I don’t know where my love for Disney began. It’s just always been there.
I remember when Disney movies weren’t so easy to watch. We would either see one that was re-released to theaters or we would tune in for a television special of The Wonderful World of Disney. The first Disney movie I remember watching was when I was three years old. I sat in what seemed like a massive theater, close to the front row, popcorn in hand, enamored with 101 Dalmatians.
By the time I was an older child, Disney was releasing their feature films on VHS—a marketing blessing for that season of my life. As I watched, I’d soak myself into the message laced into the stories of Walt Disney’s films. I was a little girl who knew the odds I faced, and yet I had a hope for my own happily ever after, my own belief that every dream I wished could come true.
My first trip to a Disney park was in 1993; I was 12 years old. I had my first taste of immersing myself into the magic I had watched on screen and I knew I wanted to return.
That return didn’t happen until 2002 when Brandon and I went on our first couple’s trip since becoming parents. We were gone for 5 days, just the two of us, and came back knowing we wanted Disney to be a part of our family; and it has been. We’ve raised our children on annual Disney trips, and when we’re not with the Mouse himself, we’re donning our Disney décor around our house from tea kettles to coat racks, in our wardrobe from t-shirts to ball caps, and on devices from streaming tunes to family movie night, there’s a heavy touch of Disney in it all.
My online home wouldn’t truly be “home” if there weren’t some Disney.
So as Disney says to Vacation Club Members, “Welcome Home.” I hope sharing some of our Meadows Magical Moments with Mickey, will be helpful to you in creating your own with the special people in your world.
A Disney Girl At Heart,
Merchandise & Souvenirs
On the last day of our trip, the kids get to pick out their one souvenir; avoiding the overwhelming amount of stuff which could be purchased. If we ever hear, "Oh, can I get that?" we respond with, "If that's what you want to pick out for your trip then remember it and you can get it the last day." I'm not sure we've ever come back with the first oh-can-I-please-get-that item. On a side note-- the World of Disney Store in Disney Spring has loads of souvenirs.
We always budget in t-shirts. We used to try to get matching shirts for the year we were there, but in years since we have also ordered on Etsy and other times just all picked our new favorite new Disney shirt. Whether identical or not, we are all decked out in Disney to see Mickey for our annual picture. We display our most recent Photo with Mickey in our Disney frame we got years ago; it sits on my Grandma's antique Singer sewing machine (I use it as a nice table at the bottom of the stairs).
Snacks & Drinks
You can take snacks into the parks. We usually throw some apples, oranges and bananas in our bag from the breakfast buffets. And we have two or three bottles of water we keep refilling. Our kids haven’t complained yet about sharing water bottles. When they do they can start carrying their own personal backpack of goodies.
Be Sure to Eat at least ONE Mickey Ice Cream Bar - we packed the kids aprons when they were little for moments just like these-- oh and lots of wipes. Seems like they have partially outgrown that challenge now, but we still need lots of napkins because it melts fast.
Shows, Parades & Fireworks
If there are two on the schedule, remember that later ones tend to be less crowded than the earlier. But get a seat early, cast members may down play it, but you'll want a good spot. When our kids were little, either I would line-up to save spots while Brandon and the kids played a little more until closer to the time, or we all lined-up and eat a snack or ice cream. Now that the kids are older and we do not have strollers to help save some area, we all wait together. We use the wait time for Magic Kingdom’s 3 o’clock parade as a great time to enjoy Casey's Corner hot dogs.
The perk has evolved over the last several years. Click here to read more about it. One thing we do is coordinate our FastPass selections with the area of the park we will be. For instance, if we have three Magic Kingdom days built into our trip, we selected attractions from Tomorrowland for one day, Fantasyland for another, and Frontierland and Adventureland for the last. Lots of walking involved, but savvy coordination will make the most of the time.
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
Every little girl should do the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at least once, and then go eat at Cinderella's Castle. Brooklyn barely got in on the age to enjoy this when Disney first started offering it. But did she ever enjoy it. I’ve had a lot of parents ask me, “Is it worth it?” It’s certainly understandable weighing out the cost, and considering that moms could do some hair, makeup and nails makes this seem like an easy one to cut off the list. However, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique isn’t about walking around the park in a princess dress with pretty hair and nails, it’s about what we aim to bring home with us from each of our Disney trips—an experience making a magical memory. Which is why as a teenager, our daughter still said it was one thing she was so glad she was able to do that one time. There are several different packages to choose from so check with Disney to see which one suits your budget. In this picture Brooklyn is wearing a princess dress her Nana made for her.
Autograph Books Really Are Fun Souvenirs ~ there are so many pages in them it could take more than one trip to fill it up. So we pack ours for return trips. You can get one book per kid and simply write the year of the autograph at the bottom of the page OR just get one for the family. Our kiddos have each of theirs on their shelves in their room~~ along with their first set of Mickey Ears.
There's nothing kike a celebration in Disney ~~ desserts (more than once) and a button! We were in Disney for Jaron’s birthday month when he turned 6 and my mom was also with us that year, which meant celebrating her actual birthday in Disney. All the Cast Members say "Happy Birthday" when they see you; even during parades! And this doesn’t apply to birthday celebrations only. Oh, no. Several years later, Brandon and I celebrated our 18th anniversary in the park for one of our family Disney vacations, decked out with our complimentary anniversary button for every day of our trip. It was magical to say the least.
Whether you’re strolling through where it all began in Disneyland, or are walking the beach at Aulani, or even hopping through the amusement parks and water parks of Disney World, you can have Disney Photopass at your side. Yes—even coming down the slides of water parks, Disney is there to help you document the moments. If pictures are an important part of your memory, then I highly recommend adding Memory Maker to your Disney reservation. You can return home with photos to download from character breakfasts, countless rides and the best picture spots. We rarely snap our own photos because a Disney Photopass person is not too far away. Plus, all six of us are in the picture without having to ask a fellow Disney fan to take it for us. However, as a side note, if you do ask, they won’t mind. Seasoned Disney vacationers are helpful and happy!
Did you know you can have your own private photography session in Disney? Disney Fine Art Photography & Video can capture your memory with a touch of magic. This isn’t just for weddings, but for family photos, baby pics or even senior portraits. And they shoot at a variety of Disney locations. Check out their website for products and info. We’re grateful to cast member/photographer Kevin for snapping some Grand Floridian Anniversary moments for us!
Don't Let the Rain Wash You Away. We always pack our ponchos. We actually still have ponchos from ‘02 celebrating Walt’s 100-year birthday. By now I guess it’s a keepsake! But it’s plastic, so I won’t hold my breath. Each day we go into to the park we have our little backpack of ponchos, sunscreen and a couple water bottles. Other thing, we wear flip-flops and sandals a lot. There’s nothing worse than soggy tennis shoes. If it starts raining, which if you are in Florida just count on it, watch the crowds slim. Just be patient. It’s rare that the whole day is a wash. Usually the sun will come back out momentarily.
Countdown & Reveal
One of the best parts of a Disney vacation is the time of anticipation.
A few years ago we started making a countdown calendar to mark off the thirty or so days leading up to our trip.
I have no artistic ability. None. Nil. Zilch. But good for me, I have a hubby who does. And then our daughter started making them. We just get a poster board and map out the squares for the calendar section and then fill in around it with the Disney art. As you can see from the photos, we’ve incorporated an anchor and ship for our cruise, palm trees and waves for Hawaii, and anything from fireworks to some magical Disney font for Disney World. I get the job of writing the days and numbers, so I guess I can say I give a little something to this little craft.
When we first started, we would use adhesive puddy to hang it on our wall. We wanted it to be low enough for the little people in the house to participate in marking the days off. However, that puddy can be hard on sheetrock. I’m sure we could have looked into some other options, but now we simply hang it on the door to the game room.
It’s a lot of fun and I hope maybe this gives you some good ideas to kick off your own countdown traditions for your family.
Aside from the countdown is the reveal.
Our Easter season reveal was a lot of fun. We bought extra large Easter eggs and stuffed a small plastic bag of puzzle pieces inside. There were eight eggs in total for the kids to find, and each egg contained a baggie of puzzle pieces and the clue where they could find the next egg. It was a fun scavenger hunt, revealing our need to implement some more team-building exercises, but I won’t digress on that topic. Each of the puzzle pieces had a number to help the kids put it together, since they didn’t have a photo to look at for guidance. Once they completed the puzzle they read our invitation to join us in Disney World. (side note: be aware if you have teenagers involved in this reveal, they present a threat to stealing your magic. Don’t let them)
Perhaps our best ever reveal was in 2014 when we totally surprised them the morning we were leaving for Disney. While we've raised our kiddos on annual Disney trips, we had told them we wouldn’t be able to go on a family vacation this particular year since my hubby and I had gone on a 15th anniversary trip to St. Lucia over the summer. Well, that wasn't true. We were just keeping one of the best-kept secrets! And it was fun, and funny, to see their personalities expressed in this caught-off-guard moment. Definitely shows who depends on a plan and who is ready to roll at a moments notice. As I did laundry, I stashed away clothes to pack and we had luggage loaded when we gave them their magic bands this very early morning. Best skip school day ever! By the way, I told the kids I would never, ever, ever do this again. It was the hardest secret to keep. I always say I can take bad news to the grave, but to ask me to keep good news a secret is by far one of the greatest challenges for me. I’m happy to know I can do it, but it wasn’t easy to say the least.