Ok friends, I am just going to admit it right here and right now before I am about to blow up your feeds and this blog post that yes… we are completely and 100% a Disney Family!!!
Don’t know what that is… you clearly haven’t been to Disney yet as a parent (or not enough as a child or adult!)
A Disney family is a family that will go to Disney as often as they can… most likely once a year! They are the slightly obsessed ones that rock out their Disney bands and talk excitedly amongst themselves about all the fun that will be had while they board their airplanes, trams and trains! They might even be talking about their magical experience for the next year’s trip while currently ON the last leg of this years trip! Yes, I’m totally serious.
I’m not making this up folks… it’s a very real technical term and adjective! I met a million of them in October and I felt like I belonged!!!
I might be considered the only real believer in my family, Linc is after all only 3 so we can’t count him in quite yet but that’s OK! I have enough magical obsessive belief for all of us until he’s truly old enough to understand that he too, is a Disney fanatic.
In all honesty, this trip really was for ME! I could try and convince you (and myself) that we took this trip for Linc so he could meet all his favorite characters and be wowed by all the magical wonderment that Disney has to offer. BUT I WOULD BE LYING, BIG TIME!
We absolutely, 100 % took this trip so that I could indulge in my own love for magic and watch as my baby (who is in the full throws of magical thinking and fantasy stages) see his whole world explode with whimsy and magic and wonder!
This trip was a time for me to connect with my two boys after a year long deployment and a year of a new job that has the love of my life traveling more than he ever did while he served this country! It was a time for me to reconnect with them in a way that isn’t just MOMMY, because lets face it friends, sometimes mommy means being the hard core disciplinarian when you don’t always want to. It means having to be the owner of the schedule and the planner and the keep it together ALL THE TIME!
I needed a place where I could let go and have some FUN! I wanted to go somewhere where I could completely enjoy myself and PLAY! I wanted some magic!
We ALL deserve a little magic in our lives!
So this is how our trip began!
We spent 2 whole weeks down in Florida! It sounds crazy, yes I know, but it was truly luck and coincidence that allowed us to be there for that amount of time! Tuck’s job required him to speak at a conference AT the Disney Grande 4 days before we were scheduled to land for our vacation!
I mean that just doesn’t happen, am I right?! So of course I used all the begging and pleading I had and Tuck finally caved in and brought us along a few days earlier! This is what allowed us to do absolutely everything we wanted to do!
*We did NOT do Disney for the entire 2 weeks! I think Tuck would have murdered me actually! We have family that lives in Orlando and we have great friends that might as well be family that live in Celebration (that’s Disney’s own town!!!). So for us… we absolutely wanted to do Disney but we knew we wanted to spend time with everyone as well. These two full weeks allowed us to do absolutely everything we wanted to do with plenty of rest time in between!
OK… so HOW DID WE DO IT?!! How do you rock out a Disney Vacation with a Three Year Old?!
This is where we are extremely lucky! Tuck flies all over the world so he has mileage and that’s what we used! I know we are extremely blessed in that way, but it does come at a huge price! I know a lot of people always think oh it’s so nice that you have frequent flyer miles, but please remember that sometime those miles mean that those family members aren’t always at home enjoying family meals together.
There are many different ways though that you can chose to fly from Virginia Beach TO Orlando! There are direct flights if you use South West and then there are ones that have a quick layover if you use Delta like we did! You can also fly out from Newport News!~
We survived these flights with our little threenager by flying out super early in the morning! He was amazing! He was so excited to see the sun come up that he watched out the window for the first flight the whole time and then he fell asleep on the second flight!
*We also purchased a seat belt that was approved by the airlines and that helped Linc understand that this was a moving vehicle that he needed to respect, just like the car! This was great for us because we didn’t want to lug our car seat along. We have a Britax and that thing is a BEAST! So we left that in the car and brought this contraption along and it was pretty great!
*We rented a car through firefly along with a car seat and off we went!
Where We Stayed!!!
This one is pretty huge for me because before heading out on the trip I would have had a completely different outlook for you!
The first few nights we were blessed to stay at an actual Disney Resort! We stayed at the Disney Caribbean Beach Resort and it was the coolest place ever! Linc is super into pirates right now and Tuck made sure the room was all decked out! We had two pirate beds and our room was right on this cool water/lagoon! Linc flipped out when he walked in and wish I had his reaction on video! I was incredibly impressed because Disney really does have something for everyone and at all times. Tuck had to head off to work right away so Linc and I were on our own for the rest of the afternoon and evening and then the entire day the following day. We obviously weren’t going to go to the parks without daddy, so we had a blast the two of us at the pool! Our friends who live in Celebration joined us and I will tell you what… probably the best day ever!
They have tons of activities right at the pool so if you don’t want to leave the resort, you really don’t have to! Linc and Sadie danced with the lifeguards at the dance party. They had arts and crafts and they even had a smore’s camp fire and movie on the pool!
You don’t NEED to go to the parks every day to experience the joy of Disney… it’s right there at the resort!
*The hard part for us about the resort were the dining halls! Linc is a weird/picky eater! He’s not super into kid food so while the first night he had a blast with mommy eating pizza on the bed and watching a movie… the second day was extremely hard! Linc likes to cook and he likes to have healthy food (rotisserie chicken, hummus, and fruit). Disney DOES have healthy food but it’s not the same that you would cook yourself. So if you are eating at the park and then eating at the dining hall and your kid is like mine… you might want to think about staying at a condo which is what we did for the rest of the time! On the third day we checked out of the Caribbean and moved on to a condo that Tuck had rented us which was just amazing!
The condo was less expensive than the Disney resort. We preferred this because with the rental car we could come and go as we pleased! Linc had his own room which allowed us to actually sleep or stay up a bit later and try to focus on what we really wanted to do the next day (or shower in our own bathroom!) We had our own kitchen and could prepare a nice healthy and hearty breakfast in the morning before heading off to the parks and then a nice healthy dinner which we knew Linc would eat. Linc would pick at the food for lunch because we would eat at the park and then he would come home and devour our dinner. We also could pack a snack that we knew he would eat and they would let us bring that in to the park as well!
It was also nice knowing we could come home and either rest, play in the pool, or visit with our friends and family! We spent MOST of our downtime in Celebration with our friends which was just amazing!
My Disney App!!!
We didn’t make any plans before we left for Disney. We didn’t meet with any planners or trip advisors. The only people we talked to were are friends who actually live there. While we were on the shuttle bus to have lunch at the T-Rex Cafe I started chatting with another guest about her experience. She introduced me to the My Disney App which is a free app for your phone. This thing is gold people! If you are going to Disney… download it NOW and start getting familiar with it (it’s super easy, if I can use it anyone can!) This will link you to any pictures taken of you and your littles in the park, it will tell you where all the characters will be and when they will appear and it will help you schedule your fast pass for the day!
Linc could have cared less about the rides! We maybe rode a handful and he was semi-impressed! Our biggest and best experience the entire trip was finding and meeting characters! It truly didn’t matter who the character was or if Linc even knew who they were… he just wanted to run to these giant fluffy characters and hug them to death! He was so blown away and so in awe! The Disney app became our best friend because we would walk around the park and see who was out and ask Linc if he wanted to stand in line to meet them!
The best thing about the app is that it also allowed us the freedom to NOT schedule anything!
Tuck and I would sit down at night after Linc would go to bed and “try” to plan out the next day’s events. We would determine which park we were going to and then take a look at the attractions and the characters. Tuck would schedule our fast passes around the character visits and then we were all set… or so we would think!
We all know that having a toddler means we are on THEIR schedule. Linc was truly amazing at the parks. We had very little tantrums and melt downs and he was soo happy and soo fun!
BUT… he stopped napping a very long time ago and who wants to nap at Disney anyway! We would always hit some kind of a wall around 4 or 5 pm every day. Sometimes we would hit it around 12 or 1 depending on what we did the night before and how the morning had gone.
We often found ourselves taking a look at our “scheduled” fast passes and realizing that nope, no way Linc’s not riding this ride today so we would cancel it and move on to something that he found more interesting. What’s great is that it’s no harm, no foul… you still get that fast pass back!
Also… Tuck was great about continuously checking on the fast pass updates while we were having ‘”down moments” so he would randomly say… HEY… Anna and Elsa just opened up a spot in 30 minutes and we can make it for a fast pass… Linc do you wanna go?! Of course Linc wasn’t interested and the spot disappeared!
Disney just GETS families and children. They know that things can change in a blink of an eye and they understand that on vacation no one wants to have to stick to a schedule~ So you can change anything you want and flip things around!
One of those moments happened for us and turned out to be some of the best photographic moments that I ever had!
Casey Jr’s splash and soak station is a must for toddlers! Especially if they love the water as much as my little ones does! This was a moment when we had “planned” to go on the barnstormer but Linc just was tired and didn’t want anything to do with it. He saw the water and begged to go there. I wasn’t going to deny him and so off he went!
I should mention that we took Linc’s shoes off… this was a bad idea! Linc did totally wipe out and he got pretty hurt! He took a bad chest fall and scraped up the whole side of his chest (still has a scar) and ripped his toenail clean off! I know (sorry that was graphic). It was the end of the day at 630 pm here and he lost it. My little guy is a tough one but when he’s tired and totally overwhelmed, that’s it! We packed it up and took him on home to our condo! Homeslice fell asleep on the car ride back! Moral of the story… pack a first aid kit or at least some band-aids in your bag!
IN OUR BAG:
We carried one bag for the entire family! I knew I was going to take my big girl camera with me on the trip and if you are a photographer I highly encourage you to do the same! I went ahead and bought a new camera bag for myself that I knew would double as our family carry-all. I usually shoot with a shoot-sac so it was time I bought an actual book-bag style bag that I could carry on my back that had multiple compartments and Kelly Moore usually does an awesome job!
I brought along my mark III 5d and my 35mm and my 85 mm. I actually carried both along with me at the parks. I know I’m crazy but I found that the days I took only one lens I was wishing I had the other, so I just brought both along!
- We also packed one water bottle for Linc and one water bottle that Tuck and I could share.
- We packed and extra set of clothes for Linc
- some cash
- lip balm for all of us
- my medication because I was terrified I would get a migraine which I never did
- snacks for Linc (usually grapes)
Our bag was actually really light to carry and we switched on and off! You can rent a stroller at Disney and we highly recommend it. It took us a while to actually convince Linc to ride in a stroller but once he finally realized it was worth it, he didn’t want to get out!
Some other tips that really helped us with Linc:
- Linc was super afraid of the Disney bathrooms! The toilets flush extremely loud and they are super powerful so even if you stand way back they have a tendency to get you a bit wet! Linc has been potty trained for a long long time now and he usually has no problem using public restrooms but any Disney park toilet really worried him to the point of tears! He would refuse to go, he wouldn’t even walk in! So we would make sure he went before we left for the day and then monitor his water in take and keep a very watchful eye over him! It wasn’t too hot while we were there so we were extremely lucky. If he did have to go to the bathroom, we would try to duck in to a restaurant and I would go with him and unfortunately have to sit him on my lap! It was process that was extremely scary for him! He STILL talks about the Disney Potty and how scary it was!
- Marking your Stroller! We found a stroller in our Condo so we were extremely lucky but we found quickly that it’s super important to make your stroller STAND OUT! When you park your stroller to ride, sometimes it’s necessary for Disney staff to actually move your stroller! It’s sometimes hard to make out YOUR stroller in a sea of strollers that all look similar! MAKE YOURS STAND OUT! Make it ridiculous looking even! Trust me, you will thank me for this!
- Seriously, pack snacks! If you are on the Disney meal plan you will be left with extra packs of grapes or rice crispy treats! Take those to the park with you! There were times that Linc and I were hungry because we arrived right when the park opened. We would head to the little cafe in Tomorrow land while we were waiting for Buzz Light year to open but the cafe’s didn’t open until 1130. Big time Bummer! Having those little snack packs on hand saves you so much time and money!
- We actually didn’t spend a ton of money at Disney! If you think about all the toys and items you COULD buy but instead realize that you could just wait and purchase them online or at the Disney store once you get home so you don’t have to pack them, you will end up saving yourself a fortune! Instead, splurge on the experience!!! We chose to spend on Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween (which I will talk about in a separate post entirely) and dining at places like T-rex Cafe! The only Disney item we purchased was the classic Mickey ears hat for Linc with his name on it!
- 2 Water bottles! Ok so this little tip might get me in a bit of trouble, but I’m going to mention it anyway! Magic Kingdom is the only “dry” park (and for a really great reason!!!) While I LOVE all the magic and could spend every single day/hour/minute/second of my life in magic kingdom (I think in a past life I truly might have been tinkerbell!!!) I know there are a lot of people (my husband) who can only handle soo much magic and pixie dust! A little trick a wise pirate taught me last year at Mickey’s Not So Scary when I went without my family is the trick of separate water bottles… a kid friendly water bottle and an “adult friendly” water bottle with lemonaid… wink wink wink! It helps with those nasty pirate attitudes… if you will!
- Most of all and most importantly just remember to HAVE FUN & EMBRACE THE MAGIC! You are there for your family and with your family! Let go and have fun! This is a time for memories and experiences! Let go of control and schedules! You are there with your toddler/three year old! Embrace it and enjoy Disney through their eyes! The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to see the magic of Disney that THEY ARE SEEING AND EXPERIENCING! Don’t try to make it anything more! Just sit back, breathe and watch your baby!
Next week I’m going to share our Experience with Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party!
This was also the reason we chose to go to Disney in October! It’s actually the entire reason this trip to Disney came about in the first place!
So check back with me next Friday to find out how Disney really does October and why we think it’s the best month to go!!!