Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Disney Style: Halloween Costumes!

It's that time of year again...are your kids excited about dressing up for Halloween? Ours are! Here's how the Real Moms do Halloween (with a tiny bit of Disney thrown in)!

Jenna:
My kids LOVE dressing up for Halloween and have the best time picking out costumes. Last year, they went as Jake and Hook. They loved their costumes and everyone complimented them!



The year before, the decided they wanted to be Willie and Jase from Duck Dynasty. They were still pretty new then, so there weren't costumes being sold. Instead we pieced together our own. Now, they sell prepackaged ones (which would have been SO much easier!).




Lindsey:

Anniston loves dressing up and Halloween isn't any exception. On an average day, she probably changes clothes five to eight times and most of those include some sort of costume.

Last year we were at Disney on Halloween at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. Anniston had gotten her make-over at Bibbiddi Bobbiddi Boutique earlier that day and was all princess-ed out for the evening. She decided to be Aurora.


This year, Anniston wants to be a witch. I'm trying to talk her into Maleficent, Glinda the Good Witch, or even The Wicked Witch. These costumes are a bit more expensive. But since I pretty much live in an ongoing musical, I'm sure they will get used much more than just on Halloween. 

Melissa:

At our house, costumes aren’t limited to Halloween. My kids love costumes and wear them year-round. It’s nothing to see my sweet little delicate flower parading around in my son’s old Captain America costume or run screaming through the house in a Spider-Man mask. She also somehow finds a way to wear two princess dresses at once...while wielding a light saber or ninja sword. My son will bound down the stairs as a pirate or commando on any given day. I don’t mind spending a little extra on costumes, knowing they’ll get well-used for a long time.

Last year was the first year my kids really got into Halloween. We’d recently moved into a very kid-friendly neighborhood, and it was their first year to trick-or-treat for real. They went as a princess and a Navy Seal, which completely depicts their personalities.


This year, we’re planning for Iron Man and a princess – but we haven’t decided which one. We already have Ariel and Sofia dresses. But I think my sweet girl is leaning toward Elsa…along with a few others, I’m sure.

My husband and I don’t dress up. I know, we’re boring. But we know lots of families who dress up with a theme. If we were to do that, I think we’d have to be The Incredibles. I think we could pull off Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, Dash, and Violet. In reality, we’d probably end up wearing matching t-shirts and calling it a day. We’re lazy low-key like that.

What are your kids (and you) dressing up as this year? Have you bought your costumes yet?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Restaurant Review: Dinner at Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom

By: Lindsey



(What's with kids and crazy smiles? Ha!)

It’s no secret that reservations at Be Our Guest can be hard to get. I woke up early on the 180th day before our October 2013 trip. I don’t normally like to get up early. Can someone tell my daughter that, please? But I don’t mind to get up early for Disney.

I decided to call versus using the website. I had my plan in my Excel spreadsheet and was ready to go. When I called, the first reservation I asked for was Be Our Guest for the day we wanted. They didn’t have one on that day. We tried several different days and only found one reservation for the entire week we were there. I booked it and adjusted my other restaurant choices to fit (same restaurants, just different days). This wasn’t an issue since we had the park hopper tickets. I felt like I had won the lottery.

Our reservations were pretty early in the day at 4:15 pm. We got there a few minutes before our reservation and checked in. The wait wasn’t bad since there were so many details to look at. They called our name (the pagers weren’t working) and they took us through the restaurant.

All of the pictures below were taken with my cell phone. I apologize for the terrible quality.



We were seated in the West Wing. While the ballroom was gorgeous, I personally loved the West Wing. There was something to look everywhere you looked. Every so often, the thunder would grow louder and louder. There would be a flash of lightening and the portrait of the beast would switch from the Beast to the Prince. Anniston had so much fun watching for that picture to switch.









We were also seated where we could see the enchanted rose. Disney really does everything to a high standard.



While we were eating, we heard people starting to stir. We looked around to see what the commotion was. The Beast had arrived. He walked through the dining room and the West Wing before retiring to his study.

Now is a good time to cover the food. While the main course wasn’t bad by any means, it was definitely not the best meal we’ve had at Disney. The dessert, however, was wonderful. We each tried a different cupcake and the gray stuff. The gray stuff gets two thumbs up. It was great!


That being said, what the food lacks, the atmosphere makes up for it and much more. I would eat there a hundred more times just to look around and enjoy the experience. I have a feeling you’d find something new each time.

After dinner, we were able to visit the Beast’s study and meet the man himself. We loved looking around while we waiting in the short line. Anniston was thrilled to get to meet him. He doesn’t sign autographs, but you can have your picture taken with him.




Overall, it was a great experience. Like I said before, I’ll go back as many times as we can. Have you been to Be Our Guest? If so, what was your experience like?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Disney Experience: What You Should Know About Character Greets

By: Melissa

When we were preparing for our first trip to Disney, I began researching character greets. In all my previous trips to Disney, I’d never actually done any character greets. (Gasp! I know.) I had no idea how they worked or what to expect. So, here’s what you should know about character greets before you go.

Character Greet Title

1. There are two types of characters: fur characters and face characters. When you think about it, it makes sense. Fur characters are characters with fur – and those big furry costume heads. There are some characters (Woody, Jessie, and Buzz, for instance) that are considered fur characters even though they don’t actually have fur because they wear big costume heads. Face characters wear costumes that do not hide their face, thus the reason they’re referred to as face characters. These are characters like the princesses, Peter Pan, Alice, and Tinkerbell. The biggest distinction, besides the costume, is that the fur characters do not speak.

Character Greet 1

2. The characters have special Cast Member friends called Character Handlers. They wear blue shirts, and help keep the greet area organized and the line moving. The Character Handlers can provide some valuable information, especially if there’s a long line. They can usually tell you how long you can expect to wait at a certain place in line. And if you’re extra nice, they might give you a special tip for your greet – something to ask/say to the character, or a certain action – high five, etc. When we were meeting Russell and Dug, the Character Handler suggested that Honor pat Dug’s belly. She also told him he was a “good dog,” and that made him really excited!

Character Greet 2

3. They are professionals. One thing I learned in my research is that the Cast Members in these costumes go through extensive training in order to be able to greet your family and the other Disney guests. They are experts at posing your child for photos as well as helping reluctant little guests open up. My kids were a little hesitant with the face characters at first because they weren’t really sure what to do. The characters were great with them – asking questions, encouraging them, and drawing the kids into the fairytale world. The Cast Members have also been trained in their character’s signature – each Pluto must sign the autograph the exact same way. These are not just kids in a costume. And it shows. Which leads me to…

Character Greet 3

4. They don’t break character. Ever. You can ask Rapunzel about Eugene and Paschal, and she’ll tell you all about them. The day we were there, Maximus and Eugene were out with Prince Philip (Princess Aurora’s Prince), and Rapunzel told us all about it. But she doesn’t know who Mr. Incredible is. Why? He’s not part of her fairytale world. But when we met Ariel, she saw Cinderella’s autograph in our book and asked how her friend Cindy was doing.

5. Don’t forget your autograph books!

6. Characters will play along! Kenny the Pirate is a great source for all things Disney character, and I absolutely love this list of character interaction suggestions. Just because the fur characters don’t speak, doesn’t mean they can’t play with your kids. Honor quickly realized fur characters made a kissing sound, and she began offering her cheek for a kiss. Every. Single. Time. We also had a blast with Lady Tremaine and the Step Sisters. They were our most fun character interaction all week. We offered Caedmon as a suitor for Anastasia and Drizella, which got them all flustered. And when we got ready to leave, Honor pitched a major fit (proud parenting moment). The Step Sisters stopped what they were doing, turned to her, and applauded her tantrum skills, even calling her by name. Of course, I would not normally appreciate anyone encouraging my child’s tantrum, but coming from the Step Sisters, all I could do was laugh. It also lightened a stressful moment for me.

Character Greet 4

7. Plan to see characters…or don’t. You can include stops to see characters in your daily touring plan or you can do what Lindsey did, and just stop to see characters if/when it is convenient. Decide what works for you, and go for it! Kenny the Pirate has great character touring plans, and I found his information invaluable in working up our individual touring plan. One thing to keep in mind – if you arrive at a character greet line and the Character Handler says the character is going for a break and will be back in three minutes, do not despair. They really will be back in three minutes. Or less. Disney is precise like that.

How does your family do character greets? Who do you most want to meet?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

9 Things You Probably Don't Know About Disney

by: Jenna


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Traveling with small children? You can still go on thrill rides. Disney offers a Rider Swap option, perfect for those of us traveling with littles. Just send one adult to the line and tell the Cast Member that you need a Rider Swap ticket. Adult #1 will go through the standard line and Adult #2 will be able to enter via the fast pass line. Bonus? If you have a child that is big enough to ride, you can take them with you both times.

Want to go fast? Pick the plain lavender teacup. Rumor has it that it spins the fastest!

Try the grey stuff, it's delicious! Are you a fan of Beauty and the Beast? If so, you know the song, and you can actually try the grey stuff at Be Our Guest restaurant!

You're never more than 30 steps from a trash can...and some of them talk back. Allegedly, Walt observed how long people would hold on to trash before dropping it on the ground. His answer? Thirty steps. That's why you are never more than 30 steps away from a trash can. Also? Keep your eyes peeled for Push, the talking trash can. We ran into him last time and the boys had a blast talking to him.  

Updated to add: PUSH has officially been retired. =(
I owe you a bonus fact now...so how about two of them! 

Bonus Fact One: Disney World is the size of San Francisco! 
Bonus Fact Two: You won't be able to get a plastic lid or straw for your drink at Animal Kingdom. They can be life threatening to some of the animals, should they get their paws on them!



Bored in line? Look for Mickey. There are literally thousands of hidden Mickey heads all over the park. Next time you're standing in line, look around. What you see might surprise you!

Staying onsite and need a wake up call? It might just be a character that calls you!

BYOG. Disney is a bring your own gum park. If you don't bring it, you won't have any because Disney parks do not sell it as part of their effort to keep the parks as clean and tidy as possible.

There are tunnels under the park at Magic Kingdom. Hence, you'll never seen a character out of the land that they should reside in (or a cast member for that matter!).

Keep everything in the palm of your hand. Disney has a free app that is basically the same as your My Disney Experience online. You can view and make dining and fast pass reservations and even see how long the wait times for rides are.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Disney Experience: Our Top Five Character Meet & Greets

By: Lindsey


One thing that I didn’t expect to love at Disney that I really do love is meeting Disney characters. I knew Anniston would love the princesses, and she did, but I didn’t realize how much the rest of us would enjoy it too.

We didn’t use touring plans, so I’m not going to even try to layout out a character strategy for you today. We didn’t plan any specific character visits in the park, except for one FP+ for the Princess Hall. We did schedule a few character meals and got to meet a few characters that way as well. Our strategy was basically if we walk by a character and the line is short, we get in the line and meet them.

Here are our top five Character Meet & Greets:

5. Rapunzel



We were able to meet Rapunzel at the Princess Fairytale Hall at Magic Kingdom. She was wonderful. She used Anniston's name and answered all of her questions while never once breaking character or giggling.

4. Mary Poppins



We just happened to come across Mary Poppins at Epcot. Her line was short and Anniston loved the movie when we did our Disney Movie Countdown (thanks to Melissa's suggestion!). We hopped in her line and it was like she just stepped out of the movie. We loved her!

3. Alice 



It was a close running for the third and second spot. Alice was at Epcot, right beside Mary Poppins. She wasn't there yet and we had to wait about ten minutes, but it was well worth the wait. She spent so much time with each kid. She led Anniston around the garden and talked to her about her experiences with the flowers in Wonderland. Anniston was so confused but she was so in awe that she didn't care.

2. Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, and Drizella



These three cracked us up. They were mean to us. They were mean to each other. They were perfect. We found them near the entrance to new Fantasyland, near the carousel. Anniston got a little sassy with them and they got a little sassy back. We also saw them riding on the carousel and they were so funny. If you can make it to see them, I highly recommend it.

1. Gaston



Oh, Gaston. He was in Magic Kingdom near Gaston's Tavern. We just happened to come upon him when we were leaving with a yummy cinnamon roll. His line was short, so we hopped in. The whole time Anniston would try to talk to him, he'd just talk about himself. After the picture was over, as we were walking off, Anniston called out, "I love you, Gaston!" And Gaston replied, "I love me, too!" And gave her and evil smile. Glorious!

The training that the Disney characters must be insane. It makes me want to hug all of their necks for treating our kids so well. Even during hot days, crowded days, rainy days. They go above and beyond to make each kid feel special.

You can't go wrong with any Character Meet & Greet, but these are definitely our top five. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Refillable Disney Mugs: Are They Worth It?

By: Melissa

Until we were beginning to plan our first family trip for 2013, I had no idea there was so much interest in/debate about Disney’s refillable mugs. But I quickly found out they’re kind of a big deal. I learned that the mug usually changes each year, and having one from many consecutive years is kind of a badge of honor. In insulated form, of course. Walking through our resort one day, I saw that someone had used about 10 mugs to decorate their resort room window. Talk about dedication!

Refillable Mugs

Here’s how they work: At the current time, Disney’s Rapid Fill Resort refillable mugs are free with all Dining Plans or start at $8.99 for 1 day, ranging up to $17.99 for 5+ days (length of your stay) if purchased alone. (Days are counted as calendar days, not a 24-hour period.) As of April 2015, refillable mugs are available for purchase only for length of stay, and the current price being reported is $16.49 + tax. (They're still free with Dining Plans.) They contain a RFID chip that works with the drink stations. They can be refilled at no cost at resorts – and are not refillable in the parks, water parks, or restaurants. (Water parks have their own refillable mugs available for purchase.)

If you are not taking advantage of a dining plan, whether or not the price tag is worth it is completely up to you. It depends greatly on how many sodas or cups of coffee you drink each day, and how much you would use your mug at your resort. That is something each family has to decide each trip, I think. Remember, tap water is free throughout Disney World properties and you are allowed to carry bottled water with you into the parks. With a mini fridge in most resort rooms and grocery delivery options, affordable bottled water is easily accessible.

Would we have purchased refillable mugs on our trip if they hadn’t been free with our dining plan? Definitely not for everyone, but maybe one. Chris drinks coffee in the mornings, and we do enjoy the occasional soda, though we’re mostly water drinkers. It would’ve been cost effective for us to have one and share, but purchasing one for each person would not have been justifiable for our family.
However, they do make a cool souvenir. And we have used them a lot more at home than I thought we would.

Disney’s Rapid Fill Resort mugs fit in car cup holders (even the cup holders in my kids’ car seats), and have a good sized handle. They fit just fine in the side pocket of the backpack we carried in the parks. The lid snaps on securely, and can be used with or without a straw. They also have a few different “trim” colors. If you have family members who want the same color, you might want to use a Sharpie to write names on them (You’ll already have Sharpies to go with your autograph books.).

Sippy cups have followed me around for the past six+ years. Now that we’ve pretty much moved out of the sippy cup phase, I need insulated cups we can take with us when we go out for the day or to meet friends at the park for lunch. Cups with lids. That the kids can manage themselves. Our Disney mugs have been awesome. And each time I pull them out of the cabinet, I feel like a little bit of Disney magic is going with me that day.

Do you get the refillable mugs? How many Disney mugs do you have at home? What are your favorite uses?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Disney Movie Rewards: How To Get & Use Them

by: Jenna

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I don't know about you, but at our house, we LOVE Disney movies. We're currently having Movie Night Fridays in preparation of our upcoming Disney trip in November. My personal Disney favorite is Tangled while (at the moment) my boys are very into Monsters Inc. and Toy Story.

For the last five years I've been purchasing Disney movies and disregarding the little slips of paper tucked into the cases. Sometimes, I threw them away without even looking at them (which pains me to think about now!).

But for the last year, I've been going through all of our old Disney movies and collecting those pieces of paper. Why? Because most of them were Disney Movie Rewards Codes (or DMR).


So, what is a DMR? It's a code that you enter on the Disney Movie Rewards website. You can also find these codes on Disney CD's and by turning in your Disney theater tickets. Then you can shop the DMR store and cash in your points for cool swag.

So, where can you get these codes?

  1. They are included with Disney movies, CD's and by turning in Disney ticket stubs.
  2. They periodically post codes on their Facebook page.
  3. By signing up for the DMR email. Often in my emails there will be a mystery code, which I click on and it will give me bonus points. They also give you free entries for Disney trips.
  4. Via their Pinterest board.

I cashed in my points and got my favorite thing...a Disney gift card. I used my gift cards towards our Disney vacation package. They don't always have gift cards on the website, but if you hold on to your points, then seem to pop up every couple of months.

Other items that you can currently snag are movies (Enchanted, When In Rome, Narnia, Tangled, Pirates of the Caribbean and Lost season 3 are all on there right now), key chains, posters and Delta airlines gift cards. I've also seen collectibles, special pins, clothing, toys and baby items before.

If you've got a few Disney movies laying around, I encourage you to pull out those DMR codes! It took me less

Monday, September 15, 2014

Disney Experience: Bibbiddi Bobbiddi Boutique

By: Lindsey


One of the things that I looked forward to most when I found out I was having a daughter was introducing her to all things Disney Princess. I loved them when I was young and I hoped that Anniston would too. I imagined the moment when she met the princesses for the first time or saw the castle. One of the things I looked forward to the most was taking her to Bibbiddi Bobbiddi Boutique.

Warning: this post contains a lot of photos.

When we planned our first trip to Disney in 2011, I wanted to take her. Badly. However, the poor kid, at almost two, had zero hair. So I had to put off my dream and wait a little while longer. I told Nick from the moment we returned from that trip he had better prepare himself for the next trip. She was going, hair or no hair.

I read a lot of discussion forums on when was the best time to go. We decided that for us, the best time would be early in the morning. Anniston tends to be a morning person. Plus, we knew it would just make her day. Then our trip changed and we decided to go in October. We would be there on Halloween; what better day to do it?

I waited and waited for the 180 day mark. I got up and made our ADRs first, then I made our reservation for our, ahem, her princess makeover. We were able to get the first appointment of the day on Halloween day.

When it came time for our appointment, since it was before park opening, you go to this special spot to wait. It’s over to the left (if you are looking at the gates). From there, a guide will accompany you to where you need to go. There were groups heading in for breakfasts, makeovers, etc. so make sure you tell the guides where you need to go.

We got there and checked in. Anniston got to pick what hairstyle she wanted and her fairy godmother got to work. Since we had outfits made for Anniston to wear while we were there, we opted to do the base package. She had her hair fixed, her nails painted, make up applied, and a sash to wear. She got a little backpack where they put the nail polish, extra makeup, comb, and a few other little trinkets.







She absolutely loved the process. And, since we had the Memory Maker (PhotoPass+), I just got to sit back and watch. The Disney photographer took all the pictures for us. She loved every single second.

Those fairy godmothers can work wonders with any type of hair. I was impressed. They sprinkled a little “fair dust” (glitter) and said a cute little saying before turning her around to see herself. Her smile was worth every penny, every moment, and my long wait to get to take her.





After the makeover was complete, we went over to the studio to have some pictures taken. Again, since we had Memory Maker, this was free of charge to us. They turned out so adorable.






Anniston slept on that hair for two nights. Every single hair stayed in place. When we went to wash it out, it was quite the process. So if you are worried about it lasting all day, or even two days, I wouldn’t worry about it very much.

We had a great experience at Bibbiddi Bobbiddi Boutique!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Disney Dining: FREE Dining Credit Planner

By: Melissa

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As convenient as the Disney Dining Plan is meant to be, some aspects can be a bit confusing, especially if it’s your first time to use a dining plan.

For a quick primer, check out these previous posts on Dining Plans:
Disney Dining: Is the Dining Plan Worth the Expense?
Disney Dining: How to Use the Disney Dining Plan
Disney Dining: How the Quick Service Dining Plan (QSDP) Worked for Us

In my post about the Quick Service Dining Plan, you may have noticed that we had snack credits left over at the end of our trip. What? Yes. It’s not that we didn’t eat. I promise, we ate! Disney tries to help you out by not forcing you to use a certain number of credits each day, and gives you until midnight on your check-out day to use them.

After checking in and getting your dining credits activated, you feel rich! You’ve got literally tens of meal and snack credits to just spend on nothing but food. You’re going to eat well on this trip! But hold on. You will eat well. You just have to have a plan! If you wanted to, you could walk into a restaurant and spend all of your dining credits at once. But then you’d have no credits left for the rest of your trip, and any dining costs would have to come out of your pocket. Not exactly the best use of your dining credits. So, how do you plan meals with a Dining Plan?

DCP Title

Real Mom’s Disney has created a Dining Credit Planner to help you determine the best use of your dining credits. Let’s try it with a sample trip.

In our scenario, I’ve decided to take a four-day trip and spend two and a half park days at Magic Kingdom. We have a Disney Dining Plan, which includes a Quick Service meal, a Table Service meal, and one snack per person, per day. It’s me, my husband, and a child over age 3. For a four day trip, we’ll have twelve of each type of dining credit.

I’ve printed my Dining Credit Planner, dining credit tokens, and have labeled the days on the planner. I’m ready to start!

DCP Photo 1

Day 1: We’re checking in today, so we won’t arrive until afternoon. We will not need breakfast or lunch on the Disney property, so I go ahead and cross those out.

DCP Photo 2

We decide to spend the evening at Downtown Disney, and want to eat there. We’ll each use one QS credit for dinner – maybe at Earl of Sandwich. (Remember to use one token per person for each meal.)

DCP Photo 3

And just for kicks, we’ll throw in a snack – maybe we’ll stop at Goofy’s Candy Co.

DCP Photo 4

Day 2: We want to have breakfast at Chef Mickey’s, which uses one TS credit per person. (We’ll get an ADR for this after we make the rest of our plans and make sure this works out for us.)

DCP Photo 5

We’ll be having a big breakfast (it’s a buffet!), so we’ve decided to use a snack credit for lunch. Don’t worry – you can get some good food with a snack credit. Things like the Hummus and Chips at Gaston’s Tavern, Bread Sticks with pizza sauce at Pinocchio Village Haus, Onion Rings or Chili Cheese Fries at Pecos Bill’s (with a free toppings bar), a baked potato or baked sweet potato at Liberty Square Market, or a giant Mickey pretzel are all great options. And don’t forget about the Real Moms’ favorite snacks!

DCP Photo 6

Then, we’ll grab a QS dinner before leaving the park or when we arrive back at our resort.

DCP Photo 7

Day 3: We’ve been able to secure an ADR for Cinderella’s Royal Table for dinner on this day. So we start by placing our TS credits for dinner.

DCP Photo 8

Remember that CRT requires two TS credits per person, which means six TS credits instead of the regular three for this meal. But since we didn’t utilize TS credits on our check-in day, we have some to spare.

DCP Photo 9

We’ll have a QS lunch and breakfast; perhaps an early breakfast at our resort before heading to the park, and then decide where we want to eat for lunch. There are so many great QS options in Magic Kingdom.

DCP Photo 10

Day 4: We’re leaving today, and will not need to eat dinner on the Disney property, so I’ll cross that out. We’ll utilize a snack credit for breakfast and grab a cinnamon roll at Gaston’s Tavern or a pastry at Main Street Bakery.

DCP Photo 11

Then, we’ll have a TS lunch before hitting the road. We’ll make an ADR at Crystal Palace.

DCP Photo 12

On our way out of the park, we’ll grab an extra snack for the road.

DCP Photo 13

As an alternative, we can try for breakfast at Crystal Palace or even ‘Ohana, then use two snack credits each for lunch.

We’ve utilized all our dining credits – and we’ve had great food during our entire trip!

DCP Photo 14

For a longer trip with more park options, things can get tricky. So take your time and decide what will work best for your family. Our Disney Dining Credit Planner will allow you to easily see where you are using your credits and change things around before making your dining reservations.

You can download our Real Mom’s Disney Dining Credit Planner with instructions for FREE. Please let us know if you have any questions and how this tool helps you plan your trip!

Would you like to see more planning samples? Let us know!
 
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