Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Disney-ing: Part 2

Welcome back to this week's blog series:
The Wonderful World of Disney: (Way more than) The Barenecessities 
covering all the 'ings from our recent trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth
(If you missed it- you can catch up on Part 1 here) 

Reading: The Disney Junior Encyclopedia of Animated Characters. This was one of my absolute favorite things we got for our trip. I have such fond memories from my earlier trips to Disney of getting characters' autographs so I knew I wanted to get something for our kids to experience that. This book was the best! It has basically every Disney character ever, so our kids could read and learn about them before we even went. We had them share it (so we didn't have to have everyone sign three books!), and it's become an awesome memento of our trip. They love to show it off to people, and spend time reading through it and remembering all the characters they got to meet. (Next time I'd get some retractable sharpies to help make signing easier for the characters with bigger hands/gloves/paws). Some highlights: Tinkerbell has one of the fanciest signatures, Buzz Lightyear "signed" with a stamp (because he's "futuristic"...and also doesn't have much manual dexterity) and Cinderella's step-sisters' edits to our book made us all laugh.

Wanting: this travel journal to record our trip. We've done travel journals for the our last few beach trips, but I didn't really plan anything for this trip. I saw this one online a few days before we left, and fell in love, but I was traveling and swamped with work so I didn't follow through on it. I came home to find my mom had left us a surprise package with new luggage tags, printed activity sheets for the kids, and a brand new journal for me on top. I was so frazzled at that point I barely remembered telling her about the journal, so I genuinely thought she was a mind-reading miracle worker. (She pretty much is though). I didn't end up keeping up with it in real time, but I've caught up since we've been home and it's the perfect little record keeper from our trip. Piper had her own travel journal to do as "homework", so she spent a few minutes each day writing and drawing the highlights from her perspective. 

Wasting: time and money at fancy meals they probably didn't care much about. After much hemming, and much hawing, we decided to give the dining plan a try. We got an incredible deal on it, so it honestly was kind of silly to say no. This means we could have a quick service meal (fast casual) and a table service meal (sit-down) each day, plus two snacks per person. I was really torn on if we would like this, and if it was going to be worth it, and in the end it was a bit of a mixed bag. Pros: easy to budget (we knew what were were getting into, had already paid up front, and just had to add tips), it encouraged us to do things (fancy meals, extra treats...) we might have balked at if we were paying out of pocket (this is sort of a mind game, as you either pay for it early or pay for it later...it's not actually different, but already having it as a part of the plan shifted the mindset, so it seemed like "we might as well take advantage" and allowed us to say yes more without having to worry). Cons: having reservations reduced our ability to be flexible (I didn't love having a schedule to keep and somewhere we had to be), the sit-down meals tended to take a while (we'd rather be out and about doing things) and it was a LOT of food (that doesn't sound like a problem, but it was all just more than we needed, and resulted in a lot of wasted food if we got what was allotted, or wasted money by not "getting the most" out of our plan.) If we go back, I likely won't do the meal plan, but I wouldn't have changed it this time around. Character dining was such a highlight for our kids- and it was a huge win to meet them in that setting because it meant we didn't have to wait in lines for those same folks later. We started our trip at Chef Mickey- a big, hectic (and delicious! and expensive!) buffet, where we got to meet all the classics- Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald and Goofy. (I even got a little bit starstruck!) It was the best way to start the trip- magical from the jump! And while I cannot fathom how a plate of pasta could cost $62, that particular meal also came with five Princess meet and greets, and a promenade around the restaurant...so it kinda defies all traditional cost/value calculations.  

Eating: every snack Epcot had to offer. Or at least really trying! Remember all those snack credits we were trying to mow through? That's practically what the World Showcase was made for. All of the countries have delicious food options, and we went during the "International Festival of the Arts" which meant there we even more little booths with specialty delicacies. For dinner that day we just strolled around and ate and ate and ate with no regard. If I was a little iffy about Epcot early in the day, it was totally redeemed by a bread bowl of brie soup (a BREAD BOWL of BRIE SOUP. I literally still dream of this meal).

Waiting: in really short lines. Thank you FastPass+! (and January! And rain!January is one of the least crowded time periods at the parks (which is relative, for sure, as Disney is never really not crowded) and the days we went were really light. Between Fastpasses, and some strategic planning (hustling my kids all over the place to be in the right spot at the right time) we didn't wait more than about 20 minutes for anything. This was a dream come true (as the only people more impatient than me, are the small humans I created) but also probably set us up for very unrealistic expectations for the future- we were spoiled! I was lucky that we didn't really have many must do's on our list, and most of the things we did feel passionate about, we were able to score Fastpasses for in advance. If  something did have a posted wait time of longer than about 25 minutes we just skipped it...that means we missed out on a few things, but I honestly just can't imagine spending hours in line- no matter how great the payoff. Working in our favor is that our kids really didn't know much about what was available, so they had no idea if they were missing out on anything. If I knew something was a sure thing, I talked it up in a big way to get them pumped. But if I didn't know if we could swing it, I never brought it up, so that we wouldn't have to manage disappointment. It's an "ignorance is bliss" strategy and it worked like a charm. (Side story: Perhaps the biggest disappointment we had the whole trip was when we got to Epcot early to get in line for Soarin'...the girls and I waited for 20 minutes, and were just about to get on when the fire alarm went off and we all had to be evacuated from the building. They were relatively unphased but I was super-bummed to miss out on a ride that so many people rave about. For the rest of the day, the wait times never fell below and hour so I thought it might be a lost cause. But eventually we stopped in to talk with them, and they gave Fastpasses to our whole family! It was such a simple thing, but I truly almost cried happy tears over getting to do that all together when we thought we had missed our chance.) 

Liking: the convenience of magic bands. That little bracelet pays for your meals, admits you to rides, opens your hotel room door....if only it would settle sibling disputes, it'd be just about perfect.

Wondering: where the line is between pushing too much (and making everyone miserable), and pushing just hard enough (to maximize the fun!) Dustin and I play familiar roles in this area...with me wanting to do more more more, and him thoughtfully suggesting that mayyyyyybe everyone has had enough? It can be a little tough to discern who's right though, as I error on the side of "what's the worst that could happen?!" and he trends towards the "let's quit while we're ahead" side of things. Plus, it's hard to base things arounthe opinions of kids, who were whining to go back to the hotel every day by 10AM (so that you guys can argue in an even more confined space and injure yourselves bouncing on the beds? No thanks!). They don't really have the foresight to realize we can't just pack it up every time they have a less than thrilling moment, so we have to encourage them to stick it out a bit, so they don't miss out on things. Soin Disney, as in life, I typically get my way, so I manged to convince them to do most things with a happy heart (and I would argue that they ended up thankful for my pushes, as it lead to some of our favorite parts of the trip). I was passionate about getting to the parks bright and early for rope drop (the official opening of the parks)- which meant we got on a lot of rides with little or no waiting. I insisted we stay late enough to see the night show on the Magic Kingdom castle (but I compromised, and we headed home before the fireworks). And the biggest "conflict" of the trip: I mandated a ride on Splash Mountain. For all of us. Dustin had repeatedly flat out refused to go. Fin cried about the poncho ("I don't like wearing a BAG!") And Miller had to be dragged out of his stroller. But we went. The most hesitant among us ended up being the ones placed in the front row (and subsequently, the ones who got the most wet) but when all was said and done, what do they all report as one of their favorite things? You got it. Splash Mountain was a dramatic, wet, memorable hit. Score one for mom.

 recreating memories from my childhood. I went to Disney a few times as a kid, and while a lot of it blends together in my brain, I still have a lot of favorite moments from those trips. It's been so fun to introduce those things to my kids. So many things are exactly the way I remember them: The Muppet Show hasn't changed one bit, and It's a Small World is classic Disney. The Jungle Cruise is still cheesy funny, and my kids rolled their eyes at the The Enchanted Tiki Room just as much as I used to. I remember one year we went, Star Tours had an uncharacteristically short line, so my dad and I just kept running through the turnstiles to ride it over and over again (we must have done it four times in a row!)- that was such a highlight for me, so I was excited to ride that with the kids (it's pretty different now that they officially have the rights to include Star Wars stuff, but if anything that just means it's gotten better. Miller still giggles about "the bear"- Chewbacca- crashing into our windshield!) The Haunted Mansion was a fav of mine, so I spent weeks before we went trying to get the kids pumped up for it- but every time we mentioned it, Miller would cry and insist he didn't want to go on it. When we finally got there, he agreed to ride, but he immediately buried his face in my lap and refused to look up for even one second of the ride. Parts of it were just as fun as I remember
 (the ghost "riding" in your car at the end) but the rest of it truly was scarier than I thought. Probably for the best that he didn't take a peek and end up scarred for life. The only things I remember vividly as a kid that aren't there anymore are Mickey's house (formerly in ToonTown. I loved getting to see where Micky "lived"!) and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (something I reference fairly frequently whenever someone is driving like a maniac).

(see you tomorrow for another round of 'ings!)
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