LAST MINUTE PLANNING TIPS FOR WDW

As all good things must come to an end, today I'm wrapping up this little mini-series on Disney.  There is SO.MUCH.MORE I could write about, but then I'd be bordering on becoming a Disney blog, and well - no thank you. My crafty/DIY soul is already itching to share some projects I've finished this month.  I have no doubt though that there will be more posts where these have come from as time goes on since I've confessed to the internet world my love of all things Disney.

What better way to end the series than to give you a checklist of final details to help for your families vacation?  

To Memory Maker or not Memory Maker.  I'm not going to lie.  This is expensive, especially when I can easily take my own pictures.  But like many of you, I'm not usually in them.  Occasionally I'll trust a stranger long enough to snap a family picture and pray everyone has their eyes open & looking at the camera.  This is certainly a perk to using Disney's photo service.  There are photographers set up in all the "perfect picture" spots.  They will take pictures with characters both in autograph sessions & at character meals. Plus rides with photos are included.  Just scan your Magic Band (or ticket) at the end of the photo session to link them to your account.

One of many Memory Maker/PhotoPass pictures from our last trip - and I'm in a family photo! Praise the good Lord!

One of many Memory Maker/PhotoPass pictures from our last trip - and I'm in a family photo! Praise the good Lord!

But if you plan to go, go, go, & not frequently stop for pictures, then it may not be a smart money move.  As much as I love the idea of this, my wallet usually revolts (as of this writing, advance purchase is $149, on arrival is $169).  Only once has my crowd paid for the PhotoPass service, when my whole extended family traveled together (10 folks, 4 families).  We linked our MyDisneyExperience accounts, and then all the pictures any of us had taken were available to the one person who had paid for MemoryMaker.  Only that person has the ability to download the pictures, but then they can share them with the whole group (FYI you have access for 45 days).  If you are considering it, decide before you go & you'll save $20 - it's the cost of 5 Dole Whips saved!  

Bounty with Dawn Paper Towels. The last three trips to WDW I've been toting around formula bottle & sippy cups.  You want to know what's not fun to clean at the end of a hot day?  Milk cups.  Gah.  Before our last cruise I discovered these Dawn-infused paper towels & I will never travel without them to WDW again.  Even if you are sans kids, the refillable mugs that come with the dining plan (or that you can buy on their own) can get a little nasty with only water rinses, so this is the perfect way to do a quick and easy clean up.  I fold a few up and toss them in a ziploc in my bag each day so I'm ready for a clean up at any minute!

Extra Magic Hours.  I have a love/hate relationship with these guys.  If you stay on property, there is the option to enter certain parks early (or stay late) on certain days.  If you are not staying at WDW, I'd generally recommend avoiding a park that has morning EMH (especially if you are going on a non-park hopper ticket).  They get really crowded early and you can start your day with even longer lines.  Though I now have a tot who requires bedtime before midnight, I doubt I'll be taking advantage of evening EMH any time soon, but thats the way to go.  The park clears out a ton the later it gets & the lines for some of the best rides become tiny!  Plan to sleep in the next day & shut the park down if you can - you can even get the chance to see "The Kiss Goodnight" (the castle twinkles while 'When You Wish Upon A Star' plays...amazing picture opportunity).

Parent Switch.  I'll be honest - Disney does a terrible job of advertising this service.  There aren't many rides that smaller kids can't ride at the parks, but they do exist.  If the parents both want to ride, for example, Space Mountain, ask the attendant at the entrance for a Rider Switch Pass, then the other parent waits with the kid(s) thats too short (or afraid) to ride.  When they return, the first parent to ride hands off the pass to parent two who can then ride.  If you've got grandparents in tow, then the second parent can take a second person with them to ride.  Click over the Disney's site here for super specific details.  

Fort Wilderness Campfire.  If a character meal isn't in the budget, there's a super easy way to plan to get a similar experience for FREE!  Chip & Dale host a campfire sing-a-long, followed by a movie under the stars.  They sell little smokes kits, or you can easily pack your own from home, then you get a cozy character experience.  It starts at 8pm most nights, but you can check the schedule using the link above.

Fold Up Laundry Bag from the Dollar Store.  Cynthia referred to this as well, helping to keep the hotel room tidy a few posts back.  I started bringing one for the same reason, but it's actually been a life saver for me as far as packing goes.  I toss everyones dirty stuff together, and then when it's the last night & time to start packing for home, I check pockets/zip pants/etc and pack all the dirty stuff in one suitcase.  Then when I get home it is SO EASY to begin the dreaded job of post-vacation laundry.  

Autograph Books.  Sure the ones Disney sells are cute and small and easy to tote.  But I can honestly say as a kid I never pulled mine out to look at it between trips.  Earlier this year I made a larger version using the Disney Character Encyclopedia (affiliate link) I found on Amazon and my little lady reads it EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.  I should probably be ashamed by the fact that my not yet 2 year old can name all the mice in Cinderella, and yet can't master using the big girl potty.  It has been a hit in our house & we take it back each trip to get new signatures added.  Click over here to see the full DIY post - it cost me less than $15 for the book & binding to make a lifelong souvenir!  Ours has held up great - 2 trips to WDW & 2 Disney cruises under it's belt & still going strong!

Guys, I hope you've learned something along the way in these last 15 posts.  If you think you missed one or two along the way, the links to each topic in the series can be found here on the Disney Vacation Planning main page.  I'm always happy to answer questions, and who knows - maybe you'll inspire a new Disney post!  

Here's to you having a magical vacation at the Happiest Place on Earth!

 

TIPS FOR LOVING DISNEY WORLD WITH LITTLE ONES PART TWO

Cynthia from HappyGoStuckey.com is back today with part 2 of her miniseries on doing Disney with kiddos - welcome her back & stick around until the end of the post to learn a little more about her!

Hello again, friends of TheHomemadeFig!  I'm glad to be back with you today sharing a few more Tips for Loving Disney World with Little Ones.  We'll chat expectations, souvenirs, and those Magical Moments you do NOT want to miss!

(Disclaimer: most of my advice is Magic Kingdom based, just because that's our life-stage with little girls).

Expectations.  

My best advice for keeping it "The Happiest Place on Earth" is to plan like crazy, and then be loosey-goosey flexible.

Go into the trip with proper expectations and then be prepared to manage those expectations throughout the trip as necessary.  Our first visit with our then two year old, we spent 90% of one day only in Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom.  There were entire parts of the park we didn't even step foot in.  We rode the carousel nine times.  We took a break so she could nap.  We sat in the shade of the Mad Hatter's Tea Cups and enjoyed Mickey Ice Cream Bars and took plenty of pictures to document the moments.  It was slow-paced and perfect.  And guess what?  We've never had another Magic Kingdom day quite like that one.  Usually now we race around with FastPasses and autograph books. I'm sure it will continue to change with each trip and Im happy with that.  Just one more tip, one day at Magic Kingdom is NEVER long enough for us.  We have spent 2 1/2 days there before and it feels like just enough.  We like to have at least one day where we have no FP's planned early so we can take our time walking down Main Street USA and taking it all in.

Souvenirs.

Ok - first, can I just say that if souvenirs aren't a thing in your house, that is 100% ok?! I'm all for simplifying and just being able to take a trip to Disney World is a HUGE gift for any child.  That said, we usually allow our children to choose one somewhat inexpensive souvenir (back away from the Monorail playset, kid) during the vacation.  We never let them choose on the first day unless it  is something that they will not see again and we try to guide them a little, but mainly it's their choice.

The choices are endless and here's a little of what is available.  (We buy ahead of time and pack everything else that could be a temptation to blow on in the park. Glow sticks, rain ponchos, stickers, autograph books, etc.)

  • Disney Charm Bracelet.   These are affordable and really cute.  WE love to add a charm to their bracelet each trip.  We even bought a few secretly and gave them at Christmas for a little mid-year Disney magic. 
  • Build your own Mr. Potato Head at Disney Springs with Star Wars & Disney accessories.
  • Penny Presses. I cannot say enough about these.  The little book, the fun of searching for machines and adding them to our collection - I *might* enjoy it more than they do.
  • Stuffed Animals.  Alas, I am best frenemies with the WDW stuffed animals.  There are so many beautiful options with gorgeous quality.  Our girls have chosen one nearly every time for their souvenir.  Sure, we have too many.  We do.  But I know they will quickly grow out of this stage where a new cuddly Pluto spends the entire trip home tucked under their sleeping face.  For now, it's ok.  Plus, they take such good care of them that we are able to pass them on to others which is just fun!
  • Mouse Ears.  We bought the classic mouse ears for each girl on her first trip.  They actually still wear them at Disney and even play with them at home.  Again, the Disney quality is unmatched and I love that we have this sweet reminder of their first glimpse of the castle.  There are so many fun options of these!
  • The Starbucks Disney Parks Mugs.  This is totally a Mom-Souvenir.  But you cannot find them anywhere else and who doesn't want to drink their coffee from a mug that reminds them of their favorite place?  It just makes those cold February mornings a bit brighter when vacation is ages away. *There is a mug for each theme park!*

What are your favorite Disney souvenirs? I've love to know!

And now for 7 Magical Moments you don't want to miss!

If you're only ad Disney World for one or two park days, then these are Magical Magic Kingdom Moments you don't want to skip with little ones in tow!

1) The opening show right before rope drop.  Rope Drop is the literal gate opening - people coming in to begin the day time.  It's the most perfect way to begin a Disney day. The train comes in and characters sing a little welcoming song.  Get there about 15-20 minutes before the opening time. (As in, standing there, not getting off the bus at that time or walking in from the parking lot. That can take a few minutes in itself.)

2) Walking down Main Street USA and taking it all in.  Stopping long enough to get a photo in front of the castle while everyone is still clean and fresh and not yet tired.  If it's your very first visit, don't plan to skip this in order to get to a ride first i you can help it.

3) Snack Time!  Even if your meals are covered, plan for a Dole Whip (!!) or Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Bar or any number of delicious treats at some point in the day.

4) A Ride on the Walt Disney Railroad around the park.  Great way to cool off and get a feel for what's what.

5) The Teacups.  The Carousel.  Basically all of Fantasyland if you have littles!  Peter Pan is an iconic ride that actually has a historically long wait.  FP+ are available for this one, and you may want to consider grabbing one or heading there first.  Heading there soon in the morning can be best, so you don't miss the new queue that takes your party through the Darling house.

6) The Three O'Clock Parade.  You will see so many characters in beautiful floats with amazing music.  It's a must-do but it can be hot so stake out a spot early!

7) The Nighttime Entertainment.  In my experience, it's always been worth it to leave the park for awhile in the middle of the day if our kids needed a rest, rather than miss the night time festivities.  The Electrical Parade and Wishes Fireworks show are worth the price of your ticket if you can stay until then.  I've never survived it without a tear or two.

Meet Cynthia! 

Meet Cynthia! 

Cynthia's Favorite WDW Attraction: It's a tie between the Carousel and the Tea Cups.  Same as when I was six.  I couldn't live in a Disney World without them.  

Cynthia's Favorite Snack at WDW: A Dole Whip Float (I'm such a cliche!) 

Cynthia's Favorite Disney Memory: My very first visit to Disney, I was six years old.  It was December and though my Dad and brothers also went, I remember exploring the park just me and my mom.  We bought strawberry fruit bars and then had to smuggle them in her pockets to ride the train to Minnie Mouse's house.  I remember thinking how very sneaky we were and that my mom was the coolest because no one else had popsicles in their coat pockets.  (I didn't break a lot of rules as a child, clearly - so this was exciting!).  

TIPS FOR LOVING DISNEY WORLD WITH LITTLE ONES

Guys, I'm so excited that my pal Cynthia from HappyGoStuckey.com is guest posting the next two days.  I've heard so many times from friends about waiting to take their kids to Disney until they are "older", so to allay all your fears, I've enlisted this mom of 2 to share some insight & ways to make the trips easier.  Be sure to check out her blog (hello - amazing words & recipes!) & help me welcome her to my little piece of the internet!

I am so happy to be here with you at TheHomemadeFig.  Amanda is a dear friend of mine and we share a love of many things, but Disney is high up on the list!  I have two children, ages 7 and 4, and despite growing up in Florida, my real love of Disney World came once the littles came along.

We first took our daughter when she was two years old and I will never forget the sound of her tiny voice shouting from Daddy's shoulders when she first caught a glimpse of Cinderella's Castle.  To this day, she still loves to look at the photo book we made from the trip.  We have been able to visit the world a few more times since she was two, and I can honestly say that each trip is different and special.  I do believe there is a magical Disney age, and it is whenever you choose to take them.  It just gets better every time.

I will admit that taking little ones to Disney World can be slightly more challenging than taking older children, but with a little planning and proper expectations, it can be the backdrop for wonderful family memories.  My goal in this post is to share a few things I have learned about the process before (the planning stage), and during the actual trip.  Today, let's focus on the before.

I am the crazy person who "may" very well enjoy the planning stage of a Disney trip as much as, if not a little more than even the actual trip itself.  I like to plan every little detail and then once we arrive, RELAX and just enjoy the work that's already done.  I believe that Walt Disney World is one of those rare vacations where mom can truly relax as well.  (Well, relax in a ride-the-carousel and eat Dole Whip and meet Disney Princesses kind of way). But it can take planning.

Where to Stay.

My very first choice of an on-property Disney Resort would be the Port Orleans Riverside or Port Orleans French Quarter Resorts.  

The gorgeous grounds make a complete retreat from the parks. The boat to Disney Springs (Wolfgang Puck Express is our favorite, and it's considered a quick service!) is a special not so hidden gem.  This resort's beauty requires at least a half day free from the parks to explore, maybe on your arrival day?

Riverside and French Quarter are about the only sister resorts where you can pool hop at, which is great because both main resort pools are different and themed well.  French Quarter is a smaller resort but Riverside is more of a Deep-South feel.  They are both fantastic!

I mean, just look at this place!

port orleans

But before you can settle in to your resort you have to settle the packing task.

What to Pack.

Here are the nine things I would never drive through those happy gates without.

1) Pop Up Laundry Hamper.  Even with a few people in one hotel room you can all really accumulate the laundry piles, and this helps keep it contained and helped our kids help us keep things tidy.  I slip this in my suitcase, and then at trip's end - toss it in the back of the car. Also makes next day laundry not such a task of finding everyone's dirties!

2) Rain Gear.  If you happen to travel during hurricane season or there is rain forecasted on your park days, I would suggest lightweight rain jackets that breathe for everyone in your party.  We've  only needed these once, but we needed them every.single.day.  And in the Florida heat, be advised a windbreaker is NOT the same as a breathable rain jacket.  Ask me how I know.  HA! ALSO - The cheap plastic rain ponchos from the dollar store are amazing as well.  Great for quick storms or Splash Mountain!  Finally, consider a stroller cover if you are taking a stroller.  Really, game changer if it's going to be a rainy trip!  We have rented a double stroller from KingdomStrollers.com and they actually include a free rain cover if you ask.  It saved our trip one September.

3) Small Absorbent Washcloth.  Tuck this in your park bag from drying off ride seats, wiping sweat, etc.

4) Ziplock Bags in Quart, Snack, & Gallon Size.  SImple, but necessary. We always travel with a handful of each size.  They hold snacks, wet swimsuits, spare change of clothes for a child, our phones if we go on a water ride, and the remaining 3/4 of that Mickey Rice Krispie treat that someone couldn't finish.

5) Aquaphor.  It's a great lip balm and soothing for blisters and skin irritations.

6) Clickable Sharpie Markers.  These larger pends are easy for characters to use and easy to have ready when you're standing in line.

7) Travel Baby Wipes. Even if your kids are bigger - these are a must-have.  Oh, the opportunities for sticky child (and adult) faces at Disney.

8) Great Kids Shoes.  Ok, the shoes I'm about to mention we just discovered and haven't had them for a Disney trip yet.  But the Native Jeffersons for Kids (affiliate link) are SUPER rad and an ideal park shoe.  I can't wait to test them out when we visit again.  Cool, comfortable, and supportive - their feet will be ready to go from Rope Drop to Wishes!

9) Pennies and quarters for the penny press machines.  Really, this is always the highlight for our girls and that makes it a highlight for us too.  They love looking at their little penny collection between trips.

**Honorable Mention.  My honorable mention would have to be a Sunscreen Stick, because it's handy and easy to get around those little noses and ears.  Orlando is an entirely different kind of hot.

Next time, Loving Disney World with Little Ones, Part 2.  We're talking the Top Ten Can't Miss Moments at Disney World & sharing our favorite souvenirs - see you real soon!