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?

A Love Letter To New Mexico Part Two

Carlsbad Caverns

Tired but excited, we got to Carlsbad Caverns early to avoid the crowds. It was quiet as we descended, the few people who were there whispered. It was as, if not more so, otherworldly as White Sands, but in a completely different way. Cave swallows flew and dove in circles as we weaved our way down. As we looked up, the light from the outside grew smaller and smaller until it disappeared entirely.

I felt good. I had my son on my back in his carrier, my husband, daughter and I all had our cameras ready. With a whopping three hours of sleep, I was ready to go. My daughter is fascinated with rocks recently, so we stopped at every formation, reading the little signs posted at each one. My son oohed and ahed in his carrier, and occasionally stopped to give me a hug. We were at the top of our game. And then we hit bottom.

“Rock Bottom”

We finished the descent and got to “The Big Room”, a level cavern with different formations that is about a mile long walk. We let my son out of his carrier, thinking it would be nice to let him stretch his legs. This was a mistake. After not sleeping well the night before, and it being close to his nap time, he was happy to be out of the carrier, but not happy to go where we wanted to go, at the pace we wanted to go, or to stay on the path. My daughter also had hit a wall. Never the less, we didn’t hike all the way down not to look around once we got there. Besides, after we took a look in the Big Room, we could sit and eat the snacks we had packed and take a rest before trekking back out.

Sometimes when you’re a parent you forget things. Like, you forget to pack snacks before taking a strenuous four hour hike with two small children. Luckily, hundreds of feet underground, there are restrooms, tables, a small snack shop, and even a small gift shop. We got a roast beef sandwich and a yogurt parfait to split between the four of us. And we were ready to return to the surface.

Return To The Surface

Now, there are elevators at the caverns. So, if after you’ve hiked down, you don’t want to hike back up you can take the elevator. I remember going to the caverns with my family when I was young and taking the elevators, much to my dismay. I always felt like I was missing out on the whole experience. I was young and naive. I was stupid.

The elevators were out of order when we were there. Finally, I was going to get the chance to hike out. With two small children, my son now on my husband’s back, I was ready. By now it was almost noon. Those crowds we had avoided on the way in, were now coming in in droves.

Maybe it was the lack of sleep, maybe it was the lack of food, but I seriously thought I was going to die on the hike out. Surrounded by tourists, hundreds of feet underground, I just wanted to lie down and call it quits. And we weren’t even half the way back up. Thank goodness the path has benches all the way up, and thank goodness I have very patient family members. I think I stopped to catch my breath at every single bench. IMG_1254

Cow Puns and Home

On the drive home there was a herd of cows. They were all standing in a line, facing the freeway.

“Those cows look like they’re up to something.” I told my husband.

“Hmm? Oh. Yeah they do.” He said, his eyes on the road.

“I think it’s a moo-tiny.” I said, and proceeded to laugh at my own joke for the next five minutes.

In forty-eight hours my family and I saw so much of what New Mexico has to offer and I thought about how much the state has given me. It has given me my family. My husband who I met in high school, our two kids. It has given me people to share my life with. And a captive audience for my cow puns.IMG_1181

 

 

 

 

A Love Letter To New Mexico Part One

In forty-eight hours we hiked the pure dunes of White Sands. We trekked seventy-nine stories underground at Carlsbad Caverns. We ate street tacos and saw the World’s Largest Pistachio in Alamagordo. We drove through the mountains that were once home the Smokey the Bear, saw dirt devils off in the distance and the alien crash site in Roswell. There were wild deer and antelope, cows, horses, and a camel at Tim and Pam’s Roadside Petting Zoo, and miles of perfectly straight rows of pecan trees, just beginning to bud. Some of it was downright otherworldly, at yet, we never left the state.

Mini Vacation

We wanted to do something fun for Spring Break this year, but we also wanted to do some spring cleaning and not be so exhausted after our vacation that we would need a second vacation. So we looked for something we could easily do in a day or two.

We decided to leave early in the morning on Thursday, drive down to White Sands National Monument, spend some time there, then spend the night in Artesia. On Friday, we would wake up early and drive to Carlsbad Caverns, getting there early enough to avoid the Spring Break crowds, and when we were done, we would drive home. IMG_1140

White Sands

We got to White Sands National Monument around one in the afternoon, after grabbing lunch nearby in Alamagordo. This was not an ideal time to visit. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, which sounds really nice, but White Sands is literally just that. White sand, for several miles. The afternoon sun reflecting off the sand was BRIGHT!!! I slathered everyone in sunscreen, put on hats and sunglasses and prayed that my eighteen month old son would keep his on. He did alright.

Despite living in New Mexico since I was ten, I had never been to White Sands. It really was breathtaking. It felt like being on an alien planet. We brought our sled with us, in hopes we’d be able to sled down the dunes, but we didn’t have much luck. My daughter soon gave up and, after seeing a woman do it, decided to just roll down the dunes.

When we were leaving, she found a lizard, darting in between the small bits of vegetation. It was pure white, blending in perfectly with the sand. It was crazy to think of the different types of wildlife that have adapted to live among the dunes. IMG_1154

The Hotel and a Sleepless Night

Two reasons we stayed in Artesia; 1. it was in between our two destinations and would mean a shorter drive to Carlsbad and 2. it saved us a nice chunk of change not staying right next to White Sands or Carlsbad. I’m really glad we stayed there. We stayed at The Budget Inn, a few blocks from the small and charming Main Street. It wasn’t glamorous, especially on the outside, but it was clean, the beds were comfortable and it had complimentary muffins and coffee in the morning.

Sometimes, when you’re a parent, you forget things. Like, how old you are, or, where you left your oldest child. Your brain just kind of stops working. On this trip, both my husband and I forgot how terrible our children are to sleep with. While we were packing, I asked my husband if we should bring the Pack and Play for our son to sleep in. My husband said no, he was planning on one of us sharing a bed with our son, and the other one of us would share the other bed with our daughter. I nodded, yes, that would work just fine. It did not work just fine.

I woke up around two in the morning because my daughter had wacked me in the face with her arm. I woke up to find her face down, on top of the covers, her arms and legs spread out, smack dab in the middle of the small double bed we were sharing. I hear my husband whispering, “Go to sleep. It’s time to go to sleep!” I whispered back, “Are you ok?”

My husband was not ok. Our son had woken up around one in the morning, in a new place, sharing a bed with his dad, and decided that what he really wanted to do was poke his dad continuously in the face. No one got much sleep that night. Despite the comfy beds. Moral of the story; always bring the Pack and Play.

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Outside Carlsbad Caverns

 

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.