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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Monday, February 27, 2012

Traveling Safely

Our family was headed to the local mall for a community event when the boy informed us that he likes to travel the world.  Yep.  He does, and so do his parents.  He got his first taste of travel at the wee age of 3 weeks old when he took his first flight.  This got me thinking about travel safety.

Safety at Home:  We make sure things stay safe at home by making sure the mail and newspapers are either stopped or brought in daily.  If it’s winter, we hire someone to shovel snow from the driveway and sidewalks.  It it’s summer; we do the same for mowing the lawn.  And, we leave some lights on or on a timer. 

We have someone come to our house four times a day to take care of our pets.  We love that someone is in our house while we are gone and she takes care of the mail, newspapers, even the garbage.

We also make sure that our luggage tags just have our name and cell phone number, not address.  Nothing like advertising the address to others while you aren’t at home!  Same goes for magazines that we might take with us and read.  I don’t leave them in the airplane seat pocket when I’m done if our address is printed on the cover.  I have noticed lately that many magazines come with the address on a label attached to plastic wrap around the magazine—no address on the magazine itself.  Start looking for my leftover magazines on planes!

Safety While on the Road (or in the air):  We make sure our vehicle is in good condition and ready to make the journey.  We also travel with a cooler, if by car.  Even if flying, we carry on snacks.  We make sure we have proper identification, car insurance information, medical insurance information, trip insurance information, airline telephone numbers, and destination numbers.  Typically, I program all telephone numbers into my phone.

We leave a detailed itinerary with family and friends that includes arrival and departure dates, flight numbers, and the telephone number and address of our destination(s).  It is also a good idea, if traveling internationally, to leave a copy of Passports with a trusted friend, in case your gets lost or stolen.  The copy can be faxed to a needed location.

Packing travel guides for your destination can also be helpful.  When we cruise, we take a Disney Cruise Line travel guide in case our shore excursion is canceled and we need to pick a new one, or we want to see the layout for another ship when making a reservation.  We do the same for Walt Disney World and have done the same when traveling to Universal and SeaWorld.  Even though we have studied before we go, it is helpful to have a guide handy for any last minute questions or planning.

If flying, we abide by all TSA regulations for checked bags and carry on allowances.  The last thing I want is to be delayed due to luggage weights or security issues.  We also keep our luggage secure before checking it for flights.

Safety at our Destination:  Traveling with a child means taking extra care for safety and security while traveling, even with one as seasoned as ours.  We try to make sure he is as familiar as he can be with the destination.  We research, look at pictures, read books, and watch videos before our trips.  We are also specific about where to go and who to go to for help or assistance, if we become separated.  I also put a label in the back of his shirt, under the tag, that has my name and cell phone.  If we were to become separated, he can share that information with someone who can assist him without making it visible to everyone.

I also take a picture of him daily so that if something were to happen, I have a recent photo that includes what he was wearing.  When we wear matching shirts, it is even easier to remember! 

Both the husband and I carry our cell phones, and keep them charged, in case we become separated from each other.

We also pack necessary medicines, first aid treatments, and a change of clothes for the boy. . . just in case.  We also bring copies of all prescriptions including eye glass and contact prescriptions, just in case.

Most destinations have items in case of emergency but it may not be the brand or type you and your family members are used to using.  If brand, size, type, and convenience are important to you, then be prepared by packing your own.

While making these safety preparations may seem like a hassle, the peace of mind that comes when we are prepared is, in my opinion, worth it.  We have been the ones who have needed assistance because we weren’t prepared, and we have been the ones to offer assistance to others who weren’t prepared.  For me, it’s best to be prepared. 

Happy and safe travels! 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Up Close and Personal With Monster Trucks!

The boy was able to get up close and person with Monster Trucks.  Here’s how it happened. . .

Our local event center, Bridge View Center, was hosting a Monster Truck show on the very same week-end as a theater production the husband was performing in along with me taking care of sound.  So, the Williams family spent the week and week-end at the event center.

On Friday night, after the theater show was over and the Monster Trucks were over, I was able to get the boy into the arena the “back way.”  You see, one of the things the husband and I do in our spare time, is volunteer at the event center as staff for various events.  We’ve checked ID’s and put on wrist bands, sold concessions, ushered people to seats, cleared tables after dining events, etc.  Volunteering has its perks, as we know the staff of the event center, as well as our way around the building, so getting him behind the scenes wasn’t too difficult.

He got to see the arena and the trucks on Friday night.  They were parked and the arena was empty.  The boy made it his goal to see the trucks in action and up close.

Saturday night, I was able to get away from the sound board during intermission and we made our way into the arena the back way again.  It was also intermission for the Monster Trucks, but there was some activity.  The fork lifts were removing the crushed cars and putting out new cars to be crushed in the next round.  The boy was mesmerized.

Later, one of the event center staff checked on us in the sound booth.  The boy asked him if he would take him in to see the Monster Trucks.  Yes, was the reply.  The boy happily accompanied him and got to see the Monster Trucks in action.  It made his night!

When the theater production was over on Saturday night, the boy and I again made our way back into the arena as the Monster Truck event was exiting, too.  Once there, we asked if we could get up close for a picture.  Sure enough, the barricade was moved over and we were able to get up close the Monster Trucks for photos.  The boy was thrilled!

It is so great to have such a facility in our community.  We are happy to volunteer to support events at the event center.  We get to meet new people and learn new skills.  It is also a great way to see various performances for free. . . other than a bit of your time!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Packing, Planning, and Purchasing--Being Prepared for a Walt Disney World Vacation

What gets me excited about a Disney vacation?  The husband would say “everything.”  He’s mostly right. (Don’t tell him I said that!)  Yet, there are a few specific things that I especially look forward to.

Packing—I know.  Most people would say “yuck” to this specific task, but I actually enjoy it.  I make a list and then cross off items as they go into the bags.  And, I even include which bags get which items.  For example, one of the carry-on bags will have swimsuits, so that we can swim at the resort upon arrival—if we want to do that—as it will take a few hours for our checked bags to arrive in our rooms from the airport.

We take 3 bags to check at the airport—one for each of us, 3 carry-on rolling bags, and 3 personal items.  The boy has a backpack as his personal item and it contains his toys, books, and electronic items and it is his responsibility to pack his backpack.  It’s fun to watch him think about what he will need and then plan accordingly.  I have no idea where he gets that!  The rest of the bags are my domain.

Once everything is packed, I inform the husband where certain items are located.  For example, the fruit snacks are in your backpack.  This saves him asking me and when the boy requests a snack, the husband knows where they are and can find them in case I am busy doing something. . . say driving.

I must also confess that we have bags that are perpetually packed, which does make this task easier.  We have a luggage stand, like you would find in a hotel room, in our spare bedroom and it holds our suitcases that already have our sets of matching Disney shirts.  All I have to do is pack the ones we are taking, add in the rest of the stuff and we are pretty much ready to go.

Planning—yep, one of my favorites.  I think it has something to do with the dreaming and visualization of the vacation as I plan that provides such pleasure.  Planning can take considerable time and research.  Due to our familiarity with the destination—it has become easier to make decisions.  There are still some decisions that give me fits, but only temporarily. 

While on the phone with our travel agent the other day (planning our December after cruise Walt Disney World stay) it went something like this. . . “3 nights at Port Orleans French Quarter, 1 day tickets, no hopper, add the dining plan.”  It almost sounded like I was ordering a sandwich.  Now, our plans may change later, and there is flexibility to make that happen.  But as of right now, we are set.

Another part of planning a trip to Walt Disney World, that I actually love, is the 180 day window to book your Advanced Dining Reservations, or ADR’s.  Some people consider knowing where and when you want to eat 6 months ahead a little constraining.  For me, it is a relief to have those decisions made and details taken care of.  I have watched families struggle to make decisions in the middle of theme parks about dining when they are hot, tired, and hungry.  It’s not a good use of vacation time and most likely, they are not going to find availability, without a long wait, to eat where they would like.  I also witnessed a man whose family had the Deluxe Dining Plan—3 table service credits per person per day—and they hadn’t made any ADR’s before arriving.  He was a bit peeved that they weren’t going to be able to use all of their purchased dining credits at table service restaurants, but instead were using them to purchase counter service meals.  He was seeing it as a waste of money and he was right.  A little planning would have eased his dilemma. 

Purchasing—While I don’t go overboard and purchase a whole new wardrobe before a Disney vacation, I do take stock and see what we might need.  For example, I just picked up a clear backpack for us to take with us to the parks.  The thinking was that it will breeze through the bag check stations at the front of the park.  We have gone through two other backpacks during our Disney travels, so a new one was in order.  I’ve picked up juice boxes as they were on sale at the grocery store the other day.  We put these in our checked bags, and then keep them in the refrigerator in our resort room for breakfast on the go.  Poptarts were also on sale and I had a coupon, so they are ready to be packed.  I have a coupon for fruit bars that I will pick up this week-end.  Granola bars, Mountain Dew, and small cereal boxes are also on my list.  We mostly eat breakfast in our room or on the go when visiting Walt Disney World.

The husband got a new pair of tennis shoes for Christmas, but the boy needs a new pair before we go.  Mine are on their last leg and will most likely not make the return trip with us.  Oh, well, I’ll have to get a new pair when we get home!  We are set with sandals.

We also pre-purchase our Disney PhotoPass CD before our trip.  The cost of pre-purchasing is $50 less than if we bought the CD at Walt Disney World or upon returning home.  I’m okay with paying $99 to get all the PhotoPass photos from our trip!

I try and spread the pre-trip purchasing out over time, as not to take out a huge one-time chunk of the household budget.  When I was younger, I worked at Wal-Mart in various positions, but as a cashier I would ring up pre-vacation purchases that had whopping totals.  You could tell by the items. . . sunscreen, camera film (pre-digital era), books, magazines, over the counter medicine items, as well as clothing, and of course, I would typically ask.  It is less painful to spread the pre-trip purchases out over time, which is the benefit of planning and packing—or at least making your list—early.  It gives you plenty of lead time to prepare for needed items.

The three “P’s” –packing, planning, and purchasing—get me revved up for a Walt Disney World vacation.  How about you?  What trips your vacation excitement trigger?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

What Not To Pack. . .

Preparing for any vacation involves packing, especially a Disney vacation.  Given the number of times we have been to Walt Disney World or taken a Disney Cruise, we have learned what not to pack.

Beach Towels—whether you are visiting Walt Disney World or taking a Disney Cruise vacation, you will not need to pack beach towels.  Towels are plentiful at the Disney resorts and are available pool side at both themed pools and “quiet” pools.  Just look for the portable towel container.  Clean towels are on the shelves on top and towels needing washed are placed in the compartment at the bottom.  Towels can be found in the cupboards near the pools marked “towels” or in crates as you exit the ship at Castaway Cay.  You can take towels off the ship for excursions. . . just return them to the ship.  There are towel return containers at various locations on Castaway Cay and just before entering the ship.

Now, having said that, a beach towel can come in handy to sit on during parades or to dry you, your family, or a stroller after rain when touring the theme parks, but only if you are willing to carry it around with you.  It is not something we do, but we have seen it done by others.

Shampoo, Soap, and possibly lotion—Disney resorts have their own brand of shampoo/conditioner combo and soap available to guests.  Disney ships have shampoo, body scrub, lotion, and depending on the category of stateroom—solar relief gel.  All of these products are of high quality and they are replenished daily, so quantity is not a problem.  We bring extras home! 

I am so used to not packing these items, that during one of our “pre-trip” hotel stays, I was left to wash my hair using body wash, as the motel did not supply tiny bottles of shampoo.  Turns out body wash does just as good a job as shampoo.

Uncomfortable Shoes—You know what I’m talking about.  I have said out loud that I am too old to wear uncomfortable shoes, but this applies to all ages when traveling to Walt Disney World.  We have seen people in high heels, boots, etc.  I overheard a lady in a hot tub one night complaining that even wearing her flimsy flip flops that she had gotten blisters.  Duh!  Comfortable and sturdy shoes or sandals.  We even apply this rule when packing for a Disney Cruise.  I don’t want to be perched on high heels while trying to navigate a moving ship.

Pillows—This is a sensitive topic, as I have seen and heard people traveling with and packing their pillows.  We have found that pillows and bedding in general at both the Walt Disney World Resort and Disney Cruise Line to be quite comfy.  We do, though, pack a pillow case for the boy.  We put it on his pillow and it gives him the smell and texture of home to help him drift off to sleep in an unfamiliar setting.  And, it takes up much less space!

Non-Disney apparel or items—The husband astutely pointed out that we don’t pack any “competition” items, such as Universal, when taking a Disney vacation.  I’m a bit of a purest when it comes to this issue.  We’ve all seen the “Thing 1” etc. shirts when visiting Disney parks and I feel those deserve to worn at the respective theme park.  We didn’t wear Disney apparel when we visited Universal.  Again, something I feel strongly about, but to each his own.

Bottles of Water—Okay, I have heard the complaints about the taste of Orlando tap water, yet personally, I have not been effected.  We have seen people carrying, packing, and purchasing cases of water to drink while on the ship or at the parks.  And, yet, water throughout the parks is FREE!  Guests can at any time go to a counter service location and ask for a water.  There will be a register transaction, just so the computer can register the order and the person behind the counter can prepare the order, but there will be no exchange of money.  And, soon, you will be holding a large glass of ice water with a lid so that you can get a straw.  Simple as that!  No trying to figure out how to keep bottles of water cold.  No lugging around water bottles.  On the ship, water is available 24 hours a day at the beverage station on Deck 9 or 11, depending on your ship.

We usually have at least one bottle of water that we have grabbed somewhere on our trip.  Then, we refill it and reuse it throughout our trip.  We may refill it at night in our resort room and put it in the fridge so it is cold by morning.  Or we refill it at water fountains in the parks—as they have very cold water!  And, yes, we share.  We’re family!  But we are toting just one bottle, that is empty most of the time, at least until we refill it.

On the ship, we have purchased bottled water to take with us on an excursion.  We bought a six pack of water for our day in Nassau, as food and drinks weren’t included with the excursion.  It was the first time in many excursions that refreshments weren’t included, so check about your excursion before making the purchase.  It was much more economical than purchasing an entire case.

There you have it.  Our what not to pack list.  Interestingly, our what to pack list is much longer!  Yet, for me, half the fun of planning a trip is planning for the packing.  It’s pretty easy to then pack and cross items off the list.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

We Are Set For Our 5th Disney Cruise and 10th Trip to Walt Disney World

For the record, I am usually a decisive person.  A gambling person, not so much.  Which is why trying to decide when to buy airfare nearly drives me bonkers.  Will the price go up?  Down?  Will the flights we want/need still be available if we wait?  I even use great technology and a fabulous travel agent to help.  It still is a gamble; or feels like a gamble. 

Today, we purchased air fare for our trip in December.  There were some qualifiers. . . the departure date had to be a certain day.  I want to make it to the Disney Dream in time!  The return date was open.  We wanted to stay at Walt Disney World after our cruise.  The length of our stay would be determined by the right price of a return flight.  And, while most of the time I am willing to drive a significant distance (4 hours max) to catch a great flight, I’m not as willing to do that in December.  Weather in the Midwest and all. 

I phoned our travel agent.  I had the flights picked out on-line.  She took the information and began to check her sources for other possibilities, using the criteria previously mentioned.  I had found the best flight deal available at this time.  There in lies the trick. . . at this time.  We paid a bit more than we normally would have, but still got what we wanted for our trip, in terms of dates, times, location, etc. 

So, how am I feeling now?  Relieved, even elated.  The decision is made.  The money has been exchanged.  We are a go!  And, am I ever excited!  Our 5th Disney cruise and our 10th visit to Walt Disney World are on the books!  I have even ordered a new set of matching shirts for the occasion!  You just wait and see!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

New Enforcement of FastPass Return Times at Walt Disney World

Will Walt Disney World really enforce FastPass return times?  And, if they do, how will it impact our vacation?

Let me begin with a bit of an explanation of FastPass.  FastPass is a ticket that “holds” a place in line of certain attractions so that guests can return later and use the FastPass line rather than the Stand-by line.  Only certain attractions are FastPass attractions and each park has FastPass attractions.  The return time on the FastPass ticket is typically an hour long, say 2:30-3:30 pm, as an example.  Guests may use their ticket media to get FastPass tickets at the attraction using the FastPass kiosks. 

Now, will Disney begin enforcing the return times?  Yes, we have not returned to attractions during the hour long window on the FastPass, as we learned the “secret” years ago that guests can return anytime after the beginning time of the return time window.  So, if the return time was 2:30-3:30 pm, we could return anytime after 2:30 pm.  If we didn’t get to that attraction until 6:00 pm, our FastPass would still be honored.

Rumor on the web—nothing official from Disney as how can they officially announce they are now going to follow their own rules—is that beginning March 7, 2012, FastPass return times were going to be strictly enforced.  The info coming from various sources cites that 5 minutes prior to the start of the FastPass return time and up to 30 minutes after will be honored.  Other than that, no way.  I’m trying to picture guests being turned away at the FastPass entrance because they were more than 30 minutes past the return time window.  Hmm. . .

One reason the “secret” of using the FastPass anytime after the start of the return time window was so great, is that it let you relax—and enjoy your vacation-- if you were stuck in a line, say waiting to meet characters or if you were eating at Crystal Palace and Piglet had yet to arrive at your table.

I’m envisioning servers at various restaurants now being rushed to bring the check, character handlers being chased down, and other hectic, blood pumping scenarios happening so that folks can get to the attraction in time to use their FastPass.

It would be one thing if a guest could choose their return time when getting a FastPass, but it is up to the FastPass machines to issue a ticket with the next available return times.  Will we now see guests standing not-so-patiently outside the FastPass Kiosks waiting for the return times to roll over to get to the time window they are needing based on ADR’s and other touring plans?

Why would Disney suddenly begin enforcing return times?  The information coming via the web indicates readiness for a next generation FastPass system that using scanning rather than a Cast Member to take your tickets.  Something about the scanners not accepting FastPasses that are beyond the time limits.  The use of advanced technology is going to make the system dumber, not smarter?  Surely Disney can figure this out and make the technology accept FastPasses beyond the designated time limits.  Or, change the FastPasses themselves to have an unlimited time of return, with only the available time to get the next FastPass having limits.  That would be fair, more palatable for guests, and make the new scanning system work.

How will this impact our vacation?  Potentially, incredibly.  We are FastPass collectors and use them later in the day.  This is how we ride Splash Mountain twice in a row or Toy Story Mania three times during the day.  We adhere to the rules for obtaining our next set of FastPasses, as the machine won’t spit them out if we try again before the time clicks over, but we have taken advantage of the “secret” for numerous vacations. 

I’m still mulling this around as to what to do.  Will we get fewer FastPasses?  Will we stand in more stand-by lines?  I’m leaning towards waiting to see what happens after March 7 and then making a decision.  Part of me wants to try and see if the Cast Members enforce the rule before changing our touring plans.

Already a Disney vacation can be laden with expectations, cost/time variables, and the ideology of a “once in a lifetime” variable.  The news of enforcing FastPass return times can add stress to Disney vacationers and reduce the “magic” of their vacation.  It isn’t like Disney to reduce magic, so we will wait and see what happens.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ready For Walt Disney World Trip # 9!

We are a hop, skip, and jump away from our next trip to Walt Disney World—our 9th visit!  EPCOT’s Flower and Garden Festival will be in full swing, which is a lovely time to visit.  We’ve been at the festival two other times and enjoyed it immensely. 

Since we are getting close, I decided to brush off our plans and take another look.  It’s been about 5 months since we finalized our plans:  which park on which day, dining reservations, which resort, flights, etc.  Now that the trip is paid in full, it was time to take another look.

There are no plans for our arrival day.  We have a park ticket for the day if we want to use it.  We should arrive in Orlando about 1:00 pm and be at our resort by 3:00 pm, giving us time to decide.  Since we are staying at a new to us resort—Coronado Springs, it might be fun to explore the resort and/or take a swim.  We’ll be sure to put swimsuits in our carryon bags and it may take a while for our luggage to magically appear in our rooms via Magical Express!

Day 2 brings us to Hollywood Studios with dinner at Mama Melrose with the Fantasmic! Dining Package.  The package gives us “back door” access to Fantasmic! with reserved seating.  Well worth it if you ask me!  Click here to read more about the benefits of the Fantasmic! Dining Package.

Animal Kingdom is on our agenda for the next day with dinner at ‘Ohana’s at the Polynesian Resort.  We typically take the bus from Animal Kingdom to the Poly without making a stop back at our resort.  After dinner, we can go to the Magic Kingdom for nighttime festivities, ride the monorail to EPCOT for Illuminations, or head back to our resort.  That’s one thing we love about Disney—all the options!

Our 4th day will be dedicated to touring the Magic Kingdom.  Some of the new Fantasyland expansion will be open so we will want to take a look along with enjoying favorites!  Big Thunder Mountain Railroad will be experiencing a refurbishment while we are there so Splash Mountain here we come!  Hopefully, twice!  We’ll take the monorail to EPCOT for dinner at the Garden Grill.  We haven’t been to the Garden Grill since our very first trip to Walt Disney World six years ago, so it will be good to go back!

This brings us to the middle of our vacation when we like to take what the boy calls a “break day.”  We have a park ticket for the day and plan on using it later.  A late breakfast at Cape May Café is on our agenda.  Then, we will head to Downtown Disney via bus to check out the Lego store, shop at World of Disney, and have a late lunch at T-Rex Café.  We’ve eaten at the T-Rex Café in Kansas City several times, but his will be our first time eating at the T-Rex Café in Downtown Disney.  The rest of the afternoon is ours—stay at Downtown Disney, head back to the resort for a swim, or go to EPCOT?  Hmmm. . . decisions!  We will eventually be at EPCOT for dinner at Rose & Crown and a viewing of Illuminations from our table!

The 5th day is devoted to EPCOT with lunch at Les Chefs de France and dinner at Biergarten.  You’ll notice a theme of us dining at EPCOT as they have incredible dining opportunities.  Our touring plan has us spending the evening at EPCOT on most days!

Our last full day will start off at Hollywood Studios.  We have a dinner reserved at Cape May Café so will plan to take a Friendship boat from Studios to the Beach Club.  After dinner, the night is ours!  Resort, EPCOT, or back to Studios?  My vote would be EPCOT for one more go through Spaceship Earth.  That seems to be our tradition to end our trip with that attraction and we don’t typically leave EPCOT without riding it.  A Studios/EPCOT day is a great way to end a Disney vacation!

We go home the next day, hopefully with many memories in our hearts.  We will most likely have sore feet, a full SD card on our camera, and stories to tell!

There are new things we are looking forward to for this trip. 
  • Trying out a new airport for our flights.
  • New refillable mugs!  They are included with our dining plan.
  • A new to us resort—Coronado Springs.
  • Cape May Café—we have yet to dine here, and are trying both breakfast and dinner.  We will let you know how it goes.
  • Fantasyland expansion completions. 

More things we are looking forward to that aren’t necessary new:
  • Being pampered Disney style—driving, luggage handling, and service!
  • Catching Remy at Les Chefs de France.  We missed him the last time we were there.
  • The sights and smells of EPCOT’s Flower and Garden Festival.
  • Photopass Photos!!
  • Some warm spring weather in Florida!

Interestingly, while this Disney trip, # 9, is in full swing and plans completed, my mind has started to focus on our next trip including phoning our travel agent for prices and setting flight alerts.  I am much happier with a Disney trip in my future—either to dream about or to plan!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Separation During Your Vacation

A Disney vacation, or any vacation for that matter, is an opportunity for families to spend time together; to make memories.  But we aren’t programmed to spend 24 hours a day with each other.  Our normal, everyday lives include work, school, daycare, sports, clubs, meetings, volunteer work, etc.  Families typically have an ebb and flow of spending time together and apart during the course of days over a week.  So, this sudden, but planned time together during a vacation can be potentially stressful.  That’s why we recommend a bit of separation during a vacation.

When the boy was younger and needed an even earlier bedtime, our separation time happened in the evenings with either the husband or myself heading out to venture on our own.  Maybe it was shopping at Downtown Disney or taking advantage of evening Extra Magic Hours at one of the Walt Disney World theme parks.

Nap time was another opportunity for us to separate.  During one of our cruises, one of us would head to the stateroom to cover naptime while the other took advantage of ship board offerings during that time.  When we were in Cancun, the husband needed time out of the sun while the boy napped and I soaked in the rays on the beach or near the pool.

Now, our separation time is a bit more sporadic like when one of us, usually the husband, heads off to gather Fastpasses for the next attraction or goes to the food court to refill our mugs.  On our last trip, the husband and the boy swam while I did laundry.  I remember greeting characters at Hollywood Studios by myself as the boy and husband were off riding Star Tours and we had planned to meet later.  Or, the boy and I riding Figment and exploring the Imagination Pavilion at EPCOT while the husband saw Captain EO. 

The boy is getting older and he is showing us, and telling us he needs time away from us by himself.  That can be a bit of a dilemma but we are figuring out ways to meet his needs and still feel comfortable.  The kids clubs on Disney Cruise Line provide him with that opportunity while still giving us confidence that he is well supervised.  There are kids clubs at some of the resorts at Walt Disney World, but we have not used them. 

We stretch his cord of freedom each time we visit Walt Disney World, whether it is racing off to Germany to watch the trains ahead of us, or playing in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure while we wait next door, or riding some rides on his own. 

On our last trip while visiting Blue Lagoon in the Bahamas, he grabbed a life jacket and headed to the inflatable structures on the water and left us for the afternoon.  We could see him and he was within earshot if we yelled to get his attention, but for the most part he was on his own.

While I appreciate his confidence to want to be on his own and his ability to handle a variety of situations including asking a Cast Member for help if need be, it is a growing situation as a parent to allow for that need for freedom. 

When planning for your next vacation, consider that people, including your family, may want and need time apart from the group.  If those separation opportunities are built into the plans it can lesson hurt feelings if the need comes up and reduce tension to ask for time apart.  For us, we know that we love our time together even more because we have spent a few moments apart.

We are Packing the Purple Shirts!

Thanks to all who voted for week 3 of "Help Us Pack" where you, the blog readers, voted for the matching t-shirts sets that we will be packing and wearing during our upcoming trip to Walt Disney World.

These purple shirts were made at Walt Disney World at Downtown Disney where guests get to create their own shirts—click here to read more.

To understand what’s behind wearing matching shirts when we visit Walt Disney World—click here!