Thursday, January 24, 2013

Disney Wrap Up

Well, we're back and unpacked from our fabulous Disney vacation.  It was definitely tough to return to reality after being spoiled for five straight days.  I am still dreaming about my scallop and shrimp pastry from Be Our Guest and K is still walking around regally (side note:  her princess hair lasted three days until I insisted it finally be washed!  Even then, some of the shape was retained until her swim lesson!)

I wanted to make a list of stuff I found helpful while at Disney.  I am doing it mostly for my own memory retention (mind like a sieve these days) but would be happy if they helped others as well.

1.  Book now!  I can't stress this enough.  Disney is more popular than you could EVER anticipate.  Ever.  If there's an event you heard about and you think you want to try it, book it now.  It is FAR easier to cancel than it is to get a reservation at the last minute.  On our last day at Disney, we met a college student who was working at Disney as a part of a program her school offered.  She was taking her day off to explore Disney and would continue to do so through her tenure.  I told her she should go to Be Our Guest while she was there and she said it was all booked through the time she would be leaving to go home.  Will it ruin your vacation if you can't go to the Princess Dinner?  Absolutely not and if you're a take it as a comes and if it works then great kind of person, then there are a TON of other options you can take advantage of.  But if you, or your kid, have your heart set on a particular experience, dining or not, make a reservation!

2.  Use FastPass!  A FastPass is a voucher to come back to a ride during a specific timeframe.  It allows you to skip ridiculously long lines but still have the opportunity to ride the attraction.  During the month of January, especially the middle of January, the park attendance isn't as high as it is when school is out.  However, some of the more popular rides, and newer rides, can have significant wait times.  Getting a FastPass gave you the opportunity to get the ticket, go eat, or shop, or ride an attraction with a much smaller wait time and come back.  You can reduce your mental stress and physical stress (from standing in line).  You get to maximize your fun!  It doesn't get much better.  If you do take advantage of a FastPass, I would definitely not suggest going back at the very beginning of the FastPass time frame as you'll hit the line of people who were smart like you.  ;-)

3.  Take advantage of technology  Disney has an app, on the iPhone for sure and presumably on the Android, that is like an interactive map of the park.  We still picked up the traditional maps at the park entrance, but the app tells you what attractions, characters and dining is near you at the very moment.  It also gives you wait times and for the characters, viewing times, so you can coordinate your activities with maximum efficiency.  The reality is, you could probably spend a week during the slower seasons at the Magic Kingdom and STILL not see/experience everything.  However, you can use the app to help prioritize and plan accordingly.  It's a free app and works for all of the major parks.  It helped us many times.

4.  Character secrets.  So, there's only a certain amount of time each character cast member can do their meet and greets.  If you're standing in line and they say, "Buzz Lightyear is going to go check something at star command and come back", don't abandon ship.  Having heard about it, and witnessed it, Buzz comes back within 15 minutes.  Now, if you hear Sulley has to check something on the scare floor but Mike will be right back and you really wanted a picture with Sulley (true story), THEN you should abandon ship.  The character coordinators will be happy to tell you when Sulley is coming back. 

5.  Kid essentials
  1. Snacks, snacks and more snacks.  Again, something I can't stress enough.  When you're waiting in line and your kid is hungry, you can whip something out of your bag saving yourself a ton of money (and time locating said snacks). 
  2. Sunscreen.  Even in the winter, the sun is shining.  (except the last two days we were there.  Thanks a lot, Florida!).  You can buy it at the park, but you can be guaranteed it will be expensive. 
  3. Camera.  We discovered KIC liked taking her own pictures.  To preserve Daddy's camera, we got KIC a disposable camera of her very own.  We nearly had to take out a second mortgage to cover the cost, so I highly recommend taking a disposable camera for your kids.  If the pictures don't turn out, no harm no foul, but they can at least try to preserve memories in there way and reduce the risk to your fancy camera.
  4. Sunglasses.  Oh my, the glare on sunny days.  The same day we purchased a camera for KIC, we purchased sunglasses as well.  While her sunglasses are adorable, not sure they were worth the cost. 
6.  Extra magic hours.  To put it simply, this was magical the ONE day we took advantage of it.  Guests staying at Disney resorts have the opportunity to take advantage of extra magic hours.  What this means is, on designated days, you can get to the park either an hour early or leave an hour later, as scheduled by Disney.  On the day we took advantage, the sheer amount of stuff we were able to cram in one hour would have taken us at least two or three hours on a normal day.  Definitely worth getting up early!

7.  Take your own pictures!  With many of the character meet and greets, you can take your own pictures and then have the designated photographers take pictures.  A Disney photo CD, which includes all the photos their photographers took during your stay, can run upwards of $150.  You get the digital copies so you can print whatever you want, but your camera will take pictures that are just as good. 

8.  Don't stress.  Disney will always be there.  You will always have time go to again, young or old, with your kids or your grandkids.  Revel in the moment, appreciate your surroundings and enjoy what you CAN do. 

If you have any of your own tips/tricks, feel free to put them in the comments below.  We learn some new trick or tip every time we go, which is part of the fun!  Somethings not covered were pin trading and character autographs.  These are things we are not interested in at all, but there's a ton of information out there if you're so inclined.  If there is anything you'd like me to expound upon, shoot me an email and I'll be happy to help!

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