Top 5 Tips for a Disneyland Trip with Young Kids

Top 5 Tips for a Disneyland Trip with Young Kids

Top 5 Tips for a Disneyland Trip with Young Kids

 

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Considering a trip to Disneyland but wondering how to make it easier with young kids in tow?  Read on for 5 tips for a better Disneyland vacation!

  1. A stroller works wonders. Maybe your 3 year old doesn’t use a stroller anymore at home, but Disneyland is a whole different animal.  For one, it’s big and there’s a LOT of walking.  Even grown up feet get tired!  Add to that the heat (if traveling during a warm time of year) and all the excitement and little ones wear out easily.   To be honest, even a  4 year old can use a ride now and then, and it sure saves your back when you don’t have to piggy back them when they get too tired!
  2. Proximity: There are about a zillion hotels in the area, but that doesn’t mean they are all created equal. When traveling with young kids, the closer you are, the better!  Spending 20 minutes walking each way or trying to catch the ART shuttle that wanders all over town making multiple stops can be a real pain.  Save your sanity and stay really close to the parks.  Plus, it really helps with number 3…
  3. Take a break! Yes, you paid good money for those park tickets, but with a good plan you can get to everything you want to while still having time for a mid-day break.  There are several reasons for this, including that the parks are busiest in the afternoon and that children are much more likely to make it happily into the evening (and to fireworks) if they’ve had a chance to rest and rejuvenate mid day.  Kick up your feet, cool down, take a dip in the pool, then head back later in the afternoon or evening!
  4. Take advantage of Extra Magic Hours. If you stay at a Disney hotel, you get to enter one of the parks an hour early each day.  If your kids are early risers anyway, as many young kids are, this makes it even easier to take advantage of this perk.  Getting into the parks a full hour before all the offsite guests gives you a head start on the rides, meaning less lines for you!
  5. Have a plan. There are times when vacations can be completely go with the flow, with no plan in hand.  This is not one of them, unless you find waiting in long lines and finding restaurants full to be your ideal experience while on vacation.  A good plan, with dining reservations and a strategy for avoiding long lines can make a huge difference in your Disneyland experience.  Escape the whining children in hour long lines and see how freeing it can be to bounce from ride to ride with joy, waiting 15 minutes or less as you go!  And that, of course, is what The Enchanted Traveler does for our clients: completely customized, personalized vacation plans that take all of the above and so much more into account when planning your Disneyland vacation: from the very start where we help you decide where to stay, to your custom travel guide in your hands as you arrive at the parks!

 

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5 Reasons a Disney Cruise is Perfect for a Multi-Family Trip

5 Reasons a Disney Cruise is Perfect for a Multi-Family Trip

5 Reasons a Disney Cruise is Perfect for a Multi-Family Trip or Reunion

So you want to travel with your kids, your parents, your siblings and their kids. That’s a lot of people to keep happy! What’s an easy way to be able to spend time together but still indulge different interest? A Disney Cruise! Here are five reasons why this just might be the perfect choice for your multi-generational family vacation:

1. Unpack once but visit multiple destinations

Perhaps your sister has always wanted to see several Caribbean islands, but your mom is happy to just be on a beach and by the pool. You can get the best of both worlds when you are on a cruise. One stateroom, multiple destinations (usually each with a beach for Mom, too).

2. Adult time vs Kid time

Got kids? The youngest tots can play in the nursery, while the 3 – 12 year olds have a blast in the Oceaneer’s Club or Oceaneer’s Lab. Got pre-teens or teens? They each have their own clubs in Edge and Vibe. And for the adults? Have a romantic date night at Palo. Reserve an adult group brunch. Half of you can venture to the spa, the other half can go hang out at the bars for a bit. Or unwind at the adult’s only pool with a drink!

3. Quality family time

Just as there are many options for time apart from each other, there are lots of opportunities to come back together. Meet up for breakfast and plan for some time in the family pool. Go play Bingo together or hit up a family game show. See the Broadway character shows together or see the first run Disney movie in the on board theater.  The all ages options just go on and on – you’ll never be lacking for family activities!

4. Food for every palate

Elaborate seafood dishes? Check. Steak every night? You can do that. Mac and cheese for the little ones? Of course. Would you like a gourmet sit-down breakfast? They’ve got that. Is your family a big fan of buffets? Huge breakfast buffet, coming right up! Or wait, maybe you’d rather sleep in a little and have room service… yup, that’s included, too.

5. Every comfort level is matched

If Grandma and Grandpa prefer to get up early, enjoy their coffee on their stateroom verandah overlooking the wide open sea, they can. And if your sister wants to get her run in before breakfast? The jogging track is waiting for her. If your teenage nephew thinks characters are lame, he can go hang with other teens in the teen approved Vibe lounge, with video games, a smoothie bar, etc. If your brother and his kids want to camp by the pool all day, they’re more than welcome. And if your kids want to meet princesses and characters every single day, they can do that, too.

If you think a Disney Cruise sounds right for you multi-family vacation, planning early is key. The best pricing for Disney Cruises usually happens very early on, right when rates are released. As dates get closer, prices tend to continue rising. And, of course, sailings do sell out. You can book neighboring rooms, as well as connecting rooms, as long as they are available – another reason to book early.

There’s a little extra planning involved when you are dealing with more than one family, but if you’d like to save time and avoid the headaches, I recommend working with a travel consultant (that’s us!) that specializes in Disney Cruise Line.

Why? We’ll make sure everyone has all aspects of their travel plans covered – from where to stay before the cruise to finding your best transportation options, making sure everyone can make payments on their own schedule, handling the check in process for each family, selecting the best staterooms for each family, matching up the reserved dining times, arranging for group or individual shore excursions and reserving all of your preferred on board activities!  Plus, we’ve got all the tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your Disney Cruise vacation.

Getting away with extended family can bring treasured memories that last a lifetime, and a Disney Cruise just may be calling your name! From Alaska to the Caribbean to the Mediterranean and more, there’s a perfect cruise just waiting for you and your family.  And we’re ready to help you find it and plan it!

Contact us for your free consultation!

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    Do we need a stroller for Disney World?

    Do we need a stroller for Disney World?

    Do we need a stroller for Disney World?

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    Sometimes you just need a nap in a stroller…

    A 6 year old in a stroller – is that a crazy idea to you? If I told you that it’s a common image at Walt Disney World, you might think people are nuts. But it’s true! And guess what… I tell all of my clients with kids ages 6 and younger that they may want to consider a stroller for their Disney World vacation.

    First of all, let’s start with how much walking happens. An average family will log 7 miles per day on their days in the parks. That’s a LOT of walking, not just for kids, but for adults. Plenty of adults remark that their feet hurt at the end of the day, or that they are definitely tired by the end of the night. Can you imagine a small child trying to keep up with all of that? And that’s just ONE day. Going for 5 days to the parks? Day 2 will be harder than Day 1 and so forth!

    The stroller topic is often controversial among Disney goers, but my point of view is this: You are investing a lot of money in this vacation, and it should be fun, un-stressful and full of magic. Nothing is less magical than your child whining or crying about being too tired to keep going, or not wanting to go to the next ride because it’s too hot for them to keep walking. Maybe your child is not going to have that problem, but I say you know your child best. And your Disney World trip is not the place to start enforcing “big kid” walking if they aren’t great at walking long distances at home (or worse, if you’ve never attempted seeing how they’ll do with very long walks at home). Keep in mind that the weather may be a big change from where you live (high humidity) which can make it feel even harder for your child.

    A stroller can be brought from home, but it’s even easier to rent a stroller from an outside company that will drop it off at your resort. Many times, I have families with two young children traveling, and I’ll reserve a double jogging stroller for them. These might be 5 and 2 year olds or 6 and 4 year olds, and at home the family may just have a single stroller. Having a double jogging stroller (and a very nice model that drives easily and collapses quickly) is a better option than the stroller they own, so I’m able to make that reservation for them, and it’s ready to go when they get there.

    Why rent a stroller offsite rather than in the parks? Two reasons. 1) The in park strollers are hard plastic and not at all comfortable. They don’t recline, so it’s hard to have young ones take a little nap if they need to, or fall asleep at the end of the night. 2) They have to stay in the park and they have to be re-rented each morning, which means delaying the time before you can go to the first rides. By having an offsite rental, you get a comfortable, high quality stroller than you can take with you on the bus, monorail or boat. You can use it in Downtown Disney, and you can take it with you to SeaWorld or Universal Studios. Riding the monorail back from Epcot and your children fell asleep? No problem, just roll them on and they can keep sleeping until you get back to your room.

    Extra perk? The storage area. Don’t want to haul your bag or backpack around on your back and get all sweaty? Pop it under the stroller. Want a nice place to store your drink? Cup holders on the top. Quite convenient, if you ask me.

    So does every family have to rent a stroller to be happy? Of course not. But if your hesitation is simply that at home your child is “too old” for a stroller or that you think it will look funny, I’d advise to really think it over. In the parks, your child will not be out of the norm to hitch a ride in the stroller, and no one really pays attention to it. I say, do what will make your vacation the best experience possible for everyone involved. If your kids are walking pros and have experience walking for miles, days in a row, by all means, go stroller free. But if your kids have never attempted long hikes or haven’t tried it in high heat or humidity, consider the stroller. It goes a long way to creating a peaceful experience and avoiding many days of hearing, “Moooooooooooom, my feet hurt, I don’t WANT to walk anymore” and “Pleaaaaaaase can you carry me?” and “Let’s go back to the hotel, I’m too tired.”

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    Meeting Anna and Elsa: Don’t let it make or break your trip!

    Meeting Anna and Elsa: Don’t let it make or break your trip!

    Meeting Anna and Elsa: Don’t let it make or break your trip!

    Meet Anna and Elsa

    Standby wait time in May! Photo by HarshLight via Flickr

     

    Anna and Elsa, the most coveted princesses of the moment. Your daughter has watched this movie so many times you’ve lost count. You’ve sung the songs with her a zillion times. And now you’re planning an awesome trip to Disney World and you just KNOW that your daughter MUST meet Anna and Elsa or the whole thing is ruined!!

     

    Right?

    Meeting Anna and Elsa isn’t imperative

    Maybe not. I know, this is probably a very controversial viewpoint that I’m writing here. It’s like blasphemy to say that meeting Anna and Elsa isn’t imperative. I mean, have you seen the videos of earlier this year with hoards of people running to meet them at the moment the parks opened? And then, even with all that rush, waiting in line for five hours? FIVE hours??

    What’s the secret?

    Ok, so let me tell you a little secret. I was just in Disney World in May. I have a 5 year old daughter who loves Frozen. She looooooves Elsa. She (like your daughter) has seen the movies a bazillion times and sings the songs and all that lovely stuff. And guess what? I love the movie (and Elsa), too. As I watched this ridiculousness unfold in the parks while I was planning our trip, at first I was panicked. Oh NO, this can’t be! My daughter has to meet Elsa. This is her THING, she will want this so badly! How can I make this work?

    But the reality was, standing in line for 5 hours (or even two, or one) is not something my daughter would do well. Not even for Elsa. And the more I thought about it, the more I thought this just didn’t make any sense in our plans. But I was afraid my daughter would be heartbroken by this. So I approached her gently, and told her how long we would have to wait…how Daddy and brother would have to split off and go ride the rides while we waited if she really wanted to see Elsa. And do you know what she said? “Oh….well…that’s ok, Mommy, if we can meet Marie instead!” Um, yes child, that’s a deal! (By the way, if you don’t know who Marie is, she is the little girl cat from The Aristocats…. A character with virtually no lines!)

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    FastPass+ May Not Be The Answer

    Ok, but now you may be thinking: “That’s all well and fine but now they have a FastPass+ for Anna and Elsa! No more waiting! We’ll just do that!” Friends, I have some news – it’s not quite that easy. Here’s the thing: There are very few FastPass+ in any given hour of the day. This means that even if you log on EXACTLY at midnight, 60 days before your arrival date (if you are staying on property), that you may find that all of the FastPass+ options for Anna and Elsa are already gone. How can that be? Well, all of those people arriving just days before you can book all of their FastPass+ options before you can – for their whole vacation. That means if someone is checking in 3 days before you but staying just as long as you are, they (and all of the others like them) can take up the Anna and Elsa FastPass+ reservations before you ever get the chance to log on.

    And if you do get one? Current reports are that even with the FastPass+ reserved, waits are 45 -60 minutes. Up to an HOUR even with FastPass+. Now while that may very well be worth it to you, it may still be hard for a small child to wait that long.  Disney has tried several variations on how this all works (including same day Fast Passes, no standby line allowed at all, etc), so I can’t say exactly how it might work by the time you are reading this.  This is just what I know up until this current moment.

    Disney has so much too offer! Go see it

    The other day, a colleague mentioned that a mom was having a hard time at Disney World because her daughter was not interested in the parts that the mom thought were important. This is a good reminder that sometimes we moms get so caught up in the “my child must do this because all children want to do this and I am a great mom for providing that opportunity for my child so she can do this coveted thing everyone wants” trap. I’ve been there, too.  All I’m saying is…don’t let meeting or not meeting Anna and Elsa make or break your amazing Disney vacation! There are so, so many wonderful things to see and do at Disney World and this is but one tiny option. Anna and Elsa can be seen elsewhere in the parks, outside of a meet and greet, and don’t forget all of the other wonderful princesses and characters that can be met (and rides and shows and parades and treats and fireworks and the list goes on)! Call me crazy, but I just think Disney World has so much more to offer than these two princesses (even though I do love them so).  If you can meet them, fantastic!  And if not – rejoice in all the rest of the magic that Disney World has to offer!

     

     

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    A Disney Expert: What does it take?

    A Disney Expert: What does it take?

    A Disney Expert: What does it take?

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    Graduation at the Disneyland Agent Education Program

    When you’re looking for help with planning your Disney vacation, a Disney expert is what you need.  But what is a Disney expert?  What does it take to be one?

     

    A Disney expert is a travel consultant (also known as a travel agent) who specializes in planning Disney vacations.  Why is this so important?  Well, because Disney is a world of it’s own!  It’s huge and fairly complicated and ever changing.  Here’s the thing: not every travel agent is a Disney expert – not even close!  If what you are seeking is a full service experience with every aspect of your Disney vacation handled for you, the very first thing you need to do is to be sure that you are working with a Disney expert, and not someone who “sometimes books Disney.”

    So what does it take to be a Disney expert?  Constant work and study!  Here are just some of the ways that I maintain an expert status:

    • Maintaining my College of Disney Knowledge certificate and education – a program run by Disney that is an in depth educational component
    • Daily research on the Disney destinations, including news sources, insider tips, blogs, etc.
    • Traveling multiple times a year to Disney Destinations to experience the destinations in depth, test out restaurants and shows, visit the different resort properties and more
    • Constantly keeping up to date with new attractions and shows or attractions under refurbishment to keep all touring strategies that are provided in my custom touring plans up to date and efficient
    • Attending events that I am invited to by Disney, such as the Adventures by Disney showcase I just attended last week
    • In depth study at Onsite Agent Education Programs hosted by Disney in the destinations.  These programs are super intensive with tons of hotel inspections including different room categories, seminar training, in park touring, sampling dining and more!

     

    It’s this level of knowledge that you want your travel consultant to have when planning your vacation.  The best way to ensure that your experience is easy, stress free, magical and that you don’t have to overwhelmed with figuring out all of the details is to work with a Disney expert from the start!
    See ALL of the services offered!

    Alaska Adventure with the Disney Cruise Line: Day 4 – Skagway

    Alaska Adventure with the Disney Cruise Line: Day 4 – Skagway

    Alaska Adventure with the Disney Cruise Line: Day 4 – Skagway

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    A Hard Start

    This morning started off with a little guy with a cold and a mom with a migraine. Tough luck, but it happens sometimes. Making the best of it, we ordered room service for breakfast instead of heading up to the buffet and enjoyed some morning cartoons on the Disney Channel. We were happy once again with our various pastries and, of course, Fruit Loops again for the kids. 🙂  We relaxed a bit in the room, then had a somewhat early lunch before heading off ship and into Skagway.

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    Skagway: Book An Excursion

    Now, Skagway is a tiny town. Because this was a very last minute cruise for us, I hadn’t booked any shore excursions ahead of time.  Take it from me: for Skagway, book an excursion.We walked the downtown area in about 20 minutes and were done! We did happen upon a cool little playground, so the kids played for about half an hour before we headed back to the ship.

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    While this port had the longest time allotted, we did the least here.  However, we did stop by the historic Gold Rush building run by the national parks system. The kids participated in 6  activities and then were awarded their very own Junior Ranger badges. They had fun with that!

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    Coffee Onboard

    Once back on board, we grabbed some hot chocolate (and I grabbed some coffee) and then I ducked into the Cove Cafe (for adults only) and took some of the free treats they have on offer. Yummmm. You don’t have to buy your coffee there to be allowed to take the treats, either, so don’t feel bad about grabbing a few! I did buy a coffee here once or twice. It was fine…better than the regular coffee…but still not great. Honestly, coffee lovers, the cruise coffee will not live up to your standards. Best trick I can offer: when you go to the self-service drink kiosk, fill about 1/3 of your cup with hot chocolate, splash some half and half in, and the rest of it with coffee. It tastes somewhat like a mocha and hides some of the not so tasty coffee flavor. Some people are fine with the coffee, but I really didn’t like it!

    Swimming, My Kids Will Do It In Any Weather!

    At this point, the kids wanted to swim. Swim?!?! It was cold and cloudy, but the pool seems to call out to children. There were quite a few other kids in the pools, so I gave in and let them go. They tried Goofy’s pool this time, the family pool. They said it was warm, like a bath. They also tried out the hot tubs. Meanwhile, I wrapped myself in one of the blankets they offer on deck and read my book.  Comfy!
    Once we were all back and showered and dressed, Sierra went to the kids club while Aspen watched some TV.  Look who we ran into on the way!

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    Dinner Time

    Soon enough it was time for dinner – and this was the dinner I was most looking forward to: Animator’s Palate! I’d heard many great thing about this place, and it lived up to its reputation. It is so well done, all in black and white when you first enter, but with the drawings coming into full color over the course of your meal.  Even the server’s outfits start black and white and later change!  And at the end, there is a little show and parade – fantastic! This was absolutely my favorite dining experience of the trip.

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    After that, we were all super tired, so we headed up to the room and went to sleep, knowing we’d be docked in Juneau when we woke up.

     

     

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    Alaska Adventure with the Disney Cruise Line: Day 3 – Tracy Arm

    Alaska Adventure with the Disney Cruise Line: Day 3 – Tracy Arm

    Alaska Adventure with the Disney Cruise Line: Day 3 – Tracy Arm

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    Day 3 Morning

    This morning started off with a trip to Beach Blanket Buffet for breakfast.  Breakfast buffets are always a big hit with my kids.  It was a typical Disney breakfast buffet: fruits, eggs, bacon, sausage, Mickey waffles, french toast, pastries and donuts, cereals and yogurt, etc.  We chose outside seating (we had wisely worn our jackets for breakfast) and enjoyed the view, as we were once again close to land.

    After breakfast, the kids once again dashed off to the kids club.  I told them I’d pick them up for lunch and then we’d spend some time enjoying the view as we approached Tracy Arm.  I mostly enjoyed the view of the jagged hills and mountains and started noticing the occasional small chunk of ice floating by.  I decided to check out the Cove Cafe.  It’s a cute little coffee shop in the adults only area, and since my kids were occupied, I grabbed a book and headed up to find a treat.  The space is lovely with comfortable seating and free treats all day.  The coffee is NOT free here, but all those little goodies are.  Yum!!

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    Lunch Time!

    At noon, I grabbed them for lunch and we headed for Deck 9 to grab various fast food items.  Look who we ran into on the way!!  This was my daughter’s favorite character meet by far this trip – she even bought the stuffed toy version of this Minnie!

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    There are three fast food choices on deck: Pluto’s Dog House (burgers, chicken strips, etc), Pinocchio’s Pizzeria, and  Goofy’s Galley.  I love that Goofy’s Galley offers quick food that is not just “junk” for when you want something a bit healthier!  I snapped a few photos of the offerings here.  We sometimes would stop by here just for some fruit!

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    As we sat down to eat, we (and everyone else on deck) suddenly spotted a huge chunk of ice floating by the ship!  There was a collective gasp as everyone marveled over the size.

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    We quickly finished up lunch, then went back to the room and sat out on our balcony to watch the ice float by.  At one point, my daughter excitedly pointed downward and exclaimed, “Mommy LOOK!  Seals!”  Sure enough we saw a pair of seals swimming near the boat.  After that, we started seeing more seals on the ice bergs.  We especially loved seeing a mom and baby together.

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    That’s a seal!

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    As we got closer to the glacier, there was more and more ice!

    The Sawyer Glacier

    My son wanted to go to the “Base Camp” offered for kids on Deck 10 today.  They had sports activities going on for the kids to check into, and they could also see the approaching Sawyer Glacier from there.  My daughter and I took a spot up on that deck to watch as we began to approach.  The floating ice became denser, all around us, with many seals out on top of the ice.  The Sawyer Glacier came into full view and was truly a sight to behold.  Huge, and blue and icy!  Once we’d gone as far as we could safely go, the ship stopped.  It then slowly turned around the rest of the room.

    At one point, it had turned so that our stateroom verandah had a direct, clear view of the glacier.  So cool!  Eventually, it finished making it’s turn and we headed back down Tracy Arm.  There were some gorgeous waterfalls along the way, but we didn’t end up seeing any whales – something I know many people were hoping for.

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    Another giant iceberg.

    The kids then both wanted to go back to the kids clubs, where they then stayed until it was dinner time.  Me?  I got a chance to read more of my book.  So nice to have uninterrupted reading time!

    Friendship Tea

    This afternoon was the Friendship Tea that I got free tickets to on the first day.  It was short and sweet, with apple juice and cookies, 2 princesses and some dancing. My daughter enjoyed it – my son, meh, he liked the cookie and that’s about it, haha!

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    Dinner Time

    We had gone back an hour in this time zone, so the late seating seemed even later today.  My son was tired and not feeling well, so I ended up letting him go back to the room on his own to wait for us, so that my daughter could still enjoy the meal.  We were at Triton’s again tonight, but with a different menu.  I had a Duck Confit appetizer, Leek and Potato Soup, and Crispy Duck, followed by a Grand Marnier Souffle for dessert.  Sierra chose Mac and Cheese again, but decided to have a dessert off of the adult menu: Strawberry Shortcake Sundae.  She was very pleased with her choice.

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    We were all so tired when we got back to the room that we just crashed and were out for the night!  I knew that when we woke up we’d be at our first port, something we were very excited about.

     

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    Alaska Adventure with the Disney Cruise Line: Day 2

    Alaska Adventure with the Disney Cruise Line: Day 2

    Alaska Adventure with the Disney Cruise Line: Day 2 – At Sea

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    Starting Day Two of our Disney Cruise Line Alaska Journey

    We woke up this morning and rather than getting all dressed and ready for our day before heading up to a buffet breakfast, we opted to order room service.  Room service is included in the cruise price, although gratuities for room service are not.  We ordered some cereal and milk, breakfast pastries, a bagel and cream cheese (for me!) hot cocoa and coffee.  It came quickly, which was great!  You can also order your room service in advance to be delivered at a specific time by hanging the room service card on your door the night before.

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    After that, we lounged in the room a bit, looking out at the vast sea and getting used to the motion of the open waters.  Soon, though, we decided it was time to do a bit of exploring.  First up, we had to check out the view from Deck 9:

    Sunny, but a little cold!

    Sunny, but a little cold!

    Adult Club Area

    Then we headed to the adults only club area, which is open to all ages earlier in the day.  We had fun checking out those spaces, especially the theming of Route 66.

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    Inside Wave Bands

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    Cadillac Lounge

    And, of course, I had to get some pictures of the gorgeous atrium area.

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    Then the kids couldn’t stand to wait any longer, so I checked them into the kids club.  I came back to the room and spent some time enjoying the view and writing for this blog.  When it was time for lunch, I picked the kids up and we headed for the buffet.  It turns out that the lunch buffet doesn’t have much on the menu that my kids can appreciate.  I was slightly surprised to see that they don’t have any real kids offerings, unlike the other restaurants.  So we took a few things and found a spot outside to eat.

    Then I sent Aspen off to Pluto’s Dog  House to grab some chicken strips and fries to bring back to our table.  At age 8, the kids can have check in and check out privileges on the ship.  This means, basically, that if you want them to be allowed to do this, they can wander the ship as they please.  While I opted not to allow that at the beginning of  this trip, I did  feel comfortable with allowing him to leave my sight to go fetch something.

    Traveling without my husband, I also sometimes left the two kids sitting a table so I could go grab something for myself.  In other places, this would make me pretty nervous, but this cruise made it much easier to do so when I needed to.

    Post Lunch

    After lunch, the kids were eager to get right back to the kid’s clubs.  I checked them in, then headed back to the room for a nap.  What??  It’s vacation and the boat rocks you to sleep!  Also, I should note, the beds are sooooo comfortable – and I am super picky about beds on vacation!

    Waking up refreshed, I knew that there was a Ratatoullie’s Cooking School activity happening in the Oceaneer’s Lab, so I checked in with Aspen to see if he wanted to move to the lab to do that.  Lo and behold, he’d already asked to be transferred there by the child care staff, so there he was, waiting to bake cookies.  Easy!  Sierra, however, was ready to go, and wanted a snack.  So she and I headed up to Pluto’s Dog House and grabbed some chicken strips and a drink and took it back to our room.  We watched Toy Story and snacked and watched the ocean and islands roll by.

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    Passing through an inlet

    Love the tiny islands!

    Love the tiny islands!

    The Evening

    Around 5pm, I got both kids and got them dolled up for formal night.  We then headed to Deck 4, midship, where I knew formal Mickey and Minnie were doing photos.  We got our photos and by then the Golden Mickey’s had already started, and neither child seemed particularly interested in seeing it, so we skipped the show.  Note to self: Do not skip shows on the next cruise – everyone raved about how great they were!  In any case, there was no shortage of characters out and about!

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    Red carpet for the Golden Mickey's, leading up to the Walt Disney Theater.

    Red carpet for the Golden Mickey’s, leading up to the Walt Disney Theater.

     

    The late dining seating proved a little hard for us.  The kids were very very antsy today for dinner to start.  It seemed like forever until it was dinner time!  I’d probably choose the earlier dining time next time.  However, there is a great program that you can sign your kids up for, if you want some couple time:  If you choose late dining, you can sign up to have the Youth Counselors come to get your kids 45 minutes after the meal starts.  This way, they go have fun while you finish your courses in peace!

    Dinner Time!

    We ate at Triton’s tonight, which had the Golden Mickey’s menu.  I chose the Crispy Ravioli for my appetizer (so good!) and the duck for my main course.  I keep forgetting that I like my duck the way my mom makes it, and not so much in a lot of restaurant ways.  It was, I’m sure, a great dish for most, though.  For dessert I ordered the Crepe Suzette – very tasty.  Both kids, of course, had to have Mickey Bars again for dessert.  I wonder if they’ll ever get tired of them!

    Mural in Triton's

    Crispy Ravioli

    It appears I forgot to take a picture BEFORE I started eating....oops!

    It appears I forgot to take a picture BEFORE I started eating….oops!

    My dessert. Yum!

    My dessert. Yum!

     

    Kids fish nuggets

    Kids fish nuggets

    And, of course, the Mickey Bar

    And, of course, the Mickey Bar

     

    We rushed through dinner a little because the kids really wanted to go to Pluto’s Pajama Party tonight.  As soon as we finished, I took them back to the room and changed them into pajamas.

    Ready for a pajama party with Pluto!

    Then I dropped them at the kids club at 9:30pm.  Do you see how light it is?  Yes, this is the light level at 9:15pm.  The further north we went, the longer it was light – to the point that at one time, the sun was up til 11pm and rose at 3:45am!!

    I let them stay an hour and then picked them back up.  One cool thing: when you go to get your kids, the staff at the desk tells you exactly where to find them.  “Sierra is on the left side of the play area.  Aspen is in the Captain’s nook.”  I was like…what?…how do you know that?  Turns out that the bracelets each kids wears tells the computer their location at all times.  So clever!  Anyway, the kids were reluctant to leave, and I could tell they had a blast.  Sierra kept excitedly telling me that Pluto had an accident on the floor.  I thought she was making this up, but she INSISTS Pluto pooped pretend poop on the floor because he couldn’t find the potty.  I am sure this was the highlight of many a kid’s night, haha!

    All in all, another good day.  Tomorrow we finally arrive in Tracy Arm – can’t wait to see the scenery!

     

     

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    Alaska Adventure with the Disney Cruise Line: Day 1

    Alaska Adventure with the Disney Cruise Line: Day 1

    Alaska Adventure with the Disney Cruise Line: Day 1

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    I just returned last week from an awesome experience on the Disney Cruise Line sailing to Alaska! I thought I’d share our experience here, to give you a better understanding of the Disney cruise experience and hopefully help those who are a little unsure if a cruise is right for them decide if they’d like to make the leap and try it. I promise, you’ll love it!   As this was a business trip for myself (being a specialist in planning Disney vacations, it’s my jobs to stay up on all the best Disney has to offer to better help my clients), it was put together fairly last minute – just 3 weeks before sailing.  For that reason, I didn’t have big shore excursions planned, but we did explore the Alaska ports and had a great time visiting Alaska!  I’ll break this down by day, one post at a time, so please check back to see the whole trip.

     

    Disney Wonder: Day 1

    We spent the night at the Westin Bayshore, near the port, which was comfortable and suited our needs just fine for a brief one night stay. The Starbucks downstairs made for an easy, economical breakfast choice, and then we decided to kill some time by walking right out of the lobby and onto a path by the marina to see some boats. As we rounded the corner, we saw the Wonder in the distance. The kids were so excited! I have to say, seeing it in person for the first time IS very exciting. As my kids yelled out about going on that boat, a couple standing near by told us they just got off the same ship that morning and that it was the best trip ever.

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    Checking In with Disney Cruise Line

    At noon, we checked out and grabbed a taxi to Canada Place. As we got out of the taxi, our luggage was taken from us to be checked, leaving us just our carry-ons to get into the boarding line with. Ok, so it turns out this line is huge. And long. I’d done a lot of homework about this Disney Cruise, but I was not prepared for how long the check-in process takes.

    I’m not sure that it takes as long in Port Canaveral, or if it does, I haven’t really heard about it. But in this case, we stood in one huge, snaking line to have our luggage scanned. Then in another line to wait for chairs in the waiting area for the US Border Control. Then we got up when it was our row’s turn and stood in line for the Border Patrol to show our passports.

    Then we moved to another room where we did the actual Disney Cruise Line check in. They checked our passports and took our photo, then handed us our Key to the World cards. And finally, after that, it was time to board!

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    As you enter the ship, crew members ask your last name. Then, they announce each family to the ship: “Please welcome to the Wonder: The Tinius family!” and then everyone claps and cheers. It’s a great way to celebrate boarding such a pretty ship.

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    At this point, it was a little later than I had planned on. I needed to stop by Guest Services to ask for tickets to the tea party and to drop off the pillowcases we wanted autographed. We were able to get those tea party tickets, which was great (they’re free!) and our pillowcases went off to get signed.

    Our Room

    Our room was ready already, so we headed there to drop off our carry-ons and check it out. The room is nice, with plenty of space for our family, although smaller than what we are used to in a hotel. The verandah is fabulous, though. I can’t really imagine cruising in a lower category room after this! I loved having a full view of the outside the whole time, plus being able to step out for fresh air or relax in the chairs.

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    One thing I love about the Disney Cruise ships is that the rooms have split bathrooms like this.  One bathroom has the shower and a sink.  The other bathroom has a toilet and a sink.  This makes SO much sense for families trying to get ready!

    Beach Blanket Buffet

    After we dropped off our stuff, we headed straight up to the Beach Blanket Buffet to grab some lunch. There were some salads and rolls, pasta and fried rice, fruits and vegetables and, of course, desserts. We sat outside because it happened to be a gorgeously sunny day in Vancouver. The kids rushed through the lunch because they desperately wanted to swim before we set sail. This being an Alaska cruise, I had already told them it may be too cold on other days to use the pool, so this swimming time was goal number 1 for today.

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    And yes…my daughter has lunch of olives, cheese and bread.  Sometimes that’s how buffets go with a 5 year old!
    The pool, it turns out, is nice and warm (it steams on cold days!) and they had a blast playing around in the Mickey Pool. The slide, of course, is a big favorite. On a tropical sailing, I imagine the line for the slide gets very long. It was already half way down the stairs today, and this was not even a hot day.

    Disney Wonder Mickey Pool

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    The kids finished swimming (or rather, I asked them to be finished) and I got them showered off and dressed. At 4pm, we did the required safety drill, and then we went straight up from there to deck 9 for the sail away party. Because we went straight there, the kids got to be front and center for the show, putting them right in front of the characters. They loved it!  I definitely recommend heading straight to the party area after the safety drill if you want a great view.  Or, if you can’t do that, head up one deck higher and grab a view overlooking the party. And then… we were off and sailing!

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    Kids Club

    Right after that, the kids demanded we go check out the kids clubs. We wandered through during open house time, then I checked them in so they could play on their own for a bit.  My daughter declared the Oceaneer’s Club to be her preferred destination, primarily for the play structure, while my son declared the Oceaneer’s Lab to be his home base, primarily for the computers and science tables.  It turns out that over the course of the cruise, both kids generally liked the Club more than the Lab.  My daughter liked that it had a dress up chest of princess dresses, and my son liked the nook for playing the Wii with other boys.  However, both areas had some really great activity programming, so, for example, my son did love the Lab when making flubber or making pizzas, etc.

    Oceaneer's Lab

    Oceaneer’s Lab

    Oceaneer's Lab

    Oceaneer’s Lab

    Oceaneer's Club

    Oceaneer’s Club: Huge pirate play structure with slide

    Stage of the Oceaneer's Club

    Stage of the Oceaneer’s Club

    Dress up play area of the Oceaneer's Club

    Dress up play area of the Oceaneer’s Club

     

     

    We had late dining, so around 8pm I went and grabbed them and we headed to Parrot Cay for our first dinner.

    Parrot Cay

     

    At this point, the ship had a bit of roll going on, side to side, but not too bad. I had taken Bonine ahead of time, just in case. So far, so good, although the motion made me a bit nervous to eat too big of a dinner. In any case, this was the tropical menu tonight. I chose the Jamaican Chicken Tenderloins as an appetizer, a garden salad, the Jamaican roasted chicken and the Sticky Date Pudding Cake. These were all fine, although I can’t say I was totally wowed by any of them. It seems this tropical menu doesn’t’ tend to be a favorite among Disney Cruisers, so I wasn’t surprised. The kids chose Mac and Cheese and a Mini Hamburger, and Mickey Bars for dessert.

    Jamaican Chicken Tenders

    Jamaican Chicken Tenders

    Jamaican Roasted Chicken

    Jamaican Roasted Chicken

    Kid's Mac and Cheese

    Kid’s Mac and Cheese

    The infamous Mickey Bar

    The infamous Mickey Bar

     

    When we booked this cruise, I chose to request to be seated with another family vs requesting our own private table.  Traveling without my husband, I thought it might be nice to socialize with some other parents. 🙂  Disney does a good job of trying to match you with a family with children with ages near yours.  In our case, we were sat a table with a nice family of 3 from Orlando, with a boy the same age as my son who happened to love all of the same video games.  You can just imagine the liveliness at the table with these two boys bonding over everything!  It was a great experience for my son.

    Because it’s a late dinner seating, by the time we got back to the room, it was already 10pm. We got ready for bed, the kids watched a bit of TV and then they fell asleep very quickly. I, on the other hand, took a little while to get used to the creaking and rolling of the room. I did fall asleep after a little while and after that slept pretty well. It just takes a bit to get used to that feeling! My understanding is that this night and the following day have the most movement due to the ship being in unsheltered waters. Once it enters Tracy Arm, it’s generally a very smooth ride.

    Stay tuned for Part 2!

     

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    Staying at the Beach Club at Walt Disney World Resort

    Staying at the Beach Club at Walt Disney World Resort

    Staying at the Beach Club at Walt Disney World Resort

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    We recently returned from our latest visit to Disney World, and this time we chose to stay in a Lagoon/Pool View room at the Beach Club.  We’d visited the Boardwalk area before, of course, but we hadn’t stayed in a resort there. Upon arrival, the first thing I noticed was the fresh, clean scent of the lobby.  Each of the resorts has it’s own distinct fragrance in the lobbies, in case you didn’t know.   The lobby is very open, with seashore décor and it lets out on the opposite side onto a walkway that looks upon the lagoon. We were given our room number and directed to the elevators.  Up on the third floor, we followed signs to our room.  To be honest, it was a bit of a maze, as the resort is very long and the hallways wind around.  We went allllllll the way to the very end of the building and were so pleased to find that we had rooms at the very front of the resort directly overlooking the beach and lagoon, looking across at the Boardwalk.

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    View from Beach Club Disney World

    The rooms have a seaside feel to them, with accents of shells and ships, and in white and blues.

    beach club room

    On top of that, we had rooms directly next to the stairwell exit which lets you out on a small path that in about 10 feet connects to the 2 minute walkway to the International Gateway entrance for Epcot.  What does this mean?  It means that instead of trekking the hallways of the resort, we simply exit and walk two minutes to get into Epcot.  Very handy for evening dining or to pop in for a snack from the France Pavilion! We also preferred using this exit to walk to the pool, because the walk takes you right along the beach before curving back in to the pool area.  Entering this area, you are required to scan your Magic Bands to prove you are a resort guest.  This pool is fantastic and Disney wants to make sure they keep it from getting overcrowded with non-Beach or Yacht Club resorts guests. Speaking of the pool – it’s named Stormalong Bay and it’s pretty amazing.  First of all, it’s huge.   It’s got several different areas and it never felt crowded while we were there.  Second, it’s not just a pool – it’s also a lazy river, a sand bottomed play shallow area and has two waterslides, one big and fast and one small for little kids.

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    Pirate Themed Waterslide

    The pirate ship themed large waterslide is fast and fun with lots of twists and turns.  It was near impossible to get my son to leave this area when it was time to go back to the room!  My daughter, who is 5, was too afraid of the big slide, but luckily on the other side of the sidewalk from the pool, where the stairs are for the large waterslide, there is a small kiddie pool with a fun pint sized waterslide.  She spent her entire pool time here, up and down up and down, ever tiring of it!

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    Quick Service Locations

    There are two quick service locations that we used several times here.  Hurricane Hannah’s is poolside and kid’s meals ordered here come in sand pails!  The other is the Beach Club Marketplace, which is a combination of a gift shop and a food service area.  It has meal options but also sells small grocery type items, like cartons of milk, cereal boxes, juice, soda, lunchmeats and more.  It’s a good place to grab a few things to keep in the room.

    Kids' meals from Hurricane Hannah's at the Beach Club Resort

    Beaches And Cream At Disney  Beach Club

    It’s also home to Beaches and Cream, famous for their huge and delicious sundaes.  We didn’t manage to be brave enough for the Kitchen Sink sundae, but we did try a few others and they were fantastic. If you are so inclined, there is a table service meal located at Cape May Café, although we didn’t try it out this trip.  It’s a character breakfast option and then a Clam Bake for dinner. The resort is right next to it’s sister resort, the Yacht Club.  It’s also right across from the Boardwalk Inn, which means a quick walk over the bridge gives you access to several restaurants and shops along Disney’s Boardwalk.  The Boardwalk Bakery is a favorite for an afternoon treat, and they also serve breakfast and lunch items.

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    Ending The Day

    In the evening, you’ll find all sorts of street performer acts out on the Boardwalk, and it’s lit up beautifully. From the Beach Club, you can also see some of the Fantasmic! fireworks each night, as you can see the Hollywood Tower of Terror of Hollywood Studios from here.  We were able to see these from our room.  To the left of the resort, you can see some of the fireworks from Illuminations at Epcot, although the view is partially blocked.  Of course, it’s just a quick walk into Epcot from here, so if you are back at your resort before 9pm on any given day and have park hoppers, by all means just walk in and watch the full show! Overall, we really enjoyed this resort.

    The one downside is that the International Gateway is about as far away from Future World as possible, meaning you are a distinct disadvantage if you plan to head to Test Track or Soarin’ first thing in the morning.  I’d plan to either get Fast Pass+ reservations for both (on different days – they are both Tier 1 attractions and you can only get one on any particular day) or take a taxi to the front gates (just a few minute ride) to have the same advantage as the other guests lining up for rope drop, if you plan to ride one of them standby.     See ALL of the services offered!