keys to the kingdom : a mom’s guide to surviving disney

Pssst: Be sure to check out all of our updated tips, here.

Remember our lil trip to Walt Disney World, precisely 1.5 months ago? A little bit of chaos ensued after that, and it felt as if I’d been hit by a freight train. So we’ve hardly had a moment to catch our breaths, but due to an overwhelming response from all of you, I wanted to begin a small series here at the handmade home. We thought we would interrupt my regularly scheduled rantings for a few Thursdays, to bring you what we consider to be valuable information in the vacay arena of life. Something you may find valuable in planning a trip to the great mouse mecca.

Surviving the kingdom with strollers and sippy cups : You can’t really say you’ve conquered the parks until you’ve done so with a family full of little ones in tow, and we’re here to share a few things we’ve learned in the midst of it all. 

First things first: I know you’re all, Who’s we? Did she sprout another head over night? I knew it was only a matter of time. Well, probably. But other than that, I’ve called in the cavalry for this one: aka two of my besties and consequentially related-by-marriage-nepostism-at-it’s-finest-demonstration-in-action…as expert contributors for our Kingdom series. They represent two families with years of Disney experience under their belts.

As I mentioned before, I was once an employee for the parks, as part of an internship in college. As the story goes, I was almost BFF with Cinderella, but returned home to my real prince charming because we’d broken up, I was a drama queen, and it’s my one claim to fame… humor me and roll with it. While I’ll be glad to tell you how the tunnels work underneath the park, about the time I rode Space Mountain with the lights on, and was the only single person standing on Main Street at one time….that was eleven dorky years ago. Let’s just say I felt ancient, returning with my own children and oogling at all the College Programmers. While all that’s fine and dandy, I thought a lot of you would enjoy some more well-rounded takes, in addition to my own, in perusing those parks with little ones in tow.

Because that, my friends, is an entirely different ball game.

Introducing the mom squad : these two ladies were essential in planning our own little vacay a few short months ago. And because I felt like it was such a success for us, you may glean from some of their wisdom, as well.

You may recognize Cristin’s sweet mug from our NYC adventure.

I am definitely a child at heart and a true believer in the magic of Disney World.  I have actually been to Disney World almost 20 times in my life.  My Disney “claim to fame” was when I got to march in the Magic Kingdom Main Street Parade with my cheerleading squad at Christmas time when I was a senior in High School.  I may or may not still secretly put my Disney cheer outfit on from time to time to relive that magical day : )  I have a wonderful husband who has quickly developed a love for all things Disney too, as well as a precious one year old baby girl who already has to have her Mickey Mouse Clubhouse fix each morning before breakfast.

Uh, there may or may not be a photo of us together : me decked in cinderella digs while Cristin poses in her cheer uniform. It’s how we roll at Christmas. I kid. Maybe. I’m just glad we didn’t die together in the subway, and she can give me lots more nieces and nephews since the baby bug has officially left the building over here. TMI? Probably.

Next up: the fantabulous Jillina, who just so happens to be married to my cousin, Mark. Didn’t that work out nicely? I guess my family is just kind of awesome like that. ;}

I’m a busy mom to 3 kids, William 5 who’s in Kindergarten this
year, Andrew 3, and Katherine 15 months. I’m Married to a CPA who watches
every penny but loves experiencing Disney through the eyes of our kids. I
grew up going to Disney with my family from a toddler to teenager and we
have been to Disney as a family 4 times now, 2 of those I was pregnant, 7
months and 34 weeks

I’m not a phone gal, but Jillina is one of the few people I talk to on a weekly basis. From the latest color of that dirty diaper, to her close encounter with a skunk…I guess we just find each other that fascinating. She has also been known to frolic about town in her Snow White costume, sometimes scaring the small children she approaches. So, ya know. Great minds think alike.

Both of these gals are here to share their expertise, in, out, and in between all the parks, and I can’t wait to share their knowledge with all of you.

What will we be discussing? Each post will be divided into pending topics.

Because one individual could probably write about a million books with quadrillion chapters on the benefits, little known facts, hot topics, and everything in between…our take on it will be just that: Our take.

There is no right or wrong to planning your vacation, and we figure that can be a little bit of the intimidating part. It all depends on what you want out of your Disney Vacation. Every single person’s experiences will be different…every single time. I personally struggled with being a control freak. Because I have a real love for it, and had my list of must dos for my children. {EHHHHH. Cue game show buzzer.} Lesson learned : it wasn’t the best realistic approach for our family.

These will be simple tips and opinions you can take away, and apply to your own upcoming experiences. 

So, tune in on Thursday. We want to take a moment to introduce each topic the week before, so you can be sure to think of anything specific you may want to see covered in each post. What’s next week’s topic?

Where to stay, When to go, and How long to be there. If you have any questions or comments about finding the right Orlando Hotels, Disney Tickets, or other steps in this topic, feel free to ask them below.

And of course, we want to hear your stories, too. Each and every helpful experience, if you want to share, in the comments section with your own experiences…Please do!

See ya real soon!

(Yep. I did just write that. Please don’t defriend me.)



All thoughts and images of this post are original to the, however a portion of this post has been sponsored.

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Responses to keys to the kingdom : a mom’s guide to surviving disney

  1. Melissa says:

    Youve called in the “cavalry.” The calgary would be . . . I don’t know . . . a lot of Canadians.

  2. My husband and I have been thinking (precursor to actually planning) about a trip to Disney for us and our 5 year old. I’m excited to read this series! It seems like such a whirlwind of a place… and lots of people will tell you different things. Can’t wait!

  3. Anita Thebo says:

    Ashley, we have been to Disney a number of times, but thank goodness now my kids are older. My husband is actually the Disney freak at my house and does all the planning. He is hooked on Touring Plans ( He normally gets a subscription per year and gives his name and password to everyone we know going during that year – but it’s only $10 a year. It is a great planner. And you can use their WDW Lines app (both iPhone and Droid versions available). Also, he listens to WDW Today podcasts. I think he has heard every single one of them at least once. If you are into listening to podcasts, they are great tips as these folks go to Disney all the time. I can’t wait to hear your tips since you worked there!

  4. Julie says:

    DH had to go to Orlando for work on short notice, so me and the kids (almost 3 and 6 months) tagged along. I’m a planning freak, so not being able to plan every detail and have the full experience annoyed me.

    We were there the week after Thanksgiving. Crowds were pretty low, weather was great. They were decorated for Christmas. I would go back then if we could. Our hotel (outside the park) was practically empty and we had the pool to ourselves. We were able to walk-in without reservations to a character dinner.
    I would also remind folks that under 3 is free. =) We’re actually going back this March before our middle child turns 3. I’m looking forward to this series!

  5. Angela says:

    We are checking in to Wilderness Lodge Dec 4! So excited my 20mo is a Mickey addict!

  6. Sharon says:

    We are taking our toddler to Disney in December for the first time, and so I am so excited to read your future posts! Thanks for thinking of this!

  7. Awesome idea. My extended family wants to take kids in tow and experience all that magic of Disney.

  8. I was just thinking yesterday that I wondered when you would start this series! Yay! Can’t wait! It’s been 15 years since I visited Disney, so I can’t wait to see all the latest and greatest things to do!

  9. Leah says:

    We leave for Disney World in 13 days with a 5, 3 and 1 yo in tow! I need the entire series this Thursday! Ha! Can’t wait to read the series and compare with our experience when we return!

  10. Stephanie says:

    How exciting. I love reading other peoples experiences/ideas on anything and everything Disney! My cousin and I went down in the middle of May for a week. We had so much fun! Stayed off site in a townhouse @ Coral Cay. I’m already starting to plan our next trip in 3 years. We pay cash and it will take a bit to save up to stay at the Floridian! :)

  11. Stephanie says:

    My husband had a conference in Orlando this week so my kids (almost 6, 3 1/2 and 9 months) and I tagged along. We went this past Monday, on Halloween. We brought our own costumes for them to wear (mermaids), which I think they enjoyed (I enjoyed not paying the ungodly price at the park). I’d suggest having a bit of flexibility on which day to go during your vacation because it rained HARD until about 1PM and none of us were having any fun. All the planning you can do, you can’t plan weather. Also, we were disappointed that one of the areas was totally closed for renovations. You might want to check on upcoming renovations before you plan. We also did Sea World, which was nice and more of a low key day for the kids.

  12. Sonya says:

    I’m just now reading this post, over 3 years later, but we are currently planning our big Disney trip for this summer. I too worked as a CP in Fall 2000! Where did you work? I was in Toon Town working merchandise. I was one of two people standing by the castle one night on our way to the staff Christmas party at the Tomorrowland Arcade but I never did get to experience Space Mountain with the lights on.

    • Hey Sonya! I was spring! Looks like we just missed each other! I was in Tomorrowland. Mickey’s Traders. The one with the dorky grey outfits. That was me. ;} How fun! Did you live in Vistaway? I guess we all lived in Vistaway? Sometimes, I miss my four year vacay known as college… sigh.

      • Sonya says:

        We did just miss each other! I never wore the Tomorrowland costume. I wore a couple of Main Street uniforms, including Glo, Adventureland, and Fantasyland. I guess I missed Frontierland as well. I was at Vista Way but I had at least one friend that lived at the newer one, can’t remember the name. I definitely miss my time at Disney. It’s something I would totally do again. I had a blast! I will actually see my roommate next month at a conference.