11 Best Disney Tips for Dads

11 Best Disney Tips for Dads

Disney vacations are daunting.  First, they can be incredibly expensive.  That’s especially true if you want to make it the best vacation for your family, which for me translates into spending more.  Then, you have to plan to painstaking levels of detail in order to make your vacation the best it can be.  Once you pay the money, the planning begins.  There is nothing scarier than spending thousands of dollars on the “perfect vacation” and having it not turn out the way you wanted.  However, these 11 Best Disney Tips for Dads will set you on a path to that perfect vacation for you, your kids, and your significant other.  So, let’s get started.

  1. Plan, plan, plan – I’m the worst when it comes to expecting impeccable service when I pay top dollar.  I expect all of my family’s wants to be handled when I shell out thousands on a vacation.  Disney is not this way.  Understand that you need to make restaurant reservations 180 days before your trip begins.  You need to make FastPass reservations 60 days before your trip (assuming you are staying in a Disney resort).  And before you do these, you need to have figured out where you’re staying, when you’re going to parks, what tickets you’re getting, transportation, etc., etc.  Don’t worry, there are many resources for planning.  It actually gets pretty fun to do it.  The point is to do it.
  2. Determine your budget – Going into a huge amount of debt for Disney is not the smartest move.  There are many ways to do Disney from inexpensive to very expensive.  You will enjoy it so much more if you’re not worried about the financial impact of this vacation.
  3. Figure out what your family wants – To be a Dad superhero, you need to put your family first.  Once you know your budget, do a little research on what resorts fit that budget.  All Disney resorts are themed really well and none of them are “cheap.”  From there, figure out what is more important to your family.  My family really enjoys meals at Disney and we put more money toward those than we do toward other things like souvenirs.
  4. Your kids don’t understand what this costs; don’t get frustrated – Kids don’t get the concept of money.  They don’t understand this is very likely a once in a lifetime vacation that you really want to come off perfectly.  I’ve heard more than a few parents surprise their kids with a Disney vacation and don’t get the thrilled reaction they were hoping for.  I’ve seen multiple temper tantrums from worn out kids in the middle of the parks.  This typically occurs in front of their confused and frustrated parents that can’t figure out why their kids aren’t happy the entire vacation.  In reality, they’re just tired.  My point is, don’t be disappointed if you pull a Clark Griswold and set high expectations that aren’t met.  Just enjoy the moments you get.
  5. Don’t try and see it all – it’s impossible.  There are four main parks at Disney World.  You could spend two weeks there and not do it all.  Pick the things your family most wants to do and make those a priority.  Consider anything else icing on the cake.
  6. Plan rest time – this is a must.  There are two forms of rest time.  The first is a rest day.  Parks are tiring.  My family can only do two full park days in a row before needing a rest day.  Rest days can still be fun.  You can shop at Disney Springs or relax at the pool.  The point is in a full week, you will need one or two rest days.  The second rest time is during the day.  We like to plan a meal in the middle of the day outside the park.  Listen to our third podcast for a great place to do this at Magic Kingdom.  Some people love to go back to the resort for a nap or pool time.  Either way, a couple of hours rest can really recharge your family for the rest of the day.
  7. Focus on the transportation – your family will focus on the fun stuff.  If you want to make it smooth, figure out the transportation piece.  First, get to Disney.  Second, determine the best way in and around Disney.  Third, have a back-up plan as Disney transportation will fail occasionally.  Finally, get home from Disney.  This picture is my family at a Disney bus stop.  See how happy they look?  Those smiles go away quickly when transportation becomes an issue.  Trust me on this guys.
  8. Do something for yourself – this is important.  You have to take care of yourself.  The old saying that nobody is happy when Momma isn’t happy is true.  It’s also true for Dad.  For me, it’s planning to grab a beer and relax while the kids play each day.  It’s something small, but it really lets me enjoy the moment and take a step back.  Whatever your release is, do it.  Your family will thank you.
  9. Plan a little extra magic – Disney is famous for magic.  After you complete the plan everyone is on board with, do just a little more.  On one trip, I ordered some Disney stuffed animals from Amazon and secretly packed them away.  When we got into the resort, I went to the room first and set them up for the kids as a surprise.  They loved them.  It’s the small things that add a little magic that will make all the difference.
  10. Take a CamelBak – this is my favorite tip.  A Camelbak is a backpack with a bladder you fill with water and a hose.  You can see the hose on my right shoulder in the main post photo above.  I wear this every trip.  Every morning before we leave the resort, I fill the bladder with ice and water.  We then drink from the hose all day.  It really cuts down on what we spend on water or trying to find restaurants that will give us cups of water.  Oh, and I hate drinking from water fountains.  The other benefit is you can put small souvenirs and snacks in the pockets of the backpack.  It works really well.
  11. “No plan survives first contact with the enemy” – This is a phrase we use in the military and it has a lot of application here as well.  It’s important to understand now (before you leave on your vacation) that not every part of your plan will be perfect.  No matter how hard you plan, how many reservations you make, and how many contingencies you take into consideration, things will go wrong.  The important thing to remember is to take it in stride.  Enjoy the moment with your family.  Know that you are on vacation and you are with the ones you love.  Who cares if you miss a fast pass or it rains on you?  Let it all roll of your back…like the water from the rain on the day you desperately wanted it to be sunny.

Okay, so those are the eleven tips that will really make you stand out as a Disney Dad.  Good luck and please let me know how it goes!  Also, if you have any other great tips, please send them to me.  I am always looking for great Disney tips.

7 Best Places for Beer in Walt Disney World

7 Best Places for Beer in Walt Disney World

Gentlemen, let’s face it.  For those of us that enjoy the occasional relaxing brew while on vacation, there is nothing more important than to know the best places to grab a beer in Walt Disney World.  Sure, it’s the most magical place on earth, but it can also be a stressful place.  From the amount of money you’re spending to put those smiles on your kids’ faces to the congestion of thousands of other families trying to push their way through crowded parks, a nice beer can really help you to just enjoy the moment.

Beer in Walt Disney World is not a new thing, but getting a good beer can be range from easy to very tricky – depending on where you are.  I consider myself a novice beer connoisseur.  We make our own craft beer at home, keep six corny kegs on tap, and have a beer fridge full of commercial craft beers.  That said, I’ve narrowed down this list based on my tastes (with some input from Leslie…yes, she enjoys beer almost as much as I do) which lean more toward the hoppier, craft beer flavors.  So, let’s get down to it based on location.  The first four best places for beer are found in each of the four major theme parks.  Number five is found at Disney Springs.  Finally, number six and seven reside in Disney resorts.

Disney Parks:

  • Epcot – As a place known for hosting a “Food and Wine Festival,” there should be no surprise that you can find beer in abundance at this park.  In fact, many Disney vacationers have partaken in a little game termed, “Drinking Around the World,” where each person will get a different alcoholic beverage in each of the eleven country pavilions (twelve if you count the outpost between China and Germany).  I’ve never played, but I can only imagine that the whole point is to try and remain upright?  Regardless, the best place by far to get a beer is the Rose and Crown Dining Room in the United Kingdom.  Here, you can find the largest selection of ales, lagers, and stouts in an authentic English pub.  Here is a picture of the Rose and Crown:
  • Animal Kingdom – You can find regular beer in Walt Disney World in many places, but if you’re craving something a little different, look no further than the Dawa Bar in Africa (a land inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom).  My basic go-to beer in the Animal Kingdom is the Safari Amber.  This amber has a little more body than the customary national lagers and can be ordered at almost any beer stand in the park.  However, when I’m craving something better, I head over to the Dawa Bar and grab either a Sweetwater IPA or a Victory Golden Monkey.  Both offer a great reprieve from the ordinary park beer.
  • Hollywood Studios – I tried not doing this to you, fellas.  But I have to go with Sci-Fi Dine In Theater for number three.  It’s not the best location because you can’t easily walk up and order a beer.  That said, they’ve got the best selection from Yuengling to IPAs.  If you have the opportunity to get a reservation here, enjoy the moment (and the A/C) and relax with a nicer brew in an actual glass.  You’ve earned it!  This is a beer-induced selfie taken inside Sci-Fi:
  • Magic Kingdom – The hardest place to find beer in Walt Disney World is inside the Magic Kingdom.  This is because it’s a relatively new thing to even be allowed inside, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible!  There is one catch.  You have to get beer from table service restaurants in the Magic Kingdom.  That being said, the best place is Be Our Guest Restaurant in Fantasyland.  My suggestion is to go with the Chimay Blue.  It’s good stuff.

Disney Springs:

  • There is an abundance of beer in Disney Springs.  It’s also our favorite place to relax when visiting Disney World.  There is one place that stands out above the rest for beer here.  Number five on our list is Ragland Road Irish Pub in The Landing section of Disney Springs.  This is a traditional Irish pub and an incredible place to relax with a beer.  If you haven’t been before, it’s worth a trip just to see the wood work inside the bar.  As a side note, the fish and chips are excellent as well!

Disney Resorts:

  • Disney’s BoardWalk – At number six is the Big River Grille and Brewing Works.  This microbrewery offers the most unique beer on property.  They’ve got some fantastic recipes that pair well with the great food.  Not to mention, the ambiance is fantastic.  It is located right on the BoardWalk and you can sit outside and enjoy the experience.  Here is the Big River beer flight:
  • Contemporary Resort – And finally, number seven is the California Grill.  To be fair, this is an upscale dining experience and not just a bar.  That said, they have an amazing beer and wine selection.  Here’s my tip to the dad’s out there – bring your wife here for date night.  Or if that’s not an option, bring the whole family and eat dinner while watching the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom.  Yes, the restaurant overlooks the Magic Kingdom.  My favorite beer selection here is Jai Alai from Cigar City Brewing.  It’s really hoppy and really well done.

So, these are the seven best places to get beer in Walt Disney World.  Leave me a comment and let me know what you think about any of these.  I also really want to know if you prefer any other locations.  Cheers!

Disney Inspired Mickey Ears to the Rescue

Disney Inspired Mickey Ears to the Rescue

Ok, ladies….I don’t know what happens to my hair when I enter Florida, but it gets a mind of its own! I am one of those girls that is lucky to just get my hair to what I can on any normal day.  Unfortunately, I never learned how to do fancy things with my hair like braids so I really struggled the first few times we traveled to Walt Disney World.  I would straighten it in the hotel, and the second I walked outside, it would start growing bigger and bigger!

On our first trip, we had been in Animal Kingdom for about an hour when Dan looked at me with big eyes and stated that we needed to get me a hat.  LOL! My hair would end up in a ponytail or hat on most days.  I have finally found my favorite hair solution! I have started making Disney inspired ears.  While I understand that not everyone is crafty or knows how to use a sewing machine, they really are super easy to make.  One of my next few blogs will provide step-by-step directions.

Now, I can fix my hair in the morning (use some hairspray) and put on my ears.  These little beauties manage to control the crazy!

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater: Fabulous or frightening???

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater: Fabulous or frightening???

We absolutely LOVE dining at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater! This is at Hollywood Studios and a must-do for our family.  We always like to find a place to relax during our park days, and it is not always feasible to go back to the hotel to kick our feet up for a bit.  Sci-Fi is a great place to get out of the sun and crowds to relax somewhere dimly lit and quiet.

When the cast member seats you, you enter what appears to be a 50’s style drive-in theater complete with a star-filled sky and classic cars that also serve as your booth.  On the screen, there are old, campy-style scary movie clips and cartoons playing.  This is why I have heard some parents say that they think it would be too scary for their kids.  I wouldn’t let the scary movies prevent you from trying this place out! They are of the old black and white “scary” movies with the giant spider or oversized woman attacking the town (the kind of movies that Mystery Science Theater 3000 makes fun of).  Our youngest gets frightened easily, and he thinks the movie clips are silly.

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater is considered a Table Service meal if you are using the dining plan.  Even when using the dining plan, we have always paid out of pocket for this experience because we usually like to get milkshakes, beer, and a couple of appetizers.  We have not ever had an actual meal there so I can’t speak for the entrees, but the fried pickles and spinach artichoke dip are amazing!

Our kids have always been seated in the front seat with Dan and I in the back seat.  The cast members always make a huge deal about if the kids have their drivers licenses which the boys think is hysterical.  They will usually give the boys their own drivers licenses to take home with them.  Along with the ambience, my favorite part about dining here is that the kids are usually so captivated by the movie clips that they don’t even want to talk.  I know that makes me sound like a horrible mother, but it is nice to disconnect a little and just relax.  Check it out and let me know what your thoughts are on Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater!

Click the link below to watch our Sc-Fi experience from July 2016 and go to about 6 minutes!

Worth Melting 4- Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater

 

Club Villain

Club Villain

Ok guys, this place is not cheap, but it’s pretty dang cool.  The cost is $129.  Each.  And that’s AFTER you’ve paid for admission to Hollywood Studios, so we did this one without the boys.  That said if you can afford it, take your kids.  They would love it.  So, I’ll answer the number one question we get.  Is it worth it?  Yes, in my opinion it is.

This is the whole bag.  It is a two-hour event located in the Sunset Theater (next to Rockin’ Roller Coaster) where guests can sit at tables surrounding a dance floor.  Around the perimeter of the room are food buffets, dessert buffets, and two bars.  It’s all you can eat and drink.  The bars serve beer, wine, and specialty drinks created in the spirit of each of the four villains (Maleficent, Queen of Hearts, Evil Queen, and Cruella De Vil).  Each villain also has two specialty desserts created after them.  The food was pretty tasty with shrimp and grits, voodoo pig wings, dirty rice, and more.  You will not leave hungry.

The best part of the whole evening is the entertainment.  The club manager, Kanzo, is the star of the show and sings songs throughout the night.  He is Broadway quality and very entertaining.  In between numbers, guests can use the dance floor to shake a leg.  This was mostly taken advantage of by kids, but some adults were out there.  Finally, each guest has a scheduled time they can go and meet each of the four villains at their respective thrones, also on the perimeter of the room.  That was fun, but the Queen of Hearts was hysterical.

All-in-all it was an incredible night.  Here’s a tip, sign up for the late show (on Club Villain nights, there are two start times).  You get to enjoy the park during the day and when you leave Club Villain, the park is virtually empty.  It’s pretty cool.

Check out our video to see our experience here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eFS03ntMhM

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Best Kept Secret in Animal Kingdom Park

Best Kept Secret in Animal Kingdom Park

Walt Disney World is full of activities to keep your family busy from sun up until sun down.  Matter of fact, we have spent roughly 1.5 months collectively in the World and still have yet to do everything.  While we all want to do and see as much we can on these magical vacations, let’s face it, we aren’t as young as we used to be! I don’t know about you, but I often wonder where my children get their endless energy.

With that being said, I have the perfect solution! The best kept secret at Animal Kingdom Park is The Boneyard.  Our boys LOVE this area (We may love it even more)!  It is a giant play area with rope climbing, slides, caves, and even a large area made to look like an archaeological site where the kids can unearth dinosaur bones.  The best part is that the majority of it is shaded with areas to sit! There is only one way in and out with a cast member standing duty monitoring who comes and goes.  They don’t let any kids leave by themselves so you don’t have to worry about them sneaking away from you.

Our boys ask to go here every time we are making our plans for Disney World.  It makes the must-do list for Animal Kingdom! So, next time you are there, go ahead and take a moment to put your feet up while your children run freely and burn some of that wonderful energy….the only downfall is that they don’t let you take in beer.

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