Kind Kiddo

Real, Funny, Fun Parenting


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Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios with 2 Young Kids in 1 Day

My family of four took our first official family vacation to Orlando this summer.  I previously wrote about our fabulous hotel, the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes and How To Conquer The Magic Kingdom in 1 Day with Young Children.  And now it’s time to move on to our single day at Hollywood Studios.  As I mentioned in those previous posts, our trip to Orlando was just 3 nights long.  Our kiddos are just 4 and 1, so we decided to make this a short visit to the happiest place on earth.  We’ll return in a few years or so when they’re older and capable of more.  But for this trip, 3 nights was perfect, and it meant that we only had two days to spend at the parks.  We chose The Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.  The Magic Kingdom is obviously the main and most traditional park.  As for Hollywood Studios, it actually has lots of Disney Junior action going on.  And as any of you parents to babies, toddlers and preschoolers know, Disney Junior is a pretty darn important part of life.  So off we went on day 2 of our Disney adventure.

We arrived at Hollywood Studios just before they opened, but unfortunately there was already a super duper long line for entry.  And it was hot.  And there was no shade where the line was.  And although that’s not a great way to start the day, particularly with two young kiddos, we stayed positive and got in the park as quickly as they allowed.
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We utilized the FastPass+ program at this park just as we had at The Magic Kingdom, and it was very helpful and convenient.  The first thing we did was pose for a picture with Goofy since he had coincidentally walked out for a meet and greet as we were first entering.  My 4-year-old loves Goofy, so this was an important moment for us.  The line went pretty quickly, and it was in the shade, so no complaints here.  Our FastPasses were for a little later, so we decided to go ahead and do The Great Movie Ride first since the line was super short.  We also ended up visiting the Honey, I Shrunk The Kids playground, Muppet Vision 3D, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Disney Junior Live, Star Tours (we used rider switch on this one and it worked out just fine) and Toy Story Midway Mania throughout the day.  Our 3 FastPasses were used on Disney Junior Live, Star Tours and Toy Story Midway Mania.  Star Tours and Toy Story can have really long lines, so that’s why we used FastPasses on them.  As for Disney Junior Live, it was simply important to us to go, so that’s why we chose that one.  I didn’t realize that Disney Junior Live was going to be a puppet show.  I had assumed the “full-sized” characters would be onstage, but that wasn’t the case.  Even so, our kids absolutely loved it, and it was nice to sit in the AC for about 30 minutes.  Jake and Sophia were near the Disney Junior Live theater for meet and greets, so we did that, of course.
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I would have to say that the highlight of our day at Hollywood Studios was our reserved lunch at Hollywood & Vine.  This was our one splurge character meal, and I’m so very glad that it was.  Hollywood & Vine features Disney Junior characters who sing and dance every few minutes as well as go table-to-table taking photos and signing autographs.  We got a great table that was within arm’s reach of a performance area.  As I looked around the restaurant I saw lots of happy kids but also parents that, like me, knew the words to the Disney Junior songs that were being blasted throughout the place.  It was really fun, and the food was quite good.  I mean, the food itself wasn’t worth $30 per person, in my opinion.  But the experience was, so it felt satisfying and all good.  I’m really thankful that we decided to go.
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Overall at Hollywood Studios we accomplished 7 rides and attractions and a super entertaining lunch experience.  I’d say that’s not too shabby considering we only stayed until 5:30pm.  But before we left the park I decided to buy my birthday boy (it was Rowdy’s actual 4th birthday on this day) a big Disney balloon from the vendor near the entrance.  I fully expected this balloon to be expensive.  We were at a theme park for God’s sake.  Everything is expensive.  But when the dude told me they ranged from $10-$12 each, I was a bit shocked.  I’m no cheapskate, but a $10 balloon?!  Damn!  But I had already promised a balloon to my kiddo, so I picked one out and got out the last $10 in my wallet.  “That one’s actually $12″, he told me.  Go figure.  My husband forked over the difference and we were the proud new owners of a $12 balloon.  I must admit that both of the kids played with that balloon a lot when we got back to the hotel.  And the next morning when we were leaving the hotel to head back home, we found a little girl to give the balloon to since we couldn’t take it on the airplane.  I told her mom that it was 12 bucks and we wanted someone else to get some use out of it.  She and I laughed about the craziness of it all and parted ways.  Goodbye Ritz.  Goodbye Disney.  Goodbye balloon.
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Final Notes
1.  If someone in your party is a Star Wars fan, then you definitely need to ride Star Tours and visit the gift shop.  My kiddo got a custom-made light saber there, which was quite thrilling for him.
2.  Hollywood & Vine restaurant is a must for Disney Junior fans.  Doc, Manny, Jake and Sophia were all there performing and mingling among the tables.  It’s about 30 bucks per person, but completely worth it if Disney Junior is important to you.
3.  Disney Junior Live is also a must for Disney Junior fans.  Please note that it’s a puppet show, but still very fun and entertaining.  Even my 1-year-old loved it.
4.  The Toy Story Midway Mania ride is very fun, and anyone can ride, but if you’re taking a baby or toddler like I did, hold their head steady when you’re moving.  That ride jerks very quickly, which can easily cause a tiny one’s head to bang into the back of the seat.
5.  See other good notes from my previous Magic Kingdom post.


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How To Conquer The Magic Kingdom In 1 Day With Young Children

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We recently took our very first family-of-four vacation to Orlando.  You may have read my previous post about our fabulous, family-friendly hotel, The Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes.  Now that I’ve told you all about our awesome hotel stay, I’m ready to fill you in on our Walt Disney World adventures, starting with The Magic Kingdom.  Our entire trip was just 3 nights long with just 2 days designated for Disney World.  Our son, Rowdy, turned 4 on our trip, and our daughter, Romy, had recently turned 1.  My gut instinct told me that 3 nights would be plenty for our little kiddos.  My gut was right.

Before our trip I had researched Disney World pretty thoroughly.  I had asked friends that are frequent Disney visitors for advice, and I had searched the internet high and low for good info.  What I heard and found turned out to be a huge help on our trip.  Let me just go ahead and tell you what to do to get started on your Disney World research.  First of all, create a My Disney Experience account on Disney’s website, and then download the app on your smartphone.  Next, book your hotel/trip.  I chose to book through Southwest Vacations and went with The Ritz.  With such young children we simply weren’t worried about staying at a Disney Resort (they didn’t know the difference) and wanted to treat ourselves to an offsite luxury hotel.  Plus, we got a great price.  If you choose to stay at a Disney Resort, then you’ll most likely purchase park tickets at the time of booking.  Either way, you’ll need to purchase park tickets soon, so go for it.  And, yes, they’re expensive.  Our 1-year-old was free, but we spent $600 on 2 day’s worth of park tickets for 3 of us.  Holy crapballs, right?  So after you create your online account, download the app, book your trip and buy your not-so-cheap park tickets, you’re ready to get to the details.

Let’s talk FastPass+.  The Disney FastPass+ is super helpful, completely free, yet can create some major pressure on the trip planner.  Let me explain.  The FastPass+ allows you to go to the FastPass+ line at a ride or attraction.  This line is much shorter than the regular line.  What’s the catch, you say?  Well, you can only get 3 FastPasses up front per day, and only after you have purchased your park tickets.  Also, you can choose your 3 upfront FastPasses up to 60 days in advance if you’re staying at a Disney Resort and up to 30 days in advance if you’re not (like us).  So you really do need to complete the things I mentioned in the paragraph above ASAP.  When you start the online or app process of choosing your FastPasses, you’ll catch on quick.  It will show you what time slots are available for what rides, and you simply choose what works for you.  Well, maybe it wasn’t that simple.  I mean, the process was, but the pressure of committing to a time frame on rides and attractions was kinda crazy.  How do you choose, you ask?  I chose after doing my online research.  I figured out what rides and attractions would be the most important to us, especially considering the young age of my babes.  I had also read that it’s good to get to the park at opening, hurry to your top 3 rides (don’t use FastPasses on them because the lines won’t be that bad first thing in the morning), and then start using the FastPasses after that.  So, that’s exactly what we did.  Right after we got in there we mall-walked our way to the backside of the castle to hit up The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh, Dumbo The Flying Elephant and It’s A Small World.  These 3 rides are particularly great for little bitty kiddos (even the baby got to ride), plus, they’re pretty iconic in the Disney world (pun intended – ha!).  Because we got started first thing in the morning the lines for these 3 weren’t very long at all, although we did wait for a few minutes in each.  Waiting at Winnie was especially neat because there are fun Pooh-ish activities for the kiddos along the way.  My husband and I laughed about how waiting in line at theme parks when we were little was super basic and super boring – just us, our parents and the railing.  The wait for Dumbo was pretty neat as well.  There is an air-conditioned play area that you can utilize while you wait for the ride, but we didn’t have to since the line was pretty short.  And waiting for It’s A Small World was good because we had a view of the beginning of the ride and the boats arriving, etc.  Anyway, we accomplished the first 3 rides without our FastPasses within the first hour and twenty minutes that we were there.  Plus our son got a picture with Winnie The Pooh.  I felt like Super Mom accomplishing those goals like that while still having fun.  How in the hell that actually worked out the way I planned, I will never know.  We had FastPasses for The Barnstormer (because it’s Goofy-themed, and my son loves Goofy), Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (because I had heard the lines get really long for this one) and Peter Pan’s Flight (had also heard the lines got crazy with this one).  The baby girl was able to ride Buzz and Peter Pan, and for The Barnstormer we simply used the Rider Switch.  Rider Switch allowed my husband to ride the roller coaster with Rowdy while I stayed with the baby, and then when they were done, I got to ride it with Rowdy.  So Rowdy got to ride twice, which was a nice bonus.  We used Rider Switch 2 or 3 times overall, and it worked really nicely.  After your initial 3 FastPasses are used up, you can get another one.  Then after you use that one you can get another one.  And, so on.  There are FastPass+ kiosks in multiple locations throughout the park with attendants that can help you figure it all out.  We ended up going to The Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and The Jungle Cruise as well as the 3 rides in the morning and our initial 3 FastPass rides.  Overall that’s 9 rides, 2 character photos, 1 show, 1 parade and various random adventures in 1 day at The Magic Kingdom with two kiddos under the age of 5…and we left the park at 7pm.  Not too shabby.

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Now let’s talk about food.  We were originally going to do a character lunch at The Crystal Palace, which features Winne The Pooh and his friends.  But we decided to save our expensive meal for the next day at Hollywood Studios (good move on our part – more about Hollywood Studios in a later post).  After all, Rowdy had already gotten a photo with Winnie over by the ride that morning.  So we headed over to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe for a “cheap” lunch.  As I looked at the Cosmic Ray’s menu I was reminded that I am, indeed, in a theme park, Disney or not.  And I am, indeed, going to be eating McDonald’s-esque food at 2-3 times the price.  So on we went eating our burgers and fries in this super crowded, yet air-conditioned cafe.  Oh, and my husband discovered cheese sauce at the condiment station for my fries, so that put a nice smile on my face.  And go figure that we ended up eating a very similar meal for dinner right before we left the park.  But for dinner we switched it up and went with a chicken sandwich with our fries.  Some good news is that my husband and I shared our dinner meal, and it was plenty of food, so that saved us 10 bucks.  We kept our meals pretty basic at The Magic Kingdom (although we did devour a churro, of course), but we were happy with that decision.  My husband and I have been lucky enough to eat at some of the country’s best restaurants and just couldn’t imagine that a $100 lunch at Disney World would even come close to any of our past fine dining experiences.  No offense Disney, but we didn’t visit you for your food.

Characters, character everywhere.  There really are.  As soon as you enter the park you’ll start seeing characters.  The only problem is that lines form to meet these characters FAST.  Thus the attraction of the character meals offered at certain restaurants, because characters will come by your table and give you special attention and pose for pictures.  You don’t have to wait in a long line in the heat, but you do have to pay about 30 bucks per person to eat there.  As I mentioned above, we chose not to dine at The Crystal Palace because our kiddo had already posed for a pic with Winnie (whom is the featured star at The Crystal Palace).  And we got that pic with Winnie without waiting too terribly long because we were in the right place at the right time.  We had just completed The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh when my husband spotted The Pooh, himself, approaching the area.  He literally snatched up Rowdy and ran over there and ended up being the fifth or sixth person in line for a photo opp (being physically fit is quite the advantage when you’re at Disney).  We had a similar experience with Buzz Lightyear.  We were just about to ride the ride and we saw Buzz walking out.  Again, Ryan snatched up Rowdy and ran over there for a pic.  Another advantage to taking such a young child to Disney World is that he was super satisfied with a mere two character photos for the day.  He didn’t request a photo with every single character he’s ever watched on TV.  Hell, he was probably so overloaded with amazement by his surroundings that he didn’t even have time to wish for what he didn’t have.

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Before we had even arrived in Orlando we had decided to skip the fireworks at The Magic Kingdom.  It may be an excellent fireworks show, but we were dragging a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old around that place all day and knew that staying at the park until 11pm would be a bad idea.  Some folks leave the park in the afternoon to go back to their hotel for a nap, and then return to the park at nighttime so they can enjoy the fireworks.  My thoughts on that?  By the time we take the freaking boat across the lake, hop on a shuttle back to the hotel, take care of stuff at the hotel and then go back to the park, it would take at least 3 hours, even longer if the kiddos took a long nap.  Plus, like they’re really gonna nap.  I mean, come on.  Maybe some kids would, but mine are always so excited about hotel rooms that naps during the daytime are almost impossible.  So we opted to exit the park right after our chicken sandwich dinner, get our babies clean and in bed and then enjoy a few drinks alone on our balcony.  Mission: accomplished.  (Bonus – we could see the fireworks in the distance from our hotel balcony.)

Final Notes
1.  Create a My Disney Experience account, download the app, book your trip, buy your park tickets.
2.  Reserve your initial 3 FastPasses 60 days in advance for Disney Resort guests and 30 days in advance for non-resort guests.  Seriously, do it exactly 60 or 30 days in advance.  Don’t wait until the last minute because FastPass time slots fill up fast.
3.  There are electrical outlets where you can charge your phone near Rapunzel’s Tower.  It’s a nice shaded area with benches.
4.  Catch a quick show in front of the castle or a fun parade near Main Street at numerous times throughout the day.
5.  Use the app to look up current wait times and helpful locations in the park.
6.  Wear sneakers, people.  I saw tons of sandals, which shocked me.  Do yourself a favor and dress comfortably from head to toe.
7.  Save money by sharing meals and bringing your own snacks.  Plus, having snacks in your bag while waiting in line comes in mighty handy with little kids and babies.
8.  Carry a backpack.  I left my cute Tory Burch tote back at the hotel, y’all.  Trust me.  Backpack = lots of storage & handsfree.
9.  Drink plenty of water, especially in the summer time.
10.  Have fun, parents!  Remember that whole thing about the tickets costing $100 per person per day?  Get your money’s worth!  If there is something you want to do that your kiddos aren’t super enthused about, DO IT.  Disney World was about the kiddos for us, but we also kept in mind that we wanted to enjoy it as well.  So we kept a positive attitude and had a good time, even when our sweet little angels were whining.  :)

End of day & Rowdy was super thrilled to take yet another pic.

End of day & Rowdy was super thrilled to take yet another pic.

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