Easy Disney Vacation Mistakes

Little “uh-oh” or colossal error, Disney vacation mistakes are made every day.  Here’s a look at some we’ve made that took little effort yet produced major detractions to our vacation happiness.  Luckily, we’ve learned the error of our ways and you can too.

Easy Disney Vacation MistakesYellow Monorail / Walt Disney World

Underestimating Travel Time – This is big.  We still struggle with this one sometimes.  Getting from place to place in the humongous Disney Bubble can take a lot longer than expected.  If you’re heading to a park for early breakfast reservations or leaving a park for lunch or dinner reservations, plan ahead and know what the worst case scenario will be time-wise.  If you end up arriving early to a restaurant, you can often be seated early.  We once badly underestimated how long it would take to get from Magic Kingdom to Disney Springs (monorail to the Contemporary then bus to Disney Springs) and we were terribly late for our dinner at Raglan Road.  The stress this creates is not good when you’re trying to relax on vacation.Walt Disney World MagicBand

Self-inflicted Sticker Shock – If you choose to use the Magic Band charging feature, you may want to consider limiting it to only the members of your party who are responsible for paying the final bill.  Use budgeting mechanisms such as Disney gift cards for souvenirs or Food & Wine festival booth purchases.  Stay out of gift shops if your willpower is low or if you have trouble saying no to your little prince or princess.  For sure, research restaurant menus online to get an idea about prices before you go.Drink-Menu-Raglan-Road

Dreadful Dehydration – It is ridiculously easy to become dehydrated in Florida.  Dehydration doesn’t just make you thirsty, it can make you cranky, give you a headache, make you feel exhausted and can even make you crave sweets when you’re not even hungry.  Start every day with a big drink of water, carry water with you or take advantage of the free ice water available at quick service counters in the parks.  Snack on fresh fruit and veggies with high water content instead of salty, dry snacks like pretzels, crackers, or chips.  If consuming adult beverages, drink water between servings.These Feet are TIRED

Doubling Back (over and over) – This can add miles of walking to your day.  Whether you’re a super-planner with very structured touring plans or prefer to freestyle it around FastPasses, familiarizing yourself with what rides and attractions are located in which areas of the park is worth a few minutes of research.  You can do this from home within the My Disney Experience app or, if you’re not into major pre-planning and don’t want to fool with the app, simply grab a park map when you arrive.  Try not to go back and forth from one end of the park to the other over and over.  When you have time between FastPasses and want to squeeze in extra attractions, use the app’s wait time feature to find something nearby with a short standby line.Kali River Rapids Boat

Water Ride Woes – This may sound silly to some of you, but others will appreciate this – Consider the damage water rides like Kali River Rapids (Animal Kingdom) and sometimes Splash Mountain (Magic Kingdom) can do to your appearance.  Imagine you’re having a lovely day at Animal Kingdom, looking forward to your dinner at the new signature restaurant, Tiffins.  You can become 100% drenched, I’m talking soaked to the skin, on Kali River Rapids.  Unless you plan ahead and wear a poncho on the ride or come to the park with a complete change of clothes and don’t care about your hair and/or makeup, this ride has the potential to make eating a nice meal less than magical.

we’ve made all of these mistakes and a few more! What lessons have you learned the hard way at Disney World?

Sensible Consumption on a Disney Vacation

Clam-mobile-selfie“Work hard, play hard!” – I like this motto.  We do work hard and we deserve to relax and have fun, right?  By golly, we’ve earned it!  When we go on vacation, we tend to throw moderation to the wind, kick up our heels and indulge, feast and pamper ourselves – all the things we deny ourselves day-to-day.  I’m no nutrition or financial management expert, but as I get older, I feel like I’m having a more difficult time snapping back after playing hard.  When we vacation, we tend to over-indulge in every area – food, drinks, and snacks, extras and souvenirs.  Never is this more true than on a Disney vacation.  I’d like to change that habit.

Sensible Consumption on a Disney Vacation

Let’s talk about food first.  Our family is all about trying new things and making our Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) at the earliest possible time.  One table-service meal per day is our minimum requirement for optimum happiness and we’ve been known to book more.  We overeat on vacation and rationalize it by believing that all the walking we do will burn off those excess calories – honestly, that’s just not the case.  Shula's-Filet-TwoThe older we get, the harder it is to lose weight.  Gone are the days where those extra pounds just drop back off once we get home. Recently at Walt Disney World, Raymond and I tried to be more mindful of this – baby steps, really – and what we tried seemed to work well!  On next vacation, we plan to use these strategies –

  • Portion Control – Often portions are HUGE and totally share-able.  We tried sharing lunch a couple of times – splitting appetizer, entrée, and dessert.  Turns out, we were completely satisfied with half-portions and this was a great lesson to take into the future.Citrus-Swirl
  • Give and Take – Think a little bit ahead as in…I’ll pass on this ice cream now in favor of dessert with dinner.  I’ll admit that this one will be a bit of a challenge – when I’m hungry and have a hankerin’ for a churro or a Mickey ice cream bar, I’m in the moment and might swear (to myself) that I’ll pass on dessert later.  In reality, if cheesecake’s on the menu, Raymond will definitely order it and I’ll have to eat some.  This one sounds good in theory, but execution may prove impossible.Be-our-Guest-Eggs
  • Choose “Less Unhealthy” options – It’d be silly to suggest that we could or would eat only healthy meals at Walt Disney World, but we can make better selections.  Maybe.  We can try!

Now, about those adult beverages – We enjoy wine with dinner, but recently blundered with wine pairings for each course at Jiko.  Not only did we overeat big-time, but were way too sleepy when we left – no return to the parks for us that night.  We headed straight back to our resort and fell asleep.  I don’t even want to talk about what that splurge did to our dinner bill.  It’s easy to over-indulge with empty calories in this category, but we’ve got a plan formulated for dealing with that as well…Shula's-Wine

  • Allow one (maximum of two) splurges per day – We know we’re still going to order a bottle of wine with dinner, but we can cut down on the number of times we stop for a cold beer in Animal Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Also, we love the Resort Loop Pub Crawl but can probably be perfectly happy with one stop per day (or less).Rose&Crown-Beer-Flight
  • Prioritize our “Must-Try” list – There are quite a few things on this list – most of which can be found in World Showcase.  Before I say planning in advance for these vacation libations will take all the fun and spontaneity out of exploring the World, we need to give it a try…I’ll let you know how it goes.RM-Top-of-the-World-Lounge-Coffee
  • Skip the after dinner specialty coffee – Yes, even after the wine, it’s sometimes tempting to enjoy a fancy adult coffee with dessert…or even AS dessert.  Since this splurge is rare, it may be the easiest one to do without.

The extra expenses – Food and beverages are a huge part of our vacation budget, so we try to work out how much that’s going to set us back and set aside that money in advance.  We save about $7 when we purchase $150-worth of Disney gift cards at Sam’s Club, so I try to buy enough gift cards pre-vacation to take care of our food, drinks, and any spa treatments we have booked.  As far as souvenirs go, I’m all about Disney Christmas ornaments and always add one or two to our collection on every vacation.  We usually also like to buy a couple of Disney pins and a coffee mug.  If we could stick with these, we wouldn’t have a problem – we could easily budget for this expense.Shoe-Ornament-Mrs. Incredible

Disney merch!  This company sure has our number and knows exactly what buttons to push to get us to spend more by playing on our emotions.  There’s really only one way to cut down on spending in this category and that would be to stop shopping!  Ha!  Like that’s going to happen.  What we can do is just say no…right now.  RM-Mickey-Tray RM-Mickey-Dinner-Plate RM-Minne-WatchWith the Shop Disney Parks app and the ability to use personal shoppers from home, if I pass up something using this “say no right now” method and later decide I can’t live without whatever it was, I can always try to get it later.  I believe this will cut way down on impulse/emotionally driven purchases.  Maybe.  We’ll see, won’t we.

Do you try to exercise sensible consumption on your Disney vacations?  What are your best ideas to avoid over-indulging? 



Things You Don’t Have to do on a Disney Vacation

RM-Main-Street-USA-Magic-KingdomDo you go on vacation for a little rest and relaxation?  Do you vacation to experience new and special things you can’t find at home? Do your travel plans include NOT cooking or cleaning?  Are you hoping to find fun, adventure and quality time with your family?  Us too!  We are all about getting away from it all and taking a little break from work, stress, and yes, the previously mentioned household chores.

There’s been a lot of negativity going around on the interwebs lately via message boards and the like.  Disney vacations are gaining a bit of a reputation as not being the magical family fun they were once upon a time.  There are a lot of “too’s” attached to those criticisms – it’s too crowded, there’s too much planning and research involved, there’s too much to know, too much technology – the fun is gone.  RM-Fantasyland-CrowdNot true, I say!!!  Disney vacations are our family’s favorite – and have been for many years.  Sure, getting used to the newest developments in customer care may take a minute or two, but new does not necessarily mean bad.  There’s still a lot to recommend about Disney parks & resorts and Disney Cruise Line.  Mainly I’m talking about…

Things you do not have to do on a Disney VacationWalt Disney World Summer Crowd

  1. Plan Every Minute – It’s simply not true that you have to plan too much too far in advance.  Prioritize and decide what’s important to your family.  Sure, if you want to eat at a super-popular table service restaurant or dinner show, you will need to make a reservation 180 days in advance for the best chance to dine there.  Citricos-WindowIf you don’t want to spend (possibly) an hour or more waiting in line for headline attractions, you’ll want to book FastPasses as far in advance as you can.  Planning some things in advance is very helpful, but planning every minute would eliminate spontaneity and be detrimental to the whole “rest and relaxation” part of vacationing.  Which brings me to the next point.RM-Tower-of-Terror
  2. Hurry All The Time – NO!  Sure, if this makes you happy, you’re welcome to hit the ground running and rush all day from attraction to attraction as fast as you can.  Just thinking about that makes me tired!  Better to take the most offered advice around – get up early (see #4) and beat the heaviest crowds of the day.  Then slow it down so you don’t miss the amazing Disney magic all around you.Epcot-Statue
  3. Sweat The Small Stuff – Yes, Disney details (sometimes the tiniest ones) are often the most fantastic parts of a Disney vacation.  BUT, there’s no reason to obsess over what you might be missing if you decide to detour from time to time as the mood strikes.  It’s about being together as a family for us – and maybe, if it’s that way for you too, it’ll be okay to not worry about being a super-parent.  You may think you know what will thrill your little one and it turns out to be 180-degrees the opposite – don’t worry about it!  Go with the flow, eat dessert first, change your plans suddenly – it’ll be okay.Bay-Lake-Tower-Sunrise
  4. Stay Up Late – Early to bed and early to rise does not negatively impact a Disney vacation!  I know this from personal experience – I’ve never taken advantage of any late night Extra Magic Hours and I’m perfectly happy about it.  We go to sleep early and appreciate that early morning is sometimes the most special (and productive) time of the day!Entrance for Toy Story Midway Mania
  5. Do It All – There’s just no way to do it all in one trip.  Here’s where research helps a lot.  Knowing what’s important to you and your travel party can help you prioritize.  Don’t think about what you might be missing at the expense of what you’re enjoying at any given moment.  Weather, heat, distance between activities or attractions can take a toll.  Go in with realistic expectations and a willingness to be flexible – nobody wants you to be a bossy, crabby vacation dictator.  Do what you can & come back again if you want.  Don’t mar your vacation memories by putting unnecessary pressure on your family.  Don’t do it!

What are your favorite “don’t have to do’s” on a Disney vacation?



Walt Disney World – Picky Eater Survival Tips

IMG_0403Our family is fortunate in that we don’t have special dietary needs or a single food allergy among us.  We’re highly gluten-tolerant omnivores and can (not that we should) munch on pretty much anything.  One among us, though, has always been an extremely picky eater.  World class picky.  Joseph has, from birth, been the most discriminating consumer-of-nearly-nothing we’ve ever met.  Green foods of any kind? Nope. Squash, cauliflower, gravy, most cheeses, jelly, mayonnaise, mustard, tomatoes, and all pickles are also inedible to our boy.  Casseroles of nearly every variety were once shunned due to being unable to identify every ingredient.  Even bacon!  Yes, bacon, as a breakfast food would not be tolerated.  It will, however, gladly be consumed on a certain fast food chain’s hamburger, but only if that burger also has cheese and ketchup.  Our son is was the child who would order “peanut butter and jelly, hold the jelly” in a restaurant.  The struggle is real, friends.IMG_0640

I once believed that picky eaters were the result of poor parenting. Children offered a variety of healthy, delicious foods and encouraged to try new flavors will not be picky – HA! Clearly, I’d never met the champion of non-eaters. I even resorted to a white lie on occasion when sitting down to dinner…if the food looked even remotely foreign, Joseph would ask, “Have I ever had this before?” and I would say (no matter what) YES!!! And you really liked it!!!Wild Child at Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World – Picky Eater Survival Tips

What did this make Disney vacations like?  When Joseph was little, we decided we’d deal with the eating thing (I suppose I should say the NOT-eating thing) with one basic strategy – we’d make sure he got something he would eat (and enjoy) at every meal, but would not allow his food quirks to keep us from eating where we wanted to eat.  That incredible Disney service and kid-friendly food expertise meant that we’d have help with our plight, including assistance with the “no food must touch” quirk that went along with the picky food choices.IMG_2663

Important:  Picky is NOT the same as a life-threatening food allergy. Allergies mean meals must be prepared in a very specific, careful way. While I’ve seen Joseph gag over an accidental bite of pickle hidden in a sandwich, I would never misrepresent it as an allergy to a restaurant server.  Allergies are extremely serious and it would be wrong to claim one that doesn’t medically exist.

What worked for us:

Buffets were our friends! Chef Mickey’s (Contemporary Resort) and Boma (Animal Kingdom Lodge) in particular were safe bets.  Disney Cruise Line’s buffets are awesome!IMG_2651

We asked for plain (without sauce or gravy) rice, noodles, or potatoes when possible.  Almost every table service restaurant would easily help us put together plain fish (odd to me that fish was always a favorite food, go figure) or grilled chicken, a starch and either fruit or one of the short list of Joseph-approved veggies.  Disney Cruise Line took it to a completely new level.  Those servers do NOT want children to go away hungry – they’ll go above and beyond to make sure even the pickiest diners are happy.

Breakfast was the biggest meal of the day sometimes – and that was okay with us.  The Florida heat is an appetite killer, so if Joseph filled up on scrambled eggs and fruit (and maybe a Mickey waffle or two) in the morning and didn’t feel like eating much later, we didn’t stress out about it.IMG_0791

We lighted up because we were on vacation.  I carried granola bars and pop tarts with me and didn’t mind buying an ice cream treat each day.  We did our best to make sure Joseph had healthy options that he liked, but didn’t sweat it if he didn’t want to eat much – we could go back to arguing about food when we got home.WDW Mickey Pretzel

Now that he’s 20, Joseph eats lots of foods he wouldn’t have eaten when he was little.  He’s an accomplished cook and enjoys trying new recipes.  He’s healthy, tall and slender and looking forward to trying all the food booths at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival in 2016 (after he turns 21).  If you have a picky eater, I feel your pain!  Keep offering new foods and hang in there!  It does get better and you are NOT a bad parent.

Are you the parent of a picky child?  What works best for you on vacation?