Things to do at Disney World that are FREE!!

Let’s face it, your trip to Walt Disney World is already costing you a fortune, so I bet you want to find a few things that are fun, but won’t cost you a dime. Here’s a few to get you started:

  • You can learn to Hula at the Polynesian, without having to be a resort guest!
  • Enjoy performances like juggling and fire eating on the Boardwalk.
  • Watch the Tree of Life come to life at night, it’s breathtaking.
  • Play Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom (pick up a pack of cards at the Firehouse on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom).
  • After you complete SOTMK, head on over to Adventureland to play A Pirate’s Adventure: Treasure of the Seven Seas Game.
  • There are spots in Epcot where children can sit and color. (Between my two girls, we came home with 4 beautiful colored Duffy bears 🙂 )
  • Watch the Nighttime Spectacular fireworks from one of the resorts that have an excellent view.
  • Trade pins with any cast member. You pick whichever one you want from him/her and you get to pick whichever one you get to give back. (Last time we went was my daughters’ very first time, and first time pin trading, so she didn’t understand it and she ended up getting a pretty cool pin from a cast member).
  • Art of Animation Resort and Animation Academy at Hollywood Studios both offer drawing classes.
  • Go swimming!
  • Go to Fort Wilderness for a singalong with Chip and Dale.
  • Play Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure in Epcot.
  • Children under the age of three eat free at buffets.
  • Visit Animal Kingdom Lodge to view the animals.
  • Drink sodas from all around the world at Club Cool in Epcot.
  • Browse other resorts.
  • Watch the the Electrical Water Pageant from Wilderness Lodge, Contemporary Resort, The Grand Floridian, The Polynesian, or Fort Wilderness.
  • Stop on by Guest Relations or at your resort’s front desk for a celebratory button saying “birthday”, “1st trip”, “anniversary”, etc.
  • Play at the playgrounds by your resort.  Let the kids dig up some bones at the Boneyard in Animal Kingdom or they can shrink at the “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” playground in Hollywood Studios.
  • Dance and play along with the bands in Animal Kingdom.
  • Sample candy at the Main Street Confectionery in Magic Kingdom.

Until Next Time,

-M

Things to Pack for Disney

Now, maybe I pack a little too much, but I always want to be prepared.

Let’s start with the toiletries:

  • Bandages & ointment
  • Antibacterial wipes & hand sanitizer
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray or bug wipes
  • Blister guards
  • Aspirin
  • Deodorant!
  • Contacts/cases/solution
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Feminine products
  • Stomach relief medicine
  • Allergy medicine (the pollen this year has been awful!)
  • Cold medicine
  • Thermometer
  • Throat lozenges
  • Tissues
  • Safety pins
  • Tweezers
  • Glasses repair kit
  • Stain stick
  • Zip top bags (large for clothes and small for cell phones)
  • Diaper cream & diapers/pull ups
  • Baby wipes
  • Soap/Shampoo/Conditioner (if you want to use your own)
  • Razor & shaving cream

Things for the kids. We drove, for 12 hours, so we were loaded down with all things fun. Here is what we packed:

  • Autograph book & colorful markers or fat pens (characters can’t hold skinny pens)
  • Glow sticks/bracelets/necklaces from the Dollar Store for the nighttime fireworks
  • Bubbles and small toys to keep the kids occupied while waiting in line
  • Disposable camera so they can take pictures too
  • Favorite stuffed animal/blanket to sleep with
  • Stickers
  • “Tinkerbell Bag”… once we got to the room we had a bag for the girls with a few little things that Tinkerbell left for them (like a Snow White Doll and a Minnie Mouse) so that they wouldn’t want so many souvenirs at the parks
  • Tablet for the car ride
  • Two outfits per day (accidents happen)
  • Stroller fan (I highly recommend the Dream Baby Stroller Fan. You can get it on Amazon.com)
  • Contact information: Either make necklaces/bracelets with your child’s contact information on it, or you can buy temporary tattoos on Etsy and Amazon. The tattoos have your child’s name and number on it just in case they get lost.
  • Bows, for every different outfit!

Everything else:

  • Hats (for everyone, that heat and sun will get to you)
  • Sunglasses
  • Ponchos from the Dollar Store
  • Bandanas or something to tie to your stroller to make it stand out
  • Garbage bags for dirty (or wet) clothes (they have small white bags for you to put your laundry in, but I brought garbage bags just in case)
  • Bathing suits & towels (you can use the resort towels, but I just find them thin and small, so I brought my own since we drove and had room)
  •  Chargers (phone, tablet, laptop)
  • Batteries (if you are bringing a stroller fan, bring enough batteries to change them out every day)

Until Next Time,

-M

The Memory Maker. What it is and Why You Should Get it At Least Once.

The memory maker: cast members take photos of you and your family members during your trip and you purchase the package (preferably before your trip because it is cheaper). I highly recommend you purchase this, at least once, for these reasons:

  1. If you are a parent who constantly has their phone or camera in their hand, like I do, and misses out on all the fun because you are too busy capturing the moment, you may want to consider purchasing the memory maker so that you can enjoy yourself while in Disney.
  2. You will want to be in some on the photos. You don’t want to be the one taking all of the pictures.
  3. You want your whole group in the pictures too.
  4. It’s the cutest thing when they catch your child’s reaction the first time they meet their favorite character.
  5. The cast members can do some pretty neat tricks with their cameras. When we took our picture in front of the castle, the cast  member made it look as though my daughter was holding Tinkerbell in her hands.
  6. In case anything ever happens to your phone or camera and you lose all of your pictures, you will have all of the ones from the memory maker… As we were walking out of the Magic Kingdom on our very last day my husband dropped his phone screen down and we couldn’t turn it back on. Our pictures from our breakfast at Be Our Guest were gone. I was devastated! We didn’t have pictures from the memory maker at Be Our Guest, but we were lucky enough to have the ones in front of the castle that morning because we purchased the memory maker.
  7. All of the pictures taken on the rides, such as Frozen Ever After and The Mine Train, are on the memory maker.
  8. The cast members will take pictures with your camera or phone if you ask them, no charge,  but their photos always come out so much better because they have a high quality camera.

So, in my opinion, the memory maker is the way to go, at least once. It is $170 if you purchase before your trip and $200 if you purchase during or after your trip. (2018 prices)

Until Next Time,

-M

The Difference Between Overly Planning and Not Planning Your Days at the Parks

Okay, well first of all, I am an extreme planner. I plan my daughters’ birthday parties months in advance, and I do the same with my Disney vacations. So, I would never go to the parks without being prepared, but if you are that type of person, then we’ll go from there. On our last trip I had everything planned out, from the moment we left the resort in the morning to the moment we left the park at night. I think it was a little too much on everyone else, so next time I am going to be a little less eager with my planning. We are even going to have one “chill” day at the Boardwalk and Disney Springs.  I do highly suggest you at least try to plan your day somewhat, for example your Fastpass+ or where you want to eat, or your day will probably just be all scattered and you will just end up wandering around and wasting time.

First of all, the dining reservations start 180 days before your trip, so you have to decide then which park you want to go to on which day (unless you get the hopper pass of course). So, if you want to eat at Be our Guest for breakfast on Monday morning, then you need to plan to start off your day at Magic Kingdom then go from there.

When you are within your 60 day window, you can start planning your Fastpass+. Start with the most popular: Frozen Ever After, Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train, Kilimanjaro Safari, Soarin’, etc. Once you get your Fastpass+, then you can start planning out your day. I reserved the most popular Fastpass+ in the morning because the lines are usually shortest in the morning.

If you do not plan your day through, you can still have a wonderful experience in the parks. There are many amazing quick service restaurants,  and even some snacks are big enough to  be considered a meal. If you are not staying at a Disney resort, you do get Fastpass+, but you can reserve them 30 days out, not 60 days from your vacation.

Like I said, I am just a huge planner and I wanted both my husband and both of my daughters’ first trips to be more memorable than ever, so I did my research. I even looked on all the maps several times to see where everything was so that I could make sure that our first ride would be next to our second ride and next to our breakfast, etc.

Until Next Time,

-M

Okay First Timers, Let’s Chat

Here’s a few things you need to keep in mind before you head to the happiest place on Earth:

  1. Make sure you have some comfortable shoes! I’m not talking about heels that match your outfit or sparkly dress-up shoes for the kids, I mean some good, comfortable tennis shoes. You will be walking, A LOT! Your feet will be tired. You want to make sure they don’t have blisters from your shoes as well. Which brings me to another point, you might want to pack some blister guards just in case you need them from walking so much. If you happen to buy some new shoes and socks before your trip, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to walk around in them a good bit before you do all that walking in Disney, so that you don’t get a blister.
  2. I know that most of you probably have a list of things that you will want to do once you get to the parks, I know I did!  My list was almost two pages long! What I have learned is, it is a good idea to make your list, and then prioritize it.  You will probably not be able to do half of the things you would like to do, depending on how heavy the crowds are, so keep that in mind. You don’t want to go into the parks and waste time not knowing what to do or where to go. If you do happen to go on a day that isn’t too crowded and you get to do most everything that you would like to do, then great.
  3. Take plenty of pictures! My kids got so tired of taking pictures with me, but now that we are home they absolutely love looking at all of their pictures from our trip. So, take pictures so that you can remember your wonderful vacation.
  4. I can’t say this enough, hydrate hydrate hydrate! That Florida sun beats down so heavily, especially during the summer, so you need to keep pumping those fluids. Take breaks if you need to as well. If you get too hot or too tired, go back to the room and rest, you can always go back to the park later. You can’t see everything in one day anyway. Rather be well rested for the next day than be sick and not be able to do anything the next day.
  5. Pack your sunscreen! Lather it up before you arrive at the parks, then make sure you reapply throughout the day. Also, pack a poncho. Weather is so unpredictable. We were lucky enough to go all 5 days with clear skies, but it did rain for about 15 minutes while we were inside at a character meet and great and our stroller got wet! So, pack sunscreen and a poncho, just in case!

Until Next Time,

-M

Need a Break from the Parks?

Do you need a break from the theme parks? Do you want to just relax and not run around catching ride after ride, or chase the crowds around? Well, here are a few other things you can do.

  • Water parks: yes, they are still considered parks, but they may not be as crowded as the four major theme parks. During the summer it is possible, though. The two water parks in Disney World are Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.
  • Disney Springs: Take a load off and grab a bite to eat. There is also bowling, shops, mini golf, movies, and more!  You can arrive by ferry boat from the Port Orleans, Old Key West Resort, and Saratoga Springs Resort. Every other resort and park you can either drive or take a bus.
  • Hang out at your resort.
    • Most resorts will have movies under the stars at night. Where they will show a movie either by the resort pool or by the woodlands. You can call the resort for the schedule.
    • Go swimming or hang out by the pool’s bar and grill. All resorts will have a bar and grill located by the pool. You can watch your family swim while having a cocktail and a snack.
    • Most resorts have an outdoor playground area for the kids to go run off some energy (if they aren’t tired enough from being in the park all day).
    •  There is also a baby sitting service for you parents who need a night out. Some parks have an in-room sitter service, some have a group service, and some have both. So, make sure you call before you book your sitter service.
    • There is usually some type of recreational sports such as basketball, tennis, golf, pony rides, bike rentals, fishing etc. along with a workout room and a walking track.
    • Most, usually all, of the resorts have more than one arcade. As long as your child is 3 or 4 they can probably play at least one game in their. My 4-year-old had a blast in there, and of course there are a lot of games geared towards the older kids too. The deluxe resorts have really nice arcades too.
    • Most of the deluxe resorts and some moderate resorts offer Campfires and afterwards stay for movies under the stars.
      • Animal Kingdom Lodge
      • Bay Lake Tower – at the Contemporary Resort
      • Boulder Ridge
      • Beach Club
      • Boardwalk Inn
      • Caribbean Beach Resort
      • Contemporary Resort
      • Coronado Springs
      • Grand Floridian
      • Old Key West Resort
      • Polynesian
      • Port Orleans
      • Saratoga Springs
      • Wilderness Lodge
      • Yacht Club
      • Cabins at Fort Wilderness
      • Villas at Grand Floridian
      • Campsites at Fort Wilderness
  • Go tour another resort. If you have an extra day, or a day that you are just tired of being at the parks, I suggest you spend that day touring another resort. Go have a meal somewhere else. Get in your car, or hop on a bus and head on over to the Polynesian or Grand Floridian or Animal Kingdom Lodge (can you tell I have favorites?). Go somewhere that you are not staying, or have never stayed, but maybe you are interested in and just want to look around. You don’t have to have dinner there, but hey, if you want to, go for it. If they don’t have any reservations, then eat at their quick service restaurant if you are hungry. Make it fun and spontaneous! Just remember, you cannot use the pools in other resorts, those are reserved for the guests only. Last time we were in WDW we tried to get into the gate at the Beach Club pool just to look  around, and our magic band would not even open the gate because we were not staying there. FYI, if you are going to go resort hopping, the Contemporary Resort is one of the best spots to catch the Magic Kingdom fireworks show.
  • Go hang out on the Boardwalk. The Boardwalk is usually not too crowded during the day, although it gets popping at night. That’s when the “clubs” open up and people start to migrate over from the parks. When the parks close, people head on over to the Boardwalk and Disney Springs, so if you are a night owl, I would say to go on over to the Boardwalk at night. It is a big party. If you are not a night owl, I would go to the Boardwalk during the day when just a few shops and restaurants are open and it is not very crowded at all. If you want a good spot to catch Epcot fireworks, I would choose a spot on the Boardwalk and cozy up there!

Until Next Time,

-M

Traveling with Little Ones

First of all, it will always be a BLAST traveling with a young one, no matter if you are flying or driving, right?! 🙂 In our case, we drove 10 1/2 hours (more like 12 with stops) with a 4- year-old and a 14-month-old. We left at 4:30 in the morning, thinking they would go right back to sleep, once we got them in the car. Boy, were we wrong! They stayed awake singing, screaming, talking, until after we stopped for lunch then they both finally knocked out!! Anyway, what I’m trying to get to is, pack toys, lots of toys and snacks while traveling.

Our travel list (food)

  • Breakfast (they had waffles when they first woke up at 4:30!)
  • Waters
  • Apple sauce pouches
  • Cheese sticks
  • Candy
  • Multigrain bars
  • Goldfish
  • Ritz bits

As far as toys go

  • Magna doodles (bring 1 for each child!)
  • We have a DVD player in the car, so we watched movies
  • Tablets
  • Coloring/mess free marker books
  • Stuffed animals/loveys/blankets
  • If you have a baby and you also have an empty wipes container, it is a good idea to put small toys inside the container (it’s even better if they are Disney toys) so they can put their hand through the hole and fish out the fun stuff. It will keep them occupied. Even my 4-year-old loved it.

And hope they eventually fall asleep and stay asleep!! 🙂

Now, since the souvenirs in the parks tend to be just a tad on the expensive side, what we did is we brought a bag for each girl (a Disney tote bag) and put it next to the TV when the girls weren’t looking. It was a “gift from Tinkerbell”. So, they each got a few presents that we brought from home that weren’t nearly as expensive as they would be in the parks. They were a Minnie Mouse, Snow White Barbie, autograph books, Minnie Mouse cup, and a Belle cup. Of course they each got to pick a few things in the parks, but they didn’t want everything they set their eyes on.

While packing my kids’ clothes, I put each days’ worth of clothes in a ziptop bag and labeled it: Sunday Magic Kingdom, Monday Animal Kingdom, Extra clothes, etc. with each child’s name on each bag so that in the morning while getting dressed I wouldn’t be throwing clothes around looking for what I had packed for which day. Also, in your park bag, make sure you bring extra clothes for the kids because, well accidents happen. Food gets spilled, potty accidents happen for little ones, weather changes, and  Splash Mountain happens! 😉 Surprisingly my baby only needed her extra clothes on the first day because I had her in pants and it was way too hot for that

Another good tip about traveling with young ones, the lines will be long, especially during the busy season. So, pack things that can keep them occupied during those times. We packed bubbles, Dory and Nemo suckers that spin, small coloring and marker books that will fit in the backpack, and snacks. For the fireworks it is a good idea to pack either glow in the dark bracelets, necklaces, or wands. You can get all of these things at the Dollar Store instead of spending a fortune on them in Disney.

On Hot Days: If you are going during the summer and you bring a stroller, please please please bring a stroller fan. You can get the Dreambaby stroller fan from Amazon for $10. We went in October, and just so happened to bring two stroller fans for our double stroller, “just in case” it was hot. Thankfully we did. It was probably almost 95 degrees every day. Our girls were sweating so badly! Also, make sure you bring extra batteries. The batteries run out every day, if not twice a day, because you will be running that baby all day long. Trust me, you do not want to buy a $15 spritzer fan in WDW, and if you have more than one child, you will be buying more than one.

Until Next Time,

-M

Changes to Disney World in 2017

  • New Princess Breakfast: Starting April 2, 2017 there will be a new character breakfast at Trattoria Al Forno on the Boardwalk. Special guests will be Eric and Ariel and Rapunzel and Flynn. I personally cannot wait to try this one out!
  • Rope Drop Changes in Magic Kingdom: Instead, rope drop is at the entrances to the individual lands (Fantasy, Adventure, etc.) Main Street now opens an hour before rope drop, so do all  the shops and restaurants. So, you can get your iconic picture in front of the castle without having to have a breakfast reservation, but the problem with that is, so can everyone else who wants to see rope drop. So, I think this is actually pretty smart on Disney, more crowd control, but it gets rid of all the nostalgia of the opening show at the gates.
  • Pandora, World of Avatar at Animal KingdomOpening this summer, this is going to be one of, if not the biggest change coming to Disney World this year. It will feature two rides. The Avatar Flight of Passage, which will be similar to Soarin’ in Epcot. On the Flight of Passage, guests will be on a motion flight simulator, flying high over Pandora, on a banshee!! Then there’s the Na’vi River Journey which takes you down through the rain forest.
  • Weddings in Magic Kingdom: You can now get married IN the Magic Kingdom (whattttt?) After park hours you can take a trip down Main Street in Cinderella’s carriage, get married in front of her castle and have a private reception in fantasy land with 300 guests! So, what are you waiting for? Call a Disney Wedding Planner today!
  • Olaf will officially be joining in on the fun in Hollywood Studios for meet and great! So don’t forget to have your autograph books ready
  • Star Wars Guided Tour: A 7 hour guided tour that is all things, well Star Wars. It includes Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, Jedi Training (ages 4-12), a tour through Star Wars Launch Bay, dinner at Backlot Express, Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party, and fireworks viewing. ($121)
  • New Restaurants coming to Disney Springs: The Polite Pig, Paddlefish, Edison, and Planet Hollywood are all to make their appearance by spring this year.

Until Next Time,

-M

Just a few tips

Bring Cash. 

  1. It’s always good to have a few dollars on you, but especially for circumstances such as this. While we were in the hotel, my 14-month-0ld had an “accident” all over the bed we were sharing. 😦 So, “mousekeeping” got a few extra dollars for that mess. It’s always nice to leave them a little extra though, especially if you leave a giant mess, they might even leave you a little something extra in return, like towels in the shape of animals or extra soaps, etc.
  2. If you have the dining plan, tip is not included, you will need to tip your waiters/waitresses at the restaurants, so bring cash for that as well.
  3. You can always buy souvenirs with a credit card, but their are little things, such as a pressed penny, that will only be about 51 cents, so bring some change if you are interested. Those are the best, and cheapest types of souvenirs.

Dining Plan

  1. There are a few things, like the famous nutella waffle at sleepy hollow in magic kingdom, that will cost a whole quick service credit, but only costs $7. You are better off just paying for cheap things like that out of pocket. Save your quick service credits for an actual quick service meal, unless of course you trying to get rid of them because you aren’t using them. Then, of course, it’s okay.
  2. I have been looking and looking for the Free Dining Plan, to try to get it in January. Seems as though the free dining promotion comes around the fall months. It usually is announced in July, and comes out around August, November, and December. for some reason, not so much in October. For example, this was 2016:
    • August 23 through October 1
    • November 15 through 21
    • November 26 through 28
    • December 10 through 21
  3. You can book your vacation before you find out about free dining, in hopes that you booked it in the time of the free dining, only having to put down the $200 deposit. Then, when the free dining comes out, if you want to change your dates, or resort for a better dining package, you can without penalty, as long as you are still within the month window, but just remember, if you have already booked dining reservations, such as Cinderella’s Royal Table, it might be hard for you to cancel and get them on another date.

Until Next Time,

-M

Tips and Tricks

It’s only been a few months since we’ve been to Disney, and I am dreading every day that I wake up and I am not there. So, I am doing my research, and trying to help you guys out as well as myself so you and I can get the best out of “our” next trip!

  • Free Dining & Disney resort rates: if you want to qualify for free dining, you have to sign up for the package deal; room, dining, and park tickets when you book your room (which I’m sure you most of you will do). Note: if you stay in a value resort you will only get free dining for the quick service dining plan. If you stay at the moderate resort (such as Port of Orleans), that is when you will get free dining from the Disney dining plan (with table services also). Also, you cannot get both free dining and percentage off of your room. It is one or the other. Depending on how big your party is, and how much you will eat will depend on which value is better for you.
  • If you need one, I would not suggest renting a stroller from Disney World itself, especially if you have more than one child. We brought our 14-month-old and 4-year-old and rented a double stroller from http://www.kingdomstrollers.com . We were very pleased.  For 7 days it was $75, and they dropped off and picked up the stroller at the luggage pickup at out hotel. Otherwise, you would have to wait in line every day to pay, rent, and return a hard, bulky stroller at Disney World, and have the risk of them running out of strollers.We were able to stay at the parks all day all 5 days, and my 4-year-old even took naps in the stroller all 5 days (amazing!).
  • You can meet most of the princesses in their countries in Epcot, instead of trying to chase them around the Magic Kingdom. Belle (in her blue dress) in France, Jasmine and Aladdin in Morocco, Mulan in China, Snow White in Germany, Elsa and Anna in Norway.. etc
  • I LOVED going on the Kilimanjaro safari in Animal Kingdom.When we went, it was in the evening, and not all of the animals were out, but there were still a lot of exotic animals, a lot that I have never seen before. So, this time we are scheduling an extra day where we don’t go to the parks, a day to “sleep late” do you do that in Disney? I know I don’t, but I have to jump on the rest of my family to get up! Anyway, we are going to go tour Animal Kingdom Lodge and eat at Sanaa and watch the animals graze (did you know you could do that? I didn’t.).
  • Another thing, I would not recommend attending the parks on the day that they have extra magic hours. They are going to be super crowded, and it may take you an hour or more just to get in, and you’re missing that extra hour right there. If you just so happen to be an early person, you can book an early morning breakfast at another park, and get special admission into that park, example: if Hollywood Studios is having Extra Magic Hours, get reservations at the Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom for 8:45 (or earlier if you prefer) and get into Magic Kingdom earlier that day so that you are in Magic Kingdom before everyone else and you don’t have to wait in a long line to get in, and usually if you have young children, you’re not going to last until 9pm anyway, I know we didn’t. And the hopper pass, we paid for 5 days, but only used it once because we had reservations at a different park. So, that is up to you too. You can always buy them at the parks, but it is going to cost you more money.
    • Update: now that the new rope drop procedure has changed in MK (2017), everyone can get onto Main Street at 8 AM, but not into the lands until 9 AM.

Until Next Time,

-M