This Is How We Do It: Visiting Walt Disney World

Since our recent trip to Disney World, I’ve had several people contact me with questions about our trip and asking for tips when planning. I’m definitely not a Disney guru, but I do have a few tips that I’ve learned for our Disney travels, that I do find helpful! I’m still learning and below I’ll share a tip that I saw on our last trip (but haven’t used yet) and it is genius!

Tip #1: Use a Disney Travel Agent
I can’t stress how important it is to use a travel agent, especially if it’s your first Disney trip. Our Disney travel agent is Magical Vacations by Holly and she is awesome! You can find her on Facebook if you want to book a trip. She is free to use and is oh so helpful! Jacob isn’t a fan of big crowds and she always helps us pick a week to visit when crowds are at a minimum (well, a minimum for Disney). She also give suggestions on where to stay and what promotions are available. Even after your trip is booked, if a new promotion becomes available, she’ll add it to your reservation. It’s always exciting to book the trip and then pay less than what was expected!

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Want a crowd free castle photo? Read below to find out how!

Tip #2: Enter the Magic Kingdom before it opens
The one question I kept getting over and over after I posted the picture above on instagram was: Were you the only people at Disney World? How did you get a picture in front of the castle without the massive swarm of people? Well, the answer is simple: We went in the park before it opened. There are two ways to enter the Magic Kingdom before it opens: get reservations for breakfast at The Crystal Palace or have an appointment at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Since Luke isn’t exactly in the market for a glittery updo and Lyla is still bald, we opted for breakfast. Make sure you get a reservation that is prior to the park’s opening time. You can make reservations for Disney Dining 180 days in advance so be prepared to plan ahead if possible. Once you arrive at the Magic Kingdom gates, head to the far left entrance and they will let you sneak in. Well, you aren’t technically sneaking in, since your name is on a list, but it sure feels like you’re sneaking in when you get to skirt past the hundreds of people waiting to enter. The only downside to entering the park early are the dirty looks that will be directed toward you as you pass by the long line of people that have been patiently waiting to get inside. It truly is magical to walk to Main Street USA when your family is the ONLY family there. For those few minutes, it feels as if you have Disney all to yourself!

Tip #3: Use Disney’s Photographers
On our first trip to Disney, I was worried that we wouldn’t have any family photos. Either I would be taking the picture of Luke and Jacob or Jacob would be taking one of Luke and I. However, we ended up with LOTS of pictures of all three of use because Disney’s professional photographers will take pictures of your group with YOUR camera. Yes, they will take a picture with their camera first in hopes that you will later purchase them, but if you ask, they will take one with your camera as well. How awesome is that? So, don’t be shy. If you see a cast member with camera, ask them for a group photo, they will take it with a smile.

Tip #4: Get the My Disney Experience App
Be sure to download the app before leaving for your trip because you will be using it constantly while you’re on Disney property. You can log in to your My Disney Experience account and it will sync all of your dining reservations and fast passes on the app. This app will also serve as your park map and allow you to view the current wait times for the rides. The app also allows you to make changes to your Fast Passes throughout the day and has menus available for each restaurant.

After several Disney trips, I learned that there are a few unexpected items that you will need during your stay. Below are my must haves for any Disney vacation:

– Snacks and Water. You can bring snacks and bottled water in to the park. And, if it’s allowed, why wouldn’t you? A bottle of water can cost $3.50 inside the park. That can really add up over the course of a long day. We bring lots of snacks because Luke and Jacob are bottomless pits and it would cost a fortune to buy them snacks every hour.

– Bright Ribbon. Disney has large stroller parking areas throughout the park where you will leave your stroller while you wait for rides. There are literally thousands of strollers in the park and chances are there will be several that look just like yours. Disney cast members often move the strollers around in the parking areas to help the flow of traffic, so your stroller will most likely not be in the exact same place you left it. I always bring brightly colored ribbon, preferably neon yellow, and tie a big bow on the stroller handle. It makes it easy to spot in the sea of strollers and we don’t have to waste time searching for ours.

– Gum. Walt Disney was a bit of a clean freak and one of his main concerns was keeping Disney clean. With that in mind, gum is not sold on Disney property. So, if you like to chew gum, be sure to bring your own.

– Wipes. Spills will happen, so be sure to bring wipes even if your kids aren’t in diapers. They are also great for cleaning off tables at quick service restaurants! Also, the first thing I do when I board a plane is wipe down my seat and tray table. I’m not a germaphobe, but I’ve been on enough planes to know that they are cess pools for germs.

– Disposable ponchos. Although Disney World is in the Sunshine State, chances are you will experience an afternoon rain shower on your trip. You can purchase ponchos at the Dollar Tree for a buck, so be sure to bring at least one per person. After the rain is over, you can toss them and not have to worry about keeping up with an expensive and soaking wet poncho. They are also great to wear on Splash Mountain if you don’t want to get soaked.

– Glow Sticks. When the sun goes down on the Magic Kingdom, the street peddlers come alive with all of their glow in the dark and light up gizmos for kids. Instead of paying $15 for a Buzz Lightyear spinning flashlight, I buy glow sticks at the Dollar Tree before we leave. Luke is always so excited when I pull them out of our bag at night and he’s so happy with his glow sticks that he doesn’t even think to ask about the dozens of items they are selling.

– A Cheap Shower Curtain and Towel Clips. This is the tip that I just saw on our last trip and I will be using in the future. I purchased a large non-disposable poncho to cover our stroller in case of a rain shower. I’ve never really been pleased with it because it doesn’t cover the whole stroller and the arm and neck holes often leak water into stroller seats. Well, some genius mom (or dad) came up with the best solution. They had a cheap shower curtain draped over their stroller and they used beach towel clips to clip it on the stroller. It kind of makes me mad that I didn’t think of it, but I’m sure glad someone did!

I hope these tips are helpful when planning your next Disney vacay and I would love to hear your Disney tips and tricks as well!

 

 

I’m not trying to make memories…

We’ve had several people make comments about why we shouldn’t take our very young children to Disney World and “waste all that money on something they won’t remember.” One lady even told Jacob on our first night at Disney, that Lyla doesn’t even know where she is. Well, she was right. She doesn’t know where she is and she won’t remember a single thing about our trip last week. But, we didn’t take our kids to Disney in the hopes that they would reminisce about the trip when they are 30 years old. We took them so they would enjoy it and for them to experience the magic. I could care less if they have memories of our trip; I simply wanted them to have fun! We aren’t in the business of making memories we are in the business of creating experiences. If they remember them, great! If not, that’s ok too.

There’s a big debate on the internet about what the best age is to take a child to Disney. I think the best age to take them is whenever the parents want! Hah! In all seriousness, I think that you should at least consider taking your child to Disney before their magic runs out. Right now, Luke thinks that Mickey is really Mickey. And when he met Anna from Frozen, he really thought that she had just travelled from Arendale. That is magic. Because for me, I knew that Anna was just a college chick from Kissimmee that needed a part time job. There’s no magic in that! But, oh, it was magical for me to see Luke’s face when he met her!

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See his little face? So animated! He asked her all about Olaf and Sven!

Some friends of ours asked us this weekend how we knew we were ready to have kids. We responded with, “We weren’t.” Hah! I’m not sure anyone is ever ready to raise a new, little human, but what a joy it is to have that privilege. I feel the same way about Disney World. If you wait until your kids are potty trained or wait until they can walk the whole time or wait until they remember it, they will soon be grown and not want to go at all. And when you, as parents, finally feel like you’re ready to take your kids it will be too late.

So, now that you know how I feel on that subject… on to our trip recap!

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This was our third trip to Disney with Luke, but our first time to take him to EPCOT. I was a little worried that he wouldn’t enjoy it as much as the other parks, but boy was I wrong! There was SO much for him to do. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Spaceship Earth looks like a giant golf ball, which is right up Luke’s (and Jacob’s) alley!

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My parents with Luke at the aquarium

Unbeknownst to me, there is an excellent aquarium in EPCOT. We spent nearly an hour looking at the dolphins, sharks, stingrays and fish. We didn’t see everything the park had to offer because we took our time letting Luke play and just enjoy!

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Luke is currently transitioning out of a nap (which makes me sad on so many levels) but apparently EPCOT wore him out! He fell asleep on top of Jacob’s shoulders while waiting to ride Soarin’. I was in the lobby area waiting with Lyla, so I didn’t see this happen in person, but the picture completely cracks me up!

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In our opinion, one of the best upgrades to the Disney Parks in the last few years has been the addition of Starbucks! Can you see the excitement in Jacob’s face? Hah! Only two of those drinks are his… he said he needed an afternoon pick-me-up!

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I got a few looks when I was walking around EPCOT like this. But, hey, when baby girl needs to eat and your son really wants to meet Duffy the Disney bear, you just got to make it work! We were all laughing about the situation and so my dad dared Jacob to see if he could feed her and walk at the same time. Of course, Jake accepted the challenge…

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Right now, our favorite park is the Magic Kingdom, so we spent two of our three park days there. Luke was finally tall enough to ride the “big kid” rides and boy was he excited! He loved the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Splash Mountain. We felt like it was sort of a rite of passage when he rode Splash Mountain… our sweet baby is now a big kid!

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We celebrated Luke’s 4th birthday one month early! I love parties, so we celebrate multiple times!

We celebrated Luke’s 4th birthday Disney style with dinner at Be Our Guest. We had them bring out a small cake and I brought a “4” candle from Walmart to stick in it! Disney’s personalized cakes can get really expensive, but they allow you to bring in anything you like to decorate their plain celebration cakes!

I’m not going to lie, I absolutely love Disney World! Jacob doesn’t share the same sentiment, but he doesn’t hate it and he really loves seeing Luke and Lyla enjoy the magic. We spent four nights at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and I really wish we would’ve spent one more night. Of course, I probably could’ve stayed a week and had the same thought when I left!

Luke was a little sad to leave, but I reminded him as we left the hotel – “It’s not goodbye. It’s see ya later!”