spreadsheets and suitcases

organization + travel = family fun

Disney Pre-Trip Report: bits and bobs

I love the British saying in the title of this post.  Makes me want to “pop ’round the shops on the High Street picking up bits and bobs.”

british accent

Currently I’m completing my pre-trip shopping checklist, those last few indispensable items I can’t resist buying before a fun vacation.  If I were you, I’d try reading this very non-British-vocabulary-using post in a British accent now.  I definitely will.

  • ways to make water taste like something other than water:  I hate water, precisely because it has no flavor.  I don’t drink soda, though I do love juice, but all those calories are not good for the waistline.  So I’m the queen of making water taste like juice, with 2 different products: flavor drops, and flavor powders.  Flavor drops came onto the market a few years ago, and I’ve loved them from the start, and ALWAYS have a bottle or two on hand at work, where I drink water all day long.  They are super-concentrated, sugar- and calorie-free liquids that make gross plain water taste like yummy juice.  The pioneering brand was Mio, but now many companies have started producing branded flavor drops.  My favorites are Kool-Aid Cherry, Minute Maid Fruit Punch, and Sunkist Strawberry Lemonade.  They come in a tiny bottle of no more than 2 ounces, and you just squirt a little (or a lot) into your water, mix, and voila…flavored water.  BUT!!!  We all know that taking liquids through airport security is iffy, and I’d rather save my 3-1-1 for toothpaste.  So, for traveling, I opt for flavor packets.  Same principle as the drops, but in powder form.  Each little packet is enough flavor for a 16-20oz bottle.  Again, lots of brands to choose from.  For this trip, I’ll be taking along Snapple Iced Tea, Hawaiian Punch Red, Crystal Light Raspberry Lemonade, and even Mott’s Apple Juice.
  • candy/gum:  Somehow, it became a family tradition to always have Werther’s candy on an airplane ride.  Since we’re always planning a trip somewhere, I get a bag or two when they are on super sale after candy-centric holidays like Halloween and Easter.  I tend to buy both chewable and the traditional hard-candy kind.  Anecdotally speaking, sucking on the hard candy version has always eased any motion sickness I might experience.  On the gum side of the equation, I’ve found that chewing gum really helps to relieve the pressure in the kids’ ears during takeoff and landing- once they are out of bottles/sippy cups/breastfeeding.  So gum is always on our pre-trip shopping list, and we like to try new flavors here as well.  Just bought some Starburst-flavored Juicy Fruit!  Win-win.  You’ve abandoned the British accent already, haven’t you?  For shame!
  • actual food for the plane: shelf-stable items that provide protein and carbohydrate energy.  Quite by accident, I discovered that Ritz crackers and Hormel sliced pepperoni are the same circumference.  My son was getting hangry, and I made a “pepperoni-wich” out of these 2 ingredients, and he was so amused by the tiny sandwiches that he ate several of them and got over his bad mood.  I also pack mixed nuts, raisins, and chewy fruit snacks or fruit leather (like a Fruit Roll-Up but no high-fructose corn syrup).  Sometime I bring regular Fruit Roll-Ups too, because…vacation.
  • swim gear: We bought my son a new swimsuit/rashguard a month ago, because his toddler-size Toy Story one was getting a bit worn, though it still fits.  I have been waiting to buy my daughter a new one because she kept changing her mind on the style she might like.  But now it is the time, because we were cooling off at the pool yesterday, and her board shorts were too small, her rashguard didn’t fit at all (or maybe she “lost” it because the design was too childish), and she only has 1 swimsuit that fits properly.  Anyone who has ever tried to air-dry a bathing suit in a hotel bathroom knows that 1 swimsuit is not enough, because it never dries completely before the next time you want to go to the pool.  Putting a damp suit back on IS THE WORST, so off to the mall we shall go for a second suit.
  • And finally, more spray-on sunscreen.  It smells like paid days off.  Excuse me, I mean, it smells like a jolly holiday 🙂

And now, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you….the 30-day Mickey Head Countdown.

Like Princess Tiana in this picture, I'm Almost There!

Like Princess Tiana in this picture, I’m Almost There!

Legend tells of a chronically organized madwoman who cajoles her husband and children into making 150 construction paper strips, then putting a Disney sticker and number counting down from 180 to 30 on each strip, and stapling those strips together to make a massive paper chain.  This chain takes our crew from 6 months until their trip to 1 month until their trip, when the madwoman deploys the rarely-seen Mickey Head Countdown.  This objet d’art is made from vintage (as in, not available anymore) paint chip samples from when Disney sold home paint at the esteemed orange superstructure known as Home Depot.  Many years ago, exactly 30 paint chips shaped like Mickey Heads were deftly procured with nary an intention to actually buy the paint.  These chips are lovingly stored in a tiny tin suitcase that once held exorbitantly-priced Disney mints until they day they can be attached to a simple piece of cardboard using colorful pushpins.  Each day of the last 30 days of the vacation countdown, a small boy points to the correct Mickey Head with his favorite dry erase marker (CAP ON, of course, the madwoman leaves nothing to chance), and an adolescent girl carefully removes the pushpin from the cardboard, reads aloud the whimsical paint color name the chip once represented (Ariel’s Afternoon Swim, Happily Ever After, Mickey’s Shorts, etc), then carefully returns the Mickey Head to the tiny suitcase to bring untold amounts of joy for a future trip.  At this point the husband has either rolled his eyes, fallen asleep, or both.  But no matter!  The ritual continues until Day Zero, or the last 24 hours before the airport shuttle whisks them away to HNL to begin their vacation adventure.

Have a magical day, friends!

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Disney Pre-trip Report: let’s go to WDW! Yes, again.

There are countless resources out there to help you plan a Disney trip- guides help you decide what time of year to go, provide in-depth reviews of all the parks/rides/hotels/restaurants, and help you save as much money as possible before and during your trip.  I could do that too, but I won’t.  Why reinvent the wheel?  I’ll provide a list of my favorite planning websites at the end of this post, so you can check them out at your leisure.  I completely understand if you skip ahead to that list, abandon this post, and get sucked into a Disney-planning-whirlwind.  Just come back eventually!

planning ecard

Welcome back!

My posts about Disney will amount to a Pre-Trip Report.  Some of you who hang out on message boards may be familiar with Trip Reports.  They chronicle a trip from beginning to end: where they went, what they did, what they ate, etc.  This trend has a life all its own, with some reports being focused just on rides, and some just on food- Dining Reports!

A Pre-Trip Report then, details all the planning that goes into the Trip itself.  Since planning is half the fun, I figured I’d do “live” Pre-Trip Report as I plan, and then an actual Trip Report after we get back.  Here we go!

people trap

Walt Disney World 2015: Pre-Trip Report

Cast of Characters:

Me: Disneyholic and planner extraordinaire, 6 trips to the World, 2 Disney Cruises, 1 trip to Disneyland, 1 stay at Aulani

DD: tween daughter, Disneyholic planner-in-training, 4 trips to the World (1 in utero!), 2 Disney Cruises, 1 trip to Disneyland, 1 stay at Aulani

DH: husband, happy to leave the vacation planning to me, 1 trip to the World, 1 stay at Aulani, 1 Disney Cruise

DS: toddler son, loves the characters, 1 stay at Aulani, 1 Disney Cruise

My Disney history begins at age 2, with a visit to the World.  There is photographic evidence of my terrified crying when confronted with a 7 foot tall Pig from The Three Little Pigs.  Little?! I think not.  I’m pretty sure it was the Fiddler Pig, but I’m not certain as I’ve blocked the memory due to trauma. We went to the World again when I was 9, and I really got into this Disney Thing. I especially loved the World Showcase at Epcot (my favorite Park), and vowed to one day take my family there.  Other trips followed: I visited WDW twice more, and went on a Disney cruise, too.

Back in 2008, I took my family (just me, DD, and DH at the time) to WDW.  We stayed for 2 weeks.  It was my husband’s first time, and I wanted him to get the full experience: he explored all the Parks, played golf, had a revelatory meal at Le Cellier, and gradually became Disney-fied.  It was SO fun.  Of course, as soon as we came back I wanted to plan another trip!  But I wanted other Disney experiences as well.  Since that family trip in 2008, I took my DD to Disneyland in 2009, we had a stay at Aulani in 2012 for my birthday, and did a Disney Cruise to Alaska in 2013.

So, why go again?  Especially, why would we travel all the way to Florida from Hawaii to Disney World (there are NO direct flights to Orlando [MCO] from HNL, by the way) when we could fly nonstop to LAX in 5 hours and see Disneyland?  Well, Disneyland doesn’t have Epcot, which is my favorite park.  Nor does it have Animal Kingdom Lodge, the most amazing hotel ever.  And because the Resort is so huge (50 square miles!), once you are in the Disney Bubble, you are super immersed in the magic.  There’s nothing else like passing beneath the Walt Disney World: Where Dreams Come True sign and knowing you are in for a ton of fun!

wdw sign

I really enjoyed Disneyland and plan to go back, especially to see Cars Land, but my son’s first Disney Parks experience has to be at Disney World, period.  And it has to be next year!

There are a few reasons that 2015 is the right year for our next Disney trip:

  • DS will be 4 years old, and I firmly believe that my children should get to go to Disney World before they are 5 years old (DD was 3 on her first trip).
  • I really want to see Barack Obama be the “star” of the Hall of Presidents, and that will only be true until 2016.
  • DD will be graduating from middle school, and we won’t be able to have her miss a few days of school here and there as easily when she is in high school.
  • We have to move out of our current apartment in the summer of 2015. I know we will need a break from all the moving preparations/life changes.
  • It’s been 7 years since I’ve seen IllumiNations.
  • New Fantasyland, including the Beast’s Castle and Be Our Guest restaurant- Beauty & the Beast is my favorite Disney movie.
  • I’m interested in seeing how the MagicBands and FP+ affect my planning.
  • First non-Disney reason: I STILL haven’t gotten to see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure.
  • Second non-Disney reason: Jurassic Park is my favorite movie in the world, and I love the ride at Islands of Adventure, too.

So, we’ve established that we’re going in 2015….but when in 2015?  Well…I still don’t know!  Right now there are several factors “on the table” and they won’t be resolved for a few months.  I do know that it’ll be late July-early August or during the school Fall Break in October.  The trip will be a minimum of 9 days, not including travel.

Pros and Cons for late July-early August:

Pros Cons
fewer months to wait HOT
fewer attractions down for refurbishment crowded
no missed school days more expensive
celebrate DD’s middle school graduation
celebrate wedding anniversary

 Pros and Cons for October:

Pros Cons
better weather more months to wait
lower crowds more stuff down for refurbishment
lower prices 1-2 missed school days
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party nothing to personally celebrate

I know that with my itinerary planning, the HOT and crowded stuff can be mitigated. It’s all about well-timed breaks. Though it kills me, I really can’t do much more than hope I can start planning in earnest by February. I do already have a hotel reservation for late July, though 🙂 Some of those rooms in high season go fast!  Gotta plan ahead.

The view from our Savanna View room at Animal Kingdom Lodge

The view from our Savanna View room at Animal Kingdom Lodge

List of oft-visited planning sites:

See ya real soon!

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