Early Childhood Homeschooling Made Easy

Taking teaching and your child's future into your own hands.

Disney’s Youth Education Series

Disney Parks in Florida and California offer a Youth Education Series for students and their teachers.  This program is also available for homeschooling families.  (They are also great for Girl Scout and Boy Scout Troops too.)  My daughter and I will be attending a class this November at Epcot called Experiencing Synergy in Science, and we are very excited.

The Youth Education Series is a hands-on, educational adventure.  It’s a collection of guided field studies in applied sciences, environmental studies, liberal arts, and leadership development.  This program is accredited, standards based, and designed to reinforce your classroom lessons.  Students will be able to practice teamwork, critical thinking, and problem solving skills while your group participates in one of a kind experiences that use the magic of Disney to make learning even more significant.

Useful information about the Program:

  • Guided, in-park educational field studies with courses at Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California.
  • Year-round educational opportunities offered seven days a week.
  • Available to elementary school, middle school, junior high, and high school students of all ages from around the world traveling in groups of 10 or more.  Homeschoolers, Girl Scout Troops, and Boy Scout Troops are welcome.

Groups can register online at:

http://www.disneyyouth.com/our-programs/education/sp/youth-education-series/#categories-youth-education-series

I will be doing a post about the class we attend this November.  I will try to get as many pictures as I can, but since I will be participating, it may be hard to do.  Have any of you ever attended a class at one of the Disney Parks?  I’d love to hear about it.

Leave a comment »

Disney World Homeschool Days

IMG_8146

Some homeschoolers may not know about this, but Disney World has Homeschool Days (Disney Student Seminars) twice a year.  I ran into some information about this last year, but my daughter wasn’t old enough to attend.  Since my daughter will be turning 5 this fall, I decided to look up Disney Homeschool Days for 2015.  They will be doing it again this Fall.  It appears they do one at the beginning of the year, and one at the end of the year.

When you attend Disney Homeschool Days (Disney Student Seminars), you can buy discount Disney Theme Park tickets at a HUGE savings.  If you’re a homeschooler, this seems like the perfect time to take a trip to Disney.  For instance, a regular 3 day park ticket is normally $275 for an adult (before tax).  With the Homeschool Days discount, you’ll only pay $173.74.  For a 3 day park hopper ticket. you’d normally pay $339 for an adult (before tax).  With the Homeschool Days discount, the 3 day park hopper ticket is only $200.50.  That’s a pretty good savings.  If you are taking a longer trip and need a 7 day park ticket, you’d normally pay $335 (before tax).  With the Homeschool Days Discount, you’ll only pay $232.63.  Wow, right?

The Homeschool Days only gives you discounts on park tickets.  It does not provide discounts for Disney Resorts or Dining Plans.  That’s my understanding of it, anyway.  When you attend the Homeschool Days, you are required to attend at least one seminar, which will be included in your park ticket price.  To attend more seminars, you have to pay extra.  I’ve seen prices ranging from $29-$35 for extra seminar classes.  Disney’s site lists the price for extra seminar classes as $35.

Beyond attending one seminar class, you are free to do whatever you want on your vacation.  You do not have to hang out with other homeschoolers.  You don’t have to attend any other events.  You can go about the rest of your trip as you wish.  Sounds pretty awesome to me.

If you want further information, here are some sites you can check out.

This is Disney’s site for registering for the Homeschool Days (Student Seminars):

https://www.studentguest.com/studentseminars/

Here are a few other sites listing information for 2015:

http://gatewaytomagic.blogspot.com/2014/10/disney-homeschool-days.html

http://www.amothersrandomthoughts.com/2014/11/disney-homeschool-days-now-known-as.html

http://magicalfamilyadventures.blogspot.com/2015/02/dollars-and-sense-walt-disney-world.html

http://www.carolinahomeschooler.com/disney-world/

The last link is for a homeschooling site that offers group homeschooling trips.  The site registers for the Homeschool Days for you as part of their group.  I’ve read good reviews about them, and it’s a reliable site.  I actually may book my trip through them.  The regular Homeschool Days (Student Seminars) are in September and October, but Carolina Homeschooling offers their group trip in November.  They still only require you to attend one seminar, then you are free to spend your vacation however you’d like.  They also coordinate homeschool trips to Universal Studios, but this blog post is all about Disney.  Check out their site for more information on their other trips.

Hopefully, this information will be helpful to those of you that may be interested in attending Disney Homeschool Days. I don’t know about you, but I am ready to register and start planning my trip.  🙂

9 Comments »

Frozen Birthday Party

IMG_7736

Like a lot of girls right now, my daughter wanted a Frozen birthday party.  My husband, who is a little Frozen crazy too, wanted to give her a big Frozen party for our family and close friends.  I was hesitant.  With my husband’s big family, parties are not exactly fun to plan and carry out.  But since Kayla was so excited, I decided to go ahead and do it.  The party was a success, but did require a lot of work to plan out.

As life sometimes happens, the morning of the party, Kayla woke up sick with an upset stomach.  Although the party went well, we didn’t get to put up all the decorations and do everything we planned, but we did get mostly everything done.  Kayla was a trooper while we set up for the party and during 3/4’s of the party.  Toward the end, her upset stomach started to catch up to her.

Here are some highlights from the party.

IMG_7722

IMG_7525 IMG_7526

IMG_7523 IMG_7528

IMG_7535 IMG_7538 IMG_7540 IMG_7543 IMG_7560 IMG_7566

IMG_7715

We had cardboard stand ups so the kids could take pictures with them, and we used the Olaf one to play Pin the Nose on Olaf.  The kids loved them.

IMG_7570 IMG_7574 IMG_7582 IMG_7591 IMG_7593

We played Sven’s Buckets, and used fake snowballs to throw into the buckets.  This was my daughter’s favorite game/activity at the party.

IMG_7595 IMG_7597 IMG_7602 IMG_7638

Then we played Pin the Nose on Olaf.

IMG_7648 IMG_7650 IMG_7656 IMG_7665 IMG_7674 IMG_7681 IMG_7692

Next up was building a snowman with Olaf stickers.  I had a set of Olaf stickers for all the kids where they have to put him together.  I also had other Frozen stickers, so they could create their own Frozen ornaments.

IMG_7708 IMG_7710 IMG_7709 IMG_7703

I decorated a cake table for Kayla’s Frozen cake and Olaf cupcakes.  It came out really pretty.

IMG_7724 IMG_7725 IMG_7726 IMG_7729 IMG_7730 IMG_7731 IMG_7738 IMG_7742

Kayla got a lot of present, and only about a third of them were Frozen related.  Which was fine with us because she’s getting plenty of Frozen stuff on her actual birthday and for Christmas.

IMG_7743

IMG_7748 20141103_194446 IMG_7797

Party planning

IMG_7798 20141103_092910 20141103_092751 20141103_101455 20141023_183647 20141023_132632

20141007_215224 20141103_223346

Leave a comment »

Frozen Fridays

As with many kids right now, especially little girls, my daughter loves everything Frozen. We have the dvd, the cd in the car, posters on the wall, several shirts, gym shoes, a backpack and lunch bag, an Elsa costume, coloring books, reading books, dolls, etc. The list goes on and on. Whatever we can find in the stores and online that is reasonably priced, we buy it. Although she has only watched the movie a handful off times, she has listened to the cd more times than I could possibly remember.

Due to this current obsession, I decided to do “Frozen Fridays” over the summer. My husband is always out fishing on Friday nights during the summer, and my daughter and I are free to do whatever we want for the evening. Since I am a stay at home mom, some Fridays can seem to last forever. My solution is to find activities for us to do to keep us busy. Each Friday, I would come up with different Frozen themed activities for us to do together. Although at times it has been a lot of work, it has also been fun.

Here are a few of our Frozen Friday activities:

Make your own Olaf

20140711_200709

20140711_195013

20140711_200719

20140711_201034

Make your own Frozen Cakes

20140711_204434

20140711_211615

20140718_202657

20140718_202609

Make Frozen Rice Crispie Treats

20140712_183741

20140718_205355

Frozen Jello

20140718_205418

20140718_205805

Snowball Cookies

20140815_204429

20140815_203750

Blue Frozen Sugar Cookies

20140725_193654

20140725_202608

Those are just some of our Frozen Friday activities. What type of Frozen activities have you done with your kids? I would love to hear about them, and see pictures.

Leave a comment »

Best Rides and Attractions for Preschoolers at Disney World

IMG_4583

I’ve been to Disney World many times. The majority of my visits were when I was young, but I have been three times as an adult. I remember the rides I loved as a kid. They stand out in my mind and bring back great memories. There is nothing like being a child and going on some of the Disney classic rides for the first time. It truly is magical.

Last year when preparing for our trip, and my daughter’s first time going to Disney World, I did a lot of research. One of my main areas of focus was rides. I wanted to make sure I knew in advance what rides she was able to ride on (height requirements), and which ones were age appropriate for her. I knew there may be a few rides that she would be tall enough to get on, but she may not be quite ready for yet, for one reason or another. Luckily, since it was Disney World, she was able to ride on lots and lots of rides on our trip. She was thrilled since she is already a ride junkie.

When we went on our trip last November, we went the week before Kayla’s 3rd birthday. A year later, we are planning on going again, this time the week before her 4th birthday. Once again, I find myself researching rides to see what rides she will be tall enough to go on, and what rides are appropriate for her age. I don’t think any parent wants to take there kid on a ride that is going to traumatize them, or that will ruin their child’s love for rides. In all honesty, I think that most of the rides at Disney World are fairly tame for kids that are thrill seekers. But there are rides, for more timid riders, that may be a bit much.

So here is my list of the best rides and attractions for preschoolers at Disney World.

Magic Kingdom

– Dumbo

– It’s a Small World

– Peter Pan’s Flight

– PeopleMover

– Winnie the Pooh

– Mad Tea Party

– Regal Carrousel

– Jungle Cruise

– Magic Carpets (just like Dumbo, but with Aladdin’s carpets instead)

– Railroad

– Buzz Lightyear

– Enchanted Tales with Belle (not really a ride, but still cute)

– Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid

For more daring preschoolers, like my daughter, there are even more options. Some of these have height requirements, so make sure your little ones are tall enough. I am focusing on rides that are for kids 5 and younger.

– Astro Orbiter

– Big Thunder Mountain (40 inches or taller)

– Barnstormer (35 inches or taller)

– Haunted Mansion

– Pirates of the Caribbean

– 7 Dwarfs Mine Train (the newest family roller coaster, 38 inches or taller)

– Splash Mountain (40 inches or taller)

There are all types of stuff for youngsters to enjoy at the Magic Kingdom. Some of my favorites as a kid were the Enchanted Tiki Room, Country Bears, and Carousel of Progress (which is also great for getting out of the heat).

IMG_4579

Epcot

– Spaceship Earth

– Journey into Imagination with Figment

– Gran Fiesta Tour (World Showcase, Mexico)

– Seas of Nemo and Friends

– Soarin (40 inches or taller)

– Test Track (40 inches or taller)

– Turtle Talk with Crush

There are other stuff for the little ones to do, but some of it won’t hold their interest very well. We actually used Ellen’s Energy Adventure to put our daughter down for a nap last year. She stayed awake up until she saw the dinosaurs, then she fell asleep on my lap. Kids also enjoy the kidcot fun spots. It can keep the kids entertained while adults and older kids check out the shops.

IMG_4932

Animal Kingdom

– Dinosaur (40 inches or taller)

– Kali River Rapids (38 inches or taller)

– Kilimanjaro Safaris

– TriceraTop Spin

There are a lot of shows, trails to see animals, and areas to keep the kids busy at Animal Kingdom. This was my husband’s favorite park because it’s more laidback. Not as many rides. There’s a lot of nature. It also has an education aspect to it.

IMG_4643

Hollywood Studios (MGM to those of you that haven’t been there in years.)

– Great Movie Ride

– Star Tours (40 inches or taller)

– Toy Story Mania

– Tower of Terror (40 inches or taller)

Hollywood Studios is a great place to see lots of shows for the little ones. They have the Muppets, Disney Junior, Beauty and the Beast, and Voyage of the Little Mermaid. There aren’t a ton of rides here, but the shows and atmosphere make it worth it. And now this year they have a Frozen Sing Along that will delight all the little Frozen fans.

IMG_5102

Disney World’s four theme parks are definitely geared towards kids and families. They have plenty of rides for young kids, with just enough stuff for older kids and adults to stay interested. I hear parents all the time worry about taking kids under 5 to Disney World because they think the little ones won’t have enough to do. Believe me, there will be more than enough stuff to keep your little one entertained at the World. It’s well worth the money.

1 Comment »

Getting a Lunch Fastpass+ Reservation for Be Our Guest Restaurant at Disney World

20141017_140649

Since Be Our Guest restaurant first opened at Disney Word, it has been a hard place to get into for lunch and dinner.  For dinner, you have to try to obtain an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) because it is a table service restaurant at dinnertime.  But for lunch, you either have to stand in the insanely long lines, or get a Fastpass+ reservation for it.  Be Our Guest is considered a quick service location for lunchtime.  (I know, it’s a little confusing.)  Luckily, we are staying onsite, so we have the option to get a Fastpass+ reservation.  This Fastpass+ does not count toward your normal 3 Fastpass+ reservations a day.  This is a separate system all together.

My first piece of advice for anyone trying to get a Fastpass+ for this is to not get stressed out.  If you are staying onsite in one of the Disney World resorts, you will have the opportunity to log onto a special website to get the Fastpass+.  The window opens up 27 days before the day you want to dine there.  Exactly 27 days.  So if you are going to be at Disney World from November 1st – 8th, and you want to eat at Be Our Guest on November 4th, you will need to make the Fastpass+ 27 days before your dining date.  Not 27 days from the start of your trip.  This has been confusing to a lot of people.  From my own personal experience, it doesn’t open up at exactly midnight from 27 days out.  You’ll just have to keep checking back all day until you finally see it open up.  Don’t get frustrated and give up, because it will open up eventually.

The website you will go to is:  https://beourguestlunch.disney.go.com/

When you go to the site, you can use your disneyworld.com username/email address and password to log on.  When you log in, you will need your 12 digit reservation number to proceed any further.  This will not be your normal confirmation number with the letters and numbers.  This reservation number has no letters in it at all.  You can find your reservation number in several places.

Places to find reservation number

–  If you booked a Disney vacation package and have less than 60 days until your trip, you can find it at  https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/trip/my-vacation/.  Click on the Check-in Online link.  When you click on it, or hover over the link, your 12 digit reservation number will appear in your browser URL address field.  (Where you type in website addresses at the top of your screen.)  I had to click on the link in order to see the number.

–  If you are taking the Magical Express to your resort, the number can be found on the luggage tags Disney mails to you.  Disney mails the luggage tags to you about 30 days before your trip.

–  If you are getting the Memory Maker package, you may be able to locate your 12 digit number with your package info.

–  I believe anyone that books a room-only stay at Disney resorts can find their number at https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/trip/my-vacation/.  I assume they can locate their number the same way a person that books a package can locate theirs, by going to the Check-in Online link.  If not, you should be able to find it on your reservation page on the website.

20141016_012122

After typing in your reservation number and name on your reservation, you will be able to schedule your Fastpass+.  It’s very straightforward, and even allows you to pre-order your food.  The option to pre-order our food was a bonus for us.  Anything that can save some time in the parks is nice in our opinion.

The site will give you the option to add any celebrations to your party, such as, birthdays and anniversaries.  I was able to add my daughter’s birthday as a celebration.  It was a nice touch, and saves us from having to try to inform the host/hostess or waiter/waitress once we arrive.

The site will take you screen by screen to help you set up your Fastpass+.  The following screen shots are just an example of the options I had for one of my days.  This is not our actual reservation, but I did want to let people see what the site looks like once you’re logged on.  I found it frustrating when I was looking up information online that I couldn’t find much details about the actual site.

The first screen gives you options on what you’d like to do.  You can Select or Replace your Fastpass+, View, Modify Meal Selections, or Cancel.

20141016_004831

Next, you Select the Day you want to dine at Be our Guest.

20141016_004911

Then it tells you who will be part of your dining party.  Your dining party will be everyone staying in your hotel room for your package stay or your room-only stay.  You can reduce the size of your party upon arrival for your Fastpass+ reservation.

20141016_005037

After that, you will Select an Option for what type of Fastpass+ you want.  You can do Direct to Table or Expedited Arrival.  With Direct to Table, you get to pre-order your food so when you arrive, they will just bring you out your food.  You won’t have to worry about ordering food once you get there.  If you prefer Expedited Arrival, this is just the traditional Fastpass+ that will get you in sooner than the stand-by line, but you will order once you arrive at the restaurant.  On this page, you will also get to pick your Arrival Window for your Fastpass+.

If you are doing the Direct to Table option for dining, you will get to decide how you want to Plan Your Meal.  Do you want to plan for each member of your party individually, or do it as a group?

20141016_005123

20141016_005136

The next screen will give you Meal Selection options.  It will give you the menu and let you decide what food you want to order for each member of your party.  My only complaint is that a few menu options appear to be missing.  It’s not a huge deal for us, but it was a bit disappointing that one of the entrees I was considering isn’t listed.  So if you’ve been viewing the menu online, please keep in mind that all menu items may not be options when you do the Direct to Table Fastpass+.

20141016_005224

20141016_005308

20141016_005638

20141016_005727

Once you make all of your selections, it will let you Review Your Meal.  This is just a summary of the food you just picked out.  Make sure everything is right before moving on.

20141016_005854

20141016_021509

20141016_021448

20141016_021727

This Fastpass+ does not appear to show up on your regular list of Fastpass+ reservations, so you should write down your confirmation information, take a picture of your screen with you cellphone so you have it on hand, or print out the page.

For anyone that wants to get into Be Our Guest for lunch, the Fastpass+ seems to be the best option available right now.  If we weren’t traveling with a soon to be 4-year-old that has her heart set on eating there this year, we probably would have taken a pass on this restaurant since it’s a bit of a hassle.  But for us, this was a must-do on our list this year to make our little princess (and birthday girl) happy.

* Sorry for the poor quality pictures. These are just simple pictures taken with my cellphone of the screen shots. I wanted to be able to show everyone exactly what the screens looked like when I booked my Fastpass+. Also, the screen shots are just examples, and are not our actual Fastpass+ reservation details. After doing the examples, I went in and made our official reservation.

Leave a comment »

Once Again, We’re Counting Down to Disney

It’s been awhile since I’ve put up a new post.  I’ve had plenty of things I’ve wanted to share, but little time to sit down and type up a post, along with pictures.  I promise to do better.  With the summer coming to an end soon, it should be easier to find some time to get this blog rolling again.  

IMG_6724

Once again, my daughter is counting down to our trip to Disney World.  I was able to get her to hold out a little longer this year before putting up our chart, but eventually I had to give in and let the countdown begin.  We are currently under 90 days till our trip (80 to be exact), and I am in full on planning mode.  I am trying to prepare a loose itinerary, plan out what rides I want to try to get fastpass+ for, make any changes to our Advanced Dining Reservations, and make any arrangements that have yet to be made.  Sometimes it feels like a daunting task.  But other times…it just fuels the excitement.

20140810_231253

I’ve been going to Disney World for as long as I can remember.  I have wonderful memories of going there as a kid with my family.  Now as a parent, I am thoroughly enjoying passing down my love for Disney World to my daughter.  (I was even able to get my husband to appreciate Disney World when we went last year.)  I loved seeing her eyes light up when she saw her favorite characters in person, and when she got to go on the various rides for the first time.  The memories are priceless.

Over the course of the next few months, I will be doing multiple Disney themed posts.  If you are not a Disney fan, please bear with me.  If you are a Disney fan, please feel free to post comments sharing your own Disney experiences, memories, and tips.  Remember, everything I post here are just my opinions, or from research I’ve done online, through books, and from my own personal experiences.  I do not claim to be an expert.  I am just another Disney fan that enjoys sharing my love for Disney with others. Come along on this magical journey with me.

IMG_4420

IMG_4424

IMG_4676

IMG_4690

IMG_4691

IMG_4694

IMG_4928

* Note: If you are interested in how I made the Disney Countdown Chart, please see my previous post from July 2013.

Leave a comment »

An Invitation for MyMagic+ Testing and the arrival of our MagicBands

Envelope containing our invitation for MyMagic+ Testing.

Envelope containing our invitation for MyMagic+ Testing.

On Thursday, October 10th, we finally reached our 30 day mark until our trip to Disney World. Kayla (my daughter) and I were already excited to finally reach this milestone. As soon as Kayla woke up in the morning, she jumped out of bed and wanted to update her Countdown to Disney chart. Today was a big day.

Me, Kayla, and her favorite monkey with the Countdown to Disney Chart.

Me, Kayla, and her favorite monkey with the Countdown to Disney Chart.

Me and Kayla with our chart.

Me and Kayla with our chart.

Kayla with her countdown chart.

Kayla with her countdown chart.

We updated the chart, we took a few pictures at her request, and I told her that our MagicBands should be getting shipped soon. She was so excited that she couldn’t stop smiling. Then to make the day even better, we received a letter from the mouse himself. Yes, we officially got invited to participate in the MyMagic+ testing. Kayla was thrilled to receive an invitation from Mickey Mouse. She made me read the entire invitation to her, and explain what it meant.

The Front of our invitation.

The Front of our invitation.

The back of our invitation.

The back of our invitation.

As if receiving the invitation wasn’t exciting enough, the next morning when we woke up, the UPS guy delivered us a package. Kayla was squealing with excitement when grandma announced that the package was from Disney. Kayla couldn’t believe that Mickey Mouse sent us a package. We immediately opened it, and it was our MagicBands. All three of them were customized exactly as we wanted them. My band is blue, Kayla’s is pink, and my husband’s is red. Our names are also printed on the inside of the bands.

Kayla waiting for grandma to come into the kitchen so she could open the box.

Kayla waiting for grandma to come into the kitchen so she could open the box.

Looking at the box.

Looking at the box.

Deep in thought.

Deep in thought.

MagicBands

MagicBands

The packaging is very nice. Impressive even. Kayla said it was fancy. I thought it was a nice touch that Disney sends them via UPS Next Day Air. This will definitely be comforting to people who are leaving on their vacations a week or two before actually arriving at Disney World. It gives you one less thing to have to worry about when you receive it early. I grew up in a family that used to drive down to Florida every year and spend several days visiting relatives, going sightseeing, and going to other theme parks before going to Disney World. So I think it is thoughtful of Disney to send out the bands early enough that most people would be able to receive them prior to their trip. Some people may argue that it’s a waste of money for them to ship it Next Day Air, but I liked it. Plus, I’m spending enough money on my resort and vacation package that I think this simple perk is the least Disney can do. 🙂

Kayla looking at our bands.

Kayla looking at our bands.

Grandma asking Kayla what she thinks of the MagicBands.

Grandma asking Kayla what she thinks of the MagicBands.

MagicBands in the box.  This is after I already removed the outer part off of Kayla's band.

MagicBands in the box. This is after I already removed the outer part off of Kayla’s band.

Kayla and I tried on our MagicBands. The band should be able to fit most people. It was easy to remove the outer part of the band to make it small enough for Kayla’s wrist. It fit on my wrist with no problems and was fairly comfortable. If I want a tight fit, I can even remove the outer part of the band and only use the smaller part meant for the kids. (I know, my wrist is small. Don’t judge.) My concern will be whether it makes me break out in a rash since my skin is sensitive to certain things. When we get closer to our trip, I may try wearing my band around the house for a day to see if it gives me any issues. I’d rather know before we go. I made my husband try his band on when he got home, and it fit with plenty of room to spare.

My excited sleepyhead trying on her MagicBand.

My excited sleepyhead trying on her MagicBand.

My MagicBand

My MagicBand

The MagicBands are made of some type of rubbery material, and are pretty flexible. There is a Mickey head on top of the band. On the inside of the band, there is a band number that is unique for each guest. I love the fact that you are able to customize the bands by choosing the color you want, and putting your name on it. It’s nice to be able to personalize it. I think this will help encourage young kids to wear them. Kayla loved seeing her pink MagicBand in the box. She knew right away that was her band.

MagicBands 022

My name on the inside of the band.

My name on the inside of the band.

Kayla's name on the inside of her band.

Kayla’s name on the inside of her band.

My daughter is very adamant that we don’t play with our MagicBands. She keeps telling me that they are for Disney World, and we can’t wear them yet. I appreciate how serious she is about it, but she may make it hard for me to wear it for a day to test how it feels and how my skin reacts. I may have to sneak and do this while she is hanging out with daddy in the basement.

After we received the bands, I checked my email and noticed I had an email from Disney. They actually sent an email notifying me that they shipped the MagicBands. The email provided the UPS tracking number for our package. Even though I saw it after the fact, I still appreciated that they did notify me and gave me the tools to track my package, if necessary.

After I already received the bands, I saw that Disney emailed me letting me know the MagicBands had shipped and informing me of the UPS tracking number.

After I already received the bands, I saw that Disney emailed me letting me know the MagicBands had shipped and informing me of the UPS tracking number.

Our Magicbands in the box they arrived in.

Our Magicbands in the box they arrived in.

It’s been an exciting week with lots of anticipation for our upcoming trip. Kayla is even more enthused about the idea of going to Disney World. I can’t wait for our magical adventure to begin.

If anyone else out there has already tested the MagicBands, let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear about your experience. If you’re someone who will be testing them on an upcoming trip, share your thoughts so far. Are you excited about the new technology? Does it intimidate you? Do you have concerns? Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions.

Leave a comment »

Disney World’s MagicBands and FastPass+ Testing

magicbands pic

As of yesterday (9-25-13), we are 45 days away from our Disney vacation. The resort we will be staying at is part of the testing for Disney’s new MagicBands and FastPass+. I’ve been impatiently waiting for the last month or so to find out if we would be part of the testing when we arrive.

Once it was officially September 25th (sometime after midnight), I decided to log onto My Disney Experience site to see. To my delight, I finally had the options to customize our MagicBands and make FastPass+ selections for our trip. Yay!!! You honestly have no idea how happy I was to see this. I am not one for putting my excitement on display, but I will admit that I was smiling ear to ear and doing a little happy dance.

Kayla updating our countdown to Disney chart.

Kayla updating our countdown to Disney chart.

Kayla is excited that we're getting closer and closer to our vacation.

Kayla is excited that we’re getting closer and closer to our vacation.

The MagicBands and FastPass+ are part of Disney’s new MyMagic+ experience. MyMagic+ is Disney’s way of allowing guests to have more control over their vacation, personalize their experience, and make things more convenient. I was a little worried about these changes when I first started reading about them, but now I’m mostly just excited to see how this all works. So far, I like it.

MyMagic plus has many elements to it, with the first being the My Disney Experience website and mobile app. Once you register on this website, you are able to personalize your entire vacation. You can purchase a Disney vacation package, buy theme park and water park tickets, make dining reservations, set plans for your day to day itinerary for your trip, complete online check-in for your resort, and link reservations/tickets bought from third parties to your homepage. You can make and share plans with family and friends in your travel group. And you can manage your MagicBands and FastPass+ selections. The website and mobile app will be your go-to vacation tools when planning your next trip to Disney World. I’ve been playing around with the website and mobile app for a few months, and I love them. One nice feature of the mobile app is the ability to look up current wait times at each of the parks for rides and other attractions.

FastPass+ is the updated version of the old FastPass system. In the past, you would have to go to the FastPass machines in the theme parks, insert your admission ticket into the machine, and obtain a printed FastPass ticket that would give you a time range for when you could ride with little to no wait. You would come back during your assigned time range and get in a special line that had a much shorter wait than the regular lines. I never particularly liked this system because it required a lot of running around to obtain FastPasses for the most popular rides. There were only a number of rides that even offered FastPasses at each park. Not every ride had this option. If you didn’t obtain FastPasses early in the day, there was also the chance you wouldn’t get one because they would run out.

Old FastPass ticket

Old FastPass ticket

The new FastPass+ has a much more user friendly approach to the same concept. There will be a lot of people out there who don’t like dealing with new technology and planning in advance that will despise this new system. But I am LOVING it. This new system allows you to go online or on the mobile app and schedule your FastPasses BEFORE your trip. So here I am at 45 days until my trip and I am able to schedule all of my FastPasses for each of my days at the different theme parks. Oh, and I can also change the time ranges for the FastPasses if I don’t like the the original time assigned to me and my traveling group. How cool is that? No more running around the parks trying to obtain the FastPasses I want, and hoping to get a good time range. Now I can simply log into the My Disney Experience site, schedule the FastPasses I want, alter the times to fit into our schedule, and not have to worry about it anymore.

When you have access to fastpass+, this is what the initial screen will look like.  It will show if you've already made fastpass+ selections and if you have dining reservations for that day.

When you have access to fastpass+, this is what the initial screen will look like. It will show if you’ve already made fastpass+ selections and if you have dining reservations for that day.

This screen allows you to choose what you want to do next.  You can make fastpass+ selections, change current selections, copy selections to another party member, and cancel all selections.

This screen allows you to choose what you want to do next. You can make fastpass+ selections, change current selections, copy selections to another party member, and cancel all selections.

Here is an example of fastpass+ selections I was playing around with the other night.  I have the option to make changes to all three selections.

Here is an example of fastpass+ selections I was playing around with the other night. I have the option to make changes to all three selections.

If I chose to change the time for Toy Story Mania, it will give me options for what times are available on this date.

If I chose to change the time for Toy Story Mania, it will give me options for what times are available on this date.

This is the itinerary screen.  This is where you can add plans to each day of your vacation.  If you want, you can roughly plan out your entire vacation with the My Disney Experience website.

This is the itinerary screen. This is where you can add plans to each day of your vacation. If you want, you can roughly plan out your entire vacation with the My Disney Experience website.

The way FastPass+ works is definitely different. Big users of the old system may not like the fact that Disney is currently limiting how many FastPasses a guest can get each day. Right now the number is three per day, with some people getting a bonus FastPass for the Magic Kingdom. It doesn’t look like we will be one of the lucky traveling groups getting a bonus FastPass, but I don’t really mind. I hear there are rumors that once FastPass+ is completely up and running (no longer in testing), the number of FastPasses will be determined by whether you are staying at an on-site or off-site resort/hotel, and whether you are at a value, moderate, or deluxe resort on-site. People staying at a Disney deluxe on-site resort may be able to get up to five FastPasses each day. Again, this is just rumors at this point. Who knows what will actually happen once FastPass+ is officially rolled out.

Disney’s MagicBands are the most interesting new development. The MagicBands are rubberized bands that you will wear on your wrists while visiting Disney World. These bands will act as your theme park and water park tickets, your Disney resort room key, and allow you to purchase food and merchandise. You will use the bands to schedule FastPass+ selections at the new FastPass+ machines in the parks, and it will allow you to check-in for your FastPass+ reservations for rides and attractions. In essence, these bands will replace the old “key to the world” cards that guests used to get. It’s my understanding that for people who are against this new technology, you will still have the option to use the old fashion ticket to enter the parks and unlock your resort room, but will not have access to some of the newer features.

New FastPass+ turnstiles at Disney World.

New FastPass+ turnstiles at Disney World.

The MagicBands will also be another way to personalize your Disney experience. People staying at a Disney resort will be able to customize their MagicBand by selecting the color they want and having their name printed on the back. If you customize your MagicBand between 45 and 30 days before your trip, Disney will mail the MagicBands to your home. If you don’t customize them in advance, you will be issued standard gray ones without your name on it when you arrive. When you’re in the parks and you swipe your MagicBand to enter a FastPass+ ride, Disney cast members (employees) will now be able to see your name on a screen and acknowledge you by name. This may seem a little creepy to adults, but will be a cool touch for kids. Imagine how your child’s face will light up when the various people at the Disney theme parks will know their names without asking. Pretty cool to most young kids.

Once you arrive at Disney World, there are accessories that you can purchase to personalize your MagicBand even further. I’m aware of three different kinds of accessories. There are CoverBands, MagicSliders, and MagicBandits. The CoverBands are fabric covers that you can buy to cover up your entire MagicBand. MagicSliders are large square charm pieces that you can slide onto your MagicBand. MagicBandits are small charms that snap into the extra holes on the MagicBands. All three options feature popular Disney characters and designs. I am looking forward to letting my daughter, Kayla, personalize hers once we get there.

MagicBand accessories

MagicBand accessories

The convenience of the new MagicBands is what truly amazes me. I think it’s nice that you will no longer have to worry about fumbling around with a paper ticket or plastic card in order to enter the theme parks, pay for meals, pay for merchandise, and unlock your door at your resort. It’s one less thing to have to worry about. For me, that is exciting since we will be traveling with our daughter who will be turning 3-years-old the day after we return home from our trip. I am all for the added convenience. Whatever makes a trip easier when traveling with children, sounds good to me. Not to mention, my daughter will be thrilled when we receive the MagicBands in the mail. I even customized it in her favorite color, pink.

I am having fun scheduling my FastPass+ selections. I find it is a little hard to decide so far in advance exactly what rides to get FastPasses for, but I like the idea of knowing I have the FastPasses I want and being able to plan my day accordingly. It may take some of the spontaneity out of the trip, but it is an added convenience to me. It probably helps that I am a planner, and I like to have a rough schedule of what we have going on so I can factor in my daughter’s nap time and bedtime, etc. I find myself not even hating making the advanced dining reservations as much as I initially thought I would. It’s a little annoying, but also nice to know that we won’t be limited to only eating at counter service locations because the lines are too long at table service restaurants. That is no fun. The only problem I’ve run into so far is trying to schedule everything around each other…meaning FastPass+ selections, advanced dining reservations, and my daughter’s nap time. Some of the times conflict, so this has been a minor issue while planning, but nothing overly frustrating. All it has really done is make me step back and remember not to over-schedule our days. It is a vacation, so there should be down time here and there to make sure we all get the rest we need.

For all you planners out there, you are going to love the new MyMagic+ experience at Disney World. Just remember, don’t get carried away with planning every second of every day. Disney World has a lot of stuff to do, but it’s important to find time to relax too. Even the princesses and the mouse himself need rest.

P.S. Here is the website for logging onto My Disney Experience. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/

3 Comments »

My Top 10 reasons for going to Disney World with kids 3 and under

Cinderella's Castle at Magic Kingdom.

Cinderella’s Castle at Magic Kingdom.

Since we’ll be going on vacation to Disney World soon, and it happens to be one of my all time favorite vacation destinations, I want to do a series of posts about Disney World.

My daughter, Kayla, will be turning 3-years-old in November. The week before she turns 3, we are taking her to Disney World. This was my decision, and my husband has gone along with it. I don’t think it mattered to him if we went now, or two years from now. He said it was completely up to me when we go since I was going to be the one planning it, I’m the one primarily paying for it with some money I had set aside, and because Disney World means so much to me.

Ever since I made the decision a year ago that I was not going to wait until Kayla was older to go, I’ve been bombarded with questions from family and friends about why I am going when she is so young. Everyone has their own opinions about it. These opinions range from, “you should wait until she’s old enough to remember it,” to “you should go when she’s older so she’s easier to travel with,” to finally “you should go when she’s old enough to understand where you’re going.” The last one is almost laughable to me because Kayla completely understands where we’re going and is super excited. She talks about our trip all the time.

Kayla in front of our countdown to Disney chart.

Kayla in front of our countdown to Disney chart.

I figured I would make a list for everyone to explain my top 10 reasons for going to Disney World with young kids. Maybe this will end up being helpful to those of you out there who are going through the same questioning by your family, friends, and co-workers. And maybe it will help all the negative people out there understand a little better why some of us want to take our young kids to Disney World.

So here we go:

10. If you talk to your youngster about the trip, show them pictures, show them videos, and get them involved, they can completely understand that you are going on vacation to Disney World. My daughter has known for a few months now, and she is totally and completely excited about it. We talk about it every single day. We have a countdown to Disney chart. We watch You Tube videos of the rides and of the parks in general so she knows what to expect. And we read Disney travel books together. She has her on Disney World for Kids travel book that she loves. My husband is blown away by how much Kayla knows about Disney World. She knows way more than him, and he’s 36. Kids can understand a lot more than we give them credit for, so don’t underestimate your child.

Celebrating my 3rd birthday in Florida at my grandparents' house.  This was in 1983.  We always stayed at their house because it was a great way to save money, and we'd get to spend time with my grandparents on our "resting" days.

Celebrating my 3rd birthday in Florida at my grandparents’ house. This was in 1983. We always stayed at their house because it was a great way to save money, and we’d get to spend time with my grandparents on our “resting” days.

9. It can be a wonderful learning experience. Your child can start learning long before you even go on the trip by teaching them about going to the airport, flying on airplanes, staying in a hotel, and the concept of going on vacation. (It helps if you’ve taken a mini trip before where they already have an understanding of vacations and trips.) You can have your child get involved with planning by showing him/her pictures and videos of various things and getting their input on what they like and don’t like. Then once you get to Disney World, there are so many learning opportunities there. Take your child to Animal Kingdom where they will get to see all types of animals, go on a safari ride, and learn about helping animals. Then take them to Epcot where they can go around the World Showcase and taste foods from all around the world. Epcot has some great educational rides, like Universe of Energy where you can learn about the history of energy, how energy is produced, and searching for new energy resources. The best part of the Universe of Energy ride is when you’re seated watching a video, your seat turns into a moving vehicle, and all of a sudden you are on a ride with animated dinosaurs. I remember loving this ride from a very young age. There are several other educational rides at Epcot that are fine for young kids to go on. New experiences are essential to a child’s development. So why not give them some new experiences that the whole family can enjoy?

Epcot

Epcot

8. My parents took me to Disney World for the first time when I was 2-years-old. I was turning 3 that summer while we were on vacation. My family used to go down to Florida twice a year to visit relatives. When I was younger, they would leave me with my grandparents while they took my older sister to the theme parks. I believe they wanted to be able to focus on enjoying all the rides with my sister for another year or two before having to take me along and focus on me.

Despite what most people think, I do have memories from my first trip to Disney World. No, they aren’t completely clear memories, but they are vague memories that I have carried around with me all my life. I can remember the feeling of excitement. I can remember sitting on my grandpa’s shoulders to watch the parade. I remember loving the parade, even though I can’t tell you anything about the parade now. I remember resting in my stroller while people in my family took potty breaks. I remember that my grandpa never went to the bathroom the entire time we were there and my mom kept telling him he was going to have bladder problems. I remember wanting a big pinwheel sucker and my mom saying no. The sucker was so colorful. I remember feeling a sense of awe when I went on rides. I remember that my favorite ride was It’s a Small World, and I loved singing the song. I remember being very tired at the end of the day and my dad carrying me to the tram. I also remember the smells. The smell of sweets and popcorn.

These memories may be vague and I may not remember a lot of details, but they are still memories. These are not memories that came from pictures, or even from family stories. They are things I have asked my mom about over the years and she has confirmed as being real memories from my first trip there. Now that my dad and grandpa are gone, I cherish every memory I have of them, even the vague ones. For the things that I don’t remember about my first trip, I can see in pictures in our family photo albums. I love looking at our old vacation photos. And lets face it, we never know how long any of us has on this planet, so why put off the opportunity for great memories?

My mom, my dad, and me standing on the steps of the Mexico Pavilion at Epcot.

My mom, my dad, and me standing on the steps of the Mexico Pavilion at Epcot.

Me with Tweedledee or Tweedledum.

Me with Tweedledee or Tweedledum.

7. Young kids can eat, stay, and fly for free. If you get the Disney Dining plan with your Disney resort package, you don’t have to pay for kids under 3. They can just eat from a parent’s plate. They don’t even offer the dining plan to kids under 3. You have to pay for the dining plan for kids 3 and older. Even most off-site hotels allow kids to eat for free. Kids also stay for free at hotels/resorts. And If your kid is really young, you may opt not to buy a seat for them on the airplane and just have them ride on your lap. You can always make the choice to pay for a seat for them and bring their car seat for safety reasons, but it’s not required when they are under a certain age. (Beware of bad turbulence.) I believe if they are under 2, they can ride on your lap. These three things alone are huge money savers.

6. Disney World is the perfect place to expand a child’s imagination and offer plenty of stimulating experiences. Having a good imagination is important for kids. It’s good for kids to be able to dream, learn to make wishes, and to gain an appreciation for great storytelling. Disney World has live shows, play areas for kids, splash zones, and kid activities. Do some research. There are a number of things for young kids to do that will help them use their imaginations and be creative.

5. The Magic Kingdom caters to families and young kids. Out of all the rides and attractions in the park, there are only four that my daughter will not be able to go on. There are 30 something rides/attractions at the Magic Kingdom. Not being able to do four things is hardly a reason not to go. Granted, my daughter is tall for her age (38 inches), so the majority of the rides she can’t go on are the roller coasters at the theme parks. Luckily, Disney World isn’t a big thrill ride place, so most of the rides can still be enjoyed by kids who are 3 and under. A good portion of the rides are slow moving rides, which is perfect for young kids.

4. The hotel/resort is as much of an attraction as the theme parks at this age. They enjoy exploring the hotel, playing in the pools, checking out the gift shop, and hanging out in the hotel room. With a young kid, you can easily spend a whole day at your hotel/resort and they’ll still be happy. Older kids usually don’t enjoy “resting” days as much as younger kids.

This is me on one of our "resting" days when I was little.

This is me on one of our “resting” days when I was little.

3. The photo memories you can capture are priceless. Have you seen the beautiful pictures of a baby being held by Mickey Mouse, or a toddler walking up to her favorite Disney character for the first time? What about the pictures of 1, 2, and 3 year old little girls wearing a princess dress and getting their very first hug from a Disney Princess? I’ve also seen some wonderful family photos taken around Disney World. I am hoping to get a nice picture of Kayla, my husband, and myself for our Christmas card this year. Those photos capture moments that your child may not be able to remember, but will be able to look back at later. They are pictures that parents, grandparents, and friends can enjoy. You can show your child the pictures over the years and discuss the trip often to help secure the memories in their mind. The pictures are once in a lifetime photo opportunities that may not be quite the same when your child is older and more aware of what is really going on. Part of the beauty of some of the best Disney pictures I’ve seen is the pure innocence of the children in the pictures.

Me eating my Mickey Mouse ice cream.

Me eating my Mickey Mouse ice cream.

I loved seeing Chip and Dale in person for the first time.

I loved seeing Chip and Dale in person for the first time.

2. When you wait until your kids are older, some of the magic may already be gone. The older your kids get, they start to understand that all the characters are just people dressed up in costumes. They may not be as excited about half the rides there because they may want more advanced rides. They may not even be impressed by fireworks and parades anymore if they’ve seen them at other places, like at home on 4th of July. As much as this Disney Lover hates to admit it, I have known quite a few people over the years who went to Disney World when they were older (or have taken their older kids to Disney World), and they weren’t as impressed. Especially if they are older kids who enjoy going on really fast roller coasters. Kids who have already experienced going on numerous thrill rides tend to be less impressed by Disney’s slow moving dark rides.

I’ve also noticed that boys tend to grow out of Disney World faster than girls if they don’t obtain an appreciation for it when they are younger. When I was little, three of my male friends went on a trip to Disneyland in California. I was so excited for them, and I couldn’t wait to hear about their trip when they got home. To my horror, they came home very disappointed by the whole experience. They thought it was boring, and that the rides were too kiddie. At first, I wanted to believe this dislike was due to the fact they went to Disneyland instead of my beloved Disney World. I was wrong. They didn’t realize before they went that there wouldn’t be lots of roller coasters and thrill rides like at Six Flags theme parks. They didn’t enjoy the traditional Disney rides at all. They had no interest in meeting the characters. They also thought the shows and parades were cheesy. I was horrified. I’ve gone through life telling myself that I have to take my kids to Disney World for the first time while they are still fairly young so they will appreciate the magic.

1

Show in front of the Castle.

1. Kids under 3 are free at all four theme parks and the two water parks. Yes, FREE! You can save hundreds of dollars on admission tickets by going to Disney World when they are under 3. Once they turn 3, you have to pay for admission to everything.

Ok, so those are my top 10 reasons for taking kids 3 and under to Disney World. Sure, there are reasons for waiting until they are a little older (4, 5, 6, etc), but I think there are plenty of reasons for families to consider going while they are younger.

Please feel free to share your reasons for taking your young kids to Disney World, or on other vacations. I would love to hear about your experiences with taking your kids for the first time. What was their favorite part? Do they have any memories of it? Do you think it was worth the trip? How did you prepare your kids for their first Disney vacation?

Leave a comment »