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.

photo-4

-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:

31_26064801_11639_6

 

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!*

Advertisements

Day 6: Universal Studios/Harry Potter World/The day all my dreams came true

It has been common knowledge around here that I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I don’t actually remember where I first heard about the books or what first got me started reading them, I only remember that I started becoming a fan when I was pregnant with Trysten. Zach and I used to sit out on our front porch together, he would read me Harry Potter drink wine and have a cigar while I rocked on our porch swing. We were only 20-years-old at the time so I remember feeling like I was straddling two completely different worlds: the young adult in me loved the books for myself-the sense of adventure, etc and the soon to be mom in me loved them for the child I was about to have.

Since then, the books and the movies have only meant more and more to me. Trysten started reading them in 1st grade and just yesterday completed his 4th time through the series. He and I bond over all things Potter. In him I see the reader I have always been, able to pick out every nuance and subtlety within the pages. I love that his favorite books also happen to be mine, but even more than that I love that he sees the themes of friendship, loyalty, bravery, sacrifice and love. He totally understands why I have “Expecto Patronum” tattooed on my arm, which is a pretty cool thing to share with my eldest.

Tariku is on the 5th book and has also started really loving it, though it’s hard to tell if he loves them for what they are or if he just loves staying up a little later watching the movie once he’s completed the book (that’s a household rule-have to read the book before watching any movie based off a book). 😉 He doesn’t pour as much into reading as Trysten and I do so often he’s a little lost with the movies as well or can’t predict what’s about to happen. Nevertheless, I perhaps see more of Harry’s characteristics in him more than anyone else in my family.

Dailah is also almost done with the first book and is really enjoying the whole thing. She, too, doesn’t have the memory of an elephant such as Trysten and myself but gets by with her avid imagination. I can see that above all else is what she loves about the series-it requires a stellar imagination.

Tomas and Binyam have yet to be interested in reading the series, but after visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter that has changed!

All of this to say, I am obsessed with all things Potter. When my mom and I were talking about what we were going to see in Florida, I told her there was no way I could go to Florida and not have, at least, Trysten and me go to Potter World. After some discussion, Zach and I realized we would doubtfully ever get to go back so we might as well have everyone experience it whether or not they were crying with joy at the thought excited.

We chose to get the 1 day pass just for Islands of Adventure so we didn’t see anything in the regular Universal Studios park. Right when we got there I put the petal to the metal on my motorized scooter towards The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. *goosebumps, shudder, tears*

IMG_8535

 

Hogsmeade

IMG_8532

 

Now would be a great time to tell you that if you’re a fan of the series, you will not be disappointed in the Wizarding World. I read that JK Rowling was very specific about the World looking exactly as it does in the movies and perfectly described in her books and I believe it! Moaning Myrtle was in the bathrooms, there were newspapers with moving characters and of course these: butterbeer and pumpkin juice (both REALLY delicious!)

IMG_7340

 

We went to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride first. “Ride” is not even what it should be called, “experience” is more accurate. We didn’t wait on any lines here either but if we had, the stuff shown while waiting for this experience was amazing. This experience actually takes place in Hogwarts, truth be told I got a little teary eyed walking into the castle.

IMG_8536

 

Right away you walk through Professor Sprout’s greenhouse before entering the castle. Look for many of the plants mentioned in the series including the mandrakes! After that, into Hogwarts you go! You’ll recognize much of the little things within the castle, including the Mirror of Erised, Potions classroom, Sorting Hat, Triwizard cup and the house points.

IMG_7366

 

After walking through some of the castle, you find Dumbledore’s office with a projection of Dumbledore just above his desk. Make sure you point out the pensieve to your kids, only thing missing was Fawkes the Phoenix.

IMG_7371

 

Then you move on the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom where Harry, Ron and Hermione greet you. They let you know you’ll be able to fly through the castle undetected, etc because Hermione (of course) has figured out a way.

As far as the actual ride goes, it was amazing. I have pretty terrible motion sickness so for the parts that were simulating riding on a broom I had to close my eyes (I was legit getting “the puke sweats” as I call them). The ride goes from broom simulation to real life action (in the castle) at one point bringing you face to face with dementors where I enjoyed hearing many a Klipsch kid yelling, “Expecto Patronum” and saving us all! 🙂

We did ride this twice and simply cannot be missed if you’re able to go to Universal Studios.

Next we were off to the Flight of the Hippogriff which is really mild and fun for all ages, keep your eyes peeled for Hagrid’s Hut and Buckbeak himself!

Myself and the kiddos ended up checking out the rest of Potter World while Zach, my mom and dad tried the Dragon Challenge. They really loved it but did mention it’s pretty intense.

We decided to tour the rest of Islands of Adventure while we let my stomach settle to see what was about. First going to Seuss Landing.

Suess Landing was really great, most of my babes were a bit old for the rides and attractions but Dailah, Bean and Tomas actually got excited to see the characters.

IMG_8545 IMG_8546 IMG_8548 IMG_8550

 

We ended up riding The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride, One Fish Two Fish and The Cat in the Hat. All of them were just fine, a bit boring but if you have kids any younger than ours make sure you check them out.

Trysten is also a huge fan of the Percy Jackson series (I read them and enjoyed them as well but, let’s just say, Rick Riordan is no JK Rowling) so we went by Poseidon’s Fury but didn’t take any of the rest of the tours of The Lost Continent.

IMG_7347

 

Next on to Toon lagoon where we rode Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls. Super fun! We got drenched, so mind your Ps and Qs before going on this one!

Marvel Super Hero Island is THE place for the thrill seeker! And by “thrill seeker” I mean “Zach, mom and dad”. 🙂 Everyone but the littles and myself (they were too small, I just didn’t feel like throwing up that day) rode Doctor Doom’s Fearfall and loved it enough to ride it right after. The thrill seekers rode The Incredible Hulk Coaster, managed to live through it and tell great tales about its awesomeness afterwards so if that’s your thing-by all means!

Everyone rode The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and even though I got the puke sweats on that one too, I have to say it’s incredible. The technology is just out of this world! Everything is so well done that it feels like a complete 4-D experience. Even our littles loved how real it felt!

Even if you don’t like rides, the atmosphere on Marvel Island is really cool. There are characters everywhere! If I were a comic book fan at all I would’ve been completely jonesing when 8 of the characters came from their various stations to hop on their motorcycles and zoom out of the park-super cool!

IMG_7350

After eating a picnic lunch back in the car we returned once more for Harry Potter world. First making a pit stop at Jurassic Park.

IMG_8559

 

Our longest wait for a ride anywhere the whole week was in Jurassic Park for the Pterandon Flyers. We waited 45 minutes for this 80 second ride. The ride is actually specifically for children so if you don’t have a child with you they will not let you go at all. It was fun but please, please skip it if there’s anything resembling a line. Definitely not worth it. Though I must say for me, I enjoyed a little break in the action and also watching these two who behave so similarly it’s creepy.

IMG_7353

 

IMG_7356

 

Jurassic Park River Adventure was enjoyed by all, particularly because you don’t get nearly as wet as you think you’ll get! Even if this one says there’s a line I’d wait it out-over 20 people can fit on a boat and there are lots of boats going at any given time.

Finally, we returned home back to Potter.

IMG_8562

 

If you’re going to do family pictures and all of that, take them on the backside of Hogsmeade (coming from Jurassic Park) there were a lot fewer people and better views of Hogwarts!

IMG_8564

IMG_8565

 

My parents promised the kiddos a wand so we waited in line at Olivander’s. Let me break for a moment and tell you that you really have to do this, even if you don’t plan on getting a wand. They escorted about 20 of us into the shop…

IMG_7359

 

Tariku was chosen to come forward (squeal!). I have video of what happened next but it’s not wanting to upload. Regardless, if you’ve seen the first movie when Harry’s wand is chosen the same thing happens in the shop. Tariku’s wand chose him “for protection, creativity and self-discipline.” Olivander went on to say, “Clearly, your loyalty is much admired among your friends.” I. was. crying. Tariku was beaming, it was such a cool moment!!! Seriously, whether you’re fans or not check out Olivander’s! After that we were all shuffled in to the next part of the shop that houses all of the wands both character wands and wands that might pick you for other reasons.

IMG_8567

 

All of our kids (and my dad!) chose wands that were perfectly matched for them.

IMG_8568

 

As hard as it was to leave The Wizarding World, we had to do so as the park closed at 7pm. I ended up purchasing a few things in the gift shop, because, of course.

I must say this: Universal was so cool! If there’s any way for you to make it there please do yourself a favor and go! It was really interesting to me how different a feel Universal was from Disney. Say what you want about Disney, but they sure know how to have their brand permeate throughout their parks. Every “cast member” is happy, loving and patient everywhere you go which was not really the case with Universal. Universal felt grittier and a bit darker but it is also marketed towards a slightly different audience (20-40 years).

I must also say there is a very good chance upon retirement I force Zach and myself to move to Florida so I can work at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-I think I would make a most excellent Professor McGonagall don’t you?

Adventure Awaits!

As I mentioned yesterday, we just got back from a HUGE trip-I think I even threw out the word “epic”-on Thursday. If you’re friends with me on Facebook you heard all about it. But for the next few days I’m going to document our trip for those of you who might be going soon and for scrapbooking purposes. 🙂

My parents are amazing, that needs to be said. They told us they were taking us all to Disney World and Harry Potterland (aka Universal Studio’s Island of Adventure) months ago. The last few months have been spent planning which parks when (and how is bootfoot going to get around all week?!?!?) and getting excited.

Being parents to 5 young darlings we knew we couldn’t tell them too far in advance lest we field the question, “Are we going to Disney World today?!?!?” 40982304823098029385 times from just one child-cough, Binyam, cough-not to mention the other 4 who would also be asking more than we can handle. Our intentions were to tell them when my parents were around and approximately a few weeks ahead of time.

Then schedules got cray and soon we realized there would be no time we were all in the same room together until the day we were meant to board a plane and leave. Because we are Klipschs and we love nothing more than a good story, Zach and I came up with a plan to up the dramatic story telling.

So we sent our 5 on a scavenger hunt. Each kid would get a clue that they alone had to figure out, then all 5 would go to the next clue, etc.

First was Binyam.

IMG_7259

 

He proceeded to be a bit confused the rest of the time about whether or not to bring the horses inside the house or what exactly to do. Classic. Next, Dailah.

IMG_7260

 

And Tariku.

IMG_7261

 

Tomas

IMG_7262

 

Trysten

IMG_7263

 

Then all of them figured out the next one…

IMG_7264

 

When the kids got to where my parents were sitting, we handed this note to Trysten to be read aloud.

IMG_7265

 

and then this happened…

It was so. much. fun. There were tears and obvious joy. Bean had no idea what was actually going on, he just knew it was exciting and he had to embrace the moment.

IMG_7276

 

2 hours later we were in the van on the way to the airport. Apparently when you tell your kids they are going to Disney World, they will give you back rubs and head rubs. At least mine did for the 30 minute drive.

IMG_7278

 

The whole day was exactly like we pictured it to be. Including when we got on the airplane and Dailah befriended the woman sitting next to us. This woman, a 1st grade teacher in Florida, and Dailah chatted the whole flight until Dailah got a little sleepy. Dailah laid her head on my lap and the woman sweetly grabbed Dailah’s feet and put them on her lap.

IMG_7281

 

10pm our ragamuffin crew found ourselves at Port Orleans Riverside resort in Disney World. And the adventure began!