Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Staying In Style - Deluxe Resorts

Disney's Deluxe Resorts are the Contemporary Resort, Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Polynesian Resort, Wilderness Lodge, Boardwalk Inn, Yacht Club Resort, Beach Club Resort, and Animal Kingdom Lodge. For the sake of consolidation, we'll also include the Villa Resorts in this post, which are part of Disney's timeshare program called the Disney Vacation Club. Villas offer larger accomodations that can include up to three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a full kitchen. These resorts are Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort, Disney's Boardwalk Villas, The Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, Disney's Beach Club Villas, Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas (Jambo House or Kidani Village), Disney's Old Key West, and Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa. The latter three are resorts that are exclusively villas while the others are sort of extensions of Deluxe Resorts. All of these are Disney's highest priced resorts and you will find that they are highly themed and designed with luxury in mind. They boast extra amenities that range from prime locations (some are on the monorail line), fantastic pools (Yacht and Beach Club have a water park with a sandy-bottom pool and a tremendous slide), and two even have full-service spas.

As in our previous posts on the Value Resorts and Moderate Resorts, I will not cover basic amenities and room sizes for you. The official Disney site will give you a basic overview, and then AllEars.net can give you the finer details. If you prefer print, the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and the Passporter guide both have excellent resort overviews. Instead, let's once again look at the pros and cons of these resorts for families. Your "pro" may be my "con," so take them as the opinions they are and hopefully they will still help you decide if a Deluxe Resort is best for you.

Pros To Staying At A Deluxe Resort

  • Location, Location, Location! - If you want a resort within walking distance of a park, it will be a Deluxe Resort. The Grand Floridian, Polynesian and Contemporary are all on the monorail providing easy access to both Magic Kingdom and Epcot. The Contemporary (and Bay Lake Towers) are within a fairly easy walk to Magic Kingdom as well and all the monorail resorts have rooms with views of the Magic Kingdom. Boardwalk, Beach Club, and Yacht Club are all an easy walk from World Showcase at Epcot. They are also a longer, but doable walk from Disney's Hollywood Studios and they have an active nightlife integrated into the area, including restaurants, nightclubs, and shops. The Animal Kingdom isn't so much close to the Animal Kingdom Park (although it's not far), but it also incorporates that park into it's theming, with wild animals literally strolling through your backyard.
  • Room Size - These are the biggest rooms on property, and even in the standard room (as opposed to a Villa), you have ample space for storage, sleeping, and hanging out. They have balconies, which are often a lovely feature to have after the kids are asleep and you want to actually hold a conversation with your significant other.
  • Bed Size - Queen-size beds are standard in the Deluxe resorts (as opposed to double beds in the Value Resorts). There are also rooms with King beds if you have an infant in a Pack and Play or if you decide to leave the kids with grandma and take a grown-ups only trip.
  • Refrigerators and Kitchen Facilities - Mini-fridges are standard in Deluxe Resorts. Villas that are one, two, or three-bedroom have full kitchens and a washer/dryer set, while studio villas have a microwave and mini-fridge only.
  • Architecture - I wasn't sure what else to call this, but basically, these resorts are the top-of-the-line in the design and theming end. The lobby at Wilderness Lodge will take your breath away. The opulence of the Grand Floridian is stunning. And walking into the Polynesian is just like you've left the beautiful state of Florida and stepped right into Hawaii. If you are going to Disney World to lose yourself in the fantasy and forget about the real world, a Deluxe Resort is a perfect place for that. Mind you, to be fair, the Moderates and Values also have an "other-worldly" quality that provide fabulous escape as well.
  • Amazing Pools - So amazing, in fact, that some of them are marketed as water parks, and not without reason. Slides, freestyle shapes, zero-entry, and other gimmicks make these places worth your time outside the parks. If you decide to stay in a Deluxe Resort, make a strong effort to set aside some time to enjoy the pools.
  • Interior Entrances - The Deluxe Resorts are the only level of resort that has a main entrance with interior access to all rooms. This is, in my opinion, the safest way to go. Although the main doors are by no means completely secure, they are visible to staff at all times and there are no dark corners for potential criminals to lurk in.
  • Food Choices - The Deluxe Resorts have some of the best dining options on property and offer all types of choices, from snacks to quick service to upscale dining. Although all properties afford some dining choices that will ensure you won't starve, the Deluxe resorts offer restaurants that are unique enough to draw people to them from all over the Walt Disney World property. In fact, if you decide that a Deluxe resort is not in your budget, I highly recommend eating at one or two of their restaurants. The food and service will be excellent, and you will get a chance to poke around the lobby and grounds of these luxurious resorts.

Cons To Staying At A Deluxe Resort
  • Cost - Standard room rates for these resorts can start as low as $240 and go up from there. Way up. At Christmas, the regular rate for a room at the Polynesian can soar to just under $900 a night. Old Key West is generally considered the least expensive Villa Resort, and those rooms (standard rate) range from a Studio for $295 in the least expensive season to almost $1700 per night for a three-bedroom during the holiday. Of course, there are often discounts and other specials that could save you some money on these rates, but this at least gives you an idea of where to place them in cost.
  • Formality - Although the grand architecture and luxurious setting may please your adult sensibilities, your children might really prefer the whimsy of the Value Resorts. They are far more playful in tone than the stately Grand Floridian, which may remind them more of Aunt Nancy's house where they aren't allowed to sit on the furniture or touch anything.
So there are my pros and cons to the Deluxe resorts. What are yours? We love to hear from you in our comments!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Silly Shot: Choose Your Own Adventure

Jen H. enjoying a thrilling time on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority

This week's Silly Shot is a little bit different from the rest because it really doesn't focus on one location or even one park. Instead it features a way to turn normal attractions into thrilling ones. Just simply act like you are on a roller coaster! The pose works great for the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, the Monorail, any of the transportation boats, even the parking trams!

Just have fun creating your own thrills!

Do you have a photo of you and your family creating your own adventure? Post them on Scrapping the Magic or on our Facebook page page!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Getting An "A" In Imagineering

One of the most hotly contested questions about traveling with school-age children is "When is it okay or appropriate to take your child out of school for travel?" Sometimes this question is pretty easy to answer. Are you going to Athens to see the Parthenon? That's pretty educational! Are you going to Aunt Suzie's wedding? That's pretty important! Are you taking the kids to Disney World? um... well... um...

So before I go any further into this topic, I'd like to start by saying that ultimately, I do believe the decision to take a child or children out of school for a family vacation is entirely up to the parent. Each child is different and has different abilities to recuperate from a period of missed work. But before I alienate all the teachers in the room, and as someone with a little (very little) classroom teaching experience, it is also sometimes unreasonable to expect the teacher to be able to prepare a week's worth of work in advance for that child to take with him. Sometimes it can be done and sometimes it can't. It really depends on the level of learning and the topic(s) being covered. The key to all of that will be communication. This is not something to pop on a teacher at the last minute.

Backing up a little, why would you even want to take your kids out of school to go to Disney World? There are several reasons, actually. The most common is that Disney costs less when most schools in America are in session. The parks are also most crowded at times that most kids in America are out of school (Christmas, Easter, and summer vacation). Special events might draw you to the parks at other times of the year as well, such as Marathon Weekend, ESPN The Weekend, Night of Joy, or the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, not to mention a family reunion or wedding being held at the resorts.

So what are the things you should consider when deciding whether or not to take your child out of school? Here are a number of factors for you to keep in mind:
  • Is it really necessary for you to go when school is in session? - There are lots of ways to avoid crowds while still working with the school calendar. Compare your summer break to those of other school systems. Maybe you get out a week earlier, or maybe you stay out past Labor Day. Labor Day is one of the least busy holiday weekends for Disney, probably because it's hurricane season but also because many schools start just before the weekend begins. Or maybe your spring break is not over Easter, which is by far the busiest week of the spring.

  • What is the school's policy? - I have a friend who submitted forms asking both his children to be excused for a Disney trip. The older child's school approved the trip as educational, the younger child's school did not. Know before you complete the form what the climate is in your school.

  • How old is your child? - The further along in school they are, the harder it will be for them to leave and come back caught up. It will also be harder for them to find enough time while on vacation to sit and do homework in order to stay caught up. This is, after all, a vacation. Maybe you don't mind checking your work email every four minutes on your Blackberry while on vacation (although I recommend you not do that), but your kids are not going to want to do homework at any point.

  • What are your child's abilities? - If your son or daughter is already struggling in school, it's not a good idea to pull them out for a vacation. That is simply complicating something for them that is already pretty tough.

If you consider all these factors and still decide pulling your child out of school is best for your family, plan carefully so that the impact of the missed days is minimal. Talk to your child's teacher and give them as much notice as possible. Try to encourage your child to work ahead, so that on the trip, he is not so much pressured to keep up. If he does have homework to do on the trip, carve out times during the trip that are meant for that purpose.

Again, it's a very personal decision. You know your child best. Your teacher should also have a voice in this decision, as she is the one who will need to accommodate and adjust her plans for this family trip. Her cooperation will be key in your child's successful return to the classroom. And don't leave your child out of the discussion. Many children get anxious about missing school. Be sure your child is on board with your plans as well and is ready to do the extra work to ensure he can get right back in the swim of things.

In the end, no matter what you decide, you can have a fabulous family vacation. Going in the summer or over a holiday will mean higher rates and bigger crowds, but if all of that is accounted for in your planning, you will be fine.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Kid Scale - Future World

There are many who argue that there is nothing for small children at Epcot. This is a statement that I cannot agree with, but can't completely refute, either. This second installment of our Kid Scale feature is devoted to the front half of Epcot, called Future World. Yes, there are several things your kids can and will want to do here, but there are also a couple of attractions that I must caution strongly against. Fortunately, because Future World is so large and signage is actually sometimes a bit harder to notice, your kids might be easily steered around the less appropriate attractions without even being aware they are there.

Epcot is focused more on education (or "edutainment," as Disney calls it) and less on fantasy, so it's worth visiting whether your kids will ride anything or not. Disney still provides street entertainment, exhibitions, and other diversions everyone in the family can appreciate.

Please remember in our Kid Scale posts, my goal is not to describe the ride, but rather I will assume you already know what the ride entails and will provide instead some details about age-appropriateness. Some attractions do have height requirements, so be sure to check those as well. I offer age suggestions based on developmental milestones, so you will want to adjust those to your own children’s development and special needs. We’ll also point out difficulties you might encounter or highlights that may be especially important to your individual tyke. Every six weeks or so, we’ll post another land or area in the Walt Disney World resort until we’ve covered them all.

And remember, I’m just a parent with my own experiences and those of other parents like me, so your comments and feedback are more than welcome as they will help others whose children are more like yours than mine or those of my interviewees.

  • The Seas With Nemo And Friends – All ages – I'll just say it right now. This is the best ride for small kids in all of Future World. Best. The queue alone is reason enough to see it, but then to have real fish swimming with Nemo and Dory and the gang... it's fabulous. Bruce the shark makes an appearance, so be sure they are ready, but for the most part, this ride is just magical. Do not miss it if you have children under 10.

  • Turtle Talk With Crush – Age four and up – Thanks to what I think is the coolest new technology Disney has put out in recent years, your child can interact with Crush from Finding Nemo. It is, by far, the most realistic and fun character meet I know of. If your child is well-spoken and brave enough, help him come up with a question for Crush. He will call on several kids during your visit and the Q&A with the children is probably the most memorable part of the attraction.

  • Soarin'™– Age 4 and up (assuming height requirement of 40 inches is met) – I have to admit a major bias here, as this is my absolute favorite attraction at Walt Disney World. Even my mother, who is afraid of heights, agreed to ride it because of my enthusiasm and she loved it. Just let the kids know that they will feel like they are flying, but they are safely buckled in and won't fall and Mommy and Daddy will be right there. Even the 4D effects don't get frightening. And they'll love the orange grove smell. Well, I love it, anyway.

  • Living with the Land – All ages – This is not a thrilling ride for your younger ones. Looking at plants is not something that they will really appreciate much, although there are fun moments for them--like pumpkins molded to look like Mickey Mouse--scattered throughout the attraction. It's a slow boat ride, though, and it's going to be interesting to the gardeners and healthy folk in your party. Lines are usually short and it's a great way to pass twenty minutes or so while you wait for your Soarin'™ Fast Pass time to come up if you are a tad early.

  • Circle Of Life – Age 7 and up – If you really feel you must see this attraction, by all means, try it. But it's quite dull, and I doubt many kids want to sit through it. It's a pretty National Geographic-esque movie (think Disney Earth) with a really strong, preachy message. Not that it's a bad lesson to hear, but will your kids really absorb it? It is true that Timon, Pumba, and Simba are in it, but their appearance will probably not be enough to hold them.

  • Journey Into Imagination With Figment – All ages – Figment is a purple cartoon dragon. 'Nuff said? In addition to Figment, this slow ride carries you through some colorful and (dare I say it?) imaginative scenes. Mom and Dad can laugh at the silliness, the kids can enjoy the scenery. There are a few 4D elements such as puffs of air and smells that may surprise young children plus it gets loud at the end. Figment practically has a cult following, so it's a worthwhile stop. That said, it's also not an extremely popular attraction anymore, so lines are often short.

  • ImageWorks: The Kodak "What If" Labs – All ages – This is a free play area and is great for recharging. Not every station here will be good for your smallest children, but there is certainly something for everyone. And the water spouts outside are not to be missed.

  • Honey, I Shrunk The Audience – Ages 10 and up – You will see a common theme through my Kid Scale posts about 4D movies. Even the cartoony and fun Philharmagic in Magic Kingdom will scare the bejeezus out of some young children. While the 4D effects might seem cool, wicked and way out to your tween, your eight-year-old might not ever be able to trust you again for taking him into this movie. It's long and the 4D tricks include snakes, lions, and mice... all on a huge scale since you, as the audience, have been shrunk down to teeny tiny. Actually, you might not want to take grandma into this one either. Only for the brave and not easily skeeved out by creepy crawlies and rodents.

  • Test Track – Age five and up – This is sort of a thrill ride, but much of it is story and show. Oddly, I found it wasn't the speed of the last part of the ride that scared my preschooler, but rather it was the "heat lamps" we passed through on our way to said speed test. They put you into a car and do some pretty scary driving with you inside, so it's a fine time to remind your youngsters about car safety and also reinforce that this car is pretend and so these tricks are safe. The bottom line here is to be ready for anything, but it certainly is a good way to introduce younger kids to thrill rides.

  • Mission: SPACE® – Ages 10 and up – When it first opened, this ride made many a guest quite ill. Anyone who has trouble with spinny rides seemed to have at least a little trouble with it. I know one person in my party (an adult) was ill for more than two hours after riding. It was a long walk back to Boardwalk for him... but we were lucky we were in a resort that was walking distance. I can't imagine what would have happened if we had needed to take a bus or car somewhere. Because of the troubles many guests had, Disney kept scaling back the intensity, and finally created a tame version (green)and a wilder version (orange). Guests can select the one they want at the door. That said, I still feel that thrills of this nature are better suited for bodies that are a bit more developed. And take the cautions seriously. If you have any sort of medical issue (especially vertigo, sinus troubles or known heart problems), do not ride the orange version and think twice about the green. However, for your older kids (and kids at heart), the ride is really very cool and unique. Your youngsters can wait with an adult in the Advanced Training Lab free play area until others in the party are finished riding.

  • Mission: SPACE® Advanced Training LabAll Ages – If you must go near Mission: SPACE® with youngsters (and you will need to if you have thrill-loving teens and adults in your party), the Advanced Training Lab will keep them busy and happy. It's the exit area of Mission: SPACE® and it includes a play area called Space Base for the smallest visitors plus lots of interactive areas for older kids and adults. Space Base has gerbil tubes and climbing nets similar to playgrounds found at fast food establishments around the country. The free play is great for recharging your engines. Parents can sit and supervise and kids can roam fairly freely.

  • Ellen's Energy Adventure – All ages – I rate this as "All Ages" because truly, anyone can ride it. However, there is a lot that will be missed by anyone under age 12 or so. It's possible many kids know Ellen from her daytime talk show. And they might even know Jamie Lee Curtis from the children's books she's written and possibly from Freaky Friday. Sadly, not many children know Bill Nye, a tragedy that I would certainly do something about if I could. However, Ellen and Bill's personalities will probably get your kids through it, and with the cool dinosaurs plus the quiet, slow, air-conditioned tram ride, it's a great resting ride. It is also cited as a ride on which moms like to breastfeed, should you need to do so, as the 40-minute ride takes you from the Big Bang through evolution and into modernish times. For your more skittish kids, the darkness, high volume and even the dinos may be too much for them. Oh, and be sure to take a potty break before the adventure begins.

  • InnoventionsAge three and up – This is a huge attraction. There are 14 different stations for you to explore. They range in age-appropriateness and with the variety, it's an attraction that will merit its own post in the future. It does change from time to time, so it's worth a walk through no matter what. A highlight for kids is The Great Piggy Bank Adventure, designed to expose your children to money management. We've seen someone as young as four enjoy this. Many of the attractions are meant for your whole family to play together. There are some louder attractions and simulators that will not be appropriate for the younger members of your party.

  • Spaceship Earth – All ages – Anyone under age 8 may not really get the whole history lecture Dame Judi Dench provides on this journey through communication, but it's still visually interesting and the interactive elements will interest them. The main caution is that it can get quite dark, and some guests are bothered when they reach the apex of the track. This is the point where the car turns around backwards so you can comfortably ride back down to Earth (kind of literally). But it's a fairly slow descent and actually, a good time for a toddler or younger child to curl up in Mommy's lap and go to sleep.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Disney Pin Frames

Have you ever been at Disney and bought a few of the fabulous pins they were selling only to find yourself wondering what to do with them when you got home? If so, this is just the project for you! A Disney Pin Frame!

Pin frames are super quick & easy and are a great way to showcase some mementos of your vacation! They are also great for kids because they encourage a hobby and a way to relive their trip. In a future post we will talk all about pin collection and trading if you are not familiar with it, but for now we will just show you how to make the frames.


- 12 x 12 Scrapbook Frame - These can be purchased at any craft store and come in two styles, standard frame or shadow box. I prefer to use the standard style, but either one will work. The only difference in the two is in most cases you would remove the glass from the standard style if you have really thick pins. I prefer to leave the glass off regardless of pin thickness to make it easier to add new pins when I get them. Some stores will carry frames that say Record/LP & Scrapbook frame, but you want to avoid using them because they are larger than 12 x 12.
- 12 x 12 Cork Tile- The cork tiles come in a 4-pack and can be found at most retailers that stock cork bulletin boards. I get my tiles at Target because they tend to be a bit cheaper than the craft stores.
- 12 x 12 Sheet of Scrapbook Paper - Here is where the project gets fun! There are thousands and thousands of choices on the market when it comes to scrapbook paper... solid, patterned, texture, you name it they make it. The one tip I would suggest is to pick a paper that is fairly simple in pattern or in a more muted color palette to avoid the pins getting lost in the background. This helps you to customize your project. For me, I only collect Stitch pins, so I went with a nice tropical background to fit my theme. The only limit you will have is the stock your local craft or scrapbook store carries. For a wider variety you could always try MouseMemories, an online store that specializes in Disney and vacation supplies. They will be more expensive than your local store, but if you really want a custom background they may be the better option.

  1. Place the paper on top of the cork title. The paper will be a little bit larger than the title, so make sure you have it centered.
  2. Remove the backs from the pins. I do recommend saving these in case you ever want to remove the pin to wear at a later date.
  3. Push the pins through the paper into the cork title. Make sure you have the pin in the correct place because once you push it through the paper it will leave holes.
  4. Place the paper and tile into the frame, put the back on the frame and you are finished! If you notice the pins are pushing oddly on the glass, it's best to remove the glass for a cleaner look and to avoid the glass cracking from the pressure.
Now, if you don't want to get fancy with a pin frame or if you have pins that you want to display but also wear, another options is to get a standard cork bulletin board and place your pins on that. With nothing covering the board you can easily take pins off to wear and put them back on the board when your trip is over without leaving holes in the paper.

To see other examples of Disney Pin Frames or to share your own, please visit our thread on Scrapping the Magic! We look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Silly Shots: A Queen is Named

Jen L. and Elizabeth cheer on Jen H. as she tries to
remove the sword from the stone.
Once upon a time there used to be a lovely little Sword in the Stone ceremony at the Magic Kingdom. While the sword pulling ceremony has gone the way of Mr. Toad, the stone has been left behind for some great photo ops.

Located in Fantasyland near Cinderella's Golden Carrousel, the sword sits buried in its stone waiting for the next great king or queen to pull it free. While the sword never will come out, the photos of people making attempts are always good for a smile.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Yes, You Can Enjoy Good Food And Entertain The Kids At The Same Time!

Walt Disney World offers up many top-quality restaurants for you to sample. With the advent of the Disney Dining Plan and Free Dining offers, more and more people are taking advantage of these renowned restaurants on their vacations when they might have normally opted for less-expensive meals. But just because these restaurants are more accessible than before doesn't mean your kids are completely ready and willing to experience them. With a little foresight and some consideration for others, you too can enjoy these grown-up meals with your whole family... and maybe even broaden your children's taste at the same time.

Children are permitted in all Walt Disney World Table Service restaurants except the very high-end, very expensive Victoria and Albert's. Even the most well-mannered of children would probably not gain much from the menu there, which really does cater to a mature palette. As much as I love and advocate for children, I agree with the policy here. If you wish to experience it, arrange for babysitting (a big topic for a future post!) and by all means, enjoy it.

In a previous post on the basics of dining at Disney, I listed my choices for the most kid-friendly table service restaurants at Disney and some of our readers listed theirs in the comments. But you don't have to stick to those suggestions. Do you want to try Citricos with your kids? It's in the Grand Floridian, which is shi-shi enough all by itself. The fare is Southern European. My kids have recently proven to me that they are just not into risotto, but I sure am and I have found the food at Citricos to be very well-prepared and delicious. So can I bring the kids?!

Well, of course you can. And Disney will let pretty much anything fly. We've seen people in their shorts and flops, kids running around playing tag, chairs being rocked back and forth until they fall... you can do it all at a Disney restaurant. But we prefer to take the opportunity to teach our children how to behave in a nicer restaurant. I have these flash-forwards of my daughter on her first date when she is 25 and completely graduated from medical school (*ahem*) and she doesn't know why the waiter drops the napkin in her lap. Then, in the middle of the meal, she says, "Wait everyone! Quiet!" And then belches loudly and laughs. Nononononoooo... this is not what we do in nice restaurants.

To ensure cooperation from our offspring, we do limit the number of times per trip we take our kids to the nicest of the restaurants Disney has to offer. And we set some expectations with them. Sitting still is first and foremost, and then practicing their best manners is just after that. We also use it as a chance to dress up a bit. My daughter will wear a ball gown and tiara anywhere if given the opportunity, so she's not so tough to convince. For my reluctant son, I don't attempt anything as rash as a tie (although he'd look totally SMASHING in one), but I do go with a collared shirt. I might even add a sweater vest if he is less surly that particular evening. My husband and I dress up a bit as well. Sure, theme parks are about vacation, but by fussing a little over clothing and distancing ourselves from our theme park wear, we send a message to the kids that the evening is special and different and their little inner-adult sometimes comes out. (Sometimes... but not always).

We try to bring some small toys to entertain the kids at the table. Sure, it's not great manners to have Ironman and Wolverine fighting on the white tablecloth (hey... in my son's world, it happens). But it does tend to keep him seated at the table and helps pass the time until food arrives. Disney restaurants are also completely prepared in case your own props don't do the trick. They have crayons and coloring sheets and they will bring the kids' food before yours is ready instead of holding all food for the table. Don't be hesitant to ask for them to do this. We try to order for the kids immediately upon arrival. Then with that done, we can peruse the menu for ourselves a bit more leisurely. Their food sometimes arrives shortly after we've placed our order.

Speaking of food, get what you know your kids will eat. Don't fret that you are at a nice restaurant and all little Suzie wants is a hot dog. If it's not on the children's menu at that restaurant, ask anyway. Chances are, if it's typical kidfood, they can get it for you. That said, these are great opportunities for kids to try new things. But let them sample from your plate rather than ordering something that they may turn their nose up to. You never know what sorts of new, grand things they will enjoy, and being at Disney always seems to put my kids in a better frame of mind for branching out. My daughter tried a tomato-based soup at Marrakesh when she was three years old. She had been pretty against the "red" food group up until then. Especially the subset of "liquid." She really enjoyed it!

So brave those nicer restaurants with your kids. Just be smart about it and don't overdo it. A fancy restaurant every night will eventually wear on them. And of course, that will wear on you.

Do you have other suggestions for preparing your kids to enjoy a white-linen restaurant? Leave them in the comments! We love to hear from you.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Surviving A Day In The Parks With A Baby: Equipment List

When I became a mom, I discovered that the tiny little purse I had downsized to was going to have to go back into the closet for a while. Or at least into the much roomier diaper bag. Trips to the store suddenly required a shoulder-bag worth of accouterments and careful planning to ensure I was ready for any sort of meltdown (mine or my daughter's).

Of course, if a trip to the store requires significant equipment, you can imagine what a day in a Disney Park requires. However, it's very easy to overpack or underpack, and neither is very pleasant. It's very important to be organized so you are sure you have all you need and a little bit of what you might need. I love to tell the story of when I accidentally left our diaper pad (along with diapers and wipes) in the car when we spent a day at SeaWorld with a five-month-old. We didn't mean to do it, but we did because we were not organized and simply didn't grab all the stuff we intended to bring into the parks with us. Without going into detail, let's just say that a diaper blow-out in a restaurant while the baby is eating her lunch in your lap is a mighty unpleasant experience... ESPECIALLY when one member of your party has to run all the way back to the car to get clean-up supplies.

So here is our strategy. It should be noted that we use strollers instead of carriers, so you may need to adopt this if you are opting to go without a stroller or with a stroller that does not have a basket for storage. We are also a two-parent family that stays together at all times. If you are a single parent or have more than one infant, there may be more need to adapt. As your children get older, the need to carry tons of stuff does decrease. Our plan is for when you have at least one member of your party that is not toilet-trained.

We take two bags into the parks. One is a medium-sized backpack (ours came from R.E.I.) and the other is a J.J. Cole Logic Bag. Neither bag is huge, but the reason we take two is because one stays in the stroller at all times with supplies that are less urgent, but still important. Both bags are carried in a backpack style, and this is important for loading and unloading onto buses and monorails. Because really, you can carry as much stuff as you'd like, but in the end, you have to be able to effectively use your method of transportation without ticking off everyone else in line. And even if you drive your own car, there is a good chance you will have to take a tram to your car, which means folding your stroller.

The reason I recommend the Logic Bag specifically is because of all its very nifty compartments coupled with its ergonomic design. It keeps you very organized and distributes the weight of what you are carrying evenly across your back. The water bottle holder even keeps you a little cool at first. (If you have an infant, you may choose to use this for bottles instead of water).
So what's in each bag? Glad you asked. The lists are below. Remember, the backpack stays in the stroller, even when we park the stroller to visit attractions. The Logic Bag comes with us into every venue.

  • Prepacked snacks or snacks in small ziplock bags or small 1-cup Tupperware-type containers. (the number you take depends on how many kids and how long you will be in the parks... but we always have at least two).
  • Change of clothes for Mom and Dad (for water rides or a particularly nasty diaper blow-out).
  • Plastic bag to hold wet or dirty clothes
  • Burp cloths if you have an infant
  • Extra receiving blanket or two if you have an infant
  • Formula and water if you have an infant and are not breastfeeding. I don't recommend bringing in pre-made formula, even in a small cooler. It's hot in Florida. I just don't trust it.
  • Ponchos (in case of rain)
  • Sippy cup (empty... you can fill it at the parks)
  • Your favorite analgesic for aches and pains
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug repellent or wipes
  • Bandages and antibacterial ointment for the unlikely boo-boo or likely blister
  • Extra camera batteries, memory cards, and a tripod.
Logic Bag
  • Diapers (enough for one day - don't pack too many. Diapers are available at really high prices in the gift shops if you happen to run out. Ask at the counter. But generally, you won't run out.)
  • Wipes in a travel container
  • Hand Sanitizer (or antibacterial wipes if you don't feel comfortable with the ingredients of hand sanitizers)
  • Extra Pacifier (if the child is young enough)
  • Camera
  • Change of clothes for child (specifically for food issues and diaper blow-outs. I recommend two shirts and one pair of shorts per child)
  • Money
  • Tickets
  • Mobile phone
  • Pen and small notepad to jot down memories/track expenses/note photographs
So that's it! Pack your bags and enjoy your day. Rest assured that anything else you need is available in the parks. Cast members will go out of their way to help you. But this should cover you for most situations. Did we leave anything important off our list? Let us know in the comments!