All Things Disney!

We recently returned from our first family trip to Disney and I wanted to share some tips!

Our best trip to Magic Kingdom was the first night we were there. I pre-purchased tickets for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party (right around $160 for two adults, our daughter was free since she’s under three). We got to the park just before 5 the first day and had to exchange our vouchers for the four-day hopper military ticket ($167 each, purchased at the Shades of Green Resort–so easy!). The helpful ticket mousketeer saw I was holding the Halloween party print out and explained to us that we could save our hopper pass for the next day and enter solely on our Halloween party pass. Awesome! An extra day at Disney. :)

We had dinner reservations at Cinderella’s Castle, so we went straight there. By the time we finished, the park emptied out, except for those there for the Halloween event. If there is anything like this when you’re visiting DO IT. There were no lines. We went on the Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups three times in a row, the Dumbo ride about twenty times, the new Ariel ride was empty, and everything in between. They advertise “trick or treating” which was pretty lame, so I’d skip that, and just do the rides. At the end of the evening, there was a parade. There were certain parts that may have been too scary for young children, but the music was fun and mostly upbeat, so our daughter danced around in joy, not noticing Maleficent casting her spells on the crowd. Cinderella’s castle was lit up green and the fireworks didn’t disappoint. Truly a great night.

I had done some research several months before our trip and discovered that it’s recommended you book your dinner reservations 180 days in advance for the more popular restaurants. I did and, even still, could not get in to Be Our Guest to save our lives. The next morning we tried to sneak in early for lunch there and were told that there were no openings, but they then issued us a card to come back an hour later and have lunch. I’ll be honest with you, as we walked up to Beast’s castle, I turned to my husband and said, “This is for me, okay?” and my inner ten-year-old self wanted to start singing “Little town, it’s a quiet village….every day like the one beeefore…” but I held it in. The environment there was amazing. The line moved quickly, then you order and choose where you want to eat: the great room (look outside the window when you’re there: it’s “snowing”) , the ball room, or the West Wing (complete with hologram rose losing its petals and a shredded portrait of the prince hung above a fire place). The food was fast and phenomenal, especially the cupcake with the “grey stuff.” I would have eaten every meal there if (1) there was an opening, and (2) we could afford it.

The other homerun restaurant choice I made was Le Cellier Steakhouse at Epcot. It was a b*tch to get to Epcot and took way longer than expected; we had to sprint to make it to our reservations (twenty minutes late), but it was totally worth it. Mommy and Daddy enjoyed some amazing Canadian beer over fantastic food, and our darling girl ate her weight in pretzel rolls. After dinner, Epcot was nearly deserted so Charlotte was able to run free–chasing ducks and exploring all of the countries.

We chose to arrive on Labor Day, as that’s supposed to be one of the least crowded weeks of the year to visit. It was still crowded, and SO hot, but absolutely less crowded than the other times I have been there.

With a toddler, we spent most of our time at Magic Kingdom and found a good schedule in heading to the park as early as possible, returning back to our hotel room for lunches and naps, then heading back to the park for an early dinner and more fun. I knew I wanted to be able to splurge on our dinners, so I made a bunch of muffins/granola/etc to eat for breakfast, and brought sandwich materials to make lunch every day. My husband made fun of me for this initially, but he appreciated it once we got there!

I was also pleasantly surprised that we were able to bring in food and drinks. At 90+ degrees every day, we were going through liters of water like it was cool (pun intended). Every morning we loaded the stroller up and no one ever said anything. Much appreciated.

Things we wished we knew ahead of time:
1. Bring twice as much water as you think you’ll need.
2. Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride is exactly the same as Dumbo, with a fraction of the line. 3. The Pirates of the Caribbean ride is entirely too scary for anyone under….25. No
matter how funny it is to you, in your childhood memories.
4. It’s a Small World is actually pretty scary too, and was a little intense for our first
ride…especially when it stopped moving for 15 minutes and we were trapped in the
loudest country, seemingly. Charlotte started crying and pointing at the water, saying,
“All done boat!!!” I was ready to jump in too.
5. If you want to meet Elsa and Anna you better find someone to bribe, somehow. The
wait times at Magic Kingdom were astronomical. I’m talking 60+ minutes and no
FastPass option.
6. Speaking of FastPass, research it and use it. You have to choose three at a time, so
pick the best time for the most important activity and don’t worry about the other two.
7. Toddlers love the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. Any time our gal needed a
break from the constant stimulation, we would go there and she was happy as
could be.
8. Hollywood Studios is in need of a face-lift and they’re trying to use Frozen to do it.
The Frozen show that they put on is cute, but is essentially a group sing-a-long that
lasted thirty minutes. We used our FastPass for that and were able to get in early
and sit in the front row. *Spoiler alert, it snows!
9. The Wandering Oaken’s activity center is fun. They have a big ice-skating rink and
a big snow pit. A certain amount of families are allowed in, then you can build
snowmen and castles, etc (all building materials are provided).
10. Allow the kids to pick out one toy that they love from the park. Charlotte liked a thousand things that she saw. But she only loved one. So we bought her that one, and she didn’t ask for anything else. :)

Have you been to Disney recently? Post your comments below!

Deployment Angel Book Sponsorship

Daddy’s Deployed (Personalized Children’s Books) is teaming up with the amazing forces of Powerhouse Planning, LLC to spread holiday cheer to 150 deployed military families…(How awesome is it that we’ve already hit 51 families before I could even send this blast out!?)

From the president of Powerhouse:

So I’m super pumped to be teaming with Daddy’s/Mommy’s Deployed this holiday season to help brighten some military families’ holidays. (Learn more about Daddy’s/Mommy’s Deployed here: www.daddysdeployed.com) I’ve made it my personal goal to get 150 “Daddy’s/Mommy’s Deployed” books donated. Each book (with shipping cost) is around $40. The cost is a little higher than normal books because each book is customized for each family. The kiddos in the book have the same hair, eye color, etc. as in real life…it’s amazing! The mom/dad that is featured as “deployed” also has the physical characteristics of their parent (including military branch specific items).

All that being said…I’m reaching out to families, companies, etc. that are looking to sponsor book(s) to help brighten our military families this holiday season. If you’re interested I can get you the price breakdown on additional books too. For people/companies that order, Daddy’s/Mommy’s Deployed would also love to feature you as a “Deployment Angel” during December.

Please email Bridget (Bridget@daddysdeployed.com) with your level of interest and we can chat further! Thanks for reading and considering giving back to our troops in this meaningful way!

 

Shades of Green: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Shades of Green

Last week, Craig, Charlotte, and I spent five days at the Shades of Green Resort at Walt Disney World. This blog entry will highlight the good, the bad, and the ugly. :)

When I asked for feedback on the resort a few weeks before our vacation, I was surprised about the mixed responses I received. It seems people either loved or hated the resort. When we arrived, I realized, however, the staff take their military resort seriously. With a gated entrance, and identification check, we felt safe and secure for the duration of our time there. Check-in was quick, and our room was ready early. Surprisingly, we felt comfort in our Navy Lodge-esque surroundings.

THE GOOD

The Cost. We paid $133 nightly, for a pool-side “suite” with two double-beds, a large TV and dresser, pull-out couch, and small table and two chairs. There was also a large closet (with very few hangers) and a mini-fridge.

The Pool. They’re currently renovating one of the pools (turning it into a splash/pool area for small children), but the other pool is a great size, and has two points of shallow entry walk-in shallow. My favorite part, being the mother of a brave two-year-old, was the abundance of neoprene life-jackets at our disposal. We also had fun watching the ducks waddle around and come into the pool, not at all afraid of people.

The Play Area. We didn’t find this until our last night at the resort, but there’s a new and amazing jungle gym next to the pool currently under construction. We all had a blast playing on it. Word of warning though–stay off the big slide if it’s potentially wet! We dried off everything after a rain storm, but my 6’3,” 215 pound Marine still shot off the slide like a canon. It looked like so much fun that I decided to try it too and ended up with a massive welt (as well as a new fear of slides!).

The Exchange. There are tons of Disney treasure items in here (less expensive toys, dresses, etc.), but also the essentials you may have forgotten at home, at a reasonable price. Make sure to grab water here before hitting the parks! (Note: we picked up the bubble wand for $7.50 and it was mind-blowing. If you’re there, get one and try to stop yourself from running through the hundreds of bubbles created from one swipe of the wand.)

The Location. The resort is about a quarter mile away from the monorail at the Polynesian resort, and I highly recommend walking there to get around (more on that to come).

THE BAD

Charm. Several people said that there is very little “Disney charm” at the resort, and I’d have to agree. There’s a giant Mickey statue when you first enter, but very few other signs that you’re at the happiest place on earth.

THE UGLY

The Buses. Here is the grumpy part of this blog entry. Again, we were warned that the bussing system is not ideal, but we decided to take our chances (bad idea). The bus schedule is pretty standard, but make sure you are waiting a few minutes early. We were headed to Epcot one afternoon and were disappointed to learn we needed to catch a bus to the Transportation Center, then jump on the monorail to Epcot (we could have taken the monorail to the TC and saved ourselves a lot of trouble). Our last day, we took the bus to Hollywood Studios and, were one minute late waiting for the elevator. Craig sprinted down the stairs to ask them to wait and the bus driver said curtly, “If I do not see them in one minute, I will leave.” Luckily we made it into his line of vision in time, but then Craig was yelled at for pulling the stroller onto the bus before it was collapsed. The bus drivers were not friendly, the buses were crowded and hot, and waiting for them to pick us up at the parks was the most painful part of the entire trip (including the ten hour drive to and from Florida). If we ever stayed there again, I would happily walk a mile out of my way to just jump on the Disney resort buses, or boats.
Overall, it was a pleasant experience. For the money you save in room charges (half the price of the Polynesian), it’s worth it, in my opinion. Have you stayed at the Shades of Green resort? Leave your thoughts below! Stay tuned for our next blog entry, where I will discuss all things Disney parks, including lunch at Be Our Guest (so amazing, and so hard to get in). Look for tips on how to get in!

Summer Travel Blog

Before every trip back to visit family, I always find myself saying the same things to my husband: “I can’t wait to get home and just relax.” “I’ll be able to get so much work done when I’m at home and have extra help with the baby!” “Honey, we’ll be able to go see a movie or go to dinner together.” He always smiles and nods in agreement, but he knows better. Being honest, none of those things ever actually happen, but I can’t be the only military spouse who has these lofty dreams, can I?

I should have recognized the foreshadowing in the most recent plane ride home to Illinois: my busy daughter turning into a raging…toddler, jumping up and down on her airplane seat, screaming along to “Let it Go,” and my husband looking up from his tablet long enough to ask, “Should we do something about that?” as I riffle through my bag, looking for something to bribe her down from the peaks of Arendale.

My parents are fantastic, and are always waiting just past security for us. My daughter squeals with glee and my husband and I no longer exist, as we struggle to drag all the necessary bags through the throngs of people: carry-on backpack stuffed with activity books, games, three different electronic sources of entertainment (kindle, ipad, and dvd player), and all the junk food she’s never allowed to eat except when on a plane and I need to keep her occupied; giant suitcases stuffed with everything we could ever possibly need, and rarely ever use; car seats and strollers: check, check, check.

My husband’s family lives just under an hour away, and we’re always working hard to ensure that both families get enough time while we’re in. This summer my better half, ever the Marine, put together a daily schedule (which I highly recommend to anyone in a similar situation) and we had the trip jam packed with excitement: trips to the zoo, aquarium, waterpark, and everything else we’re lacking in our sweet little Southern military town. The days are long and exhausting, there is never relaxation or rest, but I don’t think I’d have it any other way.

Of course there are horror stories of stolen suitcases (it even had white dog hair on it like ours! I can’t be held responsible for that!), car sick children, and Chicago traffic, and yet, I can never wait to do it all over again.

©Bridget Platt, 2014, Do not use without permission.