Tips for keeping kids occupied on your flight to Disney World

Hooray! You’re going to Disney World! You’ve chosen your dates, you decided to fly instead of drive and now it’s time to think about what to do with your kids for the 2-4 hours while in flight. As a mom of an almost 3 year old we’ve flown with our little girl twice and had 2 really different experiences!

The first time was easy – she spent most of the flight asleep (SCORE ONE FOR MOM!) and the second time we scheduled around nap time and it was much less successful. Maybe an hour asleep of the 3 hour trip.

You’ve got the obvious things…iPad or tablet, snacks, coloring, and books to keep them occupied, but will that take up almost 3 hours of time? For some kids the answer is yes, but for some it’s not enough! Also, make sure your kids will wear headphones of some sort so they can hear what they are doing and to not bother your seat neighbors.

If you’ve got an antsy kid who won’t sit still for 3 hours, think about quiet books and other activities that will capture their interest but won’t take up a lot of space in your suitcase. We brought window clings and let our kiddo have the window seat so she could stick and re-stick a snowman to the window (it was Christmas time so lots of clings available!) You may even want to purchase a toy that is NEW for the plane ride so it hasn’t lost its magic with use at home.

The one thing you do NOT want to do is pack too much! On our first flight, we brought the favorite “everything” – books, toys, stuffed animals, blanket, and snacks. We used about 2% of all of the stuff we brought so be a minimalist. Limit items to what will fit under the seat in front of you in a small backpack or bag. You won’t be able to use anything that’s large anyways!

Beyond entertainment, consider something for your child to drink or suck on during take off and landing as they don’t have the ability to adjust their ear pressure as easily as adults. Dum dum suckers are a great easy take along. If your child has a sippy cup, it’s another great way to loosen up their ears (the sucking motion helps). Bring easy to eat snacks with you (and things that aren’t incredibly messy!)

PLEASE bring an extra pair of clothes PER PERSON. I can’t stress this one enough. If you are sitting with a small child (especially one that has never been on a plane), make sure everyone has a change of clothes in case of any sickness in the air. You may want 2 changes of clothes for your little one just in case! Along the same line, bring a plastic bag or two – it can dual as a little garbage bag if necessary.

For older children, prep them about the flight experience if it is their first time. Ask them what they’d like to bring on the flight and allow them their own special carry on bag with their own stuff in it and allow them to pack it (within reason). If you’re traveling during the school year, ask for any homework ahead of time to potentially do on the plane!

Do you have any tried and true tips for flying with your child? I’d love to hear about it! Comment below!

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The Pros and Cons of Disney World Moderate Resorts

 

Over the past 2+ years through this crazy little blog of mine, I’ve worked through comparing all Disney World resorts – their pros and cons in general but comparing a value resort to a deluxe resort isn not a fair fight. Generally people plan their experience around budget, so you’re working with a “value”, “moderate” or “deluxe” style budget!

I’m going to break down each of the resorts classes, start with moderate resorts since that seems to be the “middle of the road” for Disney vacations. These are also some of the largest resorts in space and capacity. For more detailed information on each resort, check out the moderate resort page and each individual resort for size, pools, and restaurants. I’ll start with my opinion of “the best of”…

Best Pool: Coronado Springs with Caribbean Beach in a very close second!

Best Grounds: Based on size, Port Orleans French Quarter; Based on overall appeal – Port Orleans French Quarter or Riverside (themes are related) If you want a more vibrant resort, Caribbean Beach is definitely appealing!

Best Location on Disney property: The Port Orleans sisters – Riverside & French Quarter have a bit of an edge because they have boat access to and from Disney Springs! In general, all of the moderate resorts are along a similar line of  “latitude” on Disney property so it takes roughly the same amount of time to get to Magic Kingdom (which is what most guests are the most worried about)

Best Bus system: It’s a really close race here and it truly depends on your timing. Disney buses run every 20 minutes to and form all 4 theme parks. You may see less of a wait time during peak travel times and maybe a bit longer wait during off peak times (11 am – 4 pm), but nothing is more frustrating than waiting for an Epcot bus and seeing 3 Disney Springs buses and 3 Magic Kingdom buses go by while the time ticks closer and closer to park opening. I get it – been, there, done that! I think Coronado Springs has a slight edge with just 4 internal bus stops. Port Orleans French Quarter & Riverside share buses at times, so when that is the case, I don’t think it wins the race!

Best Dining options: Port Orleans Riverside (with a nod going to French Quarter for their New Orleans style food – beignets!) with Coronado Springs in a close second. As a resort with a conference center, it makes sense that it has good food options.

Best rooms for kids: Tie. Port Orleans Riverside Royal Rooms have an amazing princess theme. At Caribbean Beach, you can enjoy a pirate themed room for your swashbucklers!

Best rooms for adults: Coronado Springs Business class is a moderate resort version of the club level service at the deluxe resorts at a fraction of the price. Enjoy a conveniently located room as well as food and beverage service in their lounge included in the cost of your stay. A close second would be Port Orleans French Quarter as the atmosphere can be quite romantic.

The good, the bad, and the ugly. This is all about where you want to stay for your vacation. If price is a factor, Port Orleans (both), and Caribbean Beach rooms all have the same rack (non-discounted) rates for standard rooms. The difference? Location and size. While all resorts in this category have queen beds now with the update FINALLY coming through for Caribbean Beach, resort size makes the difference for us! Traveling as 2 adults? You can guarantee yourself a king size bed by choosing this category room. If you’re a family of 5, you’re stuck with a room at Port Orleans Riverside or going to a different class of resort. It’s the only non-suite option that sleeps more than 4. There’s no real difference in travel time among the resorts to Magic Kingdom as they are located on the southern half of the resort.

Port Orleans resorts were renovated in 2012 and Coronado Springs renovated right around the same time. Caribbean Beach is the most recently updated resort having a major update in fall 2014 into early 2015.

Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans Riverside, and Coronado Springs are all larger resorts. If you’re concerned about extra walking in your resort, stay at French Quarter or choose a preferred room at one of the other resorts. Remember these are just my opinions, and if you have your heart set on a specific resort, GO!

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2016 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

10 things to do on an adults only Disney World vacation!

What? People go to Disney World without kids? That’s right. I’ve done it many times and it’s a totally different experience than going with and for your kids. I actually recommend it if you’re interested in going post having children. It allows you to get the roller coaster experience “out of your system” or a way to get a romantic experience (YES, you can!) with a little fun!

1. Stay club level. The deluxe resorts all have club level service which provides you with a concierge floor and added

The best view in the house - Magic Kingdom from your balcony (view from Contemporary resort but similar views available at Grand Floridian and Polynesian)

The best view in the house – Magic Kingdom from your balcony (view from Contemporary resort but similar views available at Grand Floridian and Polynesian)

benefits which makes you feel like you are the best of the best in Disney World. We’ve spoiled ourselves with many experiences. Interested in seeing what the best Club level locations are and what it entails?:

2. Go on a monorail pub crawl. There are two great ones in Disney World. First, the monorail tour. Start at Magic Kingdom and take the boat to Wilderness Lodge, then make stops at each of the Disney monorail resorts: Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian. I like to go later and stay to watch the fireworks from the Grand Floridian Beach!

3. Try signature restaurants. Disney offers 12 signature restaurants plus Victoria & Albert’s, the finest of all dining locations on Disney property. This is a great romantic setting and to try some amazing food! These meals often take longer than the standard table service, and offer many courses, wine pairings, and some amazing entree and dessert choices. One of the great things about signature restaurants, is many are located at resort hotels, so you don’t need park admission or park hoppers to visit them! Which leads me to my next point…

3a. Take advantage of the Deluxe Dining Plan. This plan is not for the faint of heart, or the tiny stomach. Disney’s deluxe dining plan provides you with 3 credits per person, per night stayed and can be used as a table service or quick service credit. An upgrade to the Disney dining plan, this plan provides an appetizer, entree, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage for lunch and dinner meals (no appetizer or dessert for breakfast). It’s a great way to try multiple signature restaurants around Disney. While deluxe dining is expensive, it’s a great add on to an adults trip (or upgrade your dining when staying during a free dining promotion for more savings!) If you’re interested in any sort of character dining, you can enjoy that on this plan, too!

4. Enjoy drinks around the world in Epcot. Similar to #3, stop at each country in Epcot and have a drink of the land. This works out best if you share a drink or if you break it up into 2 days, as there is A LOT to try. I haven’t found many people that can each have a drink and make it all the way around and continue their Disney day without being quite obnoxious by the end of the night 🙂 This experience is enhanced during one of Epcot’s annual festivals – both Flower & Garden in the spring or Food & Wine in the fall!

5. Take a carriage ride. A romantic carriage ride is offered at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside (for an additional feel of course).  Port Orleans can be reached by boat from Downtown Disney (a great end to a romantic night after dinner) or by bus from any theme park.

6. Enjoy a spa day. Saratoga Springs & Grand Floridian both have spas available for guest use. Call to reserve your germany-epcotservice before your arrival and pamper yourself!

7. Enjoy evening magic hours. My  husband and I like to enjoy evening magic hours when we travel. It’s an easy way to see more in less time, especially when there are 2 full hours of fun. Families with kids start to dwindle as the hour gets later. We get up early, head to the parks, take a nice long break in the middle of the date, eat a late dinner and enjoy all the extra time Disney has to offer us! Be aware that most of the “adult” attractions will still have some lines during these late hours, but the later they go, the shorter your waits will be as it gets into the wee hours in the morning!

8. Check out the evening offerings at BoardWalk. Disney’s BoardWalk has some fun things for adults including meals, street performers, and a piano bar (JellyRolls). This area is open later than most in Disney!

9. Spend a whole day in the park. While I don’t normally suggest staying in the park for a full 10-12 hours, doing it without kids is manageable, especially for a short trip. To let your feet take a break, park hop and the bus or monorail ride will be a little break. .With dining in there, you’ll be able to rest inside the park as well. This option makes things a bit easier with park hoppers as the transportation gives you a nice rest (as well as a break from the Florida weather!0

10. Pretend you are a kid again. Meet characters, go on water rides, do some character dining, and enjoy Disney like a kid! Just because you’re a grown up, you have no real responsibility. Enjoy yourself!!!

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2016 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

The Best Club Level service in Walt Disney World

The best of the best experience of Disney World resorts – Club level service! It’s something we tried as a special birthday trip a few years ago and nothing has come close to matching it in any of other stays. It’s a slippery slope once you’re hooked on the idea and experience!

So what is club level service? It is available at all Walt Disney World Deluxe resorts as a separate booking category. It provides guests with a personal contact inside Disney to make requests, help book dining, aide in FastPass selection, and someone to have on site to make modifications to your reservations. I tell my guests it’s like having me travel with you if you – someone that’s available every day to talk to face to face while you’re on vacation.

Club level guests also have access to a club level lounge most which are open from 7 am – 10 pm daily and have a myriad of drinks and snacks. Each day starts with coffee service followed by breakfast. For my family, the continental breakfast is enough to fill our bellies prior to heading to the theme parks. You’ll find coffee, tea, water, juice, and milk for drinks. Food offerings often include fruit, pastries, cereal, yogurt, and bagels. Some locations have additional options like hard boiled eggs, ham/turkey and cheese plates.

Mid-day snacks bring along true “snack” food – Goldfish crackers, gummy bears, Swedish Fish, homemade chips with dipping sauce. It’s nothing of substance that could make up a meal, but nice for families like mine that need a mid-day break with a toddler who won’t sleep in a stroller. The lounge gives me a place to work (and I’m often one of just a few people in the lounge as most guests are in the park). You’ll often have lemonade, iced tea, or some other drink options (depending on resort) as well as canned soft drinks available to you.

A few resorts have afternoon tea service with finger sandwiches, tarts, and scones. This is not available at all resorts.

At 5 pm, hot and cold appetizers, veggies, cheese, breads and dips are available as well as select wine and beer for adults. Depending on your resort, you may find the appetizer to be enough food to take care of “dinner”,  but at most, it’s truly an appetizer (if you have a late dinner reservation or are planning on quick service, it’s worth a whirl around before heading back to the park for the evening).

From 8-10 pm, each resort hosts dessert and after dinner cordials and will likely still have beer and wine available upon request.

The types of food is often related to the resort you are staying in. You’ll find more rustic items in Wilderness Lodge and some appetizers at Animal Kingdom Lodge will have the feel of Boma (their African inspired restaurant).

So what is the BEST club level service? It truly depends on what you’re looking for in club level service.

Best overall service. Wilderness Lodge is my pick  There are so few rooms in this small club level that they have better food offerings and better individualized service. Plus, it’s on the lower end of cost for all Club Level service available. The cast members in the lounge are also the most helpful and kind I’ve ever met in ANY Disney resort! I was at times the only person in the club level area trying to work through the madness of 2015 free dining in April, and I had someone who was almost constantly attending to me! It was a comforting and relaxing feeling given the stressful circumstances and if I can be comfortable and relaxed with that scenario, it says A LOT!

For best view and space, Polynesian is tops followed by Contemporary Resort. Both provide a

The View from the balcony of the Contemporary Atrium Club Level Lounge

The View from the balcony of the Contemporary Atrium Club Level Lounge

beautiful view of Magic Kingdom and you can watch fireworks from the lounge (so if it’s cold, a little wet, or the kids are tired, head over, grab a drink and put your feet up)! It’s a great view and a quick trip back “home”.

Best food. This one is a toss up based on who you talk to. Animal Kingdom Lodge has the most unique food available. Wilderness Lodge has the most elaborate options (because they are cooking for less people than most of the other club level lounges). Polynesian has food from several of the restaurants (Ohana and Spirit of Aloha) so it gives you a taste of those restaurants without actually going there! Yacht and Beach Club have good food that seemed a bit different than the other resorts. Contemporary resort falls short for me. For the price, the menus didn’t deviate as much as I’d like them to! Grand Floridian has their afternoon tea service which is absolutely fantastic.

Best overall. This is a hard one because it depends on the type of accommodations you are looking for, resort theme, and location. You can’t go wrong with any of the deluxe resort locations as they are all located near at least one of Disney’s theme parks. If I HAD to choose an order of my favorite overall club level resorts, here’s how it would go:

  1. Wilderness Lodge
  2. Polynesian
  3. Grand Floridian
  4. Yacht Club
  5. Animal Kingdom Lodge
  6. Beach Club
  7. Contemporary Resort
  8. Boardwalk Inn

Yes, Contemporary, one of the most expensive club level lounges is near the bottom. Our experience was a bit lackluster. While it has an amazing view and large lounge space, I never felt “at home” or welcomed there! The food seemed repetitive day after day and none of the other lounges gave me that feeling. The only reason Boardwalk is last on the list is that it doesn’t stand out to be memorable at all to me. The location is nice near Epcot, but the resort is large and Beach and Yacht Club is more convenient and has a better pool experience when comparing the same general location. It’s also a more kid friendly option.

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Interested in experiencing a Disney World vacation in 2016?  Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Friday Five: 5 things every Disney World 1st timer should do

One of my favorite photos from our April trip!

One of my favorite photos from our April trip!

Happy Friday! I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving with family with ideas brewing for future Disney destinations travel!! Today, I want to talk about a few things I think every first timer should do when visiting Walt Disney World. This will enhance your trip and make for a more memorable experience!

1. Making at least one dining reservation. If you’re choosing to skip the dining plan (see a post from earlier this week why it’s not the best choice even as first timers!), you should still make at least one dining reservation and ideally make 2 – one inside and one outside of the park. The one inside the park is a matter of convenience to give your feet a rest (and possibly a good character experience). The outside park (in one of Disney’s resorts) gives you an opportunity to visit a resort that is not yours to do some valuable “research” for future travel. As a first timer, it also gives you a sense that you belong in a resort. You are welcome to visit any Disney resort at any time, but as a first timer, it seems a bit overwhelming to just go somewhere if you aren’t staying there – especially some of the higher end deluxe resorts!

2. See the Magic Kingdom welcome show. Every morning (pending any heavy rain showers), Magic Kingdom has a welcome show which occurs 20 minutes before park open. On days when extra magic hours are available, it’s 20 minutes before the morning magic hours. Many Disney characters arrive on the train in elaborate fashion. It’s an amazing start to the day (something that makes me a bit teary eyed every time we see it!) Plan on arriving at the gate about 30-40 minutes before park open to be near the front of the crowd to see the show and to get into the park and to your first attractions of the day!

3. Meet a character. Whether you are traveling with kids or not, take a few minutes out of your day to meet a Disney character. Its worth the experience and opportunity to remember! Talking Mickey in Town Square in Magic Kingdom is one of our favorites (and the favorites of adults as well as they trip and pick apart HOW it works!!)

4. Visit Disney Springs. You’ll also see this location in old posts here as well as many other blogs as Downtown Disney. This bustling area is filled with shopping, dining, and Disney entertainment! You won’t need a whole day for it, but you can easily spend a 1/2 day here for the best shopping (World of Disney and Once Upon a Toy) and some great dining of all shapes and sizes – whether you want fine dining (Morimoto Asia or The Boathouse) or family friendly options like Raglan Road, T-Rex, or Rainforest Cafe, it’s well worth taking a few hours to explore!!

5. See Wishes Fireworks. While all of Disney’s evening spectaculars are worth seeing, if you can only keep kids up to see one, Wishes is my choice! It’s incredibly well done and can be seen from most areas of the Magic Kingdom in front of the castle (you can also see it from behind the castle, but that’s not the experience I’d recommend as a first timer). Find your spot shortly after the Main Street Electrical Parade if offered during your stay in Magic Kingdom for the best spot!

For those that have traveled before, what are your must do experiences in Walt Disney World? What would you skip the next time around?

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Interested in experiencing a Disney World vacation in 2016?  Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!