Theme Parks…Tips   1 comment

We had a lovely vacation recently involving two fantastic Disney days and one blissful do nothing hotel day. Because my husband is fabulous I spent over an hour just enjoying this….

And we both got to relax because LA knows how to properly enjoy a vacation and did this….

He’s great… and that’s why we were celebrating four years of marriage … see how cute we are?

But enough about the relaxing portion of our vacation… I’m writing about the nitty gritty of taking a wee one to the most Magical Place on Earth. Which will also help you if you are taking your child to a really fun place that charges an exorbitant amount of money to ride their rides, stand in line and over pay for glorified fair food 😉 (but dontcha love it!)

We are lucky enough to have a wonderful Auntie in the family (by adoption) who takes us to Disney… she is wonderful and we love her. LA is going to love her more than me someday because she is lovely and sweet and fun … oh, and did I mention she takes her to Disney 😉

So, after some inquiring questions from friends, I figured I’d offer up what worked for us and what didn’t…. I also have another post just a bit about the rides and lines and such here.

We went back in October when LA was 14 months old. I was terrified about her having a meltdown while we waited in line… that was my number one concern. So I packed our back pack with a ton of snacks and small distractible toys, several new junk things from dollar store. There was also our camcorder and camera. A change of clothes for her and all the diaper paraphanelia. Plus snacks for Daddy and me. I also brought our Ergo carrier, the plan being that when we had to hold her still I could try to back carry her if she got wiggly. She wasn’t yet at the stage where she wanted to walk all the time but if carried she prefers to be moving. However, at that stage she was very against the Ergo (now she loves it) but it did not get used a lot.

Both trips were a success but I think our second trip went even smoother because we learned more. Much more streamlined and prepared… and there was only 4 months really in her age so even though she’s grown up a bit I think it was because of how we prepared.

It seems the easiest way to tell you what worked for us is to make a list…. so here you!
1. Stroller- We had a brief debate on taking the quick little stroller vs the big snazzy stroller. We went with the big snazzy because really the only time it was a pain was getting on the tram at the beginning and end of the day…. otherwise it was nice to have the little shelf underneath and a stroller with a recline for nap time. I felt bad seeing some kids laying back in very uncomfortable positions in the Disney strollers that do not recline. Also, I don’t think LA would have slept as long in that type of stroller.
While she slept we took turns going on more adult rides 🙂
So for us big stroller was the way to go… better/longer nap, happy baby, and room to carry some of our junk.
So if you don’t mind a brief struggle on and off the tram the big stroller is the way to go!

2. Claim it– No matter what stroller you have identify it! I clipped a bright monkey toy thing to the handle of the stroller. This made it SO much easier to find when coming off a ride. The Disney associates move your strollers sometimes so you cannot guarantee that it will be where you left it.
I know it was a good idea because on the second trip to Disney we forgot the monkey toy and it was MUCH more annoying to find the stroller.

3. Bring a carrier!

Ok so for our first trip we hardly used it. LA was in a stage where she didn’t like it very much, so we definitely could have done without it for that trip.
And for our second trip we only used it a little bit…. but it was nice for me to know in the back of my mind that it was there as an option. We did use it a bit and I was glad we had it. If your child is happy in one you could even have them nap in it! (but then you can’t sneak on adult rides! )
There are probably even some children who could do the whole day just with a carrier and not a stroller. Personally I like having something to dump my stuff in and LA likes to have her on space on occasion so we needed the stroller. But I liked having the Ergo.

4. Leash them?  Personally, I’m pretty opposed to those leash-y things that you put toddler in so they can walk around but still be “attached” to you. Not judging anyone… I’m just not a fan (especially when I see parents use them at random locations and seem to use it as an excuse to ignore their child)… but that’s just me.

I wrote previously about how I broke down and bought one for our Texas trip because I had images of having to chase her through and airport and leaving my luggage behind, not good when you are on your own.

However, Disney would be another place I could see them being useful. The bonus is that if you have a super independent child it can let them walk a bit and wander in some areas. BUT Disney is so crowded they could still be run over or hurt…. so it’s a catch 22. But there are areas that it could be helpful.

LA is pretty good about holding our hands, she seems to understand it is the price she pays for walking on her own.

btw this is her adorable new little walk… she walks/runs like Phoebe from Friends (if you haven’t seen that episode check it out, it’s hysterical)

And walking with Daddy at 14 months 🙂

5.Bring some distractions but not too many! The first trip we were overflowing with distractions and we really only used a fraction of them. So for our second adventure I packed far less and was wise enough to pack smaller ones (stickers, beads, etc)…. Disney is so full of stimulation it’s really not too hard to distract them with what is around you. We mostly used them when we were trying to buy ourselves some extra time to eat in the restaurants.

And even in the restaurant there are things for distractions…. like straws… LA loves straws!

6. Bring snacks! The greatest toddler distraction of them all!

I tried to bring some that were healthy. I knew there would be very few veggies at Disney so I bought some of the pureed veggie pouch things. LA loves them and we don’t have them often so they are kind of a treat. She also loves apples and pears so we had those. Cheese was good. Crackers and goldfish, obviously. But we were on vacation so she got some illicit pleasures…. like cheese puffs and M&M’s. LA loves M&M’s…. this is her face when she first realized I had them…

And the relief on her face when she realized I was going to give her some….

M&M’s are our big guns…. if we need more time or a big distraction. I do not recommend this trick for all occasions but it works for Disney because it’s a. a matter of survival and b. it’s supposed to be the happiest place on Earth 🙂
So whatever your big guns are… bring them

7. Pack water… the night before I put a couple bottles of water and a sippy cup with water in it in the freezer. They slowly thaw out during the day time so you have cold water… for free! Not to mention it will keep your fruit and cheese cool in your bag.

8. Pack lunch/dinner!! I always forget that Disney lets you bring in food. We totally did not do this in October but we did this last time. Just some easy sandwiches and chips but it was worth it. It meant we only had to buy one meal at the park a day. That saved us like 30 bucks… worth it! Plus as you eat and snack your bag gets lighter!

9. Getting there- The first time we went we drove over in the morning and got there about an hour after opening. It worked fine for us… LA slept on the way over so she was fresh and ready to go. We were a bit tired.
The second time we went we stayed overnight at a hotel the night before. That was obviously nicer 🙂

10. Leaving- The first time we stayed all the way through the end. We watched the Electric Light parade and the fireworks afterwards. LA really liked both. I really think she would have liked them even more the second time we went but we didn’t stay until closing that time…. we were so tired.
But the other reason we didn’t stay was the horror that happens after the Electric Light Parade…. so BE WARNED! here is what happened.

We waited to the left of the castle about 45 minutes before the parade. We thought that would be enough time… it wasn’t really. It was an ok spot for us to watch from because we could see a straight shot down Main Street but we were not close and there were a ton of people. Immediately after the parade there was chaos. It seemed everyone was either trying to get out of the park down Main Street or to go to the other side of the park. It was bumper to bumper strollers and people were NOT nice. I struggled to keep up with Steve and LA in the stroller. I worried about LA getting smacked in the face with people’s swinging bags so I carried her. Then Steve was paranoid about someone knocking me over with her in my arms (and rightly so). It was awful… it took us over a half an hour for us to get from the castle to the opening of Main Street.

We stopped at the Baby Station to change her and leave… but we had taken so long the fireworks started so we watched those. I then nursed LA and we tried to leave the park. More stroller deadlock. Then a REALLY long wait to leave the park with a ton of very pushy, tired people.

I’m not saying the fireworks and parade are not worth it… they are awesome. But either be prepared to deal with what we dealt with (and we were there in the off season) or plan ahead.

Here is what our plan will be for next time (when we are definitely doing the parade and fireworks)…. We will stake out a good comfy spot on the curb at the head of Main Street. A good spot near the entrance to the park with a straight view towards the castle. We will stake it out about one and a half to two hours before the parade is scheduled to start.

Mommy is going to bring a book and take one for the team while Daddy takes LA on another fun ride. Mama will hold the spot for them. They will come back with food and we will sit and eat until it’s time to watch. If baby gets fussy we will take turns looking in shops with her while the other holds the good spot. This way we can all see the parade and we are in a good location to just duck out and avoid the chaos afterwards. Feel free to steal our plan!

11. When to go- From my personal experience and our inside Auntie information October, February and the first part of March is the least busy time to go. It is also, coincidentally, the nicest weather in Florida… it’s a win win!

12. Know when to leave- If you are park hopping time your visit for nap and lunch. On our October trip we just did one day. This last trip we did Hollywood Studios and Disney on Thursday and then Animal Kingdom and Disney on Saturday. We left our lunch in the car in a cooler. LA napped and we ate between parks. Less to carry, a good nap… a little break for us. A win win.

If you can afford to stay on site go to the hotel and take a nap, it’s worth it.

If we had season tickets or several days I would probably recommend going over in the morning and exhausting the kids. Bring them back to the hotel for a nap and go back after dinner…. if you go back at all. All depends on what you can do.

13. Put your baby to bed! I made this mistake… on our between day we rested at the hotel. I should have put LA to bed at her normal time. But it’s vacation I stupidly reasoned and let her take another swim in our giant jaccuzzi tub in our room. The next day we paid for it. On our first day God was with us and we had a perfect day. Our second day, when we did Animal Kingdom/Disney it was the opposite. LA had meltdown after meltdown, the crowds were awful (it was a Saturday vs a school day), and it was so hot…. oh, until it rained. I really wish I’d just put her to bed.

Steve and I both feel like doing two days in a row would be suicide. He is sure that just doing two park days over a three day vacation is a bad idea…. I think it’s doable if you make sure to rest on the between day and put the baby to bed early the night before! Don’t make my mistakes!

14. Use those fast passes! They are amazing…. do some research when you go and don’t waste them. You can only have one at a time on your tickets. So don’t get one for something like Small World, which moves quickly and during certain times of the day has little to no line at all. Use it for the big scary lines.

15. Strategize!– Take some time and look things up. Apple has an iPhone ap that tells you what each ride is and who it’s aimed at. You can get an idea of which have longest lines because it posts wait times.

For example- When we went to Hollywood Studios Auntie C told us that Rockin Roller Coaster and Toy Story have the longest lines in the park. We arrived shortly after the park opened. Auntie C took LA to get fast passes for us all while Steve and I went and rode Rockin Roller Coaster. When we went in the line was 20 minutes long… by the time we came out it was over an hour.

Auntie C got us fast passes for between 11 and 12:30… we walked past the ride about a half an hour later and the fast passes were already being given out for 7 n the evening! So just be aware of which rides have the longest lines and will need fast passes and plan accordingly.

If you don’t want to do the research yourself I can be bribed for some nice cookies or a large Coca Cola to tell you all of my secrets 🙂

16. If you can… get a hotel- I really loved having the hotel… it made it feel more like a vacation rather than a really exhausting, fun day that still ends up back at home. Also, we live about 90 minutes from the park so it’s easy to drive over there and back in a day… in all probability the baby will sleep on the way there and back. So not much difference for them… but huge difference for the adults.

There are a TON of cheap hotel deals. We stayed at a nice one called Mystic Dunes Golf Resort… we had a one bedroom villa with a full kitchen, a hot tub in the bedroom, leather furniture, 4 pools, giant sandbox, free use of putt put golf, ping pong and bicycles for 85 a night.

If you keep an eye on groupon you can get some other amazing deals if you are willing to give some of your time.

There are websites for Time Share deals (search Time Share Disney deals or something)… I’ve seen ones that are two nights in the hotel and two Disney passes for 150 dollars… which is great. You juts have to commit to hear their 2 hour spiel or what not. You can usually only do this once a year, but that works for us. My husband, however, hates going to the spiel… I don’t love it but if you want to give me cash, tickets and a snazzy hotel so you can talk to me about something I cannot afford all while I munch on your free breakfast/lunch… by all means go ahead.

For example our hotel had a deal of they would give you 50$ cash, two tickets to their expensive golf course, and two more nights at their hotel for listening to their pitch. To me, that is worth 2 hours of my time….

If you don’t stay overnight before or after or both… bring PJ’s in the car for your children. Make sure they have a fresh diaper (if necessary) and are cuddled up with whatever they like to sleep with in PJ’s and head home. If you are lucky they will transfer to bed and you can pass out yourself!

17. Remember it’s supposed to be fun… I can’t tell you how many parents we saw shouting at their child or looking annoyed or run down or unhappy. I think there is pressure to get your money’s worth (and with good reason) and to make it this amazing time that it can get to you. You are trying so hard to make things perfect that you snap. Just make a short list of things in your mind that you’d like to do and everything else is extra… and relax. I know, easier said than done… but just remember you can always come back.

So…. those are the best tips I can think of…

This is a really long post and I actually wanted to tell you about the rides and lines and what not… I will put that in another post 😉

If I remember more tips I’ll post them… if you have more I’d love to see them.

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One response to “Theme Parks…Tips

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  1. Pingback: Theme Parks… The fun « Memories of the Heart

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