Top Five Must-Dos with a Toddler at Disney World

As we all know, Disney is a wonderful place filled with imagination and dreams, but it can be a daunting adventure when you’re navigating through the parks with your toddler.

 

 

We’ve found that there are a few key things to do at the parks with your toddler to keep them engaged, to use up some of their energy and to make your life simpler and your park trip more enjoyable. In this post we’re sharing our top five must-dos with a toddler at Disney World and including some tips and tricks we’ve learned along the way.

 

Top Five Must-Dos with a Toddler at Disney World

 

 

1. Meet the characters.

This is by far the top of our list. Tallulah is such a huge fan of the characters, and we love how every experience is totally different which keeps it fresh for us too (you can only do Small World so many times, am I right).

 

I love talking Tallulah through who she’s going to meet while we’re in line, particularly if she can’t see the character until she’s right there with them.

 

Sometimes she likes to get down and hug them and dance with them and other times she wants to be held tight while being closer to their eye level to engage.

 

 

I try to go with her vibe and let her do her thing which makes the engagements all the more fun.
(TIP- If your kids are a bit hesitant to meet the characters, I encourage you to let them watch some of the outdoor meet and greets so they can see how the characters move, look, and interact with other guests. It’s just about as entertaining and keeps your kids feeling safe if they’re scared. Plus, it’s a great warm up.)

2. Visit the air conditioned play areas on property.

Since Orlando is hot for most of the year, this is one of my favorite tips. There are three key locations… Dumbo’s queue play area at Magic Kingdom, Star Wars Launch Bay at Hollywood Studios, and The Seas Pavilion at Epcot.

 

All of these locations are amazing places to let your kids explore while both you and they get to cool down. These locations aren’t usually too crowded either which makes the stops well worth the visit.
(TIP- If you want more details on these offerings, you can visit my site TinyThemesBlog.com for a detailed write-up.)

 

3. Let them run around and explore when the crowds are low.

This tip is really helpful to get those wiggles out from being in a stroller for long periods of time as well as waiting in lines. I usually recommend taking the path less traveled to find these lesser populated areas. Basically, head to the areas other guests aren’t.

 

For example, at Epcot, most guests start the day in Future World since World Showcase doesn’t open until 11am. However, Canada and some of France open before the 11am start time, and even up until 1pm the rest of World Showcase isn’t crazy busy.

 

It’s the best time to park the stroller in the front of a chosen country and let your little explorer lead the way on foot. Then you can backtrack to Future World when World Showcase gets busy 🙂

 

Also, at Hollywood Studios, people tend to head to the big ticket areas first, so checking out Sunset Blvd in the beginning of the day and Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land later in the day tend to give you more open space to explore. Same goes for Animal Kingdom; stop by Pandora later in the day and you’ll have way more room for your toddler to run.

 

4. Use mobile ordering for meals.

I cannot stress enough what a time saver this service is, especially when you’re taking your kiddo(s) to the park solo. Mobile ordering lets you order and pay for your meals from the Disney World App, and when you get to the restaurant you just go right to the window and pick up your food instead of needing to wait in insanely long lines just to order.

 

This is a lifesaver when you need to get some food for your hangry toddler (or self) ASAP. It makes the dining experience way simpler. Also, I highly recommend selecting quick services restaurants that allow strollers when you’re doing the park as the solo adult. PizzeRizzo, Pecos Bill and Pizzafari are some of our favs for that.

 

5. Give your kids the opportunity to dress up at the parks.

I didn’t really understand the beauty of this for both parents and child, but it seriously affects the overall day experience. I love seeing how Tallulah’s demeanor changes when she’s in costume and how the Cast Members and guests interact with her when she’s rocking her look.

 

 

The older she’s getting, the more into it she gets, and I’m so here for it.

 

(TIP – There are amazing and unique costumes for sale all across property that are in my opinion, better and cheaper than the standard princess dresses – although of course those are beautiful too. It’s worth checking out the costumes at the shops on property. You never know what you’ll find.)

Also, if you get the chance to visit the parks near Halloween, I highly encourage you to dress up for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party as a family. You’ll make memories you won’t soon forget.

 

I hope these tips help you enjoy your Disney day with your toddler all the more. I’d love to hear what your toddler loves most to do in the comment section below.

 

Guest Blogger – Amanda Batts

Creator of Tiny Themes Blog. I’m bringing what I’ve learned from working at Walt Disney World for seven years along with what I’ve experienced as a mom taking my toddler to the parks, to help make your family’s Disney experience the best it can possibly be! Follow me at @bibbidibobbidibatts on Instagram and at www.TinyThemesBlog.com


Date Nights at Disney

Date nights at Disney are the perfect way to put some magic into a typical night out with your other half. It’s one of my favorite places to go hang out one-on-one with my husband and reconnect. It’s on Disney date nights where we fell in love with each other, got engaged and where we continue to enjoy time with just the two of us. 

After nearly a decade of date nights at Disney, here’s a list of my favorite places to go. 

Epcot

Oh, there are SO many options here! This is easily my favorite place on Disney property to spend time with my husband. Here’s why. 

The food:

Much of the year, Epcot hosts several festivals, which makes for a flexible, stress-free and casual date night. I love to spend the evening trying out all sorts of tapas-style international cuisine while strolling around the countries. When there isn’t a festival going on, I am always sure to book reservations at Spice Road Table in Morocco. It has plenty of entree offerings, but also an amazing list of shareable appetizers. My husband and I love ordering a few different appetizers and then sharing them all. Bonus: if you sit outside, you get a great view of the World Showcase Lagoon! 

Live Music:

There are so many live music options here. We love to watch the British Revolution in the UK, but also love watching the Canadian bands that rotate throughout the year at the Canadian Pavilion. In addition, there are lots up “pop up” musical acts throughout the countries, and Disney is great about bringing in fresh, talented acts into the park. 

The views:

My husband and I love to chat while we’re getting lost in little nooks within the countries. Ever go deep into Morocco? Ever walk through the Stave Church in Norway? It feels like you’re traveling through little markets across the world, and there’s never a lack of things to talk about. In additional, there are gorgeous sunsets to be seen around the lake! 

Unique Experience:

Go get a portrait done in France! It’s not cheap, but if you’re celebrating a milestone in your relationship, it really is a unique way to keep the memory of that night alive. The night my husband proposed to me, we got a caricature done of us and it still hangs in our house today! 

Disney Springs 

The food:

Disney Springs boasts an impressive list of restaurants that appeals to a variety of palates, however I have two favorites here. Raglan Road is an Irish-themed restaurant with authentic food and ambience. The restaurant also has a show right in the center of their restaurant with talented Irish step dancers. It’s a must-see! But, if you’re looking for something less formal, go to the Hangar Bar. It’s totally underrated (which means less of a crowd) and it has outdoor seating right on the lake. 

After dinner:

The Edison is a multi-level bar and restaurant with lots of unique entertainment on each floor. It’s lively ambience will keep your date night together going late! 

Unique Experience:

I love going on the hot air balloon at Disney Springs. It’s not for everyone (namely anyone who has a fear of heights – it goes up pretty high!), but the views cannot be beat. Note: Check the weather report before you go though because the balloon won’t fly in windy conditions. 

Do you need a ride to or from Orlando International Airport? Are you worried about bringing your own car to the airport and back? Kidmoto car service offers airport transportation with installed car seats. Download the Kidmoto App now and get $10 off when you do, use coupon code ORLANDOMOMCOLLECTIVE.

The Boardwalk 

The food:

If you’re feeling fancy, Flying Fish is the place to be. One time, I ordered scallops for dinner and went to the restroom when the food had been served. They took the scallops back until I returned because the less-than-twenty-four-hour-old scallops should be eaten at a certain temperature. If that’s not fancy, I don’t know what is! 

After dinner:

AbracadaBar is a funky, magic-themed (obviously) bar with small bites. It boasts an impressive list of spirits and cocktails along with a fun atmosphere. Bonus: it’s right next door to the Flying Fish! 

The ambience:

It’s just so pretty on the Boardwalk at night. Simply sitting on one of the many tables that are available next to the lake makes for a perfect place to chat and get in that one-on-one time that sometimes is difficult to fit in when there are kids around. Kick back, chat and watch the boats go by! 

While these are my favorites, no matter where you go on your date night at Disney, the “Disney magic effect” is real. There’s something about the place that makes a night for two unique and unforgettable. 

If you’re ready for a memorable evening together, book that babysitter and get down to Disney for your next date night!


Guest Post by Laurie Crocker

How To Do Disney on a Budget

Our family’s love for Walt Disney World began early on. As a child, my husband’s family created magical memories together using their Annual Passes, and he always longed to raise a Disney-loving family to relive those favorite childhood memories. While planning our very first trip as a family, we quickly realized visiting Disney came at a large cost but we didn’t let that fact detour us from sharing the magic with our little ones, and neither should you. After many years of visiting the theme parks and taking week-long stay-cations, I’m here to share How to do Disney on a Budget using these tried and true tips!

How to do Disney on a Budget

how to do Disney on a budget

Experience Gifts > Toys

Each year, we ask family and friends for Disney gift cards for birthday, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Christmas gifts for our children. We are big believers in the idea of experience gifts over toys and the true joy they provide. While toys are fun to open, gifts cards for experiences provide a lasting memory, more connection, and less clutter. We started this tradition when our son was a toddler, and we dreamed of celebrating his second birthday with Mickey. At that time, we were on a strict budget and weren’t able to afford the trip we dreamed of gifting him. Thankfully, our family agreed Disney Gift Cards would go a long way, and we were able to celebrate “Cohban’s Two-dles” with his favorite guy: Mickey Mouse!

Cohban will be turning 10 this year, and I promise you, Disney gift cards are the BEST way to do Disney on a budget! We haven’t traveled to Disney without gift cards in hand, and we go every year!

Disney Discounts for the Win

My husband might cringe each time I ask for a discount, but I can assure you, he thanks me after realizing how much money I save us in the long run.

We are Florida Residents and a Military family, and Disney offers discounts for each of these categories. Do not ever feel ashamed in asking for a better deal or discount on tickets, rooms, and dining. They offer these special rates for a reason, as a THANK YOU, and it would be silly to let those go without researching or at least asking about your options.

Save Money by Staying at a Value Resort without losing Premium Hospitality

how to do Disney on a budget

The biggest hidden secret in doing Disney on a budget is reserving a room at a Value Resort. Disney Value Resorts are designed with families in mind. These resorts offer value rates on rooms, dining plans, exciting displays and activities for young children, and a great space to rest your head at night after a joy-packed day at the parks or themed pools.

We typically plan a week-long stay-cation each time we visit Walt Disney World. The best tip I can provide about doing Disney on a budget is to visit the parks one day and enjoy the resort the others. The resorts provide a schedule of activities when you check in. Take note of the activities your children will enjoy, and write them down! After a full day of riding rides and walking all the parks, imagine the pure joy your family will feel relaxing poolside, playing games, and taking in all the resort has to offer.

The Children’s Menu, Packed Lunches, Pizza, and Water Bottles Go A Long Way

While traveling to Walt Disney World is magical, the cost of that magic can add up quickly. Over the years, I’ve tried to find ways to save money and found the best way to save on the overall cost was to budget our meals. My husband is one of those guests who travels for the food alone. There’s magic found within a good meal provided by Disney and its’ staff, but boy does it add up quickly – especially for a family of five!

These tips have proven to save us hundreds of dollars each visit while still enjoying the yummy food we crave year after year!

  • Order from the Children’s Menu or Share a Meal– Most adult meals ordered at Walt Disney World and their resorts are portioned to feed more than one person. I promise you! They’re HUGE. After ordering from the Children’s Menu from most of the restaurants, I found I was full and spending half the cost! If there is a adult menu item you’d really like to try, share a meal with someone from your family.
  • Pack Lunch & Freeze Water Bottles- We always eat a packed lunch at the theme parks. A few of our favorite things to pack are Uncrustables (thawed by lunch time), raw vegetables and ranch, crackers and peanut butter, protein bars, apples, fruit snacks, and frozen water bottles. You can find water fountains to easily refill your bottles located at the first aid stations and near restrooms, saving you at least $3 a bottle.
  • Drink WATER vs. Soda- Hear me out. There’s nothing better than an ice cold Sprite to “quench” your thirst, but truth be told, water is exactly what your body needs while visiting Disney. The resorts require their guests to purchase a plastic reusable cup at a cost per day to use their soda machines. If you pack a water bottle, you’re able to fill your water bottle up for FREE AND use it at the parks! Their reusable cups are not allowed to be used at the theme parks. Save money while fueling your body for more fun!
  • Order a WHOLE Pizza- One of our best kept secrets in doing Disney on budget is to order a whole pizza from the menu vs. individual meals. A whole pizza is less than $20 and feeds the whole family. We like to order ours early and schedule a pick up. Then, we enjoy hot fresh pizza poolside while watching the kids swim and watch the resort’s outdoor movie.

Find the Magic in the Special Moments

how to do Disney on a budget

All in all, the best way to do Disney on a budget is to find the magic in the special moments. Maybe your budget doesn’t allow for Character Dining but you’ll always remember the look on their faces when they meet their favorite character at the park. Magic can be found in a homemade picnic near Cinderella’s Castle, in your child’s eyes as they ride Space Mountain for the first time, or their smile as a princess waves in their direction. Magic isn’t found in all the lavish souvenirs, it’s found the special little moments with your loved ones by your side.


Disney Wall Photo Spots!

We all know that Disney is a magical place to experience, but it’s equally enchanting to look back at your photos from your Disney adventures and relive your time at the most magical place on earth!

Castle shots are great, don’t get me wrong, but the lighting can be intense and the crowds around you may make for a less than ideal family photo. The answer to these problems… Disney Wall photo spots!

Disney Wall Photo Spots

Disney Wall photo spots make for a great addition to your Disney family camera roll. One of the best things about these picture perfect locations across property is the fact that you and your family will be the stars of the shot since the wall is the only thing behind you. No need to worry about the tourist with the vibrant neon shirt walking directly behind you and your family’s posed photo on Main Street. Another perk to these photo spots is that the lighting in most of these specific locations make for some naturally beautiful photos.

In this post, I’m sharing our favorite photo walls at all four parks and where you can find them.

Fun tip for parents – I find that I get the best pictures of my toddler when I don’t pose her but capture the natural joy of what she’s feeling by being in the parks. These walls allow kids and adults alike to be themselves in an environment where they can take their time to enjoy the moment and where they aren’t on sensory overload (unlike most of the posed park icon shots). 

Magic Kingdom

You may have seen friends sharing pictures with a purple background while donning Minnie ears and eating a Mickey bar from their Disney trip. The Tomorrowland Purple Wall is where this original iconic wall pic took place. Who knew purple was such an incredibly flattering backdrop color for everyone! This wall is pretty popular, it even has a line of merchandise developed around it. (Same with a few of the Epcot walls, but we’ll get to that park next).

The Purple Wall

There are two parts to the Purple Wall. There’s the OG solid Purple Wall, and a little further down there’s a more modern take on it called the Galactic Purple Wall. They’re located on the walkway between Tomorrowland Terrace and Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor.

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The Blue Wall

The Blue Wall is also located in Tomorrowland. It’s outside on the right when you exit the Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin gift shop. This solid blue wall is such a beautiful hue, it looks great with just about any outfit.

 

The Candy Stripe Wall

One of my favorite lesser-known walls is the Candy Stripe Wall. This sweet…pun intended… and soft toned wall is located at the Main Street exit of the Confectionary across from the Emporium. TIP – when you take photos at this wall, bring your patience because it can be very busy. Most of the walls are tucked away, but this one is in the center of the action on Main Street. On the flip side, you don’t have to go too far out of your way to get to this wall.

Epcot 

If you’re looking for the park with the most bang for your buck when it comes to sheer amount of Disney walls, this is it! There’s a grand total of seven photo walls at Epcot, and I’m sure there are many more to come with the current expansion in progress.

 

The Bubblegum & Blueberry Walls

This first wall is actually another two-parter and it’s beautiful! A whole line of merch was created for the Bubblegum Wall as well! When you’re entering the park from the main gate, this wall is located on the left side exit of Spaceship Earth across from Guest Relations and Electric Umbrella. The Bubble Gum wall is adorable and makes for some really cute pictures! I recommend coming to this area when the sun isn’t too harsh. Usually first thing in the morning is great. About three steps in front of the Bubblegum Wall is the Blueberry Wall, so if you can only hit one photo wall stop at Epcot, this two for one deal is the best!

 

The Galaxy Wall

Our next stop you’ll actually need to hurry to enjoy before the Guardians of the Galaxy ride opens, since this popular wall is actually surrounding the entire park-facing construction zone of the new attraction. The Galaxy Wall is so dreamy and picturesque. It basically is like you’re taking a picture behind your very own life-size Mac desktop background. TIP – We love bringing a picnic blanket and having a little snack in the grassy area by this photo spot. It’s really peaceful and the monorail goes right above it, so it’s easy to keep the kiddos entertained. 

 

The Rose Gold Wall

As you continue your Epcot journey, make sure to stop at the Mission Space outdoor pre-queue area. You can find the Rose Gold Wall there. With its amazingly soft natural light, it was a huge winner in our book.

The Morocco Wall

In World Showcase there’s one insanely gorgeous wall (well really pavilion in general) for photos, and it’s Morocco. Seriously this pavilion is stunning! The Morocco Wall is located on the left once you enter the main archway. TIP – if you arrive at Epcot early, I highly recommend exploring World Showcase with your toddler right when it opens so they can roam and explore before the crowds arrive. Morocco is so much fun to get lost in, and the photos you can take during that adventure tend to turn out nicely! 

 

The Mosaic Wall

When you exit World Showcase and head towards Future World, you’ll want to stop at the Land Pavilion entrance and take some pictures at the Mosaic Wall that surrounds the main walkway. With its warm tones and pops of color, it really is a great spot to take photos with any amount of family members in your party.

 

The Toothpaste Wall

Last but not least, the Toothpaste Wall is the last stop on the Epcot grand tour. Its located in the outside queue of The Seas with Nemo and Friends right before you enter the building. I have to warn you, the lighting can be somewhat harsh at different times of day but it’s worth giving it a try since after all, there’s a ride at the end of this photo op.

Hollywood Studios 

With the relatively new additions of Toy Story Land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and the Incredibles area, we now have six new walls at Disney’s Hollywood Studios!

The Tatooine Traders Wall

I’ll start with the only OG wall at the Studios on this list. The Tatooine Traders Wall is located directly outside of the shop with the same name. You’ll find these earthy walls ready for some killer photos to be taken in front of them.

 

The Incredibles Walls
Traveling towards Toy Story Land, you’ll come across the Incredibles Walls. This grouping of walls can be found where the Toy Story Mania entrance used to be before the new land opened. These adorable primed-for-Instagram backdrops tend to have Photopass photographers stationed by them which makes them unique. My favorite has to be the Jack-Jack Wall for obvious reasons…

The Checkerboard Wall & Popsicle Wall

In Toy Story Land, there are two walls right across from each other. The Checkerboard Wall and the Popsicle Wall can be found if you follow the Toy Story Mania exit path behind the Pixar ball. You’ll see these walls right before you enter the building.

TIP – There’s a new Popsicle wall that’s even easier to get to. It’s located to the left of the entrance of the Alien Swirling Saucers ride. 

 

The Resistance Wall

You know I had to save Batuu for last… The Resistance Wall is the newest kid on the block when it comes to Disney Walls. If you’re traveling to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge from Toy Story Land, it will be on the far right hand side after you exit the Batuu Market Place. It’s such a perfectly quiet area with a massive themed backdrop wall. I mean you could have a serious family reunion photoshoot here with the amount of people who could stand in front.

Animal Kingdom 

When it comes to natural, earthy and detailed walls, Animal Kingdom knows how to do it!

There are two key areas in Animal Kingdom for wall shots, Pandora and Harambe Village Market. In Pandora, the famous Moss Wall has such a unique look. Once you exit the Flights of Passage gift shop, the wall can be found at the seating area on your right. Plus, this is a great spot to sit and relax after a long day.

The Moss Wall

 

The Fichwa Fellow Wall

In Harambe Village Market, you can find the last four walls in our list. The Fichwa Fellow Wall is located just outside of the market’s entrance. I mean you can’t not stop and take a picture of the Big Cheese in this unique artist rendition.

 

The Harambe Village Market Bicycle Wall

Directly across from the Fichwa Fellow Wall is the Harambe Village Market Bicycle Wall. This wall has some funky distressed flyers that look like they’ve been there forever.

 

The Grunge Wall

If you keep walking a few steps closer to the exit for Kilimanjaro Safari, you’ll see what I like to call the Grunge Wall. This area has some of the coolest colors on property and make for some incredible shots. Although this isn’t an officially named wall, it is definitely worth taking pictures in front of this Disney Photo wall spot.

 

The You Are Most Beautiful Wall

The final wall may just be the sweetest of all. Once inside Harambe Village Market, if you follow the vendors on the left, you’ll see a little alleyway with writing at the end. This is the You Are Most Beautiful Wall. We all could use a little Disney empowerment now and then, so this wall fits the bill.

Although not every wall has an official name, there are so many more spaces to explore! I’d love to hear about the unique primed-for-instagram photo walls you’ve found at Disney in the comments section below.

I hope this list helps add some new and unique stops finding Disney Wall photo spots for your family photo album! They’re totally worth the visit!

Guest Blogger – Amanda Batts

Creator of Tiny Themes Blog. I’m bringing what I’ve learned from working at Walt Disney World for seven years along with what I’ve experienced as a mom taking my toddler to the parks, to help make your family’s Disney experience the best it can possibly be! Follow me at @bibbidibobbidibatts on Instagram and at www.TinyThemesBlog.com

Mobile Apps For Cool and Advanced Moms

If you can’t calm down a naughty kid, you can read him a book or sing a song. You’d be surprised, but today’s mom apps can do it for you. They can teach your baby to distinguish colors, numbers, or help track his location. Are you tired and want to download electronic assistants? Then let’s look at the best apps for cool and advanced moms!

Calendars

Raising a child, it is very important to remember all the important moments of his life – watching him grow, learn the world, make new discoveries. But you should not rely only on your memory. It is best to install apps on your smartphone. They will help you remember the exact time when the baby took the first step, said the first word, how he grew up and gained weight…

Baby Care

The Baby Care app will help you keep a complete diary of each stage of your baby’s development. The exact time your baby was eating, sleeping, changing his diaper, brushing his teeth, getting vaccinated, etc. Everything about your child’s life and health is included in the application. The program will also remind you of the need for a scheduled appointment or vaccination time.

In addition, the functionality of the application supports the ability to upload photos of the child, recording his voice. In general, the program is a great way to capture all the memorable events in a child’s life.

Baby Monitor

A baby monitor is an extremely convenient accessory. While the baby is asleep, Mom can mind her own business. But if the baby wakes up and cries, the device will immediately report it. The price of such a gadget is quite high, and not always young parents can afford to buy it. At the same time, everyone has smartphones today. Why not assign this function to a smart device? Especially since you just need to install the appropriate application.

Nanny

This application will successfully perform the baby monitor function. Setting up the program is very easy – anyone can use it. In the settings, you just need to specify the phone number with which the application should work. After that, the device can be left in a room with a sleeping baby.

When the baby wakes up and cries, the number specified in the program will be called. The feedback option is also supported – a call can be made to a smartphone with the program installed, the application will answer the incoming call and the child will hear a familiar voice.

Games

Games are the most important element of a child’s development. In any case, your child will show interest in the smartphone. And it is better if you draw his attention to developing, useful for motor skills games. Let’s focus on two such applications.

My baby: Piano

The app is an electronic piano. After starting the program, colorful keys appear on the smartphone display. There are two game modes – drum or piano. The program contains several simple melodies.

Amazing Baby

By installing the app, you can captivate your child with an interesting educational game at any time. The program contains games that can be used while walking on the street, swimming, and during the holidays. A total of 17 different development games are available for your child.

The application allows you to share your child’s achievements and photos on Facebook.

Social networks for young moms

What other apps for moms can be installed on a smartphone? Of course, something that will help you find new acquaintances with women who have the same interests and questions. We suggest paying attention to specialized social networks, where pregnant women and mothers (who have already given birth) can communicate on topics that concern them.

Mommy Nearest

In addition to the social network for parents, this app contains recommendations and tips on what places to visit with your child. The database contains references to more than 70,000 food points, playgrounds and shopping malls, cinemas and other places where you can relax with your young child.

The list of facilities is constantly updated by users themselves. Opening new convenient and interesting places for walks, you can also add them to the base, thereby expanding it. Leave your impressions and recommendations, share advice – the most active parents get the title of expert.

In conclusion…

We’ve outlined a few apps that will help young moms make life a little easier and allocate their time more efficiently. But even modern technologies are not yet able to replace the child with the warmth, affection and care that gives him the most native and close person. But the easiest, at first glance, application for your smartphone can help you to solve many everyday problems.

 

How You Can Capture the Magic at Disney!

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Whether you’re months away from your next Disney vacation or stumbling upon this blog while relaxing in the Florida sunshine at your resort of choice, this article will come in handy to ensure you make some quality images of your time here. These five tips will apply to you regardless of what camera you’re using or your skill level. Without further ado, let’s dive in and discover how you can capture the magic at Disney!

1. Maximize your images by playing to your camera’s features

Phones

If you’re using a phone, check out apps like ProShot to expand your camera’s potential. It will allow you to shoot in Manual mode and Shutter priority so you can capture the spinning motion while on Dumbo, Prince Charming’s Carousel, or the Mad Tea party. It also has different display options to help you better compose your images.

Point-and-Shoot

If you have a point-and-shoot camera you’re carrying, you can use built-in modes to help the camera make the right decision for what you’re trying to accomplish. Most point-and-shoots today will allow you to choose automatic “scene” modes that give preference in the following ways:

  • Portrait: shallower depth of field to give a more blurred background
  • Landscape: greater depth of field to get as much of what you’re taking a picture of in focus
  • Night: slows your shutter and ups your ISO to include more of the background
  • Sports: prioritizes shutter speed to keep the moving subject sharp
  • Backlighting: depending on your camera it may use your flash to fill in shadow areas of the image or it will compensate the exposure reading to lift the shadows
Amateur/Professional Cameras

“Fancier” cameras that include SLRs, DSLRs, and mirrorless will usually have the options to go semi-automatic and full manual. I always shoot Manual and encourage you to try it, if your camera allows, but only if you’re comfortable with managing all aspects of exposure. If not, semi-automatic modes are a great place to turn! They usually are listed as “A” (aperture priority) and “S” (shutter priority) on the camera.

If your depth of field is important to you, turn it to “A” and select a lower number for a more blurry background or a higher number to get more in focus. Keep in mind, the higher the number (smaller the aperture) the less light you are letting in. If you are in an already dark situation, this might mean your image will end up almost black.

If capturing or eliminating motion is most important, turn it to “S” and choose the right setting for what you want. A faster shutter will stop motion (usually 1/250 of a second or faster, which may display on your camera as 250). A slower shutter will help to capture some motion blur. When I’m on rides that spin, I like to start at 1/60th of a second and slow it down more if needed. Remember, the larger the number you select for “S,” the faster the shutter speed.

2. If the moment is still going on, adjust your composition

Nothing ruins a good picture more than distracting background elements or bad angles. Here is a list of common mistakes people make:

Lines: horizons, light poles, tree branches and others intersecting or appearing to come out from your subject’s head or joints.

Too Bright: your background is brighter than your subject (distracting your viewer from what’s important).

Blending: your subject is wearing the same color or is in the same light as a very busy background causing him or her to blend in.

To fix these mistakes, you have to catch the issues before the moment ends. Move your body to a higher or lower angle to remove the distractions from the frame or to avoid intersecting lines with the subject. Shooting from a lower angle is usually an easy way to remove large Disney crowds.

If your subject is blending into the background or it is too bright behind them, move them to a better spot. You could also turn them another direction so that the light makes them the focus and they stand out from what is behind them.

If you want to learn more about strengthening your compositions, I go into more detail in this blog post: Five Rules of Composition

3. Some places are better than others for your camera

As a photographer that follows the rules about flash photography in the parks, you have to know how your camera handles low light and where you can capture better quality images. If your goal is to capture the attractions themselves, Disney has done you a favor and has properly lit everything so that your camera can capture a nice image without flash. At night, the scenic areas of the park usually give off enough light that you can even capture the people most important to you without flash.

Best Indoor/Night Attractions

Here is a list of indoor attractions where you can take pictures of people experiencing the ride without flash (it includes some covered outdoor ones that photograph nicely at night too):

  • Disney Character meet-and-greets, though I encourage the Memory Maker package
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Prince Charming’s Carousel
  • It’s A Small World, last room is brightest
  • Dumbo playground area
  • Journey into Imagination with Figment
  • Living with the Land
  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
  • Toy Story Mania
  • Alien Swirling Saucers

I do attempt photos on other indoor rides, but they are a lot harder to get people’s reactions and usually still result in a pretty grainy image. It never hurts to try. All of the outdoor ones are fabulous to try to make a picture on during the day.

4. Keep a steady hand and a strong stomach

Safety First

Please use caution when using your camera on rides, especially the faster attractions. I use a long camera strap around my neck and also wrap it around the wrist holding my camera to ensure it stays connected to me on the ride. When possible, the camera is tucked tight into my body. This not only helps to secure it more, it also helps steady the camera to limit motion blur caused by the camera moving while the image is being made.

Limit Dizziness

On Disney rides that spin, it is very easy to get nauseous- even when you aren’t taking pictures. I’ve found it helps to keep my eyes locked on the frame and not the world outside of my viewfinder. If you are using a phone or camera that allows you to compose the image on an LCD screen, keep both eyes on the screen. If you’re using one that requires one eye up to the viewfinder, close the other eye and keep your camera up to your face.

5. Capture what it feels like and not just what it is

I specialize in documentary family photography. My goal for the images I make is to put the viewer in the moment instead of just seeing that moment frozen in time. To do this, I keep a couple of things in mind that I know to be true about how we see:

Get in Close (physically, not by zooming in)

The closer I am to the action as the photographer, the more the viewer will feel part of the moment. I like to work with a wide lens in the parks, especially for rides where we are sitting together. Do be mindful of any distortion your lens might have along the edges of the frame at these focal lengths. If your camera lens carries a lot of distortion along the edges, keep your subjects more towards the center of the frame.

Fluid Eye Movement

How your viewer’s eye travels through an image can be the difference between a successful image and one that falls flat. This can be achieved using composition and/or motion blur techniques. You want to give the eye a clear path through the image and a nice resting place on the most important subject matter in the image.

What Do You Want to Say?

You’ve decided to take an image of a particular moment for a reason.

Subject vs. Subject Matter

The subject of your image is why you took the picture. The subject matter are the people or things in the image that help explain your why. Keep this in mind for the most successful composition.

When looking at a moment playing out before you, what do you see? Is it that your child is showing a personality trait that you know will be there decades from now? Maybe what’s happening is particular to this stage of life? Or, could it be a first time experience where the reaction is most important?

What needs to be in the picture?

Once you have answered the “why” you can decide what is necessary in the frame to tell that story. This goes further than just removing distractions from the background. The goal is to keep eliminating things from the frame that aren’t relevant to the story you’re trying to tell until you have gone one too far.

For example, some images require all of mom or dad being in the frame with a child, while others are better served only showing a hand reaching to help the child. These choices are what make you a different artist from the next person holding a camera. Intention is the only real difference between a snapshot and an art piece.

Now, Make Images!

Thank you for taking the time to read through to the end! I hope you’ve learned a few things and are inspired to make some great images while you’re on vacation. 

If you want to learn more about how I can help make sure your vacation memories are beautifully captured, please feel free to email me [email protected] or visit my website https://theinspiredstorytellers.com. 

About Stephana!

I grew up with a camera in-hand as a daughter of a photographer and spent the last decade documenting love stories as co-owner of Sona Photography. As I ventured further along in my own journey, I found that there is so much more to a person’s story leading up to and beyond their wedding day. I truly believe there is more value in the everyday moments than in the forced smiles of standard portraits. An annual family portrait session specifically designed to get you an image for a holiday card will capture what you all looked like that year. A day-in-the-life session will capture what it feels like to be your family at this stage in your lives together. A vacation session will allow you to live in and for the moment with the people you love most, without the worry of having these memories saved forever. For all these reasons and more, I started a studio focused on delivering beautiful, authentic, real moment imagery that you will want to print and proudly share for generations to come.

Top Eight Disney Rides for Kids under 44 Inches

My four-year-old loves all things Disney, from sing-a-long shows to fireworks displays. However, he’s always looking for an adventure, which is tough to do if you’re under 44 inches! As a result, we’ve gotten well-acquainted with the biggest adventures for his height. Here’s a list of our favorites! 

Our Top Eight Disney Thrill Rides for Kids under 44 Inches 

1. Splash Mountain Magic Kingdom 

Height Requirement: 40”

I thought for sure that my four-year-old would run screaming in the other direction when he saw a log-shaped boat plunge into choppy waters – but no! His face lit up and he said he wanted to go on. This ride is totally worth it too; it’s a thrill ride for him and for his thirty-one-year-old mom who also loves a thrill. Plus, it’s a classic and one of the longer rides at Disney. Was he bothered by the drop? Nope. He wanted to get back in line and go on again. 

2. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Magic Kingdom 

Height Requirement: 40”

It’s right next-door to Splash Mountain and contains no massive drops, just a lot of twists and turns. And, just like Splash Mountain, it’s a longer ride, making the wait worth it. 

3. The Barnstormer Magic Kingdom 

Height Requirement: 35”

This was the first roller coaster my son went on and he totally loved it. It’s smaller than Big Thunder Mountain Railroad so it’s less intimidating and a good way to test the waters if your child is wanting to do a “big kid” ride, but is clearly hesitant. But beware: this ride is what made my son want to go on more “big kid” rides, so be ready for more adventure seeking after this one. (Thank goodness for this list!) 

4. Soarin’ Around the World Epcot 

Height Requirement: 40”

I’m convinced my son thought he was actually flying on this ride, and he was hypnotized by the amazing scenes from around the world. This truly is a ride that will excite all ages and a must-see experience at Epcot. 

5. DINOSAUR Animal Kingdom

Height Requirement: 40”

This is an intense ride – lots of bumpiness and dark areas – but is so much fun! Riders seek out a special dinosaur while encountering all sorts of others on the way. Be prepared for a lot of choppiness and some sudden scares (like dinos popping out at you!). It’ll definitely give everyone in the family an adrenaline rush! 

6. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run Hollywood Studios 

Height Requirement: 38”

Riders are assigned positions in the ship, and my child was given the job of pilot. It was a bumpy ride with a little guy guiding our way – but totally fun! The graphics are incredible, even for someone who isn’t well-versed in Stars Wars! (Me!) 

7. Star Tours – The Adventures Continue Hollywood Studios 

Height Requirement: 40”

Another one for the Star Wars lovers! This ride is a mellower Star Wars ride compared to Smugglers Run, but still has lots of bumps and jolts throughout the experience; you even get to travel at light speed! Also, Disney updates the ride to have different versions, so it’s possible to have multiple different experiences if you ride more than once! 

8. Tower of Terror Hollywood Studios 

Height Requirement: 40”

Okay, this one needs a little bit of a warning. My son was all about the actual drop in the elevator; however, he was not all about the creepy old hotel vibe. The elevator ride to the tower where you’re dropped is a bit eerie, admittedly, but if your child isn’t bothered by that, then this is one of the coolest (and iconic!) rides at Hollywood Studios. 

Note: All of these rides are super popular – so don’t forget your fast passes! 

Do you and your little one love a good thrill ride? Did I miss a ride on my list? Share what your mini-adventurer loves to do at Disney

Guest Post by Laurie Crocker

Will I ever feel like myself again?

“Let me be clear: I love being my child’s mother. I adore the powerful love that I feel for him despite how overwhelming it feels at times. I wouldn’t change my life for anything.

But I do miss me. Sometimes I miss me so much that I feel a sadness that makes me feel guilty and unworthy of being a mom.”

Will I ever feel like myself again?

Will you ever feel like yourself again after having a baby?

The simple answer is no. You won’t ever have a moment again when you feel one hundred percent like your pre-baby self. It just won’t happen. Your new self will be too consumed with all the emotions and responsibilities that make up motherhood.

Two years out from giving birth and I was still waiting – so hopeful – that one day I would feel like Old Me again. I convinced myself that all the hormones would eventually even out and I’d feel like that person I once knew so well. But, alas, I never get back to that place. Because we, as women, are biologically engineered that way.

Motherhood changes you.

And whether you rejoice at that last statement or not, it doesn’t really matter in terms of getting back to Before Baby You. Motherhood, whether you feel like you’re thriving or struggling, is all-consuming.

Let me be clear: I love being my child’s mother. I adore the powerful love that I feel for him despite how overwhelming it feels at times. I wouldn’t change my life for anything.

But I do miss me. Sometimes I miss me so much that I feel a sadness that makes me feel guilty and unworthy of being a mom.

I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to miss pre-baby you. Pre-baby you was probably really cool, collected, and laid back, and now you’re feeling far from it. But, come on. Let’s not pretend as if birthing a child into the world is anything but life changing — and, for that matter, self changing. Whatever made you feel like you – whatever gave you excitement and passion – is still there. You can still reconnect with all that made you feel like yourself. But it’s not easy. Not when you are dead tired, overwhelmed, and doing nothing to feed your own soul.

So, here’s what I can tell you, mothers of the world: you can find little bits of you. And when you find enough little bits of you, you can take them and place them together like a little jigsaw puzzle. The more pieces of you that you find, the stronger you feel connected to who you once were, and the more you’ll realize that it’s okay that you will never fully be that person.

Because you are a mother, and that child you now have has rearranged all the puzzle pieces to create a new you. Your priorities have shifted. What motivates you has changed. And despite all the moments of desperately wanting to feel like your former self, you know you wouldn’t have it any other way, and that your new puzzle does, in fact, perfectly fit you.

So, how do you find those pieces of old you? It’s different for each person. Think back to pre-baby you and ask yourself what truly made you smile. What made you proud of yourself and what made you happiest? For me, it was being physically fit, being a geek (hey, Jeopardy), writing and journaling, and breaking out some good ol’ Britney every now and then. And while all those things sound silly, any mom knows that those silly little things go to the wayside so that you can be a great mom and wife and daughter and employee and whatever else you are.

But you have to be a great you as well. You have to make time for those silly little things that sound so trivial. When I finally started to make choices to do things just for me sometimes, I started feeling more connected to myself again. And the tough part of it all is that you, and only you, must make an active choice every day in order to connect with your former self again. No one else is going to remind you or do it for you. You have to want it for yourself. So, once a day, do something just for you. At first it might feel selfish, but I know that, at least for me, it allowed me to be a better mom, wife, employee, and every other title I hold.

Soon enough, you’ll discover a new you that you absolutely love. It’ll be a mix of old and new, and you’ll feel balanced once more.

So, no, you will never feel like your former self again. But you will find balance and you will feel just like the version of you that you are at this point in your life. And the puzzle pieces that make up your sense of self will all fit perfectly together. New You will be exactly who you want to be.

 

Guest post by Laurie Crocker

{Orlando Mom Collective is Growing} Meet Heather Anne Naples

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Heather aka Barb’s Mom
mama to a diva + wife to a DJ
inspirational writer  ||  home decor blogger
stroke recovery journey 6/7/19

Meet Heather Anne Naples! Heather is a mother, a wife and a published writer. She lives in Orlando, FL with her husband of 8 years, their 6-year-old daughter Adalynn (who recently decided her name should be Barb, so they’re rolling with it!) and their 4 rescue dogs. An ongoing health battle changed Heather’s perspective on life and inspired her to use her voice and her love for writing as a way to encourage others to love the life they have been given. She loves sharing what is inside her heart and her home on her blog and social channels.

www.Facebook.com/HeatherAnneNaples
www.heatherannenaples.com
www.Instagram.com/HeatherAnneNaples

Addicted to Tidying – Confessions of a KonMarie Junkie

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I have been on a cleaning binge for quite a while. Actually, it’s less a binge and more a lifestyle. I am constantly vacuuming and tidying as I go. But since discovering the KonMarie method of tidying, my world has been neatly folded and placed into bins. 

Since moving into our new home, I’ve been OBSESSED with cleaning it. Sometimes I basically follow the kids around the house picking up after them. Literally! It’s a sickness I think. I vacuum a couple times a day. I fluff couch pillows regularly. I rearrange counter tops. I empty the fridge. It’s simultaneously rewarding and frustrating. It will never be clean! Because we live here.

So how does one deal with that?

I’ve been into this way of keeping my home for a little while but now that this show has hit Netflix, I have a visual of what to do. I’m not a full on Konvert just yet, but I’m thisclose. 

I haven’t done my closet yet but I’m really excited to dump everything out and see what Sparks Joy. KonMarie says that you should only keep things in your home that spark joy in you. There’s no reason to keep things that don’t make you happy. 

Here is my recently organized linen closet. It’s not perfect but I’m lacking the boxes and bins I feel would help the situation  

This is my pantry. There are 5 eaters in my house and the amount of food we go through is insane. So I feel like this is a really good start for me. 

If you aren’t familiar with this concept, Marie Kondo has a book and a brand new series on Netflix on keeping a tidy home. And also, are you living under a rock? 😉 

For those of you who are familiar, are on you on board with this idea of a place for everything and everything in its place?

A Mom’s Guide to Visiting Disney

Disney World. The happiest place on Earth – and personally one of my favorite places to escape everyday life. Mom life never stops, not even at Disney. So whether you are going for a few hours or the whole day, here are my Mom Tips & Tricks to make your Disney visit as smooth as possible.

Mom Guide to Disney

Planning and preparing for your visit

1. Grab those fast passes!

With the purchase of a ticket or Annual Pass, you can make fast pass selections as early as 30 days before you arrive—starting at 7:00 AM Eastern Time. If you are staying at a Disney Resort hotel, you can make your FastPass+ selections up to 60 days prior to check-in for the entire length of your stay. You can get up to three fast passes ahead of your visit, then once those are used, you can add more, one at a time. You can also mix and match, so if you have a child who likes roller coasters but one who doesn’t, you can get a different fast pass for each of them, just make sure adults have matching fast passes. Example: My oldest doesn’t like roller coasters so I will book him and myself on a specific ride, while my middle and my hubby are booked on a roller coaster ride at the same time. Also, all kids ages 7 and older may ride by themselves. We often will let our oldest two ride in their own ride vehicle on the same ride with us.

Do you need a ride to or from Orlando International Airport? Are you worried about bringing your own car to the airport and back? Kidmoto car service offers airport transportation with installed car seats. Download the Kidmoto App now and get $10 off when you do, use coupon code ORLANDOMOMCOLLECTIVE.

2. What to pack!

Here are some go-to items that I have in our family’s Disney bag (which is a backpack that we can easily wear around the parks).

  • Sunscreen. This is essential in Florida for both adults and littles. You will save yourself time and money if you take this along with you.
  • A change of clothes or a swimsuit for the kids and a towel. Disney parks have some awesome splash areas located within the parks. (Magic Kingdom: Storybook Circus area and near the jungle cruise, Epcot: Walkway to World Showcase and near Test Track, Disney Springs: Near Earl of Sandwich.)
  • Wipes (even if you don’t have a child in diapers). This is a MUST for sticky hands and cool sweaty faces!
  • Ponchos. You never know when a pop-up downpour will happen in Florida.
  • Snacks. Disney parks allow you to bring your own food and drink (non-glass, non-alcoholic) into the parks. I pack easy on the go snacks like squeeze-it applesauce, juice pouches (remove the straws, especially if going to Animal Kingdom), pretzels and dried fruit.
  • Water. Here’s one of my favorite Mom Tips: Bottled water is available everywhere in the parks. Restaurants, outdoor food carts (like popcorn and ice cream locations) and in retail shops. This can cost you anywhere from $3-5 for one bottle! There are plenty of locations around the park where you can find FREE water. Go up to any restaurant or concession stand that serves fountain drinks and ask for cups of ice water. Also, Starbucks! If you can resist ordering an iced coffee, Starbucks is a great location to get filtered water. Plus, it’s an opportunity to soak up some air conditioning!
  • Glow sticks.  If you are going to be there in the evening, purchasing glow sticks from a dollar store will save you A LOT of money instead of the tempting vendor cart full of light-up toys!
  • One last item that I recommend bringing is a stroller, especially if you have kids 5 and under. (And honestly, even if you DON’T have little kids!) Disney is massive, you will easily walk 5-7 miles (probably even more) in one day at the parks, and little legs tire and need rest. Bonus, in crowed areas your child in the stroller won’t be bumped or accidentally stepped on.

3. Park Tips:

  • Disney parks are popular with tourist and locals alike. You may find that some days, especially weekdays, are less crowded than others. Here are some other traditionally less crowded times: September-Mid-December, Mid-January-Mid-March, and April-May.
  • If you take a stroller and use the parking lot tram, be prepared to fold the stroller for the tram ride.
  • You will likely go through security at the entrance. Have all zippers open on your bags. This helps the guards and speeds up the line.
  • If you are at the Magic Kingdom you will find you have two options to get to and from the actual park. Option 1: the Magic Kingdom ferry. It holds 600 guests. Option 2: the monorail holds around 300 guests. Depending on the time you arrive, it may be quicker to take the boat or monorail. This also applies for when you exit the park. If you’re exiting late at night, do not forget about the resort monorail as an option (it makes a stop at the ticket and transportation center).
  • Once in the parks, take your time and enjoy. If you don’t quite make a fast pass on time, don’t panic. You have a 15 min window on the end of your fast pass to still use it.
  • You may want to book a character dining experience. This covers a meal and you get to meet different Disney Characters such as Mickey, Minnie, Donald or even Disney Princesses depending on where you eat. This will save you time on waiting in line for character pictures and signatures.
  • Each Disney park has its own unique evening fireworks and light show. If you are at the parks in the evening you will definitely want to catch one of these.
  • If you’ve already seen the fireworks, this is a great time to make your way to a popular ride for a shorter wait time.

4. If your child is lost

Disney cast members (Disney calls all employees cast members) are amazing. If you have any questions or need anything don’t hesitate to ask. They really like helping guests and spreading Disney Magic. Also, know that if your child is accidentally lost (7 things your child should know if lost), that Disney has never not found a lost child or lost parents!

I hope your visit to the Disney Parks is magical, and perhaps smoother with the tips above!

Visiting SeaWorld with Small Children

SeaWorld, like other theme parks, is filled with roller-coasters and rides and LOTS of great adventures for older kids. But what about the younger kiddos? We discovered that there is A LOT for the little ones as well, you just have to be smart about where you go. And YES! We’ve updated this post to include the latest feature, Sesame Street Land!

 

We’ve been to SeaWorld SO many times. This is the plan that works best for us. We are able to see everything on this map in 3 hours or less, depending on diaper changes and eating time AND how much time you plan to stay at Sesame Street Land!

I’ve marked, in order, each spot we visit. 


Stop 1: Manta

Yes it is a big scary roller-coaster. But there is a hidden gem that is so easy to just skip right over.

Hidden Gem
Hidden Gem

Just after the ride entrance, is the Aquarium Entrance. You DO NOT want to miss this! It is spectacular inside. This unique 360-degree pop-up aquarium puts you right in the center of the undersea activity.

We always spend a good amount of time in there.

Stop 2: Stingrays

This is an interactive spot. They allow you to touch the stingrays and feed them (additional cost). If you reach your hand just below the surface, and you’re likely to feel a velvety “high five” as stingrays swim by! There are more than 120 rays—some with wingspans up to 5 feet.

There is food to purchase to feed the stingrays. Deciding ahead of time if you’re planning to feed them will build excitement for your toddler! OR conveniently ignore the feeding opportunity if you don’t want to battle your toddler with this extra expense. 

Stop 3: Dolphins

This is another interactive spot. Depending on the time, you are able to feed and pet the dolphins. FYI, you will likely get splashed. This is a popular spot that is usually crowded. If it is too crowded, there is an underwater viewing station just around the corner. It is air-conditioned, so it is a wonderful spot to stay and chill for a while. You may want spend the WHOLE day there!

Dophins!!!
dolphins!!!

Stop 4: Turtle Trek

This is a 3D Movie. In my opinion, it is TOO scary for little ones, however your child may like it! If you want to skip the movie and only look at the Sea Turtles, simply enter the way everyone else does to see the Sea Turtles. The turtles are so friendly. They love to come to the glass and follow you around. Once you enter and they call for you to go to the movie, there is an exit. If you choose not to do the movie, simply tell them you are skipping out on the movie part.

Stop 5: Journey to Atlantis

Obviously a young child can’t ride this ride. However, there is another hidden gem here. Just enter through the exit of the ride, through the store, in the back. The Jewel of the Sea Aquarium is a fascinating underwater world exploding with color and luminescence is waiting to be explored in our aquariums, directly beside Journey to Atlantis.

From otherworldly jellyfish illuminated by an interactive backlight to a cool aquatic habitat covered by plexiglass you can walk right across, come discover the living jewels of the sea.

Again, it is air-conditioned, so a great spot to re-cooperate from the heat.

Stop 6: Antarctica

This is a ride that small children can go on. I suggest going on the “easy” part. That way the ride isn’t twisting and jerking your little ones around. This was the first ride my little one ever went on and she did great. Not one tear.

The movie before the ride is adorable!
The movie before the ride is adorable!
seaworld7
The scenery in the ride is bold and beautiful!

There is a SPECTACULAR surprise at the end of the ride. Warning, it is FREEZING! If you can bear the cold, you will absolutely love this part.

You are SO close to the penguins. It is amazing.
You are SO close to the penguins. It is amazing.

Stop 7: Sea Lions

Sea Lions are so adorable!  There is never a dull moment when we visit this spot. They are always playing and barking. Depending on the time of day, you are able to feed them.

Stop 8: Sharks

Warning, it may be intense for your little ones. You are in a tube with sharks at every angle. My little one was completely fine as long as we talked her through it and held onto her.

Stop 9: Sea Carousel

If you visited SeaWorld in the past, you may be disappointed to hear that the Happy Harbor  is no more. 🙁 (edit, per news from SeaWorld website.) Happy Harbor has closed to invite new friends from Sesame Street over to play in 2019. Until then, enjoy the kid-friendly rides, including the Sea Carousel and the “mild” version of Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin.

Adding a classical element to SeaWorld, a marine-themed masterpiece topped by a behemoth 45-foot-wide pink octopus. Handheld infants may ride on the bench seat if accompanied by a supervising companion.

Newly Added: Sesame Street Land!

(editor addition, 5/2019)
Sunny Day ☀️
Sweepin’ the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet
Can you tell me how to get,
How to get to Sesame Street? 🚦

Meeting our newest Sesame Street neighbors at SeaWorld will leave you seriously impressed! Every little detail thought out, and your kids will be IN AWE all day long!

photo property of Orlando Moms Blog
photo property of Orlando Moms Blog
photo property of Orlando Moms Blog
photo property of Orlando Moms Blog
photo property of Orlando Moms Blog
photo property of Orlando Moms Blog
photo property of Orlando Moms Blog
photo property of Orlando Moms Blog
photo property of Orlando Moms Blog

A couple tips… .
1. Buy the Elmo Interactive Bubble Wand! Not only will it give the kids a fun bubble wand, but Seaworld has a lot of stations where they can activate the voices and make it come to life, simply by tapping/waving their wand! {BONUS: They are super durable! Ours were dropped A LOT, and they didn’t break or stop working!}
2. Take swimwear and a change of clothes! Their splash pad is a welcome relief in the warm weather! Additionally, extra sunblock is a must.
3. Hats are a smart thing to pack. The area is large, and not a lot of coverage, except in the lines for the rides.
4. Their fruit smoothies are YUMMY!!! They even have fresh fruit on the bottom. My fav was the pineapple… So good!
5. Get a spot early for the parade! You won’t regret it!

 photo property of Orlando Moms Blog

photo property of Orlando Moms Blog

 

Stop 10: Wild Arctic

This is another ride that the might be too intense for the kiddos. I ALWAYS skip the ride. Luckily, there is a non-ride option. You want to use this to see the exhibit inside. It is well worth it.

Inside, they have playful Beluga whales, lounging polar bears, and a hilarious walrus. Each exhibit offers an above view AND underwater view. Both are unique and fascinating.

Shows

You may notice I left out all shows. Obviously the shows are an easy addition and small children-friendly, but sometimes the show times can put a kink in your day, especially if you are bound by nap times and feeding schedules. Prior to your visit, print off a show schedule, so that you can keep it on standby, in case a show works into your day. 

Shows include: Dolphin DaysOcean DiscoveryPets AhoyClyde and Seamore’s Sea Lion High

SeaWorld

Do you have any tips that make theme parks easier for small children? Please share! I’m always looking for ways to make a theme park experience the best ever!

How to Help Aging Loved Ones Stay Young

We’ve all heard the cliché “You are as young as you feel,” but is it really true? How can you help your loved ones who are aging stay young in both body and mind? Nothing can keep them young, of course, but there are things we can do to help them stay healthy and sharp. Here are a few ways that you can help your loved ones stay young and feel better as they get older.

Research has shown that those who feel younger really do live longer. Apparently attitude really is everything when it comes to aging! Having a positive outlook at any age can help you navigate through the challenging times that we all face, but it’s especially important to those who are elderly. Your outlook determines how well your coping skills function, how you deal with stress, and how you feel about yourself. Make it a positive practice, such as doing meditation, yoga or tai chi (especially suited to aging people), and you can have a more positive attitude about everything in life. 

Along with this positive attitude, the aging population needs to stay physically active in order to age well and feel younger. This doesn’t mean doing Zumba or CrossFit six times a week (thankfully), it simply means finding an exercise they enjoy so that they aren’t sitting in a chair all of the time. Doctors now believe that being sedentary is as dangerous to your health as smoking. So, encourage your loved ones to get up, get dancing, swimming, bike riding, or walking to prevent health issues down the line. Finding a healthy physical outlet can also help bolster their social activity as well.

Another good tip for staying young is to stay connected to family, friends, and a community. Being social and not isolating themselves is a key practice when it comes to our aging loved ones. We are currently in a loneliness epidemic for all ages, so be sure to monitor your aging loved one to see if they are staying connected to family and friends. Staying connected will keep them feeling better about themselves, help them feel more plugged in, and will keep their positive outlook on the rise. Loneliness is dangerous just like sedentariness – it can be as dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a dayso make sure that loved ones have access to others. Nowadays, this can happen easily through technology, including the popular voice-activated devices such as Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, Google Home, and Apple Siri. These devices can also be programmed to call a friend or family member, contact 911 if needed, or even remind the person of upcoming doctor appointments or daily weather reports. 

Another good device to consider is a medical alert system in case your loved one lives alone. Medical or life alert systems are wearable devices that can alert emergency personnel in case of a fall, stroke, or medical emergency. There are several researchers offering reviews of the best medical alert system available. These can give you and your loved one some peace of mind that services will be alerted in case something should happen to them, especially if they choose to age in place.

No matter what their situation is, encourage your loved ones to stay active mentally as well as physically. Those who keep learning into their later years will also feel younger in mind and spirit. This is a great time for them to take on new hobbies, study a different language, learn how to knit, travel with friends, or even donate time to a great cause. Encourage them to keep reading, learning, and challenging themselves in order to stay young mentally. 

Along those lines, volunteering their time and expertise can also be a great way to stay young. Having a purpose, even as simple as walking dogs for an animal shelter, can keep your aging loved ones active and engaged in their local community. If they want to engage actively in volunteerism, they can sit on a board, raise money for a cause, or even do the administrative work for a charity such as mailing out flyers or posting on social media. Whatever cause is close to their heart makes a great opportunity to stay busy and thus feel younger for longer. This kind of activity not only keeps older adults busy and active, it also helps give their lives more meaning and purpose post-career and family. 

So following these few simple steps can help your aging loved ones find peace, happiness, and satisfaction well into their elder years. It’s also great advice for anyone of any age!

I Don’t Cook and I Don’t Feel Bad

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Here’s the deal. I love my kitchen. It’s super cute, and I pride myself in the cookware we have acquired over the years, as well as our cutlery, recipe books, and countless kitchen gadgets. I’m a member of a few Facebook meal planning groups, and don’t even get me started on my Pinterest boards for crock-pot cooking ideas, easy dinners, and the like. However, on the daily, I don’t really use any of this.

You see, I don’t cook. Like hardly ever.

I also don’t meal plan.

Grocery shopping? Nope.

Are you laughing yet?

Do you think my family is starving? Or, that we live on take out?

It’s okay to think this. I get it. I would probably come to the same conclusion at first glance. What I do have, though, is an amazing partner who truly enjoys cooking, AND he is good at it. In fact, when we first got married, we realized that he was way better at cooking than me, so things just naturally evolved into this arrangement for us. He cooks, and I clean up the kitchen afterwards. Since he is our chef, he also primarily plans out our meals each week, which translates into him really knowing what we are grocery shopping for. I full-on admit, friends, that I am a lucky lady. It’s not that I don’t have any input, but he’s got it. If you send me to the grocery store alone, or {gasp} without a list….watch out! We may, indeed, just be eating take out that week! 

It’s not that I can’t cook, but rather, it’s more that I don’t really like it. If I do cook, I have to have a recipe to follow precisely. There is no winging for this girl, or whipping up something from whatever is in the pantry. That would be disastrous! I’m sure I could learn, but I’m totally comfortable with our arrangement, and the bottom line is that it works for our family. When we gather with our circle of friends and have to bring a dish to share, they know better than to ask about the dish I made. They will ask, “Where did your hubby find this delicious recipe?” They know the deal, and it’s cool. I do have a few winners in my repertoire that I pull out every now & then. One of them is a terrific crock pot chili recipe that’s perfect for game day or any cool weather day. I am also pretty good at baking when I actually put the effort into it. 

For our home, we play to our strengths and get the job done. Conquer and divide, and the home runs smoothly. I have to wonder, though, am I in the minority on this? While families are changing and evolving as far as responsibilities go, are most mamas still doing the cooking? Sometimes among my circle of friends I feel that I’m in the minority in this area. I still own it, but I would love to hear from you. Do you cook, or does your partner?

 

Hosting the Weekly Mom Meetup

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Hey! New Year, New You? Maybe not. But you can still add some things to your routine that will make you feel productive and exciting without really doing a whole lot.

Things like…
1. Start walking with the kids after school.
2. Sign up for a cooking class.
3. Plan daring monthly dates with your someone special.

4. But let’s focus on just one that I want to challenge you to. HOST A WEEKLY MOM MEETUP!

Hosting the Weekly Mom-Meetup

Do you think you can do it?? It’s fun and easy and makes you feel like a super-hostess while also allowing your kids to have regular play dates and you to have conversations with other adults. I realize that this is not something that every mom can do. Maybe you work out of the home full-time. Perhaps you homeschool or have kids who require more time and attention. Or, maybe you don’t like the idea of people in your home that often! But no matter what the excuse is, I can tell you that this is something that will change your life. Even in just a small way.

Inviting people into your home is so rewarding. You learn the art of conversation and become an expert at introducing people. You can plan different themes and make a meal that coordinates. Plus, if you have cute decor in your house, you might as well show it off.

I hosted a mom meetup in my home almost every Thursday for three years. Sometimes it was really easy. Sometimes it was really hard. But I’m glad that I did it because, as an introvert, I tend to not venture out too much. But I also get overwhelmed by the amount of time I spend with my kids! When I started hosting, I had two small boys – an 18-month-old and a 4-year-old. They were pretty easy kids though and they loved having other kids to play with. The problem was, we had just moved to the area and I didn’t know anyone. Fortunately, my husband met some men who had wives and they had small kids and it all just kind of worked out that they were just as under-stimulated as I was. So the weekly meetup was born. 

We sat around and talked and let the kids destroy the playroom. They made a mess and we got to know each other. It was nice. But being the crazy Greek that I am, I couldn’t just let people sit in my home for two hours without offering them anything to eat or drink. So the planning began.

How To Host:

  1. Make sure you have coffee, tea, water, etc. Along with some creamers and sugar for the pickier guests. On special occasions, I offered mimosas. (I think I almost always offered wine but apparently people scoff at the idea of drinking Pinot at 10am.)
  2. I am a sucker for a good charcuterie. A charcuterie is a board or platter with a variety of meats and cheeses. And I think they are just wonderful. I liked to have a couple types of crackers too just for fun. The added crunch is nice.
    Hosting the Weekly Mom-Meetup
  3. A selection of fruit is refreshing and also kid-friendly. Grapes, watermelon chunks, sliced apples, and berries are good among the spread.
  4. Speaking of kid-friendly, plastic bowls with goldfish are handy, string cheese is easy, and animal crackers are yummy.Hosting the Weekly Mom-Meetup
  5. I don’t have a dining room, we converted that into the playroom. Our large dining room table is in the eat-in kitchen. So I add at least an extra leaf to it as to provide ample room for food and guests. I also pull out extra chairs so their is enough seating (even though we almost always end up on the floor with the kiddos and our mugs.)
  6. When I remembered (and I was actually dressed before 9:59am) I turned on some music. Nothing too loud or weird, just light listening. Kids songs are not recommended because they’re horrible and I don’t live in a mini-van.

Between the regulars (about 5 of us) we ended up with 10 kiddos, so this was not a quiet morning. We might start in the kitchen and then move to the playroom floor, then migrate to the living room couches. The typical span was from 10am to 12pm so this was never too daunting.

From there, ladies would start trickling in and coffee was poured. We would just start talking about what was going on in our lives and there was rarely a lull in conversation. Discussion about child birth and menstrual cups to our husbands careers and kids activities were all brought up more than once. Nothing was taboo. Maybe none of us became “best friends” or felt the connection of sisters, but when we were all together, it was easy to open up and not feel judged. We just let our true selves out. And in the end, that was worth it.

Hosting the Weekly Mom-Meetup

This is a fairly easy way to invite people into your home. I ended up making friends with a small group of women I might not have gotten to know otherwise.

So come on! Join me in this challenge! Host a weekly Mom Meetup!

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