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.
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.
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.
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.
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.