February 25, 2015

My #DisneySide @Home Celebration Box!

So back in January, I squealed and danced around the living room on account of a very pixie dusted email. Five days before our Three Mousekateers trip, our FedEx driver dropped by a very magical package that continued the dancing.
#DisneySide
There may have been an impromptu dance number associated with the box magically appearing on my door step.
Now what on earth was hiding in this lovely box?


What's in the box?
Nail polish, and sprinkles and coupons. Oh my!
1. #DisneySide, 2. #DisneySide, 3. #DisneySide, 4. #DisneySide, 5. #DisneySide, 6. #DisneySide, 7. #DisneySide, 8. #DisneySide, 9. #DisneySide, 10. #DisneySide, 11. #DisneySide, 12. #DisneySide, 13. #DisneySide

Amazing, magical and inspiring? Let's get partying!
What's in the 2015 #DisneySide @Home Celebration box???
1. #DisneySide, 2. #DisneySide, 3. #DisneySide, 4. #DisneySide, 5. #DisneySide, 6. #DisneySide, 7. #DisneySide, 8. #DisneySide, 9. #DisneySide, 10. #DisneySide, 11. #DisneySide, 12. #DisneySide, 13. #DisneySide

Honestly, that's only a fraction of the magic in my beautiful purple box. Now what on earth will I do with all these awesome items?

I received free products from Disney in order to host a DisneySide @Home Celebration. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Wordless Wednesday | Unforgettable

Welcome Wordless Wednesday Blog Hoppers!

This Wordless Wednesday is brought to you by an unforgettable moment!
Whitewashing? So over it.
Unplanned. Unposed. Unforgettable!
Thank you to Focused on the Magic for hosting!

Focused on the Magic


February 23, 2015

The Three Mousekateers | Well Played

After circling around the back side of Cinderella Castle, Chris broke out the map and off we went to hunt down our first portal on our Sorcerer's of the Magic Kingdom adventure.

Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella Castle and the Crane | Tomatoe, Tomahtoe.
Impressively beautiful, any day of the year.
After several portals, they really began to get the hang of the game. Sorcerer's of the Magic Kingdom is a cute, multilevel and very addictive card game where you quest around one of the lands at the titular Magic Kingdom park helping defeat various Disney villains and eventually Hades.
It can be played near endlessly as you collect different cards each day you enter the park.
Did I mention it's addictive?
My kiddos happily forgot about all of the rest of the most magical place on earth in hopes of rescuing Aurora's good fairies.


Seeking portals, fighting dragons, rescuing the Magic Kingdom? All in a day's work.
Busy fighting the Mistress of All Evil
Until I remembered our Seven Dwarfs Mine Train FastPass+ window. Trotting through the FastPass queue, we went straight to the front of the line. Being a party of three, we were waved past a few parties of four and straight into the first two cars.


Fun, Short, Smotth and Engrossing.
First Trip on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
This ride garnered everyone's, "let's go again!" votes.


Stand-By Queue?
Stand-By Entrance wait time, 70 minutes.
The kids adopted a quick "twenty minutes or less" understanding of queues, and everyone was hungry enough to put this off for a while. I checked the next couple days of availability to see if we might luck into a second round of FastPasses.
No such luck.
Lesson learned?
If you might want Seven Dwarfs (or another hot ticket) for FastPass, consider booking on multiple days. It's much easier to trade for a less popular ride than pull a more popular ride with only a day or two notice.

Beauty and the Beast Gargoyles
My Little Gargoyle
We checked into the reservations desk at the bridge and crossed into Be Our Guest. We opted not to order our meals ahead, that way the kids could pick theirs on the fly. Good idea in theory. In practice, we could skip the line if we ordered ahead.

Tale as Old as Time
Beautiful Mosaics
Then we would miss the suits of armor riffing back and forth at each other in the hallway.
I'd say that either way is a win.


Beast's Ballroom Chandelier
Chris loved the turkey sandwich, but wasn't too crazy about the sweet potato fries. Kylee loved the pasta in marinara and the quinoa I ordered is one of the more awesome quick service vegan meal offerings.
We spent the end of lunch looking over our schedule. As we walked out I cheerfully asked if the kids wanted to go swim at the pool or lay around and watch cartoons to rest for a while.
Kylee and Chris exchanged a long look.
Up they looked. 
"Can't we rest in line while we wait to go on Space Mountain???"
Well played, younglings.
Well played.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This is Part 5 of an Ongoing Trip Report "The Three Mousekateers."
Additional sections will be found on the Trip Reports page after they are posted! 

February 20, 2015

The Three Mousekateers | Ready to Spin

At long last, we were going to get to go to Magic Kingdom!!!
SQUEEEEE!
We layered on the hoodies and hit the food court for a quick breakfast. Hopping on the bus, we made it to the Magic Kingdom early enough to hang around for a bit before the Welcome Show.

First MK Day
The cold brought out my kids snuggly #DisneySide
Kylee asked for an "I'm Celebrating" button while I picked up the map and an entertainment schedule for the day. After being wished a very pleasant good morning by the people of Main Street, Cinderella, Elsa, Anna, and Mickey, we walked under the railroad station, around the flag pole and caught our first view of the castle.

Magic Kingdom ALLLL day long.
Walt and Mickey are hiding in a crate while a crane and two workers take down the Christmas decorations.
It was kind of awe inspiring and weird and wonderful all at the same time to see such an enormous crane hanging over Cinderella Castle. We were swept up and along in the excitement as half of the guests sped off to meet Elsa and Anna and the other half hurried off to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. We headed straight for a ride that sat high atop my kids must do list. A ride they really, really wanted to do on the previous trip, but was repeatedly closed due to honey spills.

Magic Kingdom ALLLL day long.
Waiting for our Honey Pot.
That's right, during extra magic hours, we were the first guests onto the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Thankfully Pooh, Piglet and Eyeore more than lived up to Chris and Kylee's wildest dreams.

Magic Kingdom ALLLL day long.
Ready to spin!
Minutes later and still no line, we whirled around on a "most favorite" ride of the trip, the Mad Tea Party. Twenty minutes into park time, we were stopped in line by a cast member asking the kids ages. I really lucked out that Chris is 8, as that is the "magic age" that you can ride in a seat by yourself. Kylee would be sharing a seat with me for every single ride this trip, but at least I didn't need to find someone to sit with Chris to be able to ride.

Magic Kingdom ALLLL day long.
Kylee walked up expecting to get measured, but ended up getting asked her age.
Thus we found ourselves riding on both kids very first roller coaster. They screamed, they laughed,  and they waved their hands in the air. After a quick whirl on Dumbo, we headed off to our first girly activity, meeting Ariel at her grotto. Chris felt rather crabby, between having to wait (for twelve minutes) for a princess meet and greet and opted to hide behind me rather than risk being seen by Ariel.

MK_GROTTOACHAR_7172831597
That's okay, sometimes Sebastian is crabby too!
Kylee and Ariel got along swimmingly, though and Ariel sent her off on a mission to count her fishy friends Under the Sea. An hour into park time, we hit the queue.

Magic Kingdom ALLLL day long.
Under the Sea!
The line passed much more quickly than last May. Some parts of the ride were just as magical as I remembered. Others definitely needed the refurbishment that started the next day. Kylee loved the part where the clam mobile goes down through the bubbles into the water. Chris was happy to head off to less princess-y waters. After a trip on the happiest cruise that ever sailed, we headed off for a short break at Rapunzel's Tower. We headed for one of my favorite attractions at any theme park and actually asked a cast member if we could enjoy more of the queue rather than head into the ride faster.

MK_HAUNTEDMANSIONEXIT_7172889906
She's a very cute little Haunted Mansion fan!
Two years ago, both kids loved the Haunted Mansion. This time, not so much.
Peter Pan FastPasses provided a perfect antidote to the creep factor. After so much running around, a little time in Mickey's PhilharMagic seemed like a good plan. With almost an hour until our Seven Dwarfs Mine Train FP+, Chris brought up trying the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. After a quick visit to the Fire Station and armed with our brand new Sorcerers cards, we set of into the parks...

Magic Kingdom ALLLL day long.
Two Mousekateers out for an adventure!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This is Part 4 of an Ongoing Trip Report "The Three Mousekateers."
Additional sections will be found on the
Trip Reports page after they are posted!

February 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday | Three Impossible Things and One Goof Up

Back in January, I vowed to accomplish six impossible things as my Disney New Y-Ears resolutions for the year. So now that six weeks have past, how is my to do list weighing in the balance?

Taking on ALL of the "Big Kid" Rides
Kylee crossed the point of no return, hitting the forty-four inch mark. Despite lingering fears of waiting for an E-Ticket ride only to drag both kids out of the chicken exit, the slow and steady work up to the scarier rides did seem to work for the most part.
 
 
44 inches tall at Walt Disney World
Kylee raved about Space Mountain for the better part of the afternoon and evening.
Chris mostly rode each of the fast rides once to humor his sister.
In addition to working our way from the Barnstormer to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train to Space Mountain slowly over the trip, I also made judicious use of FastPass+. Although the line for the Tower of Terror didn't make a FP+ necessary, the odds of Chris getting creeped out and letting his imagination run away with him were far greater the longer we lingered in the lobby.

Indy, Terror and more Star Wars!
Frankly it gives me the Heebie-Jeebies too.
With a FastPass+ and a keen eye to talk about the fun parts of the ride (both kids were intrigued by the idea of a floating feeling on the drops) they managed to enjoy the ride. Kylee even claimed it as her favorite (until Expedition Everest won out on the following day.)

Blogging Consistently
I'm going to call this one a win so far. I even managed to get a week and a half ahead in advance of my trip! I'm really missing having blogs just sitting waiting to be published, so I'll probably write a couple posts a day all next week until I'm happy with my backlog.
It's keeping the ball rolling that will be my challenge. Wish me luck!

Walt Disney World Without Backup
2 kids + 1 me + 10 days + 2 flights + 4 parks = 100% dream come true
You've got to be joking right? I've gotten more comments from friends and family questioning my sanity about this one move than in all my other childrearing, dietary, religious and educational choices combined.

Magic Kingdom ALLLL day long.
Alone time? What's that?
I would do it again in a heartbeat, but I'm going to wait until Kylee is eight so that Chris doesn't have to be odd man out/single rider on every single ride. I will say that if you are not used to spending large uninterrupted swaths of time with your children, you might want to ease into flying solo with the kiddos.

Take 5-My Goof Up
As I pointed out yesterday, going back to our resort for a midday break did not happen even once during our vacation, despite the best laid plans.


Nothing like a long lazy afternoon exploring caves!
Shootin' the breeze on Tom Sawyer Island
What did happen in the wide swaths of time that I had blocked for going back to the resorts?


The kids were so happy to get to hold the bunch of balloons, I can't even begin to explain.
What's Up?
Nothing important, but many things unplanned and in all ways fantastic.

I've got two impossible things left on my list!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
How are your resolutions holding up?

February 18, 2015

Touring Plans IRL | Six Steps to a Practically Perfect Vacation

The Magic Kingdom may be the most magical place on earth, but it is also smack dab in the middle of Walt Disney World. My biggest problem at Disney is there is literally, "more to see than can ever be seen or to do than can ever be done." Forty-three square miles brimming with tons of things to see and do and eat, to be exact. So where do I start planning my perfect, stress-free Walt Disney World vacation?


Touring Plans In Real Life | Walt Disney World Plans Minus the Stress.
It can be done!
Whether it's as simple as my kids' picks list out of the Birnbaum's Walt Disney World for Kids or a well detailed down to the minute spreadsheet developed from pouring over PassPorter's Walt Disney World and The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World.

Step 1: Do Your Research!
Look at projected crowd levels. Learn about the FastPass+ system. Measure your children (at the end of the day in sneakers) and note any rides with height restrictions out of your range.


Magic Kingdom ALLLL day long.
Please note: they do not count bows, high ponytails or fluffy hair and will squish them out of the way to see if your child is tall enough to ride safely! Kylee at just barely 44 inches got measured on every 44" ride, sometimes twice per line.
If you have any food allergies or special needs, check out all of the awesome accommodations available at Walt Disney World. Also check for planned closures or refurbishment during your visit. There's nothing quite like missing a ride you've talked up to your kids because it's closed for refurbishment the day that you plan to go to that park when it was open the day before...not that I know this from experience or anything.

Step 2: Get Decisive!
Now that you know which days have the least crowds for each park, decide which days you want to be at each of the parks. Pick restaurants (and make dining reservations 180 days ahead of time, especially for popular character meals) in relation to the park you are planning to be in each day. Pick some must do rides, let your kids pick some must dos or both. Write this down!

Step 3: Pick Your FastPasses!
Armed with a list of which parks you're planning to go to each day, a few must do attractions for each day and with your ADRs (advanced dining reservations in Disney-speak) in hand, you can easily schedule in your FastPass+ selections ahead of your trip.

Magic Kingdom ALLLL day long.
A FastPass+ can get you out of a line like this...or get you into one.
Choose wisely!
With only these details jotted down, you can work in other attractions that catch your family's interest on the day you are touring the park and have a magical trip!

Step 4: Practically Perfect Vacation! 
You've planned a practically perfect relatively stress-free vacation at Walt Disney World. It's time to lean back, relax and enjoy the ride! Once you arrive enjoy the fruits of your pre-planning and take the time to stop and smell the roses (or Dole Whips!)

Epcot student seminar day
There are plenty of roses in Epcot and the Magic Kingdom, if you only take the time to look around!
Enjoy the trolley show along Main Street, U.S.A.. Stumble upon Starlets on Hollywood Boulevard and get lost in the jungle pathways of Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. Enjoy the journey and wonder of the parks and soak in the atmosphere.

Wait?
Is that all there is to it or would you rather soak up every magical minute of Walt Disney World time by going into super planner mode? Last chance for the mellow vacationers to exit, for the rest of the Mousekateers, it's time to break out the color coded pens, comfortable shoes and touring plans. This is for seasoned veterans who find that half the fun of a Disney vacation is in the planning. If this sounds like work to you, feel free to skip this next step!

Step 4: Get Out Your Pixie Dust and Highlighters and Go Crazy!
Take your list of parks, must dos, ADRs and FastPasses. Now begin to add in other details. If you're staying on property note the extra magic hours. If you plan to go back to your resort for a few hours for a break from the heat, jot that down. If you plan to do rope drop or fireworks, add that to your list as well. Pencil in a few other attractions that are in the same area as your must dos and FastPasses. Pick out quick service restaurants for the meals you do not plan to eat at table service restaurants.

STUDIO_JTA1_7177292698
If your youngling (3-12) would like to attend Jedi Training Academy, it is definitely worth arriving before rope drop.

Color code and note to your hearts content!
If only there was a way to accurately estimate how much time each attraction will take between the walking, waiting and enjoying...oh, my little planning heart is glad to inform you that there is.

Step 5: Touring Plans In Real Life
For my most recent trip, I opted to let touring plans take care of the details for me. Touring plans is a subscription service that offers, "trip planning tools show you the least crowded park to visit every day, customized touring plans for visiting Disney’s best rides, honest restaurant reviews, how to save on Disney tickets, the best hotel rooms to ask for, and so much more." They don't pay me and I don't have any sponsorship or financial relationship with them, I just think they rock for super planners.


I love to start with a good touring plan and this is nothing like a good touring plan.
A good way to record what we did all day, yes.
Not a good touring plan. Too bulky to carry around the park all day and no easy way to edit and rearrange.
Basically, they take my plan for the day, rearrange ride order to minimize waiting, walking or balance the two (your choice!) then give you expected waiting, walking and free times for the day. If you first optimize your plans a few months out, they let you get a good idea for how much mileage to prepare for, but if you update them the day of, they can be eerily accurate.
The only frustrating thing is that you may need to reselect either the time or attractions for your FastPass+ a few times as you optimize your touring plan or just skip using one of your selected FP due to back-tracking.
To me, that feels like a waste.

Ariel approves of our touring plan.
 I prefer to use the app that let's me update our touring plans on the fly, but there are some perks to having a printed copy of your touring plan. The list lets my son know how many "girl" things he has until he gets to "something cool."
Like it's a small world or the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House.
Also, my phone seems to die at the most inopportune times and having our FastPass+ times written down so they are easy to check makes my life simpler.
Either bring a portable charger for your phone or print it off, either way, you're sure to have a memorable vacation!

Step 6: Let It Go!
Our touring plans IRL, did not follow the letter of our original touring plan.
If you peek up there on our Magic Kingdom above the scratch outs and added in attractions comes a point on the plan where it says, "REST until Dinner."
Yeah.
I'm sorry, I know that I said way back in my Disney Resolutions for 2015 that I absolutely would schedule in rest. Well...I did schedule it into the plan. I just had a hard time with follow through.
I looked at my kids with a big smile and said, "Who's ready to go back and lay around and watch Star Wars: Rebels so we can save energy for Wishes later tonight?" Kylee and Chris looked at one another and Kylee looked up at me. "Can't we rest in line while we wait to go on Space Mountain???"
It seems the parks commando gene might have resurfaced in my Mousekateers. The kids never returned to rest at our resort all trip.
They did "rest" on the PeopleMover, in the Universe of Energy, at a long dim lunch watching old movies in the Sci-Fi Dine In Theatre and during a late afternoon showing of Festival of the Lion King, just not at our resort.

Magic Kingdom ALLLL day long.
I love the Mad Tea Party at night, it's so pretty!
We rode on the Mad Tea Party approximately four bajillion times after my kids declared it one of their "most favorites."
We took over half a day at Animal Kingdom searching for and earning Wilderness Explorer badges.
We climbed all the way up and down the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House at least three times (there may have been a fourth.)
We ate snacks at all times of the morning, afternoon and evening as soon as anyone mentioned they were hungry.
None of those appeared on our touring plans.
Sometimes it's just a matter of learning when to pull an Elsa and let it go.

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Do you prefer to follow a touring plan, enjoy a plan free mouse-cation, or somewhere in between?

Wordless Wednesday | Action!

Welcome Wordless Wednesday Blog Hoppers!

This Wordless Wednesday is brought to you by my favorite action moment!


Split Day

Kylee and Chris earning their last Wilderness Explorer Badges! Now to make them "Trust me, I'm a Senior Wilderness Explorer," shirts for next trip.

Thank you to Focused on the Magic for hosting!

Focused on the Magic
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