Thursday, October 3, 2013

Disney lessons

As much fun as we had in Disney, I definitely learned some lessons that I wanted to pass on.

1. Arrive at the park before it opens. This is critical. In fact, I don't even understand why you would NOT get to the park at its opening. This is absolutely imperative to setting the tone for your day in the park. Arriving at the park opening means that you can get on all the rides that you want without waiting in lines. It means zipping around and avoiding crowds. It also means that your day can end around 2 PM when it is really starting to get crowded. Remember - the early bird catches the mouse worm.

2.Bring ear plugs. Aidan spent a lot of time doing this:
Yes. It turns out our fearless four-year old was very sensitive to noise. That noise involved fireworks, any explosions on a ride or at a show, and even the lively dinosaurs at T-Rex Restaurant. As the week wore on, I found myself wishing that I had some type of ear plugs for the little guy. It would have muted out the noise and made him a lot more comfortable.

3. Have a free day with NO plans. We I planned our schedule so that we had a free day in the middle of our vacation. It was a must. We literally had no plans, and our day involved sleeping in, hanging out at the pool and going to Downtown Disney for dinner. Oh - and laundry. I did a load of laundry in between lounging at the pool. It was definitely a wonderful thing to have that rest day.

Enjoying our free day at the pool.

4. Ditch the schedule. Okay. Well - don't ditch it entirely. But, ditch it enough where you have some flexibility. I ended up moving some things around and cancelling some dinner reservations, and it all worked out nicely. By being a bit flexible, we ended up having a fantastic meal at the Grand Floridian and seeing the fireworks on the beach there. Sometimes you just gotta go with the wind.

5. Bring snacks and order groceries. I literally packed one entire suitcase with food. Yup. I did. (We flew Southwest so our bags were free). It  was great critical to have all that on hand. I packed our breakfast food, baggies, cups, water bottles, and random snacks and treats for the kids. I also ordered groceries for when we arrived from a place called Garden Grocer. Included in that order was a 12 pack of adult beverages. That cut down on spending money on the over-expensive drinks at the pool bar.

6. Pack ponchos. I ordered a 4 pack of ponchos from Amazon before we left. I honestly never thought we would use them. But - we did. A few times. They were necessary. They kept us dry and they were easy enough to stuff in the backpack when the rain passed.

7. Take advantage of the concierge. I ended up going to the concierge desk so many times, that they knew my name and room number by the end of the week. I took advantage of their knowledge about transportation, dining, and anything else I wanted to know. They were amazing. They are at the hotel for a reason. Use them.

8. Bring wipes. This might sound basic and obvious. But it is important. I packed a few travel packs of Wet Ones. Let me tell you that I used those suckers for everything. I used them to wipe down the nasty tray table on the plane, and I used them to wipe my kids dirty hands. We even had to use them to wipe off Aidan's face painting because he smeared it from touching his face so much. Wipes are your friends. Make sure you have them.

9. Make friends. I know. I know. That may sound cheesy. But you sometimes need to converse with other people besides your family. For instance - on the bus rides to the parks. They can be upwards of 20-30 minutes. It's fun to talk to people on the bus and find out where they are from and what their experiences are like. It's also fun to talk to people while you are in line to meet the characters. We chatted it up with many families. Do it. Reach out and touch someone.

10. Get the meal plan. Again, I don't understand anyone who does NOT get the dining plan. Now - I admit that we were lucky. We went at a time when we took advantage of the free dining promotion. However, if we had not had the free dining plan, I still would have paid to have the dining plan. Disney is expensive. It honestly would have stressed me out paying for each meal. The dining plan allowed each of us to have a table service meal per day, a quick service meal per day, and a snack per day. And we each got a refillable mug that we could use at the resort. My kids took full advantage of that mug and got many hot chocolates. Weird. I know. But they were so excited that they could keep refilling their mugs with hot chocolate. So - I told them to have fun with that.

The day we first arrived, we used our first quick service meal. (The cashier rings up the meal so you can see what the price would have been if we had paid for it out of pocket.) Our lunch would have cost $110. Yes. Holy. Crap. And it was nothing fancy. Two burgers, and two kids meals and drinks and dessert. Once again, I am telling you to get the meal plan. Instead of having to fork over $110 - the quick service points were simply deducted from our room card. And we paid nothing. Phew.

11. You don't need to dine in Cinderella's Castle. One of the character meals is in Cinderella's Castle. Unfortunately it deducts TWO table service credits from your balance. I thought long and hard about doing this meal. But in the end we decided to do the Princess dining in Epcot in the castle in Norway. And they only deducted ONE table service credit. The experience was fabulous. We were in a Norwegian castle and we met four princesses. In fact, the kids even had a professional picture taken with Belle and we received a 5X7 photo, and 4 smaller photos. It was one of my favorite things we did. Sometimes you don't need to do the big fancy thing. The smaller things are just as good  - if not better.

And that's all I got. I hope these tips will help some of you!
Thanks for reading!

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