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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An Ode To Motherhood

AKA My Latest Trip To Costco

In honor of Mother’s Day coming up, I thought I’d share with you my latest adventure as a Hot Mess Mom.

Yesterday started out so well. I woke up in a great mood, ready to take on the world. I figured, since it was such a good day, I should go to Costco. It’s been on my list of things to do. So while everyone is eating breakfast, I text my mom and start planning my day. We decide to go to Costco together, because the more the merrier, and we decide on meeting there at 1pm, after my mom’s pilates lesson and after my son has had a nap and lunch.

I ask my son (who is one and a half) if that would be fun and he gets super excited. He went with me on my last Costco run and fell in love with the place. He loves to eat so he was all about the free samples. My daughter, who is in second grade, starts to pout. “I wish I was going to Costco”. No problem, I’m thinking, confident in my parenting and planning skills. So I text my mom, she’s ok with pushing it back until my daughter is out of school. My day is set, my kids are happy, go me.

The day continues to be smooth sailing. My husband and I both get some work done, and some cleaning. My son is his usual chipper self. I manage to stick to my new exercise routine which I’ve been doing now for a whopping three days straight! I’m feeling so good, I even decide to wear a dress just for the hell of it. No special occasion, just wearing a dress to take my kids shopping. Like one of those moms who is put together and stuff.

Three o clock rolls around. I get my son into the minivan and we go to pick up my daughter. We get there a little early, so I let my little guy roam around in the grass near where my daughter is let out. He’s having fun, dressed in the matching outfit my mom bought for him. He has fun, for a minute. But then the bell rings and he no longer wants to be in the grass. He wants to be climbing the stairs where a hundred kids are running past, eager to leave school for the day. I calmly tell him we can’t do that, it’s not safe, and I pick him up and sit on a bench to wait for my other kiddo.

He does not want to do this. He makes this known by not only screaming, blood curdling screams, but by arching his back as far as he can. I’m doing my best to hold him and calm him down, but the cute matching outfit my mom got him is made out of a slippery material and it is not easy. He’s flailing, kicking, screaming, and I am no longer feeling like a put together mom. People are looking, he’s still screaming, and my daughter is running late.

She saunters over after what felt like twenty minutes and the first thing she says; “I don’t wanna go to Costco anymore. I’m too tired.”

At this point I am so far from a put together mom. I can feel my jaw clench and my ears get red. I stand up, carrying my son like an unruly sack of potatoes, and through gritted teeth tell my daughter to keep up with me. I stomp back to the van with my two bewildered children in tow.

My daughter asks why I took the van. I told her it was because we were going to Costco, but honestly, my voice was probably so shrill at this point that only dogs could hear it. I get everyone in the car and buckled, and drive, in silence, to Costco.

Once we got there everything was fine. The very first free sample was cake, so the kids were instantly appeased, and as soon as I entered the store I was greeted by a large display of already mixed margaritas on sale. It’s as if Costco knew.

Doldrum Days

Give Me Wine, Or Give Me Death

Act 1 Scene 4:
Kim walks into the Seven Eleven. She’s wearing a t-shirt, jeans, no bra, a gray hoodie and flip-flops. She looks tired but determined. Despite never being in this place before she quickly finds what she’s looking for in the back. Wine. Her eyes narrow as she zooms in on the decent chardonnay sitting between the pink moscatos and sparkling strawberry wines. She clutches the bottle and goes to the checkout.
Dave (the clerk): ID?
Kim fumbles in her wallet while Dave and the other clerk make small talk. Kim hands her ID to Dave.
Dave: Thanks Kimberly. So how’s your night going?
Kim laughs with bitterness and exhaustion. Dave will never know.
Kim: My four-year old won’t go to sleep. I can’t find the right stuffed animal. I just want it to stooooppppp!!!!!
…..
Dave: Credit or debit?
End Scene

The above is a Facebook post from four years ago, when my daughter was four years old and Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t being investigated. Four years ago and as soon as I reread it, I remember it like it was yesterday. We have always been BIG on a set bedtime routine. Same time, same number of books, same number of songs, same rituals in the same order every night. We had the blackout curtains, we only watched loud movies with subtitles, nothing disturbed the sanctity of bedtime.

Except when we couldn’t find the right stuffed animal in a sea of fifty stuffed animals. Then all hell broke loose. But four years later I can remember the frustration, the tears (from everyone in the house, not just my daughter), I remember it perfectly because even though it was four years ago, the same frustrations continue to pop up. As a parent, some days just plain suck.

Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain

When this memory popped up the other day it got me thinking about how I present myself, specifically as a parent, to the rest of the world. Sure, we all talk about what a mess we are, and how we struggle, but very rarely do we put it out there on display. When we do, it’s usually with an exasperated chuckle and a shoulder shrug. We aren’t pulling out a magnifying glass and examining our short comings with anyone anytime soon.

Take my above story. I played it for laughs, I never mentioned that my daughter was screaming so loudly that I was legitimately concerned that a neighbor was going to call the cops. I don’t talk about how much of the wine I drank that night, or the enormous feeling of self-doubt that stuck with me long after my daughter calmed down.

And yet, it’s those tiny glimpses of things not being perfect, of being down right hard and exhausting, that most resonate with me as a mom. With that in mind, here are two (more) examples of me just kind of sucking at this mom thing.

Not A Hot Mess, Just A Mess

I’m pretty proud of the pictures I’ve been able to put on this blog so far. My husband, shoot even my daughter, have way better eyes than I do for photography, but I think I’ve done a pretty good job of making my food look appetizing.

But I’m going to let you in on a secret; the reason I tend towards close-ups isn’t because they look better, it’s so I don’t have to clean as much of my kitchen.

The picture on the right is what my counter looks like right now. I tried giving it an artsy filter, but it is what it is, a mess. I’m sure I’ll get to it after I’m done writing this. If I don’t get distracted by some game on my phone.

IMG_1425

Thomas The Tank Engine Is A Real Jerk

Above is a cute photo of my husband reading to our son. I captioned it, “Story time” with a few heart emojis and shared it with the world. What this photo doesn’t show? How fed up my husband and I both are with the book he’s reading and how close I am to burning it.

There are two stories, in the first one Thomas can’t pull the heavy cars filled with people so he strands the people all around the island in cow pastures to lighten his load, in the second he wants his picture taken so he puffs his way into everyone else’s pictures, ruining all the photos. I’m sure both stories end with Thomas learning a valuable lesson, but we never get to the end because my son gets bored halfway through. So the only thing his developing brain is taking away from them is, “Hey kid! Are things not going your way? Just dump on those around you to get what you want!”

Doldrum Days

So there are my examples of me not winning “Mother Of The Year”. I share them with you to remind myself that nobody is perfect, nor does anyone need to be. If you are having “one of those days”, I hope this helps, and know that we’ve all been there.