My Six D’s of Disney

12 Oct

First, another “D” for disclaimer: This post is very long. I wrote it as a review of-sorts and a memory-keeper. If you’d like to just read what I’d like to do-over for a future trip (Andrew jokingly says that will be in 17 years), skip down to the bottom of the post for my Do-Overs. Maybe they’ll help other first timers as well.

First Visit Pins

Our first family trip to Disney World started out like many others, I’m sure. The “We’re going to Disney” post on facebook welcomed suggestions from friends and then my research began online. I questioned my closest friends, “Where to stay?” “Where to eat?” “Dining plan or no?” “How long?” “Will I have time to brush my teeth?” After filtering through all the feedback, I should’ve been all set for success but I still doubted my decisions. I bought a book called The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids and called in reinforcements – a travel agent.

Our friends have used the agent in the past and recommended her. Deb with MEI and Mouse Fan Travel took a huge weight from my shoulders. A phone call and a few emails later, we were booked and dinner reservations were made for Valles, party of four. Then, the other kind of wait set in – we have how many months until we get to go?!


Fast forward to October 4 and Nate cries to me that he doesn’t want to go. He’s scared of the rides. I talk to him about it and our dear friends even have their little girl record him a video telling him it will be fun and there’s a ton to do. He feels better and then we’re off! We’re driving along, driving along … did you know that people in Florida with a lot of money really don’t like abortions but they seem to really like strip clubs? I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, just saying it made for interesting discussion with our kids along the path to Disney. I guess I was thinking it would be a more kid-friendly kind of whee! Silly me.


What rain?

When we finally reached that “Yeah, Disney!” sign, it was flooding rain. Thunder. Lightning. No matter! We’re there! The Art of Animation is Disney’s newest value resort. The Little Mermaid room (complete with a giant statue Ariel outside) was our home for the next five days. Size-wise, it was an average hotel room. It did the trick. I was surprised it wasn’t more kid-friendly being that the resort is really meant for the pint-sized patrons. At 6 years old, Nate couldn’t reach the sink to brush his teeth or the towel rack to dry his hands. He also had to really stretch to reach the tp from the potty. Andrew said he also noticed this issue at the Disney parks themselves. Only one or two kid-height urinals and one shorter sink in the public restrooms. I didn’t notice that as much because Nia is taller but even the paper towel dispenser in those restrooms was high for me. (I should note, I don’t mean for these to sound like complaints, just observations.) Maybe they were in case King Triton and his merman 6-pack needed to use the facilities.

Giant Statues to Greet You

Along with The Little Mermaid art at the resort, it’s adorned with scenes from The Lion King, Finding Nemo and Cars. The lobby’s walls are covered in everything from sketch drawings to the finished, colored characters. Very cool. There’s an arcade and the main pool hosted different activities throughout the day and a movie under the stars played each night. You wouldn’t even need to leave the resort to have a great time at Disney. But, of course, you want to!

Nia Amid Lobby Art


With a leisurely arrival on that first day, we headed straight to our dinner reservations with the princesses at the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at Epcot. The kids loved it. They got autographs and pictures with Belle, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel and Snow White. They adored signing Nate’s baseball, proclaiming it the first one they ever signed. Nate was in happily ever after heaven, especially over Snow White who blew him a kiss and seriously won in my book for best performance. For mom and dad, dinner was good and we were excited for the kids.

Nate was smitten.

You can tell Nia’s favorite was Cinderella.

Saturday dinner was a barrel of laughs at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue. We ate dinner while watching a live performance complete with singing, dancing and goofy comedy. We all laughed and Andrew even gave a few of his loudest whistles during the audience participation parts. I recommend the Hoop-Dee-Doo for the performance aspect of it – just know it requires two table service credits per person if you have the dining plan. (That includes the tip.) As with all the food at Disney, you get a ton of it and it’s all good.

Our favorite meal of the trip though was at Biergarten Restaurant at Epcot’s Germany Pavilion. It was a bountiful buffet of delicious German specialties and it was tough to stop sampling. We splurged for the German beer there as well since alcohol isn’t included in the dining plan. (We just had the regular plan – one snack, one quick/counter service meal, and one table service meal per person, per day.) The kids also were able to get up and dance while the band played. They had a blast.

Gettin’ Down after Dinner

Chef Mickey’s was the other table service meal we had. Andrew called it a slightly upscale Golden Corral starring Mickey and crew (the real reason you eat there). We were there for dinner and heard that breakfast is wonderful. The kids couldn’t have been happier with the food and the friends. They loaded up on all their favorites and beamed when meeting the beloved stars of the show.

Mickey and Kids

Happy to Meet Minnie

Eye-balling Each Other

As for the quick/counter meals we ate, they included the Flaming Tree Barbeque, Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe, Pizza Planet and our hotel cafeteria. One suggestion I have is to make sure to check out the children’s menu of each counter location and plan based off that so they kids aren’t eating nuggets and burgers for days in a row.

I’m pleased with how it turned out for our meals. I just knew where were going to eat lunch each day and planned our trek through the parks around that (and the must do attractions).

Destination Fun

Our first night there, Nate was feeling pretty full after our dinner with the princesses and Nia had her heart set on gift shop exploring. She found her beloved Dumbo Mickey Mouse Ears at Epcot and loved the many compliments about them from park employees and other visitors. Nate zoned in on a Phineas and Ferb Perry the Platypus football and played with it any free minute we had in the hotel room.

Saturday was strictly for Animal Kingdom – the park Nia dubbed her favorite even after a day spent at Magic Kingdom. She loved the Safari ride. Nate was nervous that the animals were going to get him and jumped to the middle of the seat when he knew we were nearing the lions. I kept telling him it would be ok. That Disney doesn’t want to hurt us because they want us to come back and give them more money.


Safari Lion

Beautiful Gorilla

Our first ride was the TriceraTop Spin. Nate asked, “Is this scary?” That became his question before every ride or show of the trip. The one time I was wrong with my answer was at Animal Kingdom. The 4D show “It’s Tough to be a Bug” has a minute of darkness when the mean grasshopper says to spray the humans. Darkness. Spray. Loudness. Hurt the humans. Spiders dropped from the ceiling. It even frightened Nia who cried and jumped in my lap. She wanted out of there. Me too, really.

Nate also wanted off the water ride, Kali River Rapids, we went on (because he really wanted to go on it) but now says it was his favorite. He and Nia got drenched at the front of the raft. His face when he saw the drop coming and then the wave of water will always be in my memory. It went from terror to laughs that he made it through it to realization that he wanted off that ride. He leaned to Andrew and then felt better knowing the ride was over.

Magical Moments

Sunday and Monday were devoted to Magic Kingdom. We covered as much ground and rides there as we could. Both kids loved flying with Dumbo. Nia screamed and laughed during the Big Thunder Railroad and rode it twice. Nate’s favorite was the Tomorrowland Speedway. He raced twice. They also enjoyed all of the live performances, parades and, of course, gift shops. Nia wanted to uncover all the treasures she could. This was also when she started pointing out how her Sharpie-written name on her “First Visit” pin was wearing off.

Nia’s Favorite Ride

Nate’s Favorite Ride

Ready to Spin

Daddy doesn’t like tea …

We got some pool time in on Sunday evening before dinner and Monday evening had us back at Epcot for our dinner reservations and we were able to catch the fireworks show and strolled through all the countries of World Showcase.

Our last day was filled with action at Hollywood Studios. The kids had so much fun at Star Tours (another two-time ride), Toy Story’s Midway Mania (way cool carnival-type ride), the Muppet 3D show and the Pizza Planet arcade. Nate even asked to go back to Hollywood Studios on Wednesday just so he could ride Star Tours again. (I think he wanted to be the Rebel Spy like his mom got to be by luck. Fun!) We cut the day shorter there because we wanted to have more pool and relax time. Plus, we had some arcade points to burn back at the hotel.

Remote Timer Family Photo at Hollywood Studios

Cheers to our Disney Trip


If there’s one thing I could label a disappointment of our trip it would be the many inconsiderate people. This isn’t Disney’s fault. People are people and I guess I expect too much from them sometimes. They would cut you off from the rest of your family. They would cut in line. They would leave their garbage on the table for someone else to clean up or put trash on one of the statues. They would invade your personal space by shoving right up on you in line. They did not cover their mouths and noses for coughs and sneezes. By the end of the third day, Andrew and I stopped letting it get under our skin and just shrugged it off. They aren’t going to change. I kept thinking, maybe they are just oblivious – but then I thought that’s really the same thing as inconsiderate though.

They in no way represented all of Mickey’s fans though. I rejoiced in the considerate and kind ones and let them know I appreciated their politeness. We even chatted up quite a few and Nia remarked, “I’m glad we have a friendly family.” She even noticed when others weren’t doing the right thing and pointed out the sour – and the sweet (like when a sister hugged her brother and made him happy) – during our park time.

Sweet Brother/Sister Moment


  • Soaking Up Fun

    I would bring more at least one extra outfit per person and load up on socks and skivvies. Having the extra pair of sneakers was great due to the rain and the water rides but I should’ve carried flip-flops in my park bag to keep the kids from water-logging while walking. I noticed some people had their kids in swimsuits under their clothes which eliminated the splash zone aftermath. (Nate didn’t want to leave the splash play area but was soaked when he finally did.)

  • BYOB and store in the mini-fridge for the downtime back at the hotel. The restaurants and the hotel bar could run you $6 or $7 per brew.
  • BYOBreakfast too. This saved us time and some dollars. The mini-fridge fit a half-gallon of milk perfectly and everyone picked out their own cereal before the trip to make it a special vacation treat.
  • Consider paying more for a resort with a monorail option as well as bus. I think it will  help reduce the lines.
  • Definitely buy the dining plan – just make sure to use the snacks evenly throughout the trip so you don’t have a bunch to just spend the last day. It wasn’t tough to spend them, it just would’ve been nice to space them out more.
  • Review kid’s meals prior to planning restaurants to prevent the same meal over and over again.

    No Waiting

  • Character meals are the way to go so  you don’t have to wait in the lines for autographs at the parks. Some characters aren’t at the meals though so you may still wait if your little one loves that particular one behind the rope. (We just had the kids stand in front of the rope while Phineas and Ferb were taking pictures with others and snapped our own. Sure, it’s not the real deal but it’s pretty funny.)
  • Eat at Biergarten again. So worth it.
  • Try the Dole Whip and a giant turkey leg. Two popular things we didn’t sample.
  • Spend two more days down there. Check out Downtown Disney – and maybe Sea World or  Universal Studios while we’re there. The kids will be three or four years older so they’ll be up for taking on more things.
  • With younger kids, the mid-day pool and nap are key to smiles. We missed a few due to timing and we had to contend with a very over-tired Nate on those days.
  • Make sure to work in Magic Kingdom fireworks. We didn’t get to see them and I bet they were beautiful over the castle area.
  • Get the fast-passes whenever you can. For example, I wish we would’ve boogied it over to the Toy Story Midway Mania ride at Hollywood Studios to get the fast pass after riding Star Tours because they were all out for the day by the time we got there and we had to wait in line for almost an hour. That’s a big chunk of time that could’ve went to a few shows that we didn’t get to see.
  • Speaking of fast passes, I found it helpful to map out the plan of attack using the park map. I ordered the rides/attractions and then told Andrew (the fastest walker of us) to head straight for the fast pass for such-and-such ride. The kids and I would then catch a performance or ride something with a 10 minute or less wait.
  • Next time, try harder to get to each park right when it opens. We were pretty laid back about our arrival time which meant longer lines for the bus, bigger crowds at the parks and hotter temperatures.
  • Take deep breaths and remember that people are people and it won’t be the end of the world if you don’t get to everything on the map. All that matters is the tiny head under that giant Donald Duck hat and the sweet smile underneath those Dumbo Mickey Mouse Ears.

Until Next Time …

Happy Kid

Blissful Bean

One Response to “My Six D’s of Disney”

  1. October 12, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    such sweet memories! thank you for sharing them with your fans 🙂 It was fun getting in on some Valles Disney action, and to relive my visits. The flying Dumbo, teacup spin, Magic Kingdom and general hotel fun are some vivid memories for me! We went again when my sister and I were in 6th & 7th grade…for us, I think my parents waited a couple years too many for the second go ’round!

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