the one about disney {part 1}


You know how you can tell a person has run a half or full marathon by the little 13.1 or 26.2 decal on the back of their cars? Those are cool and all...but I'm gonna get one that says...

Disney Survivor

...and everyone who drives behind me can either raise a fist in solidarity because they, too, are Disney Survivors, or they can drive on by and shake their heads and comment on my lame window decal.

Either way, I'm gettin' one.

Because Folks, I did survive Disney. I survived Disney with two little girls, ages 3 and 8 months. I even did a half day at the Magic Kingdom with the girls by myself. BY MYSELF. (Note to self...make another car decal that says "I did the Magic Kingdom with two little girls without a spouse, and I lived to tell about it.")

I also survived Disney with only a couple of months' worth of planning and blog stalking. We didn't have reservations for every meal, but we still managed to eat. We didn't do a bajillion character dinners, but we did manage to meet tons of Disney peeps. We didn't follow a lot of the "Disney Rules," but we made the trip work for us and for our children. That is NUMBER ONE MOST IMPORTANT - Make it work for your family.

I am going to break down our Disney trip into four parts. Part 1 (this one!) is "Before-Trip Planning." Part 2 is "Traveling with Little Ones." Part 3 is "The Disney Experience" Part 4 is the part where I get all sentimental and describe what made the trip worth it and about how my husband and I both got teary eyed at the parade (what?!).

So...sit back...grab a glass of wine...and fasten your Mickey ears. This is how I survived Disney.

Let me start with a couple of disclaimers. 

1) My family was able to embark on this Disney adventure because my husband signed up for a medical conference at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort. We tagged along and enjoyed the amenities while he got his learn on. We paid for the additional plane tickets, all of the Disney attractions, etc, etc. However, because he was participating in the conference, we got a DEEEEEEP discount on the hotel room. Like...50% deep. The Grand Floridian sells their rooms for $600 a night. You can do the math. Let me just say that without such a discount, we would NEVER, EVER be able to afford this trip at this time in our lives. 

2) Because of the conference, we didn't choose what time of year to make our first Disney visit as a family. Therefore, we ended up at Disney during basically the busiest time of the year -- July 4th weekend. I would never, EVER recommend going to Disney during this time of year because of the heat and crowds, but many people (clearly) do and it is possible to still have a great time. We did. When we return in a few years, however, we will come back on a Tuesday in September.

Alrighty. We booked our July trip in February-ish, which put me approximately 2 years behind in the planning process. No really. People plan these trips for years. Mainly because it takes that long to afford it. Knowing how behind I was, I started scouring blogs, websites, and asking anyone who had any Disney experience what I needed to know to make the trip amazing. However, once the person learned of when I was going (July 4th), they usually laughed nervously and wished me a sincere Good Luck. No really, they did. A few kind souls gave me sound advice, and that is what I am here to do -- pass on what worked, what didn't, and what I will do for next time.

I read a lot of blogs about what to buy before your trip to Disney. I wanted to be really prepared because I knew that anything I would need there would cost 3 times more than what it would here. With two little ones, I wanted to make sure that anything they would ever need would be right there with me. Little kids need a lot of things to keep them happy and healthy...Bandaids, toys, snacks, diapers, wine (oops...that's what keeps me happy).

I took the advice of the expert blog writers and real Disney survivors who didn't run and scream after I said, "July 4th," and I bought all of the things. ALL OF THE THINGS. I spent a lot of money.

Here is what I bought (not including all the cute clothes my girls had to have and basic necessities such as diapers and wipes...!):

1. Bandaids (Disney Princess, of course)
2. Blister Bandaids (go on ankles and toes)
3. Friction Block (to prevent shoe/sock rubbing)
4. Moleskin (what the hell, right? It's stuff you find by the orthopedic foot junk that supposedly helps if you get a blister or something on your foot)
5. Benadryl Itch Relief Gel (Noelle gets eaten alive by mosquitos)
6. Sunscreen
7. Aloe
8. Baby Tylenol
9. Rain ponchos (6 - 1 per person, per day at the park)
10. Hand-held mister & fan
11. Adult Tylenol
12. Small, cheap wallet for ID and Disney Tickets, FastPass, PhotoPass, WinePass (not really, but how awesome!?)
13. Lightweight, waterproof backpack
14. Spray Neosporin
15. Bug Spray
16. Gum for the plane
17. Snacks for the plane and park (Fruit snacks, GoGo Squeeze applesauce, granola bars)
18. Small Disney souvenir items (Minnie Mouse tattoos, Princess bath gel from Target trial size section, Princess PJs on clearance, Minnie Mouse snack container from Target Dollar Spot, Princess insulated water bottle, Ariel cold pack - meant for boo boos but used to keep her cool in the park)
19. Two large Sharpie markers for autographs
20. Disney Princess book for autographs
21. Ziplock Quart baggies
22. Travel-size Lysol disinfectant spray
23. Travel-size all purpose wet wipes
24. New coloring book and reading book for Noelle on the plane
25. Glow bracelets from Target Dollar Spot

Now, let me post that list again with all the things we actually needed and used on our trip.


1. Bandaids (Disney Princess, of course)
2. Blister Bandaids (go on ankles and toes)
3. Friction Block (to prevent shoe/sock rubbing)
4. Moleskin (what the hell, right? It's stuff you find by the orthopedic foot junk that supposedly helps if you get a blister or something on your foot)
5. Benadryl Itch Relief Gel (Noelle gets eaten alive by mosquitos)
6. Sunscreen
7. Aloe 
8. Baby Tylenol
9. Rain ponchos (6 - 1 per person, per day at the park)
10. Hand-held mister & fan
11. Adult Tylenol
12. Small, cheap wallet for ID and Disney Tickets, FastPass, PhotoPass, WinePass (not really, but how awesome!?)
13. Lightweight, waterproof backpack
14. Spray Neosporin
15. Bug Spray
16. Gum for the plane
17. Snacks for the plane and park (Fruit snacks, GoGo Squeeze applesauce, granola bars)
18. Small Disney souvenir items (Minnie Mouse tattoos, Princess bath gel from Target trial size section, Princess PJs on clearance, Minnie Mouse snack container from Target Dollar Spot, Princess insulated water bottle, Ariel cold pack - meant for boo boos but used to keep her cool in the park)
19. Two large Sharpie markers for autographs
20. Disney Princess book for autographs
21. Ziplock Quart baggies 
22. Travel-size Lysol disinfectant spray
23. Travel-size all purpose wet wipes
24. New coloring book and reading book for Noelle on the plane
25. Glow bracelets from Target Dollar Spot


First, I will address all that we used and could not have survived without on our trip. 

1) Bandaids. While Noelle really never had an actual use for these, I wouldn't have wanted to go there without them. They did come in handy when the glow bracelets (#25) didn't actually come with the little connector to make the glow stick into a bracelet (they were a dollar...so...), I had to use the Bandaids to connect the ends together to make a bracelet. My middle name is MacGyver.

6) Sunscreen. DUH! You must have sunscreen at Disney Word in July. You must. We used SPF 50 on our girls and no one got a burn. My favorite kind right now is Neutrogena Beach Defense. It's light and smells really good!

8) Charlotte is still teething, so Baby Tylenol was our friend.

9) Rain ponchos. YES. YES. YES. A must. Disney will see theirs for about $8-$10 each. Granted, they are a little thicker vinyl, but who cares. It rains nearly everyday in Orlando during the summer, and our 2nd day at the Magic Kingdom, we pulled out the ponchos. They really helped. I only spent a little over a dollar on each of ours. I brought enough for each of us to have one on each of the two days at the park. These kinds of cheap ponchos really aren't reusable.

10) Hand-held mister & fan. We used this thing all the time. Again, Disney will sell you one of theirs for about $15. I bought mine at Target for $8. I'm sure these are seasonal in stores, but you can probably get one at Amazon very easily if you can't find one in stores. It was so nice to use on our girls to keep them from overheating. We enjoyed it, too.

11) Adult Tylenol. Do I have to explain it?

12) Small, cheap wallet. I have a rather nice Vera Bradley wallet, but I wanted to leave that at home and get something pretty small and compact. I found one at Target for $5. It had a slot for my ID and a few card holders on the back. It was so slim it fit in my pocket, which was great for easy access. At Disney, you will get TONS of little "passes" for various things, and it's nice to not have to dig for them. I also didn't want to risk having all of my cards and millions of dollars stolen, so I only took one bank card with me.

13) Lightweight, waterproof backpack. I thought I was just going to bring one of my baby bags, but I realized a backpack would be easier to deal with. I found one at Target on clearance. It was a gray, fake leather material that actually ended up being rather waterproof. It had lots of pockets on the inside and outside, and it was a life saver. I didn't have to worry about ruining one of my nice bags, it was easy to take on the plane and to the park, and it fit all of our stuff. With all the rain we had, it was nice to know my camera and other items were safe inside.

16) Gum. My daughter had never flown  before, so the gum helped her ears to pop.

17) Snacks. You can bring snacks into the park, so small items helped hold everyone over until the next $10 ice cream sundae. ;-)

18) Small Disney souvenirs. Guys, shit's expensive at Disney World, and it's really not all that special. I'm not a big trinket person, so I knew that pin trading and Mickey salt and pepper shakers were not going to appeal to me. However, with small kids, they want everything. Disney is brilliant because after every character encounter, there's a huge gift shop that you must exit through with every kind of toy and souvenir imaginable. I decided to head this off by bringing some small souvenirs along with me and planting them in the hotel room. I collected these smaller, less expensive items at various places before we left, and I made sure I had room for them in our luggage. Noelle still was thrilled with her new Disney stuff, but it didn't have to cost a ton of money.

Anecdotal evidence: Everyone carries around these cute balloons, and Noelle wanted one. The first day, we didn't bring cash, so that was a no-go. The second day, I went to the hotel ATM, got cash, and let her pick out a balloon at the Magic Kingdom. I nearly pooped myself when the balloon man told me it would cost $10. Yikes! It was a pretty smart purchase, considering we couldn't take it on the plane with us. It would have been more entertaining and just as much money to tie $10 to someone else's balloon and watch it float away.

19) Sharpies. I knew autographs were a big deal, so I bought two "fat" Sharpies under the advice of a blogger because some characters wear things on their hands and it is hard for them to hold small markers. These Sharpies had a skinnier end and a wider end. If I had it to do over again, I would get the click Sharpies that don't have end caps. It's easier for the character to just click it open and closed instead of deal with a cap.

20) Disney Princess book. Again, I don't like trinkets and useless things that sit around. I have a hard enough time keeping track of my keys and wallet and phone and kids...I don't need to track down other, less important things, too. I decided that instead of a traditional autograph book that will either get lost, drawn in, or thrown away, I wanted Noelle to have a Disney Princess book autographed by the characters she met. Noelle LOVES to be read to. We read to her every night and usually multiple times per day. At least this way, her autograph book would be useful to her. Thankfully, my mom had just picked up a nice Disney Princess book at a rummage that was in perfect condition. We took that with us and had all the princesses sign their stories. If a princess or other Disney character wasn't in the book, they just signed the title pages in the beginning. Everyone thought this was a great idea, and Princess Jasmine and Aladdin nearly read their entire story to her. It was very special!

21) Ziplock Quart baggies. You have to have a quart baggie for your liquids on the plane to obey the 3-1-1 rule, so I bought a box of this size and put them to other good uses. I like to group toiletries together in baggies so they don't leak in my suitcase. I used them to keep bottles clean, keep important papers waterproof, and for a variety of other uses.

23) Travel-size all purpose wet wipes. These were great for wiping down dirty tables, high chairs, foreheads, sticky hands, and even a few bottoms as we neared the end of our "baby wipes" supply.

24) New coloring book and reading book for the plane. Having something new helped to keep Noelle entertained on our plane ride.

25) Glow bracelets. I picked up a couple of tubes of $1 glow bracelets at the Target Dollar Spot. They were $1 for 15 bracelets. We discovered that they weren't actually bracelets because there was nothing to fasten the two ends of the stick together, but I guess you get what you pay for. Noelle still thought these were fun, and we saved money and tears when we didn't buy the expensive versions at the park.

Now, as for the items that I brought but didn't use...

I'm not saying that you shouldn't buy them, but I think a lot of the blister aid things would be better for people with kids who would do more walking. We rented a very nice double stroller (read below for more info), so Noelle wasn't walking around a whole lot. All of us had nice, comfortable tennis shoes and good socks to keep our feet from getting blisters. Obviously, if you wear brand new shoes to the park or inappropriate footwear, you are going to get blisters and need the first aid, but we didn't have a problem with that. We also only went to the Magic Kingdom for a day and a half. We didn't do multiple days of parks with tons and tons and tons of walking.

Let me just take a moment to address the FASHION of Disney. I'm not saying you should be a model or that you should wear your nicest clothes, but GEEZ. I saw some outfits that would make the People of Wal-Mart look like couture fashion designers. If you just wear a bra, you will be steps ahead of many Disney patrons. Leave your spandex shorts at home and you are already looking better than 50% of the population.

I opted to wear some fashionable, yet comfortable shorts (khaki-like material but in navy and coral-red) and lightweight, flowy tank tops. I also wore (GASP), low-cut socks and tennis shoes, but my feet thanked me for it later. I initially didn't want to wear tennis shoes with my outfits, but Luke convinced me to, and I'm glad I did. I saw plenty of people in flip flops and uncomfortable looking sandals, and I just didn't get it. The Magic Kingdom is huge, you walk on pavement all day, and you stand and stand and stand and stand until you can't stand it no mo'. Please wear tennis shoes that have been broken in. This tip alone will help you to have a much better time.

My SMARTEST decision, by far, was my decision to rent a double jogging stroller. I used the company called Kingdom Strollers. There are several other companies that rent strollers, but this company was great! Here are my reasons to rent a stroller from Kingdom Strollers.

1) You don't have to mess with bringing your own stroller from home.
2) The strollers from Kingdom Strollers are luxury strollers that are probably nicer than yours. Just sayin'. The one we rented retails for $450.
3) Kingdom Strollers delivered our stroller to our hotel and picked it up for us.
4) Strollers are genius. You can stow all kinds of loot in the bottom, they have cup holders, and even your walking child will want a rest from the walking. They are great in crowds because you know your kids are safe, and they are great to ram ankles of people who cut you in line. I'll tell you more about that later.
5) Disney rents strollers at their parks (of course they do!), but they are more expensive and you can't take them back to the hotel with you!
6) It's CHEAP. For $47 and some change, I had a stroller for 3 whole days. You will pay that much for lunch at Disney...if you're lucky.
7) Kingdom Strollers put a bright orange tag with our last name on the back and included a mini cooler and a rain shield for the stroller for free. We used the heck out of the rain shield.

I hope you have found this post helpful and/or amusing. Disney is a huge undertaking, and you want it to be as enjoyable as possible. Doing the proper research and buying necessary items ahead of time will save you money, time, and years of therapy.

Check back for my post about Disney, Part 2: Traveling with Little Ones.








2 comments

  1. I freaking love this post. Can't wait to read more! I'm on vacation fever with everyone around me going on vacations! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, me again, just commenting all over your blog. We went in April! And yep. So much truth in your words.

    ReplyDelete