Indoor Children’s Play Areas in Epcot

by on October 3, 2016

As much as I love walking around the parks, sometimes you just need an air conditioned retreat. With kids in tow, it can be even more imperative to escape indoors. And though it’s typically not considered the most kid friendly of the Walt Disney World parks, Epcot has plenty of great indoor play areas for kids of all ages to let loose. If you’re looking for a reprieve from that Florida heat, humidity, sun, or even an afternoon rain shower, here are some great locations in Epcot for kids to burn off some excess energy.

Home of the Figment-centric interactive games

ImageWorks – home of the Figment-centric interactive games

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Walt Disney World Safety Tips for Parents

by on September 14, 2016

© Sarah GraffamDisney World is a place to get caught up in the magic, and this magic creates a sense of comfort and safety. It’s reasonable to enjoy this carefree feeling to a certain degree. But keeping in mind some safety tips as well as doing some safety planning ahead of time is well worth the effort—because things don’t always go as planned.

The primary focus of this article is child safety tips for parents of younger children, but many of these apply to all “kids” both young and old.

Safety planning should start well before your trip to Disney World because once you enter the park, the attention of parents and kids alike will almost certainly be divided.

So let’s look at some tips to plan ahead for safety.

Strike a Pose

If your family is anything like mine, you’ll take lots of family photos during your Disney vacation. Whether you take your own pictures, take advantage of the many PhotoPass photographers in the parks, or both, these pictures are one of the best ways to make family memories.

In addition to those memory-making photos, there is another photo you should take every day that has a more practical purpose. Use your smart phone to take a picture of the kids each morning (or each change of clothes if you break in the afternoon) where you can clearly see their faces and full attire. If your child should get separated from you, this photo can easily be shown or emailed to those helping to search.

Bonus: After our trip, these photos taken in our resort room, at the bus stop, or in line at rope drop have often been added to our official photo album. Without the usual “say cheese” for these photos, we have some adorable pictures of our kids waking up to another exciting day at Disney World.

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A Parent’s Guide to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

by on September 13, 2016

2016-09-02 20.39.46Before school had started in some states, Disney was already ringing in the Halloween season with the 2016 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (often referred to by the unpronounceable MNSSHP). My husband and I had gone once in our child-free years, but with our daughter now six years old, we thought this would be the perfect time for a repeat of the party. In the end, it was a marvelous time for us, but we saw a number of families who were having a less than magical experience. Here’s some tips to make the evening truly not so scary.


Pick a Date that Works with Your Schedule

Staying up until midnight on a school night is not the best option for younger children. For this reason, we chose a Friday night leading into the Labor Day holiday weekend. (There are no Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Parties on Saturday nights.) This meant that our daughter was in school that day, and we had her take an hour of “attempted nap” between school and heading for the party. If you’re on vacation, you may want to skip visiting the parks altogether on your party night. At the very least, you’ll want to take most of the afternoon for down time to have your best shot at making it through the whole party with everyone in good spirits.

Dress Sensibly

It is perfectly acceptable to go to the party without wearing a costume, or just wearing a Halloween-themed t-shirt. For some people, wearing a costume is part of the experience. Hurricane Hermine had pushed through the state less than 24 hours before our party, and thankfully we had selected costumes that could be scaled back for the possibility of rain. Knowing the weather in early September in Florida trends towards hot, we also made sure our costumes would be comfortable in 90-90 weather (90 degree heat, 90% humidity). In the end, we were able to keep a bare minimum of our costume intact and get huge amounts of laughs and love for our simple costume idea. We went as a game of Duck, Duck, Goose basically by two of us wearing white shirts with large wooden signs around our neck saying DUCK (with a small duck figurine) and one wearing a white shirt with a sign saying GOOSE (with a small goose figurine).

On the flip side, I saw many families wearing heavy, bulky, and downright uncomfortable costumes–or having their children dressed up in costumes that had no breathability. The heat and humidity will sap your energy faster than anything. Think about your costume choices as if you were going to run a race in it. How will it look and feel when hot and sweaty? Those cute specialty shoes with the costume might be great for going around the block, but how will they feel after putting on several miles of walking? If you must have a certain costume for some of the experience, consider bringing a change of clothes and renting a locker.

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Adding Extra Disney Magic: Tinker Bell Gifts

by on August 24, 2016

Tinker Bell Gifts

Tinker Bell Gifts

Imagine with me, if you will, a parent’s paradise in Walt Disney World. No, not that one where you ditch the kids and head over to the Adventurers Club at Pleasure Island (RIP). The other one. The one where the kids wake up bright and early, brimming with excitement to start their day. No whining about getting up early for rope drop, no nagging for that $16 autograph pen from the gift shop, and absolutely no fighting between siblings. Sound too good to be true? Maybe. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to aim high! So let’s talk about how Tinker Bell gifts can not only encourage good behavior but also add an extra touch of Disney magic while simultaneously helping you save money on souvenirs.

Note from Tinker Bell

Note from Tinker Bell

What are they?

For those who haven’t heard of them, Tinker Bell gifts are small presents you leave in the room for the kids in your group. They can be left overnight for discovery in the morning (like a Disney version of Santa), or if you can find a way to sneak back into the room without the kids noticing, you can leave them as a surprise for when they return from the parks. Typically, the gifts are accompanied by a note explaining the gift and who gave it.

Though they are called Tinker Bell gifts by most people, if you think the child(ren) in your party would be more excited about a letter from Rey (Star Wars) thanking them for their help with the Resistance than a note from Tinker Bell, then this is the time to get creative. Personally, I like to leave a note that includes four things: a quick mention of the fun from the prior day, an itinerary for the current day, an explanation of the gift, and a reminder to be well behaved. On a recent trip with younger relatives of mine, each note was written by a different character and tied into whatever the kids would be doing at the parks that day.

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Castaway Cay Excursion Review – Abaco Backcountry Fishing Adventure

by on May 20, 2016

Disney Wonder In The Distance

West Side of Castaway Cay


I am not much of a fisherman, but for my 13 year old son Alec, it has become his number one obsession. More than girls, gaming, and grilled cheese sandwiches combined. Alec was supposed to join the Hazelton/Brazeau clan for our Touringplans #Everywhere trip in 2014, but a medical issue kept him home. He and I finally completed the #Everywhere adventure this March when we flew to Miami and boarded the Disney Wonder for a 5-night Western Caribbean Itinerary C. Alec’s only request: “Can we go fishing?”

At Castaway Cay there are four fishing excursions to choose from.

  • Abaco Flats Fly Fishing ($215.25 / person)
  • Castaway Cay Bottom Fishing ($139 / person)
  • Castaway Cay Troll Fishing by Troll Boat ($163.75 / person)

and the excursion we chose,

  • Abaco Backcountry Fishing Adventure ($154 / person)

Every fisherman will tell you that when it comes to a day of fishing there are no guarantees. You might catch the fish of your life or come home without so much as a nibble. We met our guides at Marge’s Barges at 1:00pm and learned that the morning group did not have much luck. Our guides were quick to remind us of the “no guarantee rule”. We caught several fish throughout the afternoon but the real adventure was in the hunt for the elusive Bonefish. A hard to land sport fish, the Bonefish is considered by some as the best fighting fish, pound for pound. Plus, it requires a specific set of conditions and equipment to find, hook and get in the boat. “Let’s get dem Bones”, our guides cheered as we left the dock.

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Experiencing A Magical Disney Moment + Video

by on April 26, 2016

Photo - Michael Dahlgren

Meeting Princess Rapunzel

You’ve heard about them…you may have even watched them on YouTube.

Magical Disney Moments.

*I’ll pause for effect*

You know what I’m talking about; Those special experiences where a Cast Member goes above and beyond to make a guest’s day even more magical. 

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Keeping Kids Busy at Flower and Garden

by on March 29, 2016

Some kids may enjoy everything that Epcot’s International Flower and Garden festival has to offer. For others, it may be as exciting as, well, watching grass grow. There are some activities that are generally enjoyed by kids of all ages, whether they are fans of plants or not. Here are some of the best.

musicplaygroundMusic Garden Melodies Playground

Kids (and the makers of migraine medicine) will love this playground located around the corner from the Imagination pavilion. Topiaries of Mickey and friends welcome you to this delightful play area. The playground is divided into two sections: a rope web climbing structure for ages 5-12 and a more traditional playground set for 5 and under. Both are under shade, and there are chairs and little “cabanas” for adults to relax under. Around the center between the two play areas are large musical interactive features for kids to bang on and make “beautiful music”.  Around the outside are several small gardens with plants themed to different types of musical instruments, providing adults something to do while the kids play.

cactusalleyCars Cactus Road Rally Playground

Another playground returning for this year is the Cars Cactus Road Rally Playground, located between Mouse Gear and Test Track. In addition to the cacti growing all along the paths in the area, there are informative signs to learn how cacti adapt to their environment. But the big draw for the kids is the playground area. The area is also shaded and there is some seating, but it is a much smaller area than the other playground. A typical playground climbing structure is there, but kids also will enjoy bouncing on the circle of tires located near the back of the play area. Make sure to take a look at the Lightning McQueen and Mater topiaries near by as well.

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Disney World Stroller FAQ: Do I Need A Stroller? Why?

by on March 14, 2016

You’ve got kids. You’ve got kid stuff. And you’re taking it all to Walt Disney World for a magical fun-filled vacation. Sounds great, but how do you maneuver all those kids and all that stuff all over four gigantic theme parks, your hotel, and maybe an airport or two? With a stroller, of course. Here’s the complete stroller scoop to get you started on your planning.

Typical Disney World single stroller rental

Typical Disney World single stroller rental

Do I really need to use a stroller at Walt Disney World?

If you’ve got a child age six or under, chances are you’re going to want access to a stroller at some point during your Disney vacation. Your seven or eight year old might even find himself asking for some stroller time.

But my child hasn’t used a stroller at home in years, why would he need one at Disney World?

Many guests have worn pedometers during their Disney vacations. Factoring in theme parks, resorts, and entertainment areas, they typically find that they’ve walked somewhere between seven and twelve miles EVERY DAY of their Disney vacation. Just one lap around the World Showcase area of Epcot about a mile. Do that several days in a row and you’re going to end up tired. Now imagine walking that much with the tiny legs of a kindergartener, in 90 degree heat.

Another reason to consider using a stroller is the safety factor. Let’s face it, Walt Disney World can be a crowded place, particularly during high intensity times like park closing or during the fireworks. Even if you’re holding a child’s hand, it’s quite possible to lose him in the melee. To avoid separation, or having your child get accidentally stepped on by another guest, it may be easier to keep him in the confines of a stroller where you’re in charge of the direction and pace of movement.

Additionally, some children simply become overwhelmed by the constant stimulation at Disney World. A stroller can be a safe haven – a contained environment where a child can go to temporarily regroup and decompress.

Should I bring my own stroller or rent one at Disney World?

This is a personal decision, and I’ll talk you through some of the factors you may want to consider, but in general I recommend that guests bring their own strollers rather than rent from Walt Disney World.

Typical Disney World double rental stroller

Typical double Disney rental stroller

Why’s that?

The first factor is pricing. The Walt Disney World rental strollers currently (spring 2016) cost:
$15 for a single day, single stroller rental
$31 for a single day, double stroller rental
$13 per day for a length of stay (multi-day) single stroller rental
$27 per day for a length of stay (multi-day) double stroller rental

Do the math and you’ll find that renting a double stroller for a week will cost $189.00. Run a quick search on for “double umbrella stroller” and you’ll find dozens of models for sale for less than half that price. Even if you leave the stroller at Walt Disney World and never use it again, you’re still coming out ahead financially.

How does length-of-stay pricing work?

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The Best of Walt Disney World for Babies

by on March 1, 2016

Welcome to Part 1 of my new blog series – The Best of Walt Disney World! Over the next several weeks, I’ll be sharing with you the top picks in attractions for various groups of travelers visiting the Walt Disney World theme parks.

How is this going to help me with my planning, you ask? Great question! Here’s how…Maybe you’ve always traveled to “the most magical place on earth” as a couple and now you’ll be taking your new baby, maybe this time grandma and grandpa will be joining you, or maybe this is your very first visit. No matter who you’re traveling with, I’ve got you covered with The Best of Walt Disney World series! And here’s how it will work…In each post, I’ll give you a rundown of the must do’s from each park along with some key information about that particular attraction and a link in case you are looking for even more in-depth details.

Now that we’ve gotten all of the basics out of the way, let’s begin Part 1 of The Best of Walt Disney World with the tiniest of travelers – babies!

So if this is your first time taking a baby with you to Walt Disney World, you may have heard people say there is no reason to bring them. They won’t be able to ride anything! Let me reassure you that is simply not the case. There are plenty of things for baby to experience at Walt Disney World. In fact, as long as there isn’t a height restriction, your little one is permitted to ride. My youngest son has been enjoying a wide variety of attractions and shows at the parks since he was just six months old. Please read on for a full list of The Best of Walt Disney World for babies!

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Should I Bring My Kids On My Disney World Vacation?

by on January 20, 2016

Should I bring my kids on my Walt Disney World vacation? That’s a joke, right?

Disney is the place for kids. If I want to go to Disney World, I have to bring them. Um, don’t I?

Well, no, you don’t have to bring them. And, depending on your needs, you may not want to. Here are some things to think about to decide whether bringing the kids on your Disney vacation is right for you.

Meetings and parties are just a few of the reasons to leave your kids at home when you visit Walt Disney World.

Meetings and parties are just a few of the reasons to leave your kids at home when you visit Walt Disney World.

Is there an easy place to leave your kids at home?

This won’t work for everyone, but many families have a relatively (Get it? Relatively. Oy, sorry.) easy place to leave the kiddos — grandparents or a favorite aunt may be thrilled to step in for a few days. Or you and a best buddy could trade babysitting duties over a few long weekends. For some children, particularly younger kids, getting indulged by grandma might be more appealing than getting schlepped around in the hot sun. Or perhaps you and your spouse/partner could trade childcare duties, giving each some getaway time.

Will your kids complain if they know you went to Disney World without them?

Many elementary age kids or older will know about the wonderful world of Disney from hearing stories of their friends’ travel or from television advertisements. This may make it more challenging to ditch them at home. However, a preschooler may have no idea what they’re missing if you say you’re off at Disney World (or just Florida) for a few days. The reaction from the peanut gallery could color your decision.

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