Monday, March 29, 2010

Orlando Travel with Kids, Part 2 of 2

Meredith Bailin-Hull has always been a Disney fan. "When I was a child, we went to WDW every holiday break without fail. We’d stop for a few nights on our way to visit my grandparents in Miami. This was when there was only the Magic Kingdom, and then for a few years after EPCOT opened, however, so 2 days was more than enough to get in all of the things we wanted to do. As I got older the trips became less frequent, much to my disappointment."

When she married and had a child of her own, she was ready to share that love. "I managed to convince my husband, who is not quite the Disneyphile I am, to spend part of our honeymoon at the Parks. Every time we go back I relive pieces of my childhood. The anticipation before the trip and the pure joy of being there have not dwindled a bit. I may as well be 6 again. My daughter is 2 ½ and has only been to the parks once, when she was just a year old. We went with friends who have a little girl 2 years older than ours and the two of them had a blast. We are planning a trip back this fall, when our daughter will be 3 and have already started to prepare her. She can’t wait to visit the 'princess castle' (as she calls it) and to meet all of her favorite characters."

Traveling with a little girl has changed the way Meredith experiences the parks, but it has not diminished her love for it. And she's determined that it never will! Here are her best tips for not losing your theme park love, while trying to pass it along to the next generation.

Tip #1 -- Plan as much as you can.
We learned early on that a relaxing Disney vacation with children requires advanced prep and scheduling. You have to work for the relaxation! We make all meal reservations as far in advance as we can, and try to hit on all of the spots we think we may want to eat. We may book two different restaurants for the same meal and decide between them at the last minute. The key is to have that schedule set so that you aren’t turned away at meal time, and so you don’t waste valuable ride/show time deciding where to eat. This mean you will have to decide ahead of time which park you will be at each day, but it is well worth it! I get the kid excited by playing Disney videos and the Sing-Along Song DVDs that are filmed in the parks.
I am not an organized person by nature, so I have to force myself to be as proactive as possible. I make a list of all of the items I believe we will need while on vacation (including during travel). I break the list up between things that I have to pack and things that I can get upon arrival. delivers grocery items to WDW hotels (and off-site, too), so I start my order with them as soon as I can (you can edit it up to a day before, I believe). Things like shampoo, baby formula, diapers, a case of water, sunblock, breakfast bars, etc. can all be delivered to your resort at a fraction of what it would cost to buy these things on-site.

Tip #2 -- Then plan to be flexible
Have a plan. Decide which parks you are going to on which days and have a basic outline of which rides/shows are the “must haves”. Do NOT be afraid of deviating from your plan. Flexibility is just as important as having an itinerary in the first place. If you have a little one, have a stroller, period. They don’t have to be in tit all of the time, but the option should be available. Use the Parent Swap (also called Baby Swap) option. Wait on line with everyone and then ask for a Baby/Parent swap ticket when you get to the front of the line. One person stays out with the kid(s), the rest ride. The ticket you have will now be good for 3 people any time during that day – just take the ticket to the Fast Pass line and go on in. This is a great way to let older kids ride more often! Another tip: these don’t work like Fast Pass. You can have more than one in your hot little hand at a time. Use the bajeezus out of this!

Tip #3 -- Have plenty of the basics
Repeat after me and make this your mantra: Water & Sunblock. Bring it with you everywhere. Refill your water at water fountains so you don’t pay the high prices for the bottled water.

Tip #4 -- Staying on-site can save time and money
We like the ease of staying on-site, plus the access to Extra Magic Hours and the Disney Meal Plan. If you are traveling on a budget, the All-Star and Pop-Century resorts are very affordable and much MUCH nicer than anything you’ll get for that price off-site. Chances are that you won’t spend that much time in the room, anyway. Ask for a fridge in your room if one isn't already supplied. Staying on-site can mean skipping the cost of a rental car, especially if you only plan to hit the major parks.
If you are staying on-site, nothing beats the mal plans. We have used the Deluxe Meal Plan in the past and it was very well worth it. You have enough meal points that you don’t have to feel guilty going placed that deduct 2 meals (like the HoopDeDoo Revue). The big bonus: if you love the annual Food & Wine Festival at Epcot (like we do) and want to try absolutely everything (like we do), you can use snack points to purchase the food items at the festival’s pavilions and save yourself quite a bit of money.

Tip#5 -- Share the joy
Don’t do it alone if you can help it. Go with another family or meet another family there. It makes it easier on everyone, including the kids.


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