Posts Tagged ‘travel with toddlers’

Disneyland Top 5: Locations for Toddlers to Run Wild!

by on August 30, 2012

Ever the cognizant mother, I don’t want to spoil the magic for anyone by having a shrieking toddler in a line or a ride or a restaurant. So I’ve come up with a list of the top 5 places I take my son to burn off all that extra energy at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.

5. Mickey’s House – Mickey’s Toontown in Disneyland

There is air conditioning and giant furniture for kids to play on! It’s a whimsical house for toddler to play in, while heading towards meeting the Big Cheese. You can play on Mickey’s piano, help Mickey wash his laundry and answer Mickey’s phone! What more could a kid ask for? Did I mention the air conditioning?? You can let your kids run through the house for a break from the heat in the summer and at the end of the house wait in line to meet Mickey! It’s a great place for kids to explore.

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The Best Attractions at WDW (According to a 3 Year Old Girl)

by on July 17, 2012

The best attraction at Walt Disney World is an unwinnable debate. The answer is different for everyone, and everyone’s answer is correct because it is a matter of personal preference. Of course, if you believe many of the hundreds of Disney message boards (please don’t), there are only a few opinions that matter. One of the viewpoints that is rarely considered is that of the small child, which is odd because there are certainly a lot of small children patronizing Disney World.

The star of this column on...one of her favorite rides?

My feeling is that small children (under five) are not fully represented because they do not often have a voice. They cannot visit message boards, and their righteous indignation only lasts until nap time, so they are often forgotten when the value of an attraction is considered. I have decided to employ my three and a half year old daughter to help change that and help show a different perspective on some Disney World attractions.

As those of you with children know, it is next to impossible to get an accurate answer to any question out of a three year old. The child’s current mood, the order of the choices, and a thousand outside influences all make the answer highly variable. To combat this I asked her many, many different times over the course of two weeks and supplemented the questions with pictures, videos, and The Unofficial Guide: The Color Companion to to Walt Disney World (yeah, that’s a plug…buy it!). The result is a ranked list of attractions that I feel comfortable saying represent her favorites. The exact order may be a little different, but I am not sure I could form a fully accurate list of my favorite attracions either.

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Touring with a Toddler – The Epcot Plan

by on November 15, 2011

Welcome back friends (we’re friends right…right).  This is a melancholy post for me because it is the last in my series of how to adjust touring plans for toddlers.  This was a very fun series to write and, if you missed them, here are my posts on the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Until I discover a way to shoehorn in more long-winded posts about attractions I like/dislike, this will be the last.

I have saved Epcot for last because it is my favorite park and I am incredibly self-centered like that.  Okay, I actually saved it for last because it turned out to be my daughter’s second favorite park (after Magic Kingdom, of course), which came as a surprise to me.  In my usual style, I will be going step by step through the Epcot One-Day Touring Plan for Parents with Small Children.  As we go I will give you tips, pointers, hints, and my personal thoughts about pretty much everything.  Enjoy!

1. Epcot Entrance – Arrive at the entrance to Epcot 30 minutes prior to opening.

I’ve gone through it before, but arriving as close to park opening as possible is the key to avoiding long waits.  I know that waking a sleeping child is also undesirable, so if your little one tends to sleep in, you might have a tough choice to make.

2. Soarin’

This is not a tough choice because this is a fantastic (although imperfect) attraction.  Unfortunately, there is a 40” height requirement, so a toddler will likely be too short.  I would suggest snatching a few FASTPASSes for use by the adults later.

Be aware that if your child is tall enough, this is an attraction where kids must sit in their own seats with no chance of comforting or removing them during the ride.  Once it starts, they have to take the whole flight.

A quick aside about my ‘imperfect’ comment above:  I really enjoy Soarin’, but I love a ride with a story and Soarin’ doesn’t have one.  It’s like watching a California travel video rather than actually flying.  Also, it wouldn’t hurt anything to upgrade the picture quality (yes, yes, I’m nitpicking).

3. Living with the Land

This attraction depends on the kid It can be seen as a fun boat ride, a scary thunderstorm (just one part), or a tedious ride about gardening.  I have never taken my daughter on it because I’m afraid of boredom.  I have also never taken my wife on it for the same reason.

Crush addressing his adoring public

4. The Seas with Nemo & Friends / Turtle Talk with Crush

Yes, yes, yes.  This single attraction is the reason that my little girl loves Epcot.  It is a very short ride with almost no story (they lose Nemo…again…then easily find him…yep).  What it does have is all the Finding Nemo characters, which is all a toddler is really going to care about.  The last few scenes where the Finding Nemo characters are projected into the actual fish tanks is actually very cool.

I also strongly recommend Turtle Talk with Crush.  It is technologically cool and just plain cool.  It is fun, funny, and just short enough to not let those short attention spans drift.  It seems that a lot of people skip this out of disinterest or unawareness and I urge you to not make that mistake, even if you don’t have kids.

(I also suggest you allow a few minutes for staring at the seagulls in front of the pavilion and repeating “mine.”  It will happen.)

5. Journey into Imagination with Figment

Even as I write this, the 5 year old boy in me is tearing up.  I miss the original version so much, but it is sadly not there.   What we have instead is a bland, stale, mostly uninteresting “journey” through the Imagination Institute.  My daughter doesn’t love this ride, but she doesn’t dislike it either…much like everyone else.  One bonus (or curse) is that you will sing “One Little Spark” the rest of the day.

6. Captain EO

Um…so…I’ve never seen it.  Honestly, I always forget it’s there.  I’m not sure that a toddler would like it because of its 3D, interactive theater, and Michael Jackson-ness (even I don’t know what that means).

7. The Circle of Life

This is another one that a child may not enjoy so much.  It does feature characters from The Lion King, but I don’t think just that will keep my attention the whole time (whoops, I mean ‘a toddler’s attention.’ Freudian).

Mine, mine, mine

8. Sunshine SeasonsEat lunch.

Sunshine Seasons is good. It has variety, quality, and food to fill my belly.  Sure your heart will skip two beats when you get to the cash register, but this is Walt Disney World.

9. Ellen’s Energy Adventure – This ride can also be seen after Spaceship Earth later today.

From entry to exit, you will be in the Energy building for about 45 minutes, most of which is in the form of a movie.  Rare is the occasion that I have stayed awake through the entire movie and, since I’ve already proven that I have the attention span of a 2 year old, that is the best that you can hope for.  The worst would be 43 minutes of screaming.  There is a pretty cool ride-through dinosaur exhibit, but that does not an interesting attraction make (and you have to sit through the movie parts to see it).

If you do this attraction, I would use it as a rest/nap and not expect a small child to understand, or pay attention to, the movie (don’t blame me, it’s Judy’s fault…stupid Judy).

10. Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros

This is a pretty lame attraction and it was made lamer when it was changed to its current iteration.  That said; it has Donald Duck in it, and the appearance of that angry, speech impedimented water fowl means that my daughter now loves it.  From an adult standpoint, it is not terrible nor is it terribly interesting.  It is also not very long, an opportunity to sit down, and cooler than the Florida summer.  Go for it.

11. Maelstrom

The bad:  It’s on the dark side and features trolls, polar bears, a backwards section, and a drop.

The good:  It’s a short boat ride.

Final verdict:  It’s worth a try because even if your child is a little scared, it will be over very quickly.  Of course if there’s a fear that it will frighten the little one into avoiding dark rides or boats then you may want to keep walking.

Final final verdict:  Parent’s choice.

12. Return to your hotel for a mid-day break.

I know I’ve stressed before how important this is, but I’m going to do it again.  Epcot is big and requires a lot of walking.  It is stressful enough trying to keep a toddler happy day after day in such an overwhelming place as Walt Disney World without running them (or yourself) ragged on top of that.

13. Spaceship Earth

This attraction has just enough to keep a toddler interested.  With the rapidly changing show scenes and the constant movement they should be fine.  It probably won’t be one they ask to ride repeatedly, but they won’t recoil in terror every time they see a Phoenician either (thanks for the alphabet by the way).

14. O Canada!

This film (and the same goes for Impressions de France and the China film) will probably not hold a child’s interest.  They are glorified travel guides to the countries and, while beautifully done, they are not exciting in the eyes of a 2 year old (i.e. no characters).

15. The American Adventure

Much like the films I just mentioned, this will be a little dry for a kid (and quite a few adults).  Rather than a film it is animatronic-based, but it is still a telling of America’s history.  Since that can be summed up in the words “America Rocks,” there is no need to see the show.

16. IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth

Much like the other nighttime spectaculars, IllumiNations contains fireworks, fire, and music.  It is up to you whether your child would enjoy that or think that the world is ending…there seems to be no in between.

That’s it for the plan, but here are the other attractions that are not listed:

- Test Track: With a 40” height minimum, most toddlers will not be able to ride.  If yours can, and has an affinity for quick, jerky movements, they may enjoy this attraction.

China...well, not really

- Mission: Space: Even if your child meets the height requirement (44″) here, I would definitely avoid the Orange side.  It spins very fast and while I didn’t necessarily know I was spinning, my stomach sure did.  If I couldn’t handle it a small child couldn’t either (because I am theoretically tougher than a child…theoretically).

The Green Misson: Space is much tamer and basically just watching a small TV and shaking a bit.  Sure I can’t do the Orange side, but I just don’t see the point in this one.

- Innoventions Most children will find the displays at Innoventions dry and possibly boring, but it is probably worth a walk through anyway.  There are a lot of interesting displays and you may be surprised what your kids find appealing.  It also is decidedly indoors and therefore not eligible to experience intense heat or rain.

- World Showcase:  My personal favorite area of Walt Disney World.  I am however not a child (technically), so that may not be of vital interest to you.  There is very little in the way of attractions in World Showcase but, much like Innoventions, you may be surprised by a child’s reaction to it.  There are several little things like the drums at the African Outpost, musical groups in several countries, and various character greets that can keep your little one’s happy.

 

That sums up my thoughts on Epcot as well as my series on Touring with a Toddler.  I hope you have enjoyed them and found them helpful (although I’ll take one out of two).  Thanks for reading!

 

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Bringing the Babysitter to Walt Disney World

by on July 19, 2011

My husband and I are obviously Walt Disney World aficionados. We wanted to share our love of the parks with our children as early as possible. But with three children born in three years (we had twins), we knew that getting our clan some Disney time while they were young would be a challenge. Taking one baby or toddler on vacation is a snap; taking two is a tag team project; but when you’re outnumbered by the diaper-bound, you’re going to need some help. For many families, extra hands may come in the form of grandma joining you for the trip. And while we have traveled with extended family several times, on two separate occasions our solution was to bring our babysitter with us to Walt Disney World.

Even the airport is a challenge with multiple small children. Extra hands are a big help.

Here are some things that bringing a sitter allowed us to do:

  • Have each child with one adult on two-person rides such as Buzz Lightyear
  • Have each child fully supervised in the pool and in the parks.
  • Have each child get personal attention.
  • Lighten the amount of weight each adult had to carry (strollers onto buses, diaper bag supplies, etc.)
  • Allowed parents some quality adult time in the evenings.
  • Allowed better meal-time experiences at buffets and multi-line quick service situations.
  • Allowed us to customize park time for the individual needs of each child.

For example, when our oldest daughter wanted to go on the Haunted Mansion, one twin needed a nap, and the other twin was afraid of the Mansion and needed more Small World, everyone got what worked best for them. And when my husband and I wanted to go out for a signature dining experience, we didn’t have to worry about hiring an unknown sitter from an Orlando agency.

There were also several benefits of bringing a hired sitter over enlisting a family member to help out. Chief among these was the fact that we got to call the shots and dictate the timing of our day. Since we were footing the bill, we got to set the timetable and agenda in a way that we could not have if we needed to accommodate a family member doing us a favor. Of course, the chief negative of bringing a sitter with us was that adding an adult to our trip increased our vacation costs. This was balanced out a bit by the fact that since our twins were under the age two, we did not need to pay for any of these items for them.

Even Cinderella would have a hard time supervising three preschoolers at a character meal.

During our first sitter trip, we with brought with us JM, who had worked with us for a few years on an almost daily basis. She was beloved by the children (as well as by us) and knew our habits and preferences well. When we first proposed the trip to JM we all sat down and had an honest chat about money and expectations. Here are some of the questions we discussed:

  • Was her hourly/weekly rate of pay appropriate during travel?
  • Did she need her own room or was she comfortable bunking with one or more of the children?
  • How much time off did she need?
  • Did she have any specific concerns about visiting Walt Disney World? (fears about rides, etc.)

JM was thrilled at the proposition. She had never been to Walt Disney World before and was eager to go with us. While each family’s situation will be different, by mutual agreement we arrived at the following:

  • We would pay for her airfare, a week-long Park Hopper ticket, and meals while she was dining with the family.
  • We would pay her regular weekly salary plus 20% more since she would be working some additional hours. She would work from wake-up time until just after dinner on most days.
  • We would get a two-bedroom villa (we are DVC members). JM would share a room with our oldest daughter, while my husband and I shared a room with the twins (who were in the Pack n’ Play cribs at the time).
  • During the seven-day trip, JM would have one full day and one afternoon off. She would work two evenings while my husband and I had “date night.” This allowed JM to experience some of the more adventuresome rides.
  • JM would be responsible for paying for her own meals on her day off.
  • JM would be responsible for paying for any additional non-park entertainment. For example, at the time there was an admission fee for the Pleasure Island clubs.

Overall, this worked like a dream. The kids got lots of attention and none of the adults felt overwhelmed. We were comfortable enough with JM that it felt like we were traveling with a member of the family, but without the stress of family dynamics. And when the inevitable hiccup occurred, a lost bag, for example, we all were able to roll with the punches.

An unexpected bonus of having an extra adult with us was that she was able to take many wonderful family photos for us.

After our great success, we decided to again bring a sitter with us to WDW a year later. By this time, JM had started a college degree program and was unable to travel during the dates we needed. We ended up bringing a relatively new sitter, LS with us, using most of the same parameters. Unfortunately, while still fun, this trip ended up being a bit less successful, mostly because LS was less familiar with our parenting style and was less able to improvise during unplanned problems. For example, she was unwilling to switch her night off when one of the children developed a fever, and she was unwilling to help entertain the children during a severely delayed flight because she was technically off the clock. Were we to do this again, I would have added a discussion about flexibility to our pre-trip planning.

Again, we have successfully visited WDW with blood relatives several times, but bringing a paid sitter did end up being a viable alternative when we were in need of travel assistance.

Have you ever brought a sitter with you to Walt Disney World? Would you ever want to? Let us know some of you experiences or concerns in the comments.

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