When we first visited Walt Disney World, we were diehard 1 park per day ticket people. Our kids were 3 and 8 years old our first time and it seemed logical not to push the kids from park to park each day. We did one park, were there at opening, took a break midday for naps and returned to the same park each night for fireworks or whatever. This is how we did it for the next 13 years. Do we need to pay the extra price for park hoppers? “No!” was our answer. We will do one park per day.
Then one day flights to Orlando were SUPER cheap. I mean $70 round trip FOR BOTH OF US. Who can pass that up? Not us. My husband and I decided on a kid free weekend and quickly booked a hotel. We were only going to be in the parks for 2 or 3 days and I found out that the new projection show started At Magic Kingdom while we were there. Here was my problem, I loved the old projection and wanted to see it one last time, but I also wanted to see the new projection show since we would be there. Solution – park hoppers!
We went to all 4 parks in one day. We went to Animal Kingdom just to ride Expedition Everest. I still wasn’t completely convinced and my next trip with my son we went back to our old one park per day tickets. My son didn’t know what he was missing, and it was SUPER hot that February, so we crashed midday and I didn’t miss not park hopping.
Our next two trips we had free dining and park hoppers. Let me tell you, that is the best of both worlds! We could hop from one park to another just to eat and ride a couple rides. It gave us the flexibility we didn’t know we were missing. On our last trip we were finished in Animal Kingdom by 9am thanks to Extra Magic Hours and headed back to the hotel for a quick break before our brunch reservation. Then spent the afternoon and evening at a different park.
We have decided that park hoppers are our go to ticket. Our kids are older and ready to bounce from park to park. Would I do it with smaller kids? I didn’t, but now I’m rethinking that decision. When my kids were tired of one park, we could have headed to another after the midday break.
One quick thing about park hopping to consider, if you are depending on Disney transportation to park hop, you can lose a lot of time waiting on the buses. (That’s true about the bus system even if you are only doing one park per day.) When we rented a car, it was easier and faster. Using the Skyliner from Epcot to Hollywood Studios works great for park hopping.
Next time you are trying to decide what type of ticket you want to buy for your next Disney World vacation consider these questions:
Does your family finish riding all the rides in a park and want to leave the park early and then are bored the rest of the day?
Do you want the flexibility to dine at any park on any day? This is a great alternative during Epcot’s Wine and Dine.
Does your family want to see any of the nighttime shows more than once? (I saw Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom 3 times in one trip)
During your next trip, try out the park hoppers and see if they work for you and your family.
Quick note – At Disneyland, we ALWAYS get park hoppers. Disneyland and California Adventure are just across the promenade from each other and the fastpass systems are not linked, so we jump back and forth getting fastpasses and riding rides all day long.
The 2018 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is right around the corner, starting on August 30, 2018 and going through November 12, 2018. There is always so much to do and see, (not to mention taste!) at this staple Epcot festival. One of my favorite things to do is to check out all the various food booths that circle World Showcase, not only to look for returning favorite dishes (hello Belgium Waffles!) but also to look at what new tidbits are being offered. This year’s new offerings including the Impossible Burger Slider, with wasabi cream and spicy Asian slaw on a sesame seed bun (A vegetarian dish), as well as a New Brunswick Slider, which is a “Pot Roast Style” beef brisket on a potato roll.
In addition to the new food, there’s over some exciting new events being offered, including Sunday Brunch With the Chef. This experience includes a brunch buffet followed by a conversation with some of the most recognized chefs in culinary television. I’m a big fan of both Chef Art Smith and Chef Carla Hall, who will both be a part of this event.
One of the other things I always look forward to at the Food and Wine Festival is checking out the new merchandise, and this year is no exception. I can never resist the trash can shaped salt and pepper shakers that are released each year, and I’m sure I’ll be adding to my collection again with this year’s cute design. Figment is once again the honorary mascot for the Food and Wine Festival, and is being featured on various merchandise including coffee mugs and the exclusive Dooney and Bourke purse.
Salt and Pepper Trash Cans
The bottom of the purse is too cute!
Of course, no visit to the Food and Wine Festival is complete without checking out the Eat to the Beat Concert Series, which has over 30 different acts performing at the America Gardens Theatre. Along with some traditional returning favorites like Sugar Ray and Tiffany, this year has some fun new acts coming to the stage, including 98 Degrees and Vertical Horizon. Don’t forget you can always book an Eat to the Beat Dining Package where you can you can eat at select restaurants and have reserved seatings for the concert being offered that night.
What event are you looking forward to the most at the Food and Wine Festival? Will you be watching for a certain band at Eat to the Beat? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to contact Adventure is Out There Travel for all your Food and Wine booking needs.
Without a doubt, fall is my favorite season, and Halloween is my favorite holiday. I especially love seeing the fall decorations come out at Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. The fall wreaths of Mickey Mouse and various pumpkins on the roofs of Main Street make me want to have hot apple cider and plan my Halloween costumes.
The best way to enter Main Street USA
Spooky decor (and some surprises)
But my favorite part of Halloween at Walt Disney World is Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. This hard ticket event is the perfect way to get your spooky on with a special parade, fireworks show, and stage show starring my favorite witches, the Sanderson Witches from the 1993 movie Hocus Pocus.
Casting a spell (Photo by Oh My Disney)
They’ll put a spell on you! (Photo by Oh My Disney)
The witches sing, cast spells, and have some special Disney villains join them on stage! I can’t wait to see the Sanderson Sisters again this year.
The parade and fireworks during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party are also a great way to celebrate the season. Not only will you get the theme song “Boo to You” stuck in your head (in the best way possible), but you’ll also get to see some of your favorite Disney characters dressed up in their Halloween best. My personal favorite is seeing the Headless Horseman ride down Main Street at the beginning of the parade, representing one of my favorite Disney shorts, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. The gravediggers from the Haunted Mansion, scraping the pavement with their shovels is always a treat as well!
Gravediggers! (photo by WDW Shutterbug)
The Headless Horseman (photo by WDW Shutterbug)
But the part my kids like the best about attending Mickey’s Not so Scary? The candy! There are various treat stations set up all around Magic Kingdom where your candy bucket will be filled with lots of sweets. Check the park map as you walk into the park to see where these candy stations are located.
Will you be going to Magic Kingdom to see the decorations? Do you want to go to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party? Let us know in the comments below!
Since it is time for Epcot’s Food & Wine Fest, I thought it was a perfect time to write about our 2016 Fest experience. My husband and I went to the Fest during the last weekend of the festival. It was a last minute decision because we had already had a vacation in 2016 (see blog about Alaska) and we had not planned to go to the festival in the same year as our Alaskan cruise.
My husband is somewhat of a foodie, and the festival is something he had expressed a desire to experience “some day”. Once the decision was made to go, I was able to snag a Pirate room at the Caribbean Beach Resort. We thought the decor was fun!
We purchased the dining plan, so we made our first night’s dinner at Boma in Animal Kingdom Lodge, featuring an African flavor. We arrived early so that we would be able to enjoy the decor of the Lodge and go outside to view the animals housed on the grounds. The food was excellent at Boma.
After dinner, we went to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. The tickets are an additional expense, but I am a Christmas nut and I was very much looking forward to the party. Main Street U.S.A. was all decked out for Christmas with lights, wreaths, music, and it even ‘snowed’! We went on a few rides, enjoyed the free hot chocolate and cookies, shopped a bit and then watched the parade. The Disney characters were all dressed up for Christmas. The music, the lights, the smells……oh, how I loved it!
The following day we went to the Food & Wine Fest. I had done a little research and knew that we could use our quick service for some of the food (one quick service will get you 3 samples of food but must be used at the same booth). I figured that we both could pick up food at different booths and share. The booths all have a menu posted by them so it is easy to see what they each serve. Below are photos of one of the booths and a sample of food. I took many photos of booths and food and, looking through them, I wish I was back there!
During our trip, we enjoyed Mickey’s Party at the Magic Kingdom at night, two days at Epcot’s Food & Wine Fest, one day at the Magic Kingdom, and one day at Animal Kingdom. For a last minute trip, we were able to do all the things we wanted and even a few things we didn’t expect to do! We had a few fast passes but, when we did not have fast passes, we were still able to ride other rides without too long of a wait, with just a few exceptions. Since we did not have any little ones with us, if we chose to do a long wait, it was do-able.
Three tips: 1) instead if purchasing a dining plan, a quick service plan would do; 2) I would not recommend going on the last weekend of the festival. It got extremely crowded, especially after 4 o’clock or so; and 3) I recommend doing research before you go to find out which booths serve what foods so you can make a daily food plan.
If anyone was considering the Food and Wine Fest and/or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, I would definitely encourage them to do so!
In Part 1, I shared information about flying to LAX from Midway and getting to Disneyland via Disney’s contracted shuttle service. I also introduced the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. To reiterate some comments about the grounds, the G.C. is impeccable. There are so many qualities that make it stand above the rest of your hotel options. I will be revisiting some previously discussed and expanding further. Enjoy, and if you haven’t read Part 1, you may want to read it before continuing.
The proximity to the parks from the Grand Californian is a feature that some overlook. The ability to be anywhere in California Adventure or Downtown Disney and return to your room within 10 minutes is a convenient characteristic. Couple that with travelling with a five and two-year-old and it’s a recipe to enhance everyone’s moods. I would estimate the time from Disneyland to our room was between 15-20 minutes. This is similar to staying on the monorail loop at WDW and returning from Magic Kingdom.
We arrived a couple hours before our reservation at Blue Bayou. We did not waste any time heading over to Disneyland. We exited the Grand Californian by way of their California Adventure entrance. This may have been a mistake. It was our first time in the park, and we found ourselves engrossed with several aspects of the park during our walk. For example, our walk took us by my wife’s and my favorite attraction, Soarin’. It was so difficult just walking right by! Another thing I regret was walking down Buena Vista Street from the park to the main entrance too quickly during our first visit. I found some of us wanting to stop multiple times. However, the Grand Californian’s entrance to California Adventure is amazing if timed correctly. It was BY FAR the quickest/easiest entry into any Disney park we have ever completed. The Plaza area between the two parks is very simple. I may have been expecting more, but I feel that Disney could do a bit more here. The Plaza seemed baron and bland. I get it. They want you to move into the parks, but it felt like it was missing something. Getting into Disneyland was surprisingly quick. It was mid-afternoon on a Tuesday, so that was probably why it was so fast.
We wanted to take a few pictures on our way to Blue Bayou.
If you are looking for a place to eat in Disneyland, do a little research on Blue Bayou. You will find that almost all reviews of the restaurant are positive. You are also going to find that the place is very busy and can fill up quickly. We arrived to Blue Bayou early. We asked if we could be seated early, and they accommodated us without any hesitation. Again, our timing was perfect because there were a lobby full of people waiting when we were done eating. The atmosphere and theming at Blue Bayou is amazing. The setting is nighttime in the New Orleans bayou. Disney did an outstanding job mimicking the theme. Additionally, the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction begins floating through the outer perimeter of Blue Bayou. Some of the best seats in the restaurant are near this perimeter. Blue Bayou offers guests Cajun fare. They have a decent amount of options to choose from. Here is a link to their dinner menu: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/dining/disneyland/blue-bayou-restaurant/menus/dinner/. I tried the gumbo and Monte Cristo sandwich. Both items were delicious. Below are pictures of the food.
After dinner, we decided to visit a few attractions. Our two-year-old daughter decided she would rather wait in lines on another day. Instead, she and mom did a little shopping on Main Street. That left our five-year-old son and me to experience some of the attractions. We were already near Pirates of the Caribbean and the wait wasn’t too bad. He had been to Walt Disney World, but Pirates was down for refurbishment during his visit. This was his first time on the ride. It went really well for the most part. He noticed that the first scene was in the restaurant where he just had eaten. He got a little scared when it went dark, but, knowing his personality, I knew he would be fine. He LOVED the first drop! This kid likes fast and wild rides (unlike his dad), so I was not worried about the drops. He got a kick out of the scenes. However, the boats got backed up badly. We were stuck near the drunk pirate saying, “Here kitty, kitty” for nearly 10 minutes. It was awful. I kept trying to have him look at other scenes and talking to him about other things, but we were on the right side of the boat very close to the animatronic. After the scare on Pirates of the Caribbean, he decided he wanted to go up Tarzan’s tree. He actually caught me off guard. By “catching me off guard,” I mean he took off running to the attraction and up the stairs without us discussing it. Luckily, we were close and, he’s five, so it was relatively easy catching up to him. The wait for Jingle Cruise was surprisingly low, so I knew we had to ride it. I think the wait was only around ten minutes. My son was unimpressed. I was amused and enjoyed the Christmas overlay which I’ve never seen before. I took some pictures of the Jingle Cruise, but they turned out terrible. Next, we headed to Fantasyland. In Fantasyland, we visited Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and one of our favorites: Peter Pan’s Flight. As much as I wanted to stay, I knew he would be getting tired soon, so we headed back to the room. I snapped one of my favorite pictures from the trip on the way out of Disneyland.
Come back to enjoy the rest of our Disneyland trip.
Justin Eggenberger, Co-owner of Adventure is Out There Travel, LLC
You have your trip booked, dining reservations made, fast passes selected, now it’s time to pack! It can be overwhelming. You may ask yourself, “How much do I pack and what will I need in the parks every day?”
Let’s start with the basics, clothes for everyday and I usually pack an extra set just in case. Now the resorts have laundry area, but who wants to wash clothes on vacation! I learned this the hard way. I didn’t quite pack enough. Disney provides shampoo/conditioner and soaps of course, but; if you have long thick hair like myself you may want to bring your own. The travel sizes from the store work great!
You’re going to get hungry, so be sure to bring snacks! We bring snacks to have at the park and in the room. The room they take up in your luggage leaves space for you to bring home your souvenirs. This will help save a few dollars when you need a little something until your next real meal.
Chargers for whatever electronics you may bring with you. We have phones, laptops and tablets. Another good idea, (a friend suggested a couple years ago) is a power strip for your room. It makes it much easier to plug in a few gadgets at one time. We were able to put the strip up on the table, making it easier to get to as well.
Band-Aids, you will do lots of walking! Your most comfortable shoes can cause blisters with all that walking. They are also handy to have on hand, just in case little ones get boo-boos. It is Florida, so sunscreen is essential especially during the summer. You would not want to be miserable with a sunburn at Disney.
If you are flying and using Magical Express, pack whatever you might need as soon as you get to the resort or airport in your carry on. It will be a few hours before your luggage arrives at your resort room and you will definitely need your magic bands. Magic Bands are needed (or speed things up) to check in to Magical Express at the airport. If you do online check in, you may receive notification before you arrive at your resort that your room is ready. You will be able to go straight to your room and by-pass the lobby and check in.
I have included my typical packing list for a Disney trip. Now on trips where we have matching shirts, I list those individually so I do not forget one. The column “In tote” is my Disney tote, that I keep things together ready to pack for our Disney trips. The items marked with an * are items we put in our carry-ons. You may not need as many items in your carry on, but bored kids on a plane are not fun.
Disney Packing Checklist
wipes for park bags
magical express info*
snacks for flight*
*put in carry on
Packing for the parks
We always take bags. One, I keep my phone, maps, schedule (yes, I am THAT Disney person!), wet wipes, small wallet with cash and gift cards and a portable phone charger. A portable charger is a great investment. You will have your phone out a lot taking pictures/videos or checking the Disney World app with your fast passes, reservations and maps so batteries tend to die much quicker than usual. The kids “carry” drawstring backpacks with their autograph books, pressed penny change tubes, ponchos (you never know when you will need it in Florida), snacks, and small wearable fans if we travel in summer.
Make a list, start early and add to it as you think of something. Have it handy while you are packing, makes packing for the magic less stressful.
Our family traveled to Disneyland over the Thanksgiving holiday. Ideally, we would have chosen a different time to visit, but several personal factors impacted our travel dates. We flew out of Midway, located in Chicago, IL, on Tuesday morning. The flight lasted four hours. We have only flown as a family of four on one previous trip. Our five-year-old son and two-year-old daughter fly a lot easier than their anxious father. My wife, Tracy, is definitely the “team captain” when it comes to flying, and dad just plays pack mule. Moving the kids through security and other congested areas is definitely a team effort, but Tracy handles most of their needs throughout the airport. Additionally, she flies with a child on each side of her, which demands a great deal of energy and effort. My primary duties are hauling the luggage and assisting our son to and from the restroom. The first time we flew into LAX, we obtained a rental vehicle with AVIS. (Remind me to create a short post on how big of a nightmare getting the vehicle was.) This time we used Disney-contracted transportation.
As expected, the contracted shuttle service in L.A. is much different than that of Orlando. In L.A., there are no cast members to make your luggage magically appear in your resort room. You have to gather your luggage and haul it out to a waiting area. The area is labelled and identified with green markers. The pickup area at LAX is a step above (as in worse than most) the cluster most airports are. It is setup in a giant “U.” (See the graphic below.) We waited in one of the first stops, which meant it took nearly an hour for the shuttle to make its way around the entire pickup area. It was miserable. After completing the tour of the pickup area, the driver announced that we were on our way to Disneyland which could take up to an hour and a half. Luckily, the traffic was not bad and we made it in about 40 minutes. This commute was a stark contrast to our drive to Yorba Linda in the summer of 2016. The round trip cost our family slightly less than $100. I don’t recall the exact dollar amount. Here is a link to Disneyland transportation site: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/guest-services/transportation/
We arrived at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa mid-afternoon. The resort is incredible. Upon arrival, cast members welcomed and asked us if we needed anything. They also directed us to the lobby’s check-in desks. The cast member was efficient and friendly. He also was quick with valuable information about getting to our dining reservation and utilizing the extra magic hour the next morning. He also shared information about the resort. Overall, the cast member was a great introduction to the Grand Californian.
The lobby and atrium of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa are magnificent. The theme is described as “Craftsman-style Elegance” by Disney. It is so much more than that. The color is a dark wood, which comforts guests with a cozy feeling. Within the atrium is a very large fireplace with a sitting area near it. We were there while Christmas decorations adorned the area. The decorations featured an extremely large tree and a magnificent gingerbread house. The decorations had a classic feel without going over the top. This trend continued throughout the parks. Our first day in California was the warmest, but we did not swim. However, the pool area is extremely nice and offers enough space for a vast amount of guests. The Grand Californian offers two amazing features, which no other Disneyland resort can offer-an entrance to California Adventure and Downtown Disney. The resort also has multiple dining areas highlighted by Napa Rose and Storytellers Café. Both offer wonderful dining experiences. There is also a snack area called White Water Snacks and two lounges. Overall, we decided we would stay at this resort when we return to Disneyland.
Come back to enjoy the rest of our Disneyland trip.
Justin Eggenberger, Co-owner of Adventure is Out There Travel, LLC
Traveling to Disney World with little ones can be the most magical (and exhausting) trip you will ever take! The first time we took our little princess, she was 2.5. At that point, I had only traveled to Disney as a child and as an adult with no children, so I had no idea what I was getting myself into! After asking friends and scouring the internet, I found lots of good tips and tricks. We have now taken Princess L to Disney at 2.5, 3.5, and just two weeks ago for her 5th birthday. Every trip has been different because of her age and interests, but I have used a lot of the same tricks to keep myself sane throughout our trips! So here are my top tricks and tips for traveling with little ones to Walt Disney World!
Schedule around your child’s “magic” time. This is the time of day your child is most agreeable/best behaved. When Princess L was 2.5, her “magic time” was morning. Anywhere between 7am-Noonish, she was almost always in a great mood and the most cooperative. As soon as lunch time would hit, she would turn into a hangry beast and NOTHING was going to happen until she ate something and took a nap! With that in mind, I scheduled the majority of our character meet & greets and fast passes during those hours and planned to head back to our resort at lunch time to get her fed and down for a nap. Once she was well rested, we would take her back to the park and figured anything we got done between then and bedtime was a bonus! It worked out great and we had very minimal meltdowns. We still do this, but our resort time is getting shorter and shorter. She hasn’t taken a regular nap in a couple years, but Disney tired is a special kind of tired! Also, going back to the resort for a break gives your kids a break from all the excitement, which can get overwhelming and lead to more meltdowns!
Ziploc bags & Take n toss sippy cups are your friend! Seriously! We used Ziploc bags for everything like leftover food because Princess L is a grazer (and takes forever to eat), dirty clothes, snacks, etc. We took a gallon Ziploc bag to the park every day with a full change of clothes (shirt, shorts, underwear, socks) just in case. You never know when spills or accidents will happen and this will keep you from having to spend Disney prices on a new outfit! Bonus, the mess can be contained in the Ziploc until you get back to your resort. In 3 trips, we have had to use our change of clothes twice. Once for a potty accident and once because of a spill! Plus it’s easy to just grab the bag and toss under the stroller. We also bring a few take n toss sippy cups. My kid loves chocolate milk, but they are always in a bottle that she can’t really drink out of. Animal Kingdom does not have lids and only paper straws because of the animals, so a sippy cup comes in handy there! They are great on the plane as well. If you don’t want to wash them out, you can throw them out when you’re done. They’re fairly cheap and come in all sorts of Disney prints!
I guarantee you will LOVE and HATE your stroller at Disney! Having a good stroller is key! A cheap umbrella stroller is okay, but you will appreciate something that rolls a lot nicer (and has storage) when you’re pushing around a child (and their gear) all day. We have a City Mini stroller, which we love. If you don’t have a nice stroller, there is really no need to go out and buy one just for vacation. There are several companies that rent strollers out in the Orlando area and they will deliver to your resort. The majority of rented strollers are Baby Jogger City Mini or City Mini doubles. You will see them all over the parks and for good reason! They push easily, fold one-handed, and have a decent storage. There are other options for rented strollers as well, but the Baby Jogger brand in particular is my fave. Bonus, they’re fairly easy to fit on a crowded bus, because they fold almost totally flat.
Yes, there are TONS of things to do at Disney, but I’m talking about waiting in line and waiting for food. Those are the times Princess L struggles with. Not only at Disney, but in our regular life I always have a play pack in my purse. You can find them at Dollar Tree, Target, Walmart, etc. They’re a little Ziploc pack that includes a small coloring book, crayons, and stickers and they’re usually around $1. There are loads of Disney ones as well! I also keep a couple games on my phone that I know she likes but that I don’t let her play often. When the coloring book isn’t going to work and she’s burnt out looking for hidden Mickeys, I whip out my phone with her fave app open. I also bring a few power banks to charge my phone. (There are also fuel rod kiosks at the parks!) Between taking a million pics, looking up fast passes, and letting the kiddo play with my phone, my battery doesn’t last long!
Expect nothing, appreciate everything! Taking a little one to Disney can feel (at times) like walking around with a ticking time bomb! Toddlers can be so unpredictable and you never know what they will like/dislike! Don’t be afraid to switch up plans because your kid just isn’t having it! Maybe s/he is afraid of characters. Don’t force it because that isn’t fun for anyone! There are photopass photographers everywhere, with and without characters. We have our share of pics where Princess L did not cooperate (see the Animal Kingdom picture!) It’s ok! Maybe they just want to ride Carousel of Progress six times in a row. (L’s was Haunted Mansion over and over again!) Maybe they want to watch the ducks swim around the ponds at Epcot for 30 minutes. Flexibility is key and sometimes you just have to roll with it! If you don’t force a hectic schedule, it will make for a happier trip for everyone. And no, you won’t get to see and do everything, but that is ok! I guarantee that your kid won’t remember that they hated Elsa or didn’t get to ride a certain ride. They will remember the little moments like riding on the “Mickey Bus”, eating a dole whip for breakfast, and Mickey waving to them from the parade float!
Not all these tips will work for every family, but hopefully one of two will help your family have a more magical vacation!
One of my favorite hobbies is crafting for Disney trips. I’ve made shirts for my kids, my best friend’s daughter for her band trip and most recently, for myself and my best friend on our girls’ trip for Wine and Dine weekend. We received tons of compliments on them; especially, the ones we wore the first day, the white shirts pictured below. I also used the white shirt to surprise her that she was going with me to Disney World where I was running in the Wine and Dine half marathon.
I really think matching shirts can be lots of fun! They can be practical as well. June 2015, we went with my brother and his family. We were a group of 12, all had matching shirts for each park day. This made it very easy to keep sight of our large group. It was easy for the cast members at the rides to see how many was in our group.
Our trip this past June was to see our daughter dance with Dance the World! Our mothers joined us along with our great friends and neighbors. I did not make group shirts for this trip, as we had shirts from the studio we had ordered. But, I did make all the kids shirts, even though they didn’t match.
After purchasing two autograph books for my daughter’s first trip, I decided I would make them for the kids. I bought sketch books with 100 pages of good thick paper and decorated the covers with their favorite character. For each trip, I just create a new trip page to divide up the trips. These are also big enough that a picture of the character can be placed opposite of the autograph page. I made my kids for our 2015 trip, and my friend’s children this year.
Another fun item, for the kids to do, in the parks is the pressed penny machines. I use mini m&m tubes to hold our change for those. I decorate those, as well, with their character of choice. Now, of course, you need something to carry the books and penny holders in so…backpacks it is! Drawstring backpacks are great. Lightweight and a good size for most kids! My little guy is kind of small, so we have to shorten the string up for him. But, it’s certainly doable when mommy and daddy aren’t carrying it, of course. An added bonus, they can be thrown in the washer when they get dirty!
There are so many crafting possibilities for a Disney trip that can make your trip even more magical. If you are not a crafty person or have time for that sort of thing you can always check Etsy or your favorite crafty Disney loving friend.
This post was originally going to be a top ten, but the list ended up being a bit longer than intended. Most of these tips are for cruisers with a limited experience aboard Disney Cruise Line. Hopefully, you find at least one tip helpful.
Choose the right Itinerary. I made a mistake on our first Disney Cruise. At the time, our family consisted of my wife, two-year-old son, and myself. We were nervous about how we would handle a cruise. We were uncertain about how we would react to the ship’s movement and entertainment while onboard. We cruised aboard the Disney Dream for a four-night itinerary. After multiple Disney cruises and an additional family member, I have been able to determine the perfect duration for our family–365 nights! Seriously though, I would not hesitate from taking my family on an extended cruise. We have two young children and I still would not hesitate to take a long cruise. However, my wife and I recently went on a three-night cruise aboard the Disney Magic. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but we both missed our children. We agreed that we would be willing to take another short cruise without our kids, but we could not be away from them any longer than that.
Choose the correct stateroom and location of your stateroom. There are countless websites, blog posts, and videos that can give you an endless amount of detail about staterooms aboard a Disney ship, and I cannot do the topic justice in a brief paragraph. So, please do your homework or work with a good agent that will ask about the people you are travelling with to get a good fit for your stateroom. After selecting a stateroom category, location of your stateroom can be specified. Is quick/easy access to certain venues important? How close would you like to be to elevators and stairs? Are multiple staterooms necessary? Etc.
Princess meets are fantastic. Our family was able to meet Belle, Rapunzel, Snow White, Cinderella, Anna, and Elsa in under an hour! Here is the tip you need to know: You have to get tickets for two separate events at the Port Adventures desk. I went to the desk immediately after we boarded the ship. I obtained tickets for the Princess Meet and Greet and the Anna & Elsa Meet for ideal times for our family. It worked out very well.
*Please Note: Disney just announced scheduling for cruises of 7 nights or longer. Be sure to discuss this with your agent as I am unaware of the details at this time.
Anna and Elsa
Kids’ Clubs offer kids/tweens/teens a wide variety of supervised entertainment. There are multiple kids’ clubs that are divided into age ranges. Beginning at age 3, the service is included in your voyage fare. We took advantage of the services during one of our Palo reservations. Drop-off and pick-up are easy and secure. There can be a line so keep that in mind if you have reservations. Also, be sure to pre-register your children to save time on your vacation.
Andy’s Room theme
Main hub of Oceaneer Club
Pirate Night is bigger than what I expected. On our first cruise, we took Pirate Night for granted. We did not dress up and did not expect the overall theming throughout the ship. Although dressing up is not necessary, it makes the evening a lot more fun. We dress our children up in pirate garb more than ourselves, but my wife and I wear subtle nautical themed clothing. Make sure you arrive to the deck party early to obtain a good viewing area. Fireworks can be viewed from a lot of different areas of the ship.
Know when to book your cruise (or move your placeholder). Generally speaking, cruisers need to book early for popular itineraries and the busy season. By early, I mean immediately when itineraries are announced. This is usually well over a year in advance. This will likely be the best pricing you will be able to get. There are times of the year and less popular itineraries that do not require booking this far in advance, but I still recommend making a reservation as soon as you know your party will be able to take a cruise.
The first Navigator is obtained upon boarding the ship. Each evening, a new Navigator will be delivered to your stateroom for the following day. The Navigator provides detailed information about all areas of the ships and the day’s activities onboard. The Disney Cruise Line smartphone app is even better. It has the information provided on the Navigator, detailed information about the evening’s dining, chat/text feature, etc… And, the app can be downloaded in advance to provide a cool countdown.
Book your next Disney cruise while onboard. The easiest way to get a discount on your next Disney cruise is to book during your cruise. This is something I try to take care of by the end of the second night. On our last cruise, I ended up waiting in line for 45 minutes to book our placeholder because I waited until our last night. The benefits at the time of this post are a 10% off prevailing cruise fare, onboard credit from Disney, and a reduced deposit. You DO NOT have to select a specific cruise in order to do this. For example, I always book a placeholder. The placeholder needs to be used within 24 months from the first night of the current cruise.
Carry-on luggage is very important. Staterooms are not available until early afternoon. On our last cruise, we were able to get into our rooms at 1:30. We boarded the ship around 11:30. So, it is helpful to pack anything you may need during that time in your carry-on. Also, any alcohol is supposed to be brought on the ship via carry-on.
Bring a cup, mug, or tervis. Complimentary beverages are available. However, the cups are relatively small. If you bring your own cup(s), this may save you several trips to the top of the ship!
Skip this if you don’t drink coffee. I enjoy strong coffee mixed with a specific flavored creamer. This creamer is unavailable on the ship. And, the coffee at the drink station is not the best. Bringing my creamer helps me start off the day I normally do and probably most personal tip here. The creamer I drink does come in single-serving sizes, so it was easy to bring aboard. There are very good coffees available at Cove Café.
Bars aboard a Disney ship are underrated. They are very well themed and the servers are amazing. If you are up late, please do yourself a favor and hangout at one of these places. I am NOT advocating drinking alcohol. Other beverages are available and are actually very good.
If feasible, bring a case of water with you. We drove to Port Canaveral for a couple of our cruises. I placed one of our luggage stickers on a case of water. The staff delivered the case of water to our room just as the other pieces of luggage were. I have heard rumors that this is not allowed anymore, but I will continue to do it even after it doesn’t work the first time! Having the water available in the room is very convenient. **Summer 2018 Update** We stayed at Walt Disney World prior to our cruise. We used Amazon Prime Now to get a case of water delivered to our resort. We were able to use DCL transfers, and DCL transferred our case of water with our luggage. The case of water was delivered to our stateroom.
Adults-only restaurants, including Palo and Remy, offer a wonderful dining experience. Make no mistake, I thoroughly enjoy dining in Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden, and other dining rooms. And, I love grabbing food at some of the “quick-service” spots. But, dinner at Palo and Remy or Palo Brunch are special opportunities. And, for the surcharges, I feel they offer an incredible value.
Chocolate souffle at Palo
Tracy and I at Palo
Disney Cruise Line is great at offering activities for every age. If you enjoy an alcoholic drink, I highly recommend trying an alcohol tasting. The event is a great opportunity to try something you have probably not experienced. More importantly, this may be a great opportunity to meet some new people as well. For that reason, I suggest making your reservation for this activity early in your itinerary.
On our first Disney cruise, my wife and I wasted valuable packing space on beach towels and a lifejacket for our son. Lifejackets and towels are provided at the pools and on Castaway Cay. Save your luggage space for the speedo.
If you have the opportunity, reserve a cabana on Castaway Cay. Getting a cabana is nearly impossible for most cruisers as they go quickly. However, they may become available if some cruisers change their mind. So, check occasionally to see if one becomes available.
Getting up early or staying up late will provide you an opportunity to see a sunrise or sunset you will remember forever. This is one of my favorite things to do on any cruise. I am an early riser, so this is an activity I do easily, and I am very happy that I take advantage of this. My favorite place to do this is on the highest deck. I was able to go to the very front of the ship one morning. It is amazing. On our first cruise, my wife and I, by strictly luck, enjoyed a sunset in Palo. Wow!
Fish Extender groups are so much fun! FE groups deserve their own post, so I will try to be as brief as possible for the purpose here. These are groups that exchange gifts with one another via hanging pouch(es) next to their cabin door. There is a sea creature that can hold the pouch(es). People place gifts in the pouches throughout the cruise. This is a HUGE hit with our kids. They are excited to check the FE every time we come back to our stateroom.
Doing laundry is never fun but can be necessary aboard Disney Cruise Line. We book-ended out Disney Cruise with stays at Walt Disney World. We did several loads of laundry aboard the Disney Dream. We were lucky with the location of our stateroom. We had laundry located just steps away from our door. You use your stateroom key to charge the fees for using the washer and dryer. We brought detergent packets and dryer sheets, so we didn’t have to purchase them on the ship. Here is something I found interesting-it was cheaper to do laundry aboard the Dream than doing it at The Polynesian.
Watch the live shows in the Walt Disney Theatre. These stage productions are spectacular. If you want prime seating arrive early. However, most seating offers great views of the stage.
Book your Disney Cruise Line reservation with a travel agent. Travel agents offer obvious services like booking with Disney. In addition, agents will send reminders about making payments and when final payment is due. They also offer insight on current company policies such as documentation requirements or bringing alcohol onboard. Agents can also link multiple reservations if families are travelling together, or agents can link Walt Disney World packages with Disney Cruise Line reservations to provide a seamless experience. Most agents or agencies offer perks as well. Some give gifts and others credit your stateroom account with credit to spend however you like. The best part is most agents charge you NOTHING for their services!
Cruising with Disney is a terrific experience. Disney takes service to another level, and we all know and love their entertainment. Please comment or email me your Disney Cruise Line tips.
Justin Eggenberger, Co-owner of Adventure is Out There Travel, LLC