Five Tips For Taking Babies And Toddlers To Disney

Suffice it to say, I’m a big fan of the Disney Parks. For me, it is always a good time to visit. Holidays, summer vacation, rain, sun, if I’m there, I’m happy. So I’ve never really understood when people talk about the “right time” to take their kids to the parks. It’s always the right time! Of course, I don’t go to Disneyland or Disney World for my kids, I go for myself. My kids are just lucky to have a Disney crazed mom, haha. But I understand that if you aren’t Disney crazy, the idea of bringing a baby or a toddler can seem pretty daunting. Which is why I thought I’d share some of my tips and tricks for doing just that.

1. Expectations

I think this is my number one tip for any Disney trip, know what you’re getting into before you are in it, and you’ll enjoy your vacation more. For example, if you are traveling with a little one, but you are planning on being in the parks from open to close and riding Space Mountain five times in a row, well, your expectations might be very different from your reality and you might end up disappointed.

Taking a little one to Disney can be SO MUCH FUN! And you appreciate what the parks have to offer on a whole new level. Character experiences, shows, slower rides, are all things I didn’t fully appreciate until I was with my babies.

2. Rider Swap

But don’t think that you have to miss out on thrill rides just because you’re with your little one. As long as you have another adult with you, you guys have lots of ways to ride Splash Mountain or Tower of Terror (my two favorites). Sure, there are single rider lines and Fast Passes, but a lot of people don’t know about another option specifically for grown ups with little ones, Rider Swap.

The way it works, go up to your favorite big kid ride with your whole family and tell the attendant that you’d like to do Rider Swap. Follow their instructions (my husband didn’t once and he said he feared for his life due to the look I gave him, I do not doubt this) which will be some variant of one of you goes on the ride then, and the other one gets to skip the line when the first one is done riding. The best thing about Rider Swap, and what sets it apart from the single rider lines, is that it’s good for at least two people! So if you are a family of four, no one has to ride alone and one of you gets to ride twice! Use this in conjunction with Fast Passes and barely spend any time in line!

3. Down Time

Happy baby means happy parents right? And well rested baby equals happy baby? If you are traveling with a baby or toddler, I would definitely recommend building in some down time into your day. Babies and toddlers need rest and even if they aren’t sleeping, the stimuli of the Disney Parks can be a bit much if they don’t have a break from it.

What works best for me and mine, is going to the park early in the morning. If you have a little one chances are you aren’t sleeping in anyways, so why not enjoy the parks in the morning when the sun isn’t as hot and lots of other visitors are still sleeping in? We stay in the park until just around lunch time and then we go back to the hotel for a few hours of relaxation, napping for our youngest. Then, we head back to the parks for the evening. This works great for us because we avoid the parks in the middle of the day, when they are the busiest and the hottest, and it gives us time to recharge and regroup, so we aren’t dragging and miserable when it’s time for fireworks.

If you can’t get back to the hotel, try to find some calm things to do inside the parks. Maybe a nice sit down lunch reservation, or just find a quiet corner to people watch. When she was tiny, my daughter would fall asleep in her stroller, so my husband and I took it as an opportunity to get margaritas and people watch.

Or you could always try…..

4. Baby Centers

I’ve professed my love for the Baby Centers before, and I’m sure I will again. I love them so much. These could be a great place take a breather and stay inside the park.

Seriously, if you are traveling to Disneyland or Disney World with a baby or toddler, make note of where the Baby Center is in the park, it could just save your life. Alright, that’s a little dramatic, but I’m guessing you’ll be glad you did. They are a great place to feed your little one, rock your little one, or buy that tube of diaper rash cream you forgot to pack. Sometimes I go there just to have a quiet, air conditioned breather with my kiddo.

5. Strollers, Leashes and Carriers, Oh My!

Carriers – If your little one isn’t walking, pack a good baby carrier. One that is easy to put on and take off, easy to get your baby in and out of, and doesn’t take up to much space. You can’t take a stroller in lines, and holding a baby for forty five minutes while waiting to get on Pirates gets old really fast.

Leashes – Okay, I never, ever wanted to put a leash on my kid. The idea horrified me. But, then I was planning on taking my eighteen month old to Disneyland and I changed my mind. She didn’t like being in her stroller that much, she liked to run, and I didn’t want to lose her, so, baby leash.

Word of advice, don’t wait until you get to the Disney to introduce it. The first time I put one on my daughter was at a bookstore. She laid flat on her stomach and refused to move. It was a fun experience. We ended up introducing it to her like a new snuggly friend, she started wanting to wear it around the house, holding it’s tail. By the time we went to Disneyland, a month later, it was smooth sailing.

Strollers – Bring a stroller. Last year I ended up renting one of the hard plastic Disney strollers…. for my seven year old. It was late, she was tired, but we both wanted to see the new Pandora land at night. Animal Kingdom is a big park so, I got her a stroller and speed walked to Pandora. She loved it, I loved it, and Pandora is not to be missed, especially at night. My point is, you are going to want a stroller.

I like to pack a decent umbrella stroller that’s easy to operate. Especially at Disney World, you spend a lot of time taking transportation to and from the parks, and it’s a lot easier with a stroller that folds easy.

**HOT TIP** There are a bajillion strollers in the parks at any given time. They all look alike, and the cast members will move them to make room for more. Decorate your stroller to make it easier to find. We tie curling ribbon around the handles and wrap Mardi Gras beads. Festive and easy to find.

**BONUS TIP**

Lines are boring. Babies and toddlers will probably let you know exactly how boring they think they are. Pack (or buy) something that will distract them in line. For my daughter, it was one of those light up spinning toys that we bought in desperation after we spent a miserable thirty minutes trying to keep her entertained in line for the Jungle Cruise. For my son we came prepared with one of those misting fans.

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Five Unusual Things To Pack To Disney World

Hi! Planning a trip to Disney World this summer? First of all, congratulations! You’re going to have a great time! Second of all, I’m totally jealous, but it’s okay, I’ll get over it. Third of all, you are probably wondering about what to pack to make your vacation smooth and relaxing. Let me help!

There are tons of lists out there about what to pack on a Disney World vacation, honestly it can be a little overwhelming, and if you packed everything mentioned on every list out there you wouldn’t have room left in your hotel room to turn around. This is a list of things you might be wondering, “hmm, should I pack that?” that I think you should. Everything on this list has saved me money and headaches.

1. Water Misters

These things are awesome because they serve multiple functions. True, they keep you cool, which is their main function, but they also keep the kids entertained. Buying one at the parks will cost you almost $20. I picked up several at Walgreen’s for about $5 a piece. They’re also compact and don’t take up a lot of suitcase space. You can get them from Amazon here.

2. Rain Ponchos

It rains in Florida. A lot. And I’m not talking a gentle afternoon shower. When it rains, it pours. I have been caught in a fair share of downpours. When I didn’t pack ponchos it resulted in shivering kids, shelling out $15 for a single poncho and a grumpy me. Last time I packed a ten pack of ponchos and was so happy I did. The ponchos were super compact so I could keep several in my backpack at any given time. And if it started to rain, I wasn’t frantically having to find a vendor that was selling them. *Bonus item; water shoes are also VERY nice to have.

3. Groceries

Did you know you can have groceries delivered to your hotel? You can order them months in advance and have them waiting for you! If you are staying at a Disney hotel, there is a small service fee, but I still saved a lot of money going this route. I would suggest not going overboard, but getting some things that are quick and easy for breakfasts and lunches can be very convenient.

Things I order; cereal, granola bars, and bagels for breakfast, lunch meat (if your hotel room has a small fridge), peanut butter and jelly for lunches, fresh fruit, snacks and water. There are several different services you can use, I used Garden Grocer and was surprised at how easy it was. They even have an app so I could do the entire thing from my phone.

4. A Good Water Bottle

Look, you don’t want to get dehydrated on vacation, Disney doesn’t want you to get dehydrated on vacation. There are lots of options in the parks to keep you hydrated. Water fountains, bottled water, courtesy cups of water and even water stations during the busiest and hottest times. I like having a good, insulated water bottle with me at all times.

5. Ziploc Bags

Here are some things I used Ziploc bags for on my last Disney trip; snacks, coins for the pressed penny machines, wet ponchos, phones and wallets during water rides, park maps, things I didn’t want to leak like sunscreen and diaper cream. Seriously, so helpful.

So those are five things I always pack to Disney World. What are your must have items?

My Best Night At Disney World Wasn’t In The Parks

Out on the water. The sun was setting, turning the clouds into a watercolor painting. All you could hear were the birds, the water slapping the side of the boat. The Magic Kingdom, with its thousands of visitors, fast rides and colorful parades felt miles away. And yet, there was Cinderella Castle, right in front of us.

Last year my family celebrated my mom’s sixty-fifth birthday with a trip to Disney World. We usually visit Disney World every two years, but I wanted to make this trip extra special. So I set out to combine our favorite things to do at Disney World (favorite restaurants, fast passes for can’t miss rides, etc.) with brand new experiences.

In particular, I wanted to surprise my mom with one big experience as our present to her. So on the third night of our vacation, around dinner time, we left Magic Kingdom and headed over to The Polynesian Resort. This was our first time visiting the Polynesian, and oh my gosh, I want to stay there! The place is gorgeous! And I’m dying to spend a day at their pool! After getting a little twisted around, we found what we were looking for, Trade Sam’s Grog Grotto.

Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is a tiki bar, but it’s soooo much more than that too. The whole bar, which is very small, leading to a wonderfully cozy feeling, is filled to the brim with treasures. You never know when a volcano might erupt, a tropical storm might arise, or a  giant squid might lend the bartenders a helping tentacle. I ordered an Uh-Oa, and well, just watch what happens. (Not my video) Seriously, Trader Sam’s is like being a part of a Disney ride, with booze. And those drinks? Delicious and strong! I love keeping the glasses as souvenirs too. 20140049_10210124440603810_2810944059850183707_n

After our drinks and a bite to eat, we headed to the pier. We waited by the little kiosk that listed prices for water equipment and activities. There was another family there too, they were also surprising someone for their birthday ;). The pier was full of small boats that would fit about 8-10 people. Some of the boats had banners that read “Happy Birthday!” and balloons. My mom looked confused.

Our skipper came to meet us, introductions were made, life vests were put on the kids, and we were led to one of the boats with a birthday banner. We said goodbye to the other family, who was getting on their own boat with a banner, and we told my mom what was going on. For her birthday we had gotten a private boat to take us around Seven Seas Lagoon. At the end, we would find a spot on the water to watch the fireworks at Magic Kingdom.

My mom’s face lit up like a little kid’s. This was definitely not what she had expected. We got situated, and we were off. Our skipper (who was awesome, but whose name I can’t remember) told us to help ourselves to the provided snacks and drinks. There was a nice selection of bagged chips and cookies, and some Mickey shaped crisped rice treats (yay!). The drinks were sodas and water bottles. When I made the reservation I had mentioned that my mom was sensitive to gluten and soy, so I was happy to see two boxes of allergy friendly cookies and brownies for her.

Our skipper (let’s call him Tom) usually didn’t do the fireworks cruises, he usually stuck to fishing excursions. This meant that he was incredibly knowledgeable about the animal and plant life around and in the lake. Since we were a boat full of nature lovers, this was perfect. For about an hour, we made our way around the lake. Learning about which birds were native, and which were introduced. 20106840_10210124443843891_2121300574328517864_n

Tom told us about the different hotels we passed, and the unique architecture of The Contemporary Resort. He showed us the remaining remnants Discovery Island and River Country (Disney’s first waterpark) and the island where Walt Disney had planned to build his house. For a Disney nerd like myself it was heaven. For the non Disney nerds on the boat, it was a relaxing boat ride with family and a nice change of pace from the go go go of the first three days of vacation.

We watched the sunset and Tom found a good spot to watch the fireworks. I was a little nervous about the view when I made the reservation. The fireworks show had just been updated to include more projections on the castle, and I was worried we would be missing out on this part of the show watching from the water. There was no need to be worried. I was surprised at how well we could see the castle. The boat was equipped with speakers so we were able to hear the music that went with the show as well.

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Sunset. You can see the turrets of the castle on the right.

The fireworks was an amazing show. For twenty minutes we oohed and ahhed, my son slept through the whole thing. We clapped at the end, but Tom wasn’t done yet. He moved our boat closer to the Grand Floridian and stopped. There we got to watch the Electrical Water Pageant. Imagine parade floats mixed with Christmas light displays. Or, take a look at Disney’s website for a better description. When that was over, Tom made his way back to the Polynesian. Our private fireworks cruise had come to an end.

This really was one of the best nights I’ve ever had, at a Disney Park or otherwise. It might be cliche, but it was magical. There’s really no better word to describe it. There are so many different experiences at Disney World, it can be hard to pick and choose. I’m so glad we chose this one, and I would absolutely do it again for a special celebration. Here are a few reasons why it was such a good choice for me and my family.

Cost: A Lot of Bang for your Buck

I know, I know. A private cruise? At Disney? It must’ve cost an arm and a leg, right? It was actually one of the most cost effective experiences I looked at. When planning our trip I looked at behind the scenes tours, scuba diving, safaris, like I said, there’s a lot you can do at Disney World besides rides. Renting a private boat was one of the cheapest routes for one simple reason: it didn’t charge per person. I was traveling with a large party of four adults and two kids. At the time, it cost us about $350 for the fireworks cruise. Most tours, parties, even cruises, usually cost about $60-$80 a person.

Privacy and Quiet Time

I’ll never forget the time my brother took my mom to a Teppen restaurant. She was aghast at having to sit next to a stranger. At the same table! It’s not that she’s unfriendly, she just doesn’t enjoy forced mingling. At least, that’s what she says. 😉 Needless to say, when I was looking for something special to do, I knew she would appreciate something that was just family.

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Shoe Tree

Fun For All

I was traveling with, how should I put this, an eclectic group. Everyone was very different and had different interests. The fireworks cruise had something for everyone. There was the relaxing boat ride for my mom and brother, great photo ops for my husband (all the photos in this blog were taken by him, check out more of his photography here), Disney facts for me, the Disney nerd, and fireworks and snacks for the kids.

We All Like Boats

Yeah, don’t book a fireworks cruise if you don’t like boats. 😉 But if you do like boats, and you want more information, here’s the link to Disney’s page on specialty cruises.

How I Became A Breastfeeding Pro at Disney World

Public breastfeeding in theory and public breastfeeding in practice are two totally different things. While I am all about the normalize breastfeeding movement, and supporting my public breastfeeding sisters, when it actually came time to take my boob out in public, I kinda froze. So when it was time to go to Disney World with my breastfeeding, eight month old son, I was really nervous. Surprisingly, by the end of our trip I had totally conquered my fears and felt like a public breastfeeding champion! Disney World really is a magical place! 😉 Here are some tips from a mom who’s been through it.

  1. Plan Ahead

OK, I know, duh right? Pretty simple tip. But duuuuuuuuuude, it’s so important!!! Disney World is roughly the size of San Francisco and is so much more than just theme parks! If you don’t really think about it before hand you will probably miss out on some really cool things or end up feeling totally overwhelmed when you get there. Speaking from personal experience. And then you throw traveling with a baby in the mix and look out!

I started planning for breastfeeding at Disney World before my son was born. Ok, that is probably a little extreme, and I am probably a bit neurotic, but it helped me feel less anxious about the whole thing.

I started by researching online and reading all the tips and tricks I could find. Personal accounts from other moms were invaluable. Disney also has sites upon sites for planning your trip, and whole sections on traveling with little ones.

Think about what to pack as a breastfeeding mom. Do you have a carrier that you use to breastfeed? What kind of tops and nursing bras will you be most comfortable in? Do you like to use a coverup? Keep in mind that Florida can be hot and humid, and you will probably be on your feet a lot.

  1. Baby Centers

Each of the four theme parks has a Baby Center. Disney describes them as, “a convenient place to feed, change and nurse little ones” but believe me, they are soooo much more than that! They really have just about everything a parent of a little one in a crowded theme park could want. Want a quiet room to nurse or pump? They have it. Need to heat up formula? Yup. Need diaper rash cream because all that theme park food has made it so your toddler can’t stop pooping? This is the place to go. Want a soft Mickey plush that your son can grab off the shelf and immediately stick in his mouth so you feel obligated to purchase it? They have shelves full of them. While each center is different, they all provide a nice, quiet reprieve from the parks, which is nice, even if you aren’t a nursing mom. As a nursing mom, if you are a little less comfortable nursing in public, or if your little one is easily distracted during feedings, these centers are invaluable. I looooooooovvvveeee the Baby Centers!

  1. Quiet Rides and Shows

Yes! You can nurse on rides! I mean what nursing mom doesn’t want to nurse their little one while riding The Mad Teacups, am I right? No, don’t do that. Please. But for every Mad Teacups, there is a quiet ride or show that is suitable for nursing. Spaceship Earth at Epcot is fifteen minutes long, air conditioned and slow moving.

My personal favorite is the Country Bear Jamboree. It’s almost sixteen minutes long, usually pretty empty, and I’m a total sucker for those country singin’ animatronic bears. 100_0133

  1. Go With The Flow

I was really nervous about breastfeeding at Disney World. I was picturing prudish vacationers pelting me with stale churros, I was dreading being chained down to Baby Centers and quiet rides and missing out on fun. And then I got there. On my first day in Magic Kingdom I saw a mom squatting outside It’s A Small World. She was talking to her husband and older children, her right hand was rifling in a duffle bag, and her left arm was cradling her nursing baby. No one was throwing churros at her! My fears were lifted! Honestly, with breastfeeding on my mind, I started to see breastfeeding mothers everywhere I looked. Moms nursing babies, on the go, and no one cared. I was really, pleasantly surprised with just how breastfeeding friendly the parks were.

It gave me the confidence to be a little braver with my own public nursing. I also started to realize just how many quiet nooks and crannies there are throughout all the parks. No matter where I was, I was always able to find a quiet, semi secluded place, good for nervous moms and easily distracted babies alike.

My favorite places to nurse (besides those glorious Baby Centers) were next to the exit of the big thrill rides, ie Space Mountain. Most of them exit into long corridors that usually lead to gift shops. Those long corridors usually have benches and quiet little areas for people waiting for people on the ride. The one for Space Mountain was my personal favorite. Not only was it surprisingly quiet, they had comfy benches and tons of outlets. I could nurse AND charge my phone! It truly is a magical place! 100_0036

So that is the story of how Disney World helped me conquer my fear of public nursing. And honestly, no matter what kind of nursing mom you are, feel confident that there are options that will work for you.

Grapefruit Cake Recipe

I make this cake every year for my husband’s birthday. He’s not a sweet eater (awesome, more for me), but he loves this cake as much as I do, and what is a birthday without a birthday cake?

This is a recreation of the Grapefruit Cake that was served at the Hollywood Brown Derby during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Legend has it, a powerful gossip columnist complained to the restaurant’s owner, Robert Cobb, that all of the desserts on the menu were too fattening. So he told his chef to put grapefruit on something, since grapefruit is known to be slimming.

Now, is the cake delicious? Yes. Light and refreshing? Yes. Healthy? Welllllllll, with the layers of decadent cream cheese frosting it’s definitely not the most healthy cake out there.

While the original Brown Derby restaurant no longer exists, there is a replica restaurant in Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Disney World. They serve this cake along with other legendary dishes from the original restaurant including the Cobb Salad. I try to stop by every time I’m there. Not only is it like stepping back into time, but it is a very nice break from the heat and crowds. But, if a trip to Disney World isn’t in your immediate future, you can still make this cake at home and pretend. 😉

Ingredients

For the Cake

1 1/2 cups cake flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, separated

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup water

3 tablespoons grapefruit juice

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

16 oz cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 cup powdered sugar

Grapefruit, well drained

Dehydrated grapefruit wedges (optional)

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  1. First things first. If you decide to decorate your cake with dehydrated grapefruit wedges, you are going to want to dehydrate your wedges the day before you bake your cake. This is an easy (albeit time consuming) way to give your cake that extra bit of pizzazz. Preheat your oven to 170°F. Cut your grapefruit into thin (about 1/4 inch) slices, then cut those slices in half. Spread your grapefruit on a cookie sheet and pop them in the oven. It should take about 9 hours to fully dehydrate. I flipped my slices every 3 hours to help them dehydrate evenly.
  2. Time for the cake. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 9-inch cake pans. Line the bottom with wax paper, and then lightly grease the paper. (Note: The cake will fit into one 9-inch cake pan, I prefer using two so that I don’t have to cut the cake in half. I always make a mess of it when I try. If you are more coordinated than myself, feel free to stick to one pan.)
  3. In a large bowl, sift together your flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together your egg yolks, oil, water, grapefruit juice, and lemon zest until smooth. Mix in your flour mixture. IMG_0963
  5. Grab another medium bowl. Using an electric beater, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks start to form. IMG_0967
  6. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture until just blended. When I was first making this recipe, this is where I always got tripped up. I either over mixed it or under mixed it. You separate the eggs and beat the whites to get lots and lots of air into your cake batter, which will make your cake light and fluffy. So when mixing the egg whites with the rest of your batter, you want to do your best to keep all that air in there. Folding it in helps keep all that air from escaping. Never stir it in! IMG_0972
  7. Bake the cake for 12-15 minutes (25-30 if you used one pan). Insert a toothpick into the middle of your cake. Your cake is done when the toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack.
  9. Make that frosting! In a medium bowl, use an electric beater to beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy.
  10. Add in your lemon zest and lemon juice. Gradually mix in the powdered sugar.

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    Always good to have a helper if you don’t have three hands 😉
  11. Cover your bottom layer of cake with frosting. Top it with well drained grapefruit sections. IMG_1009
  12. Cover with the second layer of cake and frost the top and sides. IMG_1041
  13. Decorate and enjoy! IMG_1055

I hope you enjoy this cake as much as I do. Let me know in the comments how it turned out for you!