Tag Archives: Disney

Our experience: Disney Water Parks

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As part of our 5-day ticket to the Walt Disney Resorts, we also got 5 days worth of water parks (and other things, but we only took advantage of the water parks). Visiting water parks is something that we discovered last year, when we went to Lido de Jesolo in Italy. We loved it, the girls had so much fun and we actually enjoyed going with them on the rides (unlike me going on carrousels).

So we were quite happy to go to both Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. I won’t go on too much about it, but comparing to the one in Italy (Aqualandia), the Disney water parks have some work to do. Aqualandia had so many attractions that Beatrice enjoyed, not silly baby rides, proper kid rides and the reason she was happy about it, was because many of them could be enjoyed by parent and child on the same floater. They had some really good rides, but also live shows. I was actually surprised that Disney water parks didn’t have anything “off water” for the kids. Well, it could have been water related, like the one in Aqualandia; it was Peter Pan’s story, but the actors were all divers and had some acrobatic dives in a pool hidden in Captain Hook’s ship. Anyhoo, enough about Aqualandia (a place we would definitely return if ever going back to that area) and on to Disney’s parks.

We had to change our plans slightly the morning we were visiting our first water park. We were supposed to start with Typhoon Lagoon on a Tuesday and go to Blizzard Beach Park on Friday or Saturday (I can’t remember bow), but after calling WDW customer service to try to book their umbrellas, we found out that Blizzard Beach was going to be closed for the weekend we planned to go, so we swapped them around. Ah, we couldn’t book the umbrellas on the phone, apparently you cannot do that on the day you are visiting the park (and they were all booked for the other days we wanted to go; you can still book on the day at the venue).

Blizzard Beach

We took longer than expected to get in because it was our first day at any of the Disney parks, so we had to queue to collect our cards. We then went to rent umbrellas, one of the last 8 available! I must say that because we didn’t have a clue of where to go, what to do or expect, we took our time to take action. Some families got there before, were already in line for the park and/or rentals, while we were looking for bathrooms, looking around, taking photos. Back to the umbrellas (they are called something else there): it cost $55 per set of 1 umbrella + 2 chairs + 2 lounge chairs. You will get a special arm band to go in and out these areas, although no one checks. There is a free option of chairs and umbrellas, but those are first come, first serve. Some of them are close to the rides and pools, so quite convenient. And there is a more private option, for bigger groups (and bigger budgets too). These are also located around the parks. Depending on the day you go (eg. mid week), all you need is to arrive early and go and find the free chairs; it’s much easier when is not your first day.

Two of the adults (bigger kids) rides – Summit Plummet and Slush Crusher – were closed “due to bad weather”; just a funny way they found to say they were shut for maintenance. We went to Blizzard Beach Water Park twice, with five days in between them and the rides were closed on both days. For some reason, we had the impression that this park was more child friendly and better for smaller kids like ours, which it is, but the second time we went, the girls didn’t enjoy as much.

There were a few rides that splashed water on their faces and they weren’t happy about that. One of these rides was the Teamboat Springs, were we went as a group – maximum 6 per raft, we were 8, so we split up and shared a raft with a few teenagers (funny kids). We got up there via the Chair Lift, which is slower than walking, but the girls thought it was fun.

On our first day, we took our own floaters, but we were told the kids couldn’t use them in the park. The ring ones, that is. They need to have the leg protection, so kids don’t go through them. Either that, or we have to use theirs… they have vests at different spots of the park, but if I can be honest, they were awful for Beatrice. The kid was trying to swim and the thing kept tipping her over because her legs were too light.

There is a toddler area (Tike’s Peak) that we spent some time with Beatrice. It was too simple for Laura, but Bea managed to have some fun. I got bored after a while, as I couldn’t do anything with other, other than just look. Most of the kids in the area were babies, under 1 is my guess.

Laura went to the Ski Patrol Training Camp, as there were a few activities that she could do. She said she liked it, but she didn’t want to go on the second day we went there.

We all went to the Cross Country Creek (there is something similar in the Typhoon Lagoon), which was also a way to go to some of the rides from our umbrella site. It’s a shallow stream, nice to relax or for the kids to have a swim. The wave pool was mild, but Beatrice didn’t enjoy it that much. Laura was ok with it the second time.

We (I?) didn’t go to many of the non-kids attractions, but the second day was easier – one of our friends wanted to relax, so he looked after the kids for us. 🙂 I went to the Downhill Double Dipper – the worst I’ve been in both parks; I was so scared that I couldn’t even scream. It’s not bad and for people who enjoy these steep falls, it’s pretty fun (very quick though). It didn’t help that a bunch of very big guys were screaming their lungs out, making it look worse than it was. I went to the Run-Off Rapids a few times. There are three toboggans, one is a closed tunnel, which is the “scary” one. Laura went to this one and screamed all the way down; she didn’t want to go again. She loved the other ones and went a few times. The swimming pool is quite deep though, so we were a bit worried, as she doesn’t know how to swim. I went in all three of them and the tunnel one is quite good – I was scared at first (don’t like not knowing what to expect) but then it was very good. I went a couple of times to the Snow Stormers, the zigzag ones. First time, I lost my grip, banged my head on the side and lost my sunglasses. After than I kinda got it and was ok. Also got some water in my nose, which wasn’t pleasant. I didn’t go to the Toboggan Racers, but the boys said it was cool.

Typhoon Lagoon

Although we found this slightly less child friendly than Blizzard Beach (for our kids’ age, that is), the girls managed to have a lot of fun… playing on the sand and on a small kiddy pool by the Crush ‘n Gusher ride. Beatrice tried to swim there, the life vest not letting her, and still she was happy and didn’t want to leave.

The rides are pretty much the same in both parks, changing the names and intensity. The Surf Pool is pretty cool, but the waves are quite strong for small kids. There are a couple of kiddy slides next to it (Bay Slides), but even these splashed too much for Bea. The Castaway Creek is exactly the same thing as the Cross Country Creek in BB. The girls had a bit of fun at the Ketchakiddee Creek, an area for smaller children. Gangplank Falls is the group raft – a very short ride compared to BB, but also very rough. A lot of banging, splashing, and the kids hated it. We were a bit like “is that it? all this queueing for this?”. We – the adults – went a few times on the Crush ‘n’ Gusher, because the queues were small. We went on the double ones, as the single ride line was way longer. It’s quite fun (again, I was scared at first, but once I tried it, I was happy to go a few more times). Laura was too small for that one (there is limit of height). I didn’t go on the Humunga Kowabunga, but hubby did and said I would sh*t myself if I did. Keelhaul Falls was pretty smooth and Laura enjoyed it. Same for Mayday Falls and Storm Slides, although not as smooth… the pools were deep, so we were a bit worried, but she was alright. One different attraction was the Shark Reef. Although it was ok for Laura’s height, she freaked out very close to the start and left. I must say that after swimming in this tank (with a few sharks, rays and other fish), I think she would have hated it and would be scared. It was really good though and there is no limit of time to stay there. I do get a bit anxious under water and with snorkel + mask. (I’m basically a chicken, scared of almost everything). We didn’t go on the Mountain Trail… honestly going up the stairs holing floaters and rafts was already enough exercise for my poor legs.

Going during the week surely made a difference in terms of waiting for the rides. In some of them, the wait was 5 minutes, which was pretty good for us. Towards the end of the day the queues are also shorter, as people with smaller kids just left. We stayed until the very end, so managed to go to some of the rides a few times.

In both parks, the food was bad. It’s fast food, so can’t expect much. The boys had the turkey leg, which I found very salty. Overall I thought that the parks were dated and simple, but it was a nice break between the real Disney parks, the girls have fun, the sun and temperature were perfect and most of the rides were enjoyable. It was worth adding them to our tickets – but not sure if there are better water parks there, we didn’t even think about trying any other.

Here are some photos, but very few as we didn’t have a water proof camera with us.

The area where the umbrellas are located. There are a few of them around the park, but not many.

The area where the umbrellas are located. There are a few of them around the park, but not many.

 

The private area where you have 6-8 chairs, a safe and a completely covered area. I also saw some people having food delivered to them, but not sure if it is exclusive to people renting that.

 

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The map of Typhoon Lagoon. The circled area is where our umbrellas were located.

 

The three girls used these a few times, but not the most friendly of the life vests in my option.

Laura wearing her vest on our 3rd day of water park 2nd visit to Blizzard)

 

The wave pool in Typhoon Lagoon is much cooler than the one at Blizzard Beach Water Park.

Castaway Creek in Typhoon Lagoon is the same as the Cross Country Creek in Blizzard Beach park.

 

Living the Disney dream

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And we have finally made it as a family! We are in Orlando for our first Disney holidays. It’s my second, but first time I was here was 25 years ago, a LOT has changed (for good and bad).

It’s early days to give any in depth review of our experience and the best is still to come. So far, things worth mentioning are:

1. The weather is amazing here. But my kids are too British now and they can’t cope with 30 degrees. They are melting!! I’m as happy as Larry and I couldn’t ask for more. The sun is quite strong though and hard to spend 8 hours under it, so cloudy (but warm, hear that UK?) is welcome and good.

2. Everything is big as it was and as it will always be. Big cars, big fridges, big houses, big packages of everything in the supermarket. Some are good things, some unnecessary. 

3. The kids… Oh, kids… Goodness, kids!!! Where have I gone so wrong??? Are they broken???? For crying out loud, we are on holidays, destination chosen for them and yet, it’s 70% complain, 15% indifference and 15% hapinness. 0% gratitude. Nothing is good, unless you shove ice cream and crisps. Nothing against treats during holidays, but the thing I’ve noticed is that they are not happy because of the experience, but because of the crisps and ice cream. Basically, if we stay at home eatingg ice cream or go to Disney without ice cream, the house wins. By far.

4. On the other hand, when they like something, they REALLY like it. And that’s why water parks are a winner for us. They love them and we live them! They also loved some of the rides at Universal Studios and Sea World and the meet and greet with characters (but can’t stand the queues).

5. Staying in self catering house has lots of pros and cons. I think it was a good choice for us, given the price we are paying, the duration of the trip and the location. If we were staying just a week and only going to Disney, I would probably have trying to stay at one of their resorts. 

6. We are struggling to find the best way to handle our days… They are far too long for the girls and by the end of it, they are ready to kill each other and exploding for no reason. It is very stressful for them and we even tried to cut a day short once, only to get stuck in traffic and end up at home at the same time as we would if we waited another hour or so. Maybe they will get used to it (she hopes).

7. I have problems with the military planning for Disney/Orlando trips I’ve read on blogs; the  lack of spontaneity of these trips drive me crazy, but you know what? It’s needed. This is not your usual holidays, this is a boot camp! It is an military operation to have fun. You have to know, plan, book, reserve, arrange, write down, download, learn, read, call, act upon… Want a relaxing holidays to wind down from a stressful period at work? This is NOT your destination, unless you go every year and are not bother about seeing much. We decided to take the approach of seeing one of two things and whatever comes extra is a bonus.

8. If you are not used to eating the food, don’t over eat it. I think I did (or maybe it was something I ate) and was in really bad shape: a whole night awake putting a week’s worth of meals out. And the next day had to find strength to go to Universal Studios. Not fun. I learned my lesson the hard way (unless it was something specific I ate).

9. So far, prices are very comparable to the UK. Some few stuff might be cheaper, but we haven’t seen that many items worth our dollars.

10. Being online in a trip like this is proving very hard to me. Wifi in all the park, but I need to look after the kids, enjoy the shows, etc. And now it’s 11pm, I’m dead and having a hard time to write this post. 

(Photos in a strange order)

 

Our car: the average size here

  

Our house in Kissimmee

  

our bedroom (very messy!) with a closet – live that all have this mini closet

  

My very first trip to a Whole Food Market

  

Our private pool, by night

  

our private pool, by day

  

Planning holidays and trips

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I love going on holidays, but don’t like planning the trips at all. I don’t mind to research bit, read about places and choose the destination, but find it all very complicated to check logistics, compare prices, check offers, select accommodation. Especially because these days there are so many options that we can just spend several days looking and checking and looking again. Then you read the reviews and some are useful, some add even more confusion to our heads.

Holidays with kids can be pretty simple in a way: select a beach destination, find a accommodation with a swimming pool and that’s it. In theory, at least. This year we decided to change the strategy – but not much – and go to Disneyworld in Florida. We honestly thought it was just a matter of booking flights, finding accommodation, getting the tickets to the parks and that was it. I went to Disneyworld more than 25 years ago, in January, way before this climate change thing messed up the whole holiday planning. January was nice and warm, fresh I would say. There were queues, but nothing bizarre. We could see, do and go to most of the things we wanted, without too much hassle.

Now it seems like we are going to war, with so many strategies behind every move. You need to plan the days you should go to each park, as some are less busy than others, plan all the activities beforehand, so you don’t waste time in unnecessary queues, plan the meals, restaurantes, meet and greets. There is an app to help you with it. There are billions of blogs giving detailed information and planning tips. You have to book things in advance – sometimes 6 months ahead!, you need to have an idea of what attractions you want to go to. Of course, no one forces you, but without this careful planning, your trip can be ruined.

We are actually using the service of a travel agent to organize the trip. We booked the flights, the car and the insurance and she has sorted the accommodation and the itinerary + park tickets for us. She also has a very comprehensive blog (in Portuguese) about travel, including lots and lots of information on Disney, and has been several times to Orlando, with and without kids. So we are kind of taking her lead. Even small things like “this particular attraction might not be great for young kids”, despite me really wanting to go, is taking into account. The trip is for the kids and adults have a way around it (using single rider and child swap queue schemes, for example, that I only got to know about this week, reading her blog).

I will confess that after this whole experience, I would like to go again, another time, when it is less busy, for shorter period and maybe to stay in the park resorts. Or maybe not, maybe Disney will be ticked from our list for a few years, until they are old enough to go to every single ride and be able to walk for 10-12 hours without wanting us to carry them.

More to come on this trip soon.

10 places I want to go with the kids

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The list has easy to go and affordable destinations (well, at least 7 ou 8 of them) when travelling from Europe. Of course the real list is way longer than that, but these are the places I would like to go NOW and require very little planning. 😉

1) Sardinia: we were there in June 2009, just before I got pregnant. We flew to Olbia in the Northeast and stayed in Cala Gonone (East coast). We had a car for the week we were there and went kayaking one day, which was really fun and I would like to try again. A week is not enough to fully enjoy the island. Italy is such a friendly place to take kids (Italians love their children) that it only makes sense to go there again with the girls (not sure about trekking and kayaking though).

Sardinia

Sardinia

2) Cyprus: we were there with Laura in June 2012, and stayed in Protaras, on the southeast coast. The closest beach to our flat was Fig Tree beach, which was lovely for kids and adults. Since we had a car for the week, we managed to drive around a bit, but we stayed mostly near the apartment. I would try to go in April or May, as I found June very hot (it’s worse in July/August), and I would also like to visit Northern Cyprus.

Fig Tree Beach, Cyprus

Fig Tree Beach, Cyprus

3) Greece: we’ve only been there once, to Athens and Sifnos. There’s so much more to see and do. I would try to avoid the most popular ones and would prefer to go in April/May or September. We went in July/August and it was VERY hot. Nothing against, but the sun wasn’t really appropriate for children.

Greece, some beach I would like to go

Greece, some beach I would like to go (I bet this is not the real colour though). Photo credit: http://www.charterworld.com

4) Florida: I went only once, when I was 12. I think it’s the perfect place to enjoy beaches and parks; in the right season the weather can be beautiful and the girls would never get bored (we had a few moments when Laura didn’t want to go to the beach anymore, so having other kids-friendly options around is always good).

Disney is just ONE of the places in Florida to visit. Photo credit: Disney World website

Disney is just ONE of the places in Florida to visit. Photo credit: Disney World website

5) Northeast of Brazil. We will got to Salvador in January and I hope it will be a good experience. I have been to a few places and loved them all, but it will be my first time in Bahia (at least as an experience I can remember).

Porto de Galinhas, PE

Calhetas Beach, PE

6) Italy. Because it’s Italy. I want to go everywhere, anywhere, always!

An afternoon view in Verona, Italy

An afternoon view in Verona, Italy

7) Lapland, northern Finland. At least until they believe in Santa Claus. I think it would be a great trip. Actually, I would say that Scandinavia is a great region to visit with kids. My impression is that, as with Italians, the scandi love their children and there are loads to do with them in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. It could be just an impression – we visited Norway and Copenhagen and there was nothing screaming BRING YOUR KIDS, but there was this kids-friendly thing in the air.

Lapland; isn't it beautiful? Photo credit: Nordic Visitor Finland website

Lapland; isn’t it beautiful? Photo credit: Nordic Visitor Finland website

8) Guernsey/Jersey. I’m dying to visit those islands; I’ve seen some pretty great pictures and they are not far, it’s British territory (although next door to France), it’s easy access (we can go either by air or sea) and they are tiny, so in a week should be possible to visit most/all of it. Oh, I mean one week each, not both.

Guernsey. Photo credit: Walking Britain website

Guernsey. Photo credit: Walking Britain website

9) Berlin. Loads of friends say the most amazing things about Berlin. Not sure how interesting it is for a pre-schooler, but I’m sure we can fin something she will enjoy doing.

Berlin. Photo credit: www.trueberlin.com

Berlin. Photo credit: http://www.trueberlin.com

10) Australia. This wouldn’t be my list if Australia wasn’t in it. I couldn’t care less if the girls or Mr. C would enjoy a trip to Australia; this is a totally personal destination. 😉

Owwwnnnn

Owwwnnnn