What to do on days you aren’t at the parks at Disney World

For whatever reason, there might be a day or two in your Walt Disney World vacation where you don’t end up going to a park. Sometimes it’s because you get in late or it’s the day you are checking out, sometimes you purposely schedule a down day to regroup and get your energy back. Having an off day or scheduling some off time is always a great idea. Remember, the point of a Walt Disney World vacation is to enjoy yourself, not feel like you’re at work, meticulously going by a schedule to pack everything in. Here are six great options that you could devote a whole or half day to and work on getting your energy levels back to normal.

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Each Disney World pool is unique.

1.Pool Time
Save for a couple exceptionally cold days in the winter, it’s basically swimming season all year round in Florida. Most kids go absolutely nuts around the pool, and Disney has done a great job of catering towards kids’ interests. More and more splash zones are popping up at Disney pools, and there are some very cool pool area themes depending on what hotel you are staying at. The Yacht and Beach Clubs’ Stormalong bay is very popular, with a sandy bottom lazy river, and shipwreck waterslide, it’s almost like a mini water park. Caribbean Beach’s pirate theme allows you to explore like a pirate on the open seas. And even the value resorts will have larger than life statues to immerse you in the theme. Disney pools have several lifeguards on staff, and there are complimentary lifejackets for the little ones. So grab your refillable drink mug and sunglasses, and relax to the sounds of some of your favorite music (and splashing kids) and soak up some rays and relaxation.

downtown-disney-00-full2. Downtown Disney
Downtown Disney (DTD) is currently undergoing a massive renovation to be reopened as Disney Springs. What you can expect from Disney Springs is even more dining and shopping, mixed with some entertainment. Heading to DTD can take a long time depending on what hotel you are staying at, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get there and back. DTD is a great place if you saw something in the park but forgot to buy it then and are now having buyers remorse. The World of Disney Store will have what you need, but the Disney themed stores don’t end there. You can look for toys, art, candy, and even Christmas Disney themed trinkets. And if eating is your thing, there is something for everyone, from food trucks and grabbing a quick bite, to more formal steak and seafood restaurants. This is a great non-park day stop, especially if your definition of relaxation is retail therapy.

Q4-29 Winter-Summerland June 1999    MRA3. Mini Golf
If you’re looking to do something with your kids, why not try some miniature golf? Disney World has two mini-golf courses, Fantasia Gardens, located by the Dolphin hotel, and Winter Summerland at Blizzard Beach. If you are staying on property and purchased a package, you will probably get a coupon for minigolf in your package info packet. Because it’s a Disney mini golf course, you can expect terrific theming and creative shots to keep the whole family interested.

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The Boardwalk has places to eat, shop, drink, and relax.

4. The Boardwalk
Some people don’t know that you can visit the boardwalk area even if you are not staying at an Epcot resort (Boardwalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Swan, and Dolphin.) The Boardwalk has some restaurants, surrey bikes to rent, and street performers throughout the day. Or you could take a stroll all the way around the lagoon to take in the beautiful sites. Almost like a mini Downtown Disney, the boardwalk has everything from hot dog stands to more upscale options. There are even some nightclubs if you’re interested in evening entertainment. If you want to get there and aren’t staying close to Epcot, you can always get on the bus to Hollywood Studios and walk or take the boat over. If you are driving, there is parking across the street.

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Enjoying the food and dancing at the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue

5. Dinner Shows
Going to a dinner show is another great option for an off day since you won’t need a park ticket to get to any of them. The Spirit of Aloha show is located at the Polynesian hotel, and both the Hoop Dee Doo Revue and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ are at Fort Wilderness. If you are on the Disney Dining plan, you can use two table service credits for these shows. They are roughly two hours long and pack some good food and entertainment into that time. While you are at Fort Wilderness, you could also have your kid ride a pony, or even go on a horse drawn carriage ride. Plus, alcohol is included which never hurts.

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Your Disney World hotel has more going on than you might even know.

6. Enjoy the activities at your hotel
When you check into your hotel, they should give you an activities sheet of things that are going on around your hotel that week. This might include activities for kids like making a craft or decorating cookies, it might be learning how to make towel animals, it might be movies under the stars or a campfire. Sometimes there will be singers or musicians depending on the time of year or the hotel. When you take some time to really enjoy your hotel, you might not feel as bad about the extra money you decided to spend to upgrade yourself, because suddenly you can see the value that higher-priced resorts offer.

So whether you feel like shopping, eating, or doing something new for your kids, Disney World is much more than just the parks. This is just a small list of extras to experience on your vacation. If you’re looking for even more, make sure to contact me. There is truly something for every interest, ability, and age. When you stop and take some time to slow down and relax, you will probably find everything more enjoyable (your own family included.)

My Disney World Agent Education Program

A special guest stopped by our last day of the Disney Agent Education Program.

A special guest stopped by our last day of the Disney Agent Education Program.

This year I was fortunate enough to be selected for a Disney agent education program. Every couple months, Disney offers these programs to agents who are new to the business, or need a refresher on things. It was a whirlwind four days of learning more about the business, and visiting many hotels and even the Disney Cruise Line. Here are some of the highlights I got to experience:

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Pretty soon I will write up an entire blog entry on this hotel. It was my first time staying at the Lodge and I didn’t quite know what to expect. I was never one to really gravitate towards an African theme, and I was always turned off by the fact that you couldn’t walk to a park from the hotel. Now that I have stayed there, I can’t wait to go back. The hotel is beautiful, and there is something, or some animal hiding around every corner. My room looked out onto a small part of the savanna.

Disney's Animal Kingdom lodge was overflowing with animals.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom lodge was overflowing with animals.

Throughout the day I could see different types of birds and grazing animals. The highlight of my room was seeing the giraffes every night. While having a savanna view was definitely awesome, I don’t even think it was necessary. Down every hallway, there are windows to see the animals. Every exit door you can open and peak out to the savannas. And right off the lobby, you can walk little trails to get better views of different animals. There was never a shortage of zebras. The hotel is kind of dark and quiet, making me feel like it was all for me. This hotel definitely has a lot of extra activities. You can sign up for safaris, and even use night vision goggles to see the animals in the evening. What you give up in terms of walking distance to parks, the animals and hotel more than make up for with amenities and scenery.

Disney's Art of Animation is just plain fun.

Disney’s Art of Animation is just plain fun.

Art of Animation 
Since I am usually visiting Disney World with just my mom or husband, there has been no need to stay in a family suite. Seeing them was just a treat. The Art of Animation resort has a tremendous amount of detail. Even the landscape and music will suddenly change as you move from the Finding Nemo pool to the Lion King building. You really feel like you stepped into the movies. I found the total immersive feeling more here than any other value resort. The suites are great and really well thought out. You can fit six in these rooms that have one stand alone bedroom with bathroom, and a separate pull out couch and drop down murphy bed / table with bathroom and kitchenette. We also got to eat lunch in the food court, and it was some of the best looking food I have seen at Disney. There was so much more to eat than the traditional burger. Pasta, salads, sandwiches, and different ethnic foods guarantee that there will be something for everyone.

Where else can you find gingerbread houses like these? Only at Disney.

Where else can you find gingerbread houses like these? Only at Disney.

Gingerbread houses

Since I was there around the Christmas holiday, I was able to see all the trees in the hotels, holiday decorations, and some beautiful gingerbread houses. The Contemporary Resort had a huge Frozen themed gingerbread house, complete with characters. The Beach Club holds a rotating gingerbread carousel. Both the Grand Floridian and Boardwalk Inn had Gingerbread houses so big, that they were selling gingerbread cookies from inside them.

Going onboard the Disney Dream
Even though I took my maiden voyage on the Disney Dream last August, getting to board on a day that they get the ship ready blew my mind a little bit.

The Disney Dream is big, beautiful, and has something for everyone.

The Disney Dream is big, beautiful, and has something for everyone.

On the same day people disembark the cast members have only a couple hours to get everything ready for the next batch of people ready to board. This means total turnover of rooms, common areas, restaurants, and lounges. Something I also got to do this time that I didn’t do on my three night cruise was explore literally everything onboard the ship. I was able to see the kids sections, all the way from the nursery, to kids clubs, to teen lounges. I was able to check out all the adult lounges. I was able to see the two exclusive restaurants, Palo and Remy, that require advanced reservations. I also got to see every room category onboard. Even though I was completely exhausted after this action packed tour, I feel very comfortable with the Disney Dream, and am still amazed by how beautiful, clean, and well-maintained it is.

Illuminations Dessert Party

On our very first night, we had an exclusive area of the World Showcase just for the agents to eat some dessert and watch Illuminations. Even though I have seen this firework show a million times, I have never seen it with such an amazing, unobstructed view – while drinking beverages and eating delicious desserts. I know that dessert parties can be pricey, and it’s not something I would do every time, but maybe on a special occasion I would suggest splurging.

See Illuminations like never before.

See Illuminations like never before.

During this party, they gave us exclusive Mickey glasses that are only available for these dessert parties. They somehow polarize the light so every light source you look at looks like a Mickey head. It was both trippy and super cool at the same time. It added a little extra magic to an already great show.

While I was exhausted every night after my full day of conferences, site tours, and having some time at the park, it was an awesome experience. Although I am a Disney dork through and through, there is always something new to learn, and something new going on. My agent education program was a great experience. I hope to one day attend the program in Disneyland as well.

Are Disney World Special Ticketed Events Worth The Money?

halloween 1I have many clients that sometimes get sticker shock when I tell them the price of tickets at Disney World. By the time I’ve gone over the value that ticket get’s you, they usually end the conversation by saying, “oh that’s a pretty good price then.” That’s the trick with Disney vacations, the value is in the eye of the beholder. The practical thinker inside me often compares Disney World tickets to sporting events or Broadway shows. Some people think nothing of shelling out 100-200 dollars to see their favorite team or to get a good seat at the Lion King on Broadway. These events only last 2-3 hours, but a day at Disney World can get you anywhere between 9-18 hours, or on some special occasions 24 hours. When you start to think that in one day, you can ride awesome rides, meet most of your favorite characters, see shows and parades, and end the night with a firework spectacular, you realize the value is there and Disney gives you a great bang for your buck. But you will only feel this way if you see all those things as valuable. Family members that get dragged to Disney against their will really won’t care how much the ticket cost, it’s overpriced and that’s that. So why am I now rambling about ticket values and Disney lovers and haters? Well, when you look at special ticketed events at Disney World, you have to think of them very much like a regular ticket to the park. If you can see the value in the event, the money will be worth it, if not, you won’t understand why people shell out all this extra dough to go to them.

christmas 1What is a special ticketed event?
Special ticketed events have been slowly popping up more and more at Disney World. Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are the big two to know about. These party events are from 7 until until midnight and are available on select days September-December. The park is only open for people that have purchased this special event ticket. Depending on what night you go, the price could be anywhere between 60-75 dollars per ticket. Hollywood Studios offered a Villains Unleashed event and Disney’s Animal Kingdom introduced Harambe Nights this past summer, with tickets going for over a hundred dollars. So what do these parties include that would make me want to shell out an extra couple hundred dollars on top of my normal park ticket?

•Smaller crowds
•More personal time with characters
•Special parades, stage shows and fireworks
•Unlimited “goodies”: candy or cookies
•The feel of a party atmosphere
•Specialty food and merchandise

The park was pretty empty.

The park was pretty empty.

I can’t speak for Harambee Nights or Villains Unleashed because I’ve never been, but I have attended both the Halloween and Christmas parties. My experience was very little crowds. We felt like we had the park to ourselves. The wait time on rides were maybe 5-10 minutes (even for Space Mountain and Big Thunder). There were spots of the park that just had no people in them. To me, this has value in it. I hate crowds and I hate waiting in long lines, so to be able to experience all the rides I wanted to as basically a walk on is very enticing to me. Now of course I read Disney blogs and I have read that this is not always the case with everyone. Some people that attend the events on let’s say Halloween and very close to Christmas might experience more crowds than I have in the past. Even if this is true, it will be far less than the Magic Kingdom’s normal crowds for the day.

If you have children that love to get character autographs, pictures, or just want some one on one time with them, this also adds value. The lines to wait for the characters will be much shorter than during the day, and you might even see some of the less popular characters lurking about. I am not so into characters so this doesn’t really appeal to me, but that could all change when I have kids of my own.

halloween 3When I see a show or parade at Disney World, I am subconsciously thinking in the back of my head, wow, they really give me my money’s worth here. I see a lot of value in entertainment. The time they spend on costumes, choreography, decorations, details, songs, and concepts; I am always amazed. And seeing something new that you don’t get to see during a regular trip to the Magic Kingdom is always exciting too. This holds a lot of value to me, but someone like my husband that does not see the excitement in fireworks (weirdo) would not enjoy it as much.

unlimited cookies and hot chocolate

unlimited cookies and hot chocolate

Unlimited goodies at Disney are always very nice. During the Halloween Party, you get to trick or treat throughout the park. You will leave with an entire bag, full to the top with candy. Kids and chocolate lovers everywhere will really love this. At the Christmas party, they provide unlimited cookies and hot chocolate. If you ate about 8 cookies and hot chocolates, you would probably get your money back in food because we all know buying a cookie and hot chocolate from the Main Street Bakery would add up quickly.

At certain locations in the Magic Kingdom, they will have more dance music playing than their traditional themed background music. You may even decide to jump in and dance if you feel the rhythm. It does help to make the event feel more like you have been invited to a party and not just you get to stick around for extra magic hours. I love music and I love to dance so this is a win.

halloween 2Some people love buying specialty items that you can’t get everyday. These ticketed events will offer a variety of snack options and merchandise for purchase that are exclusive to the event. I definitely love yummy snacks, but I’d be ok with the stuff they are handing out that’s included.

So do all these party perks have you ready to pay that pretty penny yet? I will say that while I enjoyed myself at both of these events, it’s not something I would do every time I’m there for the fall or winter. I was happy to experience them, and maybe when I have kids I will try it again, but I feel that a normal day at the Magic Kingdom fulfils me enough with it’s entertainment and value that I don’t need to go seeking more. So give em a try if it’s in your budget and you’re looking to try something new, but do not fret if it’s not in the cards for your family. There is so much to do for everyone you will not be disappointed.

Scheduling Rules to Avoid Burnout at Walt Disney World

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Schleping around a heavy bag all day doesn’t make it any easier.

Crying children, aching feet, sleeping next to strangers on the bus. These are all symptoms of the typical Disney burnout. There are many different vacation styles that families may exhibit while on a Walt Disney World vacation. To most families that haven’t been there a million times like me, they may be unsure of how to go about their day. Many families don’t know when they will be back so they want to pack it all in, not miss a thing, and make everything a larger than life, unforgettable vacation. While this idea sounds nice and pretty, not only will it become unrealistic, but it might actually do more harm than good to your vacation. Let me assure you now, you might not be able to “do it all” but that’s no reason you shouldn’t have a fantastic vacation. Follow these 5 steps to avoid burnout at the happiest place on Earth.

 

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I get very excited about sleeping in.

1. Sleep in when you want to.
There has been some debate as to whether the new fastpass+ has helped or hindered the spontaneous Disney World spirit in us. Being able to pre-plan your day can be offputting for the family that likes to wing it and go with the flow. I’m here to tell you that fastpass+ can be your best friend to avoid burnout in the parks. Knowing a few scheduling rules will allow your day to be more relaxed, allow some room for spontaneity, and make your trip more magical. Does your family like to sleep in? Did you stay up till one in the morning last night because there were extra magic hours at the Magic Kingdom? Were you up incredibly early for a flight and you want nothing more than to get a full night’s sleep and energize yourself? Allowing yourself to select the times you want your fastpasses makes sleeping in at Disney possible. Pre-fastpass+, you usually had to get to the park at rope drop to solidify an hour or so of rides with virtually no lines. Now, if you want to sleep in and schedule your fastpasses for 10am or 11am, be my guest. You are in control. You don’t have to do it everyday, but getting a good night’s sleep will make everyone involved a lot more pleasant.

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Brad has no trouble finding a relaxing spot.

2. Everyone at Disney is like a big kid, and kids need naps.
I am a very strong proponent of the afternoon nap. Unless you have the stamina of the energizer bunny, you and everyone in your party will want and deserve a break. I like to make my breaks in the mid afternoon. This is typically when the park is the most crowded, and in summer months, the hottest part of the day. This is when I go back to the hotel and nap, swim, shower, and/or just hang out for a bit and get off my feet. Most humans are not used to being on their feet all day, standing in lines, getting in and out of ride vehicles, carrying around backpacks, and dodging crying kids in strollers. It can be a lot mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting then you’re prepared to handle. Just take a break from it however you want.

toy story line

Fastpass or bust

3. Decide how long you are willing to wait.
While your fastpass is going to help minimize waiting in lines for a couple of rides, it sadly can’t do it for all of them. Some rides don’t make sense to wait for, I talk about it in a blog entry. Some rides will always have long wait times unless you have a fastpass, i.e. Soarin’, 7 Dwarfs Mine Train, Toy Story Midway Mania, and many more. Before you go, I’d have an honest discussion with your party to see what is the maximum time you are willing to wait in a line and will still be able to enjoy a ride. For me, it’s about 15 minutes. If it is longer than that, I simply move and and maybe try to go back to it later or save it for the next time. Keep in mind if you are willing to wait 45 or more, that is 45 or more standing on your feet. That fatigues people quickly. Also, a long wait in a longer line detracts from the enjoyability of the ride. Most of the smaller attractions are worth a ten minute wait, but if you’ve invested 45 minutes in a line, your expectations of the ride may become unrealistically high. I think setting up a time limit ahead of time will avoid pushing your limits too much and let’s your kids know the expectation.

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Quiet shady spot to rest my tired feet. And do some serious people watching.

4. Find places that make you comfortable.
If you have some time to kill between fastpass reservations or dining reservations, find a seat somewhere and have a snack. If you are there on a super hot day, pop into one of the air conditioned stores until you feel better. If you got stuck in the pouring rain and you are now wet and cold, don’t be afraid to head back to your hotel and change. If a front row seat to the parade is not super important for you, wait on a bench and don’t stand up until it is necessary. Be able to go with the flow and pop into a 3D show if you need to be off your feet just a little longer.

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The vacation is fun because we are together, no matter how much or little we do.

5. Get it out of your head that you’re wasting money if you don’t do everything.
It probably doesn’t come as a shock to anyone that Walt Disney World vacations can add up to a pretty penny. I think it’s a natural feeling to think you have to “get your money’s worth” out of the ticket, and this might mean go go go to a lot of families. Sometimes I find myself falling into this trap but then I realize how much I do there really has little connection to how much fun I have there. It will be more enjoyable for everyone if you don’t attempt to do it all, and instead do what it most important to your family. Burnout and unruly children can put a serious damper on your vacation. While I might not be a parent yet, I will be one day, so I’ll add my two cents. By bringing your children to Disney World, you are already the coolest parents ever. Not every child get’s to experience this magical place, but it’s not a place where parenting and children’s actions should be thrown out the window. When your kids no longer seem appreciative of the awesome gift you are giving them, it’s time to leave, go back to the hotel, and get some rest. The phrase “you should be enjoying this” has never yielded more enjoyment in its audience.

I think if you come back from your Disney World vacation and feel like you need another one just to relax, you overdid it. The optimist in me knows this won’t be your last trip to Disney World, so back burnering something until your next trip is not out of the question either. The flexibility of being able to go with the flow will set you up for a much more enjoyable vacation. Try not to feel tied down to everything. When you need a break, take one, when you need to sleep in, keep pressing snooze, when you don’t feel like waiting in line, don’t. You make your own rules, you decide when it’s go time. This is your vacation, so make it a good one!

Why Frozen Summer Fun is a Must See

signIt is without question that the movie Frozen has become a massive hit around the world, and it was only a matter of time before Disney cashed in on its huge success. The two adorable sisters Anna and Elsa were first introduced to the “World” at Epcot. They greeted their fans in the Norway pavilion and then over time the lines grew. They were then moved to the Magic Kingdom so more of their adoring fans would have a chance to interact with the Queen and Princess of Arendelle. What came next was pretty much madness. Parents and children waiting up to 5 hours or more to meet the sisters. As someone that thinks waiting in a line for 15 minutes is getting to be long, spending hours in line is unimaginable to me. Parents, listen up. Your solution is to go to Disney’s Hollywood Studios Frozen Summer Fun instead. While you might not have a personal meet and greet with them, your day will be much more exciting being immersed in everything Frozen.

Wandering Oaken Trading Post

Wandering Oaken Trading Post

As a frequent visitor to Disney World, I always enjoy experiencing new things. I wasn’t quite sure what to think and didn’t even quite know what they meant by Frozen Summer Fun. I did know however, that it was being advertised on every map, times sheet, bus, and poster all over Disney World. As my mom and I entered Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the first thing the cast members do is hand you an Olaf cut out. The idea behind this is to take pictures of you and your favorite snow man and post them on Twitter using #olafsummervacation. I decided we would ride Toy Story Midway Mania first and then I would look over the times sheet to see what Summer Fun was all about. On your way through the park, you can’t help but notice the giant stage that is now set up right in front of the sorcerer hat.

Frozen snacks and drinks have taken over the park.

Frozen snacks and drinks have taken over the park.

I saw on the sheet it said Wandering Oaken Trading Post. This was located right next to Toy Story. All of the Frozen cast members are dressed like they are going on a ski trip in the Alps and try to speak with their best Norwegian accent. The trading post was chocked full of Frozen merchandise. T Shirts, dolls, stuffed Olafs, jewelry, everything Frozen. Even Frozen inspired tasty treats. We left the post and went on with our day.

Enter the Frozen Funland, complete with ice rink.

I have mentioned in a previous post that I do not do well in the heat and Frozen Summer Fun was a great way to keep cool. Instead of watching the Coronation on the stage by the sorcerer’s hat, we opted out in favor of spending time in the coolest (literally and figuratively) room in the park. To the left of the the trading post mentioned earlier was a Frozen Funland, complete with snow, an ice rink, and frozen treats. It was like entering into an arctic safe haven from the unrelenting heat outside. For $10 you could ice skate, and the cast members would even help you tie up your skates. It truly felt like a little piece of Arendelle in this room.

Do you want to build a snowman?

Do you want to build a snowman?

The other part of Frozen Summer Fun I didn’t partake in was the sing along. They recommended you sign up in advanced for this. Anna and Elsa lead everyone in Frozen’s greatest hits. I figured, I sing the songs in the shower, in my car, and in my kitchen all the time, so I could forgo this.

After another ride or two, we left the park for lunch and our midday nap with plans to return around dusk for more Frozen festivities. When we got to the park in the evening, we were welcomed by a band decked out in more alpine clothes rocking out to great songs from the 80’s. It was just a cool atmosphere. If any of you have ever been out to Disney’s California Adventure and have seen The Mad Tea Party or another band like it, they had a very similar feel. When the band finished playing, it was time for the Frozen fireworks (what I had pretty much been waiting for all day).I wasn’t quite sure where to stand since Disney’s Hollywood Studios doesn’t typically have fireworks since they have Fantasmic. stageIt was very packed in, since the Studios version of Main Street is no where near as wide and accommodating for a fireworks show, but we squeezed in and looked up. (People love to forget that fireworks are in the sky) We unexpectedly had Anna, Elsa, and Christoph on stage getting things going and even saw some selfies with Olaf from around the park. The fireworks show was amazing. They seemed to be lower and wider in the sky than other firework displays and danced perfectly to the sound of Frozen soundtrack.

#olafsummervacation

#olafsummervacation

I will never deny my love for Wishes at the Magic Kingdom, but I can’t help but feel this put Wishes to shame. I left the park that night excited from all the new things I had seen that day. I felt more apart of the Frozen world than I ever could have during a 5 minute meet and greet. If you have kids that love all things Frozen, this is a must. What was once supposed to only be during the summer, has now extended to September 28. I would strongly urge you to make the trip if you can, you won’t regret it.

 

Dealing with the Disney Heat…how I attempted to stay as cool as possible in the happiest place on Earth.

ice cream mickey earsI have recently returned from a fantastic trip to Disney World with my mom. We have been avoiding the summer months in recent years but decided to brave the July heat of Orlando. Let me preface this by saying I do not do well in the heat, and I absolutely despise humidity. I walked around incredibly jealous of people that looked like the real feel of 104 with no breeze was like a mild spring day. Why weren’t they sweating like me? Why was every hair still in place of their head while I experienced a frizzy mess? Come on people, no likes a show off. Anyway, this post is to give my honest feedback of how I dealt with the heat and tips to help you for your future summer Disney vacation.

Sitting in Cosmic Rays to cool down from the heat.

Sitting in Cosmic Rays to cool down from the heat.

Become an A.C. addict:
So I get a little annoyed when the door of my bedroom cracks open and precious air conditioned air is slipping out into the hot hallway. Disney, on the other hand thinks that cool air is something that should be shared with the world, inside and outside. OK, not really, but they have no problem leaving doors open of buildings that are cranking out some powerful A.C. without feeling wasteful. On this particular trip, indoor attractions were my friend. Anything I would have had to wait outside for and didn’t have a fastpass for, I was just not going to wait. Anything that would have me outside without any chance of cooling down (ex, the shows at Hollywood Studios) I skipped. As much as I love Beauty and the Beast and Indiana Jones, the thought of sitting outside close to people without the chance to cool down for 30-40 minutes sounded like torture. The key to getting around the park and staying cool is utilizing restaurants, bathrooms, and gift shops (All air conditioned). Sometimes my mom and I just sat at a quick service restaurant for 15 minutes to cool our bodies down before we braved the heat again. You and everyone else in your party will feel better after a refreshing break.

Apparently I love to mist myself.

Apparently I love to mist myself.

Bring a misting fan:
I bought one cheap from Wal Mart and was so incredibly thankful I had it. It made some of the longer walks or longer waits bearable.

Keep that refillable mug stocked with ice.

Keep that refillable mug stocked with ice.

Try a zero calorie snack:
If you purchase the refillable mug or just bought a soda and a quick service restaurant, don’t throw away the ice. Keep it with you as you walk around the park. This zero calorie snack is a great way to cool yourself down.

Become a vampire during the hottest part of the day:
For this particular trip, our plan of attack was fastpasses early in the day so we were back at our hotel during the hottest/most crowded part of the day, then back to the parks at dusk. If you go into the trip knowing that you might not get to everything in the park, but it will be worth it because you won’t be mentally, emotionally, and physically drained then you will feel good about your decision to cut out early and come back later.

Olaf is all over the place, ready to keep you cool.

Olaf is all over the place, ready to keep you cool.

Do you want to build a snowman? How about ice skate?
If you are fortunate enough to visit Disney World while Frozen has taken over Hollywood Studios, make sure to visit the Wandering Oaken Fun Zone. To give you some indication of how cool it is in there, the staff members are wearing winter sweaters and pants. Inside this winter wonderland is a huge pile of snow kids (and adult kids) can make snow castles and dig in actual snow. Or for $10, you glide along in the indoor ice rink. My mom and I just sat in this building for a while. Not to mention this is where you can get some delicious Frozen themed treats. Definitely a must see if you’re there this summer.

Some things to consider:
With all this talk of unforgivable heat, it might seem counterintuitive for me to tell you to pack a light jacket, but here is my rationale for it. If you are a sweater or are now wet thanks to an attraction with water and you enter into a deliciously air conditioned room (for example the hall of presidents for a 40 minute show), evaporation will cool you down. And at times, it might make you even chilly. Having a super lightweight jacket can come in handy.

The pools were basically baths, hit the showers for a refreshing feel.

The pools were basically baths, hit the showers for a refreshing feel.

The pools were not exactly refreshing. Now I can’t attest to every pool in the Walt Disney World Resort, but I can say the pool I had at my hotel was like bath water. This is something that feels amazing on a chilly November day, but when you are just looking to cool down and you think pool is the trick only to be met with 85-90 degree water, you realize it would be more refreshing to take a cold shower. This was a bit of a letdown to me, but in the intense sun, I understand how the shallow pools heat up so fast. Swimming in the morning would be your best chance at a refreshing experience.

My other tip to you would be to take advantage of the late extra magic hours if you can. My mom and I stayed for the Magic Kingdom extra magic hours from 11-1am. We made it to around 12:30 but the lines were so short and it was much cooler than during the day.

Overall this was a very good trip. It might be awhile until I go back in the summer, but this is because I am spoiled by Disney World in January (parks are empty). As always, be smart about being in the heat. Stay hydrated and don’t forget the sunscreen. Just enjoy your time there without overdoing it and you will feel calm, cool, and collected throughout your trip.

Getting Ready for Your Walt Disney World Vacation…Packing

luggageIt’s a couple days before my trip to Disney World and I feel like Cinderella getting ready to go the ball. It’s such an exciting feeling, but getting there takes some preparation, and we don’t all have personal fairy godmothers at a moments notice. No, instead you will have this blog to give you some suggestions on what I consider to be the most valuable items to pack.

Items may change depending on the time of year you go (lot’s of t shirts versus lot’s of sweatshirts) or the age of people you are going with (diapers versus hearing aid batteries). You know you and your family best, so this is not an all encompassing list. Things like MagicBands and money are definitely a must. This is my top “must haves” that might or might not be so obvious to you, followed by a list of what I deemed unnecessary baggage.

Must Haves

Keeping cool with sunglasses and a visor.

Keeping cool with sunglasses and a visor.

Sunscreen and/or Sunglasses and/or Hat:
I take my sun protection very seriously, and I’d advise you to do the same. Sunburns will not only kill your Disney vibe since you’ll be in pain, they also leave you wide open to infinity lobster comparisons. The sun in Disney World is bright because it’s more magical that way. Stop straining your eyes and get some sunglasses. I love finding cheap ones at someplace like Target so I don’t care if they drop, get scratched, break, or I lose them on a ride.

My Mickey bag is my go to Disney park bag.

My Mickey bag is my go to Disney park bag.

A Bag to bring into the park unless you are a guy with ginormous pockets:
To women, this probably seems obvious, but I want you think more about the type of bag that will work for you. If you get stuck with a huge backpack, will it get too heavy and uncomfortable throughout the day? If you stick with the forever cool fanny pack, will that be enough room if you wanted to bring some snacks or water bottles? What feels more comfortable on you, over both shoulders or just one like a messenger bag? I would never recommend using something expensive or something really special to you. This bag will be touching benches, hanging from bathroom stalls, set down on seats and floors and different ride vehicles. I have been using an orange Mickey sling book bag for what seems like forever. I like it because it’s super light weight, but I can still stuff a sweatshirt and refillable mug in there too.

maybe the best dollar you ever spend

maybe the best dollar you ever spend

Umbrella or poncho, the dollar ones will do the trick:
Depending on the time of year you go, you may experience monsoon like weather in Orlando. (Summer). While you are most likely going to experience rain during your visit, for every cloud there’s a silver lining. People will leave the park when it starts raining. I don’t know why, perhaps melting is a serious concern, but I would advise you to whip out your trusty poncho and keep enjoying the Magic. The rain is likely to pass, and in the meantime, the lines on some of your favorite rides have greatly diminished.

we love snacks, any time, any where.

we love snacks, any time, any where.

Snacks:
There is something about traveling and being in a plane or hotel that just makes me want to eat, regardless of the time of day or how many hours it’s been since my last meal. Save yourself a couple bucks and bring some snacks and even your own bottles of water if you want. (Of course you have to check all liquids over 3 oz.) And since you’re already bringing something to eat, why not bring breakfast? This only applies if you are like me, not super into breakfast but still has to eat something or I might die. In the past I have brought my own Kashi cereal, bowls, and spoons and just bought some milk at the food court. I have also brought my own bread and peanut butter. The food courts and villas have toasters for you to use. Bringing your own breakfast also cuts down on time in the morning so you can spend that extra 30 minutes or so sleeping in.

plastic bags will help you out in multiple situations.

plastic bags will help you out in multiple situations.

Plastic bags big and small:
Since these are super lightweight and take up virtually no room, I’d recommend throwing in a couple extra plastic bags. Throw in an extra zip lock for your liquids in case your other one rips for gets thrown away. Or incase you want to put your phone and wallet in something waterproof on Splash Mountain. Throw in an extra garbage bag so you have a dirty clothes bag in the room. Throw in an extra Wal Mart bag for wet bathing suits if you want to swim on your check out day but have already checked your luggage at the Resort airline check in. You would even throw in one of those dollar bags from the store checkout in case you are coming home with more souvenirs than anticipated. Bottom line, can’t go wrong with plastic bags.

Gum:
This is more of an FYI to any serious gum chewers out there. If you want gum, you will have to bring your own. Disney does not sell gum anywhere on property. I’d imagine it’s to avoid sticky messes all over the park.

your dogs might be barking by the end of the day.

your dogs might be barking by the end of the day.

Pain Medication:
After I ran the Walt Disney World Marathon, I was beyond thankful to have some pain killers with me. Even if you’re not running a marathon, it’s still a good idea to pack something. After a long day of walking around, climbing in and out of ride vehicle boats, and doing way more standing than you are used to, your legs and feet will be feeling it. You also never know when a child induced headache will strike, so have a few over the counter drugs at hand.

Unnecessary Baggage, What NOT to bring:

Expensive jewelry:
This is similar to above when I mentioned there is no need to bring an expensive bag. Disney is not responsible for any lost or stolen items, so why even put something of value in a vulnerable situation like that?

towels are provided

towels are provided

Towels:
Towels are always provided at the main pool of every resort. Unless you have a really deep affinity for your own pool towels, don’t waste space in your luggage. They will be provided. Disney also has life jackets for the little ones too if you want to keep their floaties at home.

you will be stuffed for most of the day on the dining plan.

you will be stuffed for most of the day on the dining plan.

Food:
But wait Sandy, before you said to bring snack, now your saying not to bring snacks?
If you’re on the Disney dining plan and you’re a human, I can almost 100% guarantee you that you will not to bring extra snacks. You get a lot of food on the dining plan and even get snack options, so in this case, it’s not necessary to bring your own. You could however still bring your own breakfast since most plans don’t include breakfast options.

don't let this be you a few days before your trip.

don’t let this be you a few days before your trip.

Shoes you’ve never worn before:
A single blister can derail an entire Disney trip, and if you’ve ever tried to buy quality footwear in an amusement park, you know the pickin’s are slim. If you’ve read my other getting ready for WDW blog, you know that I recommend training, so you should have your proper footwear picked out ahead of time. Now is the time to go tried and true. I always like have a couple footwear options just in case. I was just in the Adirondacks where one of my favorite Dr. Scholls shoes started giving me a blister out of nowhere. So sad, but luckily I had my trusty flip flops for the rest of the trip.

There you have it folks. The last of my getting ready for Walt Disney World Blog series. I can’t wait to enjoy the fun and sun at the happiest place on Earth. What are your must haves when you pack for Disney?