July 17, 2017

My Outer Banks Bucket List

We’re headed somewhere I’ve never been to this summer: The Outer Banks of North Carolina. I’ve never been to that part of the country, so I’ve been excitedly making a wish list.

Let’s be honest: Being land-locked in Nebraska, it’s tempting to just write “BEACH” and be done with it. However, I’ve found a lot of fun things to do in OBX. If time and money were no concern, here’s a bucket list of everything we’d do there:

Hang Glide

We’ll probably head to the largest sand dunes on the east coast: Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head. Maybe I’ll be brave enough to try hang gliding (or if I chicken out, we could just fly kites).

Crabbing

What is more coastal than that? There are charters where families can go crabbing and/or shrimping, literally catching their dinner and having a totally and hands-on experience. This is definitely something new to us Midwesterners.

 

Climb a lighthouse

Check out the view from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Photo courtesy Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and the Bodie Island Lighthouse are open in the summer for self-guided climbs.

See wildlife

There are a lot of options in North Carolina to view wildlife. If we’re feeling like getting a workout, we could head to Pea Island Refuge and take a guided Interpretive Canoe Tour or try a  paddle tour into the heart of Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. I’m pretty sure we’ll visit Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge anyway, since my kids are excited to do the red wolf howling on the trail.

And, you probably heard of them, but there are also wild horse in the area. I’m hoping we catch a glimpse of some.

Pirate Site-Seeing

My son is obsessed with pirates right now. There’s a very good chance we’ll do quite a few things on this four-day Blackbeard itinerary. For sure, we’ll head to Ocracoke, site of Blackbeard’s last stand, where we’ll find a pirate-y shop and Blackbeard museum called Teach’s Hole. I hear that island is quite lovely to explore, so we’ll check out the village and beaches, too. The Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach was named “Best Beach in America” by Dr. Beach in 2007. Beaufort looks like another pirate-y place we’d love, especially the NC Maritime Museum and Port City Tour’s The Legend of Blackbeard walking tour. A little more kid-oriented is Pirate Adventures of the Outer Banks, and my kids are determined to go on their pirate ship.

Beach time

I’m looking forward to visiting a few beaches in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This is a shot of Coquina Beach at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Photo courtesy Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

There are outfitters to rent body boards, surf boards, SUP boards, kayaks and who knows what else to add some more activity to our beach days. We’re staying an a vacation rental that provides beach gear like that.

Watermelon Festival

I love seeing what special events coincide with vacation. In the case of our great road trip, will be in the Outer Banks during the Watermelon Festival. Sounds like good summertime fun!

 

H2OBX Water Park

There’s a new water park in the Outer Banks called H2OBX. After the fun the kids had at their first visit to a water park, they’ve become fans of water slides and wave pools. This place looks exciting!

Horse ride on a beach

I think a horse ride anywhere is a great addition to trips, but imagine the view and the peaceful feeling of a leisure ride along a beach. Of course, this would have to wait until the kids are old enough.

Cruise with a dune buggy

This sounds like so much fun. I tried scooting around town on a golf cart once while on a vacation, and the looks of the Outer Banks buggies make me think this is a lot faster.

 

Wright Brothers National Memorial

The Wright Brothers National Memorial is in Kitty Hawk, NC. Photo courtesy Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

How could we go to the Outer Banks and not visit Kill Devil Hills to see the Wright Brothers National Memorial, commemorating where the first controlled heavier-than-air flight took place? The memorial allows visitors to walk to the First Flight Boulder and Flight Line, which mark the location where the Wrights first flew. The memorial is undergoing quite a bit of construction, but it sounds like by Fall 2018, there will some new interactive exhibits worth checking out.

Free fun

Many towns in the Outer Banks have weekly events in the summer, like Duck, where they have interactive performances for children on Tuesday mornings, a family-friendly film that night, a free magic show on Wednesday mornings, and live music on Thursday nights.

Elizabethan Gardens

An aerial view of Elizabethan Gardens in the Outer Banks. Photo courtesy Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

I don’t know what it is about gardens, but my kids love visiting them on vacations. This one looks particularly beautiful, and on some weekday summer mornings, there’s a themed kids activity included with admission.

First Flight Adventure Park

This one may or may not appeal to my kids, but I have an adventurous spirit, and the ropes course looks like fun. Challenging, yes, but way fun.

Satisfy the sweet tooth

More than a few people have mentioned Duck Donuts once they heard I was going to the Outer Banks. Photo courtesy Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

What’s summer without ice cream and treats? I’m thinking we’ll stop by Forbes Candies, for sure. And, I’ve heard lot of good things about Duck Donuts.

Roanoke Island Festival Park

Knowing my kids, they’d love visiting Roanoke Island Festival Park for one major reason: Touring a 16th-century sailing ship. Ok, not a real ship from that long ago, but a representation. The park and cultural center shows visitors what 16th century settlements were like, with costumed characters to greet you and answer questions. The ship, Elizabeth II, is only one area in the park with re-enactments and hands-on activities for kids; there’s also Settlement Site and American Indian Town. We’d have to stop at the Adventure Museum while there, as well.

Your turn!

What should be included on this bucket list for the Outer Banks? Share your favorite restaurants, beaches, attractions, etc. I’d love all the tips you can give!

 

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I love a good bucket list to inspire travel! Check out some of of the other destination bucket lists here.

 

March 23, 2017

My Favorite Disney Off-Day Ideas

If you’re spending more than one day at a park at Walt Disney World, you’re going to need an off-day.

For me, a Disney off-day needs to be not-at-all related to Disney, so I wasn’t interested in the nearby putt-putt offerings, the Disney water parks, or Disney Springs. When I need a Disney break, I need to completely get out of the Magic Zone.

Read on for my favorite Disney World off-day ideas.

These are easy day trips from Orlando, some require more driving than others. You’ll need a car to get to them (and bring money for tolls).

Disney World Off-Day Ideas

Disney Off-Day Beaches

Get an early start to your day and drive to the coast from Orlando to hit a beach. On the Tampa Bay side, we visited Fort Desoto, Treasure Island, and Clearwater Beach. My favorite, by far, was Fort Desoto. The waves were gentle, the sand was powder sugar soft. It was less touristy with no hotels on the waterfront, but that also meant less dining options. Shell hunting was a lot of fun here. We rented two chairs and an umbrella for $16. Well worth it.

Distance: 100 miles

 

Treasure Island and Clearwater Beach are in more populated areas, which is good and bad depending on whether or not you like touristy beach areas. Clearwater Beach is a great choice, and it’s home to a restaurant we really liked, Frenchy’s.

Distance: 90 miles

 

Treasure Island had bigger waves, which is a plus for some, but the sand consisted of crushed shells and it hurt to walk on.

Distance: 95 miles

 

On the east coast of Florida, you can visit Cocoa Beach. This was a family favorite. The waves were big, but not too big, for small children, making boogie boarding a fun activity.

Distance: About 65 miles

 

Disney Off-Day Adenture

Head to North Orlando for two very memorable activities with the kids.

Kids as young as 4 can do the ZOOmAir Treetrop Adventure Park low-to-the-ground zip line course at Central Florida Zoo in Sanford. Adults can do a more challenging one. Plan on at least an hour.

While you’re there, you might as well visit the zoo! There is a fun splash garden there, so pack a swimsuit. For more details, read my posts about the Central Florida Zoo and ZoomAir Adventure Park ziplining.

Distance: 40 miles

 

A word of advice before you set out on an adventure in Florida: Bring a swimsuit. Marisa from Adventures of Tampa Mama told me that useful tip before our first Florida visit. She wasn’t kidding. It seems you can’t go to any attraction in the state without encountering a splash garden.

 

Wekiva Island is a exotic gem in the middle of a city. We canoed with the kids, stopping at Wekiva Springs State Park, which has a water hole where a lot of people were swimming.

We were short on time, and so we skipped the swim and hiked a little. Keep in mind, this is Florida and you’ll spot native wildlife there. Keep a respectable distance from animals and you’ll be fine.

I recommend packing snacks and water. It gets hot and if you’re not used to paddling, you’ll get tired. You also have the option of kayaking or trying standup paddleboards. For more details, read my post about about Wekiva Island.

Distance: 35 miles

 

There are so many airboat opportunities within about an hour or so from Walt Disney World. We visited Black Hammock Adventure, where we got to ride an airboat at dusk.

It was also a place where the kids got to hold a baby alligator and, rather morbidly if you think about it, taste fried alligator. (It was delicious)

Distance: 35 miles

 

Disney Off-Day Animals & More

Some of our favorite places to visit in central Florida had mostly indoor activities. Head to MOSI, the Museum of Science & Industry, for hands-on learning for all ages. There’s even an outdoor ropes course. Read about our visit to MOSI here.

Distance: 65 miles

 

Florida Aquarium in Tampa is popular with kids for good reason. The sting ray touch tank was memorable. Bring a bring swimsuit for the kids because the splash garden is amazing there. Read my post about the aquarium for more details.

Distance: 70 miles

 

In Clearwater, young Winter the dolphin fans will want to visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. It’s a different kind of aquarium than the Florida Aquarium – think: marine hospital.

Distance: 90 miles

 

Get even more ideas by reading My Adventure In Central Florida and Two Days in Tampa Bay With Kids.

 

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February 16, 2017

My Isla Mujeres Bucket List

I’ve been told some stories about Isla Mujeres, a tiny island off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

That’s it’s so small, visitors and locals use golf carts to get around.

That if you time your visit right, you can swim with whale sharks.

That you mostly spend your vacation days sitting on a beach.

Isla Mujeres sounds pretty idyllic. I’m headed there soon, so I made a big wish list of what I’d like to do if time and money weren’t an issue. Truthfully, I will just be sitting, reading, and sleeping most of my vacation. But, if I do get up and find myself a golf cart, here are some other things I’d go do:

Swim With Whale Sharks

Statue of a whale shark on Isla Mujeres (which is probably how close I’ll get to seeing a real one since I’m not going during the season you’d find them in Mexico). Photo by Kirt Edblom on Flickr.

This is on the bucket list, but I know full well I won’t be doing it. Wrong time of the year. If you want to swim with these gentle giants, you need to visit between June and September.

Chill at Playa Norte

Isla Mujeres is about 5 miles long, so it’s entirely possible that I will be at Playa Norte daily without much of a hassle. It’s the most popular beach on the island.

Explore By Golf Cart

You’ve got to love a vacation destination that’s small enough to explore that all you need is a golf cart. Photo by Shinya Suzuki on Flickr.

While we plan on getting around the island by bikes most of the time, it sounds so fun to rent a golf cart and zoom around the island.

Eat. A lot.

It’s a small island but it is loaded with good restaurants. A lot specialize in fresh seafood because, come on, it’s an island. Among the ones that rank high on travel lists and get featured on blogs a lot are Ballyhoo Restaurant & Margaritas, Mango Cafe and Lolo Lorena. Lolo Lorena sounds like an especially unique dining experience. I also have Bastos Grill, Greenverde, Ruben’s and La Lomita on my list.

Try Mexican Specialties

While on the topic of eating…Yucantan has some noted foods that I want to try, including a citrus roasted pulled pork specialty that originated there called Cochinita pibil. I read about it here, a post about Mexican food I’ve never heard of before, including fruits like nance fruit and guaya fruit (which sounds trick to eat), and cheese-stuffed street food called marquesitas.

Underwater Museum

The surreal-looking sculptures that create a reef in an underwater museum in Mexico called Museo Subacuatico de Arte. Photo by Andy Blackledge on Flickr.

There’s a surreal-looking sculpture garden off the island is not only beautiful to see while snorkeling or diving, it’s also functional by contributing to the reef structure and growth of coral. I’d love to see the Museo Subacuatico de Arte, plus learn how it helps keep the environment healthy for marine life. More information here.

Shop The Women’s Beading Cooperative

This place looks like a nice place to purchase homemade gifts to bring home.

Visit A Turtle Farm

The island has a sanctuary for sea turtles called NAME. Here, they have a hatchery and regularly release the hatchlings to sea.

Zip Line Over Water

You can zip line over the ocean on Isla Mujeres. Photo by Grisha Levit on Flickr.

How often do you get to zipline over an ocean? Garrafon Natural Reef Park offers that experience on Isla Mujeres.

Find The Recycled Bottle Island

There is a man-made island found on Isla Mujeres that’s kept afloat by recycled plastic bottles (it’s called Joyxee Island or Joyxee Island II). A quick tour can be arranged. Sounds like the sort of oddity I need to see while on vacation. Here’s the Trip Advisor page on it.

See Mayan Ruins

You can find incredible ruins in Mexico, and for the best preserved, I know we need to go to the mainland. Isla Mujeres does have some remains of ruins, though. Being on the east side of the island, they’re said to be important in that they’re the first to have the sun hit them each day.

Sea Kayak

Our little hotel has some kayaks available for guests to use, so why not try sea kayaking? Since this is a bucket list post, I’d like to imagine we’d have a guide who’d take us to gorgeous locals. The likely scenario, though, will be that Mr. Wonderful and I will strike out on our own and we’ll get tired 5 minutes into it.

Find A Cenote

Mexico is known for cenotes, underground, water-filled caves. There aren’t any on the island, so if I were to swim in one, I’d have to go inland. There are a few on the Yucatan, so who knows? Someday I’ll find one.

What should I add to my Isla Mujeres bucket list?

 

February 6, 2017

4 Tips For Large Group Dining At Disney World

Traveling to Walt Disney World with a large group can be a wonderful thing, and wonderfully frustrating thing.

When it comes to a large group dining at Disney, it pays to plan ahead (especially if you go over the holidays).

Large group dining at Disney World is possible, but not always easy.

Here are some tips to make sure your large group can enjoy a meal together:

1. Plan ahead

If at least one member of your party is staying on Disney property, he or she can make a reservation at 180 days in advance. Read blog post by WDW Prep School has a great list of restaurants at the Disney World that can accommodate large groups (and includes max size of groups). It helped me plan our trip!

2. Speak with a person to book it

My Disney Experience app does allow booking a fairly good-sized group – I’ve been able to book for 10 people. If you don’t have the app, get that on your phone pronto.

I’ll wait.

Got it? 

When we tried to get a table for 36, we had to speak with a person.We used the app to book three separate, staggered reservations at Maya Grill at the Coronado Springs Resort. When we arrived early, we asked the restaurant staff to seat all of us together. They could accommodate us since we were the first reservations at the restaurant.

If you’re planning ahead of time, though, it’s even better to call to set it up (407-939-5277). Keep in mind that our reservation was right when the restaurant open – any later and it wouldn’t have helped.

Note: I would not recommend Maya Grill for large groups.

3. Be ready to reserve a meal at an odd time

Even when planning 180 days in advance, some of our reservations had to be made for atypical dining times. For a party of 16, we got a reservation at Be Our Guest at the Magic Kingdom, we had a reservation time for 11:30 a.m., but for the Akerhus Royal Banquet Hall at Epcot at Epcot, our lunch for 11 people was at 2:30 p.m.

4. Group size could change the experience

We had a large party reservation for 16 people at 50s Primetime Café at Hollywood Studios. I’d heard great things about the experience there. There’s a lot of humorous interaction with the waiters. But, it was lost when our waitress tried to get the orders of 16 people.

Granted, part of the problem was that two of the families in our group didn’t speak English as a first language, and maybe the sass was lost of them.

Recommended restaurants

Disney Restaurants for Groups

Here are three restaurants where I had a good experience dining with a large group. Keep in mind, we were traveling with younger children, which may or may not be a detail that you are also taking into account.

– The Quick Service restaurant Be Our Guest at lunchtime was efficient and spacious enough for us to find tables next to each other, even for a group of 16. On the Disney dining plan, it is one Quick Service Credit per person. Reservations are a must.

– The Storybook Dining lunch at Akerhaus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot was wonderful for meeting princesses. If you’re on the dining plan, it is one Table Service dining credit. Our group of 11 was seated together. The food was great.

Chef Mickey’s at the Disney’s Contemporary Resort accommodated a group of seven together. It is a buffet and rather hectic, but it’s another great character meal. We were there for breakfast. If you’re on the dining plan, it is one Table Service dining credit.

– I would not recommend Maya Grill at Coronado Springs Resort for a large group. Our entire party, 36 of us, had a dinner there and it was a three-hour comedy of errors. On the positive side, we were able to make a reservation there just the day before and we were seated all together.

What are your favorite Disney restaurants? Would you recommend them for groups?

February 1, 2017

5 Star Wars Experiences At Disney World

I braved Disney World during the holidays in 2016, and survived to tell you all about it. What I didn’t mention in that post was that I was traveling with two young Star Wars fans, so our first day in Orlando, we went to Hollywood Studios to take in all Star Wars Disney experiences we could handle excitement.

Here are the five Star Wars Disney experiences that were the biggest hits with my young kids.

Jedi Training

My 5-year-old daughter got to take on Darth Vader at Hollywood Studios during Jedi Training.

A rare freebie at Disney World, your kids have the chance to take the stage and battle the likes of Darth Vader. Training is held several times each day. However, this is extremely popular. You must arrive to the park before it opens and then zip over to the Indiana Jones area to get in line to sign up. Bonus: Since we missed prime ride time, a cast member kindly gave us some Fast Pass+ tickets good for up to five people for one ride.

Jedi Training involves a march to the stage, where costumed cast members teach them some basic moves with light sabers. Then, the kids take turns battling Darth Vader or another baddie. There’s a bit of theatrics to watch, and it’s all pretty entertaining. Disney has photographers there to capture the entire experience.

My son was really into learning the moves of a Jedi.

This is kinda intense for some youngsters, so know your kid’s comfort level. They are on stage without you and Darth is an imposing figure. If your kid is uncomfortable spending a lot of time away from you, this might not be a pleasant experience. Also, take into account your kid’s natural energy level. I signed mine up for training right in the middle of their usual nap time. We were on the verge of a meltdown the entire experience.

 

Character Interactions

Meeting Chewbacca was a highlight of character meet and greets.

Head to Star Wars Launch Bay to meet Chewbacca, Kylo Ren and a Jawa.

Tip: Plan ahead and have something to trade with a Jawa.

Heads up, though, Kylo Ren is an intense character. My usually afraid-of-nothing daughter was totally scared of him. It didn’t help that he zeroed in on her and said he’d been waiting for her. Chewie, on the other hand, was fun and huggable.

You will likely see Storm Troopers throughout the park. Occasionally they interact with you. They interrogated my teen niece.

Side notes about the Launch Bay: When you arrive, you have the option of going straight to the characters or watching a short documentary first. Skip it if you’re with small children. There are displays of movie memorabilia at the Launch Bay, and fans are going to want to take the time to check it all out. There are also some video games to play there.

My friend Cat and her boys looking at light sabers at Star Wars Launch Bay.

 

 

Star Wars: The Adventure Continues

There is a lot to look at if you wait in line for the Star Wars: The Adventure Continues Ride. That line is going to be long, though, without a Fast Pass+ time.

One of the kids’ favorite rides of all the parks was Star Wars: The Adventure Continues. You’ll want to get Fast Pass+ times because this will be a long wait otherwise.

The “ride” is actually a 3-D simulation of flying or being chased through space. There are dozens of variations so each ride will be different. There is a height restriction as the simulation can be intense for itty bitty ones.

 

Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away

The ending of Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away is memorable.

This short, live theatrical show is held several times a day. It involves some favorite characters re-enacting scenes from the franchise. Stick around for the end. They light off a couple fireworks.

There’s also a nighttime show called Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. We didn’t catch it on our trip, but no doubt it has show-stopper moments.

 

Star Wars Penny Press

All the Disney World theme parks have penny presses. My kids had sorted their coins before the trip (I was inspired by this post).

Star Wars penny presses can be found at the Star Wars Launch Bay. Penny presses, costing two quarters and the penny you press, are a lot cheaper than most souvenirs, don’t you think?

But just try getting your kid out of the stores at Hollywood Studios without a new stuffed Ewok or light saber (they can even build their own). The Force was strong with my kids and they got their bonus souvenirs.

 

What are some of your favorite Star Wars experiences at Disney?

January 17, 2017

Surviving A Disney World Christmas Trip

“We’re going to Disney World this Christmas. What tips do you have?” I asked a coworker who had once worked at Epcot.

“Pick another time to go.”

Helpful, right? The two weeks around Christmas and New Year’s is one of the busiest times of the year to go to Walt Disney World, but I had no choice. I was locked into the dates because of a family reunion.

With a lot of planning and patience, we survived enjoyed Christmas at Disney. Here’s what I learned from our trip so that you too can experience Disney magic even during the busiest time of year:

Pre-Trip Survival Tips

1. Plan early. Plan obsessively.

Even if you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants traveler, Disney is not the place to do it, especially during the holidays.

Unless you like eating popcorn for dinner and spending $100+ per person to ride three rides.

I used TouringPlans.com to plan each day and I highly recommend the site. For a small fee, you can customize each day, to minimize walking and wait times. The site’s algorithms calculate wait time for the date you picked, too.

Here’s what part of the touring plan looks like. The first row of numbers is for estimated arrival time, the next is for wait time, then duration of the ride, and the last two rows are for free time and walk time to the next attraction.

Even on busy days at the end of December, our wait times were pretty accurate when we followed the plan, and of course, when we strayed from it, it wasn’t.

And, Pinterest is going to be your new best friend when it comes to planning.

2. You will be able to make meal reservations 180 days in advance if you’re staying on property. Do it.

It was pretty fun meeting Donald Duck and the gang at Chef Mickey’s, a buffet character meal at the Contemporary Resort.

If you know what day you’ll be at each park, you can reserve tables at preferred restaurants and maybe at typical meal times. Yeah, yeah, planning a meal six months out is hard—I don’t even know what I want to eat for dinner tonight—but it was totally worth it. We reserved the following places I really wanted to dine in:

–  Three character meals: Breakfast Cinderella’s Royal Table at Magic Kingdom, lunch at Akerhus Royal Banquet Hall at Epcot and breakfast at Chef Mickey’s at Contemporary Resort.

– Late lunch for a large group at 50’s Prime Time Cafe at Hollywood Studios.

Tip: Do not make reservations chronologically, but in order of priority. The first reservation made was for Cinderella’s Royal Table, so that we could have one of the first breakfast times available. I waned shots of Main Street without the crowd, plus the chance to get a head start on rides once we were finished eating.

 

3. Book your Fast Pass+ rides early.

Fun story. Every Disney ride we went on, I managed to block Mr. Wonderful’s face.

If you’re staying at a resort, that is 60 days in advance. If you made your touring plans for each park, you already know what rides you plan on doing and when, so that makes things pretty easy.

Without our Fast Pass+ times, we would’ve had to wait 150 minutes for the Seven Dwarves Mine Train and 120 for Space Mountain. Fast Pass+ is still free, so don’t miss out on securing yours.

Tip: Like meal reservations, book the priority Fast Passes first no matter which day of the vacation they fall on.

4. Pack for cold weather.

We’re used to cold in Omaha. But seriously, Florida can get chilly. Pack a sweatshirt and jeans, just in case. We needed them for one day in December. On our Epcot day, the high was 63 and I regretted only bringing a light cardigan. By nightfall, it was in the 40s and I was tempted to buy gloves.

Mornings were rather cool, too, so a sweatshirt was needed for the kids. By noon most days, we were all in shorts and T-shirts.

With two cardigans layered, I wasn’t even remotely warm when I took this photo with my son. It was chilly even for Nebraska standards.

During the trip

1. Be there at rope drop.

Rope drop is lingo for when the park opens. That makes for ridiculously early mornings, but you can ride a lot of rides before the parks start becoming really crowded (which is around 10 a.m.).

Tip: If you’re staying at a Disney resort, plan on trying to catch the Magic Express bus about 45 minutes to an hour before park opening. There may be traffic, even at 7 a.m.

2. If you’re getting up early anyway, take advantage of Extra Magic Hours.

We went to the Magic Kingdom at 7 a.m. one day. By the time lunch had rolled around, we rode most rides on our two-day touring plan. We just had our Fast Pass+ rides to do after lunch.

Tip: If you aren’t going to get up early, do not go to the park with Extra Magic Hours that day. It will be really crowded by the time you get there.

 

3. Reconsider that break mid-day break from the park.

Main Street at Magic Kingdom on January 1.

Parks can reach capacity during the holiday season. Magic Kingdom reached capacity on New Year’s Eve in 2016. If you try to return early enough in the day, you may not get back in. My nieces returned to Magic Kingdom late at night and had no problem, though. With two little ones, that wasn’t an option for me.

Disney Expectations

Visiting the Magic Kingdom between Christmas and New Year? Have realistic expectations: It will be crowded and you will be exhausted.

1. Have realistic expectations: There will be waiting.

It’s going to suck. Expect the worst so you may occasionally by pleasantly surprised. Might as well expect a little wait time for your meal reservations, too.

I also assumed I wouldn’t check everything off my touring plans. Because, well, kids.

2. Sneak in Breaks. Disney during the holidays is overwhelming and tiring. There aren’t a lot of places to escape the crowds. At the Magic Kingdom, there’s a nice seating area by the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House that felt slightly removed from the bustle, as did Tom Sawyer’s Island.

At Hollywood Studios, Mooch and I chilled at the Art of Animation. I had heard it was a quiet, not-too-crowded spot. Well, it was crowded (thanks a lot, Moana), but at least it was more subdued than outdoors.

Your turn

I want to hear from you. What are your tips for surviving Disney World during the busy season?

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Thinking about booking a cheap flight to Orlando, Florida? Here’s what you need to know before booking Allegiant!