Strolling in Walt Disney World

When you travel with little ones, a stroller is something that is extremely important.  And on a trip to a place like Walt Disney World, even kids that may not regularly use a stroller at home may find themselves wanting to take a break from the miles of walking and Florida heat.  So what options do you have for strollers in Walt Disney World?  Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning your trip.

BYOS - Bring Your Own Stroller - This is my favorite option if it's feasible for you.  You can bring what your kids are used to and enjoy.  We LOVE our Bob Revolution SE strollers and I can't imagine a Disney trip without them.  We've traveled to Walt Disney World with the single version on our visits with Brody and have a double version now that we have two kids.  Even though these are mammoth strollers, they are comfortable for the kids and easy to push through the parks (although not always easy to push through the crowds).

Family pose with our amazing stroller in Epcot's World Showcase!

Stroller Rental - Another option that's available is stroller rentals in Walt Disney World.  If you'd prefer not to have to worry with your stroller on a flight and / or don't have a great stroller to last all day long in the parks, this might be a terrific option for you.  Each theme park has stroller rentals available.  A word of caution though - these strollers are hard plastic and cannot leave the park.  So each time you enter and leave the park you have to go through the rental check-in / check-out process.  Perhaps a better option might be looking at one of the many companies in Orlando that will deliver a stroller rental to your resort and it's yours for your entire length of stay.  If we ever travelled without our BOB (gasp!), this would be the option I would go for.  The rental agencies have nicer strollers than those offered in the parks - think City Mini and BOB Revolutions.  It may cost you a few more dollars then the park rentals, but the convenience of having the stroller the entire stay, delivery and pick up at your resort, and the higher quality make this a great idea.

Strollers in Walt Disney World are a necessity if you have young mouseketeers in your group.  Remember that comfort rules the day - happy kids = happy parents = great vacation!

Double Diaper Bag Strategy in WDW

After taking two Walt Disney World trips with a toddler, there are some "mom hacks" I've learned to make navigating long days in the hot Florida sun more manageable.  Today, I'm going to tell you about my double diaper bag strategy for the parks.  Even when traveling with just one child, I brought two diaper bags into the parks.  Each diaper bag had a distinct purpose and was used in a different way.

Diaper Bag #1 - The "Mini" Diaper Bag

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This diaper bag is one that will be with you all day, no matter what in the parks - inside restaurants, on rides, in shows, etc.  For that reason, you want this diaper bag to be relatively small and easy to carry.  We have a Columbia backpack diaper bag that is comfortable for both me and my husband to use (he's particular on what diaper bags he'll carry around).  This diaper bag should have a few diapers, wipes, some small toys to entertain little ones while waiting, small bag of snacks (or two!) and a drink.  You don't need to throw everything in here - that's what the second bag is for - but rather think about what you might need right away in a ride line in the case of a toddler meltdown.  In addition, any valuables that you want to keep with you in the park should stay in this bag too.

Diaper Bag #2 - The Big Daddy Diaper Bag
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Your second diaper bag should be larger and be well stocked to last throughout the day.  An extra change of clothes, more diapers and wipes, additional snacks and drinks, sunscreen, and maybe those layering pieces for when evening sets in and the sun goes down.  This diaper bag will remain with your stroller throughout the day - not always with you.  We have a Skip Hop Studio bag that we used for this purpose.  It hooked perfectly to our BOB stroller and was the ideal size to store all of those "extras" we may need during a long day in the park.  I was surprised on my first trip to Walt Disney World to find out how many places did not allow strollers inside.  Since this diaper bag will be staying with your stroller, make sure nothing valuable is inside of it in the off chance that the bag or stroller is taken while unattended in the park.  As the day wears on, you can replenish the supply in your smaller diaper bag from reserves in this larger diaper bag.

While packing two diaper bags may seem like a bit much, planning ahead and having what you need with you to survive for the day will make your visit more enjoyable.  In addition, it will also save you money.  Most of the things babies and toddlers will need while in the parks are available for sale, but at a premium price.  When packing your diaper bag, think like a scout and "always be prepared!"

I'm Going On The Road!

The Friday before Memorial Day weekend is generally a reason for celebration.  It signals the start of summer, warmer weather, and the beginning of a holiday weekend to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country.  The weekend also carries with it cookouts and time with family and friends.  But this year, that particular Friday was sprinkled with a little extra magic.

"Kristi, you just received a pixie dusted email.  What are you going to do know?"

I'm going to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration in New York City!

Each year, Disney celebrates bloggers and social media mom influencers with a conference in either Disneyland or Walt Disney World plus a few other one day celebrations known as "On the Road" events.  Invites to each of these are anxiously anticipated and highly coveted!  No one quite knows the magic formula to get invited to one of the conferences as invitees range from novices in the world of social media to some big time bloggers and individuals with thousands of Twitter followers.  This year, by the grace of some Disney magic, I've been invited to attend Disney Social Media Moms Celebration On the Road in New York City.  I couldn't have been more excited to see that little ol' me was invited after just beginning my journey into the world of blogging a little over a year ago.

So what am I hoping to take away from the day?

Disney Surprises! - Everything Disney does is done well!  I can't wait to see the magic and surprises that await us in NYC.  Even though the conference is only 5 hours, I'm sure it will be packed with all of the special Disney touches that only Disney can do.

Learning - I am certainly new to the world of social media and blogging.  While my Twitter, Instagram, and blog following have grown a lot in the past few months, I have a lot to learn to continue my journey in the world of social media!

Meeting Friends - The Disney social media community is so wonderful and supportive.  Between Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook I feel like I've come to know some great ladies (and some Disney Dads too!) who are as passionate about Disney as I am even though we've never met.  Half the fun of yesterday, was celebrating with others invited and planning to say "hi" in the Big Apple!

In the weeks ahead, look for posts as I get ready to attend and then, of course, some follow-up posts on what I learned!  And for those of you on social media, follow the excitement by looking for #DisneySMMC and #Disney OTR on Twitter and Instagram.

Preschoolers? There's an App for That!

As parents of a preschooler, my husband and I use our iPad to often help entertain our son when we're in a situation that asks him to do the most difficult thing for any three year old - sit still.  Whether it's on an airplane or in a nice restaurant, a new app can sometimes be just the ticket to keeping a preschooler happy and - bonus points - they can learn something too!  Here are some of Brody's favorites from the iTunes store.

Jake's Never Land Pirate School - $2.99 - Brody has been a big "Jake Jake" fan for as long as I can remember.  The Pirate School app gives kids a chance to hunt for treasure, navigate down rivers in boats, fly with their pixie dust, and play in a band with Sharky and Bones.  Each time your child completes one of the activities, he can earn gold doubloons!  These games all reinforce problem solving skills while having fun "pirate style."

Doc McStuffins: Time for Check-up - $3.99 - We bought this app for Brody when we were getting ready for our trip to Disney.  In this app, there are a variety of games where kids get to be the doctor and fix their toys.  Our favorite game in the app is Mixupitis where the toys have the wrong body parts and you need to fix them.  When we first bought this at age 2, Brody had a little difficulty with some of the more complex activities such as using the "Big Book of Boo Boos," but is learning to get more and more confident each time he plays.

Mickey's Wildlife Count Along - $2.99 - Out of all of the apps we have used for Brody so far, this has to be his all around fan favorite.  It's a story about Mickey and the gang headed to the beach, but along the way they stop through the jungle, desert, arctic, and other fun places.  Each time they stop somewhere new, they encounter exciting animals and have to count how many of each they see.  The book also builds number sense at the conclusion of the story by going through a photo book of the trip and asking kids to pick which picture has "more" or "fewer" animals on each page.  It's a simple app that toddlers and young preschoolers will find both engaging and educational.

We are always looking for more fun and educational games to try with Brody.  Next, I want to add some of the Disney Imagicademy apps!  What are some of your favorite apps for preschoolers to try?

You Can Fly!

Planning a family vacation takes months of work, money, and patience.  When the trip finally arrives, the whole family is excited.  Then you get to the airport and realize you have several hours on a plane ahead with little ones in tow.  I've flown 3 times with my son when he was under 3 and have a few tips and tricks that may help you on your next flight.

Brody on his first flight at 9 months old.  Heading to Siesta Key, FL.

Book a Seat (if you can afford it) - Technically airlines don't make you buy a seat for a child unless they are over the age of 2.  We opted to not buy a seat when we flew with our son at 17 months old and I regretted that choice.  We were on a crowded flight to MCO and trying to hold a squirming toddler didn't make the flight any easier.  Once you have a child that can walk, I think booking them their own seat is the way to go.  If nothing else, it provides you with a little extra space and little ones will enjoy feeling like a "big kid" on the plane.

Talk about Flying - Make sure kids are comfortable with the idea of flying before getting to the airport.  We talked about our upcoming Disney trip when our son was 2.5 years old, but were caught off guard by how upset he got when we arrived at BWI and he was terrified of flying.  He had been on a plane before so I guess I took it for granted that this would be smooth sailing.  He screamed the entire bus ride from the parking lot to the terminal and then cried for about the first hour we were in the terminal (making security extra fun. . .).  While we were waiting to board, we walked around the airport and found a good spot to watch planes taking off and landing.  Once Brody saw how planes would go up in the sky and come down safely, he was excited to get on one and try it out.

What every parent loves to see. . .a sleeping child on a plane!
Pack Wisely - Prepare for the flight with plenty of snacks and items to keep kids entertained.  When packing snacks, think healthy.  Snacks packed with protein will keep them fuller longer.  And don't forget that lollipops may help during take off and landing.  I usually try to have a new toy or game when we fly so that Brody has something exciting to keep his attention.  I also rely heavily on the iPad - games, shows, and movies can work wonders with little ones.  Just make sure if you're bringing something electronic that it's fully charged.  Last thing that you're going to want is a screaming kid because the iPad died in the middle of "Let it Go."

What tips do you have for traveling with toddlers on a plane?

Today is brought to you by the Number 180

Remember on Sesame Street how there was always a letter and number of the day?  Well, today's number of the day would be 180. . .as in 180 days until our next Walt Disney World vacation!  Disney fans raise your hand when you know what that means.

(Insert teacher wait time here)

That's right!  We get to begin making ADRs today!  So what are ADRs and what do you need to know about them?

ADRs are Advanced Dining Reservations.  Beginning 180 days before your vacation, you can start booking reservations for your favorite table service options in Walt Disney World.  I get a lot of questions from friends and family asking if you have to make your reservations this far out.  The answer depends on your priorities while on vacation.

If you have a popular dining experience you are trying to get reservations for you most certainly want to be ready to book at the 180 day mark.  This might include events such as Cinderella's Royal Table, Chef Mickey's, or the most popular times at restaurants like California Grill.  Be prepared when you go online or call to make your reservations that they do require credit card information to hold the reservation.  If you are a no show for your reservation or don't cancel within a 24 hour window, you will be charged a fee by Disney.  There are a few of the most exclusive dining options that do require prepayment at the time of reservations.  If you can't find the reservation you want, don't give up!  New times and the cancelled reservations open up a lot.  Keep checking and you just might get a pixie dusted surprise!  You will want reservations for just about any table service restaurant in Walt Disney World.  They will sometimes have walk-in availability, but it's not guaranteed and could result in a long wait time.

Another piece of advice is to think about your trip in advance of your dining reservations.  If you know you want to eat at 'Ohana one night for dinner and aren't staying at a monorail resort, plan that restaurant for a day you're in Magic Kingdom to limit your travel time.  And as your trip nears closer and you're adding FastPass+ reservations to your My Disney Experience itinerary, make sure you leave enough time to enjoy your dining reservations as well as leaving travel time to get to your restaurant if it's not in the park your visiting or if it's located in a different resort than where you are staying.

When booking your Walt Disney World Dining reservations, I always remind people to follow an unspoken etiquette rule that I strongly believe in - don't book multiple dining reservations just to hold onto them.  Sometimes people will log in to their My Disney Experience account on the first day their reservations open and book a character breakfast at Chef Mickey's EVERY morning of the trip.  They have no intention of using all of the reservations, but they haven't planned their days yet and want to be prepared.  While they will ultimately end up canceling the repeat reservations and opening them back up for others, I always frown on this practice.  Think about your days and wants ahead of time, make informed dining choices, and leave everyone with a chance to get the reservations they would like.

As for our trip, we're trying some new restaurants this time around including Jiko and Artist Point.  I can't wait to taste some new dishes and experience new restaurants!  What's your favorite dining experience in Walt Disney World?

Mom Fail #2 - The Price of Over-Planning

Too often, moms feel like they fall short.  In this world of social media sharing, we always see the Pinterest perfect birthday party decorations, perfect family pictures, and the excitement of everything going right.  Mother's Day is just around the corner and this mini-blog series will celebrate the reality of mommyhood - sometimes we mess up.  But we live, we learn, and we move on.  I'm sharing some of my Disney mom fails so that you can hopefully benefit from my experiences.  Sometimes there is nothing that would have prevented these mom fails, but hopefully we can share a sense of camaraderie that we are in this crazy thing called parenting together and nobody is always Pinterest perfect.

Being a Disney addict can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to planning our family vacations.  The desire to want to experience new attractions while still making time for our favorites can lead to a serious Disney condition known as "over-planning."  I try to cognizant of the limits of little ones when planning our trips, but sometimes I try to push the limits too much which can lead to a definite mom fail in the parks.

On our trip in November, I REALLY wanted to use all of our FastPass+ reservations that we had booked and rebooked numerous times over.  And the selfish part of me, really wanted to see the new Festival of Fantasy parade and, my all-time favorite, Wishes Nighttime Spectacular.  How bad would it be to push through my toddler's nap time and then try to keep him up late at night?  Pretty bad.  Brody entered full meltdown mode around 2PM so we headed back to the resort for a mid-day break. While I was sad to miss the parade, I felt good that this probably would mean we'd be able to stay up for Wishes.  Well, we made it back to the park and were awake for Wishes.  However, it wasn't very enjoyable with a miserable and whiny 2-year-old who was surviving solely on sugar rushes at this point.

Keep little ones smiling and happy by remembering their limits and the importance of taking breaks!

The lesson from this mom fail?  Respect your little traveler.  As I watched my 2 year old melting down inside Be Our Guest restaurant and later in the day next to Dumbo, I couldn't help but feel responsible.  The comforting thing is that while I felt like a total failure, I found parents walking by offering sympathetic smiles as if to say "we've all been there."  And don't forget, there are some great places in the parks to take a quick break too!  The Baby Care Centers in each park provide an air conditioned oasis featuring chairs, changing tables, and a TV.   Just remember that the excitement of Disney can be overwhelming and overstimulating to young travelers - take it easy and enjoy the magic of the trip!

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