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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Week of Disney, Day 3: Magic Kingdom

 

Welcome back to Day 3 of The Week of Disney! Today we’re talking about the Magic Kingdom.

If you are traveling to Disney and can only pick one park to go to, Magic Kingdom should be your first choice. Magic Kingdom has the most rides of any park and it is really tailored towards the younger crowd. This is the park where you’ll find the most rides for the 2-6 year old age group.

IMO, it takes 2 days to do the Magic Kingdom right. We went in December, which is the least busiest time at the parks, and we spent 2.5 days at the Magic Kingdom. There is so much to do and if it is crowded you will spend much of your day waiting in line.

When you enter the park, I recommend you head immediately to Fantasyland. This is by far the busiest/most crowded area. Fantasyland was recently expanded and most people will head directly towards Under The Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid and Enchanted Tales with Belle. Hop over to the new Fantasyland and pick up a Fast Pass for Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid first thing.

I’m going to break this post down into sections of the park, and talk about rides/food/character greetings for each section. Check your park map for detailed information about height guidelines and restrictions for all rides.

Main Street USA

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This is where you enter the park. The majority of shopping can be found at Main Street USA. This is also the best viewing spot for the parade and is where the parade ends.

Rides:

  • Main Street USA Railroad: If you are headed to Frontierland or Fantasyland, you can hop on the train to beat some of the crowds.

Character Greeting:

  • The Town Square Theatre houses Mickey and the Princesses. The lines tend to be long for these character greetings, so be prepared.
  • Goofy and Pluto are just beyond the entrance to the park.

Food:

  • The Plaza Restaurant – table service for lunch and dinner. The menu features soup, salad, sandwiches, and hamburgers.
  • Crystal Palace – sit down restaurant which requires reservations. This is a buffet (breakfast, lunch, dinner) that features Pooh characters.
  • Tony’s Town Square Restaurant – Italian restaurant themed after The Lady & The Tramp. It requires reservations. The food is good and the portions are large. When you make your reservation, schedule your meal during the parade and ask to sit on the porch.
  • Casey’s Corner – counter service for hot dogs and fries.
  • Main Street Confectionary – all kinds of sweets. Croissants, muffins, cupcakes, etc.
  • Plaza Ice Cream Parlor – ice cream, of course.

Fantasyland

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You pass through Cinderella’s castle to enter Fantasyland. Cinderella’s Royal Table is located in the castle as is the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, which is where the princess makeovers take place.

Fantasyland has three parts: the “old” Fantasyland, Storybook Circus, and the Enchanted Forest. The “old” Fantasyland has the classic rides, such as Peter Pan’s Flight, the carousel, Winnie the Pooh, and It’s a Small World. The Storybook Circus is formally Toon Town, where you were able to tour Mickey and friends’ homes. Storybook Circus now includes Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Barnstormer, and a really cool splash pad area. The Enchanted Forest contains Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid, Enchanted Tales with Belle, Gaston’s Tavern, and Be Our Guest restaurant.

Rides

  • Peter Pan’s Flight – this is an actual ride. You get into a flying pirate ship and are taken through the story of Peter Pan. This is a very mild ride and is appropriate for all ages.
  • Prince Charming Regal Carousel – a typical carousel, appropriate for all ages.
  • Winnie The Pooh – another ride. You sit in a honey pot and are taken through scenes from a book. There are some mild dips and dark areas in the ride, but Cooper was not scared at all.
  • Mickey’s Philharmagic  - this is a 3D show.
  • It’s a Small World – this is a boat ride that featuring dolls that sing “It’s a Small World.” The dolls are dressed and perform to make the countries to which they are assigned.
  • Mad Tea Party – spinning tea cups. I can’t ride this because it makes me sick, but Cooper loved it.
  • Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid – LOVE. It takes you through scenes of the movie, and each area plays songs from the movie.
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle – My family did not want to wait in line for this, but I’m so glad we did. It’s an interactive story time with Belle. They pick kids from the audience to be characters from the movie and act out the story. At the end, you get to take pictures with Belle.
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant – this is a flying ride.
  • Barnstormer – a very mild roller coaster. Cooper loved this!

If you have a toddler, I’d come immediately to Fantasyland and ride each of the rides there.

Character Greetings

  • In Storybook Circus, you can meet Goofy, Donald, and Minnie dressed as circus characters at Pete’s Silly Sideshow.
  • Ariel is located in Ariel’s Grotto.
  • Belle is part of Enchanted Tales with Belle and children have an opportunity to take their picture with Belle at the end of the performance.
  • Winnie the Pooh and Tigger are located outside of the Winnie the Pooh ride.
  • The Mad Hatter can often be found outside of the Mad Tea Party.

Food: (if there is no comment, I haven’t personally tried it nor heard anything about it)

  • Be Our Guest Restaurant – you MUST book this right at 180 days in advance of your trip. I’m being told even then it is super difficult to get a reservation.
  • Cinderella’s Royal Table – this is where you dine with the princesses, and again, you must book 180 days in advance to get a reservation. This is by far the most expensive meal at the park!
  • Gaston’s Tavern
  • Pinocchio Village Haus – we ate lunch here one day. I had a flatbread pizza and a Caesar salad. It was good!

Other:

You can schedule a princess makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. My niece has done this on our last 2 visits. Depending upon the package you choose, your child will have her nails painted, hair done, makeup applied, and can will have her picture taken. They also have dresses available for purchase. Make sure you make your reservations well in advance!

Adventureland

Rides

  • Enchanted Tiki Room – this is a 20 minute show… and that’s all I know about it. In all the years I’ve been to Disney, I’ve never seen this!
  • Jungle Cruise – fun short cruise on the water. Your “tour guide” tells jokes as you navigate the waters, where you encounter cannibals and crocodiles.
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin – very similar to the Dumbo ride, but it is flying carpets.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean – another classic Disney ride! It is a water ride featuring scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean. It has been updated to include Captain Jack Sparrow.
  • Swiss Family Treehouse – I didn’t let Cooper go through the tree house. It is a lot of climbing and while there are ropes and rails, I just didn’t feel comfortable going through it with a toddler.

Character Greeting

  • Jasmine & Aladdin are located right outside the Magic Carpets of Aladdin. This was probably the best character experience we had. Only the princesses are allowed to talk (nothing is a costume can talk) and they really spent a good amount of time interacting with Cooper.
  • Captain Hook, Peter Pan, Wendy, Tinker Belle, Timon, and Rafiki can often be found wandering around. I don’t think they have a set schedule as to when they greet.

Food:

  • Tortuga Tavern – counter service featuring mexican food. I’ve never eaten there but it always smells good!
  • Aloha Isle – DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND STOP HERE FOR A DOLE WHIP. YES, I AM SPEAKING IN ALL CAPS. IT IS THAT GOOD.

Other:

The Pirates League is located right outside the Pirates of the Caribbean and this is where you little man can get a pirate makeover. We did this with Cooper and he had so much fun. The package we chose included makeup, a bandanna, an earring, an eye patch, and a sword. You get sworn in as a pirate and get a certificate and a picture.

Frontierland

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There isn’t a lot here for younger kids. I’ll list the rides but the only thing appropriate for young children is Country Bear Jamboree and Tom Sawyer Island.

Rides:

  • Big Thunder Mountain – bigger roller coaster. My 6 year old niece was able to ride.
  • Country Bear Jamboree – singing and dancing show featuring animatronic bears. This is another one I’ve never had the desire to experience.
  • Splash Mountain – water ride. You will get wet!
  • Tom Sawyer Island – you have to ride a raft to get to this playground. It’s a good place for parents to sit and take a break while the kids run off some steam.

Character Greeting:

  • Woody and Jesse can be found outside of Big Thunder Mountain.

Food:

  • Pecos Bill Café: chicken fingers, hamburgers, and taco salads. We always end up eating here for lunch when we visit the Magic Kingdom.

Liberty Square

I usually pass through this area, stopping only for the Haunted Mansion.

Rides:

  • Hall of Presidents – show featuring past Presidents. I believe they have added President Obama.
  • Liberty Square Riverboat – the riverboat offers a tour of the River of America. It’s a nice break on a hot day. At times it features performances from Princess Tiana.
  • Haunted Mansion – this is my favorite ride at the Magic Kingdom. You ride throughout the mansion and see the ghosts. Small kids might be scared as it is dark, but Cooper did fine.

Character Greeting:

  • Princess Tiana performs on the Liberty Square Riverboat.
  • At Christmas, Santa and Mrs. Claus are available for pictures outside of the Hall of Presidents.

Food:

  • Liberty Tavern – sit down restaurant which requires reservation. It’s a family style meal that you pay one price per person. I’ve never eaten here, but the menu looked promising!
  • Columbia Harbor House – counter service for fish and chicken.

Tomorrowland

This is the area where we spend the most time, aside from Fantasyland.

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Rides:

  • Astro Orbiter – flying spaceships. Appropriate for small kids.
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin – best ride in this area for toddler. You ride in a space ship and a tasked with shooting aliens with a stun gun. You earn points for each target you hit.
  • Carousel of Progress – animatronic “ride” through the 20th century. Snooze. Only do this if you need a break and want to get out of the heat.
  • Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor – interactive show. Mike from Monster’s Inc. tells jokes and measures the audience laughter.
  • Space Mountain – roller coaster. This is very fast and dark! My 6 year old niece met the height requirements.
  • Stitch’s Great Escape – this is a show that is probably not appropriate for under 4 years old. It’s very dark and can be very scary.
  • Tomorrowland Speedway – ride a race car around the Speedway. Anyone can ride with an adult.
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority – tour of Tomorrowland. This is another ride that’s good to do when you are hot and tired.

Character Greeting:

  • Buzz Lightyear is located right outside of the Buzz Lightyear ride.

Food:

  • Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café – counter service for hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs. This is another place we almost always end up eating lunch.

Parades/Fireworks

Make sure to check your park map for times and locations, which can vary based on park hours and the time of year.

  • WISHES Nighttime Spectacular – this is is firework show narrated by Jiminy Cricket and the Blue Fairy.
  • Main Street Electrical Parade – the floats are lit up and the parade features many old and new characters.
  • Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It – dancers sing as they make their way down Main Street. This happens several times during the day.
  • Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade – small parade that takes place during the day. It features Disney characters on floats.

I always plan to stay at the park to see the WISHES Nighttime Spectacular and the Main Street Electrical Parade. You’ll want to find a seat about an hour before the show. The best viewing spot, IMO, is at the entrance to the park. That way you can pick up and leave as soon as it is over. Keep in mind everyone else will be leaving at the same time so you will encounter long wait times for transportation.

That’s it for the Magic Kingdom! Got questions or feedback? Leave them in the comments!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Week of Disney, Day 2: Saving Money, Using the Fast Pass to Your Advantage, & Making Memories with a Photo Pass

 

 

 

 

 

Longest post title ever, huh?

If this is the first day you are reading, make sure to check out Week of Disney, Day 1: Setting Dates, Making Plans, and Packing.

Again, I am NOT claiming to be a Disney expert. I’m just a girl who has been to Disney six times and planned 3 Disney vacations, sharing what I learned in the process.

Let’s dive right in!

Saving Money

I always laugh a little when I see the multitude of pins that discuss how to save money at Disney. Let’s get one thing straight: it is Disney. There is one Disney in this world, and for that very reason they do not have to have sales, run discounts, or give away freebies. I think you should know and understand that going in. This will not be an inexpensive vacation! If you think you want to plan a Disney vacation, sit down and work up a budget. Price a few hotels. Look at the ticket prices. Decide on a meal plan or price out your meals. Get an idea before you commit to reservations so that you won’t have total sticker shock once you arrive.

Lodging

One way to save money is to stay off resort. I have friends who rent condos for super cheap – much cheaper than resort prices. However, keep in mind that you will have to drive to the park and pay for parking if you stay off resort. Resort guests park for free and can drive to the parks at no extra cost.

Talk to a Disney Vacation Planner about different promotions Disney may be offering. If you are a Military Member, Reservist, or are Retired you are eligible for 40% off (less for a value resort) your stay at a Disney resort through the Armed Forces Salute. This is one big way we saved money during our trip! We were able to upgrade from a value resort to a moderate resort at no extra charge with this discount.

Meals

I highly recommend you check out the Disney dining plan if you are staying on resort. I cannot recommend this personally as I have not used it. However, friends and family have and rave about it. Disney frequently runs specials for their resorts where if you book during a specific time frame, you get free dining! Can’t beat that! That really makes staying on resort worth it, in my opinion. You must stay in a Disney resort (Shades of Green is not included) to be able to use a purchase a dining plan.

I’m not going to get into too much detail about this because as I said – we did not use the dining plan. Here is a great resource that gives you a little more detail.

I know some of you are probably thinking – “why didn’t you use the dining plan?” Well, we stayed on resort for 7 days but only visited the parks for 5 days. When you use the dining plan, it is for the length of your resort stay. There would have been 2 days we were eligible to dine in the park but wouldn’t have tickets for those days. It just wasn’t worth it for us, personally.

One thing my family did to save money is to eat breakfast in the hotel and to pack snacks for during the day. Breakfast was cereal and fruit. Snacks included popcorn, pretzels, fruit, goldfish, fruit snacks, and fruit pouches for Cooper. I packed a cooler for each day and filled it with frozen water bottles, juice boxes, and fruit.

I highly recommend purchasing your snacks and groceries outside of Orlando. We hit up a Harris Teeter and I about died at the prices. I spent about $80 for $45 worth of groceries. RIDICULOUS.

Another way Jason and I saved it to share meals. At dinner, we always split an entrée and got an appetizer or salad. We always felt full and we saved on average about $20 per meal.

I do have to say that the kids meals at Disney are fabulous, particularly at the sit down restaurants. You get an entrée, side, snack (like carrots and dip), and a dessert. I could have eaten off the kids menu!

Tickets

There is no way to score Disney tickets on the cheap. It just doesn’t exist. Beware of sites that claim they sell discounted tickets because it is probably a scam. Disney’s prices are set and you pay what you pay. Again, it is Disney, and it is what it is.

One big way we personally saved is the Armed Forces Salute. This is Disney’s way of paying tribute to Military Members, Reservists, and Retired and it is such a huge blessing to military families. Armed Forces Salute tickets are available at Shades of Green and ITT ticket offices only.

I will say that I heard someone (who was not military) say that they were going to get a military member to purchase their tickets at discount and would use them at the gate. This makes me furious! The discount is for military and is for family traveling with the military member. It is not for Jane Doe who has no military affiliation and just wants to save a buck. You must activate your tickets when you arrive at the park, and to do so you must have an ID – so this wouldn’t even work. Again, you MUST have at least 1 person with a military ID with you to activate the Armed Forces Salute ticket. Yes, they check. You will stand in line at guest relations for about an hour before you enter the park to activate your ticket. You have to give them your ID, name, SSN, and your guests’ names to be able to activate your ticket. So good luck, person who cheated the system. You are going to be mighty disappointed when you drive all the way to the park and have to purchase new tickets.

If you are military, buy your tickets at Shades of Green! They sell other park tickets as well at a discount. You can go to Shades of Green to purchase tickets even if you are not staying there as long as you show your ID.

Souvenirs

Buy your souvenirs before you go. Older kids will pester you to death for Disney merchandise that you can buy at home for a fraction of the price. Bring your own bubbles, glow sticks, and stickers. For the love of pete, don’t get sucked into the $15 balloons that you can’t take home or the light up twirly magigs that will annoy the bejesus out of you 15 seconds after you buy them.

I think it would be a great idea to start a Disney piggy bank for your child when you make your reservations. Let them earn money or sock away their allowance, and then they can buy whatever they want with that money at Disney.

Using the Fast Pass to Your Advantage

Disney recently changed the way they issue and you use a Fast Pass. Back in the day, you used your park ticket to get a Fast Pass, you came back during the time on the pass, and you rode right away. You were eligible to get another Fast Pass right away. You could pretty much enter the park, get Fast Passes for every single ride, and ride all the rides right away. It’s slightly different now.

What is a Fast Pass? Well, for rides that get a lot of traffic Disney issues what they call Fast Passes. You go up to a machine, scan your park ticket, and are issued a paper Fast Pass. The Fast Pass tells you a time frame where you can return to the ride. When you return, you enter the Fast Pass line and in theory should be able to bypass the wait time completely and walk right onto the ride. The major difference I saw at our last visit was that your Fast Pass ticket now tells you a time at which you are eligible to get another Fast Pass.

Your park map will tell you which rides offer Fast Passes. There is NO COST for a Fast Pass.

I just read that Disney is rolling out a new program called Fast Pass+ in 2013. With the Fast Pass+ you can access your Fast Pass online and make reservations for rides, parade viewing spots, shows, and character greetings. I think this sounds awesome! Definitely check this out if you are visiting in 2013.

Here are the rides which IMO you absolutely must have a Fast Pass:

Magic Kingdom

  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain
  • Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
  • Winnie the Pooh

Epcot

  • Soarin’
  • Mission Space

Hollywood Studios

  • Rock N’ Roller Coaster
  • Star Tours
  • Tower of Terror
  • Toy Story Midway Mania

Animal Kingdom

  • Expedition Everest
  • Kilimanjaro Safari

Making Memories with a Photo Pass

Disney has characters at character greeting spots spread throughout each park. (Your park map will tell you where characters can be located.) You can also take pictures with characters at character dining, select rides (like Enchanted Tales with Belle), at spots throughout the park (like in front of Cinderella’s castle), and some resorts. In addition, there are several rides (Tower of Terror, Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin) that take pictures of you as you experience in the ride.

At any character greeting spot or ride that offers photos, you will find a Disney photographer. They will take your picture and offer you a card, on which they load the picture they have taken. You can use this card over and over and at the end of your visit, you can look online and have the option to purchase any picture you would like. Warning: purchasing individual pictures is expensive. The Disney Photo Pass itself is FREE and you only pay if you want to purchase pictures found on the pass.

I highly recommend purchasing the Disney Photo Pass +. You pay one price for the Photo Pass + and you use it at character dining, rides, and any character greeting spot. At the end of your visit, you are sent a CD with all of your images which you can print at your leisure. This is so much cheaper than purchasing individual pictures!

If you think this is something you want to do, purchase it beforehand. You must purchase it here at least 14 days before your trip. If you do, your cost is $149. If you wait and are less than 14 days out, your price is $200.

Why purchase the Photo Pass +? Well, you do have the option of taking pictures yourself, of course. But then I’d have to either trust someone else with my camera or take the picture myself. I am never in my family’s pictures for this very reason. This way I could be in as many shots as I wanted. I also have the rights to all of my pictures and can print them at home super cheap.

If you purchase the Photo Pass +, make sure you take advantage of it. Visit each character that you can. Load up all your ride photos on your card. Every time you see a photographer, take a picture! It is only worth it if you really use it.

Tip: Check your pictures online each day. I did not have this experience but a friend told me they loaded someone else’s pictures on her card and because she did not notice right away, it was a nightmare to find her family’s photos.

This post was supposed to include Dressing Your Tot but as this has gotten quite long I have decided to make that day 7 of the series. Check out the schedule below, and be sure to come back tomorrow!

  • Week of Disney, Day 1: Setting Dates, Making Plans, & Packing
  • Week of Disney, Day 2: Saving Money, Using the Fast Passes to Your Advantage, Making Memories with the Photo Pass
  • Week of Disney, Day 3: Magic Kingdom
  • Week of Disney, Day 4: Epcot & Downtown Disney
  • Week of Disney, Day 5: Hollywood Studios
  • Week of Disney, Day 5: Animal Kingdom
  • Week of Disney, Day 6: Sea World & Universal Studios
  • Week of Disney, Day 7: Dressing Your Tot

Monday, March 18, 2013

Week of Disney, Day 1: Setting Dates, Making Plans, & Packing

 

Hey friends! I am really excited about the series I have planned for this week. As some of you know, we went to Disney back in December. We had such a blast, so I thought I would write up a post about what I’ve learned about Disney & my experience of visiting Disney with a toddler. I am by no means a Disney expert! However, I have been to Disney 6 times, 3 of which took place in the past 5 years. I’ve planned the past 3 trips for my entire family, so I’ve learned a bit in the process. I thought it would be fun to share what I’ve learned with you!

Please, please, please ask me if you have questions about anything! If I don’t know I will find out for you.

103About to meet Goofy – he was excited, if you can’t tell!

My family (mom, dad, my family, & my brother’s family – 9 people) go to Disney every 3 years in December. It’s a tradition my dad started several years ago. We go for 9 days (including 2 travel days) the first week in December. We spend 5 days at Disney, one day at Universal, and one day at Sea World. Our trip is absolutely packed and by the time we get home, I need a vacation from my vacation. Ha!

Setting Dates

When you want to visit Disney is pretty much something you’ll have to decide as a family. I know most people have to plan their vacations around school and work schedules. As I said before, we go in December. My brother does take his children out of school for a week when we go, but that is a personal decision every family will have to make.

I will say December is a great month to visit! The parks are decorated for Christmas, the characters are in Santa costumes, the weather is mild, and the crowds are the lowest you’ll find of any month at Disney. This past visit I thought was the busiest it has ever been, but I found out later school was out several days in Florida.

I have been four times in the summer months and I will tell you it is miserable. You spend hours waiting in line for every single line, it is miserably hot, and it is so crowded you feel claustrophobic. I, personally, would not choose to go back during the summer months.

This chart is a great resource to see when the busiest months are at the parks.

Making Plans

Every other trip I’ve made our vacation plans myself but this visit I used a Disney Vacation Planner. Dulcie from Pixie Vacations did a great job of helping me determine a budget, decide where I wanted to stay, and make reservations and plans for my visit. Your Disney Vacation Planner also will search for deals to make your trip cheaper. For example, if you book in January using a AAA discount and Disney comes out with something better (free dining, for example) your vacation planner can automatically make changes to save you money!

I made our hotel reservations in March, and our trip was in December. Every other trip we have stayed at Shades of Green, which is a military owned resort located on Disney property. It’s right across the street from the Polynesian, actually. Shades of Green is open to active duty, reservists, retired, and DOD employees. It is very affordable but you MUST have a military ID and any guest must be escorted by someone with an ID. The price you pay is dependent upon your rank. Because SOG is not Disney owned, you cannot ride Disney transportation to and from the hotel. They do have their own transportation, however! You can also take a 10 minute walk to the Polynesian and use the monorail or Disney buses. We absolutely LOVE Shades of Green and I would highly recommend it to anyone who qualifies to stay there.

This year we decided we wanted to stay in a Disney resort. We originally made reservations for Pop Century but when Disney released their Armed Forces Salute we upgraded to Caribbean Beach. I have to be honest and say I was not impressed with Caribbean Beach. The hotel room was tiny and cramped and the décor was very outdated. (I’m told they have updated other parts of the hotel, but hadn’t gotten to the area we stayed in.) We actually decided we’ll go back to Shades of Green on our next visit – the hotel is nicer and has much more room.

There are four tiers of Disney hotels – value, moderate, deluxe, and deluxe villa. The difference in the tiers is the price, the size and appearance of the room, and the number of buses/times the buses run. My cousin also went in December and stayed at Art of Animation (value resort).  She said the hotel itself was beautiful but the rooms were so tiny it was hard to fit the luggage and their family of four into one room. The biggest drawback for them is that there was one bus stop for the whole hotel and the bus picked up every hour. The buses were packed and sometimes you would wait and miss the bus because there were too many people to fit. They actually ended up paying to move to Port Orleans (moderate), where the rooms are larger, there are more buses, and the buses run more frequently.

Once your hotel reservations are made, you will need to think about your dining reservations. I highly recommend you make your reservations as early as possible – which is 180 days in advance of your visit. I waited until 2 months out and I had a hard time getting into the restaurants that were our first choice. If you find yourself in the same situation, I recommend calling back and checking the Disney online reservations to see if there are any openings. If you are wanting to make reservations for character dining, especially Chef Mickey or Cinderella’s Royal Table, you should be on the phone right at day 180. Those reservations go fast, as does Be Our Guest.

We’ve done character dining three times. I’ve eaten at The Crystal Place at Magic Kingdom (Pooh character dining), Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at Epcot(Disney princesses), and Cape May Café at The Beach Club Resort (Mickey characters minus Mickey). To save money, I recommend eating breakfast with the characters. It’s by far the cheapest option. We always do brunch and then skip lunch.

Here’s the way I planned our trip: I assigned a day to each park, and I then decided where I wanted to eat each night. We did breakfast in our hotel room, counter service at lunch, and we dined at a restaurant for dinner. I used the Disney online reservations to see what was available, and I ended up having to switch around days at the parks to make everything work. For example, dining at Biergarten at Epcot is not negotiable during our visits and I could only find one day available. I had to switch our planned at day Hollywood Studios with Epcot to make that work.

I’ll talk about dining a little more as I discuss each park… what restaurants I recommend and which I would skip.

Packing

Oh, packing for Disney. It’s both super fun and super stressful. I used this chart to help me create a master packing list.

My absolute must haves include:

  • Ponchos. Buy them before you go.
  • Plastic zip lock bags. I use them to organize my stuff and to protect my camera/phone if it rains in the park.
  • Backpack. I use a backpack in lieu of a purse and can fit everything I need for Jason, myself, and Cooper
  • Stroller. A MUST if you have a child younger than 5.
  • Laundry bags. You don’t want to have to mix your dirty clothes with your clean clothes when you repack your suitcase.
  • Trash bags to cover your stroller if it rains – you can also use a $1 shower curtain
  • Medicine kit/medicine: Tylenol, band-aids, Tums, etc.
  • Sunscreen and bug repellant
  • Stain remover
  • Dish soap
  • Fat pen for character autographs (I used a Sharpie)
  • Antibacterial hand gel and antibacterial wipes

As I said, I took both a stroller and an adult backpack into the park. I also took a small cooler. In the bottom of the stroller I packed the cooler filled with frozen water bottles, juice packs for Cooper, and some fresh fruit. I also packed our ponchos and jackets in the bottom of the stroller. I have a hanging bag on the back of our stroller and I filled it with sunscreen, medicine, bug repellant, and a first aid kit.

In the backpack I had my camera, zip lock bags, a change of clothes for Cooper, my wallet, a few toiletries, and some snacks. I hooked the backpack on to the stroller. I left the backpack on my stroller – with the camera in it (my DSLR) – on the stroller when I went into rides. I, personally, did not worry about theft while riding rides. I’ve been to Disney many times and have never worried about it. I would not leave a purse on the stroller but I never worry about leaving a backpack (maybe that seems strange, but to me a purse screams “money is in here!”). I do take my wallet out when I ride and put it in my pocket.

I packed the following snacks: pretzels, goldfish, fruit snacks, Lara bars, fruit, popcorn, and fruit pouches for Cooper. I’d love to hear your ideas for snacks!

I purchased the Disney Junior Encyclopedia of Animated Characters to use as an autograph book. I really love this book!It contains every Disney character, and I made a game of trying to find as many characters as possible and have them sign their page.

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I also made a little “surprise” for Cooper from Mickey and gave it to him the day that we left. It kept him entertained in the car and was just a really fun present to put together. I purchased the bucket and water bottle from Grimes Graphics and filled it up with goodies from Target. I  included a coloring book, stickers, a Jake stuffed doll and a Jake camera. The camera was the biggest hit!

This is the conclusion of the first day of my Disney series! Take a look below for what to expect for the rest of the week. I’m going to be covering each individual park and highlighting the best rides, what areas of the park to visit first, special activities, what to skip, where to eat, and more!

  • Week of Disney, Day 2: Saving Money, Using the Fast Passes to Your Advantage, Photo Pass, and Dressing Your Tot
  • Week of Disney, Day 3: Magic Kingdom
  • Week of Disney, Day 4: Epcot & Downtown Disney
  • Week of Disney, Day 5: Hollywood Studios
  • Week of Disney, Day 5: Animal Kingdom
  • Week of Disney, Day 6: Sea World & Universal Studios

I would LOVE to hear your feedback on this series!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Beauty Buys: The One Thing

I know I talk on here a lot about new products I try and love, but I do have some staples I come back to over and over again. Some items are "holy grails" and if I only had enough money to buy one thing, I'd definitely repurchase these items. I know not everyone is like me and wants to/can afford to purchase more than the makeup essentials. That's ok - here are my recommendations for girls who need to stock their cosmetic bags. 

Foundation:


In terms of coverage, affordability (for a high end brand), and ease of application MAC Studio Fix is the definite winner. I love that when I'm in a hurry I can put it on in seconds. You can apply wet (for more coverage) or dry (for a sheerer look). 

Concealer:

 
I've repurchased Benefit Erase Paste 3 times, and that is unheard of for me. It completely covers your undereye circles. I do not recommend for all over concealer, however. Hard Candy Glamoflauge is a great buy for other areas of the face!

Blush:



I wear Cargo blu_ray Blush/Highlighter every single day. It just lights up your whole face and really makes you look luminous. 

Eyeshadow:



I've been experiencing horrendous MS lately, and I just don't have the time or energy in the morning to do multiple colors of shadow. I am loving the Benefit Creaseless Cream Eyeshadow in Birthday Suit for a pop of color on my lids. I swipe it on with my finger, and it lasts all day. (Maybelline Color Tattoo is practically the same thing but is way cheaper!)

Eyeliner:








For a quick, polished look most days I grab my MAC Technakohl liner and line my upper waterline. It lasts all day and doesn't smudge at all. 

Mascara:



I am a long-time user of Loreal Voluminous. I've tried its various offspring and my favorite of the bunch is Loreal Voluminous Million Lashes.  

Lipgloss:


If I had to just use and purchase one lipstick or gloss, it would be Benefit Dandelion. It is the perfect natural pink and is super moisturizing. 

What are some staples in your makeup bag?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Picture Dump

Hey friends! I felt like a little photo dump on this rainy Tuesday morning. Shall we?



Hello, belated birthday present! (The lighting is terrible, I know.) I had this blank space in my living room and I told Jason I wanted to look for furniture as a birthday present. (Which was January 29th.) I had been looking on and off but couldn't really find anything I was crazy about. Last week I was stalking our local antique shop on Facebook and they posted this beauty. I asked them to hold it for me and then picked it up on Monday. It blends perfectly with our existing furniture and really polishes up our living room. 

The sconces are coming down. They were up before I got the new bookcase. 

One thing about Jason - he doesn't bat an eye when I get it in my head that I want to buy furniture. I'm really particular about what I buy. I don't like furniture chain stores, I always look for real wood pieces, and I prefer to buy antiques when possible. Luckily my husband supports my bad habit. (Well, that bad habit. He does not care for my Sephora bad habit.) 


I love good mail days. Yesterday we got My ABC Bible Verses: Hiding God's Word in Little Hearts, The Jesus Storybook Bible, 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12, and The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers

The 1-2-3 Magic book was recommended by our pediatrician so I'm excited to try that out. 

We currently own Bible Stories for Preschoolers and I love it, but it is a little advanced for Cooper. I think it would be good for ages 4 & up. What I really love about it is that it comes with discussion questions and activities for every story. Twitter is all about The Jesus Storybook Bible, so I thought I would try it out. 

The ABC Bible Verses book is great, but again, it is a little old for Cooper. We read one story last night and it went over his head. I think I'll pull it back out when he is 4. I love the idea behind it though! It takes one bible verse and includes a story to help make it understandable for children. It also comes with discussion questions. 

I do love The One Year Devotion for Preschoolers, however! It truly is written to the 3-5 year old age range. 



Cooper is such a mess! This boy really lights up my life. I took the bottom picture of him and told him that he looked like his Uncle Chad (my brother, who is obsessed with all things Under Armour). He was so stinking proud of himself that day! Every since he's walked around saying "Uncle Chad is my favorite!" and "I look like Uncle Chad!" I sent the picture to my brother and he said Cooper needed to work on his arms if he really wanted to look like Uncle Chad. (My brother has been doing P90X for 3 years now...)

This morning was a crazy morning. I had an early morning meeting and Cooper was cranky because I had woken him up early. I couldn't get him to get going and I snapped at him when he wouldn't let me brush his teeth. When we finally hit the road I told him I was sorry I had yelled at him. He was quiet for a minute and then said "Mom, I don't like it when you yell at me. It makes me feel bad." OH GEEZ. Major mom guilt!

Every day he teaches me something new. I'm such a work in progress, and all because I want to be an example for my boy. I am by no means perfect, but I want him to know that I make mistakes and when I do, I am responsible for them. I'm not afraid to tell Cooper that I'm wrong and ask for forgiveness. I pray everyday that God help me be a shining example. 


I took a wreath making class a few weekends ago and I learned to make mesh wreaths! Honestly, I find mesh so hard to work with. I couldn't get it to work on my Christmas tree... I actually had to get my mom to come over and put it on for me. Seeing someone else do it made all the difference, though. I'm pretty proud of the final product!

Well, that's about it for today. What's on the agenda for your Tuesday?
 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Pregnancy Update: Week 12

12 weeks 2 days

This will pretty much be an update of weeks 6-12 since I've been a little MIA on the blog. I can't promise I'll be doing these weekly (no one wants to see weekly picture of my "is she fat or or she pregnant? oh, she's both!" belly) but I'll update as often as I can and as I feel up to it. 

TTC/How We Found Out:
I had my IUD removed in May and we had been trying ever since. We weren't hardcore about it (I wasn't charting or tracking my temps like I did with C) and had just kind of decided to go with the flow. It had reached the point where I had decided I would starting charting and temping in January. 

We found out very early. I am almost positive I conceived right around Christmas, and we found out the first week in January. Jason and I had a date night, and I was so full after dinner that I told him I would just rather go straight home and rent a movie. When we got home we went upstairs to change into pjs and I made the comment "man, my stomach is so hard right now! It is just like when I was pregnant with Cooper!" Jason told me he had a feeling I was pregnant (he swears he knew the instant it happened with Cooper and with this baby *eye roll*) and told me to test. I did, and it had the faintest line you have ever seen. I was convinced it was a bad test, but Mr. Know It All declared I was pregnant. 

I tested again the following day, and again there was a (slightly darker) faint line. I brushed it off again but my husband strutted around the house like he had won a Nobel Prize. 

The next day I took a digital test and it said "pregnant." I decided then it was ok to accept that yes, I was pregnant. 

How We Told Our Families
We told Cooper right away. At first he was like "yeah, ok, I have a baby in my belly, too!" but as the weeks have gone by it has sunk in more and more. 

We told our my mom, dad, & brother's family right around week 7. I wanted to wait, but I was not feeling great and Jason thought it would be best to share so they could help with Cooper if we needed. My parents were coming over for dinner so I dressed Cooper in the outfit you see below. It took my mom about 15 minutes to notice what his shirt said. We had to tell my dad. I sent my brother the picture and he got it right away. 

 
I told everyone else on Valentine's Day with the announcement you see here.

How I'm Feeling:
This pregnancy is so different from Cooper. It's like night and day! With Cooper, I was sick 5-8 times a day. However, as soon as I would vomit, I would feel much better and could go about my day. I also lost a lot of weight (20 pounds) in my first trimester because I threw up almost everything I ate. I was exhausted and I slept amazingly. The MS lasted until about 20 weeks and the exhaustion went away after the first trimester.

This baby is kicking my butt. I don't know if it is because I'm older (34 versus 30) or what, but I feel awful. I feel sick all the time. I rarely vomit, but I just feel nauseous 24/7. I can't sleep. I'm so tired and I fall asleep around 10pm each night, but I end up waking up around 2am and being awake for several hours. I've also started experiencing sciatic pain. It's a sharp shooting pain that starts in my back and travels down into my hip. I have had acid reflux from the get go (but I have it when I'm not pregnant so....). I started a new medicine and it keeps it in check as long as I take it daily. I also have horrible allergies this go round. With Cooper I was able to stop taking my allergy meds throughout my pregnancy but I am a mucus machine this go round. I honestly think that contributes to my 24/7 nausea. 

Doctor Appointments:
I saw my doctor at 7 weeks and received my first ultrasound. I've been very paranoid this go round, so it was good to see the heartbeat. I did text a friend right after because at 7 weeks the baby looks like a giant blob. I didn't remember that from Cooper. 

I had my 12 week appointment last week and it was fine. It did take my OB about 5 minutes to find the heartbeat and during that time I thought I would stroke out on the table. But they did find it!

Gender:
No idea! My mom did make me do the Drano test, which says it is a girl. (I guess this was the gender prediction method in the late 70s and it worked for her and her friends. It was also accurate with C.) I also took the baking soda gender prediction test, which said it was a girl. If I had to guess, I would guess it was a girl. The only reason I say that is because this pregnancy is so different from Cooper. 

Honestly, I'm ok with either. Jason wants to have a girl because this is a our final child and he'd ideally like to have one of each. I'm ok either way! I just want a healthy baby!

Size:
Baby is currently the size of a peach. 

Mommy's size: I initially lost about 10 pounds, but I've gained about 2 pounds back. (This may be the only time I speak about weight - haha!)

Cravings:
I don't really have any true cravings, but I am really into water lately. It has to be loaded with ice cubes and be ice cold. I am starvin marvin all the time, but I only eat little bits and am full... until a few hours later when it starts all over again. 

Husband:
Jason is a rock star. Really! He's been so helpful. I haven't felt well at all and he's really taking up the slack around the house. The only reason the house has been cleaned at all in the past 2 month is because he has done it. He cooks, cleans, does laundry, goes to the store when I need it... I could not ask for a better baby daddy. 

Big Brother:
Cooper has really caught on to the fact that I'm pregnant. He talks about the baby a lot. A few weeks ago we went shopping and walked through the baby section. He kept saying "The baby needs that, Mom!" He kisses my belly, and he's convinced it is a boy. 

We have started the transition to the big boy room. We've got the furniture, have painted (well.... we got the accent wall painted, and then I decided the rest of the walls needed to be a different color so it is in progress), and have the bedding and wall art. We need to finish painting, put the bedding on, and get the art on the walls. Cooper is very excited about moving but I'm having a hard time letting go of the crib. I know it might be ridiculous, but to me it is the last bit of "baby" left. 

Maternity Clothes: 
The picture you see at the top is of me, trying on clothes at Motherhood Maternity this past weekend. Shoot me now.  

I wore mostly regular clothes throughout my pregnancy with Cooper. I added in about 5 pairs of maternity pants towards week 25. However, my maternity clothes with Cooper are all winter clothes, so I ordered a few pairs of pants from JC Penney (which is one of the few stores that carries plus size maternity). Um, no bueno. I ended up returning them all. 

Motherhood Maternity does carry plus size clothing, but their selection is horrid. The pants you see me wearing above are supposed to be skinny jeans. HA! I did purchase one pair of skinny jeans (um, not so much - they fit like slim leg jeans but whatever), leggings, and two tops. I think I can get by with wearing dresses I already own but I may need to pick up a few more pairs of leggings. We'll see. 

I do have to say this pregnancy has been much harder on my looks. I felt like with Cooper I had the so-called "pregnancy glow" but my skin is terrible this go round. I have lots of breakouts and my skin is just dull. My hair is blah and I feel like my body is just gross. I can already tell you there will be few pictures of me this go round.

Well, this has turned into a novel. Thanks for reading and keep posted for more updates!



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