- Free Dining Week - Hell to the yes. The week we went (and a few others during the slow month of February), if you stayed at a Disney resort, you got the Disney Dining Plan for free. Staying at a moderate resort, we got one table-service meal, one quick-service (counter) meal and one snack a day each. That adds up to a lot of food, especially when one of your group is primarily g-tube fed. This is by far the best deal Disney offers, which is why they do it in their slow times. This is such a good deal that I figure we'll do it at least one more time, pulling the kiddos out of school, even though the Boo will likely be in elementary school the next time we go. We also decided that whenever we go outside of free dining week, we'll bit the bullet and buy the dining plan ahead of time so that we aren't stressing out every time we eat, 'cause it ain't cheap. Most of the food we had was delicious, but, yeah, you pay for. (Unless you don't. Like we didn't.)
- Everybody told us we should stay "on property," meaning at a Disney resort, and I'm so glad we did. We went back to our hotel most every day for naps for Becca and me (some days more me than Becca!), and it was so much easier than making a commute that locked us into our plans for the day. And with the dining deal, it was probably even cheaper that way. We stayed at Coronado Springs, which was fine, but next time we'll probably stay at a different moderate resort - not that there was anything wrong with it, and I'd recommend it, but there are so many fun-looking ones that it would be nice to try another one. When I'm rich, we'll stay at the Polynesian. It was really cool.
- The "park hopper" option on the tickets is a must. It's pricier than you would think, but it was definitely worth it to have maximum flexibility. We often spent half a day at one park, went to the hotel for a break, and spent the evening in another park. It also enabled us to see most of the parks in the day and at night, which is cool because they are all different at night.
- Character meals were a BIG hit with Becca. That's where most of the pictures below were taken. Becca LOVES anything in character, so it was truly magical for her to get to chat with the princesses, hug on Mickey, and counsel Eeyore ("Eeyore, don't be sad! It's okay!). Since we were on the dining plan, we did several character meals - otherwise, we probably would have scaled back since they seem to be more expensive than the regular table-service meals. It was so nice to see the characters this way instead of waiting in long lines to see everyone. We still waited for a few characters, but all of our must-see's were covered with our meals. Some of our favorites included breakfast at O'Hana (with Lilo, Stitch, Pluto and Mickey) and the princess lunch at Norway in Epcot. (The other princess meal option is in Cinderella's castle, which would have been cool, but it counted as TWO meals for each person - no, thank you. We got lots of time with Belle, Cinderella, Snow White, Ariel and Sleeping Beauty at the Epcot one.)
- We made sure to make time for swimming. Our hotel had a little pool near each building and one big pool in the center of the resort. I had read something about how when you ask kids what their favorite part of the Disney vacation was, the majority of kids say swimming at the hotel. I know that can drive parents crazy (hello, we can swim at the rec center 2 miles from our house!), but Becca loves the water, too, so we made sure to swim 3 times or so. The pools are heated, but even so, in the first week of March we had to watch the weather to schedule our trips to the pool. Once it was so cold that Becca's lips turned blue, but she still refused to get out. (We went all responsible parent on her and made her get out anyway.)
- One of the beautiful things about going to Disney with a kid Becca's age (3.5) is that if we didn't tell her it was there, she didn't know - so if we knew we weren't going to do something (ride the Teacups, for instance - I wasn't going near them nauseous, and John's no fan either), she didn't know what she was missing. That mindset also freed us up to take it slowly, since we didn't have to do everything.
- Don't believe people who tell you to skip Epcot with little kids. Of course, Becca is our little scientist, so it was no surprise that she'd be into things like Innoventions and the Imagination Lab at the end of Figment, but Epcot turned out to be her favorite park. We rode Nemo 3 times, Figment 3 times and Spaceship Earth (in the big ball) 3 times. She loved Fantasy Land, of course (with Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, and It's a Small World), but she picked Epcot when she got to decide where we were going.
- We downloaded (and actually paid for) an app from touringplans.com - it was awesome. It gave us real-time wait-times for every attraction in the parks. That made it really easy for us to avoid disappointment - instead of telling Becca we were going to such and such ride, getting there and finding that the line was too long, we were able to check the wait times and give her options. (And yeah, she definitely didn't understand the concept of going to a ride to check the wait time - if we walked to it, we had to ride it).
Okay, this post is getting ridiculously huge, and I'm only halfway through the pictures, so I'll save the rest for another post.