Walt Disney World:: Hollywood Studios

On January 3, 2014, we went to Hollywood Studios. We started with the Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage musical. It was pretty chilly but as soon as the characters came on stage, we forgot about how cold we were and really enjoyed the show. After the show, we walked over to Hollywood and Vine to check in for lunch. There was a buffet lunch, characters, and dancing. The kids enjoyed meeting Jake, Oso, June, and Handy Manny. Of all the places we ate, this is the place that surprised me the most. Last time we went in June 2010, we went to Hollywood and Vine for breakfast so we hadn’t had the lunch before. It was delicious. After lunch we walked around Echo Lake and toward Streets of America. We saw Muppet Vision, met Phineas and Ferb, went on the Studio Backlot Tour, met Mike and Sully, and then headed toward Disney Jr.-Live on Stage! We had a Fast Pass for that. I’m not sure it was completely necessary to get in, but we were able to set in the middle section in the second “row” (the seating is just on the floor). So, it was nice to be able to get up front. After Disney Jr., we went to Toy Story Midway Mania! That has to be my favorite ride at Hollywood Studios. It is too bad that most other people must feel that way too. The line is always so long and now with the Fast Pass+, we were only able to get one fast pass for Toy Story Midway Mania. Then we went through the line to meet Buzz and Woody. It is nice that there are things to entertain the kids on the way through the line. We ended our day at Voyage of the Little Mermaid. We sat in the front row and had a great view of the production.

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When we got back to the hotel, we ate at the World Premier Food Court. After eating dinner, we headed back to the room and got ready for another day at Disney. That included a trip to the laundry room and getting bags packed for the next day.

Gaston’s Tavern

It took me a few days of trial and error, but I finally found the answer of how to utilize snack credits! As soon as we got to Magic Kingdom, we made our way to the back of the park to the new Fantasyland area and went to Gaston’s Tavern for breakfast. I went in to order while Derek and the kids snagged a table outside by the fountain. I ordered 2 LeFou’s Brew in a regular cup, fresh fruit, and a warm cinnamon roll. The menu price of the LeFou’s Brew was $4.49, but I used snack credits for those and the price of the cinnamon roll was $3.99, which I also used a snack credit for. The drink is a frozen apple juice slushy with a fruity foam on top. It was a pretty big cup and if I had it to do over, I would have ordered just one. Because it was icy, it lasted through all 5 of us for breakfast. Even though the cinnamon roll was big, I would have ordered two. It was so good. We all devoured it. It was warm and gooey and yummy!

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While we ate, we looked at the Magic Kingdom map and came up with our plan of attack. The kids enjoyed the breakfast and eating outside by the fountain was nice.

Autograph Photo Mats

Characters. Characters. MORE Characters. The first time we went to Disney World with the kids in 2010, I really had no idea that character meetings were such a big deal. Before we left, my sister-in-law bought the kids autograph photo books. Abby loved it. She wanted to meet all the characters. The books are really cute and a nice souvenir, but they never get taken out. No one ever looks at them. This time I wanted something for the signatures that I could display. I decided to use a photo mat.

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I found these at Hobby Lobby. The opening is a 4×6 and the mat fits into an 8×10 frame. I also read that click top Sharpies are easy for the characters to use and they worked out really well. We didn’t have caps to keep track of either, which was nice. I kept our 4 mats (one for each kid and one for Derek and I to share) and the markers in a gallon size slider baggie (yes, I have a baggie problem!). It fit well in our backpack and was easy to carry around. The characters seemed to have no trouble with the mat or the markers. The only problem was that they filled up fast. If I had it to do over again, I would have bought 2 for each kid. Maybe have all the princesses sign one and other characters for the other. As it turned out, the characters just signed both sides so if we want to, we can flip the mat around, although I doubt we ever will. The end result is an amazing and not very expensive souvenir that we get to look at every day hanging in the playroom.

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Walt Disney World:: Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom is the quintessential Disney World park. Walking through the gates, walking down Main Street, and seeing Cinderella’s Castle is amazing. After having breakfast at Gaston’s Tavern in the new Fantasyland, we spent the morning riding rides. We love it’s a small world, Peter Pan’s Flight, Pirate’s of the Caribbean, and Splash Mountain. We ate lunch at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe. It was crazy busy and hard to find a table but the food was good. The kids had hamburgers, Derek had a southwest chicken salad, and I had the pulled pork. The rain was awful for parts of the day. We had our emergency ponchos, but it didn’t make much difference. We were all soaked. We did have moments of reprieve from the rain, but our shoes were soaked through for much of the day.

We ran into one of Abby’s classmates and his family right by Aloha Isle while we were in line for a Dole Whip. We visited with them for awhile and then went off to use our fast passes in the afternoon. We used our fast passes on Pirates of the Caribbean and Peter Pan’s Flight. Those were good choices because the lines were very long. After that, we went to Cinderella’s Royal Table for dinner. We met Cinderella and took pictures in the lobby of the restaurant and when they called our name, we went upstairs to the dining room. Our table was right by the window overlooking Prince Charming Royal Carrousel. It was raining hard and it was windy outside, which made us extra glad to be sitting in the castle. Dinner was good, the service was good, and the atmosphere was amazing! The kids had fun meeting the princesses and making a wish with the wishing star. While Ariel was at our table, Jasmine came into the dining room. Cara saw “Jazz Man” and took off across the dining room toward Jasmine, leaving poor Ariel in her dust. It was pretty funny except I had to run through the dining room after her. After dinner, we went to use our last fast pass on the new ride, Under the Sea~Journey of the Little Mermaid. It was a nice ride, but not quite as good as I was expecting. It was the only time we rode that one. We rode a few more rides on our way out and then decided it was time to call it a night. Other than the rain, it was a great day in the Magic Kingdom. We made it back to the hotel and attempted to dry out and get warm.

Magic Kingdom Jan 2 collage

Rider Switch Pass

If you have a little one that is not quite tall enough for a ride or doesn’t WANT to ride and other people in your group want to ride it, you should utilize the rider switch pass. You can even use the rider switch with a fast pass. We used this on Soarin’ at Epcot and Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom. Cara was not tall enough for either of those rides. When it was time for our fast pass return, we told the cast member at the entrance to the ride that we needed a rider switch. Most of the time Cara was with us when we told them, but one time for Soarin’ she was sleeping in the stroller and strollers cannot be brought in by the Soarin’ entrance. I did take a picture, but they didn’t ask any questions. The cast member gave us a ticket that said it was good for 3 people to ride. With that, Derek or I would take Abby and Cade on and then the other of us would take them on again later. The other nice thing with the rider switch is that there is not a time on it, just on the same date. This worked really well and Cara was able to ride another ride while she waited for us.

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Epcot

What a way to start the new year! We spent January 1, 2014 at Epcot. Before we went there, we ate breakfast at the World Premier Food Court at All-Star Movies Resort. The kids ate Mickey waffles, sausage, and eggs and Derek and I ate whatever was left. We used our Rapid Fill drink mugs so when we were done at breakfast, we had to walk back to the room and then back to the resort to the bus area. We decided we wouldn’t make that mistake again. We weren’t in a hurry so much as it added a lot of extra walking to a day that would be full of walking.

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We rode the bus to Epcot and spent the morning riding rides. We ate lunch at Sunshine Seasons which is located in The Land. It was pretty good, but after reading the reviews I expected a lot more. After lunch, we had some fast passes to use. It was interesting with the new fastpass+ system. I set up all the fast passes ahead of time which was nice, but at the same time, I didn’t know which rides would have long lines at what times. The Seas with Nemo and Friends never really had a line and I had a fast pass for that. The Land didn’t have much of a wait either and I had a fast pass for that. I was really glad we had a fast pass for Soarin’. Without it, we probably wouldn’t have been able to ride it. Even with the fast pass it was a bit of a wait, but doable. The good and bad with that was that Cara couldn’t go on it. I felt bad for her, although she didn’t seem to mind, but we were then able to utilize the rider switch pass. That way she didn’t have to wait in the line, Abby and Cade got to ride twice, and Derek and I each got to ride once. Nemo was close enough that we took Cara on that while she had to wait for the other two to ride Soarin’. Another time I took her on The Land. We had a dinner reservation at Coral Reef. The wall of aquarium was neat to look at and there were divers in there while we were eating. The kids, however, were looking for characters. I ordered the steak which was good. The kids had grilled chicken. It was pretty warm in there, though, and part way through the meal I started not feeling very well. I lost my appetite and only ate about half of my meal. As soon as we got out into the fresh air, though, I felt fine. After dinner, we decided it was time to call it a night and we headed back to the hotel. The kids had some time to play with their iPods when we got back to the room and then it was time to get to sleep to get ready for another busy day ahead.

Spirit Airlines

I don’t usually pay very much attention to reviews about airlines, but from what I can tell, Spirit has a bad reputation. I did a lot of reading about what size bags we could take and what was and was not included in the price of the ticket. I paid less than $1,000 for a family of 5 to fly from Chicago (ORD) to Orlando (MCO) in December. That price included 1 checked bag each way that I paid for above and beyond the fare. The only small snag we ran into was I did not print our boarding passes ahead of time. We were in the line to check in for about 20 minutes when the customer service agent yelled out that if we did not have a boarding pass printed out that there would be a charge. I had read the website many times and never saw anything about that, so I was more than slightly annoyed. Derek and the kids stayed in line and I ran back to the little kiosks where you can print boarding passes. I got them printed and without paying extra for seats, we were all seated together.  I got back in line and we only had let one person in front of us. When we checked in, I asked the agent about the charge for printing a boarding pass at the counter and he said it was new. We were 4 lbs under for the checked bag and all of our personal items were within the limits. We took off on time and had no problems. We brought food and drinks (cups of water from McDonald’s after going through security) with us so we didn’t have to purchase any on the plane. All it took was a little research. If your luggage is overweight, it will cost more. If your personal item is oversized, it will cost you. Read the rules at www.spirit.com before you purchase your ticket and decide if Spirit Airlines will work for what you need.

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