Surprising your kids with a trip to Disney

October 27, 2012 Cheryl 3

Surprising your kids with a trip to Disney is awesome, but coming up with how to do the big reveal can be tricky.  Do your kids like surprises?  If they have never been before are they going to understand how exciting it is?  Here are some creative ways to let your kids know that they will soon be in the most magical place on earth!



Scavenger Hunt

We love to do scavenger hunts – we have one of those Pirate Treasure games where you have to find the clues and then eventually get the prize.  You could let one up around your house with Disney-esque clues such as “Look out for the ticktock Crocodile” (your alarm clock), “It is Snow White’s least favorite fruit” (Apple), “Where would you find Cinderella’s favorite footwear?” (closet/shoe rack), “What Rapunzel needs for her hair” (hair brush), “101 Dalmatians would sleep here” (dog’s bed), or “Where Woody and Buzz hang out” (play room).  Then the last one is “Where Mickey lives” and tell them they are going to Disney World!

Eeeek it’s a Mouse!

If your kids are a little older, purchase a Mickey Mouse plush at your local Disney Store and hide it in the pantry or laundry room with a big note that says “You are going to Disney World”.  When your kids come down for breakfast start running around and telling them that you saw a mouse and you need their help.  Have them run all over looking for where it went, then you run into the pantry and scream.  When they come to help you show them the mouse you found!

Time to Eat

If you have been to Disney before, make their favorite meal that they ate there.  If not, make some Mickey shaped food (pretzels, cheese, pancakes, sandwich or cookies).  Maybe wear a Disney t-shirt or apron, and then casually mention about how the food reminds you of something.  When they mention Disney say something like “maybe we should go there tomorrow!”

Wake up sleepy head

Wake your kids up with the surprise – sing “It’s a Small World” or the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme song, fill their room with Mickey Shaped Balloons, have the dog come in and lick their face with a note attached that they are going to Disney, or hang a sign on the bathroom mirror or even write it in shaving cream.

It’s for you…

Have your neighbor (or the UPS guy) drop off a package for your child, and when they open it a balloon comes out with a note that says they are going to Disney.  Or have a gift basket delivered filled with all sorts of items that they will need for their trip (Mickey Ears, sunscreen, new towel, lanyard, Mickey plush, autograph book).


Order a picture puzzle from Shutterfly and have your child put the pieces together to do the big reveal.  You can get really creative on how they get the pieces – you can hide them around the house and use the scavenger hunt idea to find them, you can mail the pieces to your kids over a few days and then have them work together to put the pieces together, you can have friends bring them as gifts for a birthday or Christmas, or have their teacher send home a note with them in there…the possibilities are endless.

Bait and Switch

Tell your kids that they are going somewhere else, like grandma’s while mom and dad go away or even another (less exciting) vacation destination and then surprise them at the last minute.  Or if you want to be kind of sneaky, tell them you got their report cards and they are going to summer school…then pull out the report card envelope and have them take a look inside where instead is a note saying that you are going to Disney World!

Turn down that music

When they come home from school have a different Disney song or movie or TV show playing on each TV or iPod in the house.  As they go from room to room they will get the hint, and then have a big sign in the last room announcing the trip.

Breaking News

If you have the technical skills, you can create your own Breaking News Story!  Sit your family down for a Disney Movie Night, and a few minutes into it have it interrupted with a late breaking news story about your family going to Disney!

Getting on an jet plane

I have a friend who booked their flight to Orlando so they would have to leave at the same time the kids normally left for school.  So she got them up the regular time, had them get ready, and eat breakfast.  Then as she and her husband were rushing them out the door to get the bus instead of her normal “don’t forget your backpack” statement, she said “don’t forget your airplane tickets and park passes cause you are going to Disney World today!!”

These are some of my ideas…what are yours?  Have you ever surprised anyone with a trip to Disney? If so, I hope your kids were this excited!

Tips for traveling to Walt Disney World with babies or toddlers

October 18, 2012 Cheryl 4

Thanks to fantastic Baby Care Centers, and attractions geared for little tikes, the Walt Disney World Resort® makes it easier than ever to visit with a baby or toddler.  Plus, anyone under the age of 3 does not need an admission ticket, so that make a Disney trip even more affordable.  Listed below are some travel tips and suggestions for making baby’s first visit a magical and memorable one!


Quick Travel Tips 

  • When flying with an infant or child under the age of 2, consider Southwest Airlines. If a seat is open, they will allow you to take the extra seat for your child absolutely free. Not to mention that bags fly free!
  • If flying with a toddler or young child, consider using the CARES restraint system. It keeps your child safely and legally secured in their seat onboard the aircraft without having to lug around a big car seat.
  • If flying, purchase Gate Check bags to help protect your stroller and car seat. They fold easily into their own zipper pockets for easy storage and help protect your items from grease and dirt when gate checked.
  • If you are driving, try to leave at bedtime or nap time.  Plan on making stops every few hours, and add an additional nights stay on the way down and the way back.
  • For babies eating solid foods, consider purchasing a Boon brand spoon. It allows you to scoop baby food into the spoon and simply squeeze to dispense for baby. It makes feeding baby on the plane or in the car that much easier.
  • The change in cabin pressure on flights can hurt little ears. Make sure baby has a pacifier or bottle at take-off and landing. Or if they are on solids, feed baby or toddler puffs or cereal, water, or any snack of your choice during take-off and landing.
  • For babies, grab small toys that can be tied together with one piece of ribbon or string. That way when baby drops the toys, they are all tethered together and are easy to retrieve.
  • For toddlers, pack a craft box to keep them happy on the flight or car ride to Disney. Crayons, paper, stickers, etc… can make all the difference.  A Disney movie on your iPad is also a good way to pass the time.  Educational phone apps are also good.
  • If taking your own stroller, I do not recommend umbrella strollers. In my experience, they do not provide enough sun protection or back support for a full day at the Disney parks. Bring your large or jogging stroller for plenty of shade, comfort, and storage space. Or rent from Disney.

While in the Parks

The great stroller debate – do I use mine or rent one from Disney?

Either option is great. Disney’s strollers are roomy, provide shade, turn on a dime, and have some storage. However, they will add to the cost of your vacation at $15 per single or $31 per double each day, and they are not as comfortable as others. For guests of the WDW Resort hotels, Length-of-Stay stroller rentals are available for a few dollars less. But this daily rental fee can significantly add up. By renting at Disney and not bringing your own, you free up your car if driving, and you do not have to worry about your stroller becoming possibly damaged on the airplane if flying.  There are also stroller rental companies in the Orlando area that will drop off and pick up the stroller right from your hotel.

Personally, we like to bring our own stroller from home. It is familiar, it has plenty of shade and storage, and the drink cups come in very handy for mom and dad. Having our own stroller at the airport makes getting through security and from gate to gate much easier as well. And the most important feature: it saves us a lot of money. Our stroller is also much easier to pick out in sea of Disney strollers when we are coming out of an attraction and looking for ours. My son is now 6 and we still bring the stroller – mostly to push our stuff (drinks, snacks, camera gear) around – just in case he gets tired.

Regardless of which stroller you decide to use, be sure to pack a rain cover or extra rain poncho to cover your stroller before each ride or show. Florida rain showers come unexpectedly and come down hard like a monsoon. And you don’t want to return to a soaking wet stroller. Netting covers are also very helpful to ward off Florida bugs. Also note, if you are staying on property and utilizing Disney transportation, all strollers need to be folded on buses and trams.

Need a double?

There are lots of fabulous double strollers out there. However, we have seen a constant trend at Disney parks with parents of multiple children. The 2012 City Mini Double Stroller is a huge favorite. It fits through doorways, is more compact, folds in a snap with one hand, has two separate sunshades, supportive and comfy seats and is a breeze to push through the parks.

Take advantage of Disney’s Baby Care Centers, located inside each park

Each of the four Walt Disney World Parks has a Baby Care Center. Check your park map for the location. They are typically located right next to first aid. These Centers are amazing! They allow you to nurse your baby privately in comfortable nursing rooms, change baby, feed baby with every kitchen gizmo or tool you might need (including microwaves and bottle warmers), a store to purchase baby basics, a play room for toddlers and older children, complete with Disney cartoons playing, and more. And most importantly, on hot days, this is a cool, comfortable, and quiet refuge for you and your family. The Studios’ Baby Care Center is the smallest of the four, but still has everything you need.

Unfortunately, there are no Baby Care Centers located at Downtown Disney. If you need a quiet, private spot to nurse, bottle feed or soothe a tired little one, I, along with Cast Members, recommend one of the fitting rooms inside the World of Disney store. I personally recommend the fitting room inside the men’s wear area. It is used less often than the women’s or kids section so you won’t have a line forming outside. The fitting rooms there are large enough to wheel your stroller in and you have a large bench to sit on as well. So it works out perfectly.

Attraction Recommendations for children under 36 months old

This, of course, like any of my other recommendations, is subject to your good judgment. No one knows your child better than you. These rides are gentle and allow parents to hold their baby on their lap during the ride. Entertainment recommendations are also listed.

Magic Kingdom

It’s a Small World

Dumbo the Flying Elephant

Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station

Prince Charming Regal Carrousel

The Little Mermaid Ride

Magic Carpet Rides

Country Bear Jamboree

Jungle Cruise

Walt Disney World Railroad

Winnie the Pooh

Carousel of Progress

Tomorrowland Speedway

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade (find shade)

Dream Along with Mickey (no shade available)

Move it! Shake it! Celebrate it! Street Party (find shade)

Character Meet and Greets

* Note: loud fireworks frighten most babies. However, some older babies love them! So use your discretion for the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular Show – if they are awake that long.  If you are staying (or dining) at one of the resorts around the Seven Seas Lagoon, the nightly fireworks are also visible, and they pipe in the music as well.  I like watching them from the beach at the Polynesian the best. Relaxing and it gives toddlers something to play in!


Journey into Imagination with Figment

Spaceship Earth (this is dark, but not scary)

Living with the Land

Gran Fiesta Tour

The Seas with Nemo & Friends

Sergio the Italian Clown Juggler (Italy Pavilion)

Turtle Talk with Crush

Voices of Liberty (just sit towards the back, as they sing loudly)

Character Meet and Greets

* Note: loud fireworks frighten most babies. However, some older babies love them! So use your discretion for the Illuminations – if they are awake that long.

Hollywood Studios

Disney Jr.  Live on Stage

Toy Story Mania  – for toddlers and older children

Honey I Shrunk The Kids Movie Set – for toddlers

The American Idol Experience

Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage

Disney Channel Rocks / Parades (find shade near the Sorcerer’s hat)

Character Meet and Greets

Animal Kingdom

Affection Section

Discovery Island Trails

Kilimanjaro Safari (nap time and they won’t go down? This should do the trick!)

The Boneyard – for toddlers and older children

Camp Minnie-Mickey Greeting Trails and other Character Meet and Greets

TriceraTop Spin

Festival of the Lion King

Finding Nemo – The Musical

Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade (Avoid Africa area – no shade and too crowded)

Child Swap Pass: Don’t forget about the Child Swap Passes, offered at select Disney attractions. These swap passes allow parents to take turns riding their favorite non-baby rides with little to not wait for the 2nd rider. Ask a Cast Member outside each attraction for details.

Dining with Baby:

Helpful things to bring with you into the parks:

  • Travel placemat
  • Plastic bib with pocket (for smaller babies: bottle, formula, etc…)
  • Snack cup/munchies to keep baby happy until their meal is ready
  • Small toy that will keep them happy while waiting
  • Lots of wipes and your camera to capture all of those great messy eater photos!
  • Most Disney buffets will allow children under 3 to just eat from mom and dad’s plate, so that is a great money saver.

How many diapers should I bring each day?

Be prepared! Disney sells diapers in their gift shops and in some Baby Care Centers, but typically only newborn and size 1s or 2s. You can sometimes find pull-ups for older children. We always packed our diaper bag with 4-5 diapers for the day and stash 1-2 more into the stroller. You don’t want to have to interrupt your day to go purchase more off property, especially if you are staying on Disney property and have no outside transportation. You never know when baby will decide to go all day long, or if the tabs on the pair you have break. So just be prepared with as many as you can comfortably travel with. Luckily, they are compact and lightweight!

Must Haves for Baby or Toddler:

Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses (it’s really bright in Florida), rain shield, snacks, Sippy cup always filled with water or juice to stay hydrated, an extra set of clothes, and diapers with wipes. Also, it is a good idea to bring a few basic medications with you (Tylenol, Orajel, etc…) just in case. I also loved our “No Throw” strap that loops onto our stroller. It keeps baby from tossing out the Sippy cup or favorite new Disney plush! Halo Brand Technical Comfort onesies are a lifesaver in the summer. They keep baby cool and comfortable all day long. A battery-operated fan that you can attach to your stroller is a good idea too.