Everything Walt Disney World

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Category: Kids (page 1 of 2)

Dumbo’s Interactive Queue.

There’s a lot going on at Disney World right now that’s both innovative and fun. At the top of my list is the interactive queue for the new Dumbo.  If you haven’t been to Disney World in a while, they’ve moved Dumbo from its previous location in the middle of Fantasyland to Storybook Circus, where Mickey’s Toon Town Fair used to be.  They’ve also added a second Dumbo and a fastpass option, which has dramatically decreased wait times. But perhaps the most welcomed addition is the new interactive queue. 

Standing in front of the two Dumbos, you’ll have the option of doing the standby line the right or, if you have a fastpass, taking the fastpass option on the left. Skip the fastpass.  Your kids will love the interactive queue option on the right.  We waited around ten minutes, sometimes less, to get into the play area. When you get up to the front, a cast member will ask how many are in your party and then hand you a pager. Now say, for example, you have a total 35 minute wait for the attraction. You’ll spend around 25 minutes in the play area, turn in your pager to the cast member at the front, and then wait another 10 waiting for the ride. It might sound like a long time, but trust me: Your kids won’t want to leave. And depending on the age of your kids, you’ll enjoy sitting and relaxing on the benches.

There are slides, fake fireworks to shoot off, and plenty of things to climb and jump on. Do you see those netted areas up there? They’re big enough for an adult to run around in too, so you can join your kids. There’s a back stair behind the “burning” building in the picture above that grown ups can use if they don’t feel like climbing up. There’s also a play area for young toddlers right in the middle with seating for the adults. If your kids are 5-years old and up, they should be fine running around on their own. The ground is soft and there’s not a lot of potential for accidents.
Just a couple of warnings. There’s no restroom in the interactive queue. You’ll have to turn in your pager to the cast member at the front and she’ll  give you a fastpass to go through the other side of Dumbo once you’re ready.  You’ll go out the back door and walk straight over to the Storybook Circus bathroom, which is right next to the train station.  The other issue is the back door.  The play area holds 175 people. With that many kids and grownups running around, it can be difficult to keep up with your kids. Since no one is manning that door, it would be easy for a small child to open it and walk outside. I’m hoping to see some measures put in place to change that, as the potential for some sort of incident is there.
I think this is one of the smartest things I’ve seen come out of Disney Imagineering in a long time, turning the long wait times for Dumbo into fun. I literally couldn’t get my kids out of there. And that, may be it’s only fault, which isn’t a bad one to have.



Special Needs and Disabilities at Walt Disney World

Traveling to Walt Disney World can be stressful for any family. Adding a child or family member with special needs can magnify the stress, but I’ve got some advice and tips to make it a better trip. I’ve traveled with special needs kids on many trips and have talked to other parents about their trips and advice they offer.

Guest Assistance Card


One of the most frequent questions we get is about the Guest Assistance Card, or the GAC. The GAC is issued at Guest Services in all four parks and is provided as a means to help guests that have issues (mobility, sensory, sun, etc) and need to bypass a major queue or use an alternative entrance. The GAC does not grant immediate access and it should never be used for that reason. The individual castmember can make the decision about when to get you on the ride (for the most part, you enter the Fastpass queue and are treated like a Fastpass return).

How Do I get a Guest Assistance Card?
Getting a GAC is a simple process:

  • Visit Guest Relations in one of the four theme parks with the child or person that needs the GAC.
  • Explain to the castmember that your child has special needs and you would like to know about the Guest Assistance Card.. You can provide a medical note or documentation if you feel it better addresses what your child’s needs are and how they can best be met, but a cast member should not specifically ask for this information.
  • The cast member will ask for the child’s name, dates of your vacation and the number in your party (up to six guests).

How Do I Use a Guest Assistance Card?

  • If you are not sure where the appropriate entrance is, ask the greeter or first host from the attraction that you see. usually, you will be directed to the Fastpass line or the Exit, depending on the attraction. There have been times that my family has been asked to use the regular queue since there was less than a five-minute wait.
  • You will need to show each cast member the GAC, until you reach a certain point (usually when the Fastpasses are collected). The cast member could ask if the child is with you.

You shouldn’t feel guilty about using the Guest Assistance Card while at Walt Disney World. Real life is stressful enough for families with special needs and a Disney vacation should be an enjoyable experience. Disney provides the GAC as a service to help you enjoy your vacation with your family.

What if I Lose Our Guest Assistance Card?
Head to the Guest Services location in the park and ask about a replacement. I have been able to run to Guest Services to get a card while my wife sat with the kids. it was never a hassle, but the cast member might want to see the child.

Researching and Planning the Trip

Rides:
There are a lot of great resources online and in print that will help you plan your trip and decide how to approach your vacation. One of our favorite sites is Disney On Wheels. Melissa shares a lot of information about accessibility option for ride vehicles and hotel rooms.

Sometimes watching an attraction can make a child feel better about riding it.

One of our favorite guidebooks is The Complete Walt Disney World by Julie Neal and Mike Neal. The Neals break down each attraction and give you a good idea of what to expect.

Searching Youtube for ride videos is another great way to learn more about the rides and parks. You know your child better than anyone else and you know what rides could frighten or cause sensory problems.

Food:
Make sure to check out menus to decide on which restaurants will offer the best food choices. AllEars updates their menus frequently.

You can always check with your travel agent or call the restaurants ahead of time to ask about special foods or ingredients. Many people have told me that the chefs will come out and talk to you about ingredients and will go out of their way to prepare the food that you need.

If you have special foods that your child needs, instead of packing them, you can have them shipped to your hotel by Amazon or use a grocery delivery service. If you are unsure what foods you will find at Walt Disney World, then you are better off being prepared and bringing your own (like specific juice boxes, snacks or treats).

You are always welcome to take small coolers into the parks with you, just remember that you can’t bring in glass bottles or alcohol.

Medicine:
You will want to keep all medications with you when you travel, but there will be instances when you might forget or lose something.

Your best bet, at the resort, is to call or check with the front desk. They will have lists of pharmacies that will deliver or mix custom medications. It is expensive and they might need to get a prescription, so make sure you have your medical provider’s phone numbers.

In the parks, you should head towards the First Aid location or Guest Services. The first Aid locations are staffed with nurses and they can offer first line help.

There are plenty of chain pharmacies in the area, like CVS, Wal-Greens and Target. If you don’t have a rental car, check with the front desk for options.

Don’t forget that any prescription medications should be kept in a labeled container. Security hosts are very reasonable, but they will question pills and syringes/needles.

When we had to take a custom-mix medication for my son, our local pharmacy made a special envelope for us to keep it cool throughout the day.

Know Your Child

The most straightforward advice is to know your child.

You know their sleep habits, foods, cranky moments and situations that could cause a melt down. Plan your trip with those thoughts in mind and everything will be simpler. Even though you might want to see and do everything at Walt Disney World, it simply isn’t possible on a normal six day vacation. I have been visiting Walt Disney World for over 20 years and there are still things I haven’t seen.

Stick with sleep/nap schedules and build in as much down time as you can.

Break Times:
There are plenty of areas in the parks that will give you some semi-private space for a few minutes rest or to let the kids burn off steam. You just need to keep an eye out or ask a friendly cast member. One of my favorite areas in the Magic Kingdom is a small courtyard to the right of the queue of Pirates of the Caribbean. It offers a bit of shade, but there is a wide space to spread out or take care of a child for a few minutes.

Keep an eye out for other areas where you can sit in the shade, enjoy a snack and take a few moments to relax.

Food:
Remember to feed everyone on a regular basis. Pack snacks that are easy and simple to hand out or keep an eye out for favorite Disney snacks.

We had a few meltdowns with our oldest son that could have been remedied with a snack or two. Because we were too busy trying to enjoy the parks, we didn’t see his mood slip until too late and then it was about 45 minutes before he was back to normal.

What Next?

Talk to your favorite travel agent or ask your friends online. There are plenty of WDW Facebook pages where you can talk to people that love Disney and can offer great advice.

  • Know your child,
  • Start planning and researching,
  • Ask for help.

Do you have any advice you share about traveling to Walt Disney World with special needs?


What are some of your favorite tips?

What To Do At Epcot With Kids

If you’ve ever thought about not visiting Epcot on your Disney vacation because you’ve got younger children  and think they won’t enjoy it, you’re not alone. A Google search for “Epcot with kids” turns up over 3.7 million results, which is only slightly more than what turns up if you Google my name. I try to convince so many parents with kids to visit the park that I’m waiting for Disney executives to name me an honorary ambassador and give me a sash and fancy hat. Sure, Epcot is known for “drinking around the world” and the not to be missed Food and Wine Festival, but there’s plenty for children to do there too -and none of it involves them having a hangover the next day, either.
If you’ve got young children, you may think that there’s nothing for kids in a park known for thrill rides like Soarin, Test Track (currently in refurbishment) and Mission Space,  all of which have generous height requirements, and World Showcase appearing to cater more to adults, but you’d be mistaken. Here then is why you should include Epcot in your theme park plans. 
FUTURE WORLD
1) Innoventions: A two building pavilion for kids (and adults) of all ages that is very hands on. Featured exhibits include Sum of All Thrills, where you can design your very own thrill ride, Storm Struck, where you learn what it feels like to be caught in a perfect storm, Videogame Playground, where you can try out the latest in video game technology, and Where’s the Fire, where you can have your picture taken by the 30 foot fire truck, try to become fire chief by answering the most fire safety questions, and explore the Play it Safe maze. 
2) Club Cool: Okay, so it’s not an attraction, and not even a pavilion, but if you like free stuff, you’ll like this. Sponsored by Coca-Cola, this building, located across from Mouse Gears, showcases unlimited free samples of Coca Colas from around the world, such as the Smart Watermelon from China – my personal favorite – and the Fanta Colita from Costa Rica. Plus, if your kids have been misbehaving, you can insist they drink a nice cup of Beverly from Italy. Maybe two cups. 
3) The Seas With Nemo and Friends/Turtle Talk With Crush: Board a “clamobile” (I think Batman used to own one of those) on this quick loading undersea adventure at the Living Seas pavilion. Through a little Disney magic, the characters from Finding Nemo can be seen frolicking with real fish in the massive 5.7 million gallon aquarium. After you get off the ride, take the time to look around the aquarium – one of the largest on the East coast. There’s plenty of marine life to see, from sharks to manatees. When you’re done, make sure you don’t leave without seeing “Turtle Talk With Crush”, where Crush interacts with guests in the “human tank” teaching him about his environment and asking questions about ours. This funny show is different every time, and kids get a huge kick out of having the chance to ask questions.
Visit Crush and Friends at the Living Seas.
4) Living With the Land: A gentle, slow moving boat ride in the Land pavilion, this is one part dark ride, one part greenhouse tour, giving you a behind the seeds” (see what I did there? Clever, huh?) look at how Walt Disney World grows many of the fruits and vegetables it serves in its restaurants. As a bonus -it’s air conditioned. Note that it is a little dark at the beginning and there is some noise of thunder early on.
5) Character Spot/Park Entertainment/Shopping: Located near Innoventions West, you’ll find the character spot. If you’ve got bigger kids who have run off to do Soarin or Mission Space, and you’re looking for something to do with the little ones that will kill some time, head here. This is the place to meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto, Goofy and Chip n’ Dale. Also be sure to check out Mouse Gears, right next door, which is a huge gift shop full of lots of Disney goodies. It’s my go to store in Epcot, and probably the best gift shop for Disney merchandise in all the parks outside of Downtown Disney.
When it comes to entertainment, most guests think it’s all in World Showcase, but that’s not so. Future World has the Jammitors, a “Stomp” like percussion group that beats on trash cans and other assorted everyday objects in their environment to produce some amazing sounds. And, while Test Track is undergoing its facelift, you can still catch the sounds of an a cappella group singing songs, appropriately enough, about cars. I even caught some local choirs out there last weekend, too.
WORLD SHOWCASE

1) Grand Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros: Located inside the Mexico pavilion, this relaxing boat ride features Panchito Pistoles. Jose Carioca and Donald Duck on a humourous and fun tour through Mexico. Part of this boat ride is also similar to “It’s a Small World” in that it features moving and dancing animatronics in one section. This attraction is another great way to escape the elements, and kids love the ride itself. As a bonus, Donald Duck often appears outside the pavilion for character greetings. Check your times guides.
These happy fellows can be seen on the Grand Fiesta tour.
2) Maelstrom Boat Ride: In the Norway pavilion, climb aboard a Viking ship for a stormy voyage through a Norwegian fjord, a troll infested swamp, and onto the North Sea. Make it safely back from your voyage, and you can enjoy a 5 minute film about the beauty of Norway. If you want to skip the film, you can walk right through the other side to the exit doors. The boat ride is a lot of fun and most kids enjoy the mild thrills, however some are scared by the darkness, loud noises, or the slight backwards drop that your log flume takes.
3) Live Entertainment: Each country showcases some wonderful acts for kids and adults to enjoy. It’s important that you look at your times guide so if there is something you want to see, you don’t miss it. Among my favorites:
·         Voices of Liberty (America pavilion) – This a cappella group sings patriotic and folk songs in 15 minute shows before viewings of “The American Adventure.” With amazing sound, these vocal artists are not to be missed.
·         The Serveur Amusant (France pavilion) – A comedic balancing act, this “waiter” stacks more and more chairs on top of one another and then gently balances on them. As he goes higher and higher, you’re captivated by his skill.
·         Jeweled Dragon Acrobats (China pavilion) – This talented group of acrobats is a crowd pleaser. I don’t think there was ever a time in my life I was that flexible.
·         Off Kilter (Canada Pavilion) – You haven’t heard Bryan Adams until you’ve heard it played by this bagpipe blowing, kilt wearing rock band.
4) Kidcot Stations: Located throughout Future World and World Showcase (check your park map) these stations are set up where kids can decorate a cardstock Duffy the Bear at whichever station they visit first. Then, as they visit each additional station they can add another decoration onto Duffy.
5) Character Meet and Greets: World Showcase is a great place for your kids to meet characters. For example, you can see Belle and Beast in France, say hello to Aladdin and Jasmine in Morocco, and give a joyful “Cherrio!” to Mary Poppins in the U.K. The lines also seem shorter than in the other parks, so if you haven’t had the chance to see a lot of characters, Epcot is the place to go.
6) A Taste for Flavor: Epcot is a great place to expose your children to different tastes from around the world and show them that life is made up of more than pizza, chicken nuggets, and macaroni and cheese. Arrange to eat in Morocco, stop by the bakery in France for some wonderful pastries or sandwiches, sample a Kakigori shaved ice from Japan, or try to find chocolates or other sweets from each country to try. I’m fond of the Curly Wurlys from the U.K., personally. You could spend hours just walking through the shops in each country, exploring things and eating goodies. Not that I would have first hand experience with that. Ahem.
So you see, there’s no reason that Epcot can’t be enjoyed by the whole family, including children. These are just a few of the things you can do there, and it easily fills up a day of touring. Give it a try next time, you may find that Epcot becomes a favorite park!

Solo Parenting in Walt Disney World.

Teacups!

Whether it’s for an entire trip or just a few hours, parenting solo in Walt Disney World can pose a few challenges.  I’ve travelled alone to Disney many times with my oldest son, who is 9-years old, but I haven’t had to spend long hours alone in the parks with him and his younger siblings.  On our most recent family trip, I had to put all my solo parenting skills to the test when a crisis came up at my husband’s job, requiring me to spend about four days out of eight alone with all three kids in the park! At first I was a little panicked, but I found that once I got into it, it was fine. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Restrooms.

The bathroom issue can be a thorny one. Do you let young opposite sex children use the bathroom without you?  I’ve found it depends on the kid and the situation:

  • If you feel uncomfortable, take your opposite sex child into the bathroom with you.  I probably wouldn’t bring a 12-year old boy into the ladies room, but I will occasionally bring in my oldest in with me if I’m uncomfortable with the area. So yes, I brought him into the restroom with me and Universal Studios. Sorry Universal; sorry, there were a lot of drunk people around that day. On the other hand, I feel pretty comfortable letting him use the restroom alone in most of the Disney parks, provided that I’m right outside although it also depends on how crowded the parks are and what type of events are going on at the time.
  • Consider using companion bathrooms, but keep in mind that these are directed towards guests who need assistance.
  • Base your decision on your child’s personality, not their age. If you feel uncomfortable allowing your child to use the bathroom alone, don’t do it.
  • Don’t forget the babycare centers in the parks for children who are not yet potty-trained.  Older siblings accompanying babies may also use the facilities; there are televisions for them to watch while you care for the younger child.

Safety.

  • Try brightly colored glow in the dark necklaces for night.  Buy them before you leave–it’s cheaper.
  • Bright colored and/or matching shirts will make them stand out in a crowd in case they wander away.
  • Kids should know your cell phone number. If they’re too little to remember or if you think they’ll forget, purchase temporary tattoos with your phone number on them before your travel.
  • Consider childproofing your room if you are traveling with children under four-years of age.  Be particularly mindful of doors that open to patios and.
  • Tell kids that if they get lost to ask a cast member or another mom with kids for help.
  • If your kids are on the border age-wise for the stroller and you’re thinking of forgoing it on this trip,consider renting one just in case. I found that having a stroller for my four-year old twins, who haven’t used a stroller since they were two, was a lifesaver. While they didn’t stay in it that much, we had a rule that when we were moving for longer distances, two kids had to be in the stroller and one had to have his hand on the handle at all times. This made getting in and out of crowded parks a lot easier for me and gave me peace of mind that they weren’t going to get distracted and wander off.

Rides.

Rides are mainly an issue if you’re traveling with several children under 10-years of age due to height requirements and the fear factor of some rides.

  • You have to be 7-years old to ride alone at Disney. 
  • You can fit three into a seat on certain rides, like Peter Pan, the Haunted Mansion, Finding Nemo, and even Dumbo.
  • If your older kids ride alone, make sure they ride in front of you so you can keep an eye on them..

Playgrounds and Pools.

  • The Honey I Shrunk the Kids Playground at Hollywood Studios is notorious for being the place on property to lose your kids.  There’s only one exit, so if you’re comfortable letting slightly older kids run around while you watch the exit to make sure they don’t leave, you can give it a try. Otherwise, skip it.
  • Stormalong Bay, located at the Yacht and Beach Club, can be a difficult place to watch young children, as it’s a large pool with many twists and turns.
  • Value resort pools are wide open and give you a unobstructed view.   While some guests may lament the lack of slides and vegetation around the pool, it’s a plus when you’re solo parenting.
  • Resort “quiet” pools, which are pools that are not themed, are easier to maneuver with small children because there are fewer obstructions (i.e., they’re often just a big, simple pool, hence the term “quiet”).

Calling for  Back-Up.

If possible, plan ahead for some grown-up time or breaks.

  • Consider inviting a trustworthy teen, friend or relative. You’ll pay for their vacation in exchange for some help with the kids. 
  • Disney’s childcare centers are reasonably priced, safe, and a lot of fun for kids ages 3 – 12. You’ll find them at several deluxe resorts.  You don’t need to be a guest of the resort (or even a guest staying on WDW property) to use the childcare centers.
  • Try a babysitting service like Kids Nite Out.  You can read about my experience with Kids Nite Out here.  I’ve used them several times and they are very reliable.

Finally, some trips just require you to lower your expectations.  Once you get your footing, you can try to ramp it up a bit but until then, don’t try to go into “theme park commando” mode.  This is the time to slow down and follow your kid’s pace.

Not every family has two parents, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the parks with your kids. It just takes a little bit of planning.  Oh, and of course, some pixie dust.

Souvenir Pressed Pennies at Walt Disney World


Collectibles at Walt Disney World can be fairly expensive. Vinylmations, figurines, trading pins and other toys can add a lot of money and stress to your vacation budget. How many times have you had to hunt down an elusive pin or buy several Vinylmation boxes to get the one your kid (or you) wants?

One of our favorite collectibles over the years has been the pressed pennies that you can find all over the theme parks, hotels, shopping areas and water parks of Walt Disney World. In most cases, the 51 cents that you pay for a pressed penny can be one of the cheapest souvenirs you can collect.

The most reliable estimates from the website PressCoins is that there are over 190 pressed coin machines with almost 500 pressed pennies, four pressed dimes and  70 pressed quarters available. There are various lists of the locations and you can treat it like a scavenger hunt. You can find coins with characters and theme park-related designs. After you start collecting, you are bound to collect certain designs, like specific characters or all the coins from one of the parks. Personally, I hunt down the pennies that highlight my favorite theme park attractions like the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.

The most common machines are the pressed penny machines and at 51 cents, they are one of the least expensive souvenirs that you will find anywhere. For the pressed penny machines, you insert one penny and two quarters and make your selection from one of three designs. Most of the machines are electronic, but a few of them are manual with hand cranks. After you choose your design, you press the appropriate button or hand crank the penny through the press. The pennies can come out a little warm, but not too hot.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Geek Tip: On our vacations, we bring a roll of pennies and a roll of quarters. This will let you make 20 pressed pennies. We keep the change in a sandwich bag to make it easy to retrieve. You can always get change at your hotel or at most shops. The kids can always rifle through your change at the end of the day to find more pennies and quarters. You can also keep the coins in a M&M’s Mini round case.

Disney sells pressed coin books that you can use to store your collection and they cost $7.00-$14.00 depending on the type of the book. We have several at home since we seem to buy a new one on each trip.

Do you collect pressed pennies?

Are there any other low-cost souvenirs that you always get?

Disney’s Childrens Activity Centers: The Sandcastle Club at Yacht and Beach Club.

The kids clubs at Walt Disney World are a great way to give yourself a little bit of grown up time during a busy vacation. Maybe you want a quiet dinner at a more upscale restaurant or just want to go on some rides the kids are too young for?  Whatever the reason, Disney’s kids’ clubs are a great way to carve out a little bit of time for  yourself. 

We’ve used the Neverland Club before and it was a huge hit, but in December we were staying at Boardwalk and planning on eating at Yacht Club, so we wanted something a little closer, so chose the Sandcastle Club in the Yacht and Beach Club Resort. Beach Club was a quick fifteen minute walk (or you can take one of the Friend Ships) from our resort. To get to the Sandcastle Club, just go into the main lobby of Beach Club and go down the long hallway to your right; it’s on your right, just past the shops.

Children ages three to twelve are welcome in the clubs (the sign above is an older sign).  Operating hours are 4:30 to midnight. You’ll need to pay for a two-hour minimum stay, but you can pick your child up earlier if you wish. You do not need to be a guest of the resort or even a guest of Disney World property to use the clubs. There is an $11.50 per hour fee per child which includes dinner if the child will be staying during that time period.  Unfortunately, there is no discount for multiple children.
We dropped our children off and they immediately started playing with all the games and toys. There’s a big main room with tables, games, and activity centers. There’s also a small room off to the side (well within view of the main desk) set up like a small house.  The kids were able to choose their meals from a list containing kid-friendly food: pizza, macaroni and cheese, nuggets. They always enjoy picking items from their own “menu” and always report back that they enjoyed the food. After they ordered their meal, they went off to play and we headed over to Yachtsman Steakhouse.
Besides games and toys, cast members conduct organized activities such as arts and crafts:  Our daughter presented us with several sparkly drawings when we picked her up.  Cast members are trained to make sure that all children are included in the fun and games and that no one feels left out. If you have a shy child or a child with special needs, make sure you inform the cast members when you drop your son or daughter off. The rooms are clean, the equipment is new, and the staff is friendly. I’m a worrier by nature, but I felt comfortable leaving the kids there.
To me, the only downside  is the cost. With three kids, I paid $34.50 an hour. Times that by 2.5 hours and for that amount, I could have hired a babysitting service like Kids Nite Out for four hours. A sitter service would have come to the resort room and when I got back (if history is any indication) they would have been snug in their beds asleep. But with the kids clubs, I have the satisfaction of knowing that they’re being entertained without watching television, that there are multiple adults watching them, and they’re being given dinner.  So, it’s definitely a trade off between cost and peace of mind. I still like using a sitter service and will continue to do so, but now that my kids are older and can stay out a little later, the kids clubs are a treat. 
Our kids love going to the kids clubs and they always ask if they’re going each trip. They get to play with new toys, eat fun food, and meet other kids, but they also get a break from the hubbub of the parks. Yes, we’re all there for a family vacation and the parks are our focus, but it’s nice for the kids to get a break from the parks one night and enjoy the more quiet atmosphere.   And let’s not forget, parents deserve a quiet date night once in a while.

The Bare Necessities: How To Get Groceries To Your Disney Resort

You may not be able to pack fresh fruit in your luggage, but a grocery delivery service can get it for you! 
For many travelers heading to Walt Disney World, part of trip planning involves much more than packing a stylish new bathing suit and a comfortable pair of walking shoes, though both of those should be on the top of your list, too. You may also want a case of bottled water (especially if visiting during the summer months, when being outside in Central Florida is like walking on the surface of the sun), breakfast items so you can start off your day of theme park adventuring with a full stomach, or just some snacks to have when you want to unwind in the room by watching the amazing selection of television channels in your Disney resort hotel. And if you have a younger child, you’re probably adding things like diapers, pullups, wipes, formula, and/or baby food to the list.
Of course, getting all of that  from your home to your resort is not without its challenges. If you’re driving, or renting a car when you get into Orlando, it’s easy -you just stop off at a nearby grocery store and load up with everything that you need. But the majority of visitors fly in, get on Magical Express, and are taken directly to their resort, and I don’t think the bus driver is going to be too keen on stopping off at Super Target on his way to the Beach Club so you can pick up a few things. No, not even if you ask them nicely., and you can put away that $10 bill you keep waving in front of their face, too. And have you ever tried to pack stuff like yogurt and fresh fruit into a suitcase? Let’s just say airlines aren’t kidding when they tell you that your bags may shift during the flight. Plus, with most airlines these days charging $25 or more per suitcase (each way!), you may not want to spend that money loading a bag up with items that are just going to get eaten or otherwise used up. Luckily, you have a number of choices to make getting any of these items, and more, delivered right to your resort.
I’ve heard that many parents children who are still in diapers will pack an entire suitcase full of nothing but diapers/pullups and wipes, then at the end of the trip, use that now-empty suitcase for bringing home all the souvenirs. Not a bad idea if you’re not paying for the bag; if you are though, remember to consider that additional cost in your vacation budget. Depending on how much you buy, you might be able to just fit those items in bags you already have and you can always ship purchases you buy from Disney directly to your house; just ask a cast member for assistance when you check out.
A better option if you just need things like diapers, wipes, and/or bottled water is Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/). You can ship the items directly to your resort in care of your name and (at least if you’re staying on Disney property) they will hold it for you when the package arrives. When you check-in, just tell the cast member assisting you that you should have a box in your name waiting for you. Another benefit with Amazon? Besides things like diapers, wipes, formula and baby food, you can also get items like bottled water, and some dry grocery items, like granola bars, pop tarts, and fruit snacks. There’s no minimum order requirement and I’ve always found shipping to be pretty reasonable.
Your other option would be to use one of the two grocery delivery companies that service the Disney/Universal resort area and will do your shopping for you, namely Garden Grocer (http://www.gardengrocer.com/) and WeGo Shop (http://www.wegoshop.com/). This is an especially convenient service for guests who may want more of a selection of items or for vacationers who want to have things like alcohol (which can be limited in selection and very expensive on property) or ice cream. As Garden Grocer and WeGo Shop operate slightly differently and have different pricing structures, it can be a little confusing, so let me shed some light on how each one works. As an aside, I should mention that I have not been compensated by any of these companies and the views and opinions expressed herein are my own.
Both companies, as I mentioned, deliver to the Disney/Universal resort area, and will leave groceries will bell services if you aren’t in the room. Both have excellent and easy to use websites that allow a customer to build a personal shopping list. When you pull up the Garden Grocer website, you’ll find a list of over 4,800 hundred items from which you can choose in a variety of categories, from baby care to breakfast items to deli to one called “park essentials.” You have to choose from the brands listed in each category (in other words, you can’t ask for a specific brand that’s not on the list, or ask them to shop at the grocery store/warehouse store of your choice) but with thousands of items, there’s a good chance that you’ll find the item(s) you need, or one close to the brand you use. You’ll also notice that the prices are slightly higher then what you might pay yourself at the grocery store (for example, a 12 pack of Pepsi that I pay $3.99 for was $5.99 on the site), but remember that you’re paying for a service, and the luxury of having someone shop for you. Garden Grocer does require a minimum order of $40, and there is a delivery charge to your resort of $12, which is waived for orders of $200 or more. You should also know that until gas prices return to under $3.00 a gallon, they also will charge you a $1.99 surcharge to offset their fuel costs. The latest you may order is 36 hours in advance, and if going during a peak travel time, my suggestion would be to get the order in earlier than later.
Conversely, when you visit the WeGo Shop website, you won’t find a list of specific products with pictures from which to choose. Instead, because WeGo shop will do your grocery shopping at the store of your choice, you can enter your exact shopping list. In fact, they tell you to be as specific as possible in your descriptions, including product size and brand, so if you want the store brand versus the national one, or the largest size of something versus the smallest, be sure to tell them that. If you prefer to have it in a shopping list, they have a link on their site to a program that will automatically build your shopping list and then email it to them. Because WeGo Shop is visiting the store(s) of your choice, they do not charge anything additional for groceries -the price they pay for the item is the same one you will pay. They’ll also accept coupons you may have, though you only earn 50% credit on them (e.g., if you have a coupon for $1.00, you will save .50 cents, and they get the other .50 cents). There is also no minimum purchase order. However, because like Garden Grocer they are a for profit business, they do charge a service fee, depending on how much you spend. Those fees are:
Grocery total up to $50.00 = $18.00 service fee
Grocery total between $50.00 – $100.00 = $23.00 service fee
Grocery total between $100.00 – $200.00 = $28.00 service fee
Grocery total between $200.00 – $300.00 = $38.00 service fee; and
Grocery total over $300.00 = 13% of grocery total, service fee
Additionally, while they are happy to shop at more than one store for you, they will charge a $5.00 service fee per each store. Should the groceries be left at bell services, a gratuity of 10% of the order will be added to the final bill. You can place an order at WeGo Shop the day before you want delivery, and in some cases, the same day, but like Garden Grocer, deliveries are filled on a first come, first served basis, and peak times like holidays will fill up quickly.
Regardless of how you get your grocery items to your Disney resort, they key is to plan ahead. You definitely don’t want to save this to the last minute only to scramble to try and find things to add to your shopping list to meet a minimum purchase order, forget to include something on your list you really need, or find that you waited too long and now your order can be fulfilled. If ordering through a site like Amazon or sending yourself a package to the resort, give yourself enough time for the package to arrive. I’ve heard too many horror stories of the guests arriving well before the package did, leaving them in a lurch. With a little forethought, the “bare necessities” can all be yours on your trip.
Contact Bob at Bob@PixieVacations.com for a no-obligation quote and free concierge-level help in booking and planning your next vacation.

Disney World’s Baby Care Centers.

You’ve got your exciting Disney posts and then you have . . . well, this post:  Baby care centers.  Let’s be honest, it’s not the most thrilling topic, but when you’ve got a young child in tow in the parks, Disney’s baby care centers can make your day a lot easier.  Located in all four theme parks, baby care centers are open to caregivers and children who are not yet potty trained.  There’s no age limit, so if you need to help an older child, you’ll be accommodated as well.   Older children accompanying their younger siblings are also welcome; there’s plenty to keep them occupied, including a television playing Disney channel shows.

Changing tables are large enough to accommodate older children. If you have an older child with a disability, please don’t hesitate to ask the cast member for privacy while you attend to your child’s needs.
 

Breastfeeding moms who are looking for a little privacy or a quiet place to nurse will enjoy the private room for nursing.

The rooms are fairly bare-bones looking, but they’re clearn, quiet and best of all, air conditioned.

You’ll also find areas to comfortably bottle feed and if your youngster is eating solids, there are highchairs you can use as well.  In addition to changing and feeding, you can purchase supplies here, including formula, baby food, over the counter medications (including items for adults), diapers, and even clothing.  Basically, if you forgot to bring it to the park that day, it’s probably here.
If you purchase items from the baby care centers, keep in mind that in addition to being a little pricier, they’re also very limited in selection. This is particularly true regarding diapers, which tend to run in the mid-range of sizes, so if your child is very young or if you have a toddler in diapers, don’t forget your supplies when you leave for the parks!
Finally, you won’t be able to bring  your stroller into the baby care centers, so you’ll need to leave it outside in the stroller parking area.
As a mom, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been grateful for the baby care centers. Next time you’re in the parks with a little one, definitely make use of them. They’re a lifesaver.
Thanks to Bob Angelo for the photos. You can “like” Bob’s Facebook page here to keep up with his Disney adventures.

Less Waiting at Jedi Training Academy. It’s Now Sign-Up Only. Now with Update!

You no longer have to rush over to Jedi Training Academy in Hollywood Studios and wait in line until it’s time for your show. Instead, little Padawans can sign up and then go enjoy the park. Kids will be given a return time for later in the day. Space is still first-come, first served, but this means a lot less waiting and a lot more enjoying the park.

The change first took place during Jersey Week, one of the busier weeks this time of year, so it may just be temporary. We know that Disney has been doing this when it gets more crowded, but for now, proceed with the assumption that this is how it will be from now on with the possibility of reverting back to waiting in line.

UPDATE: For a full review of how the new process works, please read here.

Fast Disney Facts: Kids under Three Get into Disney World for Free!

You probably know that kids under the age of three get into Disney World parks for free, but did you also know that they eat free and don’t count against your room total at your Disney resort?  That means that a family of five with a child under the age of three can stay at a value resort like Pop Century, which normally only sleeps four people.  Since kids under the age of three can eat free at any Disney table service restaurant, buffets, even character dining, are an especially good deal.

If your child is turning three during your visit, they’ll remain free thoughout the trip.  Their age for that trip is based on how old they were when they started the trip.

One final thing:  I’ve never heard of anyone being asked by Disney to verify their toddler’s age, but if you’re worried, bring a copy of their birth certificate.

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