Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Top 5 Posts of 2010

It is hard to believe that 2010 is just about over.  2011 has a lot of promise for my family, especially since we are already in the process of planning our next WDW vacation for December 2011.  I started my blog simply to share the lessons I learned traveling to Walt Disney World with three small children.  I thought I would share with you my five most viewed posts of the year.  Two of the articles I list below are actually from my home blog.  I am not sure how I confused which blog to post them on, but I guess that is the occupational hazard of a stay at home mom who tries to accomplish things while talking to, teaching and playing with her three children ~ multi-tasking at its best!  Enjoy!

#5 Character Dining at Walt Disney World: I wrote this article for my column Making Magical Memories over at WDW Daily News back in November 2009, but just posted it this November on my blog.  Bringing kids to character meals can help save time from standing in lines to meet them in the parks.

#4 Disney Magic and Holiday Magic All in One: I shared how I brought the Magic of Disney and the Magic of Christmas together to create wonderful memories for our family

#3 Princess Storybook Dining ~ Akershus Royal Banquet Hall: This is one of the posts I put on my home blog, still not sure how that happened!  It is a review of our experience at our very first princess meal, as well as a photo montage of Emily & Hayley with their favorite princesses.

#2 My Disney Inspirations: Where my love of visiting Disney Parks all started!

#1 Disney Junior Encyclopedia of Animated Characters - A Review: Make sure you read the comments on this one.  One reader used this as an autograph book and it created some very memorable moments with the characters while in WDW!

Thank you to all of you who have been reading my posts all along and welcome to all my new followers!  With an upcoming trip to WDW, my blog will follow me through all the things I use to create a memorable Disney vacation for my family!  Only 339 more days until WDW!

Here's to a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Vacation Planning is in the Air!

My Countdown Chart**
As we turn the corner to the new year, my family and I are beginning our plans for our next trip to WDW.  As you may have read from my previous posts, we all travel together.  When I say all, I mean my parents, my brother, sister-in-law, two nephews, my husband, my three children and myself.  We will be a Grand Gathering of 11 this time around.  There will be many firsts for this trip:

1. We will be traveling during December.  We have never been during the holidays because before being a stay at home mom, I was a teacher.  There was just no way I could take time off from work to make a trip south at this time of year.

2. We will be celebrating Emily's 4th birthday while in WDW.  We have never celebrated anyone's birthday in all the trips we have made to WDW.  She has already requested to eat with the princesses, so our tentative plan is breakfast with the princesses either at Cinderella's Royal Table in the castle or Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in the Norway Pavilion.  Then dinner will be with the Fab 5 at Chef Mickey's.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Christmas 2005
It is hard to believe that 2010 is just about over.  It seems this year has gone by much faster than any in the past.  We have had a lot of changes in our family this year, with the biggest change being my oldest, Joey, starting kindergarten.  He has transitioned so well, I am really looking forward to what 2011 brings! 

I'd like to say thank you to all of you who follow my blog, read my ramblings and hop aboard the Magical Blogorail each month.  I have really enjoyed connecting with other Disney fans out there and sharing my magical memories. 

My family wishes you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Music to My Ears ~ Disney Music That Is!

My three kids are definitely Disney fans through and through (much to my relief!).  I've written articles already about things we do at home between trips to Walt Disney World to keep Disney magic alive, but listening to Disney music is something we do everyday.  Right now, my kids are in the family room listening, dancing and singing to our favorite Disney CD collection.  It is called Disney's Greatest.  We have all three volumes and I will admit they are our most used CDs in the house, followed closely by The Princess and the Frog Soundtrack.  Not only do we listen to them a lot at home, but whenever we go out and about, we grab a volume and bring it in the car.  The three discs contain songs from classics such as Bambi and Snow White to Toy Story and The Lion King.  We've listened to these so many times that all three of my children can sing just about every song.  It's funny because they knew some of the songs long before they even saw the movies they were a part of.  I must admit that I also love listening to these songs, but that probably didn't need to be said!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Anxious Child in Disney

Hayley Ringing the Dinner Bell

Making Magical Memories Column
Newsletter #142
Published August 17, 2010
My son is only 5 years old and was in preschool during our last trip. He is our “thinker” of the three kids and because of that, he is also our worrier. I swear he can ask a thousand “what if” questions a day. He can get himself worked up over the simplest things. As a result, prior to our last trip to Walt Disney World, we began preparing him for what it would be like on our vacation. Though he hit a stage of being very frightened of everyday things, we felt his familiarity with Disney characters would help him through our time in the theme parks. Well, we were wrong. During the entire 8 night stay, he did not once have his picture taken with a character. He avoided any rides he couldn’t see what was on the inside. Even at Hoop Dee Doo, he was asked if he wanted to ring the dinner bell, which he responded by hanging his head and closing his eyes. Luckily, my three year old was there to step in! So here are a few things I learned on this vacation while traveling with an anxious child:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Disney Magic and Holiday Magic All in One ~ The Perfect Combination

Hallmark Cars Ornament
I am very excited to write about holidays Disney-style.  As a self proclaimed Disney fanatic and Christmas fanatic, what could be better than combining Disney magic with Christmas magic?  As I made my way around my house photographing every Disney Christmas item I had, I became very excited to share all my treasures.  I actually took so many photos that I even mentioned to Natalie over at Meet the Magic that I may be able to just do a photo blog this month!  But as I was typing up my post (this is the revised one!), I realized that it wasn't very personal.  What is exciting about reading an inventory list of Disney Christmas items I owned?  So as I looked through the pictures, I decided to focus on one way we truly bring Disney magic to our home at Christmas time.

Hallmark's Little Mermaid Ornament
My parents have given me an ornament every Christmas since I was born.  It is an amazing tradition that I have continued with my own children.  The yearly ornaments represent something that has happened during the year or something special to us.  For example, this year Emily celebrated her 3rd birthday with a Princess Tiana themed party, so we bought her the Hallmark Princess Tiana Ornament, Hayley had a Little Mermaid themed party, so we purchased the Hallmark Little Mermaid Ornament (see left) and finally, since Joey is a year round Cars fanatic, we purchased him the Hallmark Cars Ornament (see left, notice the Piston Cup tree topper and the tree is actually made of Lightyear tires).  I find Hallmark always has a great selection of Disney ornaments, which is nice since we cannot make it to the parks every year.  Hallmark even has Mickey's Christmas Carol Collection, which began last year with Mickey as Bob Cratchit (see photo below).  It has been hinted that Santa just may deliver to me the second in the series ~ Scrooge McDuck as Ebenezer Scrooge.

Hallmark Mickey's Christmas Carol Collection
1st in series Mickey as Bob Cratchit
This tradition has actually carried over into our WDW vacations.  Every trip we purchase ornamaments that represent something we loved or tried on that particular vacation.  This could represent a character we met, a favorite ride or even an ornament that represents the year of someone's first visit.  We actually have collected so many Disney ornaments over the years that I have one Christmas tree completely dedicated to just Disney ornaments and another tree dedicated to all others.  As we decorate the Disney tree, we reminisce about our trips as we put each ornament on the tree.  Below is one we purchased for Joey's first trip.  He was just 14 months on his first trip to WDW and we took him to our very first character meal at Cape May Cafe. Chip and Dale played with him for most of our meal and he just loved them, so we purchased him a Chip and Dale ornament.

I find it an amazing way to keep our magical moments alive through the holiday season - maybe I should keep my Disney tree up year round?!?!  :-)

I think I could write 100s of posts dedicated to just Disney ornaments we have collected and each one's special meaning, but I will leave it at this. 

What is a Disney tradition you have that brings together Disney magic and Christmas/Holiday magic?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Disney Mom's Lesson: Quality not Quantity

Over the last 24 years and 12 trips to Walt Disney World, my touring has evolved drastically. Before kids, I would drag my husband through the parks from sunup to sundown. We would be exhausted on returning home. We saw everything – every attraction, show, parade and sampled the food and drinks in all World Showcase Pavilions (not all in one day, of course). Even on my son’s first trip when he was 14 months and then again on his second and my daughters’ first trip, we went all day long with just short afternoon breaks for the kids to nap and use the pool. But something changed before our 2010 trip.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Preparing the Kids for a Trip of a Lifetime

Emily in October 2008 with Stefanie in Biergarten
With just about 6 weeks until our trip, I have made many of our vacation arrangements. Our flights and hotel are booked. I made all our dining reservations and, even more exciting, I was able to book them at the exact times we requested. Finally, our rental car has been reserved, courtesy of my parents. Now, I am getting the kids prepared for a week away from home. Walt Disney World can be overwhelming to some children (and adults too), so it is important to do everything you can before you leave to prepare them for what’s ahead.

One of the most important things we do when we are within two months of leaving is buy each of the children new sneakers and have them start “breaking them in.” There is a tremendous amount of walking when on a Disney vacation and having a comfortable pair of shoes is a necessity to enjoy it. Plus, it is also important before leaving to start having your child build their endurance by walking everyday. I know many adults who were not physically prepared for the amount of walking required. They ended up with blisters and sore feet and legs, meaning they missed a day or so in the parks to recover. So if an adult can be run down, imagine a child!

The kids in their Patriots gear ~ October 2008
On our last trip, my son was three and a half. Since many of the rides are enclosed and he couldn’t see them, I went on You Tube and found a few videos of some of the rides he might like. When we got to the parks he immediately was able to recognize them and some of the anxiety was reduced. But before you talk up a ride to your child, make sure she is tall enough to ride it. Imagine your child being excited about how great Splash Mountain is for weeks before leaving, only to arrive and find she is not tall enough and unable to ride. For more information on height requirements, head to WDW Guru Travel's Height Requirements page.  Any ride not listed does not have a height requirement. Also, to avoid disappointment about missing a ride, make sure you check our Refurbishment List about rides being refurbished while you are in Disney.

Another resource for preparing your child is Disney’s free Vacation Planning Video. You can order the DVD right from Disney’s Official website. It is a nice overview of what you’ll see in each of the parks, as well as Downtown Disney, the hotels and special events throughout the year. There is even a section to help you plan your upcoming trip. There are quick clips of rides, shows and parades from each of the four theme parks, as well as the two water parks. My kids love to watch it and tell us which rides they are going to go on when we are there. It is a great conversation starter.

Finally, the best way for us to get the kids ready is to look at our photos from previous trips. I have many formats that I use to show off our pictures. We, of course, have the traditional photo albums. I make a family one, as well as one for each of the kids. I also love to scrapbook. This is a great way to preserve our memories and add in park maps, tickets, and any other little souvenirs we gather during our trip. For our last trip, I made a photo montage, which I put on DVD. This has turned out to be one of the best ways to share our photos. Between my mom, sister-in-law and myself we took over 900 photos, so I had plenty to choose from. The DVD is a little long (about 20 minutes), but my children love seeing themselves on TV with their favorite characters or in the pirate pool or riding a particular ride.

What is your best tip for preparing your children for Disney? 
Feel free to share your best tips below!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Disney Inspirations

Joey's 1st Trip to WDW in 2006
My name is Beth and I am a huge Disney fan raising, hopefully, three future Disney fanatics ~ Joey, Hayley and Emily.  My first trip to Walt Disney World was in 1986 as a teenager, and the day I walked down Main Street and saw the castle for the first time, I was hooked.  I remember before arriving in Disney my parents told my brother and I we would never be able to afford to return, so we would be getting up early and going to bed late everyday of vacation to make sure we were able to see everything. At that time there were just two theme parks ~ Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Let's just say, it was such an amazing family vacation that we returned just two years later. My parents then took us back every other year until my brother and I were in college.  After that, to our dismay, my parents even began going every year without us!  Do you remember the old Disney commercial of the son in the business suit talking on the phone about how his parents could not possibly be enjoying themselves in Walt Disney World and the ad cuts to the two parents, of course, having a great time?  My family literally could have created and starred in this ad!  It was as if it were written about us!

Hayley, Emily & Braden's (my nephew) 1st Trip 2008
I have been to Walt Disney World 12 times since that first trip.  I've experienced it as a teenager, a newlywed, as a wedding guest, for family reunions, pregnant and as a mom.  Before children, my most cherished memories were of my very first visit, but once I brought my children, I had a whole new belief in Disney magic.  Don't get me wrong, I loved traveling with my husband and being able to stroll through World Showcase sampling the different foods and drinks, eat late dinners, and basically go wherever we wanted whenever we wanted.  But being there with my children just makes the parks all that more special to me.  Seeing my son meet his idol, Buzz Lightyear, for the first time and watching my daughters hug their favorite princesses, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, I, of course, was teary-eyed and realized just how magical Disney is.  Being able to share something with my children that my parents shared with me is a feeling that really truly is amazing.  To this day, my family still visits Walt Disney World together.  In 1986, there were just four of us.  On our next trip, there will be eleven of us ~ my parents, brother, sister in law, two nephews, my husband, my three kids and myself.  Each trip our little family gets bigger and our vacations get even better. 

I started my blog because I wanted to share some of our family experiences when traveling to WDW.  These experiences are funny stories of magical moments, important things learned about traveling with babies and small children, and ways to enjoy a vacation when you are with a large group.  Being prepared can keep tantrums (not just the kids' tantrums, by the way!) to a minimum.  All the information I share comes directly from something I have personally experienced and learned from.  I hope it helps you plan and enjoy a great Disney vacation with your family.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Character Dining at Walt Disney World

WDW Daily News
Making Magical Memories Column
November 2009

Deciding where we are going to eat is probably my most favorite part of planning our Walt Disney World trips. There are so many choices that it can be difficult to narrow it down. For us, we have so many favorites that we have a hard time leaving one off the list! Though there are many options for dining, I am going to focus this article on character dining.

There are many benefits to character meals. For us, it is to see how our children will react to the characters without standing in line in the parks. When you are seated, your server will ask right away how the kids are with characters. They then will let the characters know your response. On our last trip, we had no idea how they would react. At Chef Mickey’s, the characters took time with each of the four children in our party of 10. Our daughter Emily was ten months at the time and petrified, my son Joey and daughter Hayley were fine, and my nephew was a little scared at first, though warmed up quickly. When a character came around to our table, they would spend time with each of the kids and simply wave to Emily and make some small gesture. By the end of the meal, she had warmed up, which made a smooth transition for our next character meal. Another benefit of the buffet character meals is, not only do you have the character interaction, but your children who are under 3 can eat from the buffet for free. Before having children, we never thought to go to a character meal, but now we realize they really are for people of any age and they have become family favorites.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

To Bring Your Own or Rent a Stroller

When traveling to Walt Disney World with children, I would like to say that a stroller is a must for children 5 and under. You have two options. You can choose to bring your own from home or rent one. If you don’t want to rent from Disney and you don’t want to bring your own, you can even rent them from off site companies, such as Kingdom Strollers. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. But in the end, as I have mentioned in my other articles, you know your child better than anyone and what works best for them.

I have always brought my own stroller. My son was only 14 months for his first trip. We wanted to have the stroller to get him through the airport, as well as be able to have a stroller he was familiar with and felt comfortable in. Because he wasn’t walking at the time, had we not brought our own, we would have had to carry him through the airport with all of our luggage. In addition, we would have had to carry him all over the hotel when walking back and forth to the food court, pool or gift shop. Being able to put him in the stroller and go made those quick trips much easier. We also loved having the stroller to walk all the way to the bus depot (we did not rent a car on that trip) from the park exit. At the end of a long day, we certainly didn’t need to be carrying a child from the park, to the bus, and to the hotel room.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Will We Get to Ride in the Red Van Again?

Joey's 1st Mickey Ears ~ he was 14 months

WDW Daily News, Making Magical Memories Column, Article #4 September 2009

I have always been a firm believer, especially when it comes to Disney, in not paying for something they offer for free. I’ll handle the extra few minutes it may take or slight inconvenience in order to save money that I can put toward something else, like a character meal or a souvenir. But there is one part of the vacation expense that I will gladly pay extra for – a rental car. I discovered this gem of information first hand during our 2006 trip!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers (2011)

Are you looking for a guidebook that focuses on creating a memorable and fun Disney vacation for your little ones?  Lisa Battista has written a book that shares her expriences of traveling to the parks with her children.  Enjoy!

Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers (2011)
By Lisa M. Battista

Planning a trip to Walt Disney World with preschoolers has never been easier.

NEW JERSEY October 2010 – Lisa M. Battista has packed the 2011 edition of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers (CreateSpace, October 2010, ISBN: 1-4536-4039-8) with all the information readers need to plan an unforgettable Walt Disney World vacation with children, ages 2-5.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Favorite Kid Friendly Resort ~ Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort

WDW Daily News
Making Magical Memories Column
September 2009

There are so many options for resorts, vacation homes, and timeshares to stay in when visiting Walt Disney World. We always stay on property because of the benefits of being a resort guest. Disney has a range of resorts to fit any budget and many choices of theme. The hotels are categorized into different price categories – deluxe, moderate, value and then the Disney Vacation Club Villas. Of course, the more it costs, the more amenities they have available to you. For us, a family of five, we stick with the moderates, but I dream of the day I can afford to stay at a deluxe resort on the monorail! Another important consideration when choosing your hotel is how much time you will actually spend in your room. For us, with three little ones, we knew everyday, midday, we would be back at the hotel for a few hours so Emily could nap. We needed a room larger than a value room and a resort that had things for Joey and Hayley to do while Emily was asleep.

Monday, October 18, 2010

My Disney Dream that Almost Wasn't

As you may know from some of my previous posts, my first trip to Walt Disney World was in 1986 and I was immediately hooked. As a family of four we went back to Walt Disney World every other year until my brother and I were in college.  Then my parents started going every year with out us!  Remember the old Disney ad with the son sitting at his desk at work on the phone saying that couldn't believe his parents were in Disney without him?  It was as if that ad were based on what was happening in our family!

In 1995, my parents brought my brother and I, and this time Pierre (now my husband) was invited to come along too.  It was during this trip that I started imagining what it would be like to one day bring my own children to Walt Disney World.  Pierre and I were married a year later and took several trips alone to Disney.  In 2001 I was happy to announce to my family that I was pregnant.  One of the things I mentioned when telling my family was that our trips to Disney were going to be even better now.  Unfortunately, three months later, I had a miscarriage.  Of course, I was devastated, as was my family, but I figured, we would just try again. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Disney Moms Panel Round 2 Has Begun

I was one of the people who applied for the Disney Mom's Panel this year.  I am always excited to apply for this group, though I do know that the chances of being chosen are pretty slim.  Long before the panel, I considered myself, as did my family, a Disney mom, so I was quite excited when they began the panel a few years ago.  I had the user name of disneymom2joey in 2004, then in 2006, when Hayley was born, my user name was updated to disneymom2jh and then in 2007, when Emily was born, it was updated to disneymom2jhe.  I didn't make it to the second round this year, but I certainly am happy for those who did and wish them the best of luck through the next round.  I am disappointed, but it isn't going to change what I do everyday to help my friends and family plan their Disney vacations.  I still consider myself a Disney mom and look forward to trying again next year!

Good luck to those of you who have made it to Round 2!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Let the Memories Begin Campaign

I've submitted two photos to the Let the Memories Begin Campaign for Disney's latest promotion. 

The first is my son, Joey, hugging Dale at his first ever character meal at Cape May Cafe. This was taken in 2006 when Joey was just 14 months old.
Check it out here!

The second is of my daughter, Hayley, ringing the dinner bell at Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue.  This was taken in 2010 when Hayley was 3.5.
Check it out here!

Now I need to find one of my daughter Emily!


Have you shared your memory yet?  You can just visit the Disney Parks website.

When to Visit Walt Disney World with the Kids

Hayley cooling off in the Emporium by trying on hats
The first decision when planning a trip to Disney is deciding when to go. There are so many factors to consider, especially when you have children. Do you take your children out of school or use school vacation times? What type of weather will your children be able to tolerate? What special events do you think would enhance your trip that may only occur during one season per year?

Taking your child out of school is a personal choice and only you know what is best for your children. The obvious benefit of taking your child out of school to visit Walt Disney World is to go when the parks are not as busy and cost less. By going during value season, you can save significant money off the price of your hotel. Plus, since most children will be in school, you are almost certain to have shorter wait times for rides and attractions than you would during regular, peak or holiday seasons. The drawback is that normally the parks open later and close earlier, so you have less time to get in everything you need. Plus, with shorter hours, there will be a reduced number of evening parades or nighttime shows. On the other hand, there are negatives to taking your child out of school. I can say as a former teacher there is no amount of worksheets or assignments that will make up what is missed during classes. Some school systems, to discourage traveling during the school year, will not allow the teacher to give your child work and what is missed is considered incomplete. The best thing you can do when trying to make this decision is first check your school’s policy and check with the teacher. You must also consider how your child will handle missing that time from school. Luckily for us, we haven’t had to worry about this yet since none of our children are in school yet.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Disney again???

There are two questions I am always asked when I tell my friends or family that I am planning another trip to Disney. The first one is “Disney again - haven’t you already seen it enough?” The second question is “Why are you bringing the kids, they aren’t going to remember it?”

My answer to the first one is pretty simple . . . because I love it! There is something about walking into the Magic Kingdom and making my way down Main Street. It is a true passage from reality to fantasy. All the worries of the world seem to disappear. You become completely immersed in a world of enchantment. Even after 11 trips, I still get teary-eyed when I see the castle. In all the trips I have taken, I have never had the same vacation twice. I have traveled to Disney with family, friends, for a wedding, family reunion, and to share the magic with my children. Each trip brings its own special memories and magical moments. The choices of shows, attractions and restaurants seem endless and can appease travelers with all types of interests. Who can ask more from a vacation than one filled with so many possibilities?