May 01, 2015
The Parents' Complete Guide to Surviving Disney (Plus the Best Things to See, Do, & Eat!)
How many of you have gone to Walt Disney World before? Two weeks ago, my husband and I had the chance to get away long enough to go on a REAL vacation. We chose to visit Walt Disney World for the very first time.. and to make things even more interesting, it was our first time-with a baby! This was my first time planning a vacation so I heard through a friend that getting a travel agent was the way to go. I was a bit leery at first... Until I learned they were paid for by Disney, so it ended up costing me NOTHING. I had the best travel agent ever and if you're looking to book a vacation of have any questions, you can feel free to contact her at Maggie@lovethemousetravel.com or by visiting her facebook page by clicking here (tell her that Sia sent you). I didn't see the importance of a travel agent in the beginning, but she helped make our trip a lot less stressful and was sort of like my pocket guide throughout the whole 5 day stay. When I texted, messaged, or called, she answered away. Why to have a tour guide: •It's FREE! No catch to it. •Helps you every step of the way. •Provides the inside scoop and tips and tricks to Disney. •Tells you which resorts are the best. •Tells you which places to eat. •Tells you what to see and do at Disney. •If your child gets sick, they can help! (our case) On our way down, my son got sick. He started projectile vomiting in the car and ran a 101 fever. We pulled over AT the Disney gate-I kid you not-and called our travel agent. I was crying in the backseat and felt so frustrated and guilty for even being on vacation. TIP: Our agent told us that there was a clinic on Disney property and a pharmacy that delivers to your resort. We had no idea.. Until our travel agent told us! Luckily, he started feeling better the next day. Here are some tips to visiting Disney with a baby:
- Utlilize the baby care rooms. YES! Disney actually provides rooms for nursing mommies to nurse their babies and to relax. They are very private with dim lighting and even a rocking chair.
- When baby lets you know they have had enough, take their cue and go back to the resort to relax for a bit. The parks are open all day so don't sweat it.
- Pack snacks! I must have packed a hundred snacks in my Vera Bradley backpack (which was a lifesaver by the way)! Yes, Disney allows you to bring your own snacks!
- Don't forget the sunscreen. You are outside for most of the time.
- Use a baby wrap or carrier-do not bring your stroller. Although Disney has strollers that you can pay to rent, we are THANKFUL that we did not bring our stroller. You cannot bring your stroller into most attractions as well as restaurants. Yup! You must leave your stroller OUTSIDE while you eat. Hell no. Our Tula saved our life! Plus navigating a stroller in a crowd is highly aggravating, I am sure.
- Use the baby swap feature. Yes! Disney allows only one parent to wait in line and they will give you a handy dandy little pass. Once mommy is done with the ride, you give the pass to daddy and daddy does not have to wait in line! It is brilliant!
We stayed in the Coronado Springs Disney Resort which I WILL be staying again-hands down. This resort has an Old Colonial Spain/Ancient Mexico
vibe to it. I would recommend this resortto anyone as it is one of the most private ones. My favorite part was the huge pool and the beachside hammocks.We chose the Business Class King rooms which were located in a building conveniently next to the lobby and we had our own concierge at the building which featured a free breakfast, free snacks and appetizers at night, coffee, espresso, tea, drinks, and beer.I also had access to a computer and lounge so if business had to happen, I could get things done. But, luckily, the blog went well on autopilot while I was away :)
TIP: Don't stay at the cheaper resorts-you will regret it!. The All Star resorts were what we first booked with, but my agent told us that it's such a large resort that you all share one bus that comes around every 20 minutes or so. Waiting for a bus could make you late for your dinner reservation. And if you miss a meal reservation, you get charged for it.
As far as food goes, we had the deluxe dining plan which features 3 sit down meals per day along with 2 snacks. It was a little much for us as three sit down meals per day kept us pretty full all around! Next time, we will go with the Plus Dining Plan and just eat breakfast at our hotel.
TIP: Come hungry. Most of Disney's dining are buffets!
We spent our first day at Disney at the Animal Kingdom. Unfortunately, it was raining cats and dogs as soon as we got into the park so we did our best to make the most of it all. Please bring an umbrella because the cheaply made ponchos that they sell are $18 each!
We ate at Tusker House which provided a character dining buffet in which the Disney characters came around to each table to visit the children and parents as well as posing for photos and signing autographs. My son wasn't too thrilled to meet the characters as he started tearing up a bit.
After lunch, we went to the Finding Nemo Musical. I'm not sure if it was my zoloft wearing off my both my husband and I totally teared up during this. When the dad fish loses Nemo, it made us think of Greyson and I guess it just touched a soft spot! The musical itself was freaking amazing with the actors/singers doing the puppeteering themselves. At the end, bubbles fell from the sky (my favorite part)!
After the Finding Nemo Musical, we went on the Kilamanjaro Safari. It was still a bit rainy, but we got to ride in an actual safari truck that was covered so we stayed dry and toasty. We drove around the safari and got to see giraffes, elephants, wilderbeasts, flamingoes, hippos, rhinos, and so much more. The driver of the jeep gave a great tour for us as well by telling us a little about each of the animals we saw.
After the safari, we went to The Festival of the Lion King which is a MUST DO. We got to see an animatronic Simba before our eyes which brought me to tears because it reminded me of my childhood and how much I loved The Lion King. The show also featured acrobats and a guy with a fire baton. We also got to see an animatronic Timon & Pumba! We will be doing this again on our next trip later this year.
TIP: Watch out for bird poop. On our way out of the park, my husband got pooped on by a bird. Random, but this is bound to happen as the whole park is pretty much like a jungle.
We headed to dinner at Boma which was located inside the Animal Kingdom resort (right outside the park). This was another buffet featuring African cusine and more. I cannot tell you how full I felt at the end of the day! It had been years since I touched a buffet. I had a pretty drink that glowed but then I found out the damn drink was over $11!
TIP: Alcohol is NOT included in your dining plan. Be very, very careful.
We actually went back to the Animal Kingdom the next morning before visiting Epcot to eat breakfast at Rainforest Cafe. I realize there are many of these cafes around the world, but this was our first time and we were so blown away! Disney's is actually the largest location in the world!
Equipped with animatronic elephants, gorillas, and even a live coral reef, we had a blast-not to mention that the food and coffee was divine!
After eating brakfast at the Rainforest Cafe in Animal Kingdom, we hopped a bus to Epcot.
Epcot is the resort with the big ball at the front of the park. (The ball is actually an attraction called Spaceship Earth.) This park is also known for its "showcase around the world" as well as a futuristic vibe.The Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT) was a concept developed by Walt Disney near the end of his lifetime. This planned city was his intended purpose for the property purchased near Orlando, Florida, that eventually became the Walt Disney World Resort. Its purpose was to be a "community of the future" designed to stimulate American corporations to come up with new ideas for urban living.
The park is basically a huge circle filled with different countries to walk through. First, you begin in Mexico, then you will walk through to the Netherlands, China, Morocco, Italy, France, Japan, Britain, Germany, and even Canada!We had the chance to meet Mulan!!!!! And she signed Greyson's autograph the sweetest and most personable of all!
TIP: Bring your autograph book. You can buy them in the park if you want, but it is best to purchase online at the Disney Store. Have each character sign your book and fill it with memories!
We ate lunch at a German restaurant called Biergarten which is (of course) located in Germany and walked around the rest of the world showcase. This restaurant was a German buffet style and I would totally eat it again! We also got to watch a cool live show. Our feet hurt tremendously so we headed back to the resort.
We ate dinner at the Maya Grill, which was one of the restaurants featured at our Coronado Springs Resort. I had the steak fajitas and they didn't fail to impress me!
On our third day at Disney, we took a taxi to Chef Mickey's which is at the Contemporary Resort right outside the gates of the Magic Kingdom.
TIP: When staying at the resort, you'll soon realize that the buses will take you from a resort to a park, but not from resort to resort. So this means you must hitch a bus to the nearest park and THEN get on yet another bus to go to the resort of your choice. Why visit another resort, you may ask? Each resort has their own restaurant and some are totally worth visiting for!
Back to Chef Mickey's-this was a character dining breakfast and I could've have been more pleased.
After breakfast, we took the monorail to the Magic Kingdom. This was all of our first times on a monorail before. It was speedy effective-I loved it better than the bus, but this is the only park that has a monorail.
TIP: The monorail is a fast way to get around. I loved it better than the bus! However, it goes in a circle and is only in the magic kingdom and surrounding resorts.
As soon as we got to the park, we HAD to do the spinning Mad Hatter teacup ride. It seems like one of those "bucket list" type things that everyone should say they've done at least once.
Our first attraction was the Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. It was a cute, but short ride. There honestly wasn't much to it. I won't do it again.
Next, we headed to the Haunted Mansion. Can I just say this is a MUST DO?? If you enjoy being a little spooked, this is the ride for you. Featuring the "Pepper's Ghost" effect, you sit in your Doombuggy with one or two others as you are being driven throughout a dark mansion. You see ghosts all around you and they're 3D-they even interact with you. At one point, one of my ghosts were sitting in the Doombuggy with us and switched our heads around!
After the Haunted Mansion, we went to the "It's a Small World." I just didn't get it. I was creeped out at these hundreds of tiny little dolls from all over the world singing the same song over and over to me. It had me thinking "What the hell does any of this have to do with Disney?"
So. I got to researching! This attraction is one of be few attractions that was touched by Walt, himself. He picked everything out for it and the idea behind the ride was a gift to all children of the world. Built in the early sixties for UNICEF, this attraction was meant to be a gift to the children of the world. Walt stated he needed "one song" that could easily be translated in all different languages from across the world and which could be played in round-while still getting the main point across.
It's been argued that it's the single most performed and widely transformed song on earth. The song was actually written by The Sherman Brothers, who worked with Walt, in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The song tune and lyrics are the only Disney creations to never be copyrighted as it remains a "gift to the children of the world."
As I went through the attraction for the second time, I took the time to appreciate the meaning behind it all. It almost made me tear up a bit to see all of these dolls or "little children" from different ethnic backgrounds singing in their native language-all the same song. You go room to room with different dolls and countries featured and then.. In the last room, you see that there's no specific hint at race and all dolls of all ethnic backgrounds are playing, dancing, and singing together. It was pretty nice to think about. To kids, race and ethnicity does matter because we all speak the same language. I only wish the world could still be like this to this day. This attraction is a great reminder!
For lunch, we ate the Crystal Palace which is a character dining buffet inside the Magic Kingdom. My son got to meet Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eyeore, and Tigger. This might have been the first time that my son actually smiled at the costumed characters all trip! He loved the Winnie the Pooh bunch.
The food here was actually pretty good! I would totally eat here again. After lunch, we headed back to the resort for some relaxation by the pool. The pool was nice and featured a hot tub and a children's pool and playground. There was also an arcade and an ourdoor bar.
For dinner, we took a bus back to the Magic Kingdom to catch the monorail. This is where we decided to play with fate and tried to revisit the Haunted Mansion and "It's a Small World" attractions before our dinner reservation-we did it all in time and left the park just in time to see the magical fireworks show.
From there, we took the monorail to the Polynesian Resort where we ate at Ohana.
TIP: EAT AT OHANA. You won't regret it!!!!
This place was was phenomenal. For dinner, a waiter came around with large skewers of grilled shrimp, chicken, and steak-and it was all you can eat! For dessert, I went all out and ate their infamous bread pudding.
The next morning, we actually came right back to Ohana for breakfast which was character dining. My son got to meet Lilo and Stitch! As for the food, your waiters will bring you a platter filled with scrambled eggs, Mickey shaped waffles, sausage links, bacon, and biscuits-not to mention their breakfast bread and fresh fruit.
After breakfast, we headed to Hollywood Studios where we were just in time for the Disney Junior Live on Stage show. We only caught about half of it since Greyson wasn't too thrilled.
We went on to Walt Disney: One Man's Dream where we learned the history behind Walt Disney and how Mickey Mouse came to be.
This might have darn well been my favorite moment of the whole trip. I learned things that I had never known before. I learned about Walt's failures and struggles in the beginning of his business which inspired me so much as an entreprenuer. This is a MUST do. I would actually recommend you do this before anything else. It will help explain everything a lot better!
Then we went on the Great Movie Ride, which is the big building in the middle of Hollywood Studios. This ride sorta throws you into the movies where you are in the middle of several scenes. It was pretty darn cool and I would do it again, but it is not on the top of my list.
Next up was my favorite part of the day: The Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular! I have always heard about this and boy, it sure did please us! It not only had stuntmen showing you how they do things, they also went into great depth to show you the movie magic that goes on behind the scenes. This is a must do! But beware-there are explosions and your kids may cry... like mine did. Lol.
We had lunch at the popular Hollywood & Vine. This was yet another character dining buffet experience featuring a lunch with Disney Junior stars such as Sofia, Manny, and Doc McStuffins. My son didn't seem to care for any of the characters.
I won't be coming back to this restaurant-the food was very basic and nothing that we are really stood out here. Don't get me wrong-everyone was kind, but if you're coming here solely for the food, you may leave a bit disappointed.
We left Hollywood Studios after lunch and headed back to our resort to relax for a bit. For dinner, we headed back to Epcot for dinner at Teppan Edo in Japan. This was a sit down hibachi style dinner and it was amazing!
The next day, we ate a quick breakfast at our hotel concierge and then headed back to Hollywood Studios to do the Twilight Zone's Tower of Terror ride. Oh MY GOD. This ride was everything I hoped for it to be and so much more. You walk through the creepy hotel lobby and then you are led to a basement where you enter a service elevator. Upon entering the elevator, you sit down inside and buckle up. Next thing you know, you're being lifted to the next floor where the door opens and you see the main 4 Twilight Zone characters before you. The door closes, and you rise up to the next level, you enter the twilight zone where you see the lights as you enter the next dimension. The door closes. Then..... You drop two floors. Your stomach drops hard! Then, it raises you up a bit... And drops again! Then it raises all the way up the hotel tower where you're overlooking out a small window and then-DROP! Holy shit! I have never been so thrilled on a ride in my life. It's certainly a must do.
TIP: Use your Fastpasses wisely. You get three (3) Fastpasses per person per park day. You can use them on any ride to basically jump in front of the "stand-byers" somewhat.
Next, we rode the Aerosmith Rockin Rollercoaster which was pretty awesome. It had been a minute since I had been on a rollercoaster. Upon entering, you see Steven Tyler and the rest of the band in this recording studio before you. It was almost like they were right there! Next, you are led to the coaster itself. The show and the band are about to start as you hear Steven Tyler count down... 5... 4... 3... 2... 1! Immediately, the coaster lurches you forward going from 0-60 mph in less than 2 seconds. From the moment it began, I kept thinking "Oh shit!! Oh shit!! Get me off!! Get me off!!"
It's unlike any other coaster since most coasters start off somewhat slow into a drop. Nope. Not this one. This one is fast from the get go. Oh, and it's all inside so here you are riding super fast, twisting upside down, and hurling all around in the dark-except for when you see a few road signs and whatnot that you feel like you're going to totally run straight into. Amidst all of this, you're jamming out to different Aerosmith songs in each coaster. It was totally a ride I won't forget as well. Here's a photo from my ride. I got to sit next to this nice British guy who looked like the most calm one in the whole coaster.
We headed to lunch at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. My son LOVED this place. You get to sit in this little car that overlooks a huge screen which plays old school fifties style short shows and commercials. I had the steak while my husband enjoyed the ribs. We would certainly love to dine here again!
We ended our stay by heading to Downtown Disney later in the evening which was absolutely stunning at night (and pretty packed). This area was littered with shops galore! My favorite was a Christmas shop that featured hundreds of ornaments. We plan to each get an ornament once we revisit in September. There was also a ghiradelli ice cream store. Yep-I got an ice cream cone and enjoyed every bit of it!Tip: Downtown Disney has a lot of shops. BEWARE! You will be tempted to spend tons of money on sourvenirs. I spent over $300 in just souvenirs alone. You have been warned.
We ate a super fancy dinner at Fulton's Crab House. My husband and I both got the King Crab plate which featured the largest and yummiest crab legs that I had ever eaten. The restaurant used two meal credits per person since it was so fancy-otherwise, our meal would have costed us $190 out of pocket! The restaurant itself was beautiful, as it sat on a big boat on the water.
We had so much fun on this trip that we have just booked a longer Disney vacation for the fall. Five days just was not enough!
This trip has truly changed our lives for the best and we completely enjoyed ourselves... even with a baby!
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