Archive | Tips for Families RSS feed for this section

The Best Disney Character Breakfasts

28 Oct

Best Disney Character Breakfasts

At Disney World, character dining meals are designed to offer you the best of both worlds—great food in a fun atmosphere and the chance to meet your favorite Disney characters.  Since the dining areas have a limited capacity, the characters have more time to spend with each family, making a character meal a great option for groups traveling with kids.

Character Breakfast Basics:

Disney offers character dining locations in the theme parks and at Disney World hotels and resorts. The characters that you’ll meet depend on the location you choose. There are meals featuring the classic Mickey pals, Disney princesses and Winnie the Pooh and friends along with a few other character based options. The food is served buffet style, and features everything from eggs to pastries, fruit to breakfast meats.  Overall, the food served at character breakfasts is tasty and there is something for everyone.

You’ll need to make a reservation for any character dining experience, breakfast included. Some of Disney’s hardest to get dining reservations are for character meals. If you want to dine with Cinderella in the castle at the Magic Kingdom, you’ll need to book your table six months in advance. Other popular locations, like Chef Mickey’s , fill up months in advance as well.

As of October 2011, Disney has instituted a new reservations policy for character dining; you’ll need to give a credit card number to reserve your seat, and show up on your chosen day or time, or pay a cancellation penalty of $10 per person.

Best Character Breakfast Locations:

Cinderella’s Royal Table:

The original is still one of the best character meals offered. Guests report to Cinderella Castle for an elegant breakfast in a royal setting. You’ll meet Cinderella, the Fairy Godmother and a host of other royal guests when you dine at this location. Schedule your breakfast early in the morning, and you’ll get the chance to wander down Main Street USA before the park opens, and enjoy a rare moment of solitude in the usually bustling Magic Kingdom.

Story Book Dining:

Epcot’s Norway pavilion is home to a princess breakfast your little one will love. Each day, an assortment of the Disney princesses welcomes guests, poses for pictures and signs autographs table-side. This location has one of the best breakfast menus you’ll find, featuring fresh fruit and yogurt, eggs and bacon, and some of the best potatoes you’ll find on property. You never know who you’ll meet here, though Belle, Ariel, Jasmine, Mulan and Snow White are almost always on hand to greet guests. You’ll also get a souvenir photo of your party with one of the princesses to take home with you when you leave this location.

Chef Mickey’s:

If princesses aren’t your thing, or if you want to try a diverse meal in a great location, then consider the wildly popular Chef Mickey’s, located in Disney’s Contemporary Resort. You’ll enjoy fantastic food in a fun setting—and be just a monorail ride away from either the Magic Kingdom or Epcot. This location features tableside visits by Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald and Goofy, and is one of the best character meals to visit if you or a member of your family has special dietary needs. Chef Mickey’s offers a huge array of meal options, and can accommodate special food requests as needed.

A character breakfast really tops off a Disney World vacation, the food is great, the entertainment is outstanding, and the kids really have a great time. Plus, if you and your family take in a character breakfast then you will not have to waste your precious time at theme parks chasing down characters to get their autographs and pictures.

The Maelstrom at Norway – Epcot

22 Sep

Maelstrom – Norway Epcot

“Those who seek the spirit of Norway face peril and adventure.” Enter the mythological days of the Vikings when you ride Maelstrom located in Epcot’s Norway (between Mexico and China). Riders board their own Viking ships and tour around 10th century Viking Villages and the Norwegian forests. From polar bears to traditional Viking life your calm Norwegian boat ride seems like a nice day out to sea. But beware. Tricky trolls lurk in the darkness and want nothing more than to send you and your entire ship over the falls. Just when you think all is safe a troll pops out and casts a spell on your boat sending you backwards into rapids. In the distance you can see and hear a huge waterfall that you feel you will tumble backwards over. Instead of falling backwards over the large waterfall you suddenly feel your boat change course and end up in the middle of a storm. The storm does not last and before you know it you are back to the peaceful fishing village you came from. After your boat journey you are invited to watch a five minute movie on Norway. From the landscape to culture the movie offers watchers a brief look at history and life in Norway.

Maelstrom is a dark ride that is classified as “Mild But Wild Thrills.” There are no height restrictions to ride Maelstrom. Each boat holds 8 to 12 people.  A fast pass is available for the enchanting Norwegian boat ride and it is PAL Mickey friendly so do not forget Mickey. The ride duration is around 4 minute and 47 seconds and the movie afterwards (which is optional you can exit if you choose not to watch the movie) is around 5 minutes.  Maelstrom is a ride that everyone in your family will enjoy as long as they remember… “The spirit of adventure is always alive in Norway.”

Surviving Disney with Babies

1 Aug

A lot of people were surprised when I told them I was taking my babies to Disney World. I was surprised they didn’t realize Disney World is actually one of the easiest vacation destinations with babies.

Disney World is set up to accommodate families with babies.  Where else can you go that has designated stroller parking?

Plus, there are so many other families with babies there that you’re never the one family with a noisy baby.  In any given restaurant, there will be at least three other families whose children are noisier than yours.

There are a few simple ways to ensure that you and your baby have a great Disney vacation.

Bring a Baby Carrier

The littler the baby is, the more useful a baby carrier is at Disney World.  When a baby rides in a carrier and falls asleep, you can still see shows or go on rides without height restrictions.

I’ve found that babies tend to be happier in carriers than in strollers at Disney World.  They get to be right next to someone and they get a better view of the World.

Still Bring a Stroller

As my babies got older, the stroller became more useful as opposed to the carrier.  Even if you don’t think your baby will ride in a stroller at all, still bring one.

Babies always need a lot of gear and babies at Disney World need even more stuff.  A stroller is the perfect place to store everything you need for a baby.

If a baby does fall asleep in the stroller, you can always walk through gift shops or get a snack or you can use Rider Switch passes to take turns riding some thrill rides the baby can’t go on.

Actual Baby Sleeping in the Stroller Disney World

Actual Baby Sleeping in the Stroller at Disney World

Beware of the Elements

The heat in Florida can be hard to take for an adult, but it can be much more dangerous for a baby.  If it’s hot outside, take precautions to make sure the baby doesn’t get overheated.

Seek out air conditioned attractions and restaurants in order to get a break from the heat.  Consider purchasing a fan or spray bottle to help fight the heat.  Take afternoon breaks from the parks to avoid the hottest part of the day.

Of course, baby skin is sensitive to sun, as well.  A good hat is essential for protection from the sun.

For babies over six months, make sure to use a baby sunscreen.  For babies under six months, make sure to have a good stroller shade and a plan for when the baby is in the carrier.

When we took our youngest to Disney World as a baby, we purchased giant sombreros from the Mexican Pavilion in Epcot and by wearing the sombreros, the baby was in the shade wherever we went.

Utilize the Baby Care Centers

There is a Baby Care Center located in each of the four theme parks.  It is a great resource for taking care of babies.

Play Room at the Baby Care Center at Animal Kingdom

Play Room at the Baby Care Center at Animal Kingdom

There are large changing tables, high chairs, play areas, and places for nursing.  Baby supplies like diapers, sunscreen, and baby food are also available for purchase, all at a premium price.  Try to avoid purchasing these by bring your own supplies.

Be Flexible

Flexibility is everything when touring Disney with a baby. Regardless of what you had planned on doing next, the baby’s needs and happiness always come first.

If you had Advanced Dining Reservations at Le Cellier but the baby is still napping, call and cancel the reservation and grab a counter service meal when the baby wakes up.

If you are in line for Peter Pan’s Flight and the baby says to feed him now or else, then come back to Peter Pan’s Flight later, after the baby has a full belly.

Touring Disney World with a baby is an amazing experience.  The things that catch their eyes may be things an adult would never notice.  While there certainly are unique challenges to touring with a baby, it is very manageable and even fun.

the deal on wheels.

30 Jul

As I mentioned in my introductory post, my youngest sister is physically handicapped, which necessitated the use of a wheelchair on our Disney Trips. She has cerebral palsy and doesn’t use a wheelchair day-to-day, but the amount of walking the average person does in Disney World would have been too much for her. Wheelchairs are also a great option for older grandparents who don’t want to miss out on the fun.

Currently, Walt Disney World wheelchairs and Electric Convenience Vehicles (ECV) are available for rent at the entrance and a few locations inside each park, as well as the Downtown Disney Area. Wheelchairs (but not ECV’s) are also available for rent at select hotels, so you will want to check before you make your hotel reservation if this is a need for you.

The Walt Disney World Website currently lists rental prices as follows:

  • $12.00 USD per day for wheelchairs at Theme Parks
  • $12.00 USD per day plus a $100.00 USD refundable security deposit for wheelchairs at the Downtown Disney Area
  • $50.00 USD per day plus a $20.00 USD refundable security deposit for ECVs at Theme Parks
  • $50.00 USD per day plus a $100.00 USD refundable security deposit for ECVs at the Downtown Disney Area

They also offer a length of stay style rental system, where you pay up front at a discounted daily rate ($10) and pick up and turn in your wheel chair at the parks each day.

Walt Disney World has done an outstanding job of making the experience accessible to people in every situation. We found that wheelchair entrances for rides and restaurants are well marked, and cast members are always available if you have questions. Rides are often halted entirely to give the wheelchair rider ample time to board and unload, and if the entrance is in a different location than the exit, you will find your wheelchair and a helping hand waiting when you disembark.

My one word of warning is that unlike normal streets where people generally get out of the way if they see a wheelchair coming, in Disney World you are in stiff competition with teenagers trying to get on rides and parents pushing strollers who aren’t always willing to make room for a wheelchair. This is especially true before parades, when people are staking out their hard earned spots and afraid to lose them if they get up to let a wheelchair through.

Overall, Walt Disney World does a great job of providing assistance for those with special needs. For more information on their specific policies, check out http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/guests-with-disabilities/. A guidebook is also available at check in when you arrive for your vacation.

Being Prepared: Never Over Rated

30 Jul

The Parks are a great way to spend the day with family and friends. Although unlike Wal-Mart, Disney isn’t open. With so many rides and attractions time is just as important as fun. Disney offers multiple solutions such as: wait time boards within the parks, time guides with parade/performance times, even various apps for smart phones.  While these are helpful solutions provided for every guest, there are other solutions you can do on you own to save time. One solution is to plan your day before it starts. Taking a few minutes the day before to view attractions and parks and what your family would like to do is a great time saver. Many families have teenagers or infant/toddler children which means not all attractions and rides are suited for them. So plan ahead and decide which park you’d like to take on because every park offers a different experience then see what attractions your whole family can enjoy. Park maps, believe it or not, are also a great help. By picking up a park map as you enter the park, you can see where everything is located and plan where to start your fun. Even smart phone apps can assist you i your day out. No matter what you do, don’t forget to plan a lot of fun!

The Value of Pop Century: A Review

29 Jul

On my last Disney World trip, I stayed at Pop Century. I wasn’t very happy about staying at a Value resort when I booked it, but it was a last minute trip and I figured staying at Pop Century was better than staying home.

I’ve never much cared for the Value resorts. They’re okay, but the Moderates and Deluxes seem so much nicer.

Once I checked in at Pop Century, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it actually was a pretty good value.

Our room had been refurbished since the last time I had stayed there. The Pack N Play I had requested fit neatly in the corner.

Pack N Play at Pop Century

Pack N Play at Pop Century

The bed rails that I had requested were in the room waiting for us.

Bed Rails at Pop Century

Bed Rails at Pop Century

The best part of our room was the view. It was absolutely beautiful.

The View from our Room at Pop Century

The View from our Room at Pop Century

I spent some time exploring the resort and was pleased to find that my kids really enjoyed the theming.

Bowling Pin in the Fifties at Pop Century

Bowling Pin in the Fifties at Pop Century

Sure, a giant yo-yo might not be very exciting to me, but for a two-year-old, it was awesome.

Giant Yo-Yo at Pop Century

Giant Yo-Yo at Pop Century

The Pop Jets were also popular with my kids, even though they were in-operational during our stay. How much fun would that be when the jets are on?

Goofy's Pop Jets at Pop Century

Goofy's Pop Jets at Pop Century

The lake at Pop Century added a serene feel to the resort, which was a good change from the not-so-serene feel of the Hippy Dippy Pool.

Lake and Flowers at Pop Century

Lake and Flowers at Pop Century

The lake provided a perfect backdrop for the sunset.

Sunset at Pop Century

Sunset at Pop Century

And long after the sun had set, the Fireworks from Illuminations could be viewed. Granted, they were far away, but it was still another cool thing about Pop Century.

Illuminations Viewed from Pop Century

Illuminations Viewed from Pop Century

I started off not very excited about staying at Pop Century, but it ended up being a great choice for us.  I’d like to stay there again sometime.

If you’re looking for a great Disney resort for a great price, I’d recommend Pop Century.

The Best of the Disney Playgrounds

26 Jul

I never truly appreciated the awesome playgrounds available at Disney World until I had kids.   One of the first things I learned about touring Disney with kids is that playtime is still essential, especially for stroller kids.

Luckily, Disney World is full of fun places for kids to run and play.  Here are my top three favorite playgrounds at Disney World.

The Boneyard

Located in Dinoland at the Animal Kingdom, the Boneyard is an amazing play area and a huge favorite of my kids.  In addition to slides and tunnels, a Jeep provides kids with exciting places to play.

The Jeep at the Boneyard

One of the best parts of the Boneyard is the Digsite, located across a bridge that is easy to miss.  The Digsite allows kids to dig and uncover dinosaur bones.  Kids love digging and parents love sitting and relaxing.

Digging at the Digsite

At Restaurantosaurus, the kids’ meals come with a bucket and shovel, which is great for playing in at the Digsite.

Honey I Shrunk The Playground

I remember playing at Honey I Shrunk The Playground at the Hollywood Studios (then MGM) when I was a kid.  It was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.

Honey I Shrunk The Playground makes it feel just as though you were shrunk to a tiny size and exploring the backyard.

The blades of grass become slides and some Cheerios are perfect for climbing.  And of course, an ant is perfect for riding on.

The Giant Ant at Honey I Shrunk the Playground

Tom Sawyer Island

When you and the kids need a break from the crowds at the Magic Kingdom, Tom Sawyer Island is the perfect escape.

The View from Tom Sawyer Island

Tom Sawyer Island does include a more traditional playground, at Fort Langhorn, but with no strollers allowed, the whole place is perfect for kids to run around and explore.

Exploring Tom Sawyer Island

There are so many cool places for kids to play at Disney World.  Have some fun exploring them all.

Wishing you the best day ever!
Kate