Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Ladies' Color Me Mine Outing

What a fun girls' afternoon with cousins today.  We start with painting pottery at Color Me Mine and lunched at  Macaroni Grill.  The girls came over to swim at our house afterwards, and then Nana had all the girls at her house for a sleep over.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Girls' Day

 I sure did have a fun day with my little ladies getting new styles, shopping, and lunch at one of our favorites--Zoe's Kitchen.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Yummy Side of Disney

Since we didn't have a Disney Dining Plan, we kind of made our own.  Each day we'd eat breakfast on our way to the park, we'd snack when we were hungry (and usually standing in line), and then we'd have a big meal mid-afternoon, and  we'd snack again if we got hungry after that.  It worked for us.  Here are the Disney restaurants where we dined:
EPCOT--Rose and Crown Irish Pub and Dining Room
Magic Kingdom--Chef Mickey's (Breakfast)
Gaston's Tavern
Hollywood Studios--Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater
Magic Kingdom--Cinderella's Royal Table 
Animal Kingdom--Flame Tree Barbecue
Everywhere you turn, you're eating Mickey.
Dessert at Cinderella's Royal Table--almost too pretty to eat.  Almost.
Pub grub--fish and chips for Jon at EPCOT
Mickey sprinkles are the best!
Liam beats the heat with a sundae.
Chocolate covered marshmallows with a caramel drizzle.

The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater is a favorite.  Guests sit in cars or picnic tables and watch crazy sci-fi flicks during dinner.  The food is delicious, too!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

12 Disney Do's

Our Disney vacation was a blast.  We had a fabulous experience last time we went--eight years ago--but, Disney had changed quite a bit since then, so planning was completely different.  Not to mention, Jon's mom took care of  reservations and the bulk of the our itinerary, so we could just relax and go with the flow.  (Considering that we had 6-week-old baby Liam in tow, this was a huge blessing and made our trip super simple!)
The bottom line is that technology has revolutionized the Disney experience in recent years, and I believe that detailed planning was key to our amazing week at Disney.  Here are some things that we did that totally worked for us:
1.  DO set up your My Disney Experience online as soon as possible and use it to manage your trip.  I used this site for everything prior to arriving in Florida.  I linked all of our tickets, dining reservations, and the Memory Maker to our magic bands prior to leaving, so when we arrived we could just walk through the gates, tap our magic bands to the mouse-ears sensor, and start our day in the park. 

2.  DO load the My Disney Experience App on your phone.  This app maximized our time in the parks by providing scary-accurate wait times for rides and allowed us to grab more Fast Passes as soon as they were available.  It's the best Disney accessory you can have!
3. DO purchase a Disney Memory Maker if you're going to be at the parks for more than a day or two.   And buy it before you leave to save twenty dollars.  In my opinion, this is one of the best deals that Disney has to offer.  The $149 price tag may cause initial sticker shock, but I downloaded around 600 pictures from Disney photographers.  (And it also allows you to use the Disney photo editing feature on the Memory Maker site).  All the special events that the kids took part in--Jedi Training, Bibbity Bobbity Botique, Enchanted Tales with Belle, all the character interactions--had Disney photographers clicking away.  I could just relax and let the photographers capture Disney memories for us.  Here's one of my favorites:
 4.  DO look around for cheaper tickets than the Disney website offers.  I booked our tickets through Undercover Tourist for a discounted price and an additional 5th day at no charge.  And, it's legit.  I went with this company because of the many positive reviews that people posted about it on various blogs and travel sites.  I also read many horror stories about purchasing discount tickets through other companies.  After I purchased them, they promptly came in the mail, and I linked them to our account on the My Disney Experience website.  We were all set to go.
5.  DO carry a back pack with you into the parks.  This awesome back pack of mine has traveled the world.  At Disney it carried our snacks, a few drinks (we mostly drank complementary ice water in the parks from the food stands), sunscreen, my camera, wallet, and car keys.  
Here are some the snacks we munched on during the week.
6.  DO ask for buttons if you're celebrating a special occasion...or if you just want a button.  As we entered the park, crew members had baskets and were passing them out to those who stopped.  Button can also be found at any guest service center and even special event tables and certain special attractions.

7.  DO skip the flip-flops and wear a pair of sturdy, comfortable shoes.  I live life in flip-flops, but the week we were trekking around Disney, these trusty Merrell tennis shoes were my BFFs for the week.
8.  DO choose the monorail to transport into the Magic Kingdom.  Our kids loved riding it, and it was almost like a bonus ride instead of a means of transportation.  To be fair, we never took the boat into the park, but I can't imagine it's as fun.

9.  DO bring autograph books.  Our kids loved having each character sign their autograph books, and it's a great place to house the stickers that characters and staff members pass out.  Autograph books are available for purchase at the Disney shops, but they're so much more expensive, and pretty generic.
10.  DO bring Disney gift cards for the kids to pick out and buy souvenirs. All three kids received Disney gift cards as birthday presents, and they had so much fun spending them.  Here are Marin and Ellery having a birthday shopping spree:
11.  DO arrive the parks really early, before they're even open.  Most days we were in our parking spot 30 minutes before the parks opened and at the gates a few minutes later. The early bird gets her bag checked quickly and can start a fun day without waiting in line for a security check.

12.  DO use the first couple of hours in the morning to visit the rides and attractions that you weren't able to secure a Fast Pass for online.  Liam and Jon were able to ride Space Mountain multiple times and by being their early, Marin and Ellery only had to wait five (yes, FIVE!!!)  minutes, to see Anna and Elsa.  We called this time during the early morning our power hour. :)

These are just a few thing that worked for us that I definitely want to remember for next time.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Bonus Stop: Pensacola

 Leaving Disney was so sad...good thing we added a bonus beach day to soften the blow.  :)