Showing posts with label toddler. Show all posts
Showing posts with label toddler. Show all posts

Earn Your Skipper's License

I always love when I find a new little treat at Walt Disney World and on our last vacation with the kids, I learned about the Skipper's License on the Jungle Cruise in Magic Kingdom.  On this particular July day, we entered Magic Kingdom first thing in the morning and, instead of heading to New Fantasyland like many of the crowds, we turned left towards Adventureland.  We were pleasantly surprised to find a practically abandoned section of the park with no wait for the Jungle Cruise or The Magic Carpets of Aladdin.  Our first stop of the day was the Jungle Cruise where we walked right on and had the boat to ourselves!

Once we pulled away from the dock, our skipper asked Brody if he'd like to join him at the steering wheel and take a turn driving the boat.  Brody was a little nervous at first, but with some comforting words and the offer of help, he stepped up to the wheel and became our tour guide.  It was a really great experience and the smile on his face showed what a good time he was having!
After we returned to the dock and disembarked, Brody was presented with his very own Skipper's License.  He was told to hang onto the license and anytime he returns to the Jungle Cruise and shows it, he can drive again!  When you think of all of the souvenirs lining the many gift shops of Walt Disney World, this is a truly unique takeaway from the trip and one that he will be sure to keep for a long time.

So how can a little one in your family become the skipper?  Great question.  I know we were lucky enough to have the boat to ourselves which made it easy to be picked.  I've been on the Jungle Cruise countless times over the years and don't remember this, but I may have just been oblivious.  If you're interested, I would try to get to the Jungle Cruise early in the day when the crowds are less or try to snag a seat close to the skipper if you're traveling on a busier boat ride.  

Happy sailing friends!  And don't forget to watch out for those wild animals along the journey!


Best Bets for Preschoolers in Epcot

Continuing in my recent trend of debunking Disney myths, today I'll share what I think the best bets are for preschoolers in Epcot.  Epcot often gets a reputation as not being a "kid-friendly" park, but there are plenty of fun experiences to keep your kids entertained throughout the day.

Join Mickey and Friends at Garden Grill
1. Begin your day with breakfast at Garden Grill - Garden Grill is located inside The Land at Epcot and features character dining with Disney favorites Mickey, Pluto, Chip, and Dale.  This is a great choice for a character meal with little ones because you not only get to see some familiar characters, but the meal is served family style which means you get the benefit of all-you-care-to-eat without the hassle of running kids up and down to the buffet several times.  The food here is delicious too!

2. Check out all of the kid favorites inside The Seas with Nemo and Friends - After the Disney / Pixar blockbuster Finding Nemo hit the big screen with such success, Walt Disney World redesigned attractions inside The Seas to incorporate Nemo, Dory, Marlin, Crush, and others.  The aquariums, ride, and play area would be enough to entertain the littlest fishes in the sea, but there is one more attraction that stands out here, Turtle Talk with Crush.  Disney once again outdid themselves here by creating an interactive experience where kids get to talk to Crush and ask the famous sea turtle all about life under the sea.  In return, Crush will ask kids about their life in the "human tank."

Big smiles with Minnie Mouse!
3. See your friends at Epcot Character Spot - Don't leave Future World without visiting Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy inside the Epcot Character Spot.  This is a great attraction to FastPass since the line can often exceed 40 minutes and you get to visit three "must-see" characters in one place.  Don't forget your autograph books too!

4. Travel the World! - Where else besides Disney can you visit 11 countries in one day?  The many worlds at Epcot allow you to expose your child to some great cultural information, unique foods, and brief history lessons all in one day.  While all of this may be a bit much for your preschooler, he or she is sure to walk away with those bright little eyes wide open to the fact that there is a big world out there.

5. Say Goodnight with Fireworks - The fireworks and light spectacular that takes place in the center of Epcot is sure to delight everyone in your family - including the tiniest of travelers!  Currently, Epcot Forever shares the history of Epcot with fireworks, lasers, kites, and more.  What kid doesn't love watching the sky light up with magic?

And this is just a start!  Princesses will delight in a meal at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall and, with the addition of new attractions under construction, there is even more fun for little ones just around the corner.  With all of this and so much more in Epcot, don't skip this park when traveling with preschoolers in Walt Disney World.


2016 Disney Animated Movies Preview

Taking time to relax with the family and enjoy a good movie is a rare treat in our busy lives.  However, we will definitely be making time for a few family movies this year when we check out what's being released by Walt Disney Studios.  2016 promises to be an exciting year for Walt Disney Studios as a great slate of movies for the entire family await their big debuts!

As a mom with two very young boys, my interest is immediately drawn to the animated releases.  Zootopia will open to an eager public on March 4.  The trailer promises a funny adventure as an unlikely pair team up to solve a conspiracy in town.  My preschooler loves any movie with animals and he has really enjoyed seeing commercials and previews for this latest Disney hit!

The summertime brings the release of the long awaited sequel to Finding Nemo. . .Finding Dory!  Ellen is back to voice this hysterical character who is now on an adventure to reunite with her own family.  I can't believe it's been 13 years since the release of Finding Nemo - one of my favorite Disney / Pixar films yet and I look forward to sharing this with the next generation of Disney fans in my house.

If those two weren't enough, Disney is bringing one more exciting animated film this year - Moana.  In this film will be introduced to the latest Disney heroine who will be embarking on an adventure across the South Pacific.  My husband and I have taken a few trips to Hawaii over the years and I'm sure this movie will spark a love of the islands in our boys.

Of these upcoming Disney animated films, which ones are you most excited to check out?

Fantasy Comes to Life in the Festival of Fantasy Parade

One of the long standing jokes at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom is, "what time is the 3 o'clock parade?"  Well, you'll want to be sure to be lining the sidewalks before 3 o'clock each day to catch the daily showing of the Festival of Fantasy Parade.  I can't believe it has taken me until November 2015 to catch this gem which debuted March 9, 2014, but with midday nap times necessary when traveling with my little guys, it wasn't until our adult getaway for Wine & Dine Half-Marathon Weekend that we had the chance to see what all of the excitement was about.

I had read previously that this may be the best parade that Walt Disney World has ever imagineered and I would have to agree!  Here are 5 things to love about the Festival of Fantasy parade!

1.  Modern Characters Meet Classic Friends - This parade has a little something for everyone!  Young children who haven't had a chance to appreciate all of the classics will delight in seeing Anna and Elsa, Merida, and Rapunzel while also getting acquainted with classic characters.

2.  Imagineering at it's Finest - Walt Disney World is known for being on the cutting edge of creativity, but this parade takes it to the next level.  I mean, c'mon.  . .a fire breathing dragon that is this cool?  Where else would you see something like this besides Disney?

3.  Crowd Interaction - The Disney cast members that walk along the parade route and the characters that join them enjoy getting up close and personal with the crowd.  You feel like you are part of the show and the magic truly comes to life for little ones!  The parade has a street performance feel and flair about it which is both fun and engaging.

4.  The Costumes - You won't find a parade with more colorful and intricate costumes.  Details on some of our favorite characters are spot on while the supporting cast members don beautiful designs as well!

5.  Premier Viewing with FastPass Plus - Guests can use one of their three FastPass Plus allotments to experience the parade from the Flag Pole Viewing Area on Main Street U.S.A.  This means that you don't have to worry about grabbing a great sidewalk spot up to an hour ahead of time.  Instead, enjoy all that Magic Kingdom has to offer and then walk into your reserved viewing spot just minutes before the parade begins - a guaranteed great view!  We didn't use this for the Festival of Fantasy parade, but have experienced this same viewing location with FP+ for the Main Street Electrical Parade.

Check the times guide or your My Disney Experience app for more information regarding this entertaining parade!


Happy 44th Birthday, Magic Kingdom!

Walt Disney World Resort's Magic Kingdom opened 44 years ago today!  It's hard to even begin to fathom how many people have passed down Main Street U.S.A. or how many memories were made with magical first glimpses of Cinderella Castle!  To honor this birthday, here's 44 things you don't want to miss in Magic Kingdom:

1. Walk through Cinderella Castle

2. Meet Mickey at Town Square Theatre

3. Grab a Dole Whip in Adventureland

4. Take time to read the windows on Main Street U.S.A.

5. Get a hair cut at Harmony Barber Shop

6. Make your little princess a real princess at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. . .

7. And give kids the chance to become a pirate at The Pirate's League.

8. Dine with the Beast inside his castle at Be Our Guest restaurant.

9. Ride the horses on Prince Charming Royal Carousel

10. Take flight with Dumbo the Flying Elephant

11. Watch Wishes explode high above Cinderella Castle

12. Will you have what it takes to remove the Sword in the Stone?

13. Find Cinderella Wishing Well on the path between the castle and Tomorrowland.

14. Try breakfast with your favorite princesses inside Cinderella Castle.

15.  Don't miss your chance to meet Anna and Elsa at Princess Fairytale Hall.

16. Take a spin on the Jungle Cruise - you may even get to be the Skipper!

17. Conquer the mountains - Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and Splash Mountain.

18. Ride around the park on the Walt Disney World Railroad.

19. Get your family picture taken in front of Cinderella Castle.

20. Become a part of the story at Enchanted Tales with Belle.

21. Have an ice cream at The Plaza Restaurant.

22. Battle Zurg in Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.

23. Buy a pair of Mickey Mouse ears.

24. Take in the nighttime spectacle of the Main Street Electrical Parade.

25. Ride the monorail!

26. Visit Tom Sawyer Island.

27.  Check out the 999 haunts of the Haunted Mansion - I've heard there's always room for one more. . .

28. Listen to a performance by The Dapper Dans on Main Street U.S.A.

29. Join Alice and friends for a spin on the Mad Tea Party ride.

30. Watch the moving tribute to America and our military veteran's during the Flag Retreat.

31. Hum along to Zip-a-dee-doo-dah on Splash Mountain with the Brer Rabbit and his friends.

32. Join the fun of the Move It! Shake It! Dance and Play It! Street Party

33. See Walt's vision of the future on the Carousel of Progress in Tomorrowland.

34. Watch good battle evil at the Dream Along with Mickey stage show.

35. Participate in pin trading with Disney cast members.

36. Take a tour to learn backstage secrets of the Walt Disney World Resort.

37. Get "spit" on by one of the camels outside of The Magic Carpets of Aladdin.

38. Cross swords with Jack Sparrow at Captain Jack Sparrow's Pirate Tutorial.

39. Get to the park at rope drop and see the Magic Kingdom Welcome Show.

40. Attend a special event like Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.

41. See the tiki birds at The Enchanted Tiki Room.

42. Visit the mines with 7 of your closest friends on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

43. Fly to Neverland on Peter Pan's Flight.

44.  Get the theme song from It's a Small World stuck in your head for the rest of the day!

And that's just the beginning!  There's so much to see and do at Magic Kingdom!  Here's to many more birthdays, or as Buzz would say birthdays "to infinity and beyond!"

Your Guide to Baby Care Centers at Walt Disney World Resort

As anyone with little mouseketeers knows, traveling to Walt Disney World Resort with an infant can seem like a daunting and overwhelming task.  However, there are many things in place to make your vacation a little more relaxing and easier to manage.  The Baby Care Centers in each of the four theme parks at Walt Disney World do just that!  Thanks to these convenient locations, my family was able to enjoy a week in the parks with a 5 month old.  Below is a guide to each Baby Care Center so you know what to expect.

Animal Kingdom - This is my favorite Baby Care Center!  The rooms were spacious and colorful here.  When you enter, there is a small seating area with a hostess and supplies you may need - medicine, diapers, wipes, and even changes of clothing.  To the left, you'll find a waiting area for older children and husbands complete with tables and chairs as well as cushioned benches to enjoy the Disney movies that happen to be playing.  In the back are several changing tables, highchairs, and a microwave.  Off of this room are a few private nursing rooms which each feature their own changing table and a rocking chair.  The size and atmosphere of this Baby Care Center made it very relaxing for several nursing breaks during the day.

Each of the Baby Care Centers is located next to First Aid.
Magic Kingdom - This was #2 on my list of Baby Care Centers.  Located behind The Crystal Palace, this center features many of the same separate rooms as Animal Kingdom, only a little less spacious.  At certain times, the Baby Care Center felt crowded.  Another difference is that the nursing room here is not divided into private rooms, but rather it features one large area that is closed off and private from the rest of the Baby Care Center which has about 6 rocking chairs all together.  This room is exclusive to nursing moms so you don't have to worry about being uncomfortable.  I found the moms to be super friendly each time I entered and enjoyed conversations about our vacations, kids, and motherhood in general.

A quiet space to nurse baby inside the Baby Care Center at Magic Kingdom
Epcot - Epcot's Baby Care Center is very similar to that in Magic Kingdom.  Due to the way our schedule worked that day, I only visited this Baby Care Center once and it happened to be about 30 minutes prior to the start of Illuminations.  Perhaps it's because it was so late in the day, but the entire Baby Care Center was empty which worked great to nurse my little guy to sleep.  You'll find this Baby Care Center tucked away next to Mexico between Future World and World Showcase.

Hollywood Studios - This was my least favorite of the Baby Care Centers mainly because of the size.  This Baby Care Center is located inside of Guest Relations and is smaller than a hotel room.  It attempts to have the separate spaces of the other Baby Care Centers, but in doing so makes everything super cramped.  The nursing area here is separated into two private "booths" which was often not enough for the demand required at the park.  Also, each of the other Baby Care Centers had a dedicated cast member to assist moms and dads, but Hollywood Studios did not.  Overall, it served it's purpose, but some more space would go a long way in accommodating the many families traveling with infants.

The fact that Walt Disney World offers such great spaces for families with young children speaks to their commitment to making sure everyone enjoys their day in the parks.  We spent A LOT of time in the Baby Care Centers on our last trip and would not have been able to survive as well as we did without them.  Don't forget that Baby Care Centers are also a great place for older toddlers and young preschoolers too if they need a break from the heat or stimulation.  They also feature kiddie sized potties so that those who are potty training will feel more comfortable then in the busy, big public restrooms.  If you're traveling to Walt Disney World with young ones, be sure to check out these great facilities!

Magic and Lights at Walt Disney World's Main Street Electrical Parade

One of the many things Walt Disney World is known for is superb nighttime entertainment.  When visiting Magic Kingdom, guests can enjoy both Wishes and the Main Street Electrical Parade.  The parade first debuted in Walt Disney World during the late 70s and over the decades has made several different appearances.  The current run of the parade has been rolling down Main Street U.S.A. since 2010.

As a classic parade, you will find some of your favorite classic characters during this nighttime extravaganza.  Little ones will delight in seeing Alice, Snow White, and Cinderella during the parade while also enjoying the pirate antics of Captain Hook and Peter Pan as well.  The lights dazzle guests throughout the Magic Kingdom.  This is the perfect multigenerational parade as grandparents will remember some of their favorites right alongside mom, dad, and the kids too!

Walt Disney World offers a FastPass+ option for this parade which I really enjoyed using.  The viewing for FastPass+ is located in the Town Square area of Main Street, U.S.A.  I was impressed by cast members who managed the area to make sure only those with FastPass reservations were permitted to enter, even after the ropes were taken down and the parade began.  The viewing spot was a great option with our little travelers.  We were able to get a front row seat for our 3 year old without having to get to a viewing spot well before the parade even began.

Between the music, the lights, and the characters, the Main Street Electrical Parade is a nighttime marvel that will create many magical memories!

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!"


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?

What to pack on your DCL carry-on bag

You've made your reservations, booked your excursions, planned your flights, and now the big day is closing in!  It's time for your Disney Cruise Line vacation.  As your packing your bags, don't forget to pack a carry-on that you can use for the first few hours that you are onboard the ship.  Your checked luggage may not arrive in your stateroom until around 5 and you could be on the ship around lunchtime depending on your designated port arrival time.  You want to make sure that you are prepared to enjoy the ship and the first few hours of your vacation with everything you need.  Here are a few suggestions of items to pack as you begin your cruise!

The cruise terminal in Port Canaveral.  Let your Disney Cruise Line Vacation begin! 
1.  Bathing Suit - Whether you are traveling with little ones, teens, or on an adult only getaway, one of the first places to head on vacation is to the pool!  And if the pool isn't quite your thing, the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy feature a water ride called AquaDuck which sends you traveling out over the ocean.  If you happen to be cursing on the Disney Magic, you'll find AquaDunk - a waterside that sends you screaming down multiple stories before curving you out over the edge of the ship.  Both the water attractions and the pools are a perfect way to begin your trip.  Don't forget flip flops or water shoes to wear around the pool deck!

2.  Travel Documents - Very important!  Don't pack that passport or any of your cruise documents in a bag you check at the airport.  You'll need this important information for embarkation so make sure all of the documents you need are available for you and all members of your traveling party.

3.  Snacks - Once you board the ship, finding food won't be a problem - trust me!  However, you may find yourself with some downtime in the cruise terminal before boarding.  Especially if you're traveling with little ones, having a few snacks on hand can make the wait more manageable.

4.  Autograph Book - I always like ordering an autograph book online before my Disney vacation so that it's ready to go when we arrive.  This is true for Disney Cruise Line vacations too.  Mickey and Minnie are often in the cruise terminal posing for pictures during embarkation.  Having an autograph book available can help you start capturing those character signatures right away.

5.  Dinner Clothing - If you're like me, you dress pretty comfy casual on a travel day.  Coupled with relaxing by the pool when I arrive, I certainly would not feel ready for dinner in the clothes on my back.  Again, with DCL not guaranteeing your bags to arrive prior to dinner, you will want to have any change of clothing for dinner ready in your carry on.  Don't forget shoes too!  This is especially true if you happen to have a reservation at Palo or Remy on night one of your cruise as they do have a strict dress code.

Bon voyage and happy cruising on the most magical cruise line at sea!

No Fooling - Disney Magic for Boys

When I was a little girl, Disney meant princesses.  As I grew older, I one day hoped to share all of those princess memories with my own little girl.  And then I was blessed with two little boys.  But that doesn't mean that Disney doesn't have just as much for the young princes and pirates in your life - and that's no April Fool's joke!  Here are some "don't miss" attractions for boys in Walt Disney World.

Young pirate fans will find plenty to smile about in Walt Disney World!
The Pirates League - Think of this as the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for boys.  Instead of being transformed into a pretty princess, young boys (and girls too) have the chance to become fearsome pirates.  Like the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, reservations are recommended for The Pirates League and there is an extra charge.  Your young buccaneer will have a magical experience with this in the Magic Kingdom.

Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage - Sticking with the pirate theme, this journey out on the Seven Seas Lagoon departs from the Contemporary Resort.  The experience features some familiar pirate friends and some new ones along the way!  The boat takes you out to watch the Wishes Fireworks show from the lagoon while enjoying some buccaneer fun.  After the fireworks, you'll return back to the Contemporary where one final surprise is waiting!  Again, reservations are needed and you can make them by calling Disney prior to your arrival.

Star Wars Jedi Training Academy - Do you have a little Star Wars rebel on your hands?  Check out the Jedi Training Academy at Hollywood Studios.  Young Star Wars fans will be trained by some of their favorite characters in the ways of the Jedi.  This is a 20 minute experience and reservations are not accepted in the weeks and months leading up to your trip.  However, you do need to sign up once you arrive at Hollywood Studios for a time that day.  There are multiple opportunities each day to participate but sign up when you arrive to the park as space does fill up!

And of course there are plenty of other opportunities for young princesses and pirates alike to enjoy the parks.  Favorite rides, shows, and attractions will appeal to everyone.  So when traveling to Disney with boys, remember that there's much more then just princesses to enjoy!


Taking your Princess to Walt Disney World

Most little girls dream of being princesses.  And why not?  A great castle, fancy dresses, the best shoes, and Prince Charming to sweep you off your feet.  I get it.

A trip to Walt Disney World is where little girls get to see their dreams come true in front of them and meet those real live princesses who inspire their dreams.  So when you take your little princess to Walt Disney World, here are a few experiences that can add an extra dash of pixie dust to your already magical trip.

Princess Character Dining - A great way to get to meet and interact with the Disney princesses is to share a meal with them.  Cinderella's Royal Table is by far the most popular.  It's location in Cinderella's Castle inside the Magic Kingdom makes this a fairytale experience.  Other great options are Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot and 1900 Park Fare (dinner) at the Grand Floridian Resort.  You can find more information on what characters appear at each on the Walt Disney World website.  Since princess meals are among the most popular dining reservations at Walt Disney World, be sure to book them 180 days in advance.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique - Watch your little girl become a princess in front of your eyes!  Packages here include a range of services (and a range of prices) including a princess gown, make-up, hairstyling, etc.  Each girl is treated like royalty by her very own Fairy Godmother who performs her makeover.  There are two locations in Walt Disney World - Magic Kingdom and Downtown Disney.  This is another experience where you'll want to make reservations early!

Princess Meet and Greets - Chances are your little princess won't want to pass up an opportunity to share a hug with her favorite Disney Princesses.  At Magic Kingdom, you can always find Cinderella with Rapunzel and Anna with Elsa at Princess Fairytale Hall.  Wait times can be extremely long to meet these princesses (over 2 hours for Anna and Elsa when we walked past in November!) so you may want to consider using one or two of your FastPass reservations for this occasion.  You can also find many princesses throughout Epcot's World Showcase.  Look for Alice in England, Belle and Aurora  in France, Jasmine in Morocco, Mulan in China, and Snow White in Germany.  These princesses are not out all day, but you will find them in their respective countries several times during the day.

Don't Forget Sofia the First - The Disney Junior fans will not want to miss out on their favorite TV princess.  You can find Sofia hanging out at a Character Greeting location just outside of Disney Junior - Live on Stage at Hollywood Studios.  Also in Hollywood Studios, you can find Sofia (along with Disney Junior friends Jake, Doc, and Handy Manny) at the Disney Junior Play 'n' Dine breakfast or lunch at Hollywood and Vine.

Of course you'll find lots of ways to interact with your favorite Disney princesses.  Don't forget autograph books and cameras to capture those priceless moments when dreams really do come true!

Our Cars #DisneySide @ Home Celebration!

I received free products in order to host the #DisneySide @Home Celebration. The opinions expressed here are my own. 

On February 28th, we hosted our Disney Side party!  We were excited to invite friends and family to our house to celebrate our love of Disney and gather young Disney fans to enjoy food, fun, and festivities.  With the cold, ice, and snow that have plagued the Mid-Atlantic this winter, the Disney Side party was a great distraction.  The guests at our party ranged in age from 3 weeks to 63, proving that everyone can have fun with Cars!

As everyone arrived, there was food and Cars coloring pages waiting along with the Disney Parks Vacation Planning DVD.  The menu consisted of some Radiator Springs favorites including Mater's Tater Tots, Sarge's Nuts and Bolts Trail Mix, and Luigi's Casa della Pizza.  All of the food was a hit and it was a great way to start off the day.

After the food, we headed off to play Pin the Smile on Mickey - one of the games included in our Disney Side celebration box.  Our partygoers enjoyed the game and we had one smile that was almost perfect!  We used some of the games and toys from our Disney Side box as prizes for the game.  We also had fun in our Show your #DisneySide photo booth.  Kids and adults alike enjoyed using some props show our Disney Side!  We were also planning on playing Disney Bingo, but our preschool crowd was losing focus on organized activities and just wanted to enjoy each other so we skipped the second game and let the kids play in my son's Jake and the Neverland Pirates bedroom.  Not surprisingly, our Disney Side is not limited to one party on one day - we show it everyday in our house!

The Mickey cake was a big hit with partygoers - especially the kids!  They all enjoyed the festive tie-dye Duff cake and the sugar rush was enough to keep them all partying straight through nap time.  While the kids ran and played, the adults enjoyed each other's company.  I even got the chance to talk with my cousin about his potential plans to take his family of 5 to Disney this fall. 

Each family left the party with a gift bag of goodies supplied in our Disney Side celebration box.  Guests received HP photo paper, Twinings Tea, Disney Parks luggage tags, and Disney Side chore charts.  The kids also took home Cars favor boxes with some candy and Cars stickers from our party box. 

I felt fortunate to have been selected to host a #DisneySide @ Home Celebration and want to thank all of the sponsors for their amazing generosity, especially BSM Media and Disney Parks.  Remember Disney fans, there are always wonderful ways to let your Disney Side shine each and every day.  For ideas about letting your Disney Side shine, visit and follow #DisneySide on social media. 

I received free products in order to host the #DisneySide @Home Celebration. The opinions expressed here are my own. 

Gearing up for a Cars #DisneySide @Home Celebration!

I received free products in order to host the #DisneySide @Home Celebration. The opinions expressed here are my own. 
With our #DisneySide @Home Celebration less than 2 weeks away, planning is in full swing.  I've loved looking at Pinterest, Instagram, and following the adventures of fellow party hosts on Facebook and Twitter for ideas as well as tapping into some of my own creativity.  Invites for our party were sent via Facebook and we're anxiously awaiting responses from family and friends with preschool aged kids who would love to come and celebrate a Cars fun-filled day with us!

As any party host knows, one of the first things to decide upon is the menu.  An easy way to let your Disney Side show at any party you throw, is to theme your food with the event.  I had an idea of some of the menu items I wanted to serve and then tried to come up with creative ways to connect the food to characters from Cars.  Between some of my own ideas and the ones I found on Pinterest, here is what I've come up with for our menu.

During lunch, I'll be playing the Disney Parks Vacation Planning DVD.  And, as part of the party favors guests will receive, I'll be sending home several Disney goodies and some sweet treats for the kids too!

The other part of the party that I've been anxiously planning is the games!  The preschool crowd can be difficult to keep happy for a long period of time, so I've been trying to find games that are short and to the point while also being age-appropriate for the kids.  Included in my Disney Side party box were two games that I plan to incorporate - Pin the Smile on Mickey and Disney Bingo.  The Disney Bingo might be tough for little ones to navigate on their own, but I thought it would be fun to play one quick game and encourage parents and kids to play together.  The Disney Bingo winner and winner of Pin the Smile on Mickey will be treated to prizes that were provided to me.

Some of the games in our Disney Side celebration box!
I also found on Pinterest an idea for a game - Guess Which Cone the Car is Under.  Inspired by the Cozy Cone Motel, a car is hidden under one of three orange cones.  The cones are then switched around while the kids watch.  They then have to guess which cone the car is under.  I'm going to use the Cars stickers from my Disney Side party box as prizes for all kids that play the game.

Now it's crunch time to get the final details pulled together!  I can't wait to share how the party went when it's all complete!

For more ideas on planning your own party, check out and follow #DisneySide on social media.

I received free products in order to host the Disney Side @Home Celebration. The opinions expressed here are my own. 


Disney Junior Play 'n Dine (aka Preschool Heaven!)

If you are a Disney loving parent with a Disney loving preschooler at home, you have probably memorized just about every Disney Junior episode out there.  From Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to Jake and the Neverland Pirates to Sofia the First, these shows captivate the hearts and young minds of children - and I'll admit - even are fun for the adults to watch too!  When planning our trip to Disney with Brody, we knew that anything Disney Junior was a must do.  That meant that breakfast at Disney's Hollywood Studios Hollywood and Vine Restaurant was a no brainer!

Brody dressed as Jake for his breakfast!
Each day, Hollywood and Vine offers Disney Junior Play 'n Dine for breakfast and lunch.  Similar to most other character meals, this is once again a buffet.  And since we were there for breakfast, it was again similar to what you would expect to find on breakfast buffets. . .Mickey waffles, scrambled eggs, meats, fruits, yogurt, etc.  The food was good and hot, but it's the entertainment here that you don't want to miss if you have a Disney Junior fan in your house.

Enjoying a piece of watermelon while watching the characters around the restaurant.
This breakfast had the best character interaction I've experienced at a character meal in my time at Disney.  I know that some of this can vary day to day depending on the staffing at the restaurant, but I feel that the Disney Junior Play 'n Dine recognizes that they are catering to an impatient audience that doesn't sit well for long periods of time.  There were more dance and party breaks then I care to count and each one featured the characters actively engaging with the kids as they danced and sang along to their favorite Disney Junior songs. 

Marching around the restaurant with Jake- pretending we were pirates!  Arghhh!

The characters currently featured there (as of November 2014) are Jake, Sofia, Doc McStuffins, and Handy Manny.  Brody is not a Handy Manny fan, but was thrilled to meet everyone else.  In fact, he spent the rest of the day commenting on how pretty he throughout Sofia was!  We didn't get a chance to have Doc McStuffins visit our table because we had FP+ reservations for the Frozen Sing-A-Long show at 10:15 and the earliest time I could get for our breakfast reservation was 9:15.  This is one character meal that you definitely want to plan for the full 90 minute experience.  With the dance breaks and extensive character interactions, the characters take their time making their way through the restaurant - which I appreciate. 

Jake visited our table to say hi!

"Why yes Princess Sofia, you may kiss my hand!"
This is a character meal you don't want to miss if you have a preschooler traveling with you to Disney on your next trip!  Enjoy the fun, music, and laughter as the kids have a great time!!

Breakfast at Tusker House

On our most recent trip to Disney, we experienced yet another character breakfast.  When in Rome, right?  Brody has always loved meeting characters and character meals have become essential on any Disney trip we take.  While Dan and I have been to Tusker House for dinner previously, this was our first visit to the breakfast.

Location -  Tusker House is located inside Animal Kingdom - tucked away in the African village of Harambe.  Once again, we opted to schedule a breakfast before park opening.  This gave us a chance to enter Animal Kingdom before the rush of people and grab some great pictures without braving the crowds.

Food - This is typically where I say that all the food on the character breakfast buffets is the same, but options at Tusker House may pleasantly surprise some.  While you will find your typical Mickey waffles and scrambled eggs, you will also find some dishes with an African flair.  The flavors were delicious and definitely not your run of the mill breakfast buffet.

Character Interaction - The characters at this breakfast included Donald, Daisy, Goofy, and Mickey.  There was music and dancing too!  On this particular day, the characters were bunched together which was not ideal, but doable.  We had been in the restaurant about 45 minutes and completely finished our breakfast before we saw our first character and then we saw all 4 characters in 15 minutes.  All of the characters were playful and great with Brody.  We enjoyed autographs and fun pictures with each and then left to have a great rest of the day at Animal Kingdom.

I feel like a twin with Donald in this picture!

Unlike some of the other parks, Animal Kingdom is light on character dining experiences.  If you have a day planned here and are looking for a character breakfast or lunch, I don't think you'll walk away disappointed.



Eastern Caribbean Port Adventure Reviews

Our first DCL vacation was a 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Disney Fantasy in June / July 2013.  Choosing Port Adventures was an exciting and semi-stressful time for me.  I had never cruised before so was new to who world of shore excursions and we were also traveling with a 17 month old. Trying to find Port Adventures that would entertain Dan, Brody, and me equally was going to be a challenge.  We ended up booking a shore excursion on each of our ports of call (except Castaway Cay).  Here is what we did and our grade for the experience.

St. Maarten - French Riviera Beach Rendezvous
We decided to spend our time in St. Maarten playing on the beach at Orient Bay.  This was roughly a 30 minute ride from the port to the beach.  The beach was crowded with tour groups and chairs as well as pushy locals selling handmade items.  The beach itself was clean and the water featured big waves that are perfect for older children and adults.  Included in the package was lunch.  Lunch was actually better than I expected with several different choices.  Overall, I would give this excursion a B.  There was nothing to complain about or wrong with the excursion, just nothing exciting either.

St. Thomas / St. John - Coral World and Butterfly Garden
Since we planned a beach day in St. Maarten and on Castaway Cay, we wanted to do something a little different in the USVI.  There weren't many excursions to choose from that we thought would please a 17 month old, but an aquarium and butterfly garden seemed like good choices to us.  The trip to Coral World was first.  If you've ever been to a high quality aquarium (like we are fortunate to have in the National Aquarium in Baltimore), you will be sorely disappointed here.  Coral World was small, didn't feature the array of marine life we were used to, and not very interactive.  We had about 2 hours to explore there and wish we could have left after about 30 minutes.  After we finished at Coral World, a bus took us back to the port where the Butterfly Garden is located.  This was better than Coral World in my opinion, but still not great.  Brody fell asleep on the bus ride back to port so we didn't get to see his reaction.  This is really just a big enclosed garden with butterflies flying all around.  They were beautiful and we got some really great pictures, but it was another excursion that we were done exploring in less than 30 minutes.  Overall, I would give this excision a C-.  There are some positive reviews I've read out there about these, but I just didn't see anything special or worth the money in this excursion.