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Downtown Disney

I have to admit… after listening to folk rave about Downtown Disney, I found the shopping district to be a HUGE letdown.  Most of what you find there are your typical stores that you can find at any mall in any city.  I’m shopping at Downtown Disney because I want to find DISNEY stuff.  So while yeah, you’ll find things at Downtown Disney that you won’t find at any of the Disney parks it’s because it’s not Disney related.

Lily-Ann loved the princess store.  She bought herself a purse and gloves set (courtesy of Karla Amaya, our travel agent, who gave the girl some Disney Dollars to spend), and I bought her a tiara.  We also found a thank you gift for my sister and her girlfriend who watched over our furry and feathered family members while we were gone – a very cool mad hatter tea pot and tea set.  Seriously, if we could have afforded two of them, I’d have got one for myself.  LOL

The other cool shop was the Lego store.  It really was neat to see that many sets all in one place – and I loved the create your own figures center as well as the bulk lego pieces.  That was pretty awesome.  And I adored the amazing lego dragon they had built out front.  It was seriously incredible!

Other than that, there were little bits and pieces here and there…  but overall?  It was a pretty underwhelming experience.  We were glad when we decided to head back to our resort.  It was a MUCH cooler place to spend the remainder of our last day.  🙂

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The last of the four Walt Disney World parks is Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and I realize it’s cliched to say it, but while it’s the last it’s not the least.  Hollywood Studios is AMAZING!  I’ve already shared the photos from the girl’s Jedi Training School experience, which was totally incredible and jealousy inducing, but that was just one small part of our day.

There are just a TON of character meets at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the lines were minimal compared to many of the other parks.  There’s a bunch to do, yet this park doesn’t feel quite as overwhelming as the others (of course, by this point we had our system pretty much perfected – which really helps).  And it’s not totally kid-centric either, which was great.  This park definitely had the broadest appeal, with everything from Star Wars to the Muppets to Phineas and Ferb to Pixar’s greatest hits to classic Disney as well.  We loved everything about this one.  It was fabulous!

Disney’s Magic Kingdom

This truly is THE park.  When people who have never been to Walt Disney World talk about Disney World, THIS is the park they are usually talking about.  It really is quintessential Disney.

When you are planning your WDW vacation plant to spend at least two days at the Magic Kingdom.  There is so much here that really shouldn’t be missed, and even with two days devoted to this park there are things you’ll have to skip.  I promise to go into the rides and shows in more detail on another post – listing the must dos and the must avoids.  But for now?  After such a long day?  I’m going to jump right into the photos.  After all, that’s really what you want to see, isn’t it?  😉

The Disney Dining Plan

The Disney Dining Plan, get it, use it!  I love it!  Seriously.

Having the quick service dining plan made our lives so much easier.  We didn’t have to carry cash, or watch prices.  It was great!  And the amount of food you get with this plan is crazy!  In addition to your main course and side dishes you get dessert with every meal.  Not into sweets?  Get grapes, apples, or a mixed fruit dish.  These are super handy to take with you both in your room and at the parks.

The quick service plan includes two quick service meals and a snack daily.  And I’ll admit, before getting to Walt Disney World I was worried about whether it would be enough.  The kid and I tend to be grazers, and like to eat throughout the day.  I was concerned about the dining plan meeting our needs – but it did, with a bunch left over at the end.  We’d always pick up some fruit or other portable snack item as our dessert, so we always had something healthy to munch on whenever the urge struck.

I’m so glad Karla (our travel agent) recommended the dining plan.  It really did make things so much easier…  and we always had a ton of food, smoothies, and great snacks whenever we needed them.  If we make it back (we certainly hope to, and soon) we’ll definitely get the dining plan again.

Doing Disney the Smith Family Way

I’m a planner.  I like to know what’s going to happen and when.  It takes away the chaos that is present in so many activities when you have an AD/HD family, and just ups the enjoyment factor immensely.  So it wasn’t long into our Walt Disney World trip that I developed my own way of doing things.  And as promised, I’m going to reveal a few tips and tricks to make your Disney trip stress-free and a whole lot more enjoyable too.

I’m all about keeping things simple, easy, and stress-free.  Thus my tips are all about doing just that.  And one of the BIGGEST helpers are those kitchy little maps they have for all the Disney parks.  GRAB THOSE MAPS!

The night before you head to a park, sit down with the map and figure out your MUST HIT attractions, character meets, rides, and dining experiences:

Our must do list for day two at the Magic Kingdom park.

Our must do list for day two at the Magic Kingdom park.

I just laid on the bed in our Finding Nemo room at the Art of Animation resort, and using one of the pens from our room sketched little brackets around everything that we really wanted to do that second day in the park.  We had already spent one day there, so it a lot of our must do’s, but there were still a lot left on our list.  I tossed in a question mark on any attraction that we really wanted to do, but that wasn’t a top priority.

Then I went through the map, and drew stars beside each of the must do rides/attractions/events/dining spots, and a question mark on the want to do ones:

The Disney map, with all my notations on it.

The Disney map, with all my notations on it.

Lastly, but SUPER important not to miss, go through and mark an FP on all the places you’ve marked so far that offer a fast pass.  Using the fast pass system makes your life SOOO much easier.  So be sure to take note of which spots actually offer them and mark them on your map.  You can see them on the map above, but here’s a close up of Fantasyland and New Fantasyland:

Here you can see we have three attractions marked - two with Fast Pass.

Here you can see we have three attractions marked – two with Fast Pass.

When you first hit the park, go directly to the closest area and get your first fast pass.  Take note of what time you need to be back there, and then decide to do the remaining STAR attractions/rides now or closer to when you need to redeem your fast pass.  You can only get a new fast pass once every hour, so once you’ve gotten one, then hit some of your starred rides and attractions that don’t offer fast pass while you wait until enough time has passed to get your next one.

Having these maps, and your choices charted out on them, really is a small thing.  And honestly?  It only takes about twenty minutes to do – and is a great relaxing activity for the adults in your party to tackle after any younglings are asleep.  It’s a small thing that makes a BIG impact on your park experience.  So take that little bit of time the night before each park visit.  It saved my sanity and made our trip SOOO much more enjoyable.

Reflection

We are now one week away from our trip to WDW.  Time to get all the detail work done in preparation for TEN DAYS away.  Time to pack, and see if there’s anything else we need to pick up before going.  Time to write up info sheets on each member of our animal family for Riki and Kate (who will be staying here, and watching over them all).  Time to buy food and meds, enough to last all the dogs/cat/parrot.  Time to prepare games, and activities, and toys for two days of sitting around in airports.  Time to decide on our budget, and to get some American money.  Time to decide what things will have priority and what will be an “if we can work it out” thing.  Time to get everything in order.  Time to finish sewing, time to put away other projects, time to admit I didn’t get everything done that I’d hoped to…  time to start getting excited as our trip is really just around the corner.

I’ve never been to Disney World, but I did go to Disneyland when I was nine – with Gramma, Grampa Bear, and Devan.  And I’ll be honest, with my memory issues I don’t remember hardly any of it.  I wish I did.  I was old enough that I should remember it…  but there really are so few moments that made it into my emotional memory that it’s barely a blip.  That makes me sad.  This trip though?  Even with my terrible memory, I’m sure will be one I keep with me for the rest of my days.

While the girl was at school this afternoon, Damon and I headed out to visit with Karla – our travel agent.  We talked over a few things.  And she put my mind at ease over a couple things I was unsure of.  After hanging out in her office for about an hour and a half I really do feel set to go.  Now it’s just a matter of getting all the little details arranged, then we’ll be off.

So, with that on my mind, here’s my challenge shot for today:

jan21

With the challenge being “reflection” I could have gone a few different directions… I thought about taking another snapshot of Kid Kid – and talking about how our children reflect what we put into them.  But then I thought about the huge number of photos I already have on this blog of her.  LOL  So it occurred to me (after changing into my pjs) that I could go completely literal.  So I grabbed the mirror that belonged to my paternal Grandmother, who passed when I was too young to really know her, and photographed the reflection of it’s reflection.  I love this little mirror.  It feels like I’ve always had it, and I always feel beautiful when I look into it – even with pjs, chipped nail polish, and damp hair.  😉

photo a day challenge for january

I’m going AWOL! (and I’ve got a new nephew)

If we took a holiday, just one day out of life, it would be (it would be) it would be so nice.

Leave it to Madonna.  Yep, a holiday would be nice…  so I’m taking one.  No, I’m not going far.  Just a two hour drive.  But there’s no internet – so I’ll be forced to actually leave work behind.  Six days, just for me, kid-kid, my sister Bug, and some of the dogs.  Damon will join us for one night at the start, but he needs to head back for work.  We were hoping he’d be able to join us too, but he’s understaffed just now, so can’t get away.

Before I disappear though (and I may try to check in briefly from time to time using my iPhone) I wanted to take a quick minute to welcome Leandro to the family.  My nephew was born at 3:22 this morning, three weeks early (just like his big sister), at exactly seven pounds.  We’re so glad he decided to make his appearance before we disappeared from civilization – and I did MUCH better this time.  I didn’t start crying.  LOL  I may have teared up briefly, but unlike the first time I held his sister the waterworks did not get turned on (thought I did have to work pretty hard to hold them off).  When the kid saw his picture for the first time this morning (before we got to see him in person) she said “I bet he’s going to grow up to be a cute little handsome man”, and I’d be willing to bet she’s right.

A Disney World Vacation

We’ve been thinking, for the last year anyway, that it would be really nice if we could work something out to take the kid to Disney World while she’s still young enough for it to be magical.  It’s definitely not MY first choice for a vacation, especially one that would cost THAT much.  I’m happiest in some remote location, free of tourists, where it is serene and quiet, and there is a real chance for animal encounters…  a photographers holiday.  But Lily-Ann is only going to be little for so long, and magic slips away so easily…  I figure if there is ANY way we can work something like this out while she is still young enough to be lost within it all, then we simply have to try.

Damon and I have been together for 15 and a half years…  and we have never gone on a vacation.  Not a real one anyway.  Not even a honeymoon.  We’ve gone places to visit family, or gone camping overnight…  but that’s it.  So this will be our first trip too.  It’s kind of an intimidating idea.

There are just so many things that we really need the money for, it makes it hard to think about spending that kind of cash on something that only lasts for a matter of days.  But there are only a few times in a persons life where the magic of a place like Disney World really is pure magic…  and that would last forever.

I remember going when I was nine (well…  to Disney Land though, not Disney World).  And already, by that time, I was very conscious about what was cool and what wasn’t.  As much as I wanted to go running up to Chip and Dale, I held back.  It wouldn’t have been cool for me to seem impressed by these costumed characters.  So I didn’t.  At nine, the magic was already waning.

All I know, is that if Lily were there right now?  If she saw Ariel and Cinderella?  They would really be Ariel and Cinderella!  They wouldn’t be women in costume, they would be the real princesses, and it would be magic!  If we can find a way to do that, how could we possibly consider not giving her that gift?

So…  we’re going to look into a Disney vacation.  If we can make it work, and we’re going to give it our very best, then we’re going to do it.  Because those things that need our attention will always need our attention, but our little girl won’t always be our little girl, and the magic of a place like Disney World won’t last long.

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