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Disney

6 Fun Ways to Get Excited for Your Disney Vacation

If you’re planning a vacation to Walt Disney World, it can seem like the days are crawling by. How can you pass the long months before your trip AND get excited for your Disney vacation? Here are 6 awesome ways you and the kids can get in the Disney spirit and get pumped for your big trip!

get excited for your Disney vacation

Disclosure: We may earn money or products from the companies or links mentioned in this post. All opinions are my own.

1.  Movie party nights

Sure, your kids have seen Frozen 8,000 times, but have they seen all the Disney movies that are represented in the parks? Beauty and the Beast, Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Winnie the Pooh, Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs, Lilo and Stick, and Monsters Inc are featured at the Magic Kingdom. Finding Nemo has its own ride at Epcot and a show at Animal Kingdom. Toy Story and the Star Wars movies are huge at Hollywood Studios. If your kids are old enough to handle PG-13 movies, watching Avatar would help them appreciate all the immersive theming in Animal Kingdom’s Pandora- the World of Avatar.

There are also character appearances from some of the older movies that your children may be less familiar with, like Mary Poppins, the Jungle Book, and the Aristocats.

With so many movies in the queue to watch, it is easy to pick a lineup and start a weekly (or biweekly) family movie party!

Make a snack or craft relating to the movie, and watch it all together as a family. Here are some great ideas to get you started:

Lady and the Tramp Spaghetti and Meatball Cupcakes

Beauty and the Beast Family Movie Night Games and Snacks

DIY Finding Dory Sensory Bag

2. Mickey Mail

Did you know you can have mail sent to your child from Disney World for free?

Our friends at Jones Family Travels will mail you a character autograph from Main Street, USA in Magic Kingdom! All you have to do it send them a stamped envelope with your child’s name and address on the front. Your child will love finding their own piece of mail straight from Disney.

For more details on how to receive your own Mickey Mail, click here!

3. Countdown Chain

The passing of time is a pretty abstract concept for small children, and they may not be able to understand the concept of a vacation that’s in the future. A physical object representing the number of days can help.

One easy way to do this is build a paper chain with each link representing a day until your trip begins. Each day that goes by, have the child rip off one link. This way they can see the chain getting smaller and understand that the trip is getting closer.

4. Park maps and Disney planning DVD

A few years ago, Disney used to send you huge fold up color maps of each park. My kids loved those maps and studied them like they were being tested on them. Sadly, Disney has since stopped sending physical maps and replaced them with online interactive maps. Kids might still enjoy the online maps, but if you want a physical paper map you will have to do some googling and printing.

get excited for your Disney vacation

Luckily Disney does still send free copies of their planning DVD, which you can request here. The DVD if pretty commercial-y and not very specific, but it could definitely generate some excitement for kids who only have a very general idea of what Disney World is.

5. Books with pics (or Youtube)

The more familiar the kids are with the specifics of the trip, the more excited they will be. Show them pictures of the resort you’ll be staying at, restaurants you’ll be eating at, and attractions you’ll ride. Birnbaum’s makes an awesome book for kids with lots of photographs of the characters and rides. It is fairly easy to read and includes cute snippets of kids discussing what they liked and disliked.

Watching ride videos on YouTube (look for POV or “point of view” videos) is another way to get the family super pumped for their upcoming thrills. These videos give a good sense of what it feels like to be on the ride. An added benefit to YouTube videos is you can gauge if young children will be afraid of an attraction.

6. Coin jar

Even if your trip is years away, kids can begin collecting change in a large coin jar. This a good exercise in learning about saving over time for a big expense, and kids will feel that they are contributing to the cause. Even better if the kids use their own change earned by doing chores instead of just throwing in Mom and Dad’s lose change!

get excited for your Disney vacation
Kids will love turning their change into Disney dollars

When the vacation finally gets close, take the coin jar to your local credit union to redeem it for cash or check. Then use that money to get each kid a Disney gift card for their spending money in Disney World!

Kids will love having their own “Disney money”. The kids can buy what they want for souvenirs with it, and no whining to buy more stuff because when it’s gone, it’s gone.

How many days are there until YOUR Disney trip?

No matter how close or far, NOW is the time to get excited for your Disney vacation!

Planning Your First Disney Cruise

The big buzz in our Disney-crazed family lately is, we have booked our first Disney cruise! In the spring we will be boarding the Disney Magic for a 5-night Caribbean cruise, and our excitement is through roof! Since I’m all about everything Disney cruise right now, I thought I’d write a quick guide for planning your first Disney cruise.

planning your first disney cruise

Why a cruise?

We absolutely love our Walt Disney World vacations, and I’ve written about planning them before. As much fun as Disney World is, it isn’t a relaxing vacation by any stretch of the imagination. There are fast passes and reservations, tight timelines, touring plans, and miles and miles of walking the parks each day. A Disney cruise offers that same magical feel but with a slower, more relaxed pace. And of course, they still cater to kids!

What makes Disney Cruise Line unique

My kids and I love Disney, so choosing Disney cruise line was a no brainer for us. Being able to meet characters, see Disney-themed shows, and fireworks at sea were big draws for us. But the number one factor was the amazing kids clubs they have on board, included in your fare for kids ages 3 and up.

Elaborately themed spaces include Tinkerbelle’s Pixie Hollow, Toy Story’s Andys’ room, and Marvel’s Avenger Academy. The kids clubs offer activities like cooking classes, animation classes, arts and crafts, dress up, games, electronics and more. My children can’t wait to experience the kids clubs for as much time as they want to during our cruise, and my husband and I are thrilled to get a little adult time on the ship.

Zari can’t wait to find his superhero powers with Captain America! Photo credit: Disney Parks

For little ones under 3, there is the It’s A Small World Nursery, where you can leave your baby at pre-arranged times for an hourly fee ($9/hour at the time I’m writing this!).

Choosing which cruise

When trying to choose which cruise to book, you will likely spend a lot of time searching the different itineraries on https://disneycruise.disney.go.com. Search by date, length of the cruise, port, or destination depending on what your constraints are. You can even narrow it down by which of the four ships you prefer. Then browse the search results and compare prices. The common advice is to book as far in advance as possible, because the price will only go up. The exception to this is that they sometimes have last-minute sales a few weeks in advance of a cruise to fill up any empty rooms, but it’s a gamble and you can’t count on this.

Our search took us right to a Caribbean cruise because it is super convenient for us to fly to Florida, which left Port Canaveral or Miami as our possible ports of departure. From there, I narrowed it down to spring time which is when we wanted to travel. My only other “must” was that it HAD to include a stop at Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island) which is the kind of paradise dreams are made of.

planning your first disney cruise

Family size considerations

An important note for families with more than 2 kids- you will likely need to book two rooms to take your whole family on a cruise. The majority of rooms are only fit 4 people. (And unlike Disney resort hotels, 4 people does NOT mean 4 people plus a baby in a pack n play on Disney Cruise Line.) There are some suites that can hold more, but those get booked quickly and are very expensive. It usually works out to be more cost effective to book two rooms. You can request that they be adjoining, so there is a door to go between the two rooms without having to go into the hall.

Building excitement for the cruise

Just like I’ve done with Disney World attractions, I love to show my kids video clips of Disney cruises so they’ll know what to expect when they’re on board. These also get them SO excited to go! My kids love watching cruise videos that show other kids that they can follow along with and get to know. For example they love watching Jones Family Travels:

During the holidays/birthdays leading up to the trip, I also love to give gifts related to the trip. Disney shirts, autograph books, costumes, and travel toys are all useful gifts to get them ready for the cruise. My kids are also getting their own piece of rolling luggage so they can help haul all our stuff during the journey.

What we are looking forward to most

After all this research, planning, and YouTube watching, here is what we are the most excited about!

KIDS:

  • Kids clubs (all)
  • Meeting Anna and Elsa and the other princesses (Elle)
  • Disney Junior dance party (Luca)
  • Eating soft serve ice cream by the pool without having to pay and ordering room service without having to pay (Tiana)
  • Water slides (Zari)

PARENTS:

  • Brunch or dinner at the adults-only restaurant Palo (the main dining rooms are all included in the price of the cruise, but this one does have a $30 per person upcharge. Well worth it based on the amazing reviews I’ve read and the fact that there won’t be any kids present!)
  • Enjoying the adults-only areas of the ship when the kids are at kids clubs (noticing a trend here?)
  • Mailing a letter from Castaway Cay
  • Surprising my girls with makeovers from Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
  • The night time shows and entertainment
  • Getting the whole family dressed up for Pirate Night and watching the fireworks at sea
  • Port excursions! Haven’t even delved into these much yet but I’m excited about the possibilities
  • Enjoying a week of family time that can be as busy or as relaxed as we want

You can bet you’ll be hearing more about Disney Cruises as our date approaches!

For those who have been on one before, what advice would you give about planning your first Disney cruise?

If you haven’t been, what else would you like to know about Disney cruise planning?

Answer in the comments!

Disney Trip Day 1: Animal Kingdom (including Pandora- The World of Avatar)

For those who have been following, you know about the mother-daughter trip to Disney Tiana and I took in October. This is the trip report of our first day, which included traveling to Orlando, checking in to Saratoga Springs, and spending the rest of the day at Animal Kingdom. (Spoiler alert: we made it on both of the new rides in Pandora- the World of Avatar.)

Pre-trip planning

Since this was a special one on one trip for my daughter, I let her make a lot of the decisions in the planning. We only had three days, so I told her to pick three parks. Her original choices were Magic Kingdom for the Halloween party, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot.

As everyone who has planned a trip to Disney World knows, a lot of advanced planning goes into these trips. So I was a little thrown off when one day Tiana saw a commercial featuring Pandora- The World of Avatar and wanted to change our plans to include a day at Animal Kingdom! I rolled with it as best I could and set to out get us Fast Passes for at least one of the two Avatar rides.

We both REALLY wanted to get a Fast Pass+ for Flight of Passage, having heard all the hype. I knew the standby lines were in excess of 3 hours so the only way we’d get to ride it would be with FP. Of course when I logged in at the 60 day mark, there were none available. I did get one for Na’vi River Journey, but I was definitely bummed that we didn’t get our first choice.

I thought about changing our plans back to Epcot once again. Then I remembered a time I had been in a similar FP conundrum before. A few years ago when people were waiting all day to meet Anna and Elsa at Princess Fairytale Hall, Fast Passes were nearly impossible to get. I got in the habit of checking every day at different random times just in case anyone decided to let theirs go. About a week before the trip at 6am, I got one. I think the was the closest I’ve ever felt to winning the lottery!

Once again we were pixie dusted by the Fast Pass gods because a couple weeks before our trip I happened to check for Flight of Passage Fast Passes for our Animal Kingdom day and there they were. Tons of time slots magically opened up, indicating Disney had released a whole batch of new FPs. I really didn’t care about why, I was just so happy to know that we’d just scored the hottest ticket in town.

Travel

Our travel day started early, as we had to leave our house at 6am. Both of us were so excited about the trip that waking up early was no problem. It was too early for any traffic so it was smooth sailing to the airport.

Tiana was using her own piece of rolling luggage for the first time so she was enjoying feeling like a big person.

animal kingdom including Avatar

The flight was three hours of peace and quiet like we never get at home with the three younger kids. We both enjoyed our books and Tiana enjoyed coloring with some scented markers I had picked up for the flight.

Soon enough the plane landed and we made our way to Magical Express. The only noteworthy tidbit about this part of the journey is that we stopped to use the restroom and there was an ENORMOUS cockroach in one of the stalls. It scared Tiana so much that she’s basically sworn off using any airport bathrooms for the rest of her life.

There was no wait at all for our Magical Express and we arrived at Saratoga Springs before lunch time.

Checking in to Saratoga Springs

Arriving at our resort wasn’t quite as smooth as other Disney resort check ins I’ve had in the past. We had received a text that our room was not quite ready yet, so I thought we’d just leave our bags and get to the park. But we weren’t appropriately dressed for 80 degree Florida weather, so dropping our bags and running wasn’t exactly an option.

In addition to changing clothes, I also had to rearrange a lot of our stuff to turn our backpack full of flight entertainment into a park bag. Bell Services is right next to the entrance to the very busy lobby so opening my bags right there with people passing by was not very pleasant.

In the middle of all that, my phone buzzed and I saw that our room was now in fact ready. I quickly abandoned my bag re-packing mission to head to our room. A cast member pointed us in the direction of our room so we had a vague idea where we were going.

It ended up being a bit of a hike to our room, plus we got lost on the way there which made it even longer. I was feeling a little annoyed that the Cast Member hadn’t offered to help us with our luggage knowing how far the room was. The joy of carrying her own luggage had definitely worn off for Tiana by now.

I snapped this pic just before we went the wrong way and got totally lost:

Animal Kingdom including Avatar

Eventually some kind soul helped us and we got to our room. We changed and freshened up a little, packed our park bag and hopped on the bus to Animal Kingdom.

Finally at Animal Kingdom!

Animal Kingdom including avatar

I am infamous for taking crappy cell phone pictures, but HOW did I not notice that the “m” was cut off from Animal Kingdom in this photo???

We had some time to spare before our first FP, so we happily explored the park and some of the animal exhibits. We both love just wandering this park and taking in the cool vibe and energy it has. One of Tiana’s dreams is to visit Africa one day so she especially loves hanging out in that part of the park.

Pretty soon it was time for our Expedition Everest Fast Pass. Tiana was nervous about this one! Even though she likes roller coasters, she isn’t into the scary elements and she doesn’t particularly like going backwards.  She asked me if she HAD to ride it, and I told her no, she never has to ride anything. I did remind her though that this was our only day at Animal Kingdom and I wasn’t sure when we’d be back for another trip just to make sure she understood if we skip it she can’t change her mind tomorrow. She thought about it for a couple minutes and decided to give it a go.

In the past, this one has made me so motion sick I almost lost a whole day of touring. This time I was prepared and had taken Bonine for motion sickness so I was feeling confident!

The verdict on Everest? I think this face says it all:

animal kingdom including avatar

Tiana was NOT a fan! I would have enjoyed the ride except that she was screaming and maybe crying so I had to try my best to console her while my brain was getting rattled around. She told me she is NEVER going on it again, “not even if I bring my kids here and they beg me and beg me”. 😄

I’m pretty sure I got her a Mickey bar at this point to get her back in a good mood. It also helped that our next FP was for Kali River Rapids, which we both love.

It was mostly overcast that day, so Tiana decided she didn’t want to risk getting soaked on Kali. Luckily we were armed with these bad boys:

animal kingdom including avatar

We always end up laughing so much on this ride talking with the other people on our boat. Everyone knows a couple of us are going to get soaked and no one wants it to be them! The line wasn’t too long, about 20 minutes, so we rode it again standby since we had plenty of time on our hands.

Kali River Rapids Animal Kingdom
Photo credit: disneydaybyday.com

Just a pic of the ride in case anybody isn’t familiar with it.

One little detail that will pop up again later in the trip: After riding Kali River Rapids in her poncho twice, Tiana went to take it off and it ripped all the way down the front. I considered it garbage at that point and threw it out, leaving us with just one poncho in our park bag.

Now I was getting super excited because we were finally headed somewhere I’d never been before…

Pandora- the World of Avatar

Disney does such an amazing job of transforming the mood when you switch from one land to another. Going over the bridge to Pandora you can feel a shift in the atmosphere. The sounds are different, the smell is different. It is hard to describe but we felt a certain mystical energy building.

We loved checking out all the little details and of course stopped for a pic of the floating mountains.

animal kingdom including avatar

Everywhere we looked, people were holding this brightly colored frozen drink with an enormous amount of kid appeal. Not surprisingly, Tiana suddenly couldn’t live another minute without one!

animal kingdom including avatar

The Night Blossom: aka the most Instagrammed beverage in Disney history!

Note the paper straw as plastic straws are not allowed at Animal Kingdom (dangerous for the animals).

I thought this drink would be so overly sweet that we wouldn’t be able to finish it between the two of us. Well those fears were unfounded because we CRUSHED it.

By now it was time for the moment I had been waiting for. Time to ride Flight of Passage!

It almost felt wrong cruising by in the Fast Pass lane with people waiting an estimated 3 hours to ride. Almost.

The indoor portion of the line is like a dark, cement cave. Very industrial. I’m sure it’s authentic to the movie but I only saw it once and don’t remember these details!

I had purposely avoided reading much about this ride prior to our trip. I wanted to go in with no expectations. All I can say after riding it is WOW. Whatever expectations I had were blown away!

The guy in front of me in line had warned me that it was “intense” but I wasn’t really getting it. After experiencing it, that really is the best description for it.

In fact it was a little too intense for Tiana, she was screaming her face off the whole time!

It turns out, she believed every word of the pre-show and was convinced an Avatar was going to come take over her body. She thought the whole thing was 100% real. So that kicks up the intensity to a whole other level.

Dinner time

After Flight of Passage Tiana was suddenly very interested in going on Na’vi River Journey. I had to sacrifice the original FP I had gotten for it in order to book the Flight of Passage FP since you can only get one. So I had mentally crossed this ride off my list since I knew the line would be majorly inflated. We walked over to check anyway and it was about two hours. I was not interested in waiting that long so I told her we could come back at night and see if the line was down then.

Moderately satisfied with that answer, Tiana decided to head over towards Dinoland. We mostly just browsed shops and watched street acts, whatever Tiana was interested in. We passed by character spots but Tiana chose not to meet them, so I guess at 9 she is not as into meeting characters anymore. (She did end up changing her tune later in the trip so it wasn’t a completely character-less visit to WDW!)

Around 6:00 we made our way over to Rainforest Cafe, which Tiana had chosen for our dinner reservation.

animal kingdom including avatar

It’s probably not the restaurant I would have chosen, but I have to say we had an awesome time there.

With a family of 6 Tiana doesn’t get the chance to go to restaurants all that often. And going out to eat just me and her is something I’m pretty sure has never happened! Which is exactly why we needed this trip 👍

After we’d had our fill of animatronic animals, pretend thunderstorms, and lines of servers shouting “volcaaaaaaaano!”, we headed over to catch Rivers of Light.

Animal Kingdom by Night

It was starting to get dark as we passed by the Tree of Life.

Animal kingdom including avatar

I was excited to see Rivers of Light because I had never seen it before.

We were seated up near the front on the left side of the amphitheater. We watched the huge seating area fill up as we waited. I would never have guessed that many people were even in the park that day! Crowds are so different when spread throughout the park versus all in one place.

The show started and while we thought it was cool to see, we also kind of felt like we didn’t know what was going on 🤷


It also felt SUPER short! When it ended I was actually confused. It seemed like there should have been more. In future trips I think I won’t bother watching this one again.

(Just my honest opinion, I know some people love it!)

Back to Pandora

Being seated on the left was good because we were able to make our exit before most of the crowd. We walked with intent over to Pandora, since I had told Tiana we could check the wait time for Na’vi River Journey before park close.

The posted wait time was 90 minutes and I had told Tiana I was only willing to wait 60, but she talked to me into it.

I’m glad she did, because the wait ended up being just under an hour. And with friendly people to chat with in front of us in line it went by surprisingly quickly.

animal kingdom including pandora

The ride was very cool to look at with immersive theming from the movie. It was so serene and relaxing. We enjoyed it, but I’m glad I didn’t wait over an hour for it.

We exited the park right after riding as it was actually past closing time. Tiana was so happy after our long exciting day, she talked about it the whole bus ride back to Saratoga Springs. I went to bed that night so happy that I had decided to take this trip with her.

Next up…

Follow along with our trip as we head to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party on day 2!

Our Review of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

Last week I took my 9 year old on a very special one-on-one trip to Disney World. While we only had three days there, we packed in as much fun and bonding as we possibly could. The focal point of the trip was Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP), which my daughter has been wanting to go to since she knew it existed.

I’ll give you the play by play of how our night went, and sum it up by answering the question “is it worth the ticket price?

Ticket prices range from $74 to $115, depending on the date (Halloween night is the most expensive, August and September dates are less expensive). The party ticket costs almost as much as a full day park ticket, so it’s important to weigh your priorities.

Entering the park

Here is something they don’t tell you on the party ticket, and it could make a real difference for people deciding whether or not to go. The party officially runs from 7pm to 12am, but you can enter Magic Kingdom with your party ticket at 4pm. So if you’re calculating how much you’re paying per party hour, count it as an 8 hour party instead of 5.

Thanks to the internet, I knew this tidbit ahead of time. Tiana and I rolled up to the gates just after 3:30 pm along with a few thousand of our closest friends. The cast members were directing the people with party tickets to line up to enter through the gates on the right, and people with regular tickets to enter on the left.

They scanned our Magic bands and finger print like a normal park entry.

As soon as we were through the gates, cast members were waiting to put our party bands on us.

review of Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween party
photo credit: Allears.net

Just beyond them were other cast members handing out the treat bags.

The whole entry process was much quicker and smoother than I expected and we were actually inside the park before 4pm.

The next part was a bit different than what I expected. As soon as we got to the town square, they funneled all party guests to the right down a road not typically open to park guests. It went back behind the shops on the right side of Main Street and came out right around the Plaza Ice Cream parlor. There wasn’t much going on on this path, except some photo ops with photographers and more cast members handing out the first treats for everyone’s bags. My guess is they just wanted to keep Main Street clear for the regular visitors who may be trying to exit at that time.

The entrance procedure worked fine, but it is worth mentioning that you don’t get to walk down Main Street upon entering. For those of us (myself included) who love the joyful feeling you get when you’ve just entered Magic Kingdom and you’re walking down that iconic street with the exhilarating view of the castle… you might feel like you’re missing something.

The 4-7pm “overlap” hours

Here is another reason to enter the park as soon as possible! During the party, there is no FP+. I’m unsure of the reason for this except that with the limited number of tickets sold plus a myriad of special party events going on, there isn’t a huge need for it. But with your party ticket, you ARE able to book three fast passes from 4 to 7. This is a great way to “guarantee” you get to hit your most popular rides without wasting valuable party time.

Tiana and I had made our FP selections 60 days in advance and we chose Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Haunted Mansion (the only ride that actually might have longer than typical wait times during the party) and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. So as soon as we got through the entry procedure we made a beeline for Big Thunder Mountain.

Tiana had to take off her wig and I took off my horns because we were concerned about them flying off on the ride.

On the walk from Frontierland to Liberty Square, I was already starting to notice how sparse the crowds were.

review of Mickey's not so scary halloween party

Before we knew it we were walking into Haunted Mansion. This is one that Tiana has never been brave enough to get on before, but she was excited to ride now. She may have been squeezing all the blood out of my arm and closing her eyes for most of it, but she made it through.

When we got off Haunted Mansion we were starting to get hungry and it looked like it might rain, so we made our way to Columbia Harbor House for dinner. It worked out perfectly because the restaurant was practically empty so we enjoyed a quiet, peaceful sit down dinner without taking up too much time. There was also a brief downpour outside that we completely missed.

After dinner we hopped right on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. That ride is easily one of my favorites in all of Walt Disney World and it’s one of Tiana’s favorites as well so we definitely enjoyed our ride.

We were on a roller coaster kick at this point so we hopped over to Barnstormer, which was a walk-on (one of many we experienced that night!) Barnstormer is on my list of 5 most underrated Disney attractions so obviously I’m a fan of this short-but-sweet little coaster.

Now for a couple of minor disappointments. It was about 6:30 at this point, and I realized I had to hustle to a couple other of my favorite attractions that don’t stay open for the party (most of the rides stay open, but not all, so you have to research beforehand). We went over to Storybook Circus hoping to catch Minnie, Daisy, Donald and Goofy before that spot closed but when we got there they were already gone and the spot was being set up the trick-or-treat stop.

We realized the non-party attractions were actually closing before 7 so we booked it over to Mickey’s Philharmagic, but that was also closed already. It was a slight bummer to miss that one but we couldn’t stay down with all the awesome energy going on in Magic Kingdom. Tiana was especially loving checking out everyone’s costumes.

I realized our sunlight was starting to wind down so we thought we better get a picture in front of the castle. There were Photopass photographers everywhere.

review of Mickey's not so scary halloween party

After this photo was taken, we made our way to Adventureland to see how long the line was for Moana. The line turned out to be VERY long, so we decided to skip it. We were about to go ride Pirates of the Caribbean when we noticed a new line beginning to form that wasn’t long at all. We jumped in it and were the 5th group to meet Aladdin and Abu.

review of Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween party

Not surprisingly, Abu did lots of “monkeying” around. He tried to rifle through our bag and looked for bugs in Tiana’s hair which she thought was pretty funny!

Official party time

One thing lots of people are curious about is how they change over from regular park guests to party ticket holders only. They do it by checking for the wristband they put on us when we entered using our Halloween party ticket. Right at 7:00, we noticed cast members asking to see people’s wristband (especially when going from one land to another). Anyone without a wristband was escorted to the gates while people with wristbands were allowed to keep walking.

So, we had just monkeyed around with Abu and then we went right to Pirates. Just outside the ride was a trick-or-treat stop, so we went through to add to our candy collection. All the trick-or-treat stops are easy to find because they have a big blow up marker that looks like this:

review of Mickey's not so scary halloween party

We never actually set out looking for candy during party, just stopped to grab some whenever it happened to be right in front of us. Our bags were still full by the end of the night so it doesn’t take much effort to amass some serious candy.

Tiana was eager to see the Sanderson sisters in the Villains Spelltacular, having recently seeing Hocus Pocus for the first time, so we decided to head over to the castle to catch the first show. (There are three shows times: 8:15, 10:45, and 12:00). We decided to grab a snack on the way. Even though there are tons of special holiday themed treats during the party, I felt like I couldn’t visit Magic Kingdom without a Dole Whip so that’s what I chose. Tiana must have had enough sweet treats so she went for popcorn.

The Sanderson sisters were fantastic and we loved seeing all the other villains as well.

review of Mickey's not so scary halloween party

The first of the Boo to You parades was coming up at 9:15, but we decided to take advantage of everyone else watching that and go on as many rides as we could! We were on a mission to stay for the whole party so we knew we could watch the 11:15 parade which is known to be less crowded.

First we covered Tomorrowland with Buzz (walk on), Space Mountain (15 min wait) and the Peoplemover (always a walk on).

Here are the obligatory ride pics:

review of Mickey's not so scary halloween party

review of Mickey's not so scary halloween party

review of Mickey's not so scary halloween party

Tiana thought it was pretty much the coolest thing ever to be able to open her treat bag and stuff her face with candy while riding the Peoplemover! We were also able to see the Monsters Inc dance party which was cool because we are both too shy to dance at it but enjoyed seeing it.

Next on the docket was Fantasyland to hit everything we missed the first time around. Every ride was a walk on except for Peter Pan’s Flight and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train which were 20 minutes and 30 minutes. It was crazy how fast we were hopping from ride to ride!

There were lots of special characters to meet during all of this, but I was letting Tiana take the reigns on how we spent our time and she preferred to do rides. But we did see Lotso Hugging Bear, Cruella Deville, Jack Skellington, Mickey and Minnie in their Halloween attire, and Winnie the Pooh in their Halloween costumes while we were making our rounds. We were happy enough to see them from a distance instead of waiting in line to meet them.

I told Tiana to pick one last ride before heading over to see the parade and she decided she wanted to do Haunted Mansion again, this time with her eyes open 😆. She also felt like a tough guy being brave enough to ride it when it was dark out.

Haunted Mansion was marked as a 20 minute wait but we were on the ride after waiting 10.

This time she kept her eyes open the whole time and I think she actually enjoyed it! Her famous line is now “is that a hologram?!” anytime she sees anything spooky.

Hallowishes

The special Halloween fireworks begin at 10:15 and they are even bigger and better than the normal Magic Kingdom fireworks. Of course the music and ambience set the mood as well.

review of Mickey's not so scary halloween party

We were watching on the bridge to Frontierland, a spot we grabbed at the last second, so it’s not a perfect view. There is a bit of tree hanging down which you can see in this photo, but it didn’t take anything away from the experience.

review of Mickey's not so scary halloween party

All the explosions and effects were breathtaking. I don’t think Tiana enjoyed it as much as I did though, because she tends to be sensitive to loud noises and I saw her covering her ears at the end.

Boo to You Parade

After getting another snack from the Main Street bakery we found an empty spot on the curb right outside that we decided was perfect for parade viewing.

In fact we were so close, when the Headless Horseman galloped by, it seemed he was practically running over our feet!

Then they had some of the Zootopia characters come out and dance with kids to warm up the crowd.

review of Mickey's not so scary halloween party

Then finally, the parade. I had heard great things about this parade, and it did not disappoint.

review of Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween party

The gravediggers were a major highlight of the parade, as well as these guys:

review of Mickey's not so scary halloween party

Being seated so close made the whole experience pretty eerie for a “not so scary” Halloween party!

Our first Boo to You parade was majorly pixie dusted, because not 1, not 2, but 3 characters talked to us during it! First Snow White told me she liked my horns, so my day was made. Then Cruella Deville came up and rubbed Tiana’s wig saying “ohh dahling you need to foof it up more, and next time half-white half-black, ok now?” (I could kick myself for not getting that one on video!) While Tiana’s jaw was still on the floor from that, Dr. Facilier waltzed over and pointed out her purple jacket, saying he likes it because it matches his jacket. We pretty much felt like we were the stars of the parade 💖 That’s the kind of Disney magic that has me coming back again and again!

After the parade ended, we got swept up in the current of people heading for the exit and decided we better go catch our bus before waits started to build. We were ahead of the pack when we got to the buses so it was no problem and we made it back to our room quickly. Just in time to wash our faces and collapse in bed!

Was it worth it?

Based on our experience, the cost of the party ticket was 100% worth it. Honestly, even if you didn’t like Halloween at all, just having access to Magic Kingdom with such short lines for all the rides would make it worth the price in my book. And all the Halloween extras are icing on the cake.

The park has a totally different vibe with everyone in costume, special characters, shows, parades, etc. The energy is super exciting! Had I been traveling with my whole family however, the experience would probably been very different. So these would be my guidelines for families trying to decide whether or not to do the party:

1. Will you be able to stay for the whole thing? And I don’t mean with the kids falling asleep and miserable at 9 o’clock and parents forcing them to stay for the whole thing.

2. What would the rest of the your day look like? We took it easy the day of the party- sleeping in, doing a bike ride and relaxing by the pool. I would not recommend trying to “squeeze in” MNSSHP after a full day touring the park.

3. Would your children be scared? My daughter is 9 and she was spooked by some things. My younger children might have been too afraid to enjoy themselves (one of them in particular who is extremely sensitive to scary things). Even though the party isn’t a “Halloween horrors” type of event, Disney knows how to set the mood to make even Disney villains seem pretty terrifying.

4. What night can you go? Our party was on a Sunday, which tend to be less crowded. The Tuesday parties are also recommended. I don’t know if it makes a huge difference, but I’ve heard the Friday night parties close to Halloween are more packed (and sell out).

5. Are you there for the characters? If you want to do the party to meet some of the rare characters, you’d need to do some serious prioritizing and strategizing. Some of the most popular characters there (like the Seven Dwarfs and Jack Skellington) attract wait times of 2 or more hours. If meeting lots of characters is your number one priority, then go for it! Just do it knowing you might get to do little else. You can’t go into it thinking you’re going to meet all the characters and take part in all the other party fun.

For us this party was a magical night and the highlight of our trip! I will be recapping the other parks we visited as well, including the new Avatar rides at Animal Kingdom, so be on the lookout for that.

Wishing everyone a spooktacular Halloween!

 

Why I’m Only Bringing One Of My Kids to Disney World

Two weeks from today, my oldest child (nine year old Tiana) and I will be headed to the most magical place on earth! My other three kids will be staying home with Daddy.

Why am I only bringing one of my kids to Disney? Because I only like this kid and can’t stand those other ones.

Just kidding.

Here are the real reasons 😄

bring one kid to disney

With 4 kids, it is rare to have one on one time.

Yes, I know, I wrote a post about how great it is to have a large family. On the whole I think it’s a great gift to my children to give them a bunch of siblings. But just like any family size, there are negatives too.

Like how they don’t even get to eat a whole apple because inevitably after getting two bites in, some sibling will cry that they want it too and we end up slicing it and sharing it.

And, it’s really hard to get one on one time with Mom or Dad.

We know individual time is important, it’s just hard to work into the schedule of activities, homework, birthday parties, housework, etc, etc, etc. Oh and Mom and Dad like to have date nights too.

So yeah, I’m sure Tiana doesn’t get as much one on one attention as most kids do. Being alone with Mom for three days will be a pretty huge deal for her.

There’s always been a baby in our family.

When I stopped to think about it, I realized my oldest has really never *not* had a baby in her life. She was a mere 16 months old when Zari was born, and then every few years after that she’s gained a new sibling. So there has never really been a time in her life without babies.

bring one kid to disney
Tiana became a big sister at only 16 months

Because our family has been stuck in this eternal baby stage, there have been limitations on what we can do. With the exception of Christmas Eve, our kids have never stayed out anywhere past 7pm. We almost never go places that aren’t baby-friendly, like plays, movies, trampoline parks, and pottery painting. If we do take her to one of these places, it is for her special one on one “date” which doesn’t happen too often. So Tiana doesn’t get to do a ton of older kid activities.

She has her own interests and I want something to be all about her.

Ever since she heard about Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party, Tiana wanted to be there! She has a fascination with villains and all things creepy. Her siblings on the other hand have an intense fear of creepy things (especially Zari), which is why we’ve never gone to WDW at Halloween before.

Tiana also is my only kiddo that likes thrill rides, so a one on one trip means we’ll be doing ALL the fast rides this trip! Everest, Rockin Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror will all be firsts for her on this trip and she could not be more excited.

It will be a total change of pace for Tiana to have this time that’s all about HER. Not having to balance her wishes with everyone else’s. She picked the itinerary, the rides, the restaurants we’re going to eat at, and the shows she wants to see. When she feels like ice cream, we’ll eat an ice cream. If she wants to swim, we’ll swim. Kind of the like the concept of “Yes Day“.

This kid helps out a lot, and she deserves something special.

As the oldest child, Tiana is the one who most often gets asked to “keep an eye on the baby for a minute” or “go grab me the box of wipes”. I realize she is a child so we try not to ask too much of her, but when we do need a hand she is quick to help.

bring one kid to Disney
A truly loving (and helpful) big sister!

She is not a kid that’s overly entitled or expects to get something in return for helping out. She’s just a good kid and I want to reward her with something special that she’ll really love.

We could use the bonding.

My relationship with Tiana hasn’t always been as effortless and solid as it has with my other children. She came to us at a year and a half old, and attachment doesn’t always come easily when adopting a child past infancy. (If you’re interested in our adoption story, I’ve written about it here.)

I’m happy to report that our relationship has grown much stronger through the years and is pretty solid at this point. But I still feel like, of all the kids, Tiana would benefit the most from a little extra bonding.

I wish I had a chance to take a trip like this with my Mom.

Having lost my Mom when I was 20, I’m always aware of how short life is. I have a few special memories with her from my childhood that I think about often. I never did get to take a trip with just me and my Mom, but if I had I know I’d be looking at the pictures and reminiscing about it during the tough days when I really miss her.

It is super important to me that I make memories like this with my kids that they can hold onto for life, no matter how long we have together. I don’t want to wait until they are adults to do special things with my kids, because who knows if we’ll ever have that time.

Next year she’ll be a tween, then she’ll be a teen.

I hate thinking this way, but at 9 years old, my time to enjoy Tiana as a kid is dwindling! Next year she will be a “tween”, a thought that overjoys her and terrifies me. While I am a big believer that any age is a great age for Disney, quite honestly I think 8-9 is the perfect age.

At her age, there is still plenty of magic for Tiana. She is still a true believer in all the unbelievable wonders. She loves the characters and wants to meet them and talk to them. I know in my heart of hearts that this is the last trip she’ll be a “believer”.

bring one kid to Disney
Meeting Princess Tiana was a magical moment for this Disney fan!

I also know there’s a good chance my daughter won’t want to spend time with me in a few years. Right now at 9, she still thinks Mom and Dad are cool and wants to be with us all the time. Soon we know the pendulum will swing and she’ll want to be with peers instead of us.

The other kids will have their turn.

Right now it’s Tiana’s turn, but each of my kids will get a one on one trip with Mom when they’re 8 or 9. They understand this, and it helps them to not feel slighted. Their trip can be Disney if that’s what they choose, or somewhere else depending on their interests.

I’m ok with them having to wait for their turn. It’s a nice lesson in delayed gratification and patience. They’ll also enjoy their special Daddy time while we’re away too.

Those are the reasons why I chose to bring one kid to Disney! I’m sure many will still not agree with my decision. What do you think? Would you take just one of your children on a special trip?