VIDEO: WDW Trip 03.14

Now that it is almost May, I’ve finally gotten around to putting together some of the video we took while on our trip to WDW this March! It was Lorelai’s first trip {at a whopping three-months-old, just like her big brother, Jack}, our second stay at Bay Lake Tower, and our second trip as DVC Members. It was a lot of fun, but also contained a lot of shuffle, being our first trip with three kids, and without the grandparents for that matter! Luckily, a Magic Kingdom morning cut short and the ride home were our only two rough spots in the trip. We’re looking forward to our trip this September, with Lorelai being more alert and aware of what’s going on.

Without further ado, our March 2014 video. I don’t love it as much as the last montage, but it still contains lots of great Elrods Go Disney memories!

Photo Report: Villas at the Wilderness Lodge

I thought I’d start out our string of trip reports by sharing where we stayed on our most recent trip to WDW. As fresh-faced DVC members, we spent our first trip at our home resort, The Villas at Disney Wilderness Lodge.  IMG_8502 IMG_8503 IMG_8504 IMG_8508IMG_9306 IMG_8509 IMG_9300 IMG_6143 IMG_8514 IMG_8516 IMG_8518 IMG_8519 IMG_8520 IMG_8522 IMG_8523 IMG_8526 IMG_8530 IMG_5789Since there are so many things we loved about our stay, I will keep it simple and less wordy by just listing out a few:

~ How cozy the Lodge, especially the lobby of the Villas, feels. It really feels like a home away from home the moment you arrive. With it’s scaled back Disney character theming {as opposed to the All-Star Resorts}, it definitely feels like a relaxing retreat, especially after a busy and loud morning in the parks. It makes for great naps times!

~ Our room! We had the perfect room, and plan to request it in the future if it’s available. It was near the elevators and had the perfect view of Bay Lake and the DVC pool. At 9:30 each night, we could sit out on our balcony and watch the Electrical Water Pageant peeking through the trees, gliding by on it’s way to the Camp Grounds and Contemporary. We’d probably say our least favorite thing about the room was the decor. We’re looking forward to updates in that regard.

~ The size of our Villa. It was our first time staying in a studio, so the extra space was needed and felt.

~ The kitchenette. The refrigerator was even more spacious than we anticipated and we loved having a separate sink to be able to wash dishes and mugs in, in addition to the bathroom sink. In regular rooms, it always felt slightly gross washing baby bottles in the same sink I just brushed my teeth in. Gag.

~ The pools. They are so great, and we love having the option of resort pool towels and returns. It’s nice not having to deal with finding places to hang wet towels in the room.

~ Having the option of boat transportation. The larger boats that go directly between the Wilderness Lodge and Magic Kingdom have wide enough doors and aisles that we can roll our fat double stroller right on, kids buckled in. This is a life saver with sleeping kids. It is a pain and a half having to fold that thing up and keep tabs on two roaming toddlers on small boats or buses. We loving having that easier, stress-free option.

~ All of the cozy little nooks the VWL offers to those seeking just a few minutes of serenity. During one of the boys’ nap times, I walked around the lobby of the Villas and captured some silent and comfy spots to share. It makes me long for a cup of coffee or hot tea and a good book right now!IMG_9310 IMG_9328 IMG_9340 IMG_9335 IMG_9337 IMG_9338 IMG_9343

~ The restaurants. The Wildnress Lodge offers three  spots to get your fill; for counter service, the Roaring Fork and Trout Pass Pool Bar, and for table service, the Whispering Canyon Cafe and the signature dining spot, Artist Point, which includes the Territory LoungeIMG_8492IMG_8841

~ We also love the grounds. Just gorgeous. IMG_9407

{The top corner balcony was ours.}

IMG_9371 IMG_9372 IMG_9374 IMG_9376 IMG_9385 IMG_9393 IMG_9396 IMG_9398 IMG_9399IMG_8873

{Boat transportation: the large boats go directly to the entrance of Magic Kingdom, while smaller boats make stops at the Magic Kingdom, Fort Wilderness Camp Grounds, and the Contemporary Resort. Pictured is one of the larger boats.}

Ahhh, the Wilderness Lodge. How we love you. Have you ever stayed at the Wilderness Lodge or the Villas at the Wilderness Lodge? If so, what were your thoughts on your stay there?

With love, Malorie

VIDEO: WDW Trip 2013

We’ve officially been home from WDW for a week, and I have only had one day where I wanted to cry.

I think that’s a success, yes?

Part of the reason I haven’t slunk into deep PDD {Post-Disney Depression} is because we are already planning and booking meal reservations for our trip in March. The other part is because I have been working on a video montage of our trip, and being able to look back on all of our fun times and live vicariously through our memories captured via iPhone has somehow curbed the pains of withdrawal. I finished it a couple of days ago, but because I am not very computer program and technology savvy, I had to seek help from Tim in figuring out how to export it. He finally found the time today, and I am so excited to share it with you.

I know it’s amateur, but I am still quite proud, considering this was my first time ever attempting a project such as this. I pretty obsessed with it and plan on making one for each trip now. So get ready for that.

Without further ado and rambling {for which I am infamous}, here is our WDW Trip 2013. 

With love, Malorie

Making the Most of Magic Kingdom with Young Kids

A common question we are asked is how we make the most of our time in Magic Kingdom, having two kiddos, a double stroller, and still “claiming” to take breaks and maintain the nap and eating schedule they keep while at home. It is an art that we have mastered through trial and error, and one that admittedly comes with some sacrifice.DSCF1198

{Our one year anniversary dinner at the Crystal Palace in MK}

Tim and I have taken many, many trips in our young adult lives without kids, so we have done every thrilling ride WDW has to offer, that is mostly off limits to children below a certain height or thrill level. {My sister is 13 and still prefers to sit out the thrill rides…so sometimes the ability to ride everything with ease as a parent does not come with height or even age.} This is the reason that Tim and I urge adults without kids to take a WDW vacation before their parenting years. We hear so often, “Yeah, Disney World will be nice when we have kids. Isn’t it pretty much a kiddie park, anyway? I don’t care to meet Mickey Mouse.”

NO!

And the experience you have without children is so incredibly different than the one you will have with them. Both are amazing. Actually, Tim and I now prefer WDW with our kids, because there is nothing like experiencing everything brand new through them. Seeing them so happy and amazed, believing their favorite dream worlds into reality…I’d say that anyone is hard pressed to not shed an emotional tear or two when feeling the joy of experiencing WDW through the eyes of their child.

That being said, this is how we do a typical day in Magic Kingdom with our kids. You will not see Space Mountain or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in our day anywhere because unless we are there with family that is willing to watch the kids while we do such rides, they are not worth the time and switch-off for the thrill. Been there, done those, we have more fun doing the “experiences” Disney has to offer than being raced around a track in the dark over and over. If you want to ride the thrill rides again and again, maxing out your FastPass potential and by-passing parades and shows, go without young kids; because trying to do both produces angry adults that don’t think it’s worth the ticket price, and cranky kids that are hot and tired of waiting on Daddy to ride that “big” ride again. Believe me, we’ve been there.

So without further ado, this is how the Elrod’s make the most of Magic Kingdom with young Kids:IMG_5594

Step 1: Be there early. 

Like, at least 15 minutes early. Remember to calculate in transportation times. If you are coming from a resort by bus, I’d suggest being at your MK bus stop 45 minutes to an hour before the park open. Most bus rides to MK will take longer than other parks because MK is kind of set apart, being surrounded by the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. We notice the bus ride takes anywhere from 20-30 minutes depending on your driver and traffic, etc. Don’t fool yourself. Just because it’s WDW transportation, doesn’t mean it runs on pixie dust and gets you there at the speed of Lightening McQueen.

If you are coming via boat, give yourself a good 30-45 minutes, and monorail a hair less. Obviously monorail is most timely, however, it can make some long stops if there is a hold up.

If you are driving to MK, bless you. Give yourself a solid hour to hour and a half, please. You will have to stop at the gate to pay for parking {or present your parking pass if you are staying on property}, find a parking spot, and hopefully be close enough to not have to take a tram to the ticket and transportation center. Hop on one if you aren’t, though. Save those feetsies for all of the walking you will have to do in the park. Don’t burn out energy here.

At the transportation center choose either boat or monorail {we suggest monorail} and then you will finally arrive at the gates of MK. Next is bag check. Parents, tag team it here. One take the stroller and bags through check while the other takes the kids into the park and finds a spot for the opening ceremonies. Remember: The park has not yet opened! If you are on track, it is only 8:45am at the latest.

IMG_5618

The best spot to see the opening ceremonies is obviously the center, although there is not really a bad spot, since they are up so high. We have a double stroller that is difficult to maneuver through crowds, so sometimes one of us stays center with the kids while the other takes a spot near the right hand {if you are looking at the park with your back to bag check} entrance. This is because we like to do “the slink ‘n slide”.

The Slink ‘n Slide – a strategical move mastered by the Elrods to maintain better positioning upon opening of the park to ensure being one of the first guests in.

IMG_5627

Step 2: Enjoy the opening ceremonies! 

“Good morning, good moooorning!…” Main Street citizens will perform, the train will come around the track, filled with all of your kid’s favorite Disney characters, a little more song and dance will ensue, and then they will introduce the Family of the Day. When you hear this, shift gears and begin the first steps of The Slink ‘n Slide. Move quietly, stealthily, and hey, graciously {“Excuse us. Oh, sorry! Excuse me, just trying to get to my pregnant wife, right there…”} toward the right-hand entrance of the park. Right-hand entrance is key. By now they should be counting it down. 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1! Aaaaand you are officially allowed to enter the gates.

Welcome to the Magic Kingdom!IMG_5650_2

Step 3: Let your kids meet Mickey. {note: if you are going to MK several days of your trip, only do this step one of the days. Getting a family picture with Mickey is on our yearly check-list, not something we do over and over again. If you want to see Mickey again, we suggest doing a character meal with him! Yummy and fun!}

One of you take the kids straight inside Town Square Theater on your immediate right while the other parks that dang stroller {notice your kids have really yet to be in the stroller, but believe me, if you have children our kids’ ages or a little older, it will come in handy sooner than later!}. Inside Town Square Theater, a Cast Member will already be directing other wise park guests where to go. Right now, you are able to choose between a Magician Mickey and Minnie meet ‘n greet, or a meet ‘n greet of some big name Princesses. However, at some point in fall 2013, the Princesses are getting their own royal treatment for meet ‘n greets back in New Fantasyland called Princess Fairytale Hall.

You will be shuffled through a short line of ropes, and into a claustrophobic holding room. When Mickey is ready, you will be escorted by another Cast Member to the Main Mouse, himself! Since lines are not long, we aren’t usually rushed through our time with Mickey. Cole {or the baby} always gets a game of pee-a-boo from Minnie while Jack starts the tally on his high-five meter for the day. Fun times. Get a Cast Member to take pictures with your camera, take the PhotoPass card from the other Cast Member, and you are on your way! Your kids have met Mickey and Minnie and the park has only been open about 10 minutes! Yesss!

IMG_5655

Step 4: Take in the castle.

Strap those kiddos in the stroller, it’s time to move, move, move! At a slightly slower pace than speed walking, get thyself right-ith down the center of Main Street {watch out for the horse-drawn trolley!}, gawking at the castle and letting the kiddos take it in. {note: I DIDN’T say stop for a picture. You’ve got things to check off your to-do list, and believe me, this is not the best time. With the position of the sun, you will either all be wearing sunglasses or making the angry-squinty-face. Pictures in front of the castle turn out much better in the evening!} Push forward and up, going straight through the castle, taking a moment to check out the mosaic story of Cinderella in the walls if you never have before {skip it, if you have, you’ve got places to be!}, and come out of the other side into Fanstasyland!

IMG_5706

Step 5: Fantasyland 

Spend the next hour to hour and a half running going back and forth between rides. Make sure you put Peter Pan’s Flight, Dumbo, Winnie the Pooh, Journey of the Little Mermaid, and Enchanted Tales with Belle at the top of that list, those are the ones that get the longest lines later in the day. Mark them off your list early. The Barnstormer is one of Jack’s favorite rides, and both boys tend to zone out in over-stimulated bliss in It’s a Small World. Do not bypass Mickey’s Philharmagic! No, it’s not a ride, but I just love it. A must do, for sure. Last year Jack was so concerned about Donald being blown into the wall at the end, he talked about him the whole trip; asking if he was still stuck. So. Cute. Then of course there’s the Tea Cups and Carrousel….Just look at wait times {download the App for your phone! Yes, there’s an App for that!} and try to hit up as many as you can before lunch. Often times, because we go in the off-season, we are able to do almost all of them.

IMG_1770

Step 6: Move on to phase two rides. 

If you still have some time before lunch, or there are some rides you skipped back in Fantasyland due to lack of interest, move on to phase two rides. We usually take the path by It’s a Small World and Peter Pan’s Flight to Liberty Square, Frontierland, and then slip into Adventureland from the backside, coming in beside Pirates of the Caribbean. Rides we take advantage of are Haunted Mansion {yes, we take our kids on that}, Splash Mountain {Sorry, Tim and I just have a hard time passing up this “big” ride because it’s our favorite. However, I’m usually pregnant, so he’s the only one that can ride. We are hoping Jack meets the height requirement this year. We are wanting to desensitize him early, so he will always want to ride.}, and Pirates of the Caribbean {yes, we take our kids on that, too. Both of our boys took their first ride on it before they were a year old.}. If time permits, you can scamper across to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Spin, but we usually save Tomorrowland for post-naps.

IMG_5779

Step 7: Dream Along with Mickey

We always make sure to see Dream Along with Mickey before/right at lunchtime. Check your times guide for showtimes and get there a hair early so your kids can have a good spot to see. My kids adore this show, and that’s probably an understatement. We like to see it before naps to get it out of the way and to avoid the blaring midday heat.

IMG_6143

Step 8: Lunch.

Usually Casey’s Corner. C’mon. We are suckers for a good chili-cheese dog and cheese fries with a side of cheese…haha! So we splurge a bit on the diet when we are in WDW, who doesn’t? And we like Casey’s Corner because it’s right on Main Street, which makes for an easy out for naps. We like to traipse through the Main Street Emporium on our way out. We can usually make it out without actually buying something. Other options we enjoy are Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe or just hitting up the turkey leg stand. Or hey, maybe your way would be whipping out the pre-packed PB&J during Dream Along with Mickey. We’ve done that before too, and it’s definitely more cost efficient.

IMG_6205

Step 9: Naptime.

Our kids go down for naps between noon and 1:00pm. Keep your kids on whatever schedule they’re used to, adjusting rides and shows accordingly. Just don’t run them ragged, especially if you are there for 5-7 days. By day three they will be fit to be tied, and you will wonder why you didn’t “wait until they were older”. {Another common misconception: You can’t have fun in WDW with kids until they are older. The youngest we’ve take our kids to WDW is three-months-old. We’ve gone at least once a year since then, mostly twice. You just have to know how to do it!}

We hope for you, at this point, that you are staying at a deluxe resort nearby. The best vacations we’ve taken with kids, by far, have been when we stayed at Bay Lake Tower in 2010 with a three-month-old Jack, and at the Wilderness Lodge in 2012 with Jack {then freshly turned two} and Cole {eight-months-old at the time}. Being able to walk or take a boat back to the resort for naps, without having to fold up the stroller and ride on a bus was…well, magic. We’ve done nap times at the value resorts, and though it was do-able, it was a lot more work for a less enjoyable experience. You don’t have a balcony at the values, so one or both of us were stuck inside of a dark room with our slumbering toddler, waiting it out, listening to the muffled sound of pool-side games and dance parties.IMG_5824

{View from our balcony at the Wilderness Lodge. So peaceful. A great break from the hustle and bustle of MK, even for adults!}

At the deluxe we were able to go out on our balcony, kick our feet up with a cup of midday coffee, and chill. It was great bonding time for Tim and I too, and turned out to be some of our favorite memories together. We would sit out there playing board games and DVC dreaming, and now a year later, here we are about to go on our very first trip as members! Yay! God is good!

IMG_6135

Step 10: Wake up and go!

After the kiddos get their snooze on with a side of “happy heart”, as we like to call it, lace those shoes back up and get ready for the rest of your full day of MK fun. Fill up that refillable mug on your way out, if it suits your fancy, and catch your mode of transportation. When you get back to the park, I’d still suggest one parent hitting up bag check while the other takes the kids on through. It’s always easier on the nerves to have the kids wait as little as possible.

IMG_6142

Step 11: Phase three rides. 

Whip out that handy-dandy App and check out your wait times. Rides we generally hit up in the evening are Buzz Lightyear’s Space Spin, The PeopleMover {more than once, actually. If you can hit it right at sunset too, you’re in for a treat! We just love it.}, Magic Carpets of Aladdin, The Jungle Cruise, round two of Pirates of the Caribbean or another of the kids’ Fantasyland favorites, or a ride around the park on the Walt Disney World Railroad.

IMG_6306

Step 12: Parades and fireworks.

Make sure you know when the parades start and get to a good spot {we almost always go with the curb on Main Street, although Frontierland and Liberty Square are another great option} 30-45 minutes beforehand. A good solution to doing this with young kids is giving in to that sweet treat, so sitting will not be as torturous, or have one parent hold down the fort while the other takes the kids on a brows through the gift shop or a ride with a walk-on wait time. Switch off, if necessary.

Do the same with fireworks, only get there an hour to an hour and a half before it starts, depending on the time of year you go. I know, sounds extreme. But believe me, if you want a good spot {we suggest the top or bottom of Main Street} you need to do this. And it’s worth the wait. I promise. Wishes it so worth it. I cry almost always. Okay. Always. I just can’t take that darn Jiminy Cricket telling me that all my dreams can come true, as I’m standing there next to the man of my dreams that has provided and loved and cared for me in every way possible, and our two gorgeous sons who make me laugh everyday because they are just like us in so many ways…Ek! Okay, I’ll stop being so mushy. {Elrod WDW Tip: If you can get a spot at the bottom center of Main Street, this is ideal for fireworks viewing with toddlers and babies. The thunder of the fireworks is not quite as loud, and it is an easy out after it’s over, since you are right near the exits. Let the kids watch from the stroller, if they can see well from there, so you can just kick the break and high-tail it outta there after the show. Be the first to catch that bus, boat, or monorail!}

{another side note: we generally only do the fireworks at MK one night of each trip, usually close to the end. Makes it special. All of the other nights we try to get the boys in bed as close to their 8:00 bedtime as possible.}

And that’s it! Your 12 Step process to doing MK with young kids!

Other handy tips:

IMG_6287

~ Get your castle pictures in the late afternoon/early evening, 4:00pm-6:00pm. Also remember there are some great spots for pictures without being front and center on Main Street. There are PhotoPass photographers that can get your whole family to the left and right, near the entrances of Tomorrowland and Liberty Square.

~ Utilize the Baby Care Center behind Crystal Palace. I always prefer changing diapers in there, as opposed to the restrooms, if we are nearby. Baby Care Centers usually have cute little toddler-sized potties too.

~ Don’t stress if you don’t get to everything. MK is a big park! Here is a list of rides we often skip without stressing:

Jungle Cruise {Okay, WDW guru’s–just hush. I get it. But our kids don’t.}

Magic Carpets of Aladdin {especially if you’ve already done Dumbo}

Tomorrowland Speedway

Astro Orbiter {see Magic Carpets of Aladdin}

Stitch’s Great Escape {please, for heaven’s sake ALWAYS SKIP THIS!}

The Carrousel

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Space Mountain

Swiss Family Tree House

Tom Sawyer Island

~ Shows are great if you have the time and your kids have the attention span. Jack claims to love the Tiki Room, but we’ve only done it with him once. For young kids, it’s probably best to steer clear of The Hall of Presidents {although I love it and get choked up with American pride every time} and The Carrousel of Progress {that one hurts to type out. Again, I love it! But my boys would run amok in that thing. Or cry. It’s long.}. Safe tries would be the Tiki Room, Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor, and of course Mickey’s Philharmagic.

IMG_5730

Please let me know if I skipped anything. I will be happy to answer questions in the comment section!

With love, Malorie

The Park March Winner!

It’s Blogday Tuesday, and as promised last week, today marks the first post in The Park March!

I’ve been pretty impressed by the amount of views and votes I’ve received, but the park that won by a whopping 45% was…

[trumpet flare]

Whoo hoo! I had kind of suspected that Magic Kingdom would win, but hey, you never know, right? Either way, I am super excited to spend the month of March talking about everything from the history of Magic Kingdom, to the low down on all of the attractions, restaurants, shops, and more!

So let’s jump right in, shall we?

Magic Kingdom is pretty much considered the staple and icon park of Walt Disney World. Most non-Disney goers that talk to me about Walt Disney World usually confuse the park as “Disney World”.

“So which park is your favorite? Disney World?”

It’s an easy mistake to make! With Cinderella’s Castle standing at a stunning 189 feet right in the center of the attraction-driven, whimsical wonderland, it’s obvious that this is the park that Walt Disney wanted his whole “world” built around. Magic Kingdom was the first park to be built and opened on the massive piece of land that was first purchased by Walt Disney throughout the early 1960’s. It was to be a larger replica of his Disneyland park in California. Sadly, Walt died on December 15, 1966 and never saw the completed product of his dreaming, whose construction was then take over by his brother Roy O. Disney.

Magic Kingdom had it’s grand opening on October 1, 1971 with immediate success. By Thanksgiving of that year, they were already reaching full capacity during park hours! At that time, I believe admission was a pocket-breaking $3.50 for adults and $1.00 for children. However, park admission did not give you access to all of the rides and attractions like it does today. Only some of the attractions were included in that price and the others you had to pay anywhere from ten to ninety cents to ride, based on the category, or rating, of that ride. Admission to these rides were sold in booklets that contained seven to eleven ticket vouchers of various categories. Now, however, ticket prices are a bit more. Adults are charged $87.33 and children (ages 3-9) $78.81. I promise, though, the experience is worth the price!

 

Attraction ticket booklets.

Admission tickets today.

Magic Kingdom is accessible by car or by the Disney Transportation System, if you are staying at a Disney property hotel. If you use Disney transportation, you will be dropped off by bus right at the front gates of the park. If you choose to drive, parking is $14.00 per day.

There is a parking lot tram that you can ride if you are trying to spare your feet for all the walking you will do once inside the gates. The tram will drop you off at the Transportation Center, where you can take a cruise on a ferry boat across the Seven Seas Lagoon to the entrance of Magic Kingdom,

or you can hop a monorail to the gates. (The Transportation Center also offers monorail transportation to EPCOT.)

Once you reach the front of the park, you will be required to have any bags or coolers you have with you checked, and then you can present your ticket and pass through the turnstile into the world where dreams come true.

Want to know one of the best kept Disney secrets? Magic Kingdom actually sits fourteen feet above the original ground level. What’s underneath? Something that Walt Disney liked to call the Utilidors, or utility corridors. See, Walt thought that seeing Cast Members walk to and from their job positions ruined part of the magical experience that he was trying to set. His solution was to build an underground space where employees could get from one side of the park to the other without being seen by guests. Food service and garbage disposal all happen underground and out of sight, in addition to the attractions’ operating systems, and offices and cafeterias for the Cast Members. It’s really great. I have actually had the privileged to see it for myself, since I was once a Cast Member. But being an employee is not the only way to lay eyes on this astonishing secret. You too can venture below when you take the cast-guided Key’s to the Kingdom Tour.

Up above, Magic Kingdom is broken up into six lands: Main Street USA, Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, and Tomrrowland. Each land offers an atmosphere worthy of it’s name with appropriately themed buildings, shops, rides, shows, and music. As you stroll through each land you can learn how to be a pirate, take a ride on a run-away train, hear a speech from our Founding Fathers, take a trip through outer space, and fly over London with Peter Pan all in one day!

Now that’s what Disney magic is all about!

Well, I could go on and on, but I think I need to save some surprises for later. 🙂

See you next Tuesday for more Magic Kingdom Park March fun!