Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Surviving Disney (With Little Kids)

So you wanna go to Disney. And you have little kids. And you think, "how the heck are we going to survive an entire day with them and actually enjoy it?". Trust me...I've been there. The very first time we went to Disney, Kinsley had just turned 3 and Rylan was 6 months old. I was still breastfeeding, Rylan was very particular about sleep and naps in HER bed, and she was a really really bad crier. It stressed me out so much leading up to our trip, but it turned out better than I could have ever expected. After having another trip under our belts with our girls, I've gotten a few questions from fellow momma's heading to Disney soon. So I thought I'd share some of our tips on how to survive a trip to Disney with little kids.
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1. App: My Disney Experience *Download it. Right now. You should never go to Disney without downloading this app. It's absolutely amazing, and you can literally plan and re-arrange your trip (while you're there) at the touch of a button. Lost or looking for something in particular? You can search for it and use your phone like a compass to steer you in the right direction. You can make your Fast Pass reservations, dinner reservations, you name it...you can do it on your phone. We reserved our Fast Pass's on this, even changed them around while at the park, switched some time frames around. It's the handiest tool you can have with you! 

2. Fast Pass *Once you purchase your ticket, which I recommend doing WAAAAY ahead of time, reserve your Fast Pass's. Most of the major attractions go fast (ha...no pun intended). The sooner you can reserve them, the better. You can always change them around later, so if you can't find something you particularly want or need, keep checking as they continuously will change. For each person, you can make 3 fast pass reservations. Kinsley didn't need a ticket yet, so we were able to break up our attractions between Kyle and I and take her on everything. So instead of having no wait time for 3 rides with her, we stretched it out to 6 rides with her...because I had 3, Kyle had 3, and Kinsley could go on whatever she wanted (that she was tall enough for). So if you don't mind splitting up who gets to do what, it definitely helped us see and do more. 

3. Magic Bands *They're a life saver and make being at the park, lodging at the park and eating at the park a breeze. Basically, it's a fancy schmancy band that has your ticket information, bank information, Fast Pass reservations and hotel key all stored into one nifty little bracelet. You can order these and customize their colors once you purchase your tickets. Also for your children, if they got lost you provide your emergency contact information so someone can scan it, find your number and call you immediately. 

4. Arrive Early...Like an HOUR early! *As hard as it can be to get little kids up and ready early in the morning, it pays off to beat the crowds. You get a better parking spot. You get through security sooner. You are one of the first people to enter the park once it opens. You get to attractions sooner (like those you don't have a Fast Pass for that will have long waits). And you can get a lot more done before it gets too hot and too crowded. 

5. Plan For a Break *If your kids are under the age of 4, heck maybe even older than that, plan for a break. Don't try and cram everything into one day and allow some time to go back to your hotel, get a nap, kick your feet up and relax. Because let's face it, doing anything with toddlers, especially when there is more than one, can be exhausting. Add heat, lots of toddler excitement and an early morning...and you all will need a break by lunch time. Allow your kids a time to have some silence and "quiet time" to charge their batteries again. Or melt down central will happen by 3:00pm and you'll be thinking "why didn't we just let them get a nap in!?!?!".

6. Take Your Own Snacks & Water *Disney can get pretty darn pricey. Hot dog meals can cost you $13.00, and that doesn't even include a drink. Certainly not attracting me like IKEA does with those $3.00 hot dog meals (which INCLUDE chips and a drink). While eating lunch or dinner can be convenient while you are there, make sure you take your own snacks and sippy cups/waters to hold your little ones over. Our go to snacks are: Pirate Booty (individual bags to just hand to them) Cliff Bar ZBars (for kids)- iced oatmeal cookie is our favorite and doesn't leave a chocolatey mess like the other flavors do Goldfish Animal crackers PBJ (we take a small insulated lunch box in with us and pack PBJ sandwiches) Fresh fruit (usually grapes- sliced for the girls) Water...lots and lots of water (along with their sippy cups) 

7. Portable fans *We take along two clip on fans for the girls. Especially for Rylan, who sits shot gun in the stroller majority of the time and gets the most heat...we clip these on and cool them off. I can't recommend a fan enough. Even for a family who lives in the hottest region of the State of Florida (it may not be, but it certainly feels like it 99% of the time), we couldn't make it throughout the park with the girls without them. We found ours at Bed Bath and Beyond but you can find them on Amazon. Make sure you get something that won't hurt curious little fingers, should they stick them in the fan. Not that I would know anything about that.... ;) 

8. Pack Smart *We take 1 backpack (that Kyle wears or we stick in the stroller) and our stroller. That's it. Inside the backpack we have: Lunch box (with sandwiches and fruit slices) Water bottles Sunscreen Hand Sanitizer Snacks Ponchos (in case it rains) Sunglasses for everyone Phone charger (they have charging stations in the park in case you need to juice up the ol' phone) Pen and autograph book Change of clothes Wipes and Diapers/Diaper Cream (heat can cause a rash so be prepared) 
* What works for us will differ for what works for you. Have a run through of all the things you may need while you're there. Determine what you truly need, versus what you could probably do without. Get what the necessities are for you and your family. 

9. Add Something To Your Stroller That Makes it Stand Out *My mom found these smiley face flowers at the Dollar Store that we wrapped around each side of the handle bar of our stroller. Bright colored ribbon works well too, but these flowers we have are especially awesome because they stick up tall...so when you're trying to find your stroller in the stroller parking area, you can spot it immediately. And I've yet to see anyone else with them! The stroller parking area can be a cluster...you know what. You park it in one spot, you come back from a ride and it's in a completely different spot (the parking attendants move them often so don't freak out)...and eventually all strollers start looking exactly the same. So make sure to buy something fun and attention grabbing to make your stroller stand out.

10. Enjoy it, Don't Stress It! *It's impossible to see that entire park in 1 day with two little kids. We've been to Magic Kingdom with our girls 3 times and barely made it out of Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. While you may be limited on your time, and you want to see and do it all...you can't. And that's ok! Find the few things that are really really important to your little kids for that trip. Maybe it's the princesses, maybe it's a certain ride. Whatever it is...focus on making that one thing happen, and then have fun with the rest. We always go with the mind set that we aren't going to wait more than 20 minutes to do something. Our game plan always changes and when we see something with a short line, we just go and do it and adjust as we go. 

There are a million, bajillion blogs and websites that you can learn probably a hundred better tips and tricks than what I'm sharing. But our motto is just go with the flow, have a Fast Pass for as many attractions as you know your little kids would want, and have fun. It's the most magical experience to see Disney through your kids eyes. My cheeks are always so sore from smiling so big at how excited they get. And to let you know a sample of our what our last visit was like, here's our day outline: 
We were driving from my in-laws house so we were about an hour away from Disney on this particular day. 
5:00am- Mommy and Daddy wake up (ugh it was rough) 
5:45am- get kids up and dressed 
6:00am- on the road! Stop and get breakfast for everyone and coffee! 
7:00am- arrive at Disney 7:30am- arrive at Ticket and Transportation, take the monorail to Magic Kingdom 
8:00am- wait until park opens *we thought the park opened at 
8:00am, so we had plenty of time to kill (OOPS!) 
8:45am- park opened *Immediately went and saw Cinderella and Rapunzel ~10 minute wait Did this with both of the girls 9:20am- Fast Pass: Little Mermaid Ride Did this with both of the girls, no wait at all *Immediately went and saw Ariel, no wait at all Did this with both of the girls *Went over to ride Dumbo, ~10 minute wait Did this with both of the girls 
10:20am- Fast Pass: Speedway Racetrack Kyle took Kinsley on this while I waited with Rylan *Walked over to ride the carousel, ~5 minute wait Did this with both of the girls *Walked back to ride Barnstormer, ~10 minute wait Kyle took Kinsley on this while I waited with Rylan *Got on the train back to Main Street to head back to the hotel 
11:30am- Headed back to our hotel to check-in and grab lunch 
12:30-1:00- Lunch 
1:00pm-2:30pm- nap/rest time 
2:45pm- Head back to the park 
3:50pm- Fast Pass: Meet Elsa & Anna Did this with both of the girls 
4:20- Fast Pass: Winnie the Pooh I took Kinsley only on this- Rylan was comfortable in her stroller *We walked to Tomorrowland and rode the People Mover 
5:30pm- Fast Pass: Buzz Lightyear Kyle took Kinsley on this while I waited with Rylan *We walked over to Adventureland, grabbed a Dole Whip and headed back to Main Street *The line for Tinkerbelle was ~10 minutes, so we got in that before we left the park. 

Hope these little tidbits help! And if you need more detailed planning, hire my mom. She's a Disney genius! 

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