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September 11, 2007

Traveling with Little Ones - Day 8 - The Finale

Well, today was our last day at Walt Disney World. We decided to check out early and get our rental car before heading over to the Contemporary for a character breakfast at Chef Mickey's.

First I feel the need to mention how wonderful the car rental service (National) is at the WDW Dolphin where we stayed. Steve went down to the desk and was given the car seats we needed and then the valet brought the car around for us. They loaded our luggage (Steve installed the car seats) and off we went. So smooth.

We had a great stay at the Dolphin in their Heavenly Beds and found their staff very friendly and accommodating. The location was just perfect for us. Only minor downside was that the loading dock for the boats to Epcot or the Studios was under repair so we had to walk to the Yacht & Beach Club dock to get to the Studios but it was a nice walk and we really didn't mind.

Walking to and from Epcot from the International Gateway was awesome. While the droves of people were exiting through the front entrance after Illuminations, we were able to take a leisurely walk back. When we passed the Beach Club one night we saw a screen and beach chairs set up where you could catch a viewing of The Incredibles. Looked like a nice relaxing evening for those there. We also liked being a short walk away from the Boardwalk so we were able to catch the fireworks several nights without being too far away from the room.

Also one night we went over to the Garden Grove at the Swan for a character dinner buffet. Pluto and Goofy were there. The food was okay but the real draw was that it felt like we had the whole place almost to ourselves. The two characters spent a lot of time with the kids so it made for an enjoyable evening for everyone.

Now back to Chef Mickey's. Characters there were Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy and Donald. They were all very sweet and funny with the kids and all of them found something they liked to eat. Before you are seated they take a photo of the group for purchase during the meal. Personally I think there was a really good variety of breakfast foods there. Much more than one person could sample in a seating especially if you include the desert section.

Pluto at Chef Mickey's Character Breakfast


After breakfast we went upstairs to take a round trip ride on the Monorail. We've been seeing it our entire trip and the kids were all excited that we were finally going to ride today. We asked to sit up front but we weren't able to because there was one family standing in line in front of us and they had already asked. C'est la vie!

Riding the Monorail


After riding the Monorail we spent a little time in the shops at the Contemporary. Before we left for our trip we got our boys Disney Dollars. They knew what they had in Disney Dollars was for anything they wanted to buy, but once they were gone, that was it. This worked well and allowed us to stay out of the shops for most of the trip. The most time I spent in shops was when wheeling around a sleeping toddler in his stroller to keep him cool.

I loaded up their Little Einstein Rocket backpacks with snacks and little surprises and we were off to the airport. The flight went really well. All the families on the same flight were really friendly. Especially the family in front of us who had to listen to my rendition of the Little Einstein theme song over and over to take my DS2's mind off his ears hurting on the plane's descent. All the kids did great on the flight home although I know all of us adults are exhausted.

Waiting at the Airport


We are home now and I believe that this trip was a total SUCCESS! Our boys had such a fun time and we really had a good time together as a family and with our friends. If anything, I think I underestimated how much fun my DS2 would have. He surprised me how he was really into everything we did. They both really enjoyed every experience from the airplane ride there, to the elevators at the hotel, to taking the buses and boats, to the theme parks themselves. I would do it with them again in a heartbeat.

To Dawn & Joe, and Diane & Ed, and the kids, thanks for being there! You enhanced this experience for us tenfold. Let me know when to start planning the next trip - but first I have a ton of laundry to do!

Thanks for letting me share our experiences. It's been a blast! -- Laura Fox

Deb's Note: Thank you all for sharing your vacation with us!

September 10, 2007

Traveling with Little Ones - Day 7

Today we had an additional day at Magic Kingdom planned. Each morning we have a target time where we all try to meet up in the lobby of our hotel to go to the parks together. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. At least it gives everyone something to shoot for. Today our family went solo with plans to meet up with the rest of our group at lunch if not before.

We had hopes to ride a few of the favorites from earlier in the week and then also try to take in a few of the attractions we missed. Very early in the day we were in the short line to ride The Magic Carpets of Aladin and we were selected by the Dream Squad once again for Dream Fastpasses. Wait times at the park were not prohibitive but we appreciated not having to wait 20 min for the Peter Pan or Winnie the Pooh ride. Thanks Dream Squad!

Dream FastPass Magic Kingdom


We met up in the afternoon for a really nice lunch at the Liberty Tree Tavern. This time we made reservations ahead of time so we were sure to sit down to a relaxing meal together. Of course relaxing is relative when you have 5 children under the age of 5. After lunch we split again: Dawn and her family off to find the characters in Mickey's Toontown, Diane and her family off to the Baby Care Center, and us off to the Tomorowland Speedway for a quick drive on our way to Stitch's Great Escape.

We all found each other again for a little while at Pooh's Playful Spot where all of our little ones (except the baby) got totally wet. This is a great spot to let your little one run around and play play play. Our little guys loved it. It's an enclosed area so no one can go too far and although it's a good size, it's not too big where you feel like you will lose someone. Then there's the water factor. Our kids loved playing in the water that shoots up from the ground. It was so much fun, we let them enjoy themselves with it but afterwards they were a sopping mess. So be forewarned. If you think your child would enjoy this type of thing - BRING A CHANGE OF CLOTHES AND WATERSHOES. Afterwards, I ducked into a gift shop to buy T-shirts and removed DS2 socks and sneakers which are still drying out.

Pooh's Playful Spot Magic Kingdom


Dawn's DD4 got her face painted today like a princess. We saw lots of kids in the parks who had this done (as princesses or animals) and it looked like the kids had a lot of fun with it. Our princess certainly did.

A word on crocs - Crocs are sold everywhere at WDW along with the Disney Jibbits and lots of people were wearing them. Although we had them with us too, our kids wore socks and sneakers to the parks. DS4 had them on at the hotel one evening and was running around a lot and got a small blister on one of his feet. After that he only wore them to dinner or to the pool. Dawn's DD4 wore them a lot and didn't have a problem so I guess it depends on the person. Just don't forget to pack the Neosporin and Band Aids just in case.

Disney Crocs


Next up - Breakfast with Mickey and our flight home.

September 8, 2007

Traveling with Little Ones to WDW - Day 6

We spent the day today at Disney's Animal Kingdom. This is my favorite of the four theme parks at WDW. I love that it is only open until 5pm so you are not tempted to overdue your stay at the park. Some of my favorite shows are here and some great rides too. This was a great park to appease all in our group. When you are traveling with little ones, their different personalities really show through by what they prefer to do. Thankfully Disney offers something that appeals to all in our group.

We were fortunate that all five of the children in our group enjoyed seeing the characters. None of them were freaked out by them. My DS2 loved seeing them. He went right up to Stitch and gave him a kiss on the nose (Can you hear the "Awww" that came from the queue line?) Dawn's DD4 loved searching for characters and getting their autographs. She also enjoyed seeing the shows (especially the new Nemo show) but didn't want anything to do with the rides.

On the flip side my DS4 only wanted to ride the rides. He wanted to go on anything that was "superfast". He did everything he was tall enough for from Kilamanjaro Safari to Dinosaur to Kali River Rapids. DS2 just made the height requirement for Kali River Rapids (38 inches) and was given a wrist band that allowed him to ride in a special seat on the boat that had an additional safety bar. You should have seen his face when the big wave came over his head. Big smiles all over the place! Because of the different interests in our four year olds we split up most of the day so that the kids could see what they wanted and were comfortable with.

We did make room for the "Big Kids" of our group to get on Expedition Everest - a first for Diane, Ed, Steve and myself. We all agreed it lived up to our expectations - a big thumbs up. DS4 was disappointed he didn't make the height requirement. Missed it by an inch. It'll be something to look forward to next trip.

Diane reported that while the Baby Center at Animal Kingdom was very nice, her favorite is still the one at Disney Studios. She said that the Studios BC is the smallest one but the way it was organized was more pleasing to her than any others. The Animal Kingdom BC did have private breastfeeding rooms with doors and that was a nice feature.

Dawn reported that while they were waiting to get on the train to go to Rafiki's Planet Watch, her DD4 was picked to be a co-conductor and got to say "all aboard" to those entering the train. She was also presented with a certificate with her name on it for doing so. These little touches really add to the fun of the day.

We took the bus back to our hotel and had a very fun driver (Michael) who played a Disney Trivia game with us the entire ride back. He was a funny and loud guy and made for an enjoyable ride. Thanks Mike!!!

After dinner and getting kids in pajamas, Dawn and I spent a few hours at Downtown Disney shopping. It was nice to get a few hours to walk around and talk before heading back to the room. The guys have met up as well for some time at the ESPN restaurant on the Boardwalk. I feel refreshed and ready for our last full day at the parks. Tomorrow is round two at the Magic Kingdom . Send some nice thoughts for low crowds our way!

September 7, 2007

Traveling with Little Ones to WDW - Day 5

Today we decided to sleep in and make this a pool day. We spent the entire morning at the pool and all our little ones loved it. It was a great way to start the day and it was refreshing in the hot weather. Plus my DS4 loved the water slide at the pool (another first for him).

Pool at Disney


After naps, we headed to Epcot in the late afternoon and walked around for a little while doing some rides before trying to find somewhere to get a bite to eat. We tried to make reservations earlier in the day but every restaurant was booked and could not accommodate a party of our size. We then decided to eat at the Cantina in Mexico . We hadn't made a reservation far in advance because we weren't too sure when we'd be in the park. Lesson learned - next time I will make a reservation regardless of firm plans so that we at least have an option. We can always call to cancel if plans change.

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We stayed in Epcot until park closing and then worked our way through the crowds and out the International Gateway since we are staying at an Epcot Resort.

Here's where I think bringing your own stroller really is helpful. We had quite a walk back to our room and with everyone being tired and low on energy, having the stroller outside the park worked to our advantage. We also debated on purchasing a two seater stroller for this trip but decided that DS4 would need it and he's been using it a lot this trip. Sure beats carrying 40 pounds of child across World Showcase! Even Dawn's DD4 used their stroller for part of the walk back while Joe held their DS1. At the end of the day, you'll be happy you brought yours.

Also as a heads up for small children and fireworks - My DS2 loved watching Epcots' fireworks from the Boardwalk but watching them in Epcot was way too intense because of how loud they are. As soon as they started, he shook and started crying so I ducked into a shop with him until they were over. For some little ones, having a viewing spot where you are not so close to the action is a must. At least it was for us.

That's it for now. Next up - a day at Animal Kingdom.

September 6, 2007

Traveling with Little Ones to WDW - Day 4

Day 4

We spent the day today at the Disney Studios. We arrived shortly after the park opened and were happy to find that crowds were low so wait times for rides were very short today. While coming off the Tower of Terror , Steve and DS4 were handed Dream Fast Passes! Even though we didn't really need them because of the short wait times, it was still fun to be picked by the Dream Squad.

Magic Fast Passes


Subsequently Joe was picked to be in a street performance where his big line was "Vivian, I'll save you!". I think the kids all enjoyed him being a part of the show.

Streetmosphere

We had lunch at Hollywood & Vine with the Little Einsteins and Jo Jo and Goliath. This was a highlight for the kids as they all liked interacting with the characters they love. At the end of our meal we still hadn't had Jo Jo and Goliath visit our table so I mentioned it to our waitress and she was very accommodating making sure they came relatively quickly while we were paying our bill. So my advice is, if you haven't seen all the characters by the end of your meal, let your server know and they will make it happen for you.

Hollywood and Vine Character Meal


The Times Guide they have available at the parks is a must read. We were able to know where all the character meet and greets were so that everyone could see their favorite ones.

My boys were most excited to see the "Herbie" car parked at the end of a street. While we were taking pictures on and around Herbie we heard engines revving and Lightning McQueen and Mater came down the street ready for a meet and greet. This pic is of my DS2 chasing after Mater. He was very excited!

Running to Mater

Diane wanted me to share that she enjoyed the Baby Center at the Studios better than the Magic Kingdom. She reported that for breastfeeding Moms they have a room with cubbies which worked really well for her baby who is easily distracted by others whereas the Baby Center at MK was a room with chairs.

So far I think the word of the week has been Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. We've all been on the lookout for wet diapers - a sign that our little ones are taking in enough fluids during the day. The weather has been beautiful but HOT so we've been going through a lot of bottles of Dasani. Dawn and I also purchased the squirt bottle with the fan to help the kids cool off. At $17 it was a little pricey but we thought well worth it in this kind of heat. Our boys made especially good use of it while waiting for the Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade this afternoon.

We had dinner outside at the Big River Grille on the Boardwalk and were able to watch the fireworks from Epcot again. This was a great way to have a meal because the comings and goings of the boats and the fireworks kept the kids occupied and made for a more relaxing meal.


That's it for now. Next up - a morning at the pool and some more time at Epcot.

Laura Fox

September 5, 2007

Traveling with Little Ones - Day 3

Day 3

What we originally planned as a day of rest turned into a half day at Epcot. We arrived shortly after park opening and headed straight for Test Track. It was our hopes to have a short wait for this much anticipated ride for DS4. We walked up and informed the attendant that we wanted to do the baby swap. This worked out really well. Steve waited on the short line with DS4 and when they got off I used my baby swap pass with him which allowed us into the FastPass line. So he rode twice back to back.

What also worked out well was that while waiting for them to come off the ride, I took DS2 into the gift shop where there was a Kidcot Fun Spot. DS2 had fun coloring while we waited. He also enjoyed going in and out of all the GM cars they had on display. Best of all - we were in air conditioning! We used the baby swap again at Soarin' and it worked like a charm. The baby swap is our new favorite thing.

Dawn and Joe opted to stay at the hotel and spend the day at the pool with the kids. Their DD4 made quick friends with another princess and had hours of fun swimming. Diane and Ed and the baby hooked up with us at Epcot (thank goodness for cell phones) and we were able to spend a few hours together before heading back to the hotel to get ready for our 5pm reservations for the Hoop Dee Doo Revue.

For us the Hoop Dee Doo Revue is a must do and has been a part of our trips to WDW since our first trip - and is especially imperative if we are traveling with someone who hasn't been there before. Everyone really enjoyed themselves. DS4 had the best time with all the music and dancing. Best of all, he was picked to be the Texas Ranger in a part of the show.

kidstowdw4.jpg

I was surprised he agreed to do it since he is typically shy, but he did great. Dawn's DD4 said that he was "a star" to which he replied "no, I'm just a boy, I have a Mommy, I have shoes". We took the bus to the Magic Kingdom and then a boat over to Fort Wilderness and got there in a reasonable amount of time. I mention this because depending on where you are staying it can be a long trip to get to Pioneer Hall. We've found this to be the easiest way to get there.

Here's a picture of the Who's Shoes ID we had our boys wear just in case we were ever separated. We didn't plan on losing anybody, but I felt better knowing that in the event it ever happened we could be reunited quickly with a call to our cell phones. Handy little product.

kidstowdw3.jpg


Next up, Disney Studios and lunch with the Little Einsteins.

September 4, 2007

Traveling With Little Ones - Days 1 & 2

Day 1

After much planning our vacation finally got it's start. We had an early morning flight so we prepped our boys the night before about how they needed to get to bed early because "tomorrow we were going to Disney World!".

Dear Son age 4 (DS4) announced "no more days" (left) and happily got ready to get to the airport. I have to say everyone at the airport was very helpful and patient with us going through security. It was a good start to our trip. Our flight was uneventful but we were prepared with things for the boys to do. We brought coloring books and crayons and played a movie on the laptop for them and of course snacks. Only wish I had a five point harness on DS2s' seat as he kept sliding himself out of the seatbelt.

We rented a car to get to the hotel from the airport and stopped at the Super Walmart for diapers and other essentials that we preferred not to pack. We also purchased an inexpensive no frills pack and play for DS2. He's much too big for the mini-cribs that the hotel provides and he doesn't like to sleep with us as he sleeps better in his own space so the $40 we spent for the pack and play was money well spent. He slept like a lamb last night.

After everyone arrived from their flights and was settled into their rooms we had a quick dinner together and then off to bed to get ready for our first full day. My DS4 wanted to know "when we're going to Disney World?" I informed him that we are here already, but to him it won't feel that way until he sees the Magic Kingdom.

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Day Two

What's great about being a kid is that every new experience is so big and wonderful to them. My DS2 loved riding the bus to and from the Magic Kingdom almost as much as the rides themselves. He kept saying "the bus, the bus" and then serenaded us all with a loud version of "Twinkle Twinkle" along with hand gestures. Also, it was on the bus where the princess of our group got her first glimpse of Cinderella's castle which led to big smiles and squeals of happiness.

We had a wonderful day at MK. I can't say we rode a ton of rides, but the things we did the kids loved tremendously. After the big drop on Splash Mountain my DS4 grabbed and hugged and kissed me because he was so happy.

One mistake I made was not explaining to him what Splash Mountain was before we got on line. He promptly decided he did not want to wait for this ride and wanted to get off - much to my chagrin because I knew he would love it. I subsequently took him to the viewing area where you see the logs plummet into the briar patch so he would understand what he was waiting for and he said "oh, I want to go on that - I'm sorry" and we returned to the line again. So my suggestion is to give as much of an explanation to your child as possible so that they'll understand that it'll be worth the wait and will make your queuing time much more enjoyable.

We had breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table. Although this reservation was made primarily for the princess of our group in mind, all the boys enjoyed themselves as well. They were all given little swords to play with and my DS2 found the coats of mail of special interest. He referred to them as "the good knight" (a reference to an episode of the Little Einsteins). Also, the staff took our group picture and gave them to us at the end of the meal for no extra charge.

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We tried to be as flexible as possible to accommodate all the children's wants and needs. While DS4 was riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with his Dad, rather than have DS2 just wait around for him, I took him on the WDW Railroad which had a station nearby for a roundtrip ride. Everyone was kept busy doing something they enjoyed.

We also made use of the Baby Care Center. Diane took her baby there when he needed to eat and I also used it for a diaper change for DS2. The Center was really nice with high chairs for feeding, great diaper changing facilities with soft pads and separate rooms for nursing mothers all wonderfully air conditioned.

We left the Magic Kingdom when DS4 fell asleep and Dawn's Dear Daughter age 4 (DD4) was getting tired as well. Diane and Ed and the baby left a few hours before us. Back to the hotel to get some food and regroup. Now as I write this, DS4 is sound asleep in his bed while DS2 is out with everyone else enjoying the fireworks from the Boardwalk in his pajamas and the glow bracelets I brought from home.

Next up, a day of rest and the Hoop Dee Doo!

Laura Fox

September 1, 2007

Traveling with Little Ones - An Introduction

An Introduction - Traveling with Little Ones - Our WDW trip 2007

It's "Little Ones Travel Time" at Walt Disney World so eleven of us are heading down to the World to introduce our little ones to the Magic. I'm Laura and my husband Steve and our two sons (ages 2 and 4) are making the trip with our friends Dawn and Joe and their son (age 1) and daughter (age 4) and our friends Diane and Ed and their son (7 months old).

Steve and I along with the other adults in our group are all Disney veterans, having been to Walt Disney World several times as well as Disneyland and Disneyland Paris. We're all close friends (plus Steve and Diane are bro and sis) and have traveled together in the past so it only made sense that once we had children, a group trip to Walt Disney World was in our future.

We began planning our trip in February - early enough to take advantage of good airline prices from the Northeast. As a true believer that planning the trip is half the fun, I promptly purchased the latest Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and Birnbaum's WDW for Kids by Kids for my DS(4). Even though he cannot read yet, he loves to look at the pictures and hear me tell him about all the things we are going to see.

We also went onto the official Disney planning website and ordered the free maps. (see pic) What excitement when we received them in the mail! They are beautifully done (they look like treasure maps) and we pour over them and point to all of our favorite attractions and things that we think would be of interest to our boys.

Disney Map


Basically my little guy is interested in anything that he is tall enough to ride that goes "superfast". During the last several months we have been introducing as many Disney movies as we can so that all the characters/attractions will be familiar and of interest to them. We also purchased matching shirts for all in our group from the Disney Store this summer so we can be "goofy" and wear them on the same day. Lastly we hung a calendar for our DS(4)s' bedroom and the countdown began. Now with only a few days left before our flight, the excitement has reached new heights.

I'll be blogging here throughout our trip mainly with information about how our traveling with such little ones is going. We have read many of the posted suggestions on this site and others, now it's time to put them to the test. We will no doubt have to adapt our plans to accommodate everyone's needs, so I hope to share what we've learned from our experience.

We have plans for a few special meals together - breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table (MK), lunch with the Little Einsteins at Hollywood & Vine (Studios), the Hoop De Doo Revue, & breakfast at Chef Mickeys at the Contemporary Resort, but are leaving a lot of room for spontaneity.

Some think that traveling with babies and toddlers to WDW is exhausting and a waste because they are not likely to remember it. We, however, think it's perfect. It's a place we all know well - it's comfortable. We know how to navigate and get around and get what we need. We've seen 95% of what's there so we don't have the "have to see it all" mentality. We're happy to watch the crowds go by as we talk and play and do everything or nothing together. That's the real point of our trip. Enjoying watching our children experience something special together will be in our memories for a very long time and what better time to do that than during The Year of a Million Dreams.

Check back to see how our first day went - see you real soon!

Laura Fox

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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in the Traveling with Kids category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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