Thursday, June 27, 2013

Top 5 Must-Pack Items for Your Next Disney Cruise

I've been lucky enough to go on a few Disney cruises. In no particular order, here are five things I highly recommend packing for your next Disney Cruise:

Your camera/phone AND charger. You'll be blown away by how many photo-opps there are on the ships. So trust me when I tell you that you'll want to have your camera handy and charged. And no worries, there are outlets in the staterooms so there's plenty of opportunity for charging.

A light sweater or sweatshirt. For a late-night stroll on deck or a visit to one of the many nightclubs, a light sweater can come in handy.

Seasick pills, Dramamine, or ginger pills. It might take you a while to get acclimated to the movement of the ship, but overall it's a very smooth and relaxing way to travel. I have to tell you, I've never gotten seasick. And fortunately, neither have my husband or children. It's Murphy's Law at work...if I didn't have the seasick pills with me, we might have needed them. Bring them just in case, especially if it's your first cruise. If you forget, the shops on board will have things to buy, but I prefer to have my own with me.

A bottle of your favorite adult beverage!If you're 21 years or older, you can bring alcohol on board with your carry-on bags. Fair warning - you can't drink it in a lounge or public area and there is a corking charge if you bring it for dinner. It's really nice at the end of the day to sit on your veranda with a nice glass of your favorite drink!

Your running shoes. Working out may not be top on your list of things to do while on a cruise, but the ships have a running track usually on a higher deck with spectacular views. I speak from personal experience - this was one of my most favorite things to do. I didn't run every morning, but when I did it was so nice to get up before everyone else and enjoy the tranquil waters and the cool breeze.

And there you have it - my "Top 5 Must-Pack Items" for your next Disney Cruise.

What did I miss?  Let me know in the comments below - what's on your "must-pack" list?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Long and Short of It

I saw this quote recently and it stopped me in my tracks.

"The days are long, but the years are short" - Gretchen Rubin 

As a mom to two young daughters, I'm acutely aware of how true those words are. Sometimes the days seem endless, don't they?

Diapers. Tantrums. Spilled food. Homework. Chores. "Tween" drama.

By the end of the day, I'm exhausted. Ready to collapse in my bed only to wake in six hours to do it all over again. Yes, some days can be really l-o-n-g.

But the years? Oh man, the years go by so fast.

I recently got a new computer and decided I'd try to organize some of my digital photos. I chose a random year - 2008 - and began what I thought would be a tedious task. Instead, I found myself captivated by each photo.

My 9 year old was only 4 then and my two year old hadn't even been born yet. I saw photos of preschool, apple-picking, Santa visits, and a trip to the Magic Kingdom. She was so young and small compared to the young lady of today who loves fractions, Instagram and painting crazy designs on her fingernails.
My daughter in 2008, age 4

Looking at the photos, I don't remember the daily frustrations I invariably felt as a new mom. Instead, I found myself cherishing the feelings of nostalgia and remembering how quickly everything seemed to happen.

I love that I have a little time capsule on my computer. (Note: I realize these photos really should be in photo books or in frames displayed in my home, but that's another post for another time).

Ask any parent and they'll nod their heads in agreement - sometimes the days are unbearably long, but the years are most definitely short. 

My husband and I have resolved to buy less things for our girls and try to give them more experiences. Memories they can treasure and take with them out into the world. We try to travel as much as we can, even if it's just quick day trips to surrounding towns and cities. We're not really souvenir people, but we do take a bunch of photos in a futile attempt to capture the magic of the experience forever.

One thing I've realized is that no matter how hard we try to stop time - and I think we all try to do this at some point - we can't fight the inevitable. Time will pass whether we're paying attention or not. So I'm trying my hardest to be grateful for each day (however long!) and hope that in the end, I'll look back fondly and cherish the years.

What do you think? Do you agree? What special magical moments come to mind when you look back over the years?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Disney...Through Her Grandson's Eyes

Denise has been to Walt Disney World hundreds of times over the years. But perhaps her most magical memory yet is from just a few weeks ago when she brought her grandson, Mason, to Disney for the very first time.

"When you're with your grandchildren, it's like having your children all over again," she says. "I get such a big kick when anyone sees Disney for the first time, but it's really special when it's my family and I get to share that moment with them."

Although Mason is only 16 months old, he's already a Disney veteran! He's met Jake from Disney Junior's "Jake and the Neverland Pirates" show. He had breakfast with the Winnie the Pooh characters. And, of course he got to meet the one and only Mickey Mouse!

There were lots of pictures taken with cameras and cell phones in those moments, but Denise took a lot of pictures with her heart.

"I love the emotion that Disney gives me," she shares. "The family bonding and quality time...there's really nothing like it. There's no other experience in the world that I can give to my grandchild and my children and then experience it all together as a family."


Here are Denise's Top 7 Tips for Traveling to Disney With Little Ones

  1. S-l-o-w down. The last thing you want at any Disney theme park is an overtired, overheated child. Go at a slower pace, take it all in and do what you can.
  2. Choose buffets. Over full-service restaurants. The food is already ready and there's more flexibility for little ones. 
  3. Kitchenettes save time and money. If your budget allows, choose a hotel with a kitchenette. This way you can bring food home from the restaurant and heat it up later. You can also visit a local grocery store and stock up on your little ones' favorite must-haves.
  4. Local grocery stores will deliver. Many local grocery stores in Orlando will deliver diapers, wipes, formula, snack foods and more right to your hotel room. Check for pricing. 
  5. Rent a stroller for the week. Or for however long you're on vacation. Denise used Kingdom Strollers (not affiliated with the Disney parks) and she paid about $50 for a 7-day rental. The stroller was good quality and came with a cooler and plastic cover for when it rains. She says it was a lifesaver. Best part? They delivered and picked up the stroller right from the hotel.
  6. Go slow with the Disney characters. Think of how the Disney characters look from your child's viewpoint - then take it slowly when meeting them for the first time. BONUS TIP: The characters who speak - like the princesses - can often reassure fearful small children with a kind words and a hug.
  7. Savor every moment!

Looks like Mason had a magical first visit to Walt Disney World!

So tell us? What's your best tip for traveling to Disney with little ones?