Posts Tagged ‘Disney World’

I’ve always wanted to be a reporter and I’ve always loved the Disney Parks. Combine the two and some awesome kind of dream job would be to be a Disney Parks reporter. Like if Walt Disney World® Resort had a news team, I’d be the lead reporter giving the scoop on all of the fun rides and restaurants to hit up with your family when visiting the parks.

Interracial family at Disney World. Multiracial family blogger

Well a couple of months ago that dream was basically realized when Disney flew my family and me to Orlando and gave us a free Walt Disney World® Resort vacation to capture our Disney do-list in a four-part series for Essence.com showcasing some of the Disney Parks magic we know and love.

Now for you, my blog readers, I can give you some of the behind-the-scenes scoop. For one, my husband who you know is as camera shy as they get, – was a big trooper. Lil’ J has had a camera in her face since birth so she was a gem, and little man was something else. I mean we were at Walt Disney World® Resort, he was ready to play, and the crew just had to capture his joy.

We stayed at the beautiful Disney’s Art of Animation Resort which is easily our favorite right now purely for the Cars cast. Every evening when we came back to the hotel we had to make a trip around Radiator Springs to say hi to all of his friends.

In the end we knocked out all of our favorites:

Meeting Tiana
Turtle Talk with Crush
Chatting with Elsa and Anna
Dumbo the Flying Elephant® Attraction
Toy Story Mania® Attraction
… Actually this list can get pretty long fast. You can watch our videos to see what we enjoyed.

And I’ll narrow down a few of our favorite NEW things we experienced:


1. Met Moana – She’s currently at Disney’s Hollywood Studios®.
2. The new Frozen Ever After ride – One of my new favorite rides for sure. We all loved it. The atmosphere was beautiful and we were singing the whole way through. There were some backwards riding and a little drop, and the kids both had a blast.
3. We hitched a ride on some Main Street, U.S.A.® transportation and my kids sent a trail of bubbles all the way down. Their huge smiles were contagious.
4. Met Gaston outside of his tavern– He is HILARIOUS! He asked my husband if he wanted to feel his biceps too and my husband politely declined.


5. Show Mickey Mouse a cool toy– My kids lost their minds when we saw Mickey and Minnie in Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park. But the cutest part was when my son ran for his Mack truck (from the Cars movie) he had with us the entire trip and ran back to show it to Mickey. I almost cried. He still talks about that today and can’t wait to go see him again.

We’ve taken four trips to Walt Disney World® Resort (plus two to Disneyland ® Resort and two Disney Cruise Line vacation) in two years and we STILL haven’t seen it all.

With each trip the magic never fades. Walt Disney World® Resort has endless magic.

Enter to win

Essence Communications Inc. is sponsoring The Endless Magic Sweepstakes so you and your family can experience it as well! Visit www.Essence.com/EndlessMagic to enter for a chance to win a 4-night/5-day Walt Disney World® Resort vacation for four.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Purchasing does not improve your chances of winning. The Endless Magic Sweepstakes is open to legal residents of the 50 U.S. and D.C., age 21 or older. Void outside the U.S., in Puerto Rico, and wherever prohibited by law. Sweepstakes begins at 12:00:01 AM ET on 01/13/17 and ends at 11:59:59 PM ET on 03/30/17. Click here for Sweeps Facts and Official Rules. Sponsor: Essence Communications, Inc., 225 Liberty St., New York, NY 10281.

If there’s one secret I’m taking with me to my grave, it’s the fact that I took my 10-year-old sister (her idol) with me to Walt Disney World. I mean I can tell you. That’s fine. But I can never tell my daughter. I’m not sure she’d forgive me.

Lil’ J couldn’t join me because I’m already toeing the bad parent line with taking her out of school for trips. she knew I was going to Disney World for work. But she didn’t know the extent of this trip. I told her I’d be doing stuff she’d think was scary or boring which was totally true and my plan from the start.

A year ago, when I didn’t get invited to the Disney Social Media Moms conference I was totally bummed. It’s a conference at Disney World where you get to learn some new things in store for the Disney brand, network and get to play at the parks. It’s definitely not free, but it’s a good deal.

This year, I was somewhat hopeful, but not too expecting since we’d just taken a family trip less than a month prior to invites going out.

I told myself if I was invited, I’d bring my sister and my mom, because my sister hadn’t been since she was about 4 or 5. She’s stood by watching us go on our trips, and been hopeful for a visit herself.

So when the email came, I kept my promise and invited her to come with me. My mom stayed home to help with my kids when my husband had to work. She was sad to miss Star Wars Day, but happy to see me spend time with my youngest sister.

Before the trip I was texting my neighbor and Disney-obsessed travel agent friend around the clock asking for recommendations for food and fastpasses. I wasn’t used to this last-minute planning. Normally I have 8+ months to think about all of these things and strategize. Brinkley is awesome and patient and can totally hook you up if you have questions.

I didn’t know what to expect taking a tween to Walt Disney World, but I looked forward to not having strollers, extra pull-ups, sippy cups and changes of clothes to haul around. I also was looking forward to actually riding a Disney roller coaster. Up until then I’d only been on Goofy’s Barnstormer and Thunder Mountain (a big mistake doing that with my terrified 5-year-old).

She promised me she could hang–Do all of the parks from open ‘til close. She told me I was the old lady who would probably need a nap. …We’d see about that.

We arrived a day before the conference registration and did just that–A challenge to go from open til close. We arrived 30 minutes before the gates opens at Animal Kingdom, standing in line with some one of my best bloggy friends and got to watch huge beautiful parrots fly in and out to help open the park.
Then we went straight to Dinosaur–A ride I missed when I took my kids because… Well, it’s terrifying. It really is! If your kids like dinosaurs they probably won’t after that ride.

Before we went to get on I looked up and saw my sister running the other direction. She was too scared to get on. I rolled my eyes and held back my frustration as best as I could when I told her to wait for us at the exit.

Was this how it was going to be the whole week?

She told me she wasn’t afraid of rides and already was proving me wrong.

A roller coaster was next–Expedition Everest–and she hopped on without a fight. And thankfully that was pretty much the case over and over the rest of the trip.

I realized it was the more dark and creepy rides that scared her, not the thrill rides. So of course I gave her a hard time on Haunted Mansion–Which was my first experience on the ride too because it was another one I deferred for the kids’ sake.

From Animal Kingdom we went to Hollywood Studios for a majority of the day then closed down the night at Magic Kingdom, where the Park closed at 1am. Yes ladies and gentleman, we opened up the joint, and closed that ish down. Something I probably will never aspire to do again.

Best rides at Disney World for Tweens

After the 3 days at the parks (which we closed down a couple more times) I had a grand total of 22 new experiences which in my opinion are some of the best rides at Disney World for tweens:

Thrill rides:

Dinosaur: 2Xs
Expedition Everest (at night!): 3Xs
Rockin Roller Coaster: 5Xs
Tower of Terror: 2Xs
Space Mountain: 3Xs
Thunder Mountain (without a crying kid): 1X
Splash Mountain: 1X
7 Dwarves Mine Train: 1X
Mission Space (ORANGE!): 1X and never again
Test Track: 2Xs

Other New Experiences:

Tree of Life Nighttime Awakenings
Star Tours
Star Wars Launch Bay
Haunted Mansion
The Great Movie Ride
Pirates of the Caribbean
Finding Nemo Show
Fantasmic Show
Star Wars Fireworks
50s Prime Time Cafe
Sci-Fi Drive in Theater Restaurant
A Mickey Mouse Pretzel
A giant turkey leg

My sister also got to do the Jedi Training which was on her bucket list, and she made friends with other blogger’s kids and went on the rides over and over when I was pooped.

The Finding Nemo Musical was on my bucket list this trip because I’ve heard a lot of people say they like it more than the Lion King Show in Animal Kingdom, and I had to see that for myself. Now I can officially disagree with anyone who says that, but it was still good.

PhotoPass_Visiting_Walt_Disney_World_Resort_7678107855

So will your tweens and teens have stuff to do at Disney World? Heck yes! I mean goodness, I see why adults go alone now. And I don’t know about your 10-year-olds, but my sister was still totally smitten by all of the princesses and characters. I didn’t expect that, but the magic hasn’t dimmed a bit for her.

All this to say that the one awesome thing I learned on this trip that I didn’t expect was that Disney without your little ones can actually be fun. Not to say that I’m planning any more trips without them (they are truly my partners in crime and it sucked leaving them behind), but on our next trip, I will definitely be convincing the hubs to do a night or two with me while the kids go to a Disney kids club night and we get our thrills on without strollers in tow.

Other things I learned about doing Disney World with Tweens:

  • You can cover a lot more ground a lot faster (park hoppers are DEFINITELY work it!)
  • Dinner can be a lot quieter. Less questions, and whining is nice.
  • They can entertain themselves and are more patient. In line, at dinner, etc.
  • They still like to snack a lot. She got hangry at me a few times.
  • They can still be picky eaters. She didn’t like the Mickey Pretzel or want to try a Dole Whip-WHAT?
  • They have tons of energy too!-Staying up late, no problem! But we all still crashed on the bus.
  • You’re never too old for dance parties on Main Street.
  • They’re more expensive-Kids meals no more!
  • They can ride alone! (7+)

I have much more to tell you, including an Alice Through the Looking Glass movie review (is it freakishly cute, or just plane freaky?) and some new stuff to get you pumped about your upcoming visits that I’ll be posting in the coming weeks.

Have you ever been to Disney World as a tween or with your tween? What did you learn?

Disney World with a Tween. How it's different and rides they'll love.

In my reader survey quite a few of you mentioned you wanted more Disney posts because you love it and/or are planning your trips. A few others said you’d prefer to see a little less Disney posts. Between my love for Disney travel and the animated movies, I’m taking this all to heart and going to try to keep a balance. That means one Disney post every week or two. So those who love it like I do get their fix, and I won’t be overdoing it for those who could do with a little less Mickey (it’s hard to believe these people exist!).

Lately I’ve been feeling like baby fever was replaced by the travel bug. What started as a bucket-list goal to take my kids to Disney World before I turned 30 has turned into a dream to visit all of the worldwide Disney parks, and save for an annual family trip.

I have a growing list of other places I want to take my kids, but we’ll get more into that in another post.

5 secrets for doing disney world with preschoolers

I’ve had several people ask me what the best age to visit Disney World is. And if it’s worth taking young kids. “They won’t even remember it!” or “They can’t really enjoy it” are phrases I sometimes hear, but I beg to differ.

We took big T to Disney World last year when he was almost 2 and while he doesn’t remember that trip, he did have a blast. Most of the rides at the Disney Parks are for all heights and ages. And since he was 1 we didn’t have to pay for his flight or his park tickets (kids tickets are free up to 3). Now at almost 3, I kid you not, he talks about Disney World every day. He talks about “spin fast at Disney World” (the tea cups) Goofy’s airplane (the Barnstormer), Mickey Mouse choo choo (WDW Railroad), and more! He loves flipping through my phone looking at photos and videos (I’m still working on editing a video) and talking about our trips. Going to Disney World with preschoolers can be a lot of fun.

I’ve learned a lot over this last year and I’ve shared what I’ve learned and some of my Disney tips. Things like rider swap, stroller rentals and healthy kids meals with Mickey Checks–but this time, on our 4th Disney trip, I learned even more tips for doing Disney World with preschoolers. Things I didn’t know before. Hopefully you’ll find this helpful as you plan your trips with little ones, and I’d love it if the more experienced Disney travelers shared their tips in the comments as well!

1. There are fun playground areas in each of the parks

5 secrets for doing disney world with preschoolers: Disney World playgrounds

If you get tired of lines or the kids just need a break, I love heading out to the different play areas at each park. In Magic Kingdom we love to take a raft ride over to Tom Sawyer Island. Where there’s plenty of bridges to cross, stairs to climb and fun to be had. But this is just the beginning there are fun play areas and attractions at each park for preschoolers.

In Epcot we love the ImageWorks play area after the Journey into Imagination with Figment ride. It’s a fun and colorful interactive play area.

In Animal Kingdom there’s the boneyard that’s a huge playground the kids.

honey-I-shrunk-the-kids-playground-disney-world

And in Hollywood studios we LOVED playing at the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground during both of our visits, but sadly it will be closing April 1st 2016. Don’t worry though, with Toy Story Land coming soon, I’m sure it will be replaced with something even cooler, and much more relevant for this generation.

2. Disney has childcare

Disney World Secrets: Child watch

You may have heard of Disney’s in-room childcare services, but you might not have known they have other childcare centers around the property. Centers like Lilo’s Playhouse at the Polynesian Resorts where kids can bake, do science, play games and interact with characters. Right now they’re open to local residents/visitors as well as Disney guests. And for $55 you can escape to the parks for some adult fun while your kids are having fun in safe hands.

3. Baby Care Centers

Disney World Secrets for Preschoolers: Baby Care Centers

Each Disney Park is equipped with a baby care center where you can find everything from a dimmed room to nurse to feeding areas with high chairs, comfortable changing stations, to extra diapers, wipes, and baby food. I wish I knew about this on our trip last year. There’s even a room older siblings can sit and play while they wait.

4. Strollers can roll on the monorail

Disney World Secrets for Preschoolers: Monorail

Disney World Secrets for Preschoolers: Monorail

Last time when we stayed off site we needed to fold the stroller, take the car, pay to park, unpack the stroller, and head into the parks. If you stay on site at a property that’s on the monorail system you can strap the kids in in your room and ride all the way there without needing to collapse the thing and squish your lunch (yes, you can bring your own food!).

5. Disney Jr. Pool Parties

Disney World Secrets for Preschoolers: Disney Jr. Pool Party

And other fun when you stay on property at a Disney Resort hotel. The pool party at the Nemo pool (at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort) was a highlight for my kids who love the water. Lil’ J danced and placed the trivia games. It was pretty cute and something I didn’t realize existed.

6. Magic Bands can be kid-sized

Disney World Secrets for Preschoolers: Magic Band Sizes

I’m a little embarrassed that I didn’t know this before. So just in case I’m not the only one who didn’t know I’m sharing this tip! It wasn’t until the last day that I realized the Magic Bands had an outer layer that could be pulled off to fit the younger kids better (a nice cast member told us right before we left!). Big T didn’t want to wear his and Lil’ J found hers uncomfortable because we had double-backed the wristband. Once we took it off it fit much better. You’re welcome!

7. Disney Springs is another adventure

Disney World Secrets for Preschoolers: Disney Springs Car Boat Ride

If you arrive in Orlando the day before your park experience begins, you can still start enjoying Disney World at Disney Springs. What was formerly known as Downtown Disney has been transformed into a full-fledged attraction of its own. We ate at the Boathouse one night and my son pointed out the window and said “Car on the water!” I brushed him off but when I turned around I saw exactly that. Then we went for a ride on one of the Amphicars and it was one of our favorite parks of the entire trip.

In the coming weeks I’ll also be sharing: Top Disney World rides for scaredy cat preschoolers (Lil’ J’s review), what I learned staying on property vs off property, and Disney World photography tips. If there’s another topic you’re interested in let me know!

Secrets to doing walt disney world with preschoolers

Have you been to Disney with a preschooler? What other tips do you have or would you like to know?

My family and I just got back from the happiest place on earth: Walt Disney World. If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram you probably saw some of our excitement.

best disney world castle photos

This was an unexpected but truly amazing vacation together to learn more about Disney World and what they have to offer preschoolers. You’d think I’d know a lot by now with the amount of Disney trips we’ve had lately, but I learned even more! I’ll be writing more about that soon, but first I wanted to share the best kid quotes from this trip.

Last year, on our first trip to Disney World the phrase we all heard and loved was “choo choo.”

Disney World for preschoolers #DisneyKids

We knew he loved trains, but we didn’t know just how much he would love not only the magical train around Magic Kingdom, but every single ride or vehicle that resembled a train to him. From the parking lot trams, to the monorail, to the PeopleMover, he was in heaven. If we had a dollar for every time he said “choo choo” we would have enough money to fund our next three Disney trips.

This time, there was another continuous phrase out of his mouth, which leads me to number 5.

5. “We’re going backwards!”

Disney World for preschoolers #DisneyKids

Any time a plane, bus, shuttle, train or the stroller we were pushing backed up he’d exclaim “We’re going backwards!” Even if we were going forwards he’d turn around the say “I’m going backwards!” It was pretty hilarious, and adorable. If your preschooler loves vehicles as much as this little guy, he or she will be in HEAVEN on all of the ones at the parks!

4. “If they were extinct then how are they here?”

Disney World for preschoolers #DisneyKids

We went on the Kilimanjaro Safari Ride in Disney’s Animal Kingdom and my kids were SO into it. We saw hippos, giraffes and elephants (my son’s favorite), and zebras (my daughter’s favorite). But during the tour the guide said that one of the animals we were looking at was extinct but they’re slowly revitalizing their population. At least that’s what I heard. And apparently so did my daughter because from the back of the truck she yelled: “But if they were extinct then how are they here?” with her arms stretched out in question. A few people laughed and I told her that was a great question and that we’d have to ask later. If anyone knows, let us know!

3. “Hi Mater!”

Disney World for preschoolers #DisneyKids

We stayed at the Art of Animation Resort. It was our our first time staying on site at Disney and it was gorgeous! We were in the Cars section of the resort and we walked past characters from the movie every day. The kids liked them all but they both seemed to really LOVE Mater. Every time we passed him they would stop and say “Hi Mater” or “Open your door Mater!” Every. single. time.

2. “I love the pole!”

Disney World for preschoolers #DisneyKids

Whenever we’d get on a bus or monorail that had poles to help people keep their balance, Lil’ J would try to swing around it or climb on it and say “I love the pole!” This was hilarious for obvious reasons. But what was even more funny was the fact that we couldn’t tell her why it was so funny or find a way to get her to not say that. So I just chuckled to myself as my husband tried to get her to stop.

1. “Remember me from the cruise?!”

Disney World for preschoolers #DisneyKids

On the first night of our trip we had a special dinner at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and had a surprise visit from Mickey Mouse. Lil’ J ran right up to him, gave him a big hug then said “Remember me from the cruise?” I stood there and for a split second I wondered what he’d do. Would he unknowingly crush her heart? I mean, he sees millions of kids a day. No. Mickey Mouse pointed to her and nodded in recognition. She started bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet, looked at me with a huge grin and mouthed “he remembers me!” My heart exploded.

THIS is what my love of Disney is all about. This magic, at this age, you can’t beat it. Everything is so real for her and I can’t convince her otherwise. I never want it to end.

Sure, between our cruises and park visits in the last year we’ve had a lot of Disney. But that look on my daughter’s face is priceless. I wouldn’t trade it for anything and I’ll never get enough.

Looking to plan your first Disney trip with your kiddos? Here’s some info on a great “kid-sized” deal. Book your vacation for as low as $908 for a family of 3; details HERE.

What were some of your favorite quotes from your trip to Disney?

I have so many more magical moments to share from this trip and I want to get as much as I can out while it’s fresh on my mind. I’ll try to spread them out a week or so apart as to not bombard you with my Disney withdrawals. If you have questions in the mean time let me know and I’ll answer in the comments and include it in an upcoming post.

~Lil’ J is currently 5 years 7 months. Big T is 2 years 10 months.~

Last week we went on an Amazing Disney Cruise. We’d started planning about a year ago once we heard the Disney Cruise Line was going back to the Galveston port in Texas. Since it was so close, we’d save on flights to Florida and be able to have a Disney vacation for less.

FYI: Doing a price comparison including food and all of the extras, a Walt Disney World vacation and Disney Cruise vacation actually wind up costing about the same.

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.

My husband and I have been on cruises before on Carnival and Royal Caribbean and Disney’s service and entertainment by far surpassed those experiences (as I would hope, because the price is much more).

I doubt I’ll ever be able to say this again, but this year we went to Walt Disney World, Disneyland (here’s my comparison post) and now, a Disney Cruise. At the end of this LONG post I’ll tell you where it ranks in our family’s opinion compared to the parks (you may be surprised).

Each trip was magical in their own way, and while I can’t say that a Disney Cruise is better than a Disney Parks vacation overall, there are 10 ways it does come out on top. This post is a doozie so if you need to, bookmark it and come back later!

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.

1. Free character calls (and other superb entertainment)

This is sorta minor and we actually didn’t even use this feature because we had our own surprise. But you can get a free character call from Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, or a variety of other characters before your trip giving your child an exciting surprise.

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.

And that’s just the beginning. Once you’re onboard you’re announced (and applauded) by name and before you know it you’re booty shaking next to Mickey Mouse, watching fireworks over the ocean and snow fall inside the cruise ship. There were so many experiences that had me in awe, looking back I wish I had my camera out for more, but I caught myself just soaking in the moment.

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.

2. Extremely relaxing

When you visit Disney Parks it’s wise to arrive early, beat the lines and ride space mountain over and over before 9am. On this cruise we rarely even emerged from our room before 9am. My husband was easily able to sneak away after a morning by the pool and take a nap with Big T in our room while Lil’ J and I explored and had more fun.

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.

If we needed a break our room was only an elevator trip away. After a Walt Disney World vacation you might come home feeling like you need another vacation. You don’t feel that way after a cruise. There’s just a lot less hustle and bustle.

3. Free kids club

If you want childcare while at the Disney Parks, you’re gonna hafta pay up. Not on a Disney Cruise. For kids over three there are multiple kids clubs for kids up to teens. For kids under 3 there’s a nursery available for a fee.

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.

The clubs have their own activities from scavenger hunts, pajama parties, character visits, science projects and dance parties. After the first visit Lil’ J was in heaven and said she wanted to stay there. But this trip her brother couldn’t stay with her.

Since he’s not quite 3 (and not quite potty trained) he was in the nursery which is $9/hr. Originally we thought we’d use this daily, but we wound up canceling his nursery hours and letting him hang with us because he was good company. He went to a few open houses at the kids clubs and played with Lil’ J. After that there was no going back to the nursery for him. He lost it.

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.

While the nursery was very cute and accommodating, he wanted to hang out with his sister and the big kids and I’m SO looking forward to both of them hanging out in the kids club together on our next trip so the hubs and I can enjoy some more alone time together. YES there are adult-only areas on the ship including a pool, some bars (as well as a sports bar) and a restaurant. There’s also adult comedy shows and clubs.

4. Shorter lines

One of the obsessions we had visiting the Disney Parks was meeting all of the characters. Thing is, at the parks you’re going to either want to get their early, eat at a pricey (but worth it) character meal, use a fastpass or wait in a hefty line to meet many characters. On the ship, there are multiple opportunities to have character interactions.

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.

If you miss Mickey the first night in his captain’s clothes, you can catch him the next night in formal wear or the night after in pirate gear, and so on. I think the longest line we had to wait in was maybe 10-15 minutes. We spaced out the meetings and waited until the middle of the week for a majority of them hoping others had gotten their autographs out of the way.

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.

A tip: You can meet all of the princesses on the ship at once with minimal lines if you get tickets to the princess meet and greet. The tickets are free and you can get them right away when you board the ship. Oh wait, I take it back, this was the longest line I waited in. Probably about 45 minutes. But we got tickets to the princess meet and greet, the Disney Jr. character breakfast and a special Christmas Time gingerbread house making activity. Have one person wait in line for the tickets and it’ll save you a lot of waiting later.

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.

Here’s a quick rundown of everyone we met: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Chip and Dale, Captain Hook and Mr. Smee, Ariel, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Sophia, Belle, Elsa, Anna, Olof, Goofy, Pluto, Stitch, Jake, Doc McStuffins. I’m probably missing someone. We met plenty more at the parks, but for a cruise ship I was thoroughly pleased with the amount of famous Disney friends onboard.

5. All you can eat food

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.

I really should have stated this sooner. The food. The FOOD. Not only is it delicious, it’s all you can eat. Not just the buffets. You’re out at the pool and craving some chicken fingers? Go grab some with a side of fries. Just walk up to the counter and ask for some. You go back and get more. Then you try the pulled pork sandwich. Then you hit up another restaurant for some fruit and tuna wraps. Later that night you have a four-course meal and try all of the desserts–Why not? It’s included!

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.

Lil’J enjoyed the unlimited fries and ice cream, which was exactly our diet at Disneyland. Luckily here we could have all we wanted for no additional cost.

6. Less walking

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.

While some people do bring strollers onboard, you really don’t need one. Your stateroom is just a couple minute walk away. I easily clocked miles and miles of steps at the parks with few places and times to sit down for a break. On the cruise there are lounges, deck chairs, and your bed all just down the hall.

7. Free room service

This may sound silly but one of my favorite parts of the day was curling up in bed with a cup of hot chocolate while watching Disney Animated classics that are playing around the clock on the TV. (This was after I stole the remote away from my husband to change it from ESPN.) Being a Disney Animation fanatic I loved that they had dedicated channels for the classics, new animated films, and Pixar films.

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.

Some people ordered hot chocolate room service for their morning wake up calls. I’ve had other friends tell me they ordered Mickey ice cream bars each night. Or you could go with giant delicious cookies, or even order and eat any of your meals in your room. There are so many options and all are free (though don’t forget to tip your server)!

8. Castway Cay (pronounced key)

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.

When else do you have the chance to visit a private island in the Bahamas? Our ship was the only Disney Cruise ship to dock at this beautiful Disney-owned island that day and thought it was slightly rainy, it was still a blast. We saw crab racing, had a delicious (included) BBQ lunch, played in the sand and ocean. We didn’t pay for any excursions this time but I didn’t really felt like we needed to. The kids had a lot of fun on the beach, and my husband ran in the free 5k that morning (and got the cool medal I wanted).

Next time I’ll probably buy a snorkeling package though cause that did look pretty fun and I think Lil’ J would really like it.

You don’t get a huge beach and crystal clear ocean water at the Disney Parks.

9. Less hassle and planning

When planning for a Disney Parks vacation like I do, you’re up at midnight 6 months before your trip to book dining reservations. Then you’re up at midnight a month before making fastpass selections, you’re scouting out what you’re going to hit up first and last during your day. Or you’re using a travel agent to help do all this for you… But I’m crazy like that.

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.

On a Disney Cruise EVERYTHING is planned for you. You don’t have to worry about where you’re eating dinner. Your restaurant changes each night so you’ll automatically get to try it all. All of the entertainment is planned, you just have to show up. The shows are broadway-caliber and the parties are spectacular.

It was almost annoying how I couldn’t plan anything before the trip. I tried to hit of forums and facebook groups for the scoop but things change once you’re on the boat anyway.

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.

You’ll get a personal navigator each night with a schedule of events and activities going on (which is also available on your Disney Cruise app). Each day Lil’ J and I would note the things we wanted to do: Karaoke, Disney Tune Trivia, craft group, Disney Charades, pin trading, meet the princesses, etc. We even got to watch movies in a huge theater. I finally saw Ant Man and Daddy and Big T finally got to watch The Good Dinosaur.

There’s SO much to do and all you’ve gotta do is show up when it’s time.

10. Fish Extender gift exchanges

fish-extender-exchange

This isn’t something put on by Disney Cruise Line but a really fun gift exchange between cruise guests who sign up. You hang a “fish extender” on a fish hook outside of your stateroom door then others put little goodies inside. Lil’ J was SO excited to deliver our gifts to the other cabins on our list, and every time we went back to our room she had something to look forward to. I’ll share more about our fish extender gifts and what they’re all about here and here’s a little I’ve written about it already.

The Verdict

All of this said, my husband hands down says Disney Cruise line is far better than the Disney Parks. The less walking, easy access for a break, a place to ditch the kids won him over. Everyone can do their own thing, yet be disconnected from the world and close together.

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.

Lil’ J also votes Disney Cruise as her favorite Disney vacation so far. The pools, beach, character dance parties, friends she made at the kids club stole her heart and she has non-stop been asking to go again.

For Big T, this trip was the most memorable so far. He was not even 2 yet when we went to Disney World in February. Now he’s an official Mickey fan (especially a Mickey waffle fan). While I know he would enjoy the rides at the parks much more than Lil’ J, I think he’d be down for either trip again.

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.

And finally my thoughts. To be honest, as much as I loved the Disney Cruise, and as magical as it was, to me it still just didn’t compare to the magic of a Disney Parks visit. This isn’t to say that the parks are better. I’ve given plenty of reasons why the cruise can win for many, but there’s nothing like seeing the characters in their own lands, riding the elaborate rides and really feeling like you are immersed in the magic of Disney in a whole new world.

Even if a Disney Parks vacation is a little more chaotic, less relaxing and more exhausting, it’s so worth it to me. That said, I’m outnumbered in my family so I think we’ll be seeing a lot of both in our futures.

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.

I’m planning to write more about what I learned, share some of our awesome videos and our favorite parts as well as answer some of your questions (this post has gotten long enough). Let me know if there’s something else you’d like to know and I’ll try to answer in my next post!

Have you visited a Disney Park or been on a Disney Cruise? How did you enjoy it?

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.

A few people have stopped me after reading my posts about our trips to Disney Parks this year and asked me when the best time to go is. Not as in best time of year, but the best age to visit Disney World, or Disneyland (here’s a recap of my Walt Disney World & Disneyland comparison).

So many people worry their kids will be too young, and won’t remember. Or too old and “cool” to truly enjoy it. What’s the perfect age to visit Disney World? 

Age-by-age breakdown of the best age to visit Walt Disney World with kids.

After rehashing about our trips this year, and going to a Disney Social Media Moms “on the road” conference that expressed more about the mission and goals of the company for the parks, I think I have an answer that could surprise you.

0-2 Years 11 Months

What? A baby? Are you kidding me? They won’t even remember anything or enjoy it. I frequently hear that people don’t want to visit Disney World until their child is X-years-old because they want them to be old enough to appreciate it. While I understand this logic, my counter argument is this: They’re FREE.

If your children are anything like mine, they’ll light up with every character they meet, be mesmerized by the rides, and be delighted by the parades and shows.

They may not remember visiting Disney World as a toddler, but you will. And those memories are priceless.

Toddler enjoying toy story mania at Disney World. 13 tips to planning a Disney World vacation without all the stress! love these tips. #5 is great!

Not only do kids under 3 not need a ticket, at many restaurants they eat for free too. Most rides at the parks are for any height requirement, and all are rides that you can ride with your kids. You don’t have to put them on alone.

And if your baby has a strict bedtime and prefers to sleep in a comfortable bed vs a stroller, you could always take the option of Kids Night Out, where one-on-one babysitting comes to your room while you’re out at the park.

My son wasn’t yet two on his first trip to Disney World, but he loves watching the videos we took at the parade, of the rides, and him meeting the characters. I know he won’t remember it forever, but the memories we made with him are priceless.

0-3yr Old Tip: Plan to take beaks when you bring a little one this age. You may consider going back to the hotel for a mid-day break, then heading back for the nighttime fun.

3-6 Years

Oh wait, did you think I was done? Nope.

If you have an outgoing 3-year-old who already has a knowledge of Disney, I’d start planning your trip now.

This age range is the most special and magical of them all. Every aspect of the parks, the magic, the princesses and pirates they meet, and the land itself is undeniably real.

cinderella lunch

If I lived closer to a Disney Park I’d want to budget for an annual pass and visit as much as I could during this timeframe.

My daughter doesn’t distinguish the difference between animated characters and real-life people she meets. When we rode on Peter Pan’s Flight, in her eyes, we were actually FLYING on a ship. And I couldn’t convince her otherwise.

When she had her makeover at the Bippity Boppity Boutique and her fairy godmother in training told my daughter her nail polish was magic, she went on for days telling people that she had magic powers, and would try to use them for good (and to help her clean up the house faster).

The only downside to this–If you have a hyper-imaginative child is sometimes the scary things can seem really scary. We didn’t go near Haunted Mansion, Tower of Terror, or Pirates of the Caribbean because I knew it wouldn’t go over well with my daughter. Though other kids seriously love those rides.

Meeting every single princess and watching the parades however, never got old. And Disney Parades aren’t your average parade. Not even close. We had to stop and watch each one (if she was awake).

She loved dressing like her favorite Disney princesses, and asking them questions about their lives.

Here’s a fun video I got to see at the Disney Social Media Moms Conference in Austin that really drives this point home.

Will your child will remember this first trip to Disney World? Yes definitely, and it’ll plant a magical seed that will most likely last a lifetime.

3-6 year tip: Take some time to plan out your visit. Decide which attractions are a priority and get FastPasses and advanced dining reservations (ADRs) where you can as this age doesn’t always come with patience. Strollers are still a big help at this age.

7-12 Years

Take everything that rocks about the ages above, and add in longer hours.

While the magic may not feel as real to these cool tweens, you’ve finally graduated to the age of no-strollers. No more height restrictions, and they can hang til the park closes down at night.

baloo Disney

They’re old enough to get in on the planning and add input about what they’d really like to do. This is an optimal age many families aim for when planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I fell in this age range when my family took us on our one and only trip.

One thing to note is kids do start to pay adult prices for park tickets and food once they hit 10-years-old.

There is so much at Disney World for every age, but at this point nothing is off limits, and you’ll be making lasting family memories that everyone will remember.

13-24 Years

Divide and conquer. High school and college graduation trips, girlfriend getaways, and romantic couple escapes. I didn’t get to visit in this age range but I have friends who celebrated milestones, and made wonderful memories visiting then.

me and mickey

Run Disney gives people like me who suck at running something to dream about and aim for, and gives serious athletes a run for their money.

25-45 Years

Parental Prime Time. This is when you get to enjoy the magic through the eyes of your child. For me, this has been my favorite Disney experience. I want to visit over and over and over again because experiencing the magic of Disney with a little one is something extra special.

Visiting disney world as a family. mickey and minnie at animal kingdom

45-99 Years

My husband’s parents arranged for their kids and grandkids to visit Disney World with them in February. They had never been before but they were so excited, ready and willing to have a blast. No coaster was too big, no line too long (thanks in part to fastpasses!).

It’s hard to pick a better spot for a multi-generational vacation.

Disney generational family

Planning trips can go the other way around too–kids taking grandparents. One way to take them is to try to win free trip by entering Walt Disney World’s best grandparents contest.

And there are plenty of accommodations for grandparents who need a little extra help getting around. I noticed wheelchair lanes in most of the lines we waited in. And there are plenty of low-key attractions to stop at take a break at.

100 Years-Old

My husband asked me where I’d thought most people would want to celebrate their 100th birthday. Automatically I guessed “Disney World.” He said that was the one answer no one guessed to that question on a round of Family Feud.

I taught my great-grandpa how to Skype

My great-grandpa will be 97 this year. I need to check with him first, but I’d LOVE to take him to Disney World for his 100th birthday.

Bottom Line

So did I narrow it down for you? Bottom line is, there’s no one perfect age to take a trip to Disney World. It could vary depending on your family situation and preference. But one thing’s for sure. You’ll be making magical memories no matter when you go.

When did you or do you plan to take your first trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland?

Have you ever had someone say something to you that made your day? Maybe it was a compliment about your style, how you made them feel, or a job well done? What’s the nicest thing someone has ever said to you?

It used to be that compliments about my work made me feel best. When someone praises a photo I took, or tells me a story I wrote moved them to some emotion… Happiness, tears, action. I feel so grateful and appreciated.– Validated if you will.

As I’ve grown older, gotten married, and become a mother, compliments about my children feel like compliments to myself. Hey, I’ll take it. But lately, compliments about my mothering seem to be what brighten my day the most.

When we were on day two Disney World (are you tired of these stories yet?) Lil’ J had basically been scared of most of the rides. We canceled a fastpass for the popular new Mine Train roller coaster after the Peter Pan ride scared her to tears. (To her credit, she was fine until the ride stopped midway through and an announcement came on for us to stay in our seats. She wasn’t fooled, and thought we were trapped).

The best compliment every mom needs. Words every mother should make time to share with another.

We were at Epcot and I had another fastpass for the popular Soarin attraction, that takes you on a sensory ride with wind in your hair, and smells of the scenes around you. I didn’t want to force her on any scary rides, but I knew this would be something she’d enjoy if she gave it a try.

We waited in the fastpass line and were immediately brought up to get on with the next batch of riders since we were only a party of two.

I had a few moments to tell her we’d be pretend flying in the air like they did in the movie Rio.

“On a hang glider?” she asked me.
“Exactly like that!” I told her. “A pretend one!”

When we sat down in our seats she started to get a little nervous while I tried to adjust her seatbelt, and everyone was getting situated. I talked her through it, telling her to look at the big screen, and that we’d be watching a movie on it, and that she could hold my hand.

As the ride started and we began to lift up in the air she squeezed my hand, and I squeezed back, telling her how much fun we were about to have, and that she could look at me instead of the screen if she got scared. I told her we were about to pretend to be like birds and fly!

The screen lit up and we began flying over mountains, trees, the ocean and snow. I whispered to her the entire time. I stayed completely enthused and joyful, making her laugh as we tried to “kick” the surfers and snowboarders. I asked her if she could smell the California oranges and the pine trees. And I encouraged her to look for her Uncle Matt on the ski slopes, or Grandma’s house in what looked like Utah.

I watched her nearly as much as I watched the ride and saw her face change from nervousness to sheer glee.

She was having so much fun and started pointing out everything she saw. I was so proud of her conquering her fears. Right at the very end she saw Tinkerbell and got excited. Then that little fairy cued the fireworks–which we weren’t expecting–and the loud noise and sparks in our face sent her back into tears.

We were so close!

I tried to calm her down and reminded her of all the fun things we saw, and that we love fireworks, but man, we wish we had known those were coming! I was hoping that last tiny little surprise wouldn’t ruin her entire memory of the ride.

I was hugging her and consoling her as we walked out the exit. The older woman who was sitting next to us on the ride approached me. I wasn’t sure if she was going to make a remark about my talking during the experience or what. I didn’t expect what came out of her mouth.

“I just wanted to tell you that you are a great mother!” She smiled and glanced between me and my daughter.

Her words instantly touched me, warmed my heart. She continued.

“You were so great on that ride. She is so lucky to have such a good mom.”

Here I was feeling guilty for not making it through yet another ride without tears, feeling like I was probably being judged for bringing her (almost pushing her) on the ride with me, and this stranger (without a hint of sarcasm) went out of her way to give me the best compliment a mother can receive.

The best compliment every mom needs. Words every mother should make time to share with another.

I’ve thought about that moment several times since then. How it made me feel, and how it makes me want to be. When have I noticed a mother doing her best, maybe even clearly struggling to do so, and reached out to her with words of encouragement, or applause?

In a society with so much negativity and judgement, we need to offer more support and encouragement.

How can I make someone’s day? And I don’t mean by offering a backhanded acknowledgement of some sort like “my, you have your hands full!” I mean a genuine compliment on a stranger’s parenting.

Of course we are never seeing the full-picture in passing, but I think it would be safe to tell a mom she’s doing a great job, when we see a job well done. Especially if it can make her feel as good as I did, when I was feeling as bad as I was.

 

*This post was written as a part of a the #SisterhoodUnited campaign by Similac. Here’s my thoughts on mother’s supporting one another no matter how they feed their babies. All opinions are my own.

I am a huge planner. I enjoy it. But nothing has been as fun to plan as our trip to Disney World. I literally planned more for this last trip than I planned for my entire wedding.

Granted, it’s not saying much cause we had a super small uncomplicated wedding, but still. I was probably just as excited for our Disney trip as our wedding (kidding honey!)

MK_MSCINEMA_7187794929

Although there are tons of Disney blogs all over the internet, I’m going to give you my informative yet simple and concise take on planning a Disney Vacation. Hopefully this will help make it as easy as possible so you can enjoy your vacation once you get there.

1. Choosing the “best time to go”: Although we were there in early February when crowds are relatively “low” it’s still crowded. I mean, it’s always going to be busy, so don’t expect NO lines on a slow week. That’s just silly. But the lines will definitely be much slower (and it may not be as hot, so that’s a perk!) Consider checking out a crowd calendar if you have flexibility for your trip.

2. Figure out where you want to stay and consider a dining plan: We stayed at a relative’s timeshare during our visit, but if that wasn’t the case (and next time we go) we’d probably stay at a Disney value resort or splurge and stay at the Animal Kingdom. That way we can be close to the parks, get free transportation to/from the airport, and possibly get a discounted dining plan (especially if it’s on a discount for your trip).

mickey-mouse

3. Consider using a travel agent: Authorized Disney Vacation planners don’t charge you a thing and can help you find the deals, and book all of your reservations for you in advance. I had WAY too much fun planning each and every detail myself, but if you hate this kind of thing, feel overwhelmed, or just want someone to bounce ideas off of, consider using an agent. I’ve been using with Matt from Wish Upon a Star With Us to help us plan a Disney Cruise vacation and he’s been extremely helpful answering all of my questions, giving me cost comparisons, and answering my emails at the strangest time of day. It’s been nice having someone to bounce ideas off of, who knows all sorts of things I’d never know about the parks and resorts.

Interacting with Snow White at Disney World. 13 tips to planning a Disney World vacation without all the stress! love these tips. #5 is great!

4. Six months out book your dining reservations: Before that, decide where you want to eat and when. There are SO many restaurants, but the popular ones go fast. Which ones are popular? Pretty much any of the ones you can make reservations for, especially the character or themed dining meals. I’d recommend Akershus (in Epcot) or Cinderella’s Royal Table (in Magic Kingdom) if you want to dine with princesses. There are so many options though, so have fun researching which ones you think you’d like before, then 120 days out book it online. You need a credit card to hold your reservation but you’re not charged until you eat. This is another task an agent could help you plan if it’s too overwhelming.

Toddler enjoying toy story mania at Disney World. 13 tips to planning a Disney World vacation without all the stress! love these tips. #5 is great!

5. Book your FastPasses: This is your ticket to skip the long lines for popular attractions. Whether it’s meeting your favorite princess, or riding a popular ride. Everyone gets three each day and they’re free, so there’s no reason to skip this! It may seem like over-planning, but you can always change it while there. And trust me, with amount of people at Disney World these days, it’s wise to have reservations just in case, to save yourself from standing in line for hours.

Toddler enjoying toy story mania at Disney World. 13 tips to planning a Disney World vacation without all the stress! love these tips. #5 is great!

6. Don’t quit trying for reservations: If everything is booked when you are trying for a reservation, don’t get discouraged. Keep checking or calling, something will open up. I called for a Bibbity Boppity Boutique reservation at least a dozen times. The night before I got one at Magic Kingdom and my daughter had a blast. Same went for FastPasses to meet Anna and Elsa (the most popular attraction right now). Don’t give up! Keep trying.

Toddler enjoying toy story mania at Disney World. 13 tips to planning a Disney World vacation without all the stress! love these tips. #5 is great!

7. Rent a stroller locally: Don’t worry about packing your huge double jogger, there are several companies locally you can rent a stroller from. Disney World also has stroller you can rent, but they’re more expensive and less comfortable in my opinion. We used Orlando Stroller Rental. It was the first thing that popped up in google and they ended up being fantastic! They dropped off the stroller to our resort, we used it for a week, then they picked it up from the bellboy as we headed home. It was so nice that they could recline and take naps during the day, and Lil’ J definitely rode more than she walked. There’s also handy stroller parking all over the place, so don’t worry about them getting in the way of lines. It’s SO organized.

packing-for-disney

8. Pack light: Make a list ahead of time to decide what you want to bring. Disney Resorts all have pack n’ plays you can rent for free. The timeshare we stayed at did as well. If you’re bringing a baby or toddler, call your hotel ahead of time and ask if they do too (most do). I probably over-packed on the kids’ outfits, but they had plenty to choose from while we were there, and backups in case of messes.

9. Buy Memory Maker: If you do it ahead of time you’ll save about $20, and if you’re traveling with friends or family you all can link accounts and share a photo package (only one fee!).

Toddler enjoying toy story mania at Disney World. 13 tips to planning a Disney World vacation without all the stress! love these tips. #5 is great!

10. Download the My Disney Experience App: It’s free, and it gives you access to park wait times, the maps, and your FastPasses. As well as your dining reservations, and other things I’m probably not remembering.

11. Make a countdown: Because what better way to get excited for your trip? I just used an app on my phone, but if we hadn’t been surprising our kids the day of, I probably would have made a fun Mickey Mouse paper chain or something.

Toddler enjoying toy story mania at Disney World. 13 tips to planning a Disney World vacation without all the stress! love these tips. #5 is great!

12. Join some FB groups: This was probably the single most helpful part of planning my trip. I joined a Disney World Junkies group, and asked several questions that were answered almost immediately. The a woman saw my questions and invited me to a Disney World February 2015 group (yes, I know it sounds like a birth club). It was a smaller group and everyone was so helpful and informative. I found out about fastpasses and reservations others visiting the same time as us were giving up. Super helpful if you’re trying to book a trip last minute! Search and see if you can find a social group visiting the same month as you.

Toddler enjoying Tigger at Disney World. 13 tips to planning a Disney World vacation without all the stress! love these tips. #5 is great!

13. Be flexible: As much planning as I’ve touted in this post, it’s important to be ready and willing to go with the flow as things arise. I had to change almost every fastpass and ended up canceling two dining reservations the day before because plans changed.

Whether you’re planning for a vacation you’re dreaming to take years from now, or you decided to go on a last-minute road trip, keeping these things in mind will make your trip less stressful, and even more magical.

Let me know if I’ve forgotten anything you have questions about! Or if you’ve been and have more tips for first-timers who are reading this please share in the comments!

Disney-World-2015_0308-copy

Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget



I'm a part-time journalist, full-time wife and mother striving to make the world a better place and inspiring others to do the same. This is the space where I share my journey in making the most of every day.

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