Hi friends! Hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend! We spent a laid back evening with friends to celebrate the 4th which was just what we needed after time away. It's always difficult settling back in after vacation. Don't you think? I have been so tired. I think it's partially that your body lets down from the adrenaline you had going while vacationing. Now, it's back to our routines and attempting to settle in for the rest of the month. Camps and swim dates will now be the new norm around here.
I promised a few vacation pictures and some tips and tricks we learned on our first trip to Disney with the kids, so here goes.
1. Try to Pick Off Season if You Can
We could not, but if possible, choose to go off-season when it's not as crowded and hot. I sweat buckets (no joke!) I've never been so hot in my life and that coupled with the crowds could be quite miserable at times.
2. Choose a Disney Resort
The best choice we made was to stay on the property. They provide not only the amenities you are looking for, but also make it easy to get around with the monorail system, shuttles to and from or ferries.
We loved the Animal Kingdom. It was an amazing experience to have a room facing the savannah. I wasn't sure what to expect when they told you that you would be able to see the animals from your balcony, but you truly could! It was so cool and worth the extra cost in our opinion. The whole family got enjoyment from sitting on the balcony chilling and watching the animals.
3. Get the Meal Plan
Definitely worth the extra cost. We have a family of five and it can be so pricey to eat at amusement parks! This allowed us to choose ahead our dinners from a choice of fun options. We ate at Jiko at the Animal Kingdom, Mama Melroses at Hollywood and Ohana at the Polynesian. We loved all 3, but our favorite for the family was Ohana. It is a family friendly meal where the servers bring skewers of sweet and sour chicken, oak-grilled shrimp and steak to your table, as well as dumplings, stir-fried vegetables, lo mein noodles and salad. There is island music and some fun activities to engage the kids.
The second piece of the meal plan is the quick service meals which are your lunches at the park. You get to choose a drink, entree and dessert for each lunch.
The third piece is the snacks. This includes any drinks or snack you purchase at the parks.
Now each plan comes with a certain amount of each, and they will provide you with a print out. Be sure to look at that and plan accordingly, we went through our snacks pretty quick. Another hint, we did not buy the meal plan for our 4-year-old. There was always plenty of food to share and he didn't miss out on anything. This saved us money!
4. Download the Disney app/ Get your Magi Band and Use it!
The Disney app logs everything for you if you have the magibands. These little bands are genius. You use them throughout the park for not only entrance, but to purchase items/ food and to fast pass your choice rides. We set up our fast pass rides (up to 3 per day) several days in advance. We then used our app to keep track of our schedule, change our fast passes, and check line waits and which characters were appearing and when.
5. Try to do some special activities
We included in our trip a couple of extra activities. Each resort has its theme and activities associated with it. To more thoroughly enjoy the Animal Kingdom, we signed up for one of the most unusual adventures I've ever done, a night safari. This was outstanding! They took us out in a small group of 10 on the savannah with night vision goggles. The guides were knowledgable and gave us lots of information about each animal we saw. The kids loved it! We were able to get so close, that we could have reached out and touched some of them. It was amazing and I highly recommend it. It was definitely a highlight.
Another highlight was the Jedi Experience at Hollywood Studios. If you have a Star Wars fan in your family, then this is a definite. You have to run right over to sign up as soon as the park opens and then they give you a time to come back for the actual experience. It was well done and super fun. They “trained” the young Jedi's how to use their light saber and then they each had a turn “fighting” Darth Vadar. It was like a mini show with the Storm Troopers coming out first and then Darth. Here's Grant taking on Vader.
6. Try to Relax!
Going to Disney and relax, huh? Sound like they don't mix. Well, for us it really didn't. We spent 4 days and 4 parks which was just too much! I would recommend slowing down and spreading out the love if that is something you can accomplish. Maybe just 2 parks in 4 days so you can see everything on a slower schedule? I'm glad we could see them all, but by the 4th day, we were all melting down. Our best day was when we went early for extra magic hours and then came back swam and rested at the resort and went back at night. In hindsight, we should have tried to do that every day and it might have helped.
Our two favorite parks were Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Both offered a lot of different activities that all three kids could enjoy.
Make sure when you are there that you meet some of the characters and buy an autograph book. All of the parks feature different characters and if you watch the app, you can get around and see everyone you want. We did not do a character breakfast, but I hear these can be great though pricey.
I'd love to hear about any Disney adventures you and your family have gone on!