Thank you Disney for partnering with me and making all of our dreams come true. As always thoughts are my own. Tickets to the park were provided by Disney.
It seems taking your kids to Disney is more of a requirement than a dream these days. The question is never, “are you thinking about planning a trip?” it is more, “when are you taking the kids?” And you can’t just show up to Disney, one must spend months (like 6+) planning the perfect trip for their toddlers who can’t remember to put on shoes and yet are expected to remember their trip to Disney for decades to come.
Well that’s a lot of pressure to put on the planner, isn’t it? So I decided to do things a little differently. We aren’t in full-time school yet so schedules are way more flexible for us than most and I wanted to take advantage of this before heading to school and being mandated when I could take my family on vacation. Seeing that I am not a huge fan of crowds or heat and crowds in heat should be considered a torture device, my main planning revolved around searching google for “slowest time of year at Disney” and “coolest month of the year in Orlando.” Well after an overwhelming response, January the 8-12th seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Traditionally the week after the marathon is one of their slowest weeks. So if you are like me, keep that in mind regardless of what you are going. So with only a couple of weeks to spare we booked it! This also makes Christmas shopping easy, as this was a big portion of their Christmas present.
(Full Video At End)
Where to Stay
We had already missed the window of staying on property and getting the benefit of choosing Fast Passes 60 days out from visit, so there was no real benefit and the costs were much higher. But the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort is conveniently located 20 mins from the airport. Plus once on property, they offer complimentary transportation around Walt Disney World. Like a water taxi, aka boat, will take you to Epcot and Hollywood Studios or hop on a shuttle bus to Disney World. You are close enough to see the fireworks from your room if your kids decide they just can’t anymore and want to go back to the hotel.
In addition to all things Disney they also have an amazing pool area with slides and fountains, beach area, playground, paddle boats you use to float around the lake, an arcade, lots of food options, plus it is located right next to Disney’s Boardwalk which we had a blast exploring. Here are additional benefits that might help sway you.
What to Do
When trying to decide what to utilize our Fast Passes on, the internet instantly made me riddled with anxiety. Basically every tip and trick said to stay glued to your phone refreshing the app in the hopes that someone drops one you want. Ugh. I just can’t. So I picked the 3 that was early in the morning and close together in terms of timing. So that once those three were done we could pick three new ones.
Now when we went down there, my girls were 3 and 5. They love the movie Pirates of the Caribbean in Adventureland(don’t judge) and hubs really wanted to do that ride, this was also his first time ever to go to Disney. So I swooped it up as our first FastPass. This was a bit of a mistake. They weren’t prepared for the darkness, the music, or the skeletons. It ended up being 5 minutes of hysteria. Fun fact, first impressions aren’t always lasting impressions. They quickly got over it once we saw our first princess, Jasmine.
Their favorite ride was definitely Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid. In fact, they loved it so much they asked to ride it again and it was the only ride we rode several times.
A girl moms version of Disney is probably much different from a boy moms. We weren’t so much there for the rides as we were for finding the Characters. So pictures of the princesses was a pretty big deal for us.
What to Eat
Another pretty big part of the whole experience is the food. Knowing we were only on site of Disney World one day, that made trying to book character meals a little easier. We flew in very early on Monday so we could have all day at the hotel pool. My kids love a good hotel and just staying at the hotel would have actually been enough for them. Apparently waking kids up at 3a and travel with no nap makes for kids that want to just stay and swim. Since it can’t always be about me we canceled our Chef Mickey’s reservation and opted to go to the boardwalk instead. Keep in mind your kid’s limitations. 8 pm dinner isn’t conducive to an exhausted kid regardless of the character present.
We brought plenty of water and snacks with us to the park. My kids aren’t big eaters and I didn’t want to spend an hour eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner when we were only at the park the one day. So we grabbed breakfast, packed a lunch and snacks for kids then we ate sat down to rest and recharge around two. We just wandered into Liberty Tree Tavern around 2 pm to grab something to hold us over until a late dinner. This worked out perfectly for the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade because it went right in front of the restaurant and as we were finishing up eating we went outside and sat on the sidewalk to watch. In addition to the princesses, this was definitely a favorite moment for the girls.
Now honestly all I really wanted was a Princess dinner at a castle to fulfill my dreams as well as the girls. I will tell you I refreshed enough trying to get something scheduled. 1900 Park Fare became available so I grabbed it. Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner at the beautiful Grand Floridian described as an enchanting buffet dinner as the Honored Guest of Cinderella and Prince Charming! Magical right? Around 5 pm, it became evident this wasn’t going to happen. The kids were fading. It wasn’t on site so we would have had to leave the park to head to Grand Floridian. After being outvoted I canceled our princess dinner. And we decided to head to the hotel to watch the fireworks from there.
People actually started setting up their seats in front of the castle around 6 pm for the firework show. So it was clear our view from the hotel was going to be better than the view at the park because we weren’t willing to hold down the fort that early.
They have fun food stops all along the way. Grab one of everything. Its jumbo sized and beautiful.
What We Wore
Now I can’t decide if this is better or worse, but I think I spent more time planning what we were going to wear than what we were going to do. I love supporting small shops so I wanted to find something unique and different. Our ears were made by the fabulous EnchantedHoneyBee. I love how customized I could make them and yet coordinated without being identical. She also has some that look so good you basically want to eat them.
Our bodysuits, Wild Rich Kids, were harder to get our hands on than a winning lottery ticket. She announces drops on a Facebook page and you better pray to the internet gods that yours is faster than everyone else. But I ended up being able to claim one for each girl even though they didn’t match or coordinate.
So as you all are probably well aware in order to make it down to Disney you need to harvest your organs. So any opportunity to save a dollar that can be applied to a glass of wine is well worth it in my book.
- Bring snacks, bring water. As long as the kids are constantly being pumped full of sugar everyone will be happy. Bring your own and save a bunch.
- I don’t care how old your kids are, rent a stroller. We used Cloud of Goods and they dropped off and delivered the stroller to our hotel. It was amazingly convenient.
- FastPass, enough said.
- MagicBands, get your magic band prior to arriving. We bought them on site at the hotel and of course, the kids wanted the character ones. The plain colored ones are $12.95 (included if you stay on site) and the character ones run $22-$27.
- Download My Disney Experience and have the ability to plan your trip at your fingertips.
- Use a Disney Planner. They get paid by Disney so it costs you nothing. If we go back for longer periods of time we will def use one to take the stress of planning.
- Get the Memory Maker. I figured it would be just as easy to take my own photos, well guess who isn’t in a single photo. Yep me. Thankfully I have video from the GoPro to prove I was there. But this will guarantee you get all the iconic photo opps emailed to you and ready to download when you get home.
- Bring a poncho. They are easy to pack and if needed will be a lifesaver.
- Bring your own autograph book. They range from $12.95 – $17.95 at the parks.
- Bring your own light up wands, spinners, and jewelry. At night every kid in the park has something that lights up and I spent $15 on a balloon that lit up that I couldn’t bring home with me. The memories are worth it, they say.
- Tracking device for kids. This might sound crazy but in reality, there is so much going on that someone wandering off isn’t too far fetched.
- A backpack. It held all valuables so I could leave stroller without worrying. I could wear it on my front for rides. Super comfortable to be carrying stuff all day.
It’s been a couple months since we got back. Clearly, life is busy and it took entirely too long to write this. But the kids still talk about it daily. Like every day asking when are we going back. There’s no turning back now. My biggest piece of advice, don’t rush the day trying to get to the next thing. Take is slow. Stop along the way. It’s magical just being there.