You're going to Disney!!! (Now what?!)

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Congratulations! You've made the decision to dive full on into the craziness and plan a trip to Disney. Or maybe you just want to know about my full fledged plunge into an entire world I had no idea existed- the Disney planner people.

The day I clicked purchase on our Disney park tickets was awesome! I felt pure elation because we were finally taking our kids to Disney and some of my family was coming with us! I reveled in that joy and elation. I sent a picture of the screen to G, my mom,  my sister and a couple of others. Not going to lie...I shed a tear. Those of you who know me well know that one of my more endearing qualities is the ability to cry through every range of emotion. So I sat in my office chair on my lunch break and cried tears of joy that I was making this dream come true, that we had worked hard at my design business and were paying cash to make this dream come true.

And then the panic hit. Where do I even start? Oh, and we were keeping this top secret from my kids just for an added layer of excitement and to complicate the planning process just a little.

Trust me, planning a trip to Disney can go so many ways. You can just book the whole thing online and wing it or you can plan the shit out of each and every day. I'm happy to say I rescued myself from going full on into Disney over plan mode and we ended up being an almost perfectly planned trip for our family.

(FYI- the perfect trip involves a lot of Mickey Bars)

Doesn't matter if you plan to keep the trip a secret from your kids like we did or if you plan to fully engage them in trip prep. The VERY FIRST think you need to do is-

1. Book Your Trip

I was making arrangements for 8 people so we used a travel agent to help us with the travel and accommodation logistics. I am so grateful that we went that route. Sure I could have done all of that myself- but I'm not a travel expert so I was happy to have the help. Debbie got us a great travel package with Sunwing that included flights, rental home in a gated community and rental cars for a very reasonable price. We decided not to stay on property because there were so many of us and because we knew the parks would be very busy when we would be there which meant higher prices and no solitude. Our house had a pool and Jacuzzi and was located on a quiet street. It was really relaxing to be able to find some quiet at the end of each day. I'm not sure my anxiety would have been quiet so well managed had we not had that retreat away from all the people and the excitement of the parks.

Do you know how many Disney trip planning sites, blogs and Facebook groups there are out there? Hundreds! It is so easy to get overwhelmed (like I did) and just walk away with the thought "Frig it! I'll show up and see what happens!" Please don't do'll spend your whole day in a line and not get to enjoy anything.

Fans everywhere! Great for cooling down when you have to wait in a line...

So dear reader, this brings me to step 2-

2. Talk to your friends who have been there

Luckily I have a few friends who have been to the parks. I discovered completely by accident that someone I've known for many years is a full on Disney fanatic (he hid his Disney infatuation well lol) Next thing I knew I had a full list of websites, podcasts and logistical information. I've reduced the list to the ones I found most helpful:

The Mouse for Less- This site has a ton of Disney news and info about the parks. We were going at Easter and I was able to find good info about what was happening in the parks over the holidays here. I was also added to the Facebook group and got quick answers to my questions from them.

Dad's Guide to Walt Disney World- Crowd calendar here was really useful and he had some good tips for planning fastpass and enjoying the trip.

Disney in Your Day- Becky's Disney blog is a fun read. Disney info, food reviews and park news.

Now, to be fair, I read way more than 3 blogs. I filled a Pinterest board with links and ideas. I overwhelmed myself with information. Friends, don't do that to yourself. Find a couple of resources that you like and stick with them. Most of them share the same info with just a slightly different perspective. You have to decide what type of vacation you want to have and what will work for your family.

Smiles, fun, adventure, laughs- basics covered!

Talk to your vacation friends and decide-

3. Decide what kind of Disney experience you want to have

Travelling with 8 people who all have different crowd tolerance levels made planning a little bit of a challenge. Especially for a gal who gave everyone in my life an itinerary broken down in to 15 minute increments for my wedding day. The more I read and the more I looked at the crowd calendars, the more I can to terms with a strict schedule was not going to fly in my post baby life. I opted for a more relaxed plan of attack- Pick three things to do, pick one direction to move around the parks and enjoy every moment.

This sounds pretty simple. You can pre-book 3 FastPasses, so my plan was space the passes out, start at the first one and then head towards the second. There proved to be a few flaws with the plan in a park or two but I'll get in to that later. As an overall strategy it worked really well. Those flaws resulted from failure to do the next step-

4. Book your dining!!! 

You've booked your vacation? Awesome! Now look at the calendar, count back 180 days and set an alarm. Go do it now...I'll it done? Great now when that alarm goes off you will log in to My Disney Experience and BOOK YOUR DINING. By the time I figured out what parks we would be in on what days, EVERYTHING was booked. It was also Easter, and US spring break so reserved dining was very difficult to come by. You will need a break. A sit down lunch would have been a great break in each park.

Why hello footlong hot dog that fed two!

5. Book your Fast Passes

Seems easy enough right? Nope! This is a game of strategy and if you aren't staying on resort you only get to book your passes 30 days out from your visit. Oh and did I mention that you'll need to do this multiple days in a row. Again set your alarm for 7am EST 30 days before your first park day. Log in and see what's available and then get what you can get. I have to say we were pretty lucky as I was booking passes for 8 people and I got most of the attractions we wanted to do together. The beauty of this is that if you don't get the time you'd really like for an attraction you can always rope drop (get to the park before opening) and head to that attraction first, release your fast pass while in line and book something else.  People change their plans so passes can open up last minute.We did this for the Safari at Animal Kingdom, released the afternoon pass and my sister and brother in law were able to get on another ride they wanted to do later in the day.

The Safari first thing in the morning was awesome! 
So those are the basic 5 things that I found really helpful in planning our trip.  I know you want more details and pictures, they are coming!

It all started with a mouse...

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Actually I think it all started at the Disney Store that used to be in Mic Mac Mall.

I was shopping with my sweet little 18 month old Oz and we wandered into the Disney store. There was an enormous display of stuffed toys at the front of the store and before I knew it, my sweet boy had Buzz Lightyear grasped firmly in one hand and Sheriff Woody solidly connected to the other. I can't recall what I was looking for in the store that day, but I can still clearly see in my memory my little boy's face as he talked to 'Uzz and 'Oddy and ignored the rest of the toys around him. I had no intentions of buying any new toys that day, in fact I'm pretty sure my budget didn't have room for me to spend any extra money. When it was time to leave the store, I looked at my boy and he looked at me with hope and joy in his eyes, and I immediately got in the lineup to buy the toys.

We walked out of the store with Oz squeezing his two new best friends under one arm while his little hand was wrapped my fingers. His smile was so wide and my heart was so full. It still fills my heart when I remember every detail firmly implanted in my brain and my heart of that experience. And Buzz and Woody went everywhere with our family for many years.   When Oz was little Mickey Mouse Club house and Cars were also part of the heavy Disney rotation in our home. His 2nd birthday was a Mickey Mouse party and I often wondered if the day's Mystery Mouseketool could be wine for me. Toy Story, Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 have been watched a million times over in our home. And you had better believe when little sister joined the crew, she received a Jessie and Bullseye from her big brother.

Amelia, like many little girls, loved the princesses. More specifically, she loves Cinderella. She loves the movie, she loves her doll, she loves dressing up and pretending to be 'Ellerella. At her 2nd birthday party, the first toy she opened was a Lego Cinderella with carriage and horse. She wouldn't open anything else and insisted that we open the toy, build it and from there she ignored everyone and everything else to play with her beloved 'Ellerella. A dream is a wish your heart makes was sung every night as part of her bedtime routine, to this day when she needs a little extra comfort at bedtime she'll ask for it and I've often caught her singing it to her dollies over the years .

The year she turned 3, she requested to be Cinderella and I found the best costume at Costco, complete with wig, tiara and Fairy Godmother wand. I'd love to say I was Fairy Godmother, but let's face it, I was a hot mess at the time and was lucky to get her costume pinned up and tied up (it was about four sizes too big for her) before heading out to trick or treat. I remember all of that in detail. Especially the smile on her face as she twirled around and proclaimed to everyone who would glace her way that she was 'Ellerella.

Those displays of sheer joy from my two kids created a desire to give them more of that. I don't mean to give them more material items, that isn't to say we don't have our fair share of Disney princess dress up, barbies, stuffies, CARS toys, clothes, slippers- you name it. I wanted them to feel that happiness and to have more memories to store in their hearts to call on. I've had a few dark days in my time and I am acutely aware of the need to have a dream and to have joyful memories to help pull you through. 

It has always been my dream to take my kids to Disney. I have written down my dreams and goals many times over the years, and a number of them change and evolve overtime, but taking the kids to Disney has always stayed on the list. This year we finally made that wish come true.

This post has gotten a little long. I can clearly see that I'm going to have to split this up into many posts. I felt that it was important that you know where the dream started, so you can understand why I approached planning for the trip the way I did, why I made all the Disney extras (tutorials will be included!) and why it was so important to me to make this happen.

So it really  all started with Buzz, Woody, Cinderella and a dream.

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