I'm a costume designer, makeup artist, teacher, mom, knitter, baker, want-to-learn-how-to-do-it-all

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I'm a costume designer, makeup artist, teacher, mom, sewer, knitter, baker, want-to-learn-how-to-do-it-all, blogging, Costumed Beagle enthusiast. I am not always pleasant, although through intensive cupcake therapy I have learned not to throw knives at people anymore.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Disney Cornered the Market on Happiness

I've been playing the part of crazy, over-scheduled person for the last month.

WEll...truthfully, that is my life, but I just didn't even pretend I could blog.  I shall try to catch up.  Starting with our trip to Disney world last month.

Last fall, as an incentive, The Citizen's father and I promised that if everyone kept their grades top-notch we would go to Disney World and Harry Potter Land.  It was a big promise.  An expensive promise.  But that's ok, we had plenty of time to plan.  This sort of thing usually falls into the area designated as dad world because he gets all the credit for fun in our lives.

But in spring, when the trip was promised, circumstances had changed and dad didn't know if it would happen.  I found this totally unacceptable and luckily, right about the same time I learned that Uncle Sam would be sending a tax return my way.  I NEVER get a tax return.  Because of the way I work, with very small contract jobs and freelance work, quite a bit of my income isn't taxed, so I invariably owe taxes at the end of the year.  I know this.  It sucks, but it is what it is.  But this year, through divine intervention or whatever, I got a return.  Enough to do the trip.  So I set about getting us ready to go.
In the end, dad came with us.

The first ride by request.  Pure joy.  And THIS my friends is
why we're willing to spend thousands on a stupid trip.

I'm a planner, but I really only had about 3 weeks to do it start to finish.  And I learned that there are very few discounts out there for Disney parks and yes, I think I peed my pants a little when I paid for those park entrance tickets.

We stayed at a hotel near enough, and quite affordable, but needed a rental car.  But it had two separate bedrooms and baths and a full kitchen, which helped cut food costs. And it was nice--not the mini slums my family used to stay in when we went to Disneyland growing up.

I used a website ridemax.com to help with park planning.  They have all sorts of tips on how to make the most of the trip and avoid lines and crowds.  They also have a planning tool that you plug what you want to do in the park that day and they will give you the most efficient itinerary to keep you out of those lines.  They don't have a phone app, but if you have a smart phone you can access the web site from it and adjust the schedule as you go.  I LOVE THIS.  One day, The Citizens rebelled and didn't want to stick to the plan...and all of theme park hell came down on us and they didn't get to ride the Toy Story Mania ride because the wait was two hours.  And guess what mama doesn't do in the ridiculous Florida humidity?  Wait in a line for two hours.  (Seriously-why do people live there??)  We went back to the plan the next day.

We only had four days for the whole of the trip, but lucky for us, our family motto is "We're not having fun fast enough!" so we could go go go.
My minion with A minion!

Harry Potter Land is in Universal Studios, and there isn't an official planning program for those parks, but I did find a site that had lots of tips that came in pretty handy, especially for picking which day we wanted to go.  Harry Potter World was quite a bit smaller than I expected it to be, but was pretty great with all the shops and Hogwarts and Olivanders.  Do the frozen Butter beer.

Here are my top ten tips if you are planning a trip like this:

1.  Do not go in summer.  It is Florida.  November-April.

2. Go early in the morning.  To every park.  Always start early.  Then, if you want to stay late and do fireworks and stuff, go back to your hotel during the worst, hottest, busiest time of the afternoon and take a nap and then go back. Be sure to check the schedule to see which of the parks (if you are doing multiple Disney parks) is the early entrance park for people staying at Disney Resorts.  If you are staying at Disney, then this may be a good park to start with, if not-pick another one.  People who don't have park-hopper passes will go to that park and then stay all day, so you are better off picking one where you can be the first person in the lines and to grab those fast-passes.

3. Get the trip planner I mentioned above.  There were several days where we hardly waited in line for anything. Stick to the plan.

4. Get an insulated backpack.  Like this one.  Freeze water bottles and pack it with snacks for the day.  A small pack like this will hold enough for 4 and will still fit on the rides.  I hit a grocery store when we arrive and get things like go-gurts, crackers, cheese sticks, cereal bars, granola bars, bottled water, squeeze apple sauce, fruit leather, baby carrots and those pre-cut packaged apples and coke (for me--those things are $4 in the park). Or sometimes sandwich fixins, but sandwiches get smashed unless you do wraps.

5.  Plastic Baggies.  These always seem to come in handy.  Especially if you plan on going on water rides.

6.  Take breaks.  Like I said, I'm a go-er, but a bit of down-time is nice.

7.  Plan on how much you are willing to spend on souvenirs.  My kids were saving their allowance for months so they could buy whatever crap they wanted.  I promised them I would buy them a wand and then said a little prayer that there would be wands less than three digits in price.  ALL the wands at Olivanders are $32.50, which while still not cheap, was not complete highway robbery and didn't leaving me telling them which wands they could and couldn't get.  They were also allowed one fun treat of their choice during the trip.  (We ate other things in the park, but not too many.)

8. If you want to eat at a restaurant in the parks, be prepared to sell your soul.  Well...maybe not that bad, but you can book reservations months and months in advance, so if you don't do that (like me) you may not be able to.  We ate out a few times, and used yelp to avoid fast food.  Had great Mexican and Indian that way.

9.  The Dole Pineapple Whip thingies are only sold in Adventure land of Magic Kingdom.  Right now, there is also a stand in Epcot in front of the lake, but an employee told me that was temporary and would probably be going away.  Do not miss your opportunity, because you stupidly think you can always get one later at another location.  You will be disappointed.  They are not in Animal Kingdom LIKE YOU WOULD EXPECT.

10.  Do not underestimate the power of Its a Small World and The Tiki Room.  Magic happens there.  Plus they are out of the sun and cool.

We had a great time.  We came home exhausted, but happy.  And I am also happy to report that I never need to go to Florida again.  I love Disneyland, but the expense and allure of going to the big parks is a one-time thing-so I think we'll probably just stick to our west-coast roots from here on out.

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