Thursday, May 31, 2018

Everything You Need to Know About Disney - Tips and Tricks for the Perfect Trip Part 2

*This post may contain affiliate links, which means at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through or make a purchase.

Hi friends, I’m back today with another Disney post!  Last week’s post was all about planning your trip, and this week’s post is going to be all about your actual trip – what to take each day to the parks, how to get around, what to eat, how to maximize your time, etc.  If you missed last week’s post, you may want to take a peek here before reading this week’s post!

Let’s get started!


What to Take Each Day to the Parks

If you have kids under the age of eight-ish, I cannot stress enough the importance of bringing a stroller to the parks each day!  I originally thought that we would be fine with a single stroller since Jacob is six and hasn’t used a stroller in years, but Disney World is exhausting, y’all.  Fortunately my friend lent us their double stroller and it was the smartest thing we brought for the entire trip!!  Jacob hasn’t ridden in a stroller in years, but he rode at Disney World probably at least half of each day that we were there.  This prevented a lot of whining, tears, and tantrums, I do believe.  Both of our kids were fantastic the entire trip and I do believe it’s because they had that stroller to crawl into when they were tired. 

Some other wonderful reasons to bring a stroller:

1.      To have a place to put your bags to give your shoulders a rest.
2.      Cup holders so you don’t have to carry your drinks!!
3.      A place to store souvenirs and other things that you buy in the parks.
4.      A place for the kids to sit and eat their snacks.  When it’s packed, it’s often hard to find a place to sit, and it’s hard for kids to eat and walk at the same time.

Just be sure to attach a sign to your stroller with your name on it so it will be easy to identify.  You will see hundreds – probably thousands – of strollers each day, so you will definitely need to have an easy way to identify yours. 

And in case you’re wondering, having the stroller there is not a burden at all.  Loads and loads of people have them, so Disney is very accommodating for people with strollers.  Every single ride/attraction has a place to leave your stroller before you enter.  There are actually strollers parked everywhere. 

Every time we parked our stroller we were sure to bring our backpack and cross body bag with us on the rides since they contained valuables, but we left everything else in the stroller – cups, jackets, sunscreen, souvenirs, other shopping bags – and not once did anybody ever bother anything.  . 


Now that I’ve made my case that you should bring a stroller, here is the list of things that we brought in the parks each day.  And one note before we get started – Disney allows you to bring your own food and drinks into the parks, so essentially you could be there all day and never have to spend a penny on food. 

Here is our list in no particular order:

1.      Plastic cups that came with our meal plan to refill throughout the day
2.      Chap Stick for everyone
3.      Mouse ears for everyone
4.      Travel Kleenex
5.      Changes of clothes for both kids (tops, bottoms, underwear, socks)
6.      Plastic bags (Gallon-size) to keep electronics dry
7.      Hair elastics (we like this ouchless version)
8.      Magic bands/IDs/Credit cards/cash
9.      Pennies and quarters for penny souvenirs
10. Phone
11. Camera (if you’re not using your phone for pictures)
12. Pain medicine/stomach medicine/Band-Aids
13. Sunglasses for everyone
14. Gum
15. Itinerary/To Do List/Must Do Ideas
16. Pen
18. Black Sharpie marker for autograph signings
19. Snacks (we loved Larabars, granola bars, and fruit and veggie pouches)
20. Dum Dums (to keep the kids occupied while waiting in line)
24. Chilly Pads (to keep cool when it’s really hot... we LOVE these)
25. A light blanket (to keep warm if it’s chilly or to use to lay on the ground to sit on for the parade)
26. Ponchos (for rainy days)
27. External charger (to charge cell phones on the go... MUST HAVE!)

Brian carried a small backpack and I carried a small cross-body bag and we were able to fit all of those things in those two bags.


We chose to use the Disney buses the entire trip and we could not have been more pleased.  We literally didn’t set foot in our own vehicle the entire trip because we used the buses every time.  They are free to use if you are staying on the property and you just can’t beat the convenience!  And don’t worry if you have a huge stroller with you… they accommodate everything!


If you stay at a Disney property, you can get in each park ONE HOUR PRIOR to the normal time it opens.  This is HUGE and you will want to utilize this hour to the fullest!  We arrived one hour early every single morning at every park and we used that hour to run to all of the popular rides that we didn’t have fast passes for. 

Our travel agent scheduled all of our fast passes to start late morning/early afternoon, so we had the entire morning to ride everything we wanted to ride without fast passes before the lines got too long!


As stated before, we chose the middle meal plan which included one quick service meal and one table service meal per person per day.  We chose to use all of those for lunches and dinners, which meant that breakfast wasn’t covered each day.  We do love a big breakfast every now and then, but on a typical day none of us ever eat that much, so we chose to bring breakfast bars and fruit pouches in to the parks in our backpack and we just ate breakfast on the go each morning.  That way we didn’t waste precious park time (and money) eating somewhere.  Remember, Disney lets you bring your own food and drinks to the parks!

The kids were usually hungry by the time we arrived at the parks each morning so they happily munched on their granola bars and fruit pouches while we waited in line for security.  B and I would then eat Larabars while walking around the parks whenever we got hungry.  If anyone got hungry by mid-morning, we would just use one of our snack credits and grab something else.  Easy peasy!

We did want to do one character breakfast during the trip, so our travel agent planned our breakfast for the last day that we were there, the day that we were scheduled to leave.  That way, we had one last fun thing to do before leaving town, and it didn’t interfere with getting to the parks in the morning.


Since we had the meal plan, we used all of our quick service meals for lunch each day.  Quick service meals are not reserved by your travel agent so you are free to choose whatever you’d like.  Reservations are not required for these as they are easy to get into.  There are some really great places!  Here is where we ate lunch at each of the parks and, again, each of these meals counted as a quick service meal:

Animal Kingdom – Satu’li Canteen  (We LOVED this place.  The food was amazing.)

Epcot – La Cantina de San Angel in Mexico (Get the Empanadas con Queso with Mexican Slaw… it was some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever had!)

Magic Kingdom – Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café (Burgers and fries place, wasn’t anything super special, but it was good!)

Hollywood Studios – Backlot Express (The kids loved the chicken and waffles because the waffles had Darth Vader on them.  Brian and I loved the Galactic Lemonades.  They also have freestanding refill drink stations so we were able to refill our cups with our choice of beverage without bothering an employee.)


All of our dinners were reserved by our travel agent which meant that we had a specific time that we had to be there.  All dinners were considered table service meals, so we used our table service credits for dinner each evening.

My favorite dinner was at Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom.  I’m a huge Beauty and the Beast fan, so it was incredible to feel like we were in the movie.  I may or may not have teared up a few times while we were there.  Here is where we ate dinner at each of the parks.  We highly recommend all of these places!  And reminder, each of them counted as a Table Service Meal with the exception of Wolfgang Puck Express.  It was a Quick Service Meal:

Disney Springs – Wolfgang Puck Express (The pizza is excellent.)

Animal Kingdom – Tusker House (Reservation strongly recommended, buffet style and character dining)

Epcot – Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway (Reservation strongly recommended, storybook princess character dining.  If your little ones love princesses this is the place to be!  We were able to meet five that evening.)

Magic Kingdom – Be Our Guest (Reservation strongly recommended, character dining, and YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE IN THE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST MOVIE!!!!  Try “The Grey Stuff” for dessert if you’re a Beauty and the Beast Lover and be sure to walk around the entire castle after you eat.  You’re in for a treat if you head to the West Wing… Beast’s enchanted rose is back there and it’s magical.)

Hollywood Studios – Sci-Fi Drive-In Theater (Reservation strongly recommended, you literally eat in old convertible cars while watching old sci-fi movies under the “stars.”  SO COOL, Y’ALL.  And their desserts are out of this world!  Get the Warm Glazed Doughnut with Cinnamon Apples, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, and Caramel Sauce or the House-made Sci-Fi Candy Bar.  OMG.)


As stated before, with our meal plan each person was allowed two snacks per day per person.  You can redeem these for ice cream, popcorn, candy, coffee, and many other things.  All you have to do is look for the symbol below.  

You can choose from any items that have that symbol.  You can’t go to Disney World and NOT get a Mickey ice cream bar!  ;o)  And you also must get a Dole Whip while you’re there!  There’s one place in MK that has them (Aloha Isle right next to The Magic Carpets of Aladdin) and you can also get them at The Polynesian Resort.

Also, all cafes and snack carts provide FREE ice water to you at any time.  We never once purchased a drink while we were there because we asked for free ice waters throughout the day as we would run out and then we would use those to refill our Disney cups.    

Maximizing Rides and Attractions

Disney gets crazy crowded and lines for rides and attractions get super long as the days goes.  Here are a few tips to maximize your time:

1.      Arrive at the parks early and utilize that extra hour before the parks open to the general public. 
2.      Use fast passes in the late morning/afternoon when lines are the longest.
3.      Some rides offer single rider lines where the wait is generally way shorter.  That way, if only one person in your party wants to ride, everyone else doesn’t have to wait for a long time.
4.      Disney also offers Rider Switch for groups of people who have children who can’t/don’t want to ride particular rides.  This means that one person can wait with the children who can’t/don’t want to ride while the other person rides.  Then when the other person is done riding, they can come back and wait with the kids while the original person who waited goes and rides.  The original person who waited can board the attraction without having to wait in the regular line again.  Sweet!
5.      Lines for the rides and attractions are way shorter during the parades (since everyone is watching the parade), so if you’re not interested in the parade, use this time to ride!

Murals to Check Out

Y’all know I love a good wall mural, and Disney is loaded with them.  Here are a few that we found…

1.      Magic Kingdom – #PurpleWall (Near the entrance to Tomorrowland)
2.      Epcot – #BubbleGumWall (Just outside the exit of Spaceship Earth)
3.      Epcot - #BlueberryWall (Right next to the Bubble Gum Wall)

Extra Magic

Want to add a little bit of extra magic for your small kids?  Here are a few tips:

1.      Buy personalized shirts for them.  The Disney cast members are trained to look for this and they will greet your children by name as they interact with your family.  Our kids were amazed every time a Disney cast member said, “Hello, Jacob and Olivia!” because they didn’t realize they were just reading it on their shirts.
2.      Opt in for the photo pass package.  It’s a little pricey, but when your kids get the pictures back of them holding Tinker Bell in their hands, it will be worth every penny!
3.      When you wear your magic bands on the rides, it magically knows when you are in there, and pictures and videos are taken of you riding.  All of those photos and videos then show up in your Photo Pass photo albums.
4.      Buy autograph books for each of your children to bring when meeting characters.  All of the characters will sign (except for the Star Wars characters in Hollywood Studios), so it makes the ultimate souvenir from the trip!  There are blank autograph books that you can purchase, but we loved having these.  They are actually cheaper than the regular autograph books and you get a beautiful hardback book with pictures and fun facts about the characters.  Plus these books actually kept the kids occupied in line because it gave them something to read while they waited.  :o)


Overall, our Disney experience was fantastic.  All of the Disney cast members bend over backwards and you can tell that they truly want to be there.  On the days that our kids didn’t wear their names on their shirts, they were always treated like royalty and called “Prince” and “Princess” and they were constantly going above and beyond to help us.  We probably interacted with hundreds of Disney cast members on our trip and I can honestly say that literally every single one was just wonderful.  We have zero complaints.  They do everything in their power to make sure that your vacation is as magical as it can possibly be and they do it with genuine smiles on their faces.

Not only is Disney the happiest place on earth, but it’s the cleanest place on earth.  The entire time we were there, I only saw one piece of trash on the ground, and an employee was already there scooping it up.  I kid you not.

I am a details girl (as you can already tell if you’ve been reading for a while… hello, lengthy blog posts!) and Disney just gets me.  They are the masters of details.  They literally think of everything and that’s what makes the experience so special.

They are also masters of efficiency, line management, and crowd management.  They spare no expense to ensure that there are enough cast members needed at all times to corral the massive amounts of people visiting the parks each day.  I have never seen such efficiency in my entire life and I can’t even tell you how happy that made my Type A heart.

Overall, we feel that we used our time very efficiently and there honestly isn’t a thing we would change about our trip.  There is nothing that we regret doing or not doing.  I was really worried that we were going to end up doing something wrong since it was our first trip, but everything was perfect.  Just perfect.

And we are already beginning to think about heading back in 2020!!

And these posts were not sponsored in any way... we just love Disney and we want to spread the word because we were just so darn impressed!

And if you missed our trip recaps, here they are!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

What’s Up Wednesday - May 2018

*This post may contain affiliate links, which means at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through or make a purchase.

It’s time for another edition of What’s Up Wednesday and it’s time to summarize the month of May!

What We’re Eating This Week

Mon – Hot dogs, baked beans, fresh fruit, and Moscow Mules for Memorial Day!
Tue – Crispy potatoes and sausage with asparagus
Wed – Bacon and corn pasta with broccolli
Thu – Orange marmalade chicken sandwiches, fresh steamed green beans
Fri – Out
Sat – Out
Sun – Sunday dinner at Momma’s

What I’m Reminiscing About

Our beach trip last year… it’s almost beach time for this year and we are SO excited we can hardly stand it!

What I’m Loving

Being off with my babies!  We’re only one day in but it was just PERFECT!

What We’ve Been Up To

The question is – what have we not been up to?  May was busy, y’all.  As a matter of fact, May is almost as busy as December!  With class parties, field trips, awards ceremonies, parents day, end-of-the-year activities, summer birthday party celebrations at school, Muffins with Mom, etc. etc. I feel like I’ve been living at the kids’ schools! 

This month we…

Celebrated my birthday with my girlfriends (better late than never!), we watched Jacob accept his scholarship for next school year, we went to our city’s Riverfest and enjoyed an outdoor concert by the river, we spent lots of time with my eldest brother and SIL and nephew since they moved closer to home, we watched Olivia receive her medal from her first season of soccer, we watched Jacob receive his second medal from his second season of soccer, Jacob lost his first tooth, I attended Muffins with Mom at Olivia’s school, B and I attended Parents’ Day at Jacob’s school, B and I went on THREE dates (to see Justin Timberlake – AH-mazing, to our Contemporary Couples’ Club get together, and to see Dave Matthews Band – AH-mazing as always), we celebrated Mother’s Day, we watched the Royal Wedding, we celebrated several birthdays in our family, and we cleaned out a lot of the pain-in-the-butt areas of the house (the outdoor storage closet, the utility closet under the stairs, our coat closet, and the huge storage closet that houses all of our holiday decorations and other things) and got them decluttered and organized.  And I finally organized all of our old Christmas cards.  Whew.  I’m exhausted just reliving it all!

What I’m Dreading

Waiting to see if my plant’s going to make it… y’all, I’m so sad that it’s struggling.  The leaves have stopped turning brown, so that’s at least good, but it is definitely not looking great... it's definitely not thriving like it was when I took the picture below just after repotting it.

What I’m Working On

My main focus for the next 10 weeks is going to be enjoying time off with my babies.  This is the first summer that I’ve ever been able to stay home with them, so we plan on doing lots of fun summer things.  Since I’ve been working for the last 20 years, I’ve grown to hate the summers because I don’t get to reap the benefits of summer and enjoy the fun that kids and stay-at-home parents do, but I’m bound and determined to turn my hatred around and bring back “sweet summertime!” 

That said, I’m not going to be lazy this summer either (well, maybe some days… hehe) and there are a few things that I want to accomplish.  I want to finish getting the house cleaned out and have our yard sale, I want to get my computer files decluttered and purged (this is going to be a HUGE job), and I want to get my closet painted. 

However, having fun with the kids will be my #1 priority this summer and if I don’t get to the other things, well then, they can wait until fall.  :o)

What I’m Excited About

THE BEACH!!!!  We leave in one week!!!!  Need I say more?

What I’m Watching/Reading

Watching – All of our standard TV is wrapping up, but Bachelorette just started this week so we’re all over that!  I’m not super excited about this one mostly just because I’m not a huge Becca fan, but as usual I can’t not watch either!  We’re also still making our way through The Crown as well. 

Reading – Just started one of my very favorite books of all time… Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin.  If I had to choose just one book to read for the rest of my life, it would probably be that one.  I’ve probably read it five or six times, yet here I am, reading it again.  And I’m patiently counting down the days until the release of Emily Giffin’s new book in June!  I just love her!  Since I started reading that, though, we made our first trip to the library and I’m now going to start reading Ladies’ Night by Mary Kay Andrews.  It’s about a lifestyle blogger so I can’t not read that one, right?  ;o)  Has anybody read this one yet?

What I’m Listening To

A little bit of everything!  I’ve still had Taylor and Justin on repeat, and now I’m awaiting the release of Dave Matthews Band’s new album… they’re making us wait forever!!

What I’m Wearing

Alternating between shorts and tanks or leggings and workout tanks.  I recently purchased these leggings from Amazon and they are AMAZING!!!!  They are every bit as good as my beloved Zellas.  Thanks, Lizzie, for the suggestion!  It’s either been HOT here, but it’s also been raining a lot, so it really just depends on the day!  I’m still loving this tank from Old Navy and these shorts from J. Crew Factory!  They pair perfectly together and make a great patriotic outfit!

What I’m Doing This Weekend

Getting ready for the beach – packing, shopping for last minute things, and researching some places to eat, things to see while we’re there.  We’re not going to our usual place, and I’m really excited about exploring a new place!

What I’m Looking Forward To Next Month

Again – BEACH!  Also, getting rid of all of the crap that’s been sitting around the house for months at our yard sale, swimming lessons with the kids, a family trip to Atlanta, and a possible girls’ trip to Atlanta for a weekend!  I haven’t been on a girls’ trip in years, and it is long overdue so I sure hope we can somehow make it work!

What Else Is New

School’s out for summer!  Did I mention that already?

Happy summer, y’all!

Don't forget to link up with us below!  

Your Hosts! 

Whitney at Polka-Dotty Place / Bloglovin / Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest / Twitter 
Keri at Keri Lynn Synder / Faceobok / Instagram / Twitter / Pinterest 
Sarah at Sarah E. Frazer / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Pinterest 

*Linking up with Jessi's Design and Going the Distance for What's Hap-"Pinning" Wednesday and Mix and Match Mama for What's Up Wednesday.

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