Sunday, March 29, 2009

Disney Advice, Anyone?

In five days, our little family is packing up our minivan and heading to Disney World.

For the very first time.

We've been planning this trip for several months, and we have two very excited little boys who know that it's only five more "night-nights" until we finally get to leave. Jack told my hubby, "Dad, sometimes when I'm sleeping, I see Disney World."

I cried. We are so thankful that we're able to treat them to this special trip this year.

We have read and reread about the parks and what to do and what's available for toddler/preschoolers and how long to stay at this place or that place - and frankly - I am so thankful that my hubby just took the reigns and planned it all. Because I'm so overwhelmed by the whole thing I can hardly see straight.

Not to mention, I've never been to Disney World. I have no idea what to expect.

So, to put it simply, we've booked our resort and we've made some plans - but our plans are soft. Very soft. We're not trying to see it all, do it all, or drag our kids all over the place and attempt to Disney-fy them. We're planning on pool time, rest time, and we're gonna take it slow and easy. That's just who we are and that's how we like to vacation.

(BTW, my sister is graciously taking Lincoln for the week, so we can just enjoy this trip with Jack and Max and not have a stroller and our little baby to tote around. And, we're so thankful, because we get to play man-to-man defense instead of our typical zone.)

So, I thought I'd throw this out there to you all - because I have never been to Disney World, but it seems most people have - and I would love to hear from you about your experiences.

Did you go to Disney World as a child? What was/is your favorite part? How about as an adult? If you've taken your kids, what did you all enjoy the most as a family?

What kinds of things would you recommend for our kids - ages three and four - things they just can't miss?

Any suggestions on food - places to eat at the parks or outside the parks that you really enjoyed?

Those are just the first few things that came to mind. But, really. Anything. Advice, suggestions, experiences you'd like to share - anything.

Many thanks, y'all.


  1. Have a wonderful time!!!!

    No advice here, never been.

  2. Have a great time, Sar. Sorry, I'm not the Disney authority... but I'll send some friends your way who are.


  3. Oh my how fun! I went once as a kid and then in high school in a band trip. Best ride- buzz light year. Two people per car and you shoot your laser gun at the z's. Use the ride reservation tickets so you don't have to wait in line.
    The parades are cool too because you get a glimpse of all the characters! Have a great time!!!

  4. Oh, that's so exciting. Hope you all have so much fun. No advice-I went once when I was 10, but I don't remember much. I am looking forward to hearing how Jack and Max do-would love to take our little ones, but I am not sure if they are too young. Let us know how it goes. Enjoy...

  5. How fantastic for you! Sounds like lots of fun. I haven't been to Disney World since I was a kid, but my sister lives about 20 minutes from Disney Land and they go every other weekend. Crazy. But I think the same prinicples apply to both parks.

    I agree on the parades. You HAVE to see at least one parade with the kids. They will love it.

    Also, learn the Fast Pass system.
    Not only does it get all four of you onto the really popular rides faster, but if you and/or Jason want to go on an adult ride, you can fast pass two tickets, then one can run through and ride while the other watches the kids and vice versa. It will take maybe 30 minutes as opposed to one of you standing in line for an adult ride for 2 hours while the other one tries to watch two crazy boys. :)

    Have tons of fun!

  6. I'm so excited for you guys!! can't wait to see pics of the boys in coonskin caps! they'll love Frontier Land.

  7. 1. Yes I went as a kid – but nothing stands out. I must be old or something. Our family went 2 summers ago, in July - NEVER AGAIN in JULY! – HOT!! We took advantage of the “Magic hours”, the “Fast Pass tickets” and Disney transportation!

    2. We took the kids to the Charters Breakfast at the Cosmopolitan. It is a kid/adult friendly buffet (cute little Mickey waffles for kiddos and breakfast casseroles for parents). But each Disney character comes to your table so you can get great photos with them and you kids and you don’t have to wait in long lines or get some kids in the photo who you don’t know! We couldn’t get our kids to leave. Another must see if your kiddos like animals, Animal Kingdom!!! They have a Ra.inforest Ca.fe right in the park. And you can't go to Magic Kingdom without a ride on "It's a Small World!" You will be singing that song the rest of the day - guarantee! Finding Nemo at Epcot.

    Hope I didn't babble too much but I"m excited for you guys!!

    3. We choose the meal plan package which took away tons of stress at meal times. We always had PLEANTY of food to keep us energized. NOW our food choices were limited to cheeseburgers, hot dogs or chicken fingers but there was always more than we could eat. I would take the leftovers (apple slices, grapes, cookies & brownies) and stash them in the backpack for snacks later. We saved $ by not having to buy extra snacks though out the day.

  8. oh, have you guys made that customized map you can download from the Disney World site; we've done it just because the kids like to play with the map; it's cute.

  9. You will love having the older boys. We did the same thing last spring and my mom (who lives in FL) kept our 18 mth old, so we had a three and five year old. It was pure delight to see them having so much fun. The Buzz ride, parades, Dumbo ride, Small World, Tomorrowland Transit, & Tomorrowland Speedway (preview of what it will be like to have our boys driving US around!) These were the things my boys still talk about. Fast pass is awesome. Take a backpack with some snacks while waiting in line. HAVE FUN!

  10. We just got back from a week at DisneyWorld. Here is our big tips: Fastpass!! Our kids are a little older but several of the rides your kids would like have fastpass. You scan your ticket and get a pass that tells you to come back between certain times to enter a special line. We waited at most 10 minutes when we used a fastpass for the ride. Here is a little known tip...The fastpass doesn't actually expire till the end of the day. For example..the fastpass would say come back between 11:10-12:10, but we found if we weren't ready when time expired at 12:10, it didn't matter you can still use it. This was a huge help. Also it says on the fast pass when you are eligible to get your next fastpass. So sometimes we had two. Also, the Mickey Philharmagic was a great show we all loved. Toy story ride was a lot of fun (must get a fastpass early in the day as they run out)Have fun!!!!

  11. I went as a kid... I still have my autograph books, which is something I would recommend, my brother & I cherished those, we'd go back through & try to identify as many non legible signatures as we could, My mom & dad also took pictures of us with our favorite characters & let us pick our rides out.

    We had a ball, we also went to epcot, which I thought (at 12, we went when I was 6 too & my brother 3) was JUST for adults, but it had a ton of cool space stuff there, which was pretty cool.

    You sound like you are going to take it easy and just enjoy the experience and that's the best way to do it... Pack what you can for food because there is no such thing as a cheap eat in FL.

    Have fun!

  12. Sarah, We took a family vacation to Disney 2 years ago. I have a couple tips, but mostly do exactly what you said...take it easy and be flexible. We spent two days in the parks and then took a day to stay at the house we rented. This really rejuvenated us and got us ready for the next day.

    First, even though no Lincoln, a stroller is essential!!! Even Julia 7, Becky 6, and Kenzie 5, were exhausted and needed to ride in the strollers that we took for Ella and Sierra. A LOT OF WALKING! Even to get to the park walk to the tram, ride the tram, walk to the monorail, ride the monorail, then walk to the gate, and endless walking. It is very spread out. I actually rode in a wheel chair because all the walking caused some cramping when I was in my first trimester with Kate. A stroller also will hold a jacket or two, and snacks. A bottle of water was $2/each. A drink and snack each day in the park can easily drain your wallet, so you may want to just pack a snack and drink for each one.

    We enjoyed eating at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe in Tomorrowland. They have EVERYTHING there and can feed the mommies and daddies with good food and the kiddies with chicken tenders that were delicious!

    Epcot does not have a lot for children. Yes, it says they do, but in our experience, we would have rather had another day in MGM or Magic Kingdom.

    See the shows! They are awesome! They really captivate the children's attention and give well needed sit down time! :) The show at the Cinderella Castle was the best! Get there early to get a good seat. If you want to actually go and get autographs (don't know if Jack and Max are even interested in this), get to Toontown early, before they open at 10, to get in line. (Unbelievable, but the line to get Princess autographs was 2 hours long.) The characters actually come to the rope to walk the children in and straight to the front of the line for autographs. It was so neat...Jules, Kenzie and Becky were personally escorted by Daisy and held her hand. In fact, Daisy was told to move on because she kept wanting to hug and talk to our girls! Boy, were they tickled pink!!!

    The fireworks are fun, even in the rain, but late. The next day was our "stay at home" day.

    Fast Pass All the Way! depending on the crowds.

    Such a fun vacation! Enjoy and take each moment as it comes...Take lots of pictures, but sometimes, it's fun to go without the camera and just enjoy the moment!

  13. Have a fantastic time!
    No advice, only been there as a child.
    Don't know if you follow tropicalmexican blog, but she lives an hour from Disney and had a pass to go there. I'm sure she would have great suggestions for you.

  14. Oh, I'm soooo excited for you!
    Don't have much advice, as I went when I was little, but my favorite memories were:

    -The Peter Pan ride.
    -The parades.They have daily ones, both during the day and night (my favorite were the night ones, where everything is lit up with christmas lights...simply magical, hopefully they still do that!)
    -Getting all the characters autographs!

    Sounds like you are being realistic and won't over-do it, so whatever you do, I know you'll have an amazing time!

    Can't wait to see pictures :)

  15. Have a great time!!! I'm a bit of a health food nut- cannot stomach the park food (or the price)... so we compromised with taco bell (so cheap) just outside of the park. we also loved going to the market place (outside of the park). there is an amazing irish restaurant- i can't remember the name of it but its on the map. they have live music and a celtic dancer at night and the food is SO good.
    (oops this is getting long).
    the other highlight for us was when we were at the gate for the park to open. it is a magical experience when you are there with your kids. i cried, i was so happy. it feels lame to say that- but its true. we immediately hopped on the train and could see the whole park from the train and the kids sort of directed us to where they wanted to go. (my kids are 3 and 4 right now- we went last year). you will be so happy that you did this.

  16. I really love the Winnie-the-Pooh ride. What can I say, I'm an A. A. Milne fan. :-D

  17. Yup, went a few times as a kid and loved It's a Small World, but then again I'm a girl and loved all the dolls from around world.

    We took the girls when they were young..Jen was 5. They loved everything including It's a Small World. Jenna's favorite was the Dumbo flying elephants and the other kids liked space mountain. Jen was big enough to get on, but hated it and was scared to death. She was also afraid of the characters.

    It's all good and you'll love it! Your camera is a must!

  18. i have been to disneyworld twice - once when i was 6 and then just a few years ago.

    the one thing i really remember from going as a child was Journey Into Imagination With Figment. seriously - it is one of the only things i remember from that trip.

    here are a couple of other recommendations:

    dinner at the 50's prime time cafe - disney's hollywood studios (make reservations). lots of fun.

    playhouse disney live also at hollywood studios. we have one here and my little guy goes nuts when we go there.

    there is also an aquarium at epcot that kept my younger brother entertained for hours when we went as kids (and i loved it at 25). if your kids are tall enough go on soaring (or take turns if they are not) - it is unbeliveable. one of my favorite rides here at disneyland.

    i would also plan to spend plenty of time at the animal kingdom - it was amazing - i loved it as much as my nephew did when we went (he was about 7). we spent two full days there.

    as others have said - definately take advantage of the fast passes.

    go on pirates of the carribbean, small world, winnie the pooh, tomorrowland speedway, the country bear jamboree, astro orbiter... those are some of our favorites.

    and one more piece of advice - skip Stitch's Great Escape - it is terrifing!

  19. We just got back last week from our first time. Our sons are 4 and 6. Our last day we got it right. here's what you gotta do: Get there about 45 minutes before opening and HAVE A PLAN of which rides you want. We went straight to Aladin's Magic carpet and they let us ride it three times a in a row since there was no crowd. Send one person in your group for a fastpass each time you get in a line to wait. Have one person carry all of your tickets since you will need each ticket to get that number of fastpasses. If you want to read about the ups and downs and what we learned, my entire blog last week was devoted to our trip to the parks and which rides were and were not worth it. I don;t mean to do a shameless plug, but since I posted them all last week, they might be a good starting ground. Also, feel free to email me with any questions. I learned so much about traveling to big parks with little kids that I hope I can help someone else.

    Make sure to have fun and don't try to do everything. Have an idea of four or five things you want to do for sure. Take advantage of line waiting times to take kids to the bathroom one at a time. It cuts down on how long they have to wait in line and also makes it so you don't have to take time out of the day just for bathroom breaks.

    I hope to hear from you soon and I hope you have a great time. I will be watching your blog for how the trip went.

  20. When I was there in October on Tom Sawyer island, I said, "I bet Nathan would love playing here." I also said, "I would have loved to have a place like this to play when I was a kid."

    Some of the caves might be a little spooky, though... but it's just caves. Nothing scarey in there, unless you find a lizard.

    The fort there was fun, too.

  21. Daddy took us during the summer after 2nd grade. The things I remember most from that trip were not getting to stop to pee, playing in the sandbox at the hotel, and The Haunted Mansion. I wanted to do The Haunted Mansion twice. It's a little dark in there, but it's not scary.

    I also remember riding the ferry out of there while falling asleep -- but still walking -- late at night.

    And, Zak had chickenpox.

    I remember wanting to see "The Living Seas," on that trip, but I don't think we got to. I did in October, though! You should go to it: the cuttlefish is awesome, and one of the manatees is named "Bock." (Epcot)

    Spaceship Earth at Epcot is something you definitely have to do. LIttle boys love robots, right?

  22. I don't have any advice-never been. I am sooo jealous. I think what your little one said to his daddy is super cute-AWWWW. BTW, a friend of mine took her daughters-7 and 4, she didn't tell the youngest until they got on the road. She said that the 4 yr old wouldn't sleep for weeks if she told her--LOL!!

  23. I have Diseny tips!!!

    I'm new to your blog, but I am a long-lost eighth sibling! You and I share a remarkable number of completely random similarities I learned from your "100 Things."

    Email me at and I'll send you my phone number. I'd love to help you with Disney ideas and tips. We're leaving in just over a month, but we took Cooper, our then two-year old, last year.

    Tip #1-go to a dollar store and stock up on cheap Disney surprises, glow necklaces and bracelets, bubbles etc. Anything you can pull out of your bag when you're waiting in line. These make great, CHEAP distractions. Best of all, should an item get lost, you're only out a buck.

    Tip #2-Take a stroller if you can. The hike from the park to the bus and then back to your room can be a long one late at night. Renting strollers means you leave the comfort of wheels when you leave the gate. I don't recommend it.

    Oh I could tell you a million more things. If you have time shoot me an email,and I'll get you my number. I'm so happy for you guys!!!

    By the way I'm the Mom of three fella's too (3, 2 and 12 weeks). Ain't life grand?!


  24. I would highly reccomend purchasing the food plan.It was fabulous.I also suggest 1 park a day.I would also say to get the photopass. You will take a bus everywhere..its huge so be prepared for that.You will have a blast!! When you have time get online and check out the disney site they will design a plan for you for that age group of kids.Have a great time..this will be a trip to remember.

  25. Haven't been in 20 years, but I remember a few good tips. If it is busy and crowded, when you enter the park, turn to your left and go counterclockwise. Most people tend to go right and it starts off busier. Also, if you will be in the park for two days, see the parade one day and the next day while everyone is watching the parade, go to a couple of the popular rides that tend to have long lines during the day.
    Hope this helps......Oh, and just chill and have fun. You can't do it all and will probably be back in a few years for more fun!

  26. I went three times as a kid, once when I was 6, once when I was late elem school and once in HS. LOVED IT! Am eager to bring the circus crew there, just waiting for the right time for all of them. Can't wait to hear about your trip.

    One place that stuck out to my bro and I was Antonio's Cafe (I think that is the name, it is the name of the restaurant from lady and the tramp) it is in Magic Kingdom, my bro and I LOVED the french toast and talked about it for years, so much so when we went back in HS it was the one place we wanted to be sure to go back to.
    May have just been us, but it made an impression for sure!

  27. oh sarah how fun! have a great time.

    i went when i was a sophomore in college over spring break and it was a bit nutty.

    we have not taken our kids. at this point we are closer to disneyland but have not been there yet either. i am hoping when lance is done buying into the business we can celebrate with a trip to disneyworld and do the cruise.

    anyway, this is what i have heard from others (this may be a repeat as i didn't read all your comments) - get there early when the gates open and then leave at lunch time for naps, pool time, etc.. and then head back again late afternoon. fast passes for rides (although I don't know much about them), and the parades are supposed to be great. my favorite park when i was there many many years ago was MGM studios. i loved it!

    have fun!

  28. Our family's favorite vacation spot! Here are a few of our "don't miss" attractions:
    * Mickey's Philharmagic (Magic Kingdom)
    *Toy Story Mania (Hollywood Studios)
    *Finding Nemo, the musical AND Festival of the Lion King (both at Animal Kingdom)
    *Soarin' AND Turtle Talk with Crush (both at Epcot)

    Of course, there are many, many other wonderful things to do and see... these are a few of our absolute favorites. Also, fastpass, fastpass, fastpass! And don't forget to watch a fireworks show or two. Have fun!

  29. lincoln told me to tell you that he wants to go =D

    jk. you four will have a great time. i've only been there once. there is sooooo much to do. i think you're wise in not trying to do it all.

    i can't wait to see pictures.

  30. HI! We've taken our daughter to DW twice. Once on the 4th of July, once on the 3rd. You were very smart to go in April. She was "almost 4" and "almost 5" when we went.

    If I could make one somewhat controversial recommendation...please consider using harnesses with the children. DW has an excellent program to handle children who are separated from their parents; but since the crowding can be extreme, these can be real sanity savers. They don't need them all the time; but when in an overly-crowded situation, they are just a bit of insurance.

    There are many rides that are not available to children so young. But, there are also a nice selection of ones that are, and they are spread out through the park. Characters roam the park and are happy to pose for pictures with your children (and you!). Riding the train around the park is a great way to make a rest time to keep the little one's from getting too tired.

    When you have the option, use the fastpass ride reservation system, like several others mentioned. It's like waiting in two lines at once.

    Food prices in the park are comparable to area restaurants. I think the kids' meals were about $4. Not bad. They don't gouge for bottled water either.

    There's a ton of stuff to do outside of DW as well. We went back this summer and didn't step foot in a theme park.

    On the main road, but about 4 miles east of the park entrance is "the worlds largest orange". Inside, they sell seasonal fresh fruit as well as orange-y products, like marmalade.

    Continuing east (2miles maybe?), there is a *huge* WalMart. Consider buying your DW souvenirs there. They are often the same ones as at the park, but at 1/3 to 1/2 the cost. For example, the spray water bottle was $17 at the park, about $5 at WalMart.

    In that same general area on the same road are a handful of flea markets. These are well worth visiting. Last year, we bought mens leather belts for $3.

    Lots of places offer "kids eat free" deals, and early bird specials are common. You can save gobs of food money that way. Be sure to pick up coupon books to save a little more.

    Don't forget to pack your preferred headache meds. By the end of the day, you just might need them.

    Have a great trip!