her and her son the family of the hour for that ride or something like that. He got a hat, they made an announcement welcoming them to the ride and then they got to ride it as many times as they wanted. At one of the playgrounds I noticed a family who were all wearing “dream fastpasses” or something like that around their necks. I asked about them and they said that one of the workers handed them to them as they got off a ride…they were good for getting on any ride at any time all day long. So here’s the thing: talk to the workers, often and politely. 🙂 The workers are the ones who give away the “dreams” (big and small, remember) so the more you interact with them the greater your chances are of getting something neat. I even heard that each day they’re choosing a family to stay in CINDERELLA’S CASTLE FOR THE NIGHT. How cool is that? I kept thinking that if I were Mr. or Mrs. Disney I would have the guy shining the water fountains or cleaning the bathrooms giving that away…you just never know! So get chatty!

12. At Magic Kingdom you have to ride either the monorail or the ferryboat to get into the park. They’ll tell you that they both take the same amount of time but if you’re traveling with strollered little ones definitely go for the ferry boat…it’s just easier.

13. A couple of “stay-together” tips. First, we saw lots of families wearing shirts in the same bright color – totally made it easier to spot them. Second, when you get there pick an obscure, off-the-beaten-path place to meet in case your group gets split up. We chose Cinderella’s fountain which is right behind her castle. It’s so loud in the park that it would be difficult to hear your cellphone if you tried to call the other adult in your group. Of course, if a little one gets lost guest services has a place for lost children (wonder if Peter Pan hangs out there?) but it’s a good idea for you and your spouse or whoever to come up with a meeting place. In a crowd that big you can step just a few feet away from each other and get totally lost in the sea of faces.

Okay, that’s all I can think of for now but I may be back later to add more. Anyone else willing to share?

Buddy Posts:


And a few of the fam on our last day, just for fun…

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