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Disney Magic, Part 1: Tips

>> Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Growing up, my parents took my sister and I to Disney World at least once a year from the time I was born until we were out of high school. Before my grandpa retired, his office was on Disney property. Therefore, we were incredibly lucky that we basically had season passes to the most magical place in the world! My parents would load us in the car and drive through the night from St. Louis to Orlando to see my dad's parents and Micky Mouse.  And even now, many years later, after my parents divorced and my grandparent's passed away, we continue to find our way back every few years.

It's no surprise or secret that I've been dreaming of taking Jackson to Disney since the day he was born.  Having experienced the magic so many times before, I have been chomping at the bit to go as a Mommy and see it all through Jackson's eyes.  So, you can imagine the excitement when my mom called 9 days before Christmas and told us that Santa was taking the family to Disney - the day after Christmas!

Let me back-up and say that my mom and step-dad were planning on taking the family to Aruba this summer, as our Christmas gift.  They were in the process of booking our plane tickets and my sister and I half joking, told our mom that a trip to Disney would be better than a week in Aruba.  Just to float the idea out there... Don't get me wrong, the trip to St. John's last summer was amazing.  But, packing up 3 jeeps loads of us, washing beach towels and packing coolers and protecting 2 babies from the Caribbean sun wasn't exactly paradise.  It was a great time, but it was a lot of work and travel, especially with 11 people.

So, back to Disney.

Seeing Disney at Christmas time was on all of our bucket lists (and everyone else in the world, it's the busiest week for Disney.  Go the week before or after).  So, we were totally pushing for Disney at Christmas, but for next year...not in 10 days!  But, my parents totally have a life's too short to wait, pack your bags, let's go attitude, so the trip was booked!

Driving in!!!
The details:
We drove from Louisiana, it was about a 12 hour drive.  Totally doable, but it was a long trip for the babies.  The last 2 hours were hell both coming and going.   We left at 4AM going, and were at the parks that night by 7PM.  Coming home, we didn't leave until early afternoon and got home around 3AM.  Since my parents sprung for the whole trip, Mr. and I rented a beastly suburban for the road trip.  It was nice to have the extra space and only have to take 2 vehicles.
Morning pit stop for fresh diapers, gas and clothes!
The hotel was booked through  They have a Disney section on their site, which I highly recommend checking out.  We got 2 connecting rooms at the Dolphin resort, on Disney property for $229 a night.  We have stayed there before, so we knew what we were getting.  Also to note, the Dolphin had queen beds as opposed to their sister hotel the Swan, which only has double beds.  The rooms were a great size for us, especially since you're just there to sleep.  Amelia had a crib in one room and Jackson had a sleep mat in our room.  We are a group of 8 adults and 2 babies, and we had plenty of space!

Pro's for this hotel also included being able to walk to Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and the BoardWalk.  I can't begin to tell you how nice it was to be able to walk to the parks as well as all the the BoardWalk has to offer.  From the ESPN Zone to the Dance Hall, we hit it all!

We got our Disney tickets through with our hotel.  My parent's got us each 3-day park hoppers, which came with 2 extra days.  Buy 3, get 2 FREE.  I will say that 3 days at Disney with two babies was perfect.  By the 4th day, we were exhausted and by the 5th day you couldn't pay us to do another day.

I bought the Disney Photo Pass, but I also brought my camera.  I was thankful to have both - the photos that Disney took were not great and the night pictures sucked.  This was by far my biggest disappointment.  The night photos were so terrible and blurry I had to delete them.  The majority of the character photos were blurry too.  However, having photos of us all together was worth the $99.  Just be sure and have the photographer take the photo with your camera as well as theirs. 

First night - first photo - utter disappointment in Photo Pass
Group shot - Epcot - Photo Pass Highlight
We did not purchase a dining pass for the trip, and we're glad that we didn't.  My parents gave each family (us, my sister, and my brothers) Disney visa cards instead.  This worked out very well.  Each morning we drank coffee and ate muffins in our hotel room.  We never made it out of the room before noon, it's a common theme when we're all together:) Then we would either eat a big lunch or a snack (ice cream cones) and a big supper at 4PM.  Only eating one big meal a day kept our bellies full and kept the cost down as well.
Mickey ears for lunch:)
In our experience, it's great to find a restaurant on a parade route and make a reservation time during that parade.  For example, there's a great place called Liberty Tree Tavern at the Magic Kingdom.  The afternoon parade passes in front of there at 3:30, so we made our reservations for 4PM and watched the parade from the rocking chairs on the front porch before we ate.  It's perfect!
Waving hi to all his friends, from the Liberty Tree Tavern
My sister brought her stroller for Amelia, but we forgot ours in the garage.  It was cheaper to buy the $49 Disney umbrella stroller, insane, but renting was more and now we have yet another stroller to add to our collection! In hindsight, we both wished we would have brought our joggers.  The only downside to the jogger would be getting them on and off the buses and monorail, but I think both babies would have been more comfortable.  Jackson hated his stroller, it was almost too small for him and impossible to really nap in.
Sleepy babies
Jackson enjoyed a few rides, but I never realized just how freaky some of the Magic Kingdom rides are - Snow White was terrifying and a little disturbing.  The characters were what really got Jackson and worth every minute of standing in line for.  Watching him meet Buzz and Woody seriously brought tears to our eyes!  An important note for meeting characters - one person can stand in line while everyone else entertains the babies out of the line.  Then, when it's close to being your turn, the other brings you said babies in line.  This isn't advertised, but also not frowned upon.  And if you're in a park other than the Magic Kingdom, beer or beverages of choice can also be brought to you while you stand in line;)
Pooh Bear, first character sighting!
The last thing I'll say as far as tips and tricks for Disney is to go with grandparents! Since we stayed on Disney property, we were able to stay for extra magic hours.  And let's just say that's when all the real, adult fun, was had while Loli & Pop babysat the babies.  Around the World beer tours through Epcot, Space Mountain at 3AM, sibling dance parties at the Dance Hall...yes, a good time was had by all!
Grandparents and the babies, headed home so we could enjoy extra magic hours until 3AM
So bummed that this is the only pic we have "out" with the siblings! Test Track, Epcot...before we got escorted out after extra magic hours ended:)

I think that about covers it, but feel free to email me if you have any questions about Disney! And don't worry, I'll be back to post about each day with more pictures than you'll care to see:)


Ashley February 1, 2012 at 1:18 PM  

I'm going back and forth about taking Leyton to Disney in the spring. I LOVE disney, but afraid he might be too young to really enjoy. Sounds like you all are having a blast :)

KJJ Houston February 1, 2012 at 5:42 PM  

Wow Im so sad you didnt get good pictures :(
One thing I did at the end was go to check all of them out to make sure I got ONE for my christmas card, and so that assured me, but I never had any blury ones its was mostly just me not liking myself in the picture, so sorry :( But glad you had a great time and that you finally posted this missy!!! :) ha

KJJ Houston February 1, 2012 at 5:42 PM  

oh and I scored DisneyLAND passes for 2013 with Jack and hopfully baby #2 - Im excited that we will already have a trip planned!

Megan February 1, 2012 at 8:45 PM  

I'm so glad you're back on the blogging bandwagon! I can't wait to go to Disney with my babies! Thanks for all the pointers. I'm also still praying for Jackson's health---I know that's stressful and heartbreaking for you. Glad I was able to catch up with your sweet family!! :)

Ashley February 2, 2012 at 11:22 AM  

I have a ?
What is a good age?
Was it hard with Amelia being so young?
Was J at a good age to take him...
I would LOVE to go, but want to make sure we get our money's worth when we do.

Jennifer February 3, 2012 at 8:58 AM  

I am so excited that you had a great time. And the advice is much welcomed as we are going for the first time with the kids in May. Sadly, we do not have grandparents going and cannot enjoy the after hours!! I will keep that in mind for next!

Amber February 6, 2012 at 6:37 AM  

YAY! I'm so glad that you wrote this post! We're heading to Disney at the end of March and I loved all of your tips!

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