Here are some questions I’m getting about our Disney trip, and some thoughts on each. I think I’m done talking about Disney now! Tomorrow: a return to pie. But for now, the all-Disney, all the time, continues!
How young is too young? a.k.a., did Little Miss Sunshine have a good time?
The Little Miss is 2 1/2 years old, and although she did have a really good time, it was a little overwhelming for her. A lot of the shows and rides and fireworks were too loud for her, and she spent at least half the time with her hands over her ears. Also, the days were long for her, and it was important for us to set aside time every afternoon for her to rest. In general, our days went like this: either we’d get to the park right at opening, head home around 1 p.m. for a nap, then return for a couple of hours after an early dinner; or we’d get to the park at opening, push the Little Miss through to 3 p.m. or so (when a lot of the parades are), then call it a day and come home for a quick swim, dinner, and bed.
There were some things she really really loved — in particular it was so awesome to go through It’s A Small World with her, and she was very excited about all the parades. She adored the animals at Animal Kingdom and liked the interactive Kids’ Club activities there. She did NOT like meeting the characters, except for Minnie Mouse — she has a Minnie doll so she knew who Minnie was a litter better than the rest and cared a little more. We also got a little one-on-one time with Belle after Storytime With Belle (an interactive play/presentation at the Magic Kingdom) and she was quite happy to chat with Belle under those very laid back circumstances.
Also, she was a good traveller in that the planes, trains, and buses totally did not freak her out at all, but she required a LOT of entertaining and managing during transport, and that was awfully tiring for us.
In general, it was a lot for her to take in and I do think the older kids got a lot more out of the experience — not to mention the fact that she probably won’t remember anything at all. Actually, the one thing that we’re pretty sure she is going to remember is that Gal Smiley dropped her shoe off the balcony of our hotel room on the first morning. We couldn’t retrieve it ourselves because our rooms were at the Animal Kingdom overlooking the savanna, and people aren’t allowed down there, and the shoe was there for two days before we got it back. About 20 times a day for those first two days, the Little Miss would suddenly exclaim, “Oh no! The animals are eating Gal Smiley’s shoe! WE MUST SAVE IT!” and it was SO CUTE. Even after we had the shoe back, the Little Miss would run to it on occasion to point it out and say that it was safe now, safe from animals eating it.
Disney tip: Make sure your kids have two pairs of shoes with them, if staying at Animal Kingdom.
Anyway, we plan to wait until she is 5 1/2 — three years from now — before we go back. We might wait even longer if she’s still too short to ride the 44-inch-height-restriction rides, since they’re a lot of fun and really open up the park to fun for the whole family.
How was your hotel?
We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge — Kidani Village. This can be confusing if you are looking in guide books and online, because the Animal Kingdom Lodge used to be only one building. Then they built a second building, and renamed the original building to “Animal Kingdom Lodge — Jambo House” while the new one is Kidani. Still, a lot of guides and sites refer to only the “Animal Kingdom Lodge,” in which case, they mean Jambo House.
Kidani Village is all suites — bedrooms with a sitting/dining room and, for the 1 and 2 bedroom units, a full kitchen. I’ve already talked about the huge benefits of having a full kitchen in my food post. Other benefits of having the suite, though, were in-room laundry (I did laundry at least three times, and we could have easily brought half the clothes with us we did), multiple bathrooms (ours was a 2-bedroom, and it has THREE BATHROOMS, so crazy), and multiple TVs. If you have young kids and will be spending a significant amount of time in your rooms, it’s so worth it to splurge on the suite.
Kidani in particular has half of its rooms overlooking the savanna, where animals can wander up to within 10 feet or so of your balcony. We were constantly amazed at the beauty of seeing these animals just grazing or playing or napping. They are mostly active in the late afternoon, which is exactly when we arrived, and so just watching the animals from our balcony kept the kids busy and dazzled while we settled in, unpacked, and made dinner. I’m not sure I’d pay extra for the view again, but seeing as how we spent a LOT of time on our balcony looking at animals, I think it was worth it for this first time to Disney.
In case you are packing for Disney right now and wondering about what you’ll find in a Kidani suite, their kitchens have all the basics you’ll need to cook (pots, pans, cookie sheets, measuring cups, one sharp knife, cheese grater, can opener) and they’ll also give you dish soap, dishwasher soap, laundry soap, and a sponge and paper towels for cleaning up. We brought our own tupperware containers (bring at least 5 or 6), ziploc bags (bring at least 20, and wash and reuse them every day), and an extra sharp knife (which we were happy to have). Just about the only thing I wish we had brought was a pair of scissors, for opening packages and snipping off tags and such.
Oh, and one more complaint, in case anyone at Disney is listening: the suite was too dark. I like a lot of light in my kitchen and bathrooms. Pump up the wattage level, please!
What was the weather like?
In January, Florida does get cool. We were wearing pants pretty much every day, although one day was warm enough for shorts and t-shirts. Usually it was pants, t-shirt, and fleece or sweatshirt for the morning hours only. One day it rained so we wore our rain jackets over our sweatshirts; at least three of the days, we used our toques and gloves in the morning and evening hours.
The cool weather did not keep us out of the pool though — if you can stomach the walk over, the water is heated to 80 degrees and is lovely.
How much money did you spend/need?
We hooked our park pass cards up to our credit card, so we could charge just about anything we bought in the park — food or souvenirs. We only needed cash for buying food at the airport on the way home, and for tipping.
OMG, the tipping. Okay, we are totally not seasoned travellers and probably this is old news to most of the world, but did you know that travelling involves a lot of tipping? Even at Disney? So bring something other than $20 American bills if you don’t want to feel like an idiot in front of your Magical Express bus driver, your bellhop, your maid, and the guy who delivered your FedEx packages to your room. DOH.
And don’t ask me how much to tip these people, There’s nothing that can make me feel less like an adult than trying to figure out the world of tipping. Where the heck is James Bond when you need him? I bet he never has issues like this.
So, to sum up: other than the cash we gave the grocery delivery lady for our food, we probably only needed around $50 US cash to tide us through the week.
What were your favourite rides/shows?
The Captain surprised us with his love of the big thrill rides. He’s just barely — BARELY — 44 inches, which qualifies him for most of the roller coasters, but since Gal Smiley wasn’t tall enough to go on them and since the Captain hadn’t really been on anything like that before, we thought we’d be skipping them. But NO. It turns out that six-year-old boys LOVE the roller coasters. His favourites were Expedition Everest, Space Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain, and he also love love loved Buzz Lightyears Space Ranger Spin and the Toy Story Mania and Star Wars rides at Hollywood.
Speaking of Toy Story Mania, that was the only ride the whole week long where we actually saw a real line up. We arrived at the park at 8:30 a.m. – it was early opening day there – and already the line was 40 minutes and they were handing out fastpasses for more than two hours later (seriously, unheard of). By the time we came back around 10:45 a.m. to use our fastpasses, they were fastpassing for 4 p.m. in the afternoon. So go there first!
Gal Smiley is five and just barely — BARELY — 40 inches, which means the only big ride she could go on was Big Thunder Mountain. She went, though — twice — and she liked it. She’s still young enough to prefer the kiddie stuff, though, and her absolute most favourite ride was It’s A Small World. She also loved Goofy’s Barnstormer (a very small roller coaster for preschoolers), Cinderella’s Carousel, and the Tea Cup Spin, and she adored seeing the animals at Animal Kingdom. Gal Smiley was also the most interested of our kids in meeting the characters and was very excited to gather their autographs.
Disney Tip: buy a little hardcover notebook at the dollar store for your kid to get autographs in before you go — otherwise you might be spending $11 on an “autograph book” when you get there. And bring a big marker — the character’s hands are too big and bulky to handle a mini marker or a pen.
The Little Miss I talked about above, but she liked the parades and the ice cream a whole lot, loved Storytime with Belle (at the Magic Kingdom — a nice quiet audience-participation show), and really loved the peace and quiet of the animal walks at Animal Kingdom.
Sir Monkeypants and I loved a lot of the shows. In particular I ADORED Voyage of the Little Mermaid at Hollywood, Festival of the Lion King at Animal Kingdom, and Finding Nemo: The Musical at Animal Kingdom. Sir Monkeypants’ favourite was the 3-D Mickey’s Philharmagic at the Magic Kingdom, and we both liked Storytime With Belle at the Magic Kingdom, both because the Captain got called up on stage to participate, and because the girls got a nice quiet meet-and-greet with Belle afterwards (we were last in a very small line, so we got a few extra minutes alone with her).
We also made a point of going late to the Magic Kingdom one night to see the fireworks, and they were amazing and beautiful (but the Little Miss had to watch with her hands over her ears.
Two rides that did not impress us: Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan at the Magic Kingdom. The lines for both are super long, and the ride is only one minute long. We used fastpass for these and even then, they were only meh. Do not wait a long time for these — I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be for little kids to wait a half hour for a ride only to have it last one minute and then be told to get off. Fastpass if you can, or skip them altogether.