Tips for an awesome Vacation at Walt Disney World!

So we just went on holiday – to DISNEY WORLD, FLORIDA! My mind = blown. It was awesome!! So, I figured I’d compile a list of some things we found handy & some other things you simply MUST DO when you’re there! (Nb. Some of these apply to folks who have young children (because I have young children!) Some are just child-free, friendly advice!)

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1: Don’t have any pre-conceived ideas.

Let’s just get this out of the way now; young children? Disney World? It will be harder than you think. How hard do you think it will be?

Ha!

Triple it.

Now I’m not saying it won’t be the best holiday of your whole entire lives, that it won’t surpass all your expectations & be absolutely magical – because IT WILL. But I’m just saying; prepare yourselves.

You know how cranky your child gets when they’re overtired at home?? OK, well add to that the heat. And the fact that they’ve been walking for hours. And probably queuing for rides. And are confused by the time difference. And don’t understand how, when it rains, it RAINS.

Like I said – triple it.

2. Nap time.

Seriously. Those kids are going to NEED naps. Even if they haven’t napped in 2 years, they’re going to want to nap on holiday. And you’re going to want them to. Everyone will want them to. And it will be so worth it. Break up your day – spend the morning in Animal Kingdom, go MAKE them have an afternoon nap, go back out to Magic Kingdom in the evening & watch the Fireworks – believe me, it will make for a much more enjoyable & fulfilling holiday for all involved.

2. Meet Mickey Mouse

I’m talking about a specific Mickey here.

Yes, they’re all great – heck, they’re a life-sized Mickey Mouse!

But the one I’m talking about is at Magic Kingdom doing Meet & Greets in the Main Street Theatre.

Do it; just do it!

It will surpass all of your expectations when you see your little ones faces light up in sheer joy & adoration as their childhood ‘idol’ starts talking & interacting with them. Because he can TALK! His mouth moves & he blinks & everything!

It. Is. Awesome.

HE HAS AN ANIMATRONIC HEAD!

*cough* Sorry, what I mean to say (as my husband was told by a lovely Disney Worker when he enquired about whether there was a talking Minnie) is that “Mickey is the only one who has learned to talk”.

It is truly fantastic.

One of, if not THE, absolute highlight of our trip. Magical.

Look at Babu’s face =’) ❤

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3. Follow your parental instincts.

Some of the rides your child is tall enough to go on, you will NOT want them to go on. You know your child best. Noah, for instance, has night terrors, is scared of the dark, monsters, ghosts & anything remotely creepy – but he is tall enough to go on the Hollywood Tower of Terror in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Uh huh. No way. How easy do you think it would be to get him on a ride after that? The word TERROR is in the TITLE! Now, that’s not to say you can’t go on. Have at it. Child swap (we’ll cover this later.) But think carefully about what your child can cope with – you know them best. My parents went on & witnessed an awful experience where a little girl cried in fear for the entire ride. Awful.

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4. Take advantage of the child swap system.

This is brilliant!

If you have children too small to go on a ride but you yourself want to go on it, tell the ride worker that you wish to do a “child swap” & they will give a ticket to the person (or people) waiting with the children which they can then use when you exit the ride. Though be warned, you will have to entertain them while you wait……….

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The ticket is valid for a few extra days too, so you don’t have to use it there & then, & it is normally valid for up to 3 people. It also enables the child waitees to go through the Fast Pass queue instead of the standard line. This brings me on to the Fast Pass+ system.

5. Fast Pass+

60 days before your trip begins, you can go on line at https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/plan/my-disney-experience/fastpass-plus/ and start booking your Fast Passes. Each person is entitled to 3. (Once you are there and have used your 3, you can then head on over to a kiosk situated in all the Disney Parks & book a fourth (for that day) & so on.) What we did (sneaky sneaky) is get a “Child Swap” Pass for the children-waiting folks hanging with the baby, head on through the Fast Pass queue with our Fast Passes & the kiddos big enough to go on, & then when we emerged the waitees would use there Fast Passes & the “Child Swap” pass to go back on, taking the children on with them again. Hey presto! The boys got to ride twice! Genius!

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6. Prepare for rain.

Since visiting Florida I have discovered something – English rain is not real rain. Real rain is Florida rain. It will appear out of nowhere, drench you in seconds, & then clear up faster than you can blink (or hang around for a while – weather can be unpredictable like that.) Rain Macs/Ponchos are a must (though beware, those things can RIP!), as are umbrellas (though don’t put them up when it’s thunder & lightening – yikes!) & pushchair (stroller) rain covers. We were caught out a few times. The pushchair was caught out once. It wasn’t pretty.

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7. Meet characters.

This relates back to Mickey, but really, take time to meet the characters.Yes, queuing is boring. Yes, it’s solely for your children. But believe me, out of everything, they remember those character meets the best of all. Get them an autograph book & have Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Jake, Sophia – all of them – have them sign them! They’ll treasure them forever; & you’ll treasure the memories. Seriously, these meets were the things I enjoyed the most. The boys loved them & so did I; beautiful.

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jake

goofy

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8. Take in your own water.

I can’t really elaborate more on this except to say, tap water in Florida is…well…gross. It’s never properly cold & (I think) has a weird taste and/or smell. You need to head to the supermarket (Walmart, Publix), buy a case of lots of individual bottles of water & stick them in your fridge. Then on the morning you’re due to head off, pack them into a little backpack & off you go! I’d probably suggest two bottles each (you’ll drink some things in the parks anyway & you don’t want to be lugging too much about! But, there was one day where we were so hot & desperate for a drink having devoured our bottled water that we had to use some water fountains. YACK! Don’t get caught out!)

9. Budget your spending money by day.

This is probably a given, but it will really help you out (especially if you’re vacationing on a budget!) We even gave the boys an allowance each morning before we headed out! It’ll save time, arguments & take any monetary pressure away from your trip! We’d also budget any food money for each day (whether we were eating out or eating in the Villa.) e.g. $20 adult spending, $10 child spending, $100 food for the family. Anything not spent on one day, would carry over to the next. Easy squeezy!

10. Stay close to the parks.

We didn’t do this. I mean, we weren’t far out but the advertised “15 minute drive” from the Villa every day ended up being over 40 minutes due to traffic problems etc. (I’ve never seen so many accidents!) So, stay close. International Drive has some great places & my parents have stayed there before, as well as my sister, & they loved it. If you can afford it, actually stay ON one of the parks! That’s one of our (very very far into the future) future dreams =D Don’t get me wrong, the Villa had its upsides – it had its own pool, it was quiet & relaxing, we had Wifi, & Cable, a fridge/freezer (American sized – yeah baby!), a dishwasher, a washer, a dryer, a Games room, individual bedrooms – it was truly lovely! & it might be just the thing for your family!  But the time we would have saved had we stayed closer doesn’t bare thinking about…

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11. Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure & Seaworld

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If you can, just go. I guarantee it’s worth it! Especially if you love Harry Potter like some people I know…

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Pooily (Yes, I’m treating that as a real word) the newer section in Universal wasn’t open when we went, but it will be for you *scowls* We at least got to see a few sneaky glimpses…

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the dragon

 

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So close, yet so far… anyway, *cough* May be getting slightly off track here…

There’s so much I can say about Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure that it would take a whole new Blog Post to cover it, from Curious George Town,

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to Springfield,

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to the new Transformers 3D ride,

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to Seuss Landing (my boys came away OBSESSED with Dr Seuss).

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It really is just awesome – all of it! I particularly recommend the children’s sections – I didn’t even Mention Fievel’s Playland where everything is oversized to make you feel like a mouse! It is all wonderful! (Incidentally, bare in mind that their Child swap system is better than Disney’s (you can take the children through to the ride with you & there’s a “Child Swap Room”)..but their Fast Pass system is not. Really)

SeaWorld is fun – the kids section is great! And Manta is awesome (if slightly terrifying for folks afraid of heights…)

(I’m not going to get into a whole animal cruelty/abuse debate as that isn’t what this Blog Post is about, however I will say that it is clear in relation to the Killer Whales that things need to change.)

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I definitely recommend The Clyde & Seamore Show – both day & night – (HILARIOUS), The Dolphin “Blue Horizons” Show, sitting at the front right (or left) of the “A’lure, Call of the Ocean” Show (you’ll thank me later), viewing the Beluga Whales & feeding the dolphins! Hint – in the shows featuring animals, you might not want to sit at the front…when it says “Splash Zone” it means “SOAK ZONE!” We super enjoyed it – especially at night!

Which reminds me – as great as the parks are throughout the day, at night that is when they look truly MAGICAL – believe me – there’s just something different about them – the entire feel & atmosphere – I just loved them all at night!

I think I enjoyed Universal/Islands of Adventure a bit more than I did Disney (don’t tell the kids that…) with Harry Potter being the pinnacle for me (obviously!) but it is all fantastic!  Babu in particular is still Disney World obsessed with Magic Kingdom being the highlight – Mickey Mouse, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, the section dedicated to Beauty & the Beast, Cinderella’s Castle (which he’s still convinced Mickey lives in), Goofy’s Barnstormer, Dumbo, Peter Pan’s Flight, the shows, Tomorrowland, the Journey of the Little Mermaid &, of course, the characters!

There’s still so much I haven’t mentioned but my main piece of advice I have saved until last & it is this;

12. Enjoy it!

Truly. There are so many things to see & do that you can feel rushed & hustled & bustled by the crowds & meeting your Fast Pass Plus deadlines, but really, the only thing to do is to have a good time! Don’t complain about the queues, don’t hurry by to the next place you need to be without looking around you – imagine what you could miss! – don’t get stressed out by the kids whining – just think where you are! Just imagine the hundred – thousands – of people dying to be in your shoes! & you’re there! Love every second! Take the time to take photos – & lots of them! Cherish the memories you’re making!

Have FUN!

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The future that believes… (p.s. I’m baaaaaack!)

A lot has happened since I last wrote a post.

Noah is now 4, entirely toilet trained & attending nursery.

Babu is now (almost always) referred to as Toby, has just started being potty trained, & is 3 in a few weeks time.

We have a new baby –  Jonas – who is nearly 3 months old. (I know – crazy, huh?)

I started my own business – upcycling, re-purposing & re-loving old furniture =O (Though I’m currently on Maternity Leave.)

So that’s sort of caught you up on all the major things that have been happening…

I don’t know why, today of all days, I’ve decided to come back on here. I seemed to take a long break from writing. I didn’t tell anyone – I didn’t tell myself. I didn’t even think about it; it’s wasn’t a conscious choice – I just did it. I finished my NaNoWriMo Novel (the first/second draft anyway) & just stopped writing. Maybe I needed a break. Maybe I needed new inspiration, a muse. Maybe I needed to get my head around 3 children (duh??)? Either way, I’ve just begun editing the novel again and, at the end of Chapter Two, I’ve found myself on here.

It’s odd, this need to write, this burn that comes in waves, never fully leaving but always simmering under the surface, ready at any moment to show itself & consume me, set me on fire.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel like myself when I’m not writing. Maybe it’s not writing for you; maybe it’s painting, or dancing, or singing, or cycling, or building, or running, or designing, or math (though hopefully not math – please don’t say it’s math – I hate math (or should that be, math hates me??) I don’t think we can be friends if you say math…okay maybe we could, but no equations – please?) Anyway, I’m talking about the thing that you can’t forget or put aside – the thing that’s always there, even when it’s not.

I found myself coming back to it in the way I always do – in reading.

I went through one of my crazy reading periods recently, consuming every work of fiction I could get my hands on, reading one book after another, like a chain smoker only with books (Chain booker? Chain reader? Doesn’t have quite the same ring…) In the end, Ash accepted the inevitable & came home with a new book for me after every trip out to the shop – he knows me so well 😉

I think to be a writer, you have to first & foremost be a reader.

Reading: it is food; fuel; ammunition. It ignites passion in a writer. It inspires & challenges & scares us into thinking we’re running out of time – we have to write now or the moment will pass us by & we’ll never have our voice heard & we’ll end up living in regret of never pursuing our dream. I don’t want to be that person; I don’t want to be a person of regret. I don’t want my children to see their mother as someone who never chased after her dream – how will they ever run after theirs if I don’t show them the way?

As parents it’s our duty to pursue our dreams so that our children can do the same. We have to be persons of influence so that our children can do the same. We have to fight the fear & turn it around, use it to fan the flames of inspiration. We can’t give in to fear; we can’t let our children. I’m raising creative, talented, well-rounded, hilarious, passionate, hopeful, intelligent, wonderful, “we believe anything is possible”, faith-filled boys – I have to believe in myself so that they can believe in themselves. I’m doing it for me, yes. But ultimately, looking at the bigger picture & gazing at the (not so) far off horizon, I’m doing it for them.

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Aaaah, fresh starts!

It’s been a while. Again.

I’m not going to throw any excuses out at you. I’ve been a pants blogger the last few months. I have. And that’s OK. Sometimes life just gets in the way of the things you want to do. Like write. And eat. And shower. (OK, maybe it doesn’t get that grim, but sometimes it feels like it. And smells like it. *joke*)

I suppose the person I need to tell that it’s OK to miss a blog entry once in a while is myself. It’s not like you’re all sat around waiting for me to write something, is it? (Or at least I hope not – I’m really not that interesting. Well, sometimes I am – it depends what kind of day I’m having.

For example, this week I’ve been painting. As such, I’ve worn the same pair of jeans every single day (except for when I’ve been out – I’m not that gross.) And I haven’t done this since … well, ever. Even in my uni days I was well groomed. I like things clean, something I fear I’ve passed onto Noah. (Me: Look Noah, mud! Noah: Argh! – Oh dear.) I’m scared my jeans are now growing colonies of something. What if they develop a  higher intelligence? What if they slowly begin to penetrate my thoughts and taking over my mind? (I haven’t been to see The Host yet. I think it’s playing on my mind.) But I digress.)

I do feel like I should apologise for being such a shoddy writer lately though. One miss is OK, but a month or two? uh huh, *shakes head* not cool. Call it what you will – lethargy, apathy, crazy-busy-lifey-y (I realise that’s not a word, but there was a certain alliteration thing going on and I decided to go with it. Sue me.)

Anyway, I’ve been rubbish – sorry!

From now on, I’m declaring a fresh start (I hate that phrase, but hey, if it’ll give me the kick up the butt I need, I’ll say it again – FRESH START!) I WILL be writing on here at least once a week. I WILL, I WILL, I WILL! Because if I don’t all I can think is, what’s the point in keeping this thing going? The whole purpose of this blog was to document different aspects of my life – mainly those of my kiddos – so that, when I look back, I can remember all the incredible, silly, awful, enlightening, terrifying things they did/do, and laugh and smile and weep. And then they can read it all when they’re able and cry and cringe for different reasons. *giggles gleefully*

And the truth is, I love blogging. I love writing! When I don’t over think it, when I write what I want to and don’t panic about the perfectness of it (there’s the OCD coming into play again), I LOVE it! There’s nothing better than doing something you feel like you are meant to do, even if there’s no recognition and people think you’re insane, it doesn’t matter – we do it anyway – because we love it. Because we thrive on the self-congratulatory “I did it!”, I have something to show for myself, I’m doing it because it makes me – not anybody else – happy! If no one else like it, who cares? I do.

So here’s to a better blogging future, full of a little less OCD, more dirty nappies, and (I hope) a few laughs!

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(I’m watching you! (But not really – I don’t have the time.))

“Just around the corner.”

Seriously Pets At Home? No public rest room, seriously? What year are we living in exactly?? Why on earth did I have to walk 2 miles (slight over-exaggeration, but it corroborates my story nicely here) to the nearest public convenience, with my 2 year old son, screaming all the way, because you haven’t provided a service for your customers? A BASIC service. I don ‘t care about free balloons for my kids and raffles to win a tub of Celebrations; the balloons before long end up forming a safety hazard when one of my boys pops it and the other tries to put it in their mouth, and I’m trying to control them in a shop with many child-level shelves and objects right now – they do NOT need the sugar. Why not use the space more wisely for something people want or rather, need.

You should have toilets. You are a shop that provides animals and pets that parents buy for CHILDREN. Vis a vis, children WILL be in your store. Children WILL need to go to the toilet. And your current solution? Walk to the store around the corner. Except it’s not just around the corner, is it? You’re on a main road with dozens of cars whizzing by you every moment, and the shop ‘just around the corner’ takes you over roads, grassy hills, what can only be described as a building site, and a flight of stairs (and NO, this is not me exaggerating again.)

I almost asked your staff member where she goes to the rest room; does she, like all us commoners, pop ‘just around the corner’ whenever she needs to tinkle, or does she have an iron clad bladder, one that only requires her to go before she starts her shift and when she gets home at the end of the day? I’m sorry, but I cannot expect my child to hold it until we get home, not when it’s 10 minutes away on a bumpy car journey. He cannot cross his legs and think of something else. And yes, he did already go before we left home 15 minutes ago. But he’s a child, something I’m sure you see a lot of on a  day to day basis and should be prepared for.

Now I’m not a mean person by anyone’s standards. I’m afraid of confrontation, I spend half my day worrying what people think of me, and I’m always always polite. But I’m hoping the death stare I provided some of your staff with today spoke volumes and that the harassed looking dad stood behind me with what appeared to be a similar issue, only with a child who clearly had not waited until they got to the store ‘just around the corner’, had the courage to speak where I did not.


And so my mini-rant is here, for all to see, banished into cyber hell.

(**Note: I almost had him pee on the corner of the store wall (outside of course) but I thought that would be an inappropriate and immature reaction. Unlike this, of course.)

“Half of the people lie with their lips; the other half with their tears.”

When a child falls over, bumps his head, scratches his knee, cuts his finger, or anything along those lines, they take a moment to pause and reflect and gage the seriousness of the situation. In this moment, they turn their attention to their parent (or the closest possible guardian) and wait to see what their reaction is. Our friends children do it. I’ve seen stranger’s children do it. My kids do it. There’s that split second of “Mummy is this OK or should I be screaming right now?” Generally, their reaction will be based on ours. This is as long as it’s not a serious injury like a broken bone or a foreign object, i.e. sweetcorn, stuffed up a nose. Panic is then acceptable and somewhat welcomed.

Our boys know that I’m worse than daddy when it comes to this type of stuff. If they fall that  initial *gasp* that I illicit (quite involuntarily I might add) tells them all they need to know – “I’m about to get a bucket load of attention right now.” Or to put it more candidly, “I’m going to milk this!”

The thing is, I can’t blame them or any other child who does it; (I know it’s naughty to admit this) but it isn’t quite limited to just children is it? If we’re honest, isn’t there the teeniest part of us that, when we stub our toe, burn our hand, fall, slip, cut ourselves, or bang our head, milks it a little bit too? We make out that it’s a bit worse than it actually is? Just a little? You know, to get that cup of coffee you thought you were going to have to get yourself? To put your feet up? To gain control of the remote? Come on, you must know what I’m talking about? That over-exaggerated, “Oh I’m dying, I’m dying!”, “It’s Man Flu!” type thing we sometimes do? Men do it – where do you think the term ‘Man Flu’ came from in the first place? Women do it – time of the month, perhaps? It’s that inner spoilt, Veruca Salt, whiny, “Give it to me – I want it now” voice that screams inside us whenever we have an opportunity to ‘invest’ in something that’s happened to us. As humans, we grasp onto every situation offered to us in order for some selfish gain; right?

No? Just me then. Well, this is awkward.

But it’s like that inner child POPS it’s little head up, waves cheekily, I give in for a second (“Honey, can you make me a coffee?” *Bats eyelids*), and it disappears again until the next ‘incident’, as though nothing ever happened. That Devil on my shoulder. That ghost in my closet.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not a huge deal; I don’t do it every time I hurt myself/am hurt (because 1. that would pretty much be all the time, and 2. ultimately, that would be outright lying and overtly manipulative. Because it’s not intended; not really. But it always, somehow, turns out that way.). It’s just sometimes, little Nina wants to get a word in. Don’t worry – I’m not a socio-path or anything. I don’t spend my days waiting for the next opportunity to come knocking; it’s just a normal thing every person faces at some point or another. If I were a socio-path I’m pretty sure everyone on the planet would be too. Including my boys.

“Mummy, me hurt.” *puppy dog eyes*

“Oh no!” *gives big cuddle*

“Me want sweetie now.” (Even though I’ve already said no fifty times that day. But now I have to make him feel better.)

“OK.”

We’re so naive. We’re all so conniving.

Still, as H.G. Wells said, “If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.” And so I will endeavour to stand, and not give in to my baser urges. And teach my children not to as well. It’s just so hard not to shout a little louder than necessary when I stub my toe … but I’ll try; I’ll try.