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 =’) ❤

mickey

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.

tower of terror

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

minnie

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…

holiday-budget

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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“Marriage means commitment. Of course, so does insanity.”

When out in public, we often witness an ancient tradition prevalent in society whereby normal human beings avoid any form of communication with other human beings, in order to, at all costs, evade that inevitable awkward moment of ‘small talk’. We will dip our head, feign phone calls, develop bouts of temporary deafness – you name it, some of us have done it. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve done them all.

It was Ash and I’s anniversary this weekend, and so we went out for a meal – childless – in order to spend a bit of quality time, and celebrate the last four years of marriage-hood.

 

 

 

However it seems as though no matter how childless you may seem in public, once you’ve had children their presence inevitably follows you wherever you go. In the form of ‘Special Agent Oso’. And ‘Mickey Mouse’. And annoying children’s show theme tunes.

Our waitress was incredibly forthcoming about her deep hatred of all things ‘Oso’, his ‘three special steps’ and his overall crapness at being able to do anything ‘Special Agent’ even in the slightest. We in turn shared our general detestation of any shows of a similar vein, and in turn, felt a connection with our waitress that we hadn’t felt when we first arrived at the restaurant.

Maybe this talking in public lark isn’t so bad after all?

“No man drowns if he perseveres in praying to God, and can swim.”

Yesterday we went swimming. Noah’s only been a few times before, and Babu just once on his first birthday. They both loved it.

The last time we went, they were both nervous – Noah extremely so. He never loosened his vice-like grip on our necks, no matter who he was attached to. Yesterday, he didn’t want to hold on. Yesterday he wanted to do it all himself; without arm bands.

Noah can’t swim. Noah doesn’t like water on his face, in his ears or on his hair. No amount of me reminding him of this however would deter him from his quest to jump off of me, his aunt or his uncle into the watery depths. He launched himself onto floats, not caring that there was nothing to support him but a flimsy piece of foam and a metre of water. He dunked his face – a lot. He cried every time.

He kicked us, demanded we put him down; “let go of me” he ordered in his sweet, tenacious little voice.

He loved it.

Finally, after one and a half hours of this, and a final (accidental) full body dunking by his aunt, lots of panic, tears and comforting, it was time to get out.

I took Noah out first, drying him off and chatting about how much fun he’d just had. My sister and her fiancé brought Babu, and I got him dressed. In the midst if this, Noah was playing with his uncle. Too late, we realised what he was going to do.

With a bang of a door and a strangled “Noah”, he had locked himself in the cubicle. Noah’s only ever learnt how to open the slide-locks on doors. This one turned in an anti-clockwise motion to lock, clockwise to open. He couldn’t do it. We spent five minutes trying to coax him into doing it, explaining how to do it, but to no avail. We couldn’t climb over; they had bars placed across the top.

On my way to the reception I bumped into a lifeguard to whom I explained the situation to.

“He’s locked himself in?” he exclaimed, a smirk lurking in his lips. I looked at him stonily, with a frozen smile on my face, embarrassed, slightly miffed and worried that a giant hissy fit was about to come flying out of the locked cubicle. “Yes,” I replied. “He’s only two.” He laughed. “I’ll see what I can do.” he said, disappearing.

Five minutes later, with a lot of “open door mummy, open door uncle Steven, open door uncle Mantha’s” (no, it’s not a typo – he really can’t say auntie, so everyone is uncle) the lifeguard emerged carrying an impressive set of black weirdly shaped keys (much like you’d find on Mickey Mouse – “Which shape key should we use to open the door? Square? Right!”) and unlocked it.

I don’t know what I expected to find; Noah curled in the corner, crying, clutching his blanket to his chest, sucking his thumb in terror? Laid on the bench crying? Body half way under the edge of the cubicle, trying to escape?

No.

The door swung open to him stood, giant grin on his face, holding his blanket as though he had not a care in the world.

Maybe if I’d have told him he wouldn’t have been able to watch Mickey from in there he’d have made more of an effort to come out?

So this is love

As most people who read this Blog by now are probably aware, Noah loves Mickey Mouse. And that’s not a normal love; that’s a big fat lurves him! He would rather watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse than anything else in the world.

I thought for a while I was doing something wrong – bad parenting, or rather bad mothering, or something. I’ve had jokey off-hand comments thrown my way (“Letting Mickey Mouse raise your children then Nina?”) But today I realised I’m not. I’m not a bad mother. These people don’t spend every waking moment of the day with us. They don’t know what type of mother I am at all.

Almost every day we go out somewhere, whether it be to the shops, the park, a friends house or simply the garden. When we’re in we draw, we paint, we sing, we clean, we cook, we dance, we mess with play dough, we wrestle. Noah’s a very intelligent little boy – he speaks in full sentences, can work puzzles out, has a wicked sense of humour – the list is endless.

But, no matter what I do, he always goes back to Mickey.

It’s a complete obsession. When we’re in the house he hogs the television. He’s claimed it as rightfully his. I have to coerce him away from it.

It’s disturbing how passionate he can get about it. When my parents introduced him to it, little did we know what would happen.

But I can’t change time. I can’t change technology. There’s always going to be a TV set somewhere. Even if we got rid of it, moved to another country and became Amish, he’d still love it, and most probably like me a lot less; the woman who deprived him of his two greatest loves: Mickey Mouse and pushing the television buttons.

And it could be worse, I suppose.

At least it’s educational. I mean granted, Noah says ‘naw’ instead of ‘no’ some of the time, and speaks with a slight American twang but that’s endearing right? And sure, he sleeps with all his clubhouse teddies and we have to kiss them all goodnight every bed time, but that’s cute! And yes, when I ask him for the magic word he does say ‘Meeska mooska Mickey mouse’ but … ah, who am I kidding – I hate the little rodent.

A thing of the past

Lie-ins are a thing of the past when you become a parent; unless of course you take the literal meaning of the term.

Let me explain; whenever Ash gets up with the boys in the morning to give me an extra few hours to sleep, I spend the majority of my time listening to shouting, screaming, crying, laughing, fighting, whining, television-blaring Mickey Mouse symphonies while I ‘lie-in’ in a state of semi-consciousness hoping against all hope that he’ll take them out in the garden or to the park – even if it’s raining.

And it’s sad. I love my bed. I love the squishy comfort of it and the warmth. I wish I could spend more time there.

Before you ask, no, I don’t iron our sheets; I have more important things to do with my time, like stopping the boys licking live batteries or throwing each other down the stairs; I do however make our bed. It gives me the hope that I have some semblance of control over my life.

The illusion of a lie-in is what keeps us going sometimes though – “Honey, could I have a few extra minutes in bed tomorrow morning? “Yes.” A feeling of victory washes over us, until we lay there the next morning listening to the cacophony of sound coming from downstairs, on the stairs, in their bedroom, in the bathroom; and we realise nothing has been won. We should have gotten up in the first place.

I don’t think I’ll ever learn my lesson.

Sunshine, lollipops and … washing!

Yesterday, after my first ever Zumba class, I had to do a boatload of washing.

Hanging our washing out to dry is not something I generally like to do. (At least, to clarify, when I think about doing it I audibly groan. And stamp my feet a little bit. Might pout too.)

Normally when I start hanging it out though, I end up enjoying it. There’s nothing quite like sunshine and a light breeze to put me in a good mood. (And jumping up and down in the same spot over and over again in order to grasp the washing line (I’m short …) I need a box to stand on.) Really bright sunshine I don’t like, though. It hurts my eyes. And every part of my skin it touches.

I’ve had sun stroke twice in the last week; my shoulders are so red I look like someone’s painted me. Maybe I should think about purchasing a sun hat? Or borrowing Noah’s … I’m not sure if Mickey Mouse ears would suit me however.

Sun screen should probably be bought too … I can’t use the boys’; I don’t want it to run out. And it’s blue. And smells weird. They seem to like it though. (Just to make it clear that when I say they like it, I mean they like it as much as any child can when they’re squirming and screaming as you try to apply it to their nose.)

Putting washing out yesterday was particularly fun because Noah decided that he was going to help out. Not so much with the washing side of it but more, stealing the pegs, throwing balls at me – you get the idea. After ten minutes of this, I decided to focus his efforts on something less destructive. And so, we made a counting game – Noah would collect all the leftover pegs he’d hidden/thrown etc, and count them back into the peg basket. After that, he decided it was Mickey Mouse time. And so we counted all of his ‘kick balls’ as he tidied them all back into his play house.

He then went inside while I mowed the lawn (for the second time in a week.) It had once again grown to jungle length.

I then went and laid down on the lawn while Babu clambered all over me and Ash planted his new Raspberry, Blackberry and Strawberry plants. He was very excited about them. Gardening is a lost love.

My legs are sore, my shoulders are sore, I’m missing half of my pegs, grass covers my clothes, and my compost bin is packed full of grass – but it was worth it to spend my time basking in the sun with my little family.

And today – rain! PJ day it is!

Bumps and baths

So, Tobias fell tonight. A proper, full on wallop of his head on the side of the bath. It’s our first ever bath pain related incident with either of the boys. It was horrible. His ear went bright red and became swollen and he just screamed and screamed. Noah put his hand on him and said a little prayer. Quiet ensued and they both went back to playing with their toys. Relief.

Until Ash said “he’ll probably end up with Cauliflower ear or something”.

Panic.

Instantly images of misshapen boxers & Shrek sprung to my mind. My beautiful, happy little boy.

‘In the night Garden’ is always a healing balm too. An old favourite of Noah’s, he has books, toys, DVD’s. Babu chose one of the books for his bedtime story and as Ash read it to him, Iggle Piggle & Upsy Daisy worked their magic, so much so that when Tobias was in bed, Noah chose it for his story too.

I looked back over the last few years and thought about how our lives have changed. No more so than Mickey mouse becoming a key part of our family, a day unable to pass by without at least a murmur of his name, a hint of his presence. ‘In the Night Garden’ was a welcome sentimental break this evening.