12 Tips For Visiting Disney World With Young Children

Disney World is often referred to as ‘The Happiest Place On Earth’ but sometimes the thought of going with kids can be overwhelming. I was always told to “Wait until the kids are old enough to remember it”, “wait until they’re potty trained”, “wait until they can ride all the rides”

I am here to tell you, NO THANKS! Waiting isn’t for me. I believe you should take kids while they’re young enough to believe in the Magic! So what if they don’t remember every detail? You will! They will have pictures to look back on and special memories and stories to hear from you. So what if they can’t ride all the thrill rides? There are so many other fun things to do! I have always had an outstanding love for Disney, and visiting the parks. As a single woman, I would show up at whatever time I want, ride whatever I want and eat whenever and where ever I wanted. Visiting with kids changes EVERYTHING. I tried to be as organized as I possibly could for my first trip with kiddos but I quickly realized, I wasn’t nearly as prepared as I thought I was. After a few more trips, I’ve learned a lot and I’m here to share some tips with you to make your vacay a little more stress free.

1. Disney World App

This will be your best friend while on your Disney vacation. From your Disney App you can mobile order food, pick up Fast Passes, get up to date wait times on rides, organize character meet and greets and shows, instantly download your PhotoPass pictures and it even has an interactive park map. It’s free to download and will help you navigate through the parks.

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2. Fast Pass 

Fast Pass selections can be made 60 days in advance if you’re staying in a Disney resort and 30 days if you’re staying off property.

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Fast Passes are a great way to avoid standing in long lines where kids tend to get impatient. You can book 3 Fast Passes per day before your vacation. It’s best to get Fast Passes for as early in the day as you can. Once you use all 3, you are able to pick up more..one at a time.

3. PhotoPass

This is 100% the best thing you can possibly buy on your Disney vacation. As a parent it will help take all the stress off capturing those sweet character interaction moments. It will allow you to be in the moment, enjoying the experience with your child. It also allows everyone to be in the picture. Plus you get Magic Shots! These are the cutest little experiences you can find all around the parks. Sometimes you get to hold Tinkerbell, sometimes you get to dance next to Olaf. The kids will love it! We got to the point where the kids would run up to every PhotoPass Cast Member they could find and ask them which Magic Shots they have. Also, if you buy before the trip you get a discount and trust me, it is so worth it!

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4. Strollers 

The one thing everybody dreads! Navigating a heavy stroller miles and miles around a crowded park all day is not ideal but trust me, you want to have one. We heavily debated on not bringing one but boy what a mistake that would have been! The kids will get tired and need a place to rest and honestly it is a lifesaver not having to carry the bags around the park all day. I recommended a stroller with a storage space at the bottom.

  • Do not bring multiple umbrella strollers if you have multiple children. I honestly thought that was a good idea on my first trip because yes they’re light and fold easy but Disney Cast Members are constantly rearranging the stroller parking areas and if you have more than one stroller you will spend your whole day searching for them. I never realized how many red strollers there are in the world until I was trying to find ours in a sea of strollers that all look exactly the same.
  • Put something on your stroller to separate it from the rest. Wether that be a flag or a sign – have something that is easy to spot to save time.

 

5. Bring Your Own Snacks 

I always bring an empty water bottle for each family member. If you have the dining plan with the resort cups you will be able to fill them before you leave but because of the design of the cup, you will be stuck holding them. So bring along a bottle with a sealed lid and empty your drink it to it and toss it in the stroller. Disney also allows you to bring food in to the park. We always do the dining plan so we typically stop in the cafeteria in the morning before we head to the park and each pick out a bag of snacks to keep with us to munch on while we’re standing in line. It is an easy way to keep the kiddos happy when there’s nothing else to do.

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6. Disney Resorts

I know what you’re thinking. ‘Disney Resorts are too expensive. I’d rather find a cheaper hotel close by and save some money.’ I used to think that way too but let me tell you…Disney Resorts actually SAVE you money in the long run. Yes, you heard that right. Let’s look at the benefits of staying at a Disney Resort.

  • Parking at a Disney park is $25 per day! Think of how much money you’ll save on parking alone. Not to mention gas and possibly having to rent a car, if you flew to Orlando. The Disney bus service is amazing. They pick you up right from your hotel and drop you off right at the entrance of the park. It is quick, easy, clean, convenient and fun! We actually love riding the Disney busses. It also makes nap time so much easier. Depending on the ages of your kiddos, they will get tired and they will need a mid day rest. Some kids can sleep in a stroller with all the noise and some can’t. The Disney bus makes it so easy to pop back over to your resort for a quick nap and then get back to the park ASAP.
  • Extra Magic Hours. These will vary and either be offered early in the morning, before the parks open or late in the evening after they close. All guests who aren’t staying at a Disney resort will have to leave the park, leaving it just for Disney resort guests. You would be surprised at how empty the park feels and how many rides you can ride with little to no wait.
  • Merchandise delivery. All of the gift shops in Disney Parks will deliver your purchases to your resort free of charge. I love shopping while I’m in the parks. You can find so many items exclusive to the parks but the last thing I want to do is carry around a bunch of shopping bags. Besides the inconvenience of carrying them, you also risk losing items. I love being able to send my purchases straight to my resort.
  • Dining Plan. You can only use the Disney Dining Plan if you are a resort guest. Dining plans make life so much easier! More on that in the next section.

7. Character Dining 

I never experienced Character Dining before I went to Disney with kids but it is a great way for the kids to have time with the characters and actually play and interact with them. Character meet and greets are typically a little more on the rushed side as they are trying to get lines of people through as fast as possible, but character meals really allow your child to have time and enjoy the characters. It’s a wonderful experience to watch and it allows you time to relax. Plus we’ve never had a Character Dining meal we didn’t love!

8. Buttons

One of the few souvenirs that are free! We usually collect ours at our Disney resort as soon as we arrive. Kids absolutely love them! The front desk will have “1st Visit”, “Happy Birthday”, “Happily Ever After” and “I’m Celebrating” buttons. We’ve managed to collect them all at one point or another. They’re fun to wear around the park or pin on your backpack. Cast Members notice them and often time create a little Disney Magic just for you and whatever it is you’re celebrating.

9. Rider Swap

This is so helpful for big thrill rides that little ones can’t go on or a ride that one child is tall enough to ride but another isn’t. Rider Swap allows one adult to go on the ride and as soon as they get off the other adult gets to ride without having to wait all over again. If there is a child tall enough to ride, then they get to ride twice!

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10. Zip Lock Bag

I always like to bring a zip lock full of essentials. Band aids, Tylenol, Sunscreen…things we are bound to need every day! If you forget something, don’t stress. There’s First Aid Centers at all the parks and they are more then happy to help out with any boo boos.

11. Shows

The shows are a fun way to take a break from all the excitement. Most of the shows are indoors so they can also be a great way to cool off during the summer months. Some of our favorites are Beauty and the Beast, Frozen Sing Along, Voyage of the Little Mermaid and Disney Jr. Dance Party. That is the one show nobody talks about but the one we had the most fun at! I suggest a Fast Pass for that one. We got to be the very first people in with our Fast Passes. Everyone sits on the floor. We sat front and center. The characters come out and dance in the crowd with the kiddos. It’s a blast!

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12. Safety

Last, but certainly not least, Disney parks are big places with lots of people. It would only take a split second for a child to disappear in to the crowd. We always put our names and phones numbers inside the kids shoe. Make sure the child knows it’s there and how to find a Cast Member and tell them, so they can call us.

The most important thing to remember is to relax, Mama. Plan it out as best as you can but don’t stress over it.

I can promise you at the end of the day, no matter what, everyone will have had a great time and you will have a ton of magical memories to look back on.


 

Traveling With A Little One: My Best Tips And Tricks.

I took my son Asher on his first airplane/out of state trip when he was 7 months old. Since then, he has been on 29 flights and to 19 states! We just visited the Outer Banks the first weekend in November and I always think back to that first trip when I was getting ready to pack and how nervous I was to embark on my first adventure with my infant in tow.

My husband, Casey and I got married at Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana. We wanted to celebrate our anniversary there but I wasn’t ready to leave my baby over night yet and I was still breastfeeding regularly. Wanting some alone time but not being ready for a baby-less vacation, we invited my mom to come along! I was SO nervous about being a new mom and traveling with an infant. What if his ears hurt? Would people be mad if he cried? What if I had to change a poopy diaper on the flight?!

The plane ride from Denver to New Orleans is almost three hours and I was totally consumed with what those three hours could hold for me. I read all of the blogs and Pinterest tips and was as prepared as I could be.

In the past three years I have traveled regularly with Asher, our longest flight being 7 hours nonstop and our longest travel day being 16 hours. We have had easy flights and we have had downright miserable travel days where we left at 2 am and didn’t get where we’re going for 13 hours. I feel like while it still requires a lot of planning I have definitely figured out some things since then that may be able to help moms who are feeling the same way I was on that first flight!

First off, planning ahead helps so much. When Asher was a newborn he mostly slept on flights which was great for both of us! But, that doesn’t always happen. Here is a list of things I would say are must haves for little ones:

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1. Diapers and wipes.
2. Hand sanitizer.
3. A blanket to lay them down on the floor in the airport so they can play or get changed. (I try to always fold it so the side that is on the ground is always folded up inside and is always the same side on the ground, that way they aren’t playing on the dirty side.)
4. Another clean blanket for covering them up in the plane, stroller, car seat etc.
5. A couple changes of clothes. That first flight to New Orleans, Asher had a major blowout and there was no changing table on the plane. My husband and I cleaned him while one of us held him up midair and the other one washed and changed him. It wasn’t easy, but it was feasible. Extra clothes are a must for kids and sometimes adults.
6. Small toys and books.
7. A bottle or sippy cup for take off and landing for their ears, if they are not breastfeeding. (I recommend nursing or giving them something to drink when you take off and descend to help relieve ear pressure. This worked great for us every time and often helped put him to sleep).
8. Stroller.
9. Baby-wraps (Keep in mind if your baby is in your baby wearing wrap at security they will make you take him/her out. Same goes for the stroller but they are great to have for the rest of the airport).
10. Snacks for you!

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Older babies and toddlers

I have added and changed some stuff on the list. Extra clothes and diapers are a must but we bring a lot more toys than we did when Asher was a baby. My absolute favorite airplane toys are slime and putty! They keep Asher busy for so long and they are less messy than playdough. Make sure they are under 3 oz because airport security considers them a “gel or liquid” and they will take them if they are more than 3 oz. I also love to bring coloring books, magnet play sets, reusable stickers, and small games like memory cards. Amazon has great reusable sticker activity books.

We bring Asher an iPad for long flights. We only let him watch the iPad on airplanes. We do this because we feel like it makes it special for him and gives him something to look forward to. Since he isn’t allowed to watch it at home, it is a lot more fun for him to have something that is just for airplanes. We also use it as a last resort. Once we have played all the games, read all the books, and eaten all the snacks – he can watch his iPad. Some parents let their kids watch their iPads the entire flight and I am all for that as well. If that works for you and gets you through a tough travel day, I call it a win.

We hit bad weather flying home from Georgia this spring and had to be rerouted to a nearby state and were stuck on the plane for 4 hours longer than planned. I can’t imagine the meltdowns we all would’ve had if Asher didn’t have a movie to watch. Asher wasn’t into videos until just recently so we haven’t used that as our main form of entertainment. It’s also nice to have backups in the event of a dead battery, or no WiFi, etc.
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My other bit of advice when packing is to always bring a reusable water bottle and snacks, especially if your child has any dietary restrictions. Finding food at weird times and in a hurry in an airport can be challenging and stressful when you’re hungry so it never hurts to have a backup snack.

Car seats

When we plan to rent a car at our destination, I always bring my own car seat. We have rented them a couple of times and I always prefer to have my own. You can check your own for free at ticketing and it will arrive in oversized baggage at your destination. I’ve had to use rented car seats that are filthy. They have been out of infant or toddler seats and we have had to wait while they go get one from another rental facility (which is the worst when you’ve been traveling all day already), and they are usually expensive to rent.

Strollers

We always bring our stroller to the airport and check it at the gate. You just have to get a stroller tag at your gate and leave it right before you get on the plane.

We have always been really lucky with Asher on the plane. He enjoys it and is usually really good, but if your little one does have a meltdown or cries uncontrollably, just remember that a lot of the people on the plane have kids of their own and have been where you are. They know it’s hard and you’re trying your best. Flight attendants are often awesome with kids and will try and help you calm them or redirect their attention. If you know of something that may help, ask them. I can almost guarantee they will do it. If nothing helps and people are starting to give you snarky looks or making comments, remember that they are grown adults and they should’ve brought their noise cancelling head phones. No one wants their child to cry on an airplane- just try your best to stay calm and know it’s temporary.

Taking your kids on trips can seem overwhelming and be a lot work, but after that first flight, you will feel like a pro. Traveling with Asher has been my favorite thing. We have seen so many things together and at just three years old he has met so many wonderful people along the way. I know that all of those red eye flights and late nights packing and planning have been completely worth it. Take the trip! You will be so glad you did.

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Finding Gratitude Through Tough Times

“I don’t want to carry gratitude in seasons. I want to carry it in my bones. I want it to rest on my tongue like it is a language that I never stop speaking.” -Arielle Estoria

I saw this quote the other night and it really resonated with me, especially with the holidays just around the corner! Yes, Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to celebrate all of the blessings in your life, and yes we all know we are of course just as thankful throughout the remainder of the year, but do we really focus on that gratitude outside of the holiday season? A lot of us do not. And what about when life has been particularly hard to us? How can we focus on gratitude when we feel like life has been unfairly cruel?

Having a special needs child has completely changed the way I celebrate gratitude. Madison is a constant reminder to be thankful. When you have watched your child fight for their life, and when they are left with needs in which people can’t tell you what to expect or how long you’ll have with them, every single day with that child becomes a blessing you are immeasurably thankful for. Every moment with her is a reason to be thankful because I truly don’t know what her future holds.

And special needs or not, the day to day of motherhood is HARD. There is no question about that. In fact, for many women their journey to motherhood is HARD. It doesn’t come easy to everyone. And when you’re longing for a family of your own, the holidays can be tough to bare.

When in the moment each day seems so hard, it can be difficult to be thankful. There are days when I just curse this universe for what it’s done to Madison and my family. How can I feel thankful when the daughter I’ve waited for my whole life was stolen from me at just 11 days old? And sometimes I let myself feel that way. I let myself have days where I’m angry and sad and that’s ok, because I have every right to be. That’s right mamas, you can be thankful AND be sad! We can be grateful AND be angry. We can feel all of our feelings, as long as we don’t let ourselves get stuck in the sad ones.

I have a lot of hard days as a special needs mama, but then I remember how much sadder I would be had Madison not survived. I think of all of the incredibly strong superhero parents that I’ve seen lose their children far too soon, and I know that I’m lucky I have this time with her. So even though I don’t always like this special needs journey I’m on, there are still things to be thankful for. There are still things all of us can be thankful for, even through the darkest times when it may not feel true.

Community

Personally, I am thankful for my husband and his unconditional love and support. I could not get through life without him. I’m thankful for our family and friends who stand by us everyday, help us when we need, and simply check in on us to see how we’re doing. I’m thankful for the doctors, nurses, specialists, and therapists who saved Madison, who continue to make her care a priority, and who have helped her get to where she is today. I’m thankful for the other special needs mamas that I’ve connected with over the year. These mamas have helped me immensely in learning about new treatments or side effects, have given me stories of hope, and also been those I could vent to knowing I would not be judged because they are the only ones who truly know what I’m going through. It’s a tribe I never thought I’d be a part of, but I’m blessed to know so many incredibly strong women.

It’s important as mamas that we find our tribe and hold onto them. For some of us our community consists of family or friends. For others, a yoga class or coworkers. Hell, your community might be an online support group of women you don’t even know in person, it doesn’t matter! Let’s value those relationships ladies, and be thankful for the people in your life that make you smile and lift you up, even when you may not realize it.

Progress

Sometimes it’s hard to see how far Madison has actually come, but when I think back to last year I realize how much more fragile she was. It’s so easy to focus on the areas our children struggle, especially when your child’s developmental goals are things that come so easy to a healthy child, but we need to remember to celebrate the inchstones too. Any progress is better than no progress and is something to be thankful for. No matter what Madison is able to accomplish, you can bet I’ll be proud of her. We cannot compare our child’s accomplishments to another’s. Try not to stress on the missed milestones or areas your child is struggling. Take it from the mama of a medically complex babe, these things truly don’t matter! Celebrate their health. Celebrate the things they CAN do. Celebrate the fact that you have a child when so many women long to be mothers. Celebrate your child for exactly who they are and watch how much fuller your heart becomes.

Strength

Being on the special needs journey will mold you into a completely different person. I can’t tell you how many times people compliment me for my strength, but in all honesty, I have no other option but to be strong. Being an advocate for a medically complex child will make you more resilient, unafraid to speak your voice, smarter, more compassionate and understanding, and less judgmental. I have no time to worry about anything in life other than Madison and my family. Nothing else matters. And I’m thankful for this strength that has allowed me to think like that. It can be hard to be confident in our mothering abilities. We all wonder if we’re doing enough, even though most days it feels like we couldn’t possibly give any more. But trust me, you are enough. There is no one stronger than a mother. The days may be long and hard, but remember to be thankful for them; for they have made you the strong, badass woman you have become!

Resources

I’m also extremely thankful to have so many educational resources at my fingertips. With each diagnosis and with each failing medication, all I do is research what else I can do for Madison. What meds haven’t we tried that might work? What alternative treatments are available? What therapies have worked for others? I can’t imagine going through this journey in a country where the access to education and resources is limited. We’re lucky to be able to research and learn on our own and to have the ability to travel freely to esteemed medical professionals. Fertility struggles? Marriage problems? Addiction? The list goes on and on for the plethora of difficulties we might face, and yet there are so many resources available to help us through. Going through hard times can cloudy our want to be thankful, but it’s important to remember that we have resources to help pull us out, and that is a blessing in itself.

The Chaos

The pure chaos of motherhood may seem like something silly to be thankful for when it’s also the thing that drives us crazy, but trust me, it is. So your house is a mess? Be thankful to have a roof over your head. Be thankful your child is able to make that mess. It means they are learning and playing and figuring out this world, a joy that a mama of a disabled child, like me, would give anything for. So you’re juggling therapy and doctors appointments for your medically complex child? Be thankful you’re able to offer them care and opportunities to grow. So you’re balancing fertility appointments or childcare with work? Be thankful you have a job, a safe place to send your child, or the means to explore the wonderful advances science has to offer in helping you start or grow your family. The chaos, as exhausting as it might be, simply means we are living!

Let’s also remember that feeling grateful and being grateful are two different things. No one feels grateful for the bad things that happen to them, but despite those things, we can choose to BE grateful for the things we do have. Being forced into some really tough times has showed me not to take anything for granted, as I’ve seen firsthand how quickly life can change. When you learn that the things you love most can be taken away in an instant, you become immensely more thankful for them. My gratitude for the good times has also provided me hope and the will to keep going.

So as you sit with your loved ones this holiday season and reflect on how hard this year may have been, remember to instead focus on all that you DO have. There were moments and people and learnings and even your own bravery through these times, that you can and should be thankful for. Let us remember to be thankful every single day, and not just during the holidays. And above all, please be thankful for the health of yourself and your children. Not all mamas, like myself, are as lucky in that regard. Hold those babies close and I promise you, you’ll feel more reasons to be thankful than you ever imagined possible. Here’s to a wonderful holiday season mamas! We’ve got this!

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Kelly Backiel is a wife, and SAHM to her daughter, Madison. Madison was diagnosed with meningitis at 11 days old, leaving her with severe brain injuries and complications. Kelly blogs about her experiences as a special needs mom, and hopes to spread awareness and support to others in similar situations. She is a fan of the beach, and a nice glass of wine! Read more about her here!

13 Labor And Delivery Tips For A First Time Mom

The thought of giving birth can be terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be. For me, the first time I had a baby the thing that scared me the most was not the pain but the fact that I didn’t know what to expect.

I asked a group of women who recently had babies what kind of advice they would give a first time mom who is ready to pop. Here is what we came up with.

Don’t panic!

Things are not going to be exactly what you’ve planned, so be prepared to roll with the punches. No matter what happens, the least helpful thing you can do is panic.

Have your support person know your wishes

You may be too medicated to be able to make those decisions for yourself.

Things can change at the drop of a hat

You may have a textbook pregnancy your whole 40 weeks, and then while you are in labor and delivery, things can change.

The epidural may not work.

Don’t rely on having a epidural for pain management because sometimes they may not work. Even if they do work, they may only work on half of your body, or they may work for a little while and then completely stop.

Educate yourself on coping methods

Even if you do plan on having an epidural take a birthing class or at least watch a video on YouTube to help learn breathing techniques and other coping methods. Epidurals may not always work, or you may not have time to get one.

Do not feel ashamed if you end up getting an epidural

If you decide throughout your whole pregnancy that you are going to have an unmedicated birth, it’s okay to change your mind!

Have a birth “wish”, instead of a set in stone plan

Birth plans are great. They help put in writing what your wishes are and help keep your care team aware. Just know that sometimes things change, and not everything in your birth plan may be feasible. You may need to be flexible. You’re birth plan may say “no Pitocin”, but if you aren’t progressing naturally, well then Pitocin may be needed if your water has broken. In most situations, you have 24 hours after your water breaks to get that baby out!

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Don’t be embarrassed by anything

OBGYN’s, midwives and L+D nurses deal with bodily functions on a daily basis. One of the biggest worries many women have when thinking about giving birth is worrying about pooping on the bed. Chances are you are going to be so focused on getting that baby out that if you do poop while pushing, you are not even going to care. Nurses see it happen ALL OF THE TIME. They will quickly switch out the liner and you may not even know it happened!

Consider hiring a photographer or have a friend of family member take pictures.

You are about to meet the love(s) of your life and like your wedding day, pictures are a great keepsake!

You do not need to pack much in your hospital bag

Keep your hospital bag to a minimum, You are going to have lots to carry out, especially if you have visitors and they bring gifts for the baby

You may swell up

Sometimes the IV/ medications mixed with labor will make you retain water and start to swell up. If you have rings that fit you, or any tight bracelets, make sure to take them off before leaving for the hospital. They may be hard to take off if you start to swell, and swelling will most likely not be something you are thinking about while in labor.

Take off your bra when you get to the hospital

It may make things easier if you decide to get an epidural. Even if you don’t want an epidural if you become uncomfortable and want it off, the nurses will have to unhook your IV so the strap doesn’t get caught in it. Also if you wear a sports bra or a bra without a clasp it makes it even more challenging to get off. Believe me, when you’re ready for that epidural, you do not want to have to wait any longer than you need to, especially if its just to take your bra off!

The goal is to have a healthy baby, healthy mom

The rest is just a bonus!

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What pieces of labor and deliver advice would you give to someone who is about to have a baby?

 


 

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Paige Martinek is a SAHM to her stepsons, son and daughter. She enjoys road trips, long drives along the lake, writing, reading and talking about anything pregnancy related. She is an infertility awareness activist and plans on going back to school to become a L+D nurse. You can read more about her here!