5 Ways Disney made our Munchkins EXCELLENT Travelers

I get it… Disney… really?  It’s funny how people love or hate the mouse and with equal enthusiasm especially in the travel industry!

As lame as you may think the mouse is I am going to make the argument that Disney is great stomping grounds for bringing up well rounded little travelers-

Here are 5 Ways Disney made my Munchkins EXCELLENT Travelers:

1)  The munchkins are great on airplanes

We walk on a plane with 4 kids and a baby and I swear all you can hear are sighs.  Plus, all the talk under peoples breath, the eye rolls and the avoidance.  It is hilarious!!!

I smile and laugh in my head bc our kids have flown 3-4 times a year from the time they were infants.  Every few months they are on a plane ride.  Initially, it was either to Maui to visit their Papa or to Florida to go to Disneyworld bc with the Vacation Club it was just SO affrordable!

All those miles up in the sky have made my kids EXCELLENT flyers.  Its a routine for them and we keep it consistent every time.  Hint- Kids LOVE routine!!!  My kids love the special treats they know I’ve packed them.  They know activities that will keep them occupied and they know that sleeping helps pass the time.  You know the saying “Practice makes Perfect!”

My favorite part about flying honestly is all the compliments we receive once we’ve landed.  People cannot believe how well behaved our kids were.  Its one of those mama moments that I just soak up– proof that I am doing a good job at this while child rearing thing 😉

Truth is it is not as much about my parenting though as it is about practice and routine.  And, that moment is thanks to all those trips.  The munchkins know hopping on a plane = fun.  They know if they misbehave they will miss out on part of the fun.  So, with that mindset our flights are easy peasy.

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2)  They understand and appreciate culture

Epcot is a fantastic way to introduce kids to culture and language.  The park represents 11 countries and Disney hires people from each specific area so kids are able to ask questions and learn about another country from its own residents without any language barrier.

My kids especially love making the cultural kidcot masks.  They get to visit a special kidcot area in each country where the cast member stamps the country and writes the child’s  name in their native language on the back of their mask.

EVERY. TIME. we go the munchkins HAVE to make a mask.  They never get tired of it.

It’s more than the mask though.  I appreciate that they are able to chat with the employees about their homelands and learn a bit of the language.  It sparks their curiosity and helps engage us in conversations about the world and where they might want to travel in the future.

It also helps in reverse when you are in the actual country and you can remind them of things they learned or saw in the parks.  It helps familiarize them to the area so they don’t feel so out of sorts.  Like when we traveled to Ethiopia and we were able to talk about the cast members we met, the pictures of the traditional African houses we had seen at the hotel, the Coke signs in the Africa area of Epcot and the drums the kids were able to play with.  My son was proud when he could show the Ethiopians that he knew a thing or two about their instruments 😉

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3)  The munchkins are patient

Disney parks are known for their long waits and while we do utilize fast pass and baby swap when we can… my munchkins still end up waiting in their fair share of lines.  This has been very useful bc trips always require you to wait in lines whether its at the airport, waiting to see the Eiffel Tower or to see an exhibit in a museum- lines are just part of traveling.

Having had so much practice at how to wait nicely, knowing fun little games they can play like “I spy” etc… really has been helpful.  The more routine the activity is… the better equipped your kids will be to handle themselves in a mature, respectful manner.

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4)  They love trying different foods

Disney has done a great job with all the different cultural restaurants they have now.  We have enjoyed African/ Indian inspired dishes at Boma and Jiko while staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  The munchkins have eaten Moroccan, French, English, Chinese, Norwegian, German and Japanese food at Epcot and many more.  Food is such an important part of a culture and getting small tastes of it here and there has helped them appreciate trying new things.  I recommend if you visit the parks to not give your kids the kids meals with traditional mac and cheese and chicken nuggets.  Instead have them split adult entrees or order several appetizers to share.

They may turn up their noses the first few times but once they give it a go I guarantee they will find exotic foods to be quite fun!!  Mine have even made lists of all the different foods they have tried like escargot, injera and sushi.

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5)  The munchkins have learned how to have their own fun amongst the chaos.

Traveling is exhausting and chaotic.  Crowded tourist attractions, busy train and subway stations and the airport are all places that get NUTS!!  Guess where you can get that same type of vibe… that’s right Disney Parks.  Crowds, Chaos and Disney go hand in hand.

My kids are literally immune to the crowds.  They know how to stay close, they know what to do if they get lost… all of these details we have worked out previously through our many trips to Disney.  This helps give me more peace of mind bc I know my kids won’t be overwhelmed.  By ensuring the are not overwhelmed I also know I am avoiding potential meltdowns.

We also have a worked out a great flow.  We know our kids need to have a break to rest & eat every 2-3 hours when we are out.  We know what kind of snacks to have on hand and we can tell when one of the kids is losing their cool.  I am glad we practiced all of these things at Disneyworld where if I didn’t pack enough snacks or diapers there was a very easy fix at the next gift shop maybe 10 feet away.  Trust me Disney has you set.

I am glad to have had the practice as making a mistake while hiking in Costa Rica, driving across the countryside in Ethiopia or in the middle of the sand dunes in Dubai would NOT be as easy to fix.

So, if you are nervous about travel but would love to be a traveling family I think Disneyworld is a great starting off point.  It’s convenience can’t be beat and helps ease you into experiences so that you can get some under your belt.

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5 Ways to Beat the Crowds at Disneyland

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Spring break is upon us and I know I am not the only one scrambling trying to figure out how to keep my munchkins busy 😉

Disneyland is a fantastic option, but I know many parents who avoid it completely during busy times of the year.  Truth is Disney’s crowds are largely SoCal residents, meaning even during off peak seasons the park is still pretty packed.  So, instead of trying to avoid the crowds I have come up with 5 easy ways to work the crowds instead.

Here are 5 ways we beat the crowds and enjoy Disneyland even during the busiest of times.

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1.  Get There Early

Plan to be at the gates about 30 minutes prior to the park opening.  Remember to account for the time it takes to park and catch a tram (about 30 minutes).   You will get to catch the Park Opening Show with the characters which is always fun.  Plus, the park will be much less crowded for the first 1-2 hours so you can jam through some the lines for the big attractions.  *Always, start at Disneyland first if you have the hopper pass as CA Adventure is the slower of the two parks.

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2.  Start at the Back of the Park

Most visitors will rush to the most popular ride they see first.  Be smart and work backwards through the park and you will be ahead of the game.  Whatever you do AVOID heading over to Space Mountain because hotel guests receive early entry into the park (*1 hour early) and the only areas that are open to them are Tomorrowland and Fantasyland so those two areas will be busy early.  Instead head towards Frontier and Adventureland where the lines will be much less crowded.

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Bonus Tip- Our route is typically having the hubby head to Space Mountain to grab fast-passes for later then meeting up with the rest of the crew at Splash Mountain.  Then we hit up Pirates and Thunder next!

Another way to avoid the crowds are to ride the main attractions during the parade and firework times!

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3.  Download the MouseWait App

Another way to avoid the crowds is to download the MouseWait App and check the wait times throughout the day.  This app is updated by park guests not Disneyland… but they have tons of users and we have found their estimates to be pretty spot on most of the time.  This allows you to take advantage of attractions that are having a random slower wait times.

The app features most attractions and show times… plus it helps you find restrooms near you to which is very convenient when traveling with littler munchkins.

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4.  Dine Early… plus more Dining Tips

A great way avoid munchkin meltdowns is to make sure everyone is well fed and hydrated throughout the day.  Disney is one of the best theme parks in regards to allowing guests to bring snacks.  So, I always pack granola bars, pretzels, goldfish etc…  Make sure whenever you do plan on dining at one of the restaurants in the parks that you try to schedule it at off times.  i.e.) Lunch at 11:30am or dinner at 5pm

Bonus Tip- All dining locations that have fountain sodas offer free cups of ice water.  We stop by every couple hours to hydrate plus bring a refillable water bottle to keep on hand.

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Bonus Tip- If you are going to catch a parade I suggest finding one the coincides with dinner time.  We like to bring a blanket lay it out around 45 minutes before parade time, then we send one of us to pick up a whole pizza from Pizza Port and basically have a picnic before the parade.  Its good times!

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5.  Escape the Heat with these off the Beaten Path Attractions

Yes, the thrills of Indiana Jones, Space Mountain and the like are a super fun way to spend your day.  But, the problem is there are only a few of them.  It always seems like we’ve conquered most of the big rides by mid day and our energy levels are pretty burnt.  So, what we do is head to some of the less popular attractions.

Single Park Ticket:  Some of our favorite escapes from the crowds and heat are: hitting up one of the shows like Mickey’s Magical Map, hopping on the Disneyland Railroad, enjoying the air conditioning at the Enchanted Tiki Room or Innoventions.  Or if you are near the back of the park the Winne the Pooh ride often has little to no wait.

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Park Hopper- I suggest you stroll over to California Adventure at that midday time.  This park is always much less crowded than Disneyland.  You can grab an iced latte at Starbucks as you enter the park then head on over to the Animation Academy.  Inside that air conditioned building your munchkins can talk to Crush or find out what character they are most alike.  If you have preschool aged children you could cruise over to the Playhouse Disney show…  Our littlest munchkin has the best time watching her favorite characters on stage!!!   Then, you can head over to Ariel’s Undersea Adventure as there is hardly ever a wait there.  Same with most rides in Bugs Land… and the Bug’s Show is also indoors and a great way to keep cool and rest.

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And, don’t forget to combine the above with Disney’s Methods too:

Fast Pass-

You can scan your ticket at a Fast Pass booth for the larger attractions in the park.  It will give you a ticket (aka Fast Pass) to come back at a designated time.  This way you don’t have to stand in the full wait time line.  This can cut your wait time down significantly.

Single Rider-

If you are traveling with older children single rider may be a viable option for you.  It is a separate faster moving/ shorter line where they use you to fill in the extra seats.  If you don’t mind being split up this is another way to move through the park faster.

Child Swap-

The child swap has worked great for us.  Basically, one parent and the group of kids waits in the line while the other parents waits with the baby or younger child off the ride.  After the first parent and children ride they come out and hand the second parent a child swap pass.  The second parent and usually 1-2 of the kids can then go straight through the exit to the front of the attraction to ride without having to wait in the line again.

So, now that you are equipped with fantastic methods to work the crowds you can confidently move on to planning your trip to Disneyland this Spring Break!!!              IMG_1990

*Don’t forget to check out Smart Card for discounted Disneyland tickets.  You have to pay a $30 member fee but they have fantastic savings to all the SoCal Theme Parks plus movie theater discounts too!