Travelling to Disney World Florida as a family

After a recent trip to Disney World Florida my husband decided to put some tips and tricks together to help a family trip run more smoothly….

 

Recently my wife and I took a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida with our two young daughters, the eldest is almost 3 years old, our youngest turned 5 months whilst we were away.  Whilst I was out there I noted in my head a lot of things I would do differently when we go again (I can’t tell our youngest “well you went to Disney when you were a baby…” when she asks us if she can go, I used to hate hearing that when I was a child!)  I thought I’d share the tips with other travellers, particularly parents, so that you have a smoother ride when you visit.

1. The plane journey

Okay so we’re quite lucky in that both girls are fairly easy travellers, including on flights. I always worry that they will kick up for the whole  flight and my child will be the one showing up in a blurry video on This Morning whilst they discuss whether or not children should be allowed on planes. So far, so good. Oh and for the record, I consider planes as a mode of public transport just like a plane or a bus, so if you can’t handle listening to other people whilst you fly then I suggest you save up for a private jet.

Tips for flying with toddlers include (probably obviously) an iPad.  Yes old people may tut and say “oh we didn’t have those in my day” but you know what, they also didn’t have commercial trans-Atlantic flights on their day but you can bet your arse they’ll fly on one. It’s unlikely that the iPad will keep them entertained for the whole flight, it certainly doesn’t for my two year old, so I suggest pulling that one out of the bag when you can see a tantrum about to happen.

Let the children choose a toy at the airport.  What better to keep a child entertained than a new toy? Yes I may have spent half the flight retrieving Olaf and Sven from underneath the chairs but her new Frozen Busy Book kept our toddler quiet for hours.

Stack up on snacks – because who doesn’t like snacks? Another way to quickly pacify a stroppy child.

See if you can order food in advance of the flight for your child, or look up the on board menu.  This way you know whether your little one will  like the food, if not then you can pack something you know they’ll like.

If all else fails, take them to the bathroom! May sound strange but it takes them out of the situation where they’re unhappy, provides an distraction, keeps you away from everyone else and muffles the sound!!

2. Getting to the parks

My top tip here is to arrive early.  On our first day we aimed to be in the park for 10am.  We arrived around 9.30am and eventually got into the park after queuing for over an hour at various places.  Getting into the park early has many perks:

  • your car is parked closer to the park – occasionally we managed to get within walking distance to the park.
  • the queue time for popular attractions is much less (although be warned, at 9am at Hollywood Studios we still queued for an hour to meet Buzz and Woody and the wait for the Toy Story ride was over an hour.  The introduction of Toy Story land in Summer 2018 should hopefully reduce these wait times though).
  • the temperature is more bearable for those of us who aren’t used to 30 degree heat!
  • by lunch time you can head back to the hotel of the children are tired as it’s likely you’ve had a productive morning. Then you can spend the afternoon relaxing.
3. Eating

Most of the cafes and restaurants at Disney don’t open until 11am. If you have a hungry child on your hands as we do then waiting until 11am for an appropriate morning snack is not an option. My advice here is to pack snacks for the morning!

Lunch time gets hectic and there’s usually a long wait on food or to even sit down at a restaurant. Again, a packed lunch can help to avoid this issue.  Alternatively, you can book tables at restaurants on the Disney app up to 30 days in advance. We didn’t do this and regretted it.

Look at the menus in advance.  The selection for children is fairly limited.  Our eldest isn’t keen on fast food so the options of burgers, chicken nuggets and chips didn’t appeal to her. She was happy with macaroni and cheese every day but we weren’t keen on her having it too often! This was another reason we brought a packed lunch with us.  If you look in advance you can anticipate what your child will or won’t eat rather than walking to restaurants one by one in the heat of the day to make sure they like something on the menu.

Epcot is the best park for food, it has a much larger variety due to the nature of the park. Make the most of it and look up the restaurants before you go as the choice is great.

Another great reason to pack snacks is that snacks in the park are expensive! We paid over $2 for a banana in Hollywood Studios!

4. Take a pram

Or rent one! Even if your child doesn’t usually use one it’s worth it purely to get to places faster. When you enter the park and need to head to a certain ride/character meeting but your little one won’t pick up their feet it’s frustrating. A slow walk to where you want to go can be a difference between a 15 minute wait and a 30 minute wait.

There’s a lot of walking involved in the day. Our eldest doesn’t usually nap but every day she had a sleep in the pram around lunchtime to recharge her batteries. Without it she wouldn’t have lasted the day. Even if your child won’t nap it’s worth them being able to rest their legs rather than giving out free shoulder rides!
Oh and where else would you put all your shopping without a pram to over-fill?!

5. Meet and greet

Okay so there are LOTS of Disney characters to meet and most of them have a fair wait to get a photo and an autograph. My tip here is to have a look in advance at what characters are in each park and prioritise the ones you want to meet. Then use a fast pass to get in and see them.  Popular characters like Mickey and Minnie usually have an hour wait or more, so using a fast pass drops your wait to anything between 5-20 minutes (from experience, not guaranteed).

The photographers will take photos for you but if you give them your phone they’re happy to take one on that too. This helps if you don’t have the photopass and you don’t want to pay for the professional pics.

I’ve read advice online about meeting “face” characters first, i.e. not the ones wearing big heads! This is to ease your little one into the process.  Well we didn’t get the chance as our first character meeting was accidental and was in a big costume.  Luckily our 2.5 year old was so excited to meet her that she wasn’t at all fussed by the fact that she was 6 foot tall! All children are different and all I can say is that you should enjoy yourself. If your little one doesn’t like the meet and greets then there’s still plenty of magic in the form of rides, parades and fireworks!

6. The rides

If you’re going to Disney World you’re probably a big kid too, right? Well plenty of the rides at Disney are great for adults but not so great for little children. Most of the big ones have height restrictions, so if your little one can’t ride and you have two adults with you then one can ride and get a fast track pass for the other.  This pass means the other adult won’t have to queue up again, instead they can go straight to the fast pass queue to get on the ride. This means your little one won’t get as bored having to wait around for you both to ride. What’s even better is that the fast track pass is for whoever had to stay with the child AND up to 2 other rides. If you go with a group then you can pick your two favourite people to fast track the ride with you.

It’s also worth looking up the wait times in advance and booking your fast passes for the most high demand rides.  In magic kingdom for example these are the “Mountains” (splash, thunder and space), the seven dwarf mine train, and it’s a small world. There are others too but these had the longest waits when we visited. The further in advance you book your passes in the more likely you are to get availability on the rides you want. But plan it well – you don’t want back to back fast passes on rides that are the opposite sides of the park to each other, so check a map when you’re organising it.

7. Download the app

The app is great. It gives you directions from your phone to attractions you want to visit, up to date wait times for everything and the locations of all the characters. It also allows you to order your food from your phone which allows an element of time saving, you can book restaurants on there and check out daily show times.

There are probably way more things that would give you a smoother ride at Disney but you’d be reading all day if I went into much more detail! The above are my top ones, so I hope it helps!

And most importantly…. have a magical day!

David Kinally
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How’re you feeling?

“How are you feeling? I find you really hard to read at the moment”.
This is what my husband just said to me. The truth is, I have no idea how I’m feeling. 7 weeks ago we had our second baby, a girl named Luna, and the new born whirlwind began.  More nappies, more night feeds, more laundry, more worry. More smiles, more cuddles, more kisses, more love.
When he asked me this question I was feeding our youngest daughter whilst watching what our eldest was doing and wondering if she was going to have another meltdown if adverts dared to come on in between dancing to the Trolls soundtrack on YouTube.  We’d just come back from a weekend away and I was also going through the list of things we needed to unpack in order for the bedtime routine to run smoothly.

  1. Gro clock? Check
  2. Monitor? Check
  3. Bed guard? Check
  4. Next to me crib? Check

As well as making sure there were matching pyjamas (there weren’t), towels, nappies and a clean comforter for my eldest. This then led to another train of thought about putting more laundry in the washing machine, making a mental note to buy more washing tablets and wondering when the hell I would have time to iron it all.

In addition to the above, my overall ‘to do’ list looks a little like this:

  • Take Luna’s passport photo and submit application
  • Take Luna’s birth certificate to the bank to set up savings account
  • Set up direct debit for both girls’ savings accounts
  • Make appointment to write wills
  • Pick up baubles from pottery painting place
  • Have appointment with April’s potential school about application process
  • Fill out checklist for April’s 2 and a half year check
  • Buy birthday present for friend
  • Buy and wrap Christmas presents
  • Go to post office to pick up husband’s Christmas present and pay the import duty
  • Order Luna’s stocking
  • Organise life insurance
  • Book catering for Luna’s christening
  • Attempt to maintain some form of social life.

I’ve known from a young age that I wanted to have children, in fact I remember being in a rush to grow up just so that I could have babies. But ever since being a mum my mind sometimes feels like it’s full of cotton wool. Concentration is not my strong point, especially as I usually have one, if not two, small children crying for my attention. I’ll come off the phone to people having no idea what they said because I was too busy chasing a 2 year old around making sure she doesn’t start a fire whilst my back is turned (okay slight exaggeration but it’s shocking what an unattended toddler can achieve in 30 seconds). And now that our new addition requires constant rocking from 5pm until 10pm it’s no wonder my brain is mush.
The truth is, sometimes I feel like I have no time for emotions, I have far too much shit to do to think about the way I’m feeling and it makes me realise how parents whose partners aren’t as supportive as mine feel like they’ve lost their identity.  I’m lucky that my husband makes a conscious effort to give me some headspace from our children. He has work where he can get away and process his thoughts, I have broken sleep during which I try to process mine.  Something as simple as him suggesting I have a bath whilst he watches both children may seem so small but can be so important.  It gives me time to hear silence.

Sometimes I see photos on social media of parents who seem to be out all the time and I think “where are their children? Are they really out every weekend?” and then I have days like this when I realise that these parents just need some headspace, a time to breathe, time to themselves and there’s nothing wrong with that. Without it, we’d all go mad.
Being a parent brings with it a rollercoaster of emotion, one minute your children are being little angels and you’re full of happiness and pride, the next they’re screaming at you for completely irrational reasons and you just want to sit in a dark room in silence.  It’s no wonder we don’t know what emotions are going through our minds if someone asks.
But if you’re a parent reading this then I want to ask you one thing: How’re you feeling?
If the answer suggests you need more “me time” to get some headspace and stop to think about who you are then do it. If you can’t do it right now then please set aside some time to do it. You and your children deserve the best version of you, and if you need to take some time out to breathe then that’s okay, don’t feel guilty for it.

 

Oh and if you’re wondering how I had the time to write this, I wrote it one handed whilst rocking a baby on a nursing chair!

Having a baby after PTSD – am I mad?

For some mothers giving birth is a magical, exciting and altogether positive experience. For many others, including myself, it is an experience that begins with excitement, but doesn’t have the happy ending.
After giving birth to my first daughter I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Odd right? I thought only soliders had that. Turns out mothers quite often get diagnosed after giving birth.  The symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, nightmares, emotional numbness, struggling to sleep, avoidance of certain places, persistent negative feelings about yourself, being easily irritable and a constant feeling of guilt, fear or shame. To name a few. I didn’t have all of these symptoms, but the ones that impacted my life the most were flashbacks, negative feelings about myself and persistent guilt. It hasn’t been my favourite life journey but it has been one that I’ve tried to be as open as possible about with my friends and family.
All these thoughts and feelings were triggered by one event – giving birth. So why am I back here in a situation where I have to do it again?
To put it simply, my love for my daughter and desire to have more than one child, as well as months of therapy has led me to feel like I can face this fear.  It will be easy right? “No two births are the same”, “babies come out much easier the second time round”, “you’ll be fine”, are the most common comments I receive when speaking abour my fear.  The truth is, before I fell pregnant I was adamant that when the time came I would have a cesarean.  
However, now that I am pregnant again I find myself reliving my daughter’s birth more frequently. My feelings of failure and incompetence are trying to reappear and I am panicking about delivery. What do I do? Avoid the trigger completely and ask for an elective c-section? Or try to heal old wounds and give it another go? The only problem is, I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know which option will make me feel better, and which might make me feel ten times worse. 
It has been two years since my daughter was born, but still on the eve of her birthday I layed in bed next to my husband sobbing, asking him when the flashbacks would stop and when I would stop feeling like such a failure for the way she was born. My midwife has referred me to the local mental health team to start therapy again, I have my first session in a couple of weeks. But I still have five months to decide what birth option is best for my baby and I.
Hopefully when I have made my decision I will update, but for now I’ll have to continue in this limbo of wondering what I should do.