Monday, March 28, 2016

Courtney of Sweet Turtle Soup {The Mommylogues Series}

You are in for a treat! Today's guest blogger is one of my favorite's and I can't say enough good things about Courtney! Her Disney wisdom is unparalleled so take notes!

Hello! I'm Courtney and I blog over at Sweet Turtle Soup. I love to post about anything to do with holidays or kid crafts & activities, and I especially enjoy sharing our love of Disney World. And, the star of the show is my three year old daughter, Aria! My one and only little love. The one that made me a mom. Today Whitney is letting me take over around these parts, she is just the best. Thanks for having me!
Sweet Turtle Soup guest posting Mommylogues - 15 Tips from a Disney World Mom

I thought I would share with you my favorite Disney World Mom tips. Going to Disney World with young children is pretty daunting. But, with a little planning before hand and a very flexible attitude during your trip it can be one magical vacation!

Aria took her first trip when she was 1 year and 4 months old, and now she is a seasoned pro with 22 trips under her belt. So, we've had a good bit of practice when it comes to spending a day at Disney World.
Sweet Turtle Soup guest posting Mommylogues - 15 Tips from a Disney World Mom

Here is what I've learned in my role as a Disney World Mom:

#1. Go early in the day. 

Beat the heat, beat the crowds. Arrive 30 minutes prior to park opening. That way you are going on rides with little to no wait while everybody else is still trickling in. Do the rides with the longest waits that are on your must do list first (Peter Pan, Safari, Test Track, etc).

Sweet Turtle Soup guest posting Mommylogues - 15 Tips from a Disney World Mom

#2. Have a game plan. 

Before you arrive do your homework. Check out the rides, see what the height restrictions are, and get a feel for which ones you and your family would probably enjoy the most. Pick out a few things each day that you want to do. As a general rule we plan on doing 3 things each day of a visit (one for each family member), everything else is bonus. There is nothing worse than stressing yourself out because you have to do every single thing in Fantasyland see all the parades and make 2 different dining reservations. Educate yourself beforehand, make a wish list of only a few things per day, and then remind yourself to...

Sweet Turtle Soup guest posting Mommylogues - 15 Tips from a Disney World Mom

#3. Be flexible. 

Being rigid is a sure fire strategy to wasting time and making your family miserable. The line you thought was going to be short is now 45 minutes, skip it. You can always try again later or make a fastpass+ for it. The most we will wait in a line with Aria is 20 minutes, and we will only wait 20 minutes if it is an absolute favorite. 15 minutes and lower is preferable. Any longer and Aria starts to turn into a gremlin. Or, you are on your way to Dumbo and you spot a street performance, stop and watch even if just for a minute. Aria loves the trolley show on Main Street USA. Or, you spot a short and sweet line for something you don't have on your plan but you just bet your kids will love, go do it. You can make some wonderful memories in those spontaneous moments.

Sweet Turtle Soup guest posting Mommylogues - 15 Tips from a Disney World Mom

#4. Do make fastpasses.

Disney World has moved from paper fastpasses to electronic ones that you can reserve via my disney experience either on your computer or phone app. You get three. Make three. Check here for an overview of the fastpass system AND see which attractions they suggest you need a fastpass for at each park. That way you can make educated choices. Fastpasses are important, they let you essentially skip to the head of a line. On some trips that we've taken at busier times of the year the only things we were able to do were the 3 fastpasses we made.

Bonus, after you've used up your three fastpasses you get a 4th one. The downside is that you can't book it on your phone with the app. You have to find a fastpass kiosk in the park (find them on your park map) and book it that way. Once you've used that 4th one you get a 5th and so on.

Sweet Turtle Soup guest posting Mommylogues - 15 Tips from a Disney World Mom

#5. Do make your fastpasses as soon as you can.

If you are staying at a Disney World resort you can book your fastpasses 60 days in advance. There are a few attractions that are extremely hard to get fastpasses for that also have insane lines. I'm looking at you Anna & Elsa meet and greet. If you wait until your trip is closer you may end up not being able to book certain fastpasses. The early bird gets the worm. But also, if you couldn't snag that Anna & Elsa fastpass 60 days in advance don't give up hope. Keep checking back and you might be able to snag one somebody else discarded. That's how we ended up finally getting one ourselves. Miracles can happen!

Sweet Turtle Soup guest posting Mommylogues - 15 Tips from a Disney World Mom

#6. Drink water.

Bring it, buy it, sip it from a fountain. You can always get free cups of water at any counter service restaurant. Any time we get something at a counter service spot we also get two or three cups of free water.

Sweet Turtle Soup guest posting Mommylogues - 15 Tips from a Disney World Mom

#7. Some bathrooms are better than other bathrooms.

There is a bathroom across from the Swiss Family Treehouse at the Magic Kingdom. Don't use that one if you can avoid it. It's always busy. It's also an older bathroom so it just isn't as nice as the newer ones. Keep walking towards Pirates of the Caribbean and take a right at Tortuga Tavern. It's one of our favorite bathroom stops because it is almost always empty. The Tangled bathrooms to the left of Small World on the map are also nice, and the ones behind Gaston's Tavern as well. Both of those are newly built with the Fantasyland expansion.

Sweet Turtle Soup guest posting Mommylogues - 15 Tips from a Disney World Mom

#8. Don't overlook nap time.

Do your kids nap with anything special? Bring it if you can. Aria sleeps with her swaddle blankets as a comfort, we always bring one so she can snuggle with it for a nap. Aria doesn't nap at home anymore but almost always takes a nap at Disney. Some people like to go back to their resort, but since most of our trips are just one day trips she just settles down in her stroller for a recharge. If we are at the Magic Kingdom (and we almost always are) when Aria naps my husband and I like to head to Liberty Square and wander around looking at the details, or if we need a/c we wander through the gift shops. If we want to rest our feet we usually head to Tortuga Tavern because they almost always have a table to sit at.

If nap time decides to overlap with one of your fastpass times make sure you have the my disney experience app on your phone so you can easily change the time for a little later.

Sweet Turtle Soup guest posting Mommylogues - 15 Tips from a Disney World Mom

#9. Eat dinner early.

Not only are there fewer crowds if you eat at off times, but I find that the later it gets the crazier Aria gets. A full day at Disney World is a lot of work for all involved, it's downright exhausting. You don't want tired from too much fun to turn into hangry and tired. If that happens, break out the snacks really quick. Raisins were our only saving grace on one particular trip.

Sweet Turtle Soup guest posting Mommylogues - 15 Tips from a Disney World Mom

#10. Ask to sit in the front.

You can ask to sit in a certain spot on certain rides and the cast members can almost always accommodate you. We've never been turned down for a request yet. If your children are little being in the front can give them a better view on certain rides like Small World. Or, maybe they just want to be in the front on Barnstormer. It's totally okay to ask the person directing you to your row.

Sweet Turtle Soup guest posting Mommylogues - 15 Tips from a Disney World Mom

#11. Mark your stroller in some way.

There are stroller attendants that move strollers all the live long day. As people come back for their stroller the attendants will shift everything to keep the rows organized. Chances are wherever you park your stroller will not be where you find it. It will be in the same general area, but not the exact same spot. Although, if you do park your stroller in a no stroller parking area you may find your stroller relocated to the nearest one. Point being that sometimes it is a little tricky to find your stroller among the sea of strollers. So tie a bow to the handle. I suggest the handle because that is usually the only bit you can see when you are glancing down rows.

And while we are on the topic of strollers always leave the canopy extended just in case it rains. It may not help much in a downpour, but during a Florida sprinkle your chances of a dry seat are better with the canopy open. It also keeps the sun off the seat somewhat so that your kid doesn't have to pop their butt on a hot from the sunshine seat.

Also, if you are on the fence about needing a stroller or not chances are that you do. Unless you are totally sure your kid is fine walking miles in the hot sun, bring a stroller. 

Sweet Turtle Soup guest posting Mommylogues - 15 Tips from a Disney World Mom

#12. Make breakfast dining reservations for before the park opens.

Not only are you not wasting precious morning hours when crowds are low and lines are short, but you also get to go into the park before everybody else. It's a great time to take some pictures and have the place to yourself somewhat. And, similar to booking fastpasses - make any dining reservations you want as soon as you can (180 days in advance). It's very hard to walk up to almost any sit down restaurant at Disney World and actually get a table. Most of the time they've been booked up for months.

Sweet Turtle Soup guest posting Mommylogues - 15 Tips from a Disney World Mom

#13. Schedule in down time.

If you are staying for a few days, don't do a park all day every day. Schedule a morning to sleep in as long as the kids do (keep your fingers crossed it is past 8am), bring Mickey waffles back to your room for a slow breakfast in bed, and then spend the rest of the afternoon at the pool. Pool time is definitely high on Aria's list of favorite things to do at Disney.

Sweet Turtle Soup guest posting Mommylogues - 15 Tips from a Disney World Mom

#14. There are places to let your kid run off some energy.

Disney World is tiring, but it is also restricting. If you hit a time when your kids are itching for a little freedom to run around check out the play areas. At Magic Kingdom they can run around and get wet at the Splash N Soak Station, explore Tom Sawyer Island, or play at the playground in Dumbo's line. At Animal Kingdom there is a large play set called the Boneyard, or even walk one of the two jungle treks. At Epcot they construct playgrounds during the Flower & Garden Festival but I've never seen any at other times, but Aria loves walking the world showcase to stretch her legs. At Hollywood Studios they have nothing that I know of, and I actually find it the least toddler friendly of the parks - very few rides.

Sweet Turtle Soup guest posting Mommylogues - 15 Tips from a Disney World Mom

#15. Smile.

You are on vacation! Enjoy yourself. If Disney World isn't your thing just watch the joy on your kids faces as they experience the magic. And then add a Lapu Lapu from the Polynesian Resort's Tambu Lounge to your must do list.

Sweet Turtle Soup guest posting Mommylogues - 15 Tips from a Disney World Mom

I'm always happy to chat about Disney World. Feel free to shoot me an email (sweetturtlesoup@gmail.com) if you have any questions!

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30 comments:

  1. This is an amazing post! Thanks Courtney for all the information. I am saving it for when we go in the future. Hopefully it'll help Drew enjoy himself. Ha ha!

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    1. Thanks Jessica! I could just talk about Disney for days and days.

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  2. Great tips, Courtney! We hope to get to Disney some day!

    Becky
    www.bybmgblog.com

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  3. Courtney has the BEST Disney tips. I referred to her blog a lot when planning our trip (and annoyed her a bit with e-mails as well, haha). Such a great post!

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    1. haha, no worries you didn't annoy me at all. Talking about Disney is almost as much fun as going to Disney!

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  4. I've got serious Disney envy right now! This has me itching to plan a trip. Great tips!

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    1. ha, me too and we have trips in the works. I'm just itching to get in as many trips before we let our passes expire in April. Thankfully we will be renewing them most likely after summer, fingers crossed.

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  5. Love, love Courtney!! I'm 200% sure she'd make the best vacation and event planner.
    So many of these tips work for Disneyland, too!! I just wish DL had electronic fastpass options!

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    1. I'm sure you'll be getting the electronic fastpasses sometime! They are so much more convenient than the paper ones, even if it is another thing you need to book well in advance.

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  6. Courtney's love of Disney is impressive. So is her knowledge of how to enjoy the park.

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    1. Just can't get enough of it! And there is always something new to learn, especially as Aria gets older.

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  7. SUCH great tips!!! I hope to be able to use them when I (hopefully!!!) go next year with Mason!
    LOVE Courtney and love all her Disney insider knowledge and all her holiday crafts and activities!

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  8. Courtney if we ever make it over there, I am so calling you to be our tour guide! This is such an awesome list! I didn't know about that fast pass app, I don't think Disneyland has that yet...at least I don't think they do...hmm...??? We have passes and I've been 4 times I think...oops! I need to get there some more!

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    1. I'm always happy to lend a helping hand when it comes to planning! DL doesn't have the electronic FPs yet, but I assume they will soon.

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  9. I love your take on this series, Courtney! Great tips! Things I hope to remember when we eventually make it to Disney World!

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    1. Thanks Sarah! I've always loved going to Disney World in every stage of life. Definitely my happy place.

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  10. Wow these are some amazing tips! I still can't get over that you've been 22 times! I will definitely be referencing this when we finally plan a trip!

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    1. I've been many times before Aria but it sure is a different ball game when you bring kids. More magical, a lot slower ha. We've learned a lot on how to make it a happy experience for the whole family!

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  11. I am all about the fast passes at places like this! We went to the Empire State Building a few years ago on our trip to NYC and it took us less than ten minutes to get to the top! Others were waiting for 3+ hours. Totally worth it!
    Evelina @ Fortunate House

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  12. This post is gold. She knows her Disney stuff for sure!!!

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  13. Great tips! Courtney, you are the Disney queen. Yes to the fast passes. I was so glad to have the app on my phone because if we got to a ride that we didn’t need to use our fast pass on (because of short wait times) I was able to go on the app and change it to something else! That was so awesome. We forgot that you could get more fast passes on the kiosk, though. That explains whey they were so crowded every time we walked by one.

    Hollywood studios has the Honey I Blew Up the Kid park they can play on and burn energy. Nate took Mason while I got some beverages, so I am not sure the age range for that one.

    And the bathrooms across from the Swiss Family tree house - we made that mistake! Everyone seemed to need to go right then. It seemed like we were there for 30 minutes. And then it rained while we were waiting on the rest of our group to come out of the bathrooms!

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    1. I'm excited that they are changing the app so you can make your 4th fp on your phone instead of having to find a kiosk. So much more convenient!

      Yes, they do! But, they are closing it to make room for the land additions. Hopefully they add something new.

      That one really is one of the worst. Always packed and older, but sometimes you have to go!

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  14. Great post! So many great tips, especially for those who haven't been with little kids before. I'm with you on all of them. Basically, just going with the flow and not getting stressed out is the key. I love all the photos of little Aria. Can't believe she's been 22 times!

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    1. Thanks Jamie! Definitely so different with kids. I vaguely recall regretting getting passes because our first trip was soooo tiring. Thankfully it gets better. I wish I knew how many times Chris and I've been too. I love that I know for Aria though.

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