Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How to Maximize a Short Trip

A Disney Parks vacation is amazing. We simply adore it and try to get there as often as we can. But many times, for various reasons- time, money, etc... to get there, we have to keep it short. We've done 2 short trips in the past and one is coming up. My idea of short is 4 nights or less. Many may disagree with that and consider it a perfect amount of time. Others may gasp in horror at even thinking of only going for 4 nights. For us, 4 nights with 3 full days and 2 half days, is relatively short because most of our trips are 7 or 8 nights with 8 or 9 park days. And when you're not used to cutting the trip basically in half, it can leave you feeling as if the trip flew by and you didn't get to do nearly as much as you wanted. It can leave you disappointed.

But there are ways to avoid disappointment!

- First of all, remember you are in Disney! And any time there is better than none!! Savor every moment!!

- Limit yourself. You may have to limit the number of parks you visit, or limit the days you spend at each park. It's a personal preference. In my opinion, you cannot do everything there is to do at Magic Kingdom or Epcot in one day (each). So on a short trip, you will need to decide between visiting all parks for only one day each, or skipping one and spending two at your favorite park. I might get yelled at, but I'm gonna say it- Animal Kingdom is our least favorite park. There just isn't much there that appeals to us. There is nothing there that is a must do for us. We do love it and there are many awesome things, but we can survive without it. So on short trips we will skip it in favor of two days at Magic Kingdom. We prefer two at Epcot as well, but MK wins for us.

- Don't waste time. When you only have one day at each park, you need to skip things that just take up too much time. Like midday breaks, parades, browsing every gift shop, Kidcot stations, street entertainment, play areas such as Honey I Shrunk the Kids, character meet n greets, basic rides that seem to have really long lines (Tomorrowland Speedway, Astro Orbiter, Peter Pan, unless you have a fastpass). But if those things are very important to you, do them. You just need to realize you may not accomplish as much in the parks as you may be used to.

- Use Fastpass + to the maximum your day! Schedule your 3 ahead of time for as early in the day as you can. Then when you're there, you'll be able to get more sooner. Once you use your 3 you can book more, one at a time, using the My Disney Experience app on your mobile device.

- Keep meals simple. One thing that sucks up a lot of park time is sit down meals. Especially if you need to leave the park to get to them. An average sit down meal eats up at least an hour and a half to two hours, not including travel time. Depending on time of day, you can do a counter meal in half that time, or less, freeing you up to do more with your day.

- Skip Disney Springs (Downtown Disney). It's a great place and it can be really fun, but in the end. it's mostly just shopping. And as much as we all want the perfect souvenir, I'm not willing to pass on park time to shop for hours to find it. If you have time in the evening, sure! Especially on a day where a park closes early, like Animal Kingdom.

I think that's it! If you have questions, or more tips for maximizing your time, please post them! Enjoy every moment of your short trip! Suck up every second of Disney magic that you can!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Packing doesn't have to be stressful.

I think most people stress out about packing for vacation. Making sure you have enough clothes. You never know what will happen. Or sometimes what the weather will be like. (There are certain times of year that Florida is VERY unpredictable). Medications. Necessary equipment. (My husband has a C-Pap and my son has a nebulizer). Making sure you don't go over that 50 pound maximum for flying. Especially if you bring your own bottled water and/or snacks.

I am a list maker. I start making my packing list far in advance. Every time I think of something, I add it to the list. Or I throw it right in the suitcase, if its something I won't need to use at home. I pull out the suitcases like a month before any trip. I gradually toss in things. When I get to about a week before, I pull it all out and start to organize. I do my laundry and start packing what we need. I count out underwear and socks- one for each day plus at least 2 extra. (You just never know!)

Many people like to bring their own snacks and drinks. When our kids were little, we loaded up. Breakfast stuff, Capri Sun pouches, Horizon milk boxes. Especially when my son was 2 and still free, but ate a lot of food! LOL My growing boy! I brought tons of fruits cups and granola bars, etc.. I would bring an entire suitcase just with food and drinks and diapers and wipes. I didn't care, because we always fly Southwest and we can each check 2 suitcases. But not everyone can check that many bags, or wants to. A great packing tip is to leave all that stuff at home and buy from a local service like Garden Grocer, who will deliver anything you need to your resort. Or you can ship the stuff from home to your resort.

But the very best tip I can offer in regards to packing is to not worry about forgetting something. Disney sells just about everything you could possibly need. (Except rechargeable camera battery chargers. It cost me $50 plus the cost for the charger to take a cab to a nearby Target to get one on day 2 of our trip one year.) And medications. But everything else, they have.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Top 5 Lessons Learned: The Hard Way :(

A Disney Parks vacation is the most magical family vacation, in my opinion. Nothing whisks you away from reality quite like Disney does. Most of our trips have been filled top to bottom with amazing memories and so much fun. BUT...... we have experienced unpleasantness, too. You can't always escape it or even prevent it, but you can be prepared.

Here are my top 5 lessons learned the hard way :( Hopefully you can learn from them.

#1- Rain

It rains in Florida. Sometimes just a little. Sometimes a lot. It depends on the time of year. But if you're traveling in rainy/hurricane season, which can be anywhere from June to November, you need to be prepared for inclement weather. I always knew it could happen, so we always brought dollar store ponchos. Those teenie tiny clear plastic things that are almost as thin as Saran wrap. I'm sure you know where this is going. Some years they were fine, but not when there is a torrential downpour. If you will be traveling during rainy season, please invest in some good ponchos or rain coats. Something with some weight to it. Even better if the sleeves are gathered at the wrist so they can't blow all around. And bring some kind of footwear that does not need to be worn with socks. Water shoes, good flip flops, Crocs, Keens, etc.. Even if you just throw them in your bag or stroller and change into them only if necessary. It is NOT fun to walk through unavoidable deep puddles in sneakers and socks.

#2- Sick Kids

Many trips are great and no one gets sick. But it's happened-minor things to almost as bad as you can imagine. Last trip I woke in the middle of the night to my daughter scrambling to get to the bathroom to vomit. A few years ago my son's breathing issues became so bad due to the high Florida humidity that he had to be taken to Celebration hospital, and then transferred to Orlando hospital. We spent the first 3 days of our trip there. My only advice is to take preventative measures ahead of time and load up on Vitamin D, Airborne, etc. --but I'm still not convinced that really works--and have a plan just in case. When my daughter was sick, my mother in law volunteered to stay with her so we could visit Magic Kingdom with my parents that day, who were only at Disney with us for 2 days. My husband had planned on doing it until she offered. When my son was hospitalized, we rented a car and took turns staying with him while the other took our daughter to the parks. Pack every med you might need, even though they do sell most common medications at the resort gift shop.

It makes me so sad to look at this awesome pic and my daughter and mother in law are not in it :(

He looks pretty happy in his hospital bed :) He had some good moments, but much of the experience he was miserable :(

Here he is the day he was released from the hospital. We headed to Magic Kingdom and he had a great time!

#3- Heat

It's unavoidable. It's hot in Florida, especially if you travel between April and October. All you can do is be prepared. Dress in light fabrics and colors. I prefer skirts and sundresses in the summer months. Bring sunglasses and hats. Purchase personal misting fans at home or buy the ones they sell in the parks. Take breaks. Especially midday. If you don't want to leave the park to go back to the resort and swim, do some indoor attractions. It's a great chance to do those things you might have skipped otherwise. Get a Fastpass for water attractions midday- like Splash Mountain and Kali River Rapids. Stay hydrated. The kids WILL whine about the heat, so prepare yourself for that too! Listen to your body and don't overdo it.

#4- Sore Feet

Another inevitable thing. They say the average person walks an average of 10 miles per day! That's a lot of time on your feet! Not counting the standing in place, which is worse in my opinion. My solution is to wear a different pair of shoes every day. I don't mean you need a different pair for each day of the trip, but at least 2...3 is better. Never wear the same pair two days in a row. And decent shoes. Not cheap flip flops. I actually have fabulous flips flops from Teva and Clarks, and those are great. I love my Crocs sandals and ballet flats. Hubby swears by his Keen sandals. Bring a stroller for the kids, even if they are way too old for it. Kids don't have the stamina we do, and severely lack the ability to keep their complaints to themselves. It's better for everyone to have it. I have no shame in admitting I brought a double stroller to accommodate both kids until my daughter was 9-1/2. (She has always been very petite) And our last trip with the stroller for my son was when he was 5-1/2. (He was 6-1/2 our last trip and we didn't take it, but he did pretty good. My daughter is definitely more of a complainer! LOL!)

#5- Cold

Believe it or not, Florida can get downright cold, especially if you're traveling between December and February. One trip, there was unusually cold weather the entire winter and it got downright chilly. Lows in the 30's! Even as life-long north-easterners, we weren't quite prepared, and had not brought anything heavier than sweatshirts. I remember the coldest day that week...we all had on two long sleeve tees, two sweatshirts- one with a hood- and the kids were in the double side by side stroller with a fleece blanket tucked around them. I think the Photopass photographer thought we were completely nuts because we shed our sweatshirts for one photo. We all had homemade matching shirts on and I wanted at least one picture of them! We bought hats and gloves. We had to. So my advice for that time of year- bring coats and hats and gloves. Bring long johns! Bring an extra suitcase if you need to. You might regret not doing it.

The one pic we all took our sweatshirts off to take. It looks so deceiving. Sunny, but very very cold!

So there ya have it. My top five lessons. Hope they help you!!