Tag Archives: disney

Taking a Preschooler to Disney World: Dos and Don’ts

We’ve been back for a month and Raddy G is STILL talking about Disney; the pool slide, Splash Mountain, his chair/bed (ched? bair?), and when he will be tall enough for Space Mountain.

Can someone tell me when four-year-olds finally understand the difference between their age and their height? He continues to tell me that he’s big because he’s four…

Rather than recap every detail, I’m just going to make a list of stuff that worked and stuff that didn’t.

What Worked:

1. Roll with it. I did plan ahead and acquire Fastpasses using My Disney Experience, but we were also very open to changes made at the last minute. Who knew he would want to go on Splash Mountain? He hates water in his face, but loves this ride. So, we roll with it, and change FPs, and wait in long lines, but if the wee man is happy, we’re happy.

2. Roll with it, part 2: We also planned to be in particular parks on particular days, with one day just for the hotel and pool. But after a morning swimming, the boy said he wanted to go on rides, so used My Disney Experience to get some FPs for Animal Kingdom and away we went.

3. Get as much ticket as you can afford. We get annual passes because we go twice in one year, 51 weeks apart, then repeat that the following year. The great thing about having more days than you need (or an annual pass) is that you don’t feel back running to a park on the day you arrive, or on a day you planned off. The additional days once you get to 4 or 5 aren’t significantly more expensive, and if you can swing it, it really allows your to be flexible.

4. Take your prepared kid to “Fancy, Grown Up Restaurants” (prepared is the operative word!). Originally we were going to have my parents along, allowing a date night for us, but that fell through. Rather than cancel that reservation, we made it for much earlier in the evening. Then we had a talk about expected behavior and really pushed how special it was for a kid to go to a nice restaurant. Then I packed my purse with a Smuckers Uncrustable and a new box of Lego City bricks. The waiters were excellent, even plating his sandwich for him (sooooo picky, but we bought a fruit side and the sandwich came from the quick service in the same hotel) and the Lego toy kept him entertained when needed. It was a total success.

5. Order Kid desserts!! The children’s dessert menu at Jiko included a donut decoration platter. He got three mini donuts, three small sides of different sauces/frostings, and mickey sprinkles. Again, don’t hesitate to take your small kids to the signature restaurants; Disney knows what they are doing!

6. Show videos of rides before you leave. Adam was prepared for ride ques and possible ‘scary’ parts. The big surprise was when he asked to go on Splash having not seen anything about it. The videos were how he learned about Big Thunder Mountain, Soarin’, Mine Train, Toy Story, and Haunted Mansion. For kids who dislike change/transition this can be a great solution.

7. Bring some pool toys. We have diving sticks shaped like squids even though our kid won’t swim or go under water. However, those diving sticks made him friends everyday at the pool and meant that he always had someone to play with besides us. I wish I’d brought six instead of three!

8. Have the bartender split the virgin frozen drinks into two cups, one for your kid to have today, one in your freezer for him to have tomorrow.

9. Give your kid a specific budget or item list for souvenirs. Adam knew before we left he was allowed to get one new stuffed animal and one new vehicle (matchbox sized). He was insistent that he get them right away, but after that he also knew he was done with trinkets from stores.

10.  Bring clothes pins. My kingdom for clothes pins!!! To hold the curtain shut while your little boy sleeps in for the first time in his life, for example. Or to hang your wet swimsuits somewhere other than over the chairs.

What Didn’t Work:

1. Fireworks. They were just too late at night. Parades were close, but as it turned out, the wee man didn’t like the Main Street Electric Parade because it lacked firetrucks. Who knew. We did enjoy Illuninations with him, as that happens at 9. (9 was pushing it for him, given the bus ride back to the hotel).

2. Singing and Dancing Shows–total bust for our guy. Your mileage may vary.

3. Carrying a backpack of crap around. This sucked and in the end, we hardly ever needed anything in it. We sunscreened up before we left the room and came back at lunch, so carrying more was silly. Snacks in the bag just get warm and/or crushed. Plus, who wants a bag of pirate booty or an apple when there is Dole Whip around? Next year, we’ll go bagless. It’s Disney, anything you discover you need is for sale somewhere nearby. Also, the entrance line is way shorter for bagless ticket holders!

4. Early AM flights on departure day. It was direct, that’s why I booked it, but if you want to use the check in service in the hotel lobby you must be there three hours ahead of time and they don’t open until 6:30 AM. Lesson learned.

5. Trying to stick to a plan made months beforehand. On the first day I was diligent about “the plan” but quickly came to realize that having fun was way more important than doing it all. So we had fun and didn’t do much. It’s okay, we’ll be back.

6. Working out. I brought the stuff and pre-kid I would absolutely have made time to run or go to the gym. But after carrying nearly 40 pounds of kid around at the end of each day I didn’t feel compelled to do additional exercise. We also learned that we walked pretty far (not as far as many claim they do at Disney–all that shuffling your feet in line is not really taking a step!), about 4-5 miles each day, sometimes more. Consider the hallways, walks to and from the bus stops and the pool and the steps do add up fast.

We had a great time, better than expected and I think it’s because we let some of the planning go. It’s important to plan, to have an idea of what is where, what you like and how you want to spend time. It’s important to make dinner reservations if you need them. But it’s also important to listen to your kid and willingly wait in the Splash Mountain line, again, and again, because he’s having a good time!

A Rare Airline Shout Out!

I don’t love the airlines. Any of them, really. I spent some time, too much time, traveling regularly for work on both Southwest and USAirways. Southwest was always on time and I had quite a few milage perks, but I really don’t like the cattle call boarding.  We had one poor SW experience when heading to Key West but I’ve mostly found them to be reasonable (Jake would not agree–recap here and he’s still pissed about it). However, I loathe USAirways, hatred with the fire of a thousand suns. Unfortunately, I’ve got a boat load of miles with them so I continue to try get just a few more and get our three free flights to Italy. We’ll probably be late to take off, miss our connection, lose 1-2 days of vacation and be super pissed off the whole time. But, FREE!!! (snort)

Anyway, USAirways is an entirely separate rant. This post is about the outstanding customer service I just got from Southwest. I might be ready to forgive the cattle call.

Short version: Family trip to Disney in May; my mother has fallen ill and can’t go in May, might not go anywhere soon or ever; I need to cancel Mom and Dad’s flights and pray for a refund, because they won’t be able to use the cancellation credit before it expires. SW to the rescue!!

I called Southwest to cancel my parents’ tickets and talked with a lovely customer service rep who chatted with me about my mother, shared her story of her father’s illness, and explained what I needed to do to get my refund. I was then connected to the customer service department for refunds and without question, they told me I could get a refund for my parents as long as I had a letter signed by my mother’s doctor indicating her inablity to travel. That’s it. Easy. No arguing about the policy of cancelled tickets, or about giving them an airline credit that I’m sure they would never use, and no making me feel like this was a special favor. Just a straightforward process–claim numbers, email address, include this and that and 2-3 months to process and you have your money back. The whole thing took me less than 10 minutes.

Frankly, I was stunned. I had been prepared to get nothing as the tickets are non-refundable and I knew that when I bought them. Armed with my ‘nice person’ voice I hoped they would make an exception, either extending the credit or allowing us to change the name, or partial refund. Anything.

I’ve long known that Southwest has a great policy about changing and cancelling tickets, but I really had no idea that they would be so reasonable and easy to deal with when an extenuating circumstance arose. I talked to real people, was not put on hold, even got sympathy for our situation along with actual action. I couldn’t be more pleased. Now, if they only flew to Europe…

2014 Disney Food and Wine, Wine, and Wine Festival-PreTrip

I don’t think I started (let alone finished) blogging our family trip to Disney in May. I’m sorry. Really, I am, but honestly, I can’t even remember what we did, other than the room was great and Adam loved the slide at the pool. But I’ve got one piece of advice from that trip that I’m going to try to follow on this one: don’t drink so much wine!

Now that you’ve stopped laughing and have wiped the tears away, I’ll remind you (did I tell you this then?) that we went to the Jiko Wine Tasting at 3PM one day, left Rad with my parents, then had two before we left for dinner at CG and so instead of going to our room went to the Bay Lake Towers Top of the World bar…where I’m pretty sure I was over served. Then we went to dinner and we asked for the waiter to choose wine pairings for our apps and entrees, which he did. And then it gets very fuzzy and much money was spent and food may have been enjoyed and my kid wakes up at 6AM. So, you know, suckage.

This is a kid-free trip for FWF, so I feel less bad about Mommy’s overindulging on this trip (really, don’t do that thing I did above, it’s not cool). Some great stuff is on the agenda including Party For The Senses and French Regional Lunch-Champagne!! And we are using up three days on old tickets because we’ll get new annual passes for our family trip for all three of us in April, so this feels like we can relax and not try to get the most bang for the buck out of our park days.

It’s been said that Epcot is the world’s greatest bar with the world’s largest cover charge and I’m about to find out if that’s true. We have to use a day of our tickets just to get into Epcot for PFTS which is also bunch of money for the separate ticket and another day to get to the FRUNCH plus paying for that meal. You can do math, you can figure out what’s invested. I swear if I didn’t have DVC or a boatload of Disney Rewards I’d gag on the amounts.

We’ve typically done Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival on weekdays and have never done the events other than the booths and one or two cooking demos, so this will be very different: the weekend crowd, the party and meal, the FP+ that I’m booking but probably not using.

We leave Saturday, 1PM, Southwest direct flight. Rad goes to Baca and Mimi’s house. Quicksilver is picking us up. I considered Magical Express but for a short trip it seems like a waste of time;  we land at 3:40 and PFTS is at 7. I know ME can be as little as 2 hours or as much as 3 from airport to resort, but this level of good-looking takes more maintenance time pre-party then ME could provide for me.

So far some very good things have happened for us regarding this trip. The first was a resort change. I booked Animal Kingdom Villas (its my home resort–you book where you own at 11 months, and others are allowed at 7 months) at 11 months out but then decided to waitlist for Boardwalk Villas at 7 months. Then I forgot completely. I logged in one day in July to see how many points we had left and if it was worth renting them to someone or banking them and found that we had gotten BWV! The next day a letter came in the mail confirming.

I also took advantage of being a Disney Visa card holder and booked my FWF experiences (or wallet emptiers, you be the judge) before the general public. I was concerned as there was confusion last year with CMs who didn’t know that Visa card holders could book, a closed reservation system, and people saying they didn’t get either their perk or their desired ressie. But no problems; Disney Food Blog is certainly the most comprehesive resource on FWF, booking, perks and the like. 

Plans as they stand:
SAT-Fly, QS to BWV, get fancy, go to PFTS (yes, I’m dressing like I paid as much as I paid to go to this thing; dressing well is about politeness to the other guests, the chefs, and my wallet. And honestly, I like dressing up), possible hit MK for late night after (yes, still dressed for the evening…) but maybe just BLT bar to see 11PM Wishes…We’ll see.

SUN-Lazy morning, maybe the pool, certainly coffee. FRUNCH at noon, til 3:30!! Then leave Epcot (gasp) because I’ve heard about you drinkers on the weekends and the bad behavior (read the DIS thread on this, I’ve never seen what people are describing, but then maybe I’m too busy enjoying myself to notice middle aged drunks at Epcot) and head to HS for some thrill rides. I’ve got FP+s for the biggies, but again, I’m not married to any of this, perhaps we’ll sit by the pool and relax. Take a nap. Oh, sleep, I miss you so.

MON-Soaring at 10AM FP+, then FWF around the world. That’s it.

TUE-sleep some more, pack, go home at 1PM. Pick up Weeman and love on him a ton. How can you not love all over this?

Making “Daddy Bread” (and very excited about flour…)


See you when I get back!!!! 
I’ll be instagramming and tweeting tons too: @onafullstomach

Welcome Home!

I’m not sure if we’ve lost our marbles or found them; we finally bought into Disney Vacation Club. After umpteen trips to the World, most of them on rented points from DVC members or from dvc-rental.com we bought a resale membership in Animal Kingdom Villas from Resales DVC. We now have 200 points to use every year until 2057! Depending on when we go, that number of points allows us to take at least two week long trips per year for the three of us in a studio villa or we can get a two bedroom villa, bring some friends or family and stay for over a week.

 

So today I made our first booking to go “home.” The contract we purchased is a resale and the previous owners did not use all the 2012 points when they sold it to us, so Jake and I are going a grown ups only trip for two night to (what else?) the Epcot Food and Wine Festival!  That uses up the remaining points for 2012. I also learned today that Airtran takes Paypal; we have one customer who pays us via Paypal and I generally forget that we have a balance to use and then end up with a good chunk of money when I should have been using it to pay for tons of other online crap, so almost like free plane tickets. Plus we have Rewards Dollars on our Disney Visa ($400ish) and one day left on our old 10 day passes. Really, its practically free. Except for the whole buying a 45 year time share part.

 

Feeling pretty good about things I also booked a trip for the three of us and my parents. A two bedroom villa for four nights in May. We took my parents last May and it was awesome! Built in baby sitter and extra love for Raddy G. He was only 15 months old that time, I think 26 months will be even more fun for him.

 

I’ll have to look into that first haircut thing at the Harmony Barbershop in the Magic Kingdom, but first, FOOD and WINE (and more WINE!).

 

Bistro de Paris

How did we miss this on previous trips? Even this reservation was a second choice after Iron Chef Cat Cora cancelled her chef’s dinner. Bistro is inside the France pavilion in Epcot but does not accept the dining plan offered by Disney and holds a stricter dress code than other theme park restaurants. All the cast members our part of an exchange program with Euro Disney and the heavy French accents confirm this. (btw, it’s impossible to tell someone they can’t eat here without a reservation with a heavy French accent and not sound super snotty!!)

We overdressed, especially for walking through Epcot, but the atmosphere, price and service demand it. Plus, Jake doesn’t believe there is such a thing as overdressed; underdressed, sure. He wants to burn all the juicy sweat pants, pj bottoms and uggs he sees.

We could smell butter and lard as we approached; im sure if it was quieter we would have heard arteries hardening…Anyway, we checked in and were escorted to the second floor dining room overlooking the World Showcase lagoon. The menu options are limited and we decided to select our own courses and wine rather than go with the fixed menu (this would have been $180 with wine plus tax; our bill ended up $211 with a full bottle rather than tastings and larger portions).

We were presented with an Amuse Bouche of what I believe was Parmesan cheese soup with a baguette. The down side of an all French staff is difficulty understanding the food descriptions. My description is: awesome!!

First course was raw tuna and cous cous with greens and lime vinegarette for me, savory bacon cake for Jake. Perfect tuna, melting in you mouth with a citrus flavor to brighten the greens. Just outstanding. Jake’s bacon cake defied the laws of physics, cramming a ridiculous amount of bacon flavor in a golf ball sized cake. He’s tried this at home, even putting bacon grease in corn bread and nothing has tasted like this.

Second course was duck for me and lobster cassoulet for Jake. Again, rich, fatty, intense, heart stoppingly good. Paired with a bordeaux that we picked for price rather than taste, it was still outstanding.

Dessert was lemon souffle with berry sorbet. Again, something supernatural was going on to pack that much berry creaminess into a sorbet scoop!! We asked our waiter to pick a dessert wine for us and he selected a very sweet wine, insisting we taste it before ordering, just to be sure we would like it. It was just right with the lemon and berry flavors.

The meal was slow, the service impeccable, the food rich and well portioned. We find ourselves wishing it wasn’t in Epcot; that it was easier to get to. Of course, the challenge might be part of maintaining its limited set of customers and premium menu.

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Things overheard at the food and wine festival

“Calamari salad with smoke paprika and olive oil…that’s some kinda vegetarian thing…I don’t know what that is…”

Right, cause calamari is a vegetable.

Anyway, she totally missed out. We also had Linguca Sausage with Onions, Peppers and Olives was salty good.

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Food and Wine day 2

We started with two beers (Abita Purple Haze and Leinenkugal Berry Weiss) then moved on to Brazil for Mahi Mahi and Bean and Pork Stew–both great, subtle with spice, allowing you to taste the food. That was not true at the Caribbean booth where the Ropa Vieja was like a salt like. The Jerk Chicken did not disappoint however!

Jake claims he is not going to eat all the food in his path, so we skipped a few to stop in South Africa for Shiraz and Beef Tenderloin with Sweet Potatoes. This was one of our favorites last year and did not disappoint–I’m amazed that they can cook tons of this beef and have it all be tender and flavorful and paired well with a wine!

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