Monday, April 20, 2015

Not always the Happiest Place on Earth :(

We adore Walt Disney World. For me it is escape. No where else makes me feel so relaxed and free and....happy. We love it. We try to go as often as we can, which isn't as often as we'd like :( But I am also able to admit that it isn't perfect. Our trips often aren't perfect. But we prepare ourselves for that and are able to (usually) roll with the punches and not let the bad get us down (too much).

So here are the things that can definitely get you down while at Disney. If you know ahead of time, maybe it will help you cope if they happen...and inevitably, one of them will.

Rude People

Unfortunately, there are rude people, even at WDW. Some I think don't realize they are being so, others just don't care. They want to see Mickey and don't care if you're standing in their way. My daughter got very upset one time because someone stepped in front of her, kid on their shoulders,  while the Frozen fireworks extravaganza was going on, which included a stage show as well, and she could no longer see. I tried my best to move her so she could see, but we didn't want to be the rude people who were blocking someone else's view. What kind of message does that send my child? We explained to her that's this is just the way the people are sometimes and that she should try hard not to make people feel the way she was feeling in that moment. In this instance, me saying something to the offending party wouldn't have changed anything. It was loud and there was music and booming fireworks. BUT, if it had been a different situation, I would have said something, in a nice, calm, respectful way. I have said something in the past.

Inclement Weather

Florida is know for it's flash rain storms during certain times of the year, especially hurricane season. We've traveled to WDW many times during that time period and never experienced the torrential downpours I've heard about, only light rain that lasted a short time. But oh man. This last trip. ***See photo above*** We hurried to get some photos in front of the castle cause we could just tell it was coming. And boy did it ever! So many people say "Oh, you're in Disney. Who cares if it's raining?" I never thought rain could ruin a day in Magic Kingdom, but oh man did it ever. It is NOT the Happiest Place on Earth when it is downpouring without stopping for hours, with puddles at least 3, 4 even 6 inches deep that you can not walk around. We were in Tomorrowland when it really came down. We managed to get into Monsters Inc Laugh Floor, but we were drenched by then. There was lightning within the 6 mile radius so outdoor attractions closed and made the indoor ones crowded beyond belief. It probably didn't help my mood that this was my dad's first trip to WDW ever and I so wanted it to be fabulous...and this was his only day at MK. :( But he honestly was not phased and said he'd like to go back. We ended up leaving early to go change out of our soaked clothes before dinner at Chef Mickey's. One trip, the beginning of December, Florida was experiencing an unusual cold spell. The forecast didn't quite predict how bad it would be. We didn't bring heavy coats. My husband only brought 1 pair of pants and 1 sweatshirt. We FROZE. I'm talking 2 long sleeve shirts, 2 hooded sweatshirts--each person--and a blanket wrapped around the kids in the double stroller. We bought hats and gloves there. You do what you gotta do.


It happens. Kids--and adults--get sick while on vacation. It sucks. big time. When my son was almost 2, he'd been having some breathing issues at home and we were in the process of seeing if it was asthma or not. Well....coming from the 65-70 degree weather of fall in Buffalo to 95 degrees and the 100% humidity of central Florida did not go well for his little airways. Within a few hours of being at Epcot on arrival day, he was wheezing and not breathing well. But Disney handled it spectacularly and got us to Celebration hospital, and then transferred to Orlando hospital. Just this last trip, we had bad luck with my daughter. One of the worst things a parent can wake to in the middle of the night is their kid scrambling to get to the bathroom. You just know.... She vomited several times throughout the night. It ended up being a one-day stomach bug (thankfully it only lasted that long and no one else got it!) My mother in law stayed with her so we could head to MK with my parents ***See photo above*** It was very upsetting for me and my parents--their only day at MK and it had to be without our daughter. But with both of these instances, we just rolled with it and made the best of it. My son was discharged after 3 days with meds and machinery, and we ended up having a really great trip. We are thankful my daughter only lost one day of the trip and the rest was great- aside from the rain ;)

Tired and Cranky Kids- Yours and Other People's

It happens to all kids. Even older ones. A trip to Disney includes many long days with early wake up calls and late bed times. It wears on them. This is why I stress bringing a stroller, even for kids who long ago stopped using one. It just helps...and makes the day less stressful for mom and dad, and all those around you! In regards to other people's, my only advice is to be compassionate and not give the parents dirty looks. Cause guess what? If you have a kid, you'll be in their shoes at least once during the trip. That incident I mentioned above with my daughter and the Frozen fireworks. She was 11 at the time and OMG HOLY MELTDOWN! Like a toddler-esque tantrum. It was kind of comical. I may have laughed a little. My husband may have too. So he picked her up and held her in front of him, no higher than his own head. (To avoid being THAT guy and blocking someone else's view.) But you find ways to calm them, and yeah, you do things you normally wouldn't do at home. Hand over a sucker at 9 o'clock at night. It's vacation. I'm not saying you should give in to every tantrum thrown when they scream "I WANT IT!!!!" But the occasional bribe to behave works on vacation.

Tired and Cranky Adults- Yours and Other People's

Again, it happens. Adults get stressed with lack of sleep, AND having to deal with their tired and cranky children. ***See above*** This is why they sell liquor at WDW. (Accept at MK, where the only place you can get an adult beverage is at Be Our Guest at dinner). Try to chill out and remember this is vacation. Take it easy if you need to. Go back and take a nap midday or just chill out at the pool or Downtown Disney. Get away from the hustle and bustle of the parks.

Aching Feet

It will happen. Even if you walk all the time at home. You don't walk 5-8 miles a day every day in the heat of Florida. (Or maybe you do! But I don't!) After a few days, your feet will hurt. Your kids feet will hurt. They'll complain. They can't help it. My best advice is to bring at least 2-3 pairs of comfortable shoes, all DIFFERENT. If you love Crocs, only count one pair. I have several of the cute sandal type, but always make sure I have at least 2 other forms of footwear. Wear something different every day. Don't wear the same pair two days in a  row. This helps me A LOT! I swear by this method. My feet still get achy, but no where near as badly as they used to.

Long Lines

You HAVE to expect long lines at WDW. It just is. Don't get mad about it. Instead, make Fastpass + reservations for your must dos and keep an eye on line wait times with the My Disney Experience App. Many queues have lots of interactive stuff now, so the wait isn't so bad anymore. Use that time to talk with your family, play games, etc... Make the best of it, cause being mad about it won't change anything. There will be lines at counter service restaurants too, and if you go during peak meal times, yikes. But there is a way to deal with that. Go early. We always plan on lunch at like 11-11:30. And it's great. We do early dinners too.

I think that's it for now! Hope this helps you prepare and have a magical vacation, despite all the things that can go wrong!

Monday, April 28, 2014

How to Get the Best Prices on Airfare

Remember the days when we could get one-way fares on Southwest and Jetblue for like $59 and $64?? Man, it was nice for a family of four to fly for only like $500!!! I wish I had a magic wand that would make airfare prices drop. Seriously...that might be my super power if I could have one. Or maybe just the power to fly! The one part of trip planning that stresses me out more than anything else is buying airfare.

These days, I really think there is no surefire way to get cheap airfare. I've read articles about waiting 50 to 75 days before your trip, cause thats when airfare is cheapest, or at 3 a.m on a Wednesday morning. Not in my experience!!! Maybe on major airlines. But I really don't know. I stopped flying major airlines years ago when they decided to charge insane amounts of money to check suitcases. And the prices were more than the discount airlines! With crappy flight schedules. Forget about a direct flight!! Sorry. It just makes no sense to me. If you can get a good deal on a major airline and if you can get away with only taking a tiny suitcase as a carry on, more power to ya. But I can't. And I've yet to find a real deal on a major airline.

So here's what I do.

Most of the trips we take these days are to Disney World. But even if you aren't always flying to the same designation, as soon as you know where you're going, or even when you have the inkling of where you might be going, start watching fare prices. Southwest and Jetblue may not have released their fare schedule yet, but thats okay. Put in fake dates with the same days of the week you are thinking of going. See what it costs. See what the other days of the week cost. Make mental notes, or real notes. You need to know what normal prices are and what cheap prices are. Check when there's fare sales and see what is offered out of your home airport. (my home airport rarely has anything decent) Airfare fluctuates constantly. You need to know what a good price is so when your trip plans are set, you can jump on good airfare when you find it.

If you plan trip far in advance like me, then you usually have plenty of time before SW and JB open their fare schedules. Find out EXACTLY what date they will open. Be on your computer as soon as they open. Check the fares and if they are good, book immediately. Don't wait. I've seen SW change fares within hours after releasing them. And in my experience, they RARELY go back to what they were the day they were released. And even more rare that they go below. Just as an example. I booked RT air on SW for our upcoming WDW trip for $123 each way. Within days, the flight down was $240 and the flight home was $191. I just checked today and the flight home was $196, the flight home, $240. Point is, they will fluctuate constantly, but the chances of it going back to what it was are rare. In my experience ;) It may be different for others. And other airports.

Day of the week is a huge factor too. If you plan on flying Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, you just have to expect higher fares. Those are the popular days to fly. If you fly Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, it's usually cheapest.

And don't be afraid to book a one one flight if it's a great price. And book the return flight on a different airline. These days everything is priced out per way, so its not cheaper to buy a RT ticket rather than 2 one-way flights. Last year we flew SW to LAX and Jetblue home.

So there it is! It's what's worked for me. No magic formula...just good old fashioned research.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Day #6: Disneyland Day #3

It was our last day at the Disneyland resort. And we were ready for it to end and continue on with the rest of our vacation - a weekend in Las Vegas and then a few days in Hollywood and So Cal. We chose to go back to Disneyland for our last day, since there were a few things we hadn't done yet.

As we entered the hub, we realized there was something going on on the bridge into Sleeping Beauty's Castle. There was a person lip syncing to a version of it's a small world being played and there were camera people. So of course we had to be nosey and take a few photos.

I ended up finding out months later that it was a social media thing and this girl was some kind of youtube singer or something. I got to see the official video that came from this little photo shoot, so it was really cool to be like "Hey...I was there! Just on the right of the castle when this was going on!"

We headed to Fantasyland and rode Casey Jr.'s Circus Train and Storybookland Canal Boats. The boat ride was very very cute. I loved all the tiny little kingdoms :)

We did a meet n greet with Tink and her friends :) It was really cute. Way nicer than the Pixie Hollow meet n greet area in the old Toontown at Magic Kingdom.

We rode Splash Mountain again, cause it was hot and we love it :)

We rerode some of the other things we loved, like Pirates and haunted Mansion. We then got some good seats in the shade for the afternoon parade- Mickey's Soundsational Parade. It was really cool! I loved all the dancers and the floats were fun.

After that we were pretty much done. We had experienced pretty much everything we could and like I said earlier, we were ready to move on. We headed to Downtown Disney for some dinner and my daughter was begging us to go to the Build a Bear there. As if we don't have one at home. But it was her money, so we let her. We ended the evening with some more swimming at the hotel. :)

Overall, we had a fabulous time at the Disneyland Resort. There were a few bumps, but we were so so glad we made this trip. Carsland itself was worth the journey. And just like every Disney trip we take, the memories we made and the fun we had as a family was 100% worth every dime. Don't think we'll be in a hurry to go back to DL though. If anything, the trip made us miss WDW and yearn to go back. (We already have a trip planned for September!) But I was very glad to be there and see the original park, even if it doesn't really look like it anymore. :)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Day 5: Disneyland Day #2

Day 2 at Disneyland! We were very excited to go back and do all the things we missed on Day 1!

We were greeted by Ariel as we walked in. Which was very surreal. No line to meet her. No handler. That is just not heard of in WDW. 

We headed right for Tomorrowland! We rode the Astro Orbitor first. It's such a great nostalgic ride :) This one doesn't go as high as the one at WDW, but that was okay.

We enjoyed the rest of Tomorowland- Buzz Lightyear- which was a little different than it's Magic Kingdom counterpart. The blaster guns are much easier to use! We did Space Mountain and the Autotopia, then headed to the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. I remember this attraction from my first trip to DL in 1989. Very little sticks out from that trip, but this did. I thought it was very cool then and my kids loved it now :)

Then we rode the Monorail full circle. I just love the Monorail :) And it was honestly a very odd feeling to board it from inside the park :)

We then headed to Adventureland and the Indiana Jones Adventure. I had heard about this ride and was excited for it, since there is not one in WDW. It was very cool. The queue was fantastic! It was a great ride and reminded me a lot of the Dinosaur attraction at Animal Kingdom, but all Indiana Jonesy :)

And while in line, my husband got all giddy and fanboy over a famous WWE wrestler. (Nick Foley...I had no clue.)

Then we headed to a new show- Mickey and the Magic Map! It was very very cool! I took a ton of photos but tried to pick a few of the good ones to post!

We headed to Downtown Disney for dinner. We ate at ESPN Zone. I was in desperate need of an adult beverage and it was quite tasty. The food was decent...typical bar and grill type food, but not exactly cheap. We've never been to the one at WDW.

My son just HAD to do Ridemakerz. He used his own money and it was pretty cool :)

Back at the park, we were once again greeted by princesses. Just milling about. This would NEVER happen at the Magic Kingdom. There's like an hour wait to meet these ladies!

We played around in the firehouse then checked out the arcade and some shops on Main Street.

Fireworks time! The castle is so gorgeous all lit up at night!!!

The show is not nearly as good as Wishes at the Magic Kingdom, but it was a lovely show none the less.

I always have to snap this shot on my way out!! So pretty at night!

Next up- Our last day at the Disneyland Resort :(

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Day 4: California Adventure Day #2

Our second day at California Adventure, we bee-lined for Carsland and got right in line for Radiator Springs Racers. The standby queue for the ride is very cool. We loved the walls with the oil bottles in them. :)

RSR is such an amazing ride. It’s very similar to Test Track at Epcot, but the theming is so so cool. Especially for us, since we are huge Cars fans J We really felt like we were driving through radiator springs. 

Disney did a hell of a job on this attraction and all of Carsland. Huge kudos from the Haefner family! I’m really not kidding when I say Carsland made the entire trip worthwhile.

After that we headed into Paradise Pier. Right from the entrance it’s gorgeous. That huge Mickey Ferris wheel! We went on Toy Story Midway Mania first, which, aside from the outdoor queue, was exactly like the one in Hollywood Studios. We then did California Screamin', that cool-looking coaster. I was not a huge fan, but my daughter and husband liked it. We then rode the SunWheel. And we chose to be daring and ride the swinging inner cars. BIG MISTAKE. Oh my. Thank God it only went around one time once the thing was full. It was definitely not tummy friendly. 

That smile was totally fake.
We rode some of the smaller rides on the boardwalk and had lunch at Paradise Garden Grill and it was very tasty! As we exited the area we rode Ariel's Undersea Adventure, and it was just like the new attraction at the Magic Kingdom :)

We killed time until the Aladdin show started. I had heard such great things about it. And it did not disappoint! GREAT show!!!

After that we ended up back in Carsland. Just could't stay away! But we caught some street entertainment. VERY cool!

We kinda spent the rest of the afternoon wasting time and doing little things. We were waiting around for one of the things I was most looking forward to!! World of Color!! We got a Fastpass, as we'd been instructed to do before going, and found a pretty decent spot. Everyone sat on the ground and we had a pretty good view of the water. Until about 5 minutes before the show and the cast members made everyone stand. Long gone was our decent view. And when the show started, people put their kids up on their shoulders, so the tiny bit I could see was now blocked and my kids could't see either. My husband managed to lift them a little, but kept them as low as he could so we would't be blocking other people's view by lifting them high. (We're considerate like that.) I was so upset and seriously on the verge of tears. I had waited MONTHS to see this show and I hardly saw any of it. At one point I sat down. I couldn't see anyway and my back was killing me. This was an extremely disappointing end to our California Adventure experience. 

But I managed some really cool pics of Paradise Pier at night.

Next up- our second day at Disneyland :)