Tips on dominating Disney World

I’m sure you’ve picked up that we had the very best time possible our week in Disney World. There are a few factors you all wouldn’t necessarily be able to control:

-Age of my kids (7, 7, 8, 9, 10)

-Greatness of Zach. Zach was at his very best that week. For a man who loves leisure, Disney World is anything but and he didn’t complain once. Oh, and he had to keep track of the kids and me being that I was relegated to a motorized scooter.

-Greatness of my parents. My parents are in really great shape, they managed to keep up with my motorized scooter and exciteable children, calm fearful Binyam kids and appoint themselves manager of the large task of not losing Binyam anyone. Not only did they pay our way there, but they bought each of my kids souviners. If there’s a way for you to get parents like them, I would highly recommend it.

-The weather was perfect. A bit warm, yes, but because we didn’t wait in lines it never felt insufferable.

-The time of year we went (September 7-12). Yes, we took the kids out of school for a week, yes that’s bad but it was worth it. I have little lovies with IEPs and some in TAG, some who didn’t blink being gone a week and some who are now working double time to catch up. The thing they all have is 2 parents who who are willing to work their asses off to make sure they are as successful as humanly possible. Clearly we knew all of this ahead of time but we also knew it was the beginning of the school year and that a) no one else would be at the parks and b) the kids would have the rest of the school year to catch up-worst case scenario.

-Having a motorized scooter. I’ll admit when I first broke my foot I was pretty devestated at the thought of exploring Disney sitting down. It ended up being quite the asset. Turns out when you’re on a scooter you can get a handicap pass that allows you (and up to 6 other people) to go to a different line. Though we didn’t have to use this every time (due to the already short lines) it still came in really handy.

The good news is, there are things you can control and really should!

-Once you have booked your trip, start looking at Undercover Tourist, particularly their crowd control tab. I used this to figure out which park to go to on which day. I happen to believe it played a roll in not waiting in line. I also bought a book about Disney and Universal that I did flip through but in the end probably could’ve found all the same information online.

-After you have loosely figured out which parks you’ll be on which days, check Disney World’s website for the restaurants that peak your interest at that park then book them. We tried a few days to walk in to restaurants without a reservation and it didn’t work. Granted we had 9 people, but the reality is it’s so much easier to have reservations. I ended up calling Disney and a helpful cast member booked them all for me right there-the process took 5 minutes (actually 10 minutes but we ended up bonding over children, generous grandparents and broken limbs). We all agreed it was the most relaxing part of our days. There was no guesswork, we just walked to the restaurant and enjoyed a delicious meal.

-My parents bought the dining plan for our week there. I know there are mixed feelings about the dining plan but I can’t tell you how often we commented on how much easier it made our lives. They give you a really cool bracelet (see the cutting edge technological arrows I used below), you enter a password, scan the bracelet and voila! no money exchanged. Trysten was able to eat 2 prime rib dinners (each typically costing over $30) on this plan. Word of advice on the plan: eat a counter service breakfast, snacks for lunch and then a sit down dinner. All of this is included on the plan but we were a little confused the first few days what exactly was included. If you eat it that way- bigger breakfast, snack lunch and big dinner-you won’t be as miserably stuffed as we were the first few days.

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-Park hopper-get it. My understanding is this is an add on to a regular ticket. Park hopper refers to the ability to go to whatever park you want whenever you want. Normally you get to go to a specific park for a day and then a different park the next day, park hopper allows you to go wherever you feel like going. 🙂 As mentioned before, we ended up going to Hollywood Studios 3 times and Epcot twice. Had we not tried to go to water parks (again, not worth it in our opinion) or Universal Studios (totally worth it) we would’ve hopped even more. Can’t really picture our week without the park hopper.

-Fastpasses-genius. Download the Disney Experience app on your phone and you’ll be able to create 3 Fastpasses at a time. Disney created Fastpass for their biggest attractions to cut down on wait times for rides. You can get on the app, figure out your top 3 rides and assign times to come back to those rides at a specific time while visiting the lesser populated rides/attractions. When you come back at your allotted time you walk right on the ride, as opposed to waiting in the “standard” line that could range from 15 minutes to hours. Once you’ve used your first 3 Fastpasses you can create 3 more if the need arises. Take advantage of this, it might have you going across the park in seemingly random ways but we set up our Fastpasses and then decided where we were going the rest of the day. If our Fastpass was in Adventureland in the morning and Tomorrowland a few hours later, we would go on the ride in Adventureland then see the rest of Adventureland before heading to Tomorrowland to that ride, so on and so on. Genius.

-If at all possible-rent a car. Though we only used our (15 passenger!) van a few times, in hindsight we should’ve used it most days. If you rent a car, you can park free anywhere in Disney. A few hours of our time each day was spent waiting and riding Disney buses. Obviously there’s cost associated with renting a car but if you’re short on time (or even if you’re not) it would be worth it.

-What to wear. I am not ashamed to admit I googled “What to wear to Disney World” before I left. I didn’t know what backpack/purse to wear every day, what shoes, etc. Look back at my posts if you’re interested in what I wore, it mostly consisted of loose shorts and tank tops. I was fascinated to see the range of outfits consumers of Disney World were wearing all week. I went for outfits that were comfortable, would dry out quickly if we went on water rides and were (loosely based) fashionable. I wore these shoes, more accurately I wore this shoe and a boot:

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It was such a good idea. Love Clarks, they are so comfortable and incredibly cute. I also wore these Crocs (I know, I know, Crocs fashionable? Yes and comfortable) and didn’t regret it. My mom carried a smaller purse and I carried, not so much “carried” as “put in my scooter basket”, a small Nike backpack.

*If you have any questions about our time in Disney, ask in comments and I’ll do my best to answer!*

Day 5: Magic Kingdom

I was so excited to show the kids Magic Kingdom because we all know it to be the quintessential Disney experience and it did not disappoint! Even though it was the 5th day straight of balls to the wall activity (is that an ok phrase to use on a blog? Whatever, it’s my blog I can do what I want I want.)-the adults kids did great!

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First stop was Fantasyland because we found starting with easier rides made the kids more aggreeable to go on the rest of the rides. 🙂

Rides we liked in Fantasyland:

Mickey’s PhilarMagic, Dumbo the Flying Elephant and The Barnstormer

Ones to avoid, particularly if there are long lines:

Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid, Peter Pan’s Flight

Next, to Liberty Square. The only thing we did there was the Haunted Mansion, which we enjoyed! I remember doing The Hall of Presidents when I was younger and liking that as well but we didn’t end up having time. If you or your kids are history geeks, I’d check it out!

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Tomorrowland was one of our favorite stops! We loved the Tomorrowland Speedway (particularly the 3 bigs as they all got to drive their own cars) and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Perhaps our favorite, though, was Monsters, Inc Laugh Floor!

The laugh floor ended up being the Monsters, Inc characters on screen with actual improv actors behind the screen, so they played and interacted with the audience. At one point they asked which kids knew who they wanted to be when they grew up. Our most excited child got chosen.

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When Tomas told the character he wanted to be the po-lice (he says it like they do on the Wire, even though he’s never seen the show it’s incredibly endearing) the character told 2 jokes about police:

Why did the police officer carry a blanket with him all the time? In case he had to go undercover.

What did the squirrel say to the 9-1-1 operator? *In a song, matching rhythm of “This girl is on fire” * This squirrel is on fire! 

Then the character asked what Tomas was for Halloween last year. When Tomas responded “football player” the character told a joke about football players.

I’m not just saying this-it was hysterical! The adults did not have high expectations but it surprised us all and I got many belly laughs from it, not to be missed for kid and adult alike!

We would avoid: Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover and Stitch’s Great Escape.

*Sadly, Space Mountain was not working while we were there but I remember loving that, so make sure you get there.

*There is a really cool garbage can with a person in it that moves around Tomorrowland messing with people. It’s hilarious, try to find it!

We ate at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe for lunch and it wasn’t good. The veggie burger was gross and it was the one time Tomas didn’t finish his (and 3 of his siblings’ meal). Try something else instead.

We went to Frontierland after that and really loved Splash Mountain! We didn’t get super wet which was just fine by most of us. Also loved Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, even Dailah and Bean which is a pretty high endorsement.

In Adventureland the kids loved checking out Swiss Family Treehouse even though they’d never actually seen the movie. The littles, who were joined at the hip most of the week, also liked rides like The Magic Carpets of Aladdin because they aren’t scary enough to require an adult to sit next to them. They felt like big kids going on these no problemo.

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The only ride we didn’t like was the Pirates of the Caribbean. Nothing baffled me more than what Disney did with the Pirates franchise (more accurately: nothing. They did nothing-complete lost opportunity). In both Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom, the Pirates rides were super disappointing. I have so many ideas on different ways they could take it so if you work for Disney, hit me up- I’m cheap. 😉

And now for my favorite part of the whole day! CINDERELLA’S ROUNDTABLE! We had booked the reservations for Cinderella’s as soon as we knew the dates in which we were going to be at Disney. If you learn nothing from me, learn this: if you have a girl, call Disney right now and get a reservation. Even though Dailah is 7 and was one of the oldest girls at dinner, she really really loved it. Truth be told, my mom and I did as well.

Also of note, every other girl in the room had what we dubbed “the princess treatment”. This included full make up, hair and costuming done to princess standards. Because I am a shit show firm believer that Disney Princesses are ruining girls’ self esteems everywhere just for fun and not something to model oneself after,  we did not have Dailah partake. Also because it cost $200. Mostly the last one.

Besides, I think she’s the most beautiful person I know just as she is.

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When you enter the castle you are greeted by none other than Cinderella herself.

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One of the things I loved about Disney World is the professional photographers throughout the park will take pictures with your camera. They are everywhere and take pictures with their expensive equipment then give you a card that stores all your professional photos during your entire stay. They are sweet enough to ask if you want to get in the picture every time too.

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I gotta say, the food was amazing. It’s pretty embarrassing how many pictures I have of the food I ate throughout the week but I love looking through them and remembering. Anyway, I started with an appetizer of cheese! Cheese! And the good kinds too! Then I ate some veggie gnocchi and a dessert that changed my life.

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Anywho, during the dinner 4 of the princesses move throughout the castle. Right when Dailah saw them she said, “I wish I still had my long hair.” Oy vey. Much to my delight, 2 of the princesses commented on how much they loved Dailah’s hair and wished they could go for that cut. Redemption!

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Dailah also ended up getting their autographs too, which was precious.

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Being the only girl in a crew of boys, Dailah has no problem thinking of herself as a princess on the daily but it was really cute how much she enjoyed everyone calling her princess and of course we loved our girl time. My mom and I even commented that Zach and my dad probably would’ve loved being there too and I saw that they were giving little boys swords upon their arrival. It has the potential to be fun for the whole family.

Our men ended up eating at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant. Zach was disappointed as there wasn’t anything good to eat as a vegetarian but everyone else seemed pleased with the options.

Magic Kingdom is definitely one of the parks at which you could spend multiple days but there was simply no time for that. Figure out what stuff at parks are must sees for your aged children and then see all the other stuff if you have time.