Friday, September 27, 2013

Disney 2013: Check-In and Tips

Y’all. We had so much fun at Disney. And I took so many pictures. I’ll try not to bore you to tears, but I want to share our fun! And maybe a few tips that helped us.

We arrived on Sunday afternoon and checked into our hotel – Disney’s All Star Movies. I was looking forward to the “over the top” theming, and it did not disappoint.

This was the courtyard outside of our building. It was set up like Andy’s room, and you even walked through a giant door with a sign on it that said, “Andy’s Room. No Girls Allowed (Except Molly).” The kids loved coming out here to play each day on our way to/from the food court and buses.
Ironically, Honor liked this Buzz Lightyear better than the “real” one in the park!

And who could resist playing with RC?

Our building’s stairwells were “hidden” by these giant buckets. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

That evening, we went over to Downtown Disney to hang out, and had dinner at TREX Café.

It was also our first taste of the Disney “fashion” – or lack thereof. Wow. It was pretty interesting to see what people from other countries wear on vacation. If you think the “People of Walmart” website is interesting, you’d love people watching at Disney. I was definitely not expecting that!

Hotel – All Star Movies

We enjoyed our hotel. It is a “value” resort, and doesn’t have some of the extras the more expensive hotels have, but it met our needs and the kids loved the theming. I’d done online check-in, and getting our things in order once we arrived was quick and easy. We had requested a room in the Toy Story area, and our request was fulfilled. The room was clean and everything was in working order – except the shower faucet. (It worked, just not “right.”) I reported it to maintenance, and they tried to come that very evening to fix it. We’d just put the kids to bed, so we asked them to come the next day. When we returned for naps the next day, it had been fixed.

The food court had enough offerings to please each of us during the meals we ate there, and the food was good. We had the Quick Service Dining Plan, and found it decently simple to navigate once you knew what you were doing. We also had the new RFID Rapid Refill mugs, and had no issues with them.
(I would probably never pay full price for a dining plan (or the Rapid Refill mugs), but we were able to get it for free during a promotion from Disney. It was nice to not have to worry about the food expense. But we would have never ordered as much food as we got on the dining plan, so it wasn’t a true cost comparison.)

The pool was huge, and the kids loved the Fantasia theme. Honor enjoyed the splash pad while I washed a load of clothes at the guest laundry one day. It’s never in my plan to do laundry while we are on vacation, but I was thankful for access to laundry facilities, and had supplies with me just in case I needed them.
The bus service to the parks was great. We never waited more than 5 minutes for a bus, and having it drop us off at the front of the park (and not have to park in a giant parking lot, take a tram to the park, then try to find our car later) was great. Having to fold the stroller each time was a pain, but that’s a story for another time.

One tip I’d read during my obsessive extensive research, was to take a back-of-the-door shoe holder to help organize “stuff”. I didn’t know if we’d use it, but we had one, so I took it anyway. It didn’t fit over our bathroom door, so I hung it in the closet area. Good call. It helped keep all kinds of smallish things accessible (bathroom stuff, hair bows, etc.), but off the not-so-large bathroom counter.

IMG_3473 crop
We really weren’t using the closet area for more than suitcase/shoes/dirty clothes storage, so it didn’t take up space we would’ve otherwise used. And when this thing is empty and folded up, it takes up very little space in our big suitcase.

Planning & Organization

Park and Touring Plans: I made our daily plans based on park recommendations from several different crowd predictors. I am glad we did. I also used the Toddler Touring Plans from WDWPrepSchool and merged them with Kenny the Pirate’s character schedules. We didn’t follow it exactly, but it was a great guide. It worked out well for us, and we had plenty of time to do the things we planned, plus some. I typed them up and color-coded the rides, attractions, and character greets. Yes, I am a nerd.

General Info and Questions: You can’t get any better than the DIS Boards for information from real people who have been to (and are sometimes currently at) the parks and resorts. Be careful, though. It’s addictive. I don’t know how many nights I stayed up until way too late, reading every scrap of information that might apply to us.

My notebook: had all of our information in it. It included our reservations, confirmation numbers, schedule, touring plans, my daily envelopes, and an expense tracking sheet. Yes, I had that stuff on my phone and laptop, but didn’t want to rely only on electronics in case my battery went dead.

Daily envelopes: I made daily lists that included the outfits the kids would be wearing, their daily surprises, and any confirmation numbers we might need. I put the list in a 6x9 envelope, along with our housekeeping tip envelope (already stuffed), and the kids’ itineraries I’d made. It was easy to pull that envelope out the night before to start getting everything prepped for the next morning and lay out the housekeeping envelope. Then, I had empty envelopes to use for receipts, keepsakes, etc., and a good jump on what needed to be done the next morning.

Daily surprises: I planned a little surprise for the kids for each morning. We decided we wanted to “add to the magic” and help curb the “I wants” with things we’d bought on sale or were already going to be buying. The day we left, they were surprised when they climbed into the car to find Mike Wazowski and Stuffy the Dragon sitting in their seats.

During the 12-hour car trip, we surprised them with a Disney show DVD (MMCH and Phineas & Ferb), and individual pieces from a playset that I handed out one at a time (Honor got MMCH characters, and Caedmon got airplanes from Planes). Three days, they got new t-shirts to wear in the parks, one day they got Pez dispensers and a Disney storybook, and another day, they got a new cup, bowl, and a coloring/sticker book. Everything except the t-shirts, DVDs and stuffed animals were $1 Spot finds.
The surprises were a hit. The kids loved them, and it was fun to surprise them each morning.


The best tip we got from others was to go back to our hotel and rest in the afternoons. Even if we didn’t sleep, it was nice to get out of the heat, rest our legs (and feet), and just take a break. It’s true that Honor was our biggest reason to do that, but we all really needed it. Because we did that all but two days, we weren’t completely worn out at the end of the week. Tired, yes. But not so worn out we were zombies. It was especially helpful the night we were at the park late. We were able to eat dinner and then go back for the evening refreshed and ready for more fun.

Prioritize. Know that you will not get to do everything. There are so many things to do at Disney, that there is no way you can do everything in one trip. Go ahead and let that sink in. Now, take a deep breath, and prioritize what you must do and what you really want to do. And while you’re there, make mental notes of things you want to do next time you go!

Don’t forget to take moleskin and scissors. We wore broken-in shoes, but as much walking as we did, we still had a few hotspots. Band-aids would not have covered it.

I took Clorox wipes and cleaned the hotel room right when we got there. The room was clean. Let’s be clear on that. I’m not saying that our room was dirty, because it wasn’t. But we’ve heard so many stories of people who spent their vacation sick, that 1) we didn’t want that to be us, and 2) we didn’t know if someone had just been through that in our room. So I de-germed (or tried to) the room as soon as we arrived. Don’t forget the door knobs, light switches, and the TV remote. I even considered putting the remote in a Ziploc baggie, but I think that would’ve been going a bit too far.

If you have the dining plan or intend to get the Rapid Refill mugs, take dish soap and a sponge so you can wash them. There’s a mug wash station at the drink stations in the food court, but it’s just rinsing them with water. I wanted my cup clean if I was going to be drinking out of it the next day. Honor also had her sippy cup, and I wanted that thing washed every day, for sure.

Also? Hand sanitizer. We took several small bottles and a pump bottle to refill them all. With a germophobe Husband, they were all refilled at least once. And if you like to use liquid soap to wash your hands, take some for your room. They only offer bar soap in the resort rooms.

We bought a case of bottled water when we arrived in Florida. It was great to have bottled water in the room, and we even took some to the parks each day. Yes, you can get free ice water at any restaurant in the parks. But the water tastes gross (it’s just Florida’s water…it’s weird). I took my small thermal tote from Thirty-One, and slipped two bottles of water in it each morning. Since it folds flat, it was easy to flatten and stick into the backpack we were carrying. The water stayed pretty cool until we drank it. It was also nice to have it right with us instead of having to work through a line to get water from a restaurant.

If you have young kids and wonder why other fast-food places don’t get on the bendy straw train along with Chick-fil-a, you’ll need to plan to supply your own at Disney. They might call all little girls “Princess,” but they still don’t have bendy straws so the princesses don’t spill their drink down the front of their ball gowns. We always have bendy straws at home, so I put some in a travel toothbrush holder and carried them with us. They were awesome to have, and I now keep the toothbrush holder of bendy straws in Honor’s diaper bag.

If you have a toddler or young kid that still needs a bib and/or placemat, save yourself some time and sanity by making up some “meal baggies” before you leave home. I took a sandwich baggie and placed inside a disposable placemat, a disposable bib, and an individually wrapped wet wipe. It was great to be able to grab those out of the backpack and have everything we needed for a toddler meal. And even if you don’t have a little one, having a few of those individually wrapped wet wipes was great! I also took a few of the Take n’ Toss utensils for Honor. It was great to hand her one of those spoons to eat her yogurt with – most of it ended up in her mouth that way.

Downy Wrinkle Releaser. Ain’t nobody got time to iron clothes on vacation.
If you have hair that is curly, wavy, long, or has any kind of reaction to humidity, plan accordingly. For real. That stuff is no joke.

Take laundry detergent/softener and quarters for the guest laundry. I hadn’t planned on using it, but due to a few mishaps, we needed to. It was great to have what I needed, and didn’t have to try to buy something there that wouldn’t bother my guys’ sensitive skin.

Take a power strip for your electronics. We took one and didn’t end up using it, but only because we didn’t need to charge more than two things at a time. If we had, we would have definitely needed it.

I’m sure there are other things I should tell you, and I may add some more later. But for now, that’s all my brain can think of. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I’m not an expert, but I can certainly tell you what worked (or didn’t) for us!

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  1. Loved the info - especially the tips which I will use anytime we take a vacation for longer than a day at a hotel! :-)

  2. Florida water is gross, I drink it but I'm used to it. every now and then I just can't stand the smell and the taste gets to me. Disney and almost all the other cities around here were built on a swamp. That's always helpful to keep in mind. :-) Love those tips! I like how organized you are. I wish i could pull that off.

  3. Loving all the tips!! Thank you so much for sharing. I'll be saving these for sure. :-)

  4. Great tips! And yes, Florida water IS gross! :) That idea about the shoe holder is brilliant! I'm sure we'll use that when we have more than just the two of us.
    (Yes, I'm back-stalking your posts. I miss Disney!!) :)