Jen is a Disney Genius

Okay, so remember when I suggested that if you are coming to Disney and plan to be there at night, that you should pick up some of those tubes of glow in the dark bracelets? I now amend my recommendation to say that everyone bringing little kids should bring them. I put two on Elizabeth today and they totally cured her usual fears of rides that have a dark element.

And if you are not here for preschooler Disney advice, may I provide you with a picture of Elizabeth and Cinderella instead?

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Disney Prep- Attitude

One other thing I recommend if you are taking young kids to Disney is preparation.  We always talk everything up a lot before we go.  We talk about how we are going to drive in the car for a long time and then we are going to sleep in a special Disney bed that will not be the same as our beds at home and then we will go to Disney!  I also spend lots of time in the weeks leading up to the trip on YouTube.  Someone has posted a video somewhere on YouTube of everything at Disney.  If you have a toddler or child who is not absolutely delighted by surprises, I suggest you get yourself to YouTube and preview everything you are going to be doing.  Elizabeth sits on my lap and we watch videos of the restaurants we are going to be going to, the characters we are going to meet, and the rides we are going to go on.  (Yes, people videotape the rides all the way through and then upload them.  Some are quite theatrical.)  We watch the shows we are going to see.  If she isn’t pleased with something on the video, you can bet she’s not going to like it in person.

Just be wary of promising anything.  When we watch the videos, I say lots of things like “yes, that is Cinderella!  I hope we get to see Cinderella too!”  Everything at Disney is “subject to change” and “subject to availability”.  Rides close for maintenance, characters take a sick day and are replaced by someone else, and sometimes things are just too darn crowded.  So don’t say “and we will absolutely ride Dumbo, I promise!”  (Especially Dumbo, the lines for that are insane and it’s been closed lately for the Fantasyland update.)

Now, here is one of my most important pieces of Disney advice.  You are going to have a great time.  You are also going to be incredibly annoyed and frustrated with your family.  Disney is great fun.  It’s also hot, crowded, expensive, full of lines, and tiring.  You will be hungry and tired and you will all get mad at each other.  Kids will act like they have no idea just how much you are paying for this whole thing and what do they mean they just want to go back to the hotel pool?  So don’t try to do everything in one day.  Don’t have the Disney or Bust attitude.  Yes, you obviously want to get your money’s worth, but if no one is having fun anymore, go back to your room.  It isn’t any fun when people are being FORCED to have fun. You’ll never make it to everything so it is important to accept that and enjoy what you do get to do.  Take lots of breaks, drink lots of water, and rest when it is needed.  Go in with the attitude that there are going to be inconveniences and delays and things that just don’t work.  If you are prepared for everything to not be exactly perfect, you will have a much better time.

We are leaving tomorrow for our trip, so I will do some more posts with Disney advice when we get back.  (Particularly that stroller etiquette and probably just a plain old Disney etiquette one too.  We’ll see how much people annoy me while we are there.)  If you are interested, you can check out my Twitter or follow me on Instagram (HereWeGoAJen, obviously) because I tend to put things on there when I get a chance.  (I also suspect there will be a lot of pictures of food.  Prepare yourself.)

Any final preparation for Disney questions?

Disney Prep- What Else to Bring

Continuing our Disney series, I will now tell you what else to bring to the parks.

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If you have a kid who still fits in one- a stroller.  Even if they almost never ride in one anymore.  I have tried taking a stroller and not taking a stroller and it is much more convenient to take a stroller.  However, we will have a post on stroller etiquette at some point as well.

You have to make this decision on your own, of course, but I prefer to take our bigger stroller with us.  You know, the one from the “travel system” that the infant car seat clicks into.  It is bigger and doesn’t fold down as small as our umbrella stroller, but it is much easier to steer and it has a much bigger basket for carrying stuff.  When I take our umbrella stroller, it tends to tip over when empty because of the heavy bag in the pack.

If your stroller is blue or black or any typical stroller color, YOU MUST MARK IT.  Disney is a place where you leave your stroller sitting around all the time and often, Disney employees will rearrange them to make room for more and to keep utter chaos from occurring.  So a lot of the time, your stroller will not be where you left it and you will want to be able to find it be scanning around the area.  Our stroller is bright green and I have yet to ever see anyone with the same color stroller in my life, so I have never marked ours.  (We lived near Disney when I bought it and I admit that I bought the bright green specifically for ease of finding in theme parks.)  I would tie something to your handle, like a bright scarf.  If you rent a stroller there, I would take something along with you specifically for marking your stroller because I hear that people often get lazy and simply take the nearest Disney stroller with them if they can’t find theirs.  And if you aren’t one of those people, that will annoy you.

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Nothing expensive.  Like I mentioned, you will be leaving your stroller around and I just leave everything in the stroller.  We have never had anything taken from our stroller, but you never know.  I take my big camera with me wherever we go, but I leave the diaper bag and such in the stroller.  It’s not worth carrying it around everywhere and I feel that it is unlikely someone would steal a diaper bag.  The only thing we’ve ever lost by leaving it on a stroller was a fruit bar and that was stolen by a large bird.

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Sunscreen and sunglasses.  Enough said.  Hats are at your discretion.  I don’t take them, but we aren’t really hat people.  Elizabeth had many years where she wouldn’t wear a hat even if you glued it to her head.

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Ponchos.  I suggest buying a batch of cheap ones at Walmart or the like before you leave and taking them with you.  They are small and can be shoved into the bottom of a bag.  Buy one for every member of your family and if you take a stroller, buy an extra one for the stroller.  If you are there in rainy season and it is cloudy out, I would spread the extra poncho over your stroller before you leave it to go inside a building.  Sometimes you will be inside for an hour or more (especially at Epcot) and it can start to pour while you are in there.  And your stroller will be somewhere uncovered 99.97% of the time.

Also, rain at Disney is not the end of the world.  A lot of things are under cover and if you just tough it out and walk around in the rain with your ponchos, a lot of other people go home and leave the parks all empty for you.

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A single bag.  One diaper bag or one bag with all your stuff in it.  This includes that separate snack bag that I mentioned before.  It must fit inside your main bag so that you are only carrying one bag during important moments.  You will be taking trams and buses and monorails and boats and a lot of the time (trams, always the parking trams, no exceptions) you will have to collapse your stroller and carry it along with your bag and your child.  ONE BAG.  Everything fits inside the ONE BAG.

I’m really serious- ONE BAG. Get everything into one bag.  And leave extra room for the things you’ll be buying at the parks, if you plan to.

When we do trams, Matt takes Elizabeth and I take the stroller and the bag.  (Most families switch this, but with Matt’s extreme height and lack of knee cartilage, it works better for us this way.)  I would recommend this system for parents traveling with children.  One parent is in charge of the stuff and one person is in charge of the small humans.  We will cover more about strollers and trams in my stroller etiquette post because this is a very sore subject for me.

Also, Disney will do a bag check on your bag before you enter any park.  (ONE BAG, PEOPLE.)  This is the slowest, most frustrating part of the day for me because I am efficient and prepared and everyone in front of me is acting like they’ve never waited in a line before or ever heard of a bag check and what do you want them to do again?  To handle the bag check, Matt and Elizabeth (and sometimes the empty stroller, sometimes not) go through the no bag line and wait for me on the other side.  (Send one person through the bag check line people, this would minimize the line down to about 30%.)  I have my one bag out, unzipped, and open before I get to the front.  I place it on the table and push it forward.  The security guard looks through it.  I am done in less than thirty seconds.  I walk away from the bag line and get out of the way.  And then I zip everything back up and put the bag back into the stroller basket and usually get the snack bag out here and hang it from the stroller handle.  GAH, why is that so HARD?  I see people with dozens of bags, stuff still crammed into their stroller baskets, still wearing backpacks when they get to the front of the line.  Then everyone has to wait while you unpack everything and put it up to be inspected.

Wait, what were we talking about before I started complaining about people who don’t realize that they aren’t the only person waiting to get into the park and that we live in a society here?

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If you have small children, bring toys.  Believe it or not, yes, I am recommending bringing toys to an amusement park.  Just pack a few small things to do in your bag.  You will be spending a pretty good portion of your day waiting.  A few small toys can save the day.  Something like a few small action figures or (in our case) a couple of plastic, hand sized princesses.  If you have Disney toys, bonus points.  We have a small set of princess toys that we keep just for restaurants and waiting rooms and we usually bring those to Disney with us.  When we are at lunch or in line, I pull them out.  Elizabeth plays with them happily.  And at the princess character meals, she delightedly shows Cinderella her tiny Cinderella toy and Cinderella is astounded and happy to see a tiny her and Elizabeth beams with pride.

A small pack of bubbles might be another good toy.  We have good luck with silly putty (it’s less crumbly and makes less mess than playdough, but plays with the same).  Don’t bring anything messy or noisy.

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Things that are crazy expensive at Disney.  Are you going to be there at night?  Staying for an evening parade?  Disney will bring out all sorts of light toys and glow sticks.  And you will buy them because your kid is adorable and wants one just like everyone else.  I go to Target or a craft store ahead of time and buy one of those tubes of glow stick bracelets.  They come with fifteen in a tube for a dollar or something.  When we planned to stay for the parades and when we did the Halloween night party, I bought tons of them.  I took something like four packs of fifteen and several bigger glow sticks too.  Not only was Elizabeth delighted, but so were all the other small children sitting around us in the parade route. I was a hero among many parents.

If you go in the heat of summer, you might end up wanting one of those water bottle squirters with the fan in front.  Disney sells those, but you can find them much cheaper ahead of time and bring them with you and just fill them up there.

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Questions or comments?  Anything I’ve forgotten that you think people ought to bring or not bring?

Disney Prep- Snacks

In the Disney series, this is where I recommend packing your own food.  If you are traveling with any sort of child anyway, we never did when we were adults Disneying alone.

For all the snack ideas in the world, I recommend this post.  It has all the snack ideas that you will ever need.  Possibly for the rest of your life.

I like to pack the snacks instead of buying them because this will save you lots of money.  The price of multiple snacks per day really adds up.  Not only in money terms, but this will save you time.  Packed snacks are grab and go while you are walking around, and purchased snacks mean that you have to find a kiosk or restaurant, stand in line, wait, pay and then eat.  With a bag of snacks, you are long done.

When we drive to Disney, I also buy a case of water bottles and a case of Capri Sun type juice boxes.  I keep them in the trunk of the car and I pull a few out before we go into the parks every morning.  I’d recommend doing this even if you don’t drive down and have to go to a grocery store upon your arrival.

An alternate plan is to take refillable water bottles with you and just keep filling them up during the day.  We’ve done this once or twice, but it doesn’t compare to the convenience of the grab and go of the water bottles and the juice boxes.

I recommend the pouch style juice boxes because I like how they fit into our bags more easily.  They are more malleable and you can squish them into corners more easily.

For carrying snacks around the parks, I have a small fabric lunch box.  It’s slightly insulated, but I always take non-perishable snacks anyway.  When it is super hot, I do like to freeze a couple of juice boxes and some of those squeeze pouches of applesauce, so that we do have cold items, but I don’t have to worry if they melt because they are shelf stable.  We’ve taken perishable snacks with us to the park, but I didn’t feel it was worth the extra trouble so I no longer bother.  Anyway, my lunch box has a long shoulder strap and I hang that over the handles of the stroller so that I can grab a snack out of it without fumbling with the bigger bag.  I don’t actually even have to stop walking to get out a snack.

I would also suggest packing a variety of snacks, including plenty of treats.  Vacation is a time for treats and I always try not to overdo it because too many treats leads to yuckiness, but sometimes when someone (Elizabeth) is hot and cranky and tired, a well placed lollipop or packet of fruit snacks can save us from a meltdown where a plastic baggie of Cheerios cannot.  However, I always put all the “forbidden” snacks and treats into a reusable fabric bag (like these) and put that into the snack bag so that she cannot see them when I open up the bag.  Otherwise, she wants lollipops the first time I open the bag at eight in the morning.

If you are driving, pack waaaay more snacks than you think you’ll need.  I usually take a laundry basket full.  And we never eat them all, but it is great to have tons of things to choose from and we just bring the leftovers back home with us.  If you fly to Disney, you can either stop at a grocery store when you get there or ship a box to yourself in care of the hotel.  Then you can buy what your family likes ahead of time and package it all up into individual serving sizes, and be ready to go when you arrive.  Call ahead, but most hotels will give you a mailing address and hold a package for you until you arrive if you follow their directions for doing so.

Any snacking questions?