Archives for August 2012

Disney Vacations for Families of 5 or More

by Peter Hastings

Family of 6

So you’ve broken the “average” family barrier by becoming a family of more than four. It seems like almost everything today is made for families of four and once you add the next child and become a group of five or more, things just get harder. Booths at restaurants are made for four, cars seat four comfortably, the parent to kid ratio becomes disproportionate, heck even family vacation packages are usually geared for groups of four. So what is the impact to your Disney vacation? We recently ran into this scenario about four years ago when our third little one joined our family. Before that time, our quaint family of four had made trips to Disney fitting into the “normal” definition of a family. Now as a family of six, we have learned how to adjust and get the most out of our trips. In this series of blogs, we’ll take a look at different areas that change when that fifth member comes along including accommodations, attractions, dining and traveling and different strategies for managing the changes.


My first initial thought when we started planning our first Disney trip as a family of five was “where are we going to stay?”. Typical hotel rooms are meant for and have a capacity limit of four. Luckily, for new families of five, Disney provides you an easy option for the majority of their hotels. Children under the age of three can sleep in pack ‘n plays provided by Disney and not count against the four person maximum. This includes rooms from the values to deluxe resorts, although you may want to consider what having a pack n’ play in your room does to the real estate/floor space. For instance, on one of our trips we had a pack n play setup in a park view hotel room at the Grand Californian. We found the room to be a bit tight/small with five people, especially with the pack n play setup. If this is an option you think might work for your family, be sure to check out the room sizes at each of the resorts you are planning on staying.

The next option provided by Disney, is to look at resorts that have room types that will accommodate five or more regardless of age. Disney’s newest resort, the Art of Animation has new family suites that will allow up to six occupants.

Preschoolears: Art of Animation Family Suite

© Walt Disney Parks and Resorts online

There is a queen-size bed available, along with a double size sleeper sofa, and a table that converts into a double bed as well. This may be a pretty good option for families with small kids, but may be a bit tight as the kiddos get older. If you’d like to stay in a moderate, Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside resort has some rooms available with two double beds and a small pull out trundle bed. The bed is only about 5 and ½ feet long, so take that into consideration when deciding which ‘little’ one might sleeping on it.If you’re looking for a bit more space, the cabins at Fort Wilderness also sleep 5, but this option is a lot different than standard hotel rooms.

Port Orleans Riverside Walt Disney World

© Walt Disney Parks & Resorts online

You’re thinking to yourself, “Those may be ok options, but we’re planning on following the advice of and working in rest periods back at the resort during the day. We’d like to actually be able to rest while we’re in our room instead of stepping on top of one another. What other options are there?” Insert here Disney’s Best Kept Secret, Disney Vacation Club Villas.  In most of the Deluxe resorts, DVC villas are available that provide 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom and Grand Villa accommodations. Some of the 1 bedroom units (at Bay Lake Tower, Animal Kingdom Villas, and Old Key West resort) will sleep 5 people more than comfortably thanks to a King size bed in the Master bedroom, a queen size pull out sofa in the living room and a twin sleeper chair in the family room. On our last trip to WDW, we stayed in a 1 bedroom unit at BLT and absolutely loved the space for our family of 5 at that time. There was plenty of sleeping space and the extra room, bathroom, kitchen and dining room made it seem more like a home. In addition, a child under 3 can sleep in the provided pack n play which is what we plan on doing during our upcoming trip in a 1 bedroom. For bigger families, the 2 bedroom units will sleep between 8-9 people plus one under 3, and the Grand Villas can sleep up to 12 plus one under 3. If you aren’t a DVC member, you can book these rooms directly through Disney or consider renting points from a current member for a reduced cost.

Preschoolears: Bay Lake Tower 1-Bedroom Master at WDW

Master Bedroom of 1-bedroom villa at Bay Lake Tower at Walt Disney World

Preschoolears: Bay Lake Tower at Walt Disney World foldout bed

Fold out single bed at Bay Lake Tower at Walt Disney World

Now that you know your options for where to stay, we’ll talk about what happens when you hit the park with your new crew of 5+ in our next post in this series.

What are your favorite Disney places to stay as a family of 5+?

Belle at Magic Kingdom

With the expansion of Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, I am so excited to see the new attractions and buildings they have added. The one are I am most looking forward to is Belle’s cottage and town, as well as the Beast’s castle. This is the first time Belle has been given her own “neighborhood” and meet and greet, and that a tribute has been given to the Beauty and the Beast movie from 1991.

Besides the novelty factor of something new at a Disney park, I’m really excited that Belle is the one princess chosen for this distinction. There is so much popularity with the Disney princess dynasty, which includes Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, Ariel, Jasmine, Mulan, Pocahontas, Tiana and Rapunzel. Little girls line up for a picture with one of these princesses and dress up to look like them. The merchandising is everywhere, so it is hard for a little girl to not dream about a Disney princess. Of all the princesses, Belle is probably the one I would want my girls to look up to.

I’m excited that this new area of Fantasyland was devoted to Belle because she is so different from the other princesses. First, she was different from the rest. I love that she did her own thing and didn’t care what others thought. I think that is a fantastic quality to have. Believe in yourself, even if your different from everyone else. And believe in what you love, which for her was books. That brings me to number two. Belle loved reading. I would love for my kids to look up to this part of her and read as much as they can. This one aspect adds just richness to her character, and provides depth for imagineers to create things like a library in the castle in the park as well as Storytime with Belle. Third, and this is my favorite, Belle fell in love with a Beast. She wasn’t swept off her feet by a handsome prince, riding a stallion. She didn’t go the ball and get picked by a prince. All of us watching the movie knew he was a prince in disguise, but she didn’t. She fell in love with who he was on the inside, and the outside didn’t matter. Isn’t that a wonderful message for our children? To look beyond the package and get to know who people really are?

So I celebrate the character of Belle, and I can’t wait to see what they have built in the new Fantasyland for her. She is much more than a pretty yellow dress, or a beautiful girl. I love that my girls think she is a really cool character to look up to, because she is.

Below is a wonderful behind-the-scenes video about Belle and Maurice’s cottage that has been added to Fantasyland. Enjoy the sneak peak!

Big Changes at Disney Parks

In the last year, there have been lots of changes at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and there are still more changes coming. One thing I love about Disney parks is that they are always evolving and developing new attractions and shows. It never feels stagnant while still retaining some of things that make it timeless.

I thought I would put together a quick summary of changes for each park, that took place over the last year as well as will occur in the next year.


  • California Adventure was given a bit of a “theme” change which included a new front gate and entrance as well as changing names of streets and areas in the park.
  • Sunshine Plaza is now Buena Vista Street with the addition of the Carthay Circle Restaurant, as well as the Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe and Clarabelle’s Hand Scooped Ice Cream.
Disneyland Carthay Circle Restaurant
©Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Online
  • Starbucks coffee is now served at the Fiddler, Fife & Practical Cafe in California Adventure
  • In 2011, the new ride “The Little Mermaid-Ariel’s Underwater Adventure opened
  • In June 2012, Cars Land opened with three new attractions and three new dining locations. Attractions include Luigi’s Flying Tires, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, and Radiator Springs Racers.
California Adventure Radiator Springs Racers Entrance
©Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Online
  • New dining locations opened along Paradise Pier including Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta, and Paradise Garden Grill, as well as Paradise Pier Ice Cream.
  • Hollywood Pictures Backlot became HollywoodLand
  • Mullholland Madness became Goofy’s Sky School
  • Electronica was replaced by MadTParty in the summer of 2012
  • Red Car Trolleys were added to Buena Vista Street
  • New ”Glow with the Show“ ears were added to World of Color
  • A new character meet & greet for Merida was added to Disneyland
Disneyland Merida from Brave Meet and Greet
©Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Online
  • Princess Faire closes as Disneyland prepares to make use of the Fantasyland theater. A new Princess meet and greet location is being built where the Carnation Plaza Gardens used to be.
  • New Jolly Holiday Bakery opens on Main Street while the Carnation Cafe gets renovated and expanded.
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds receive new sleds and is renovated. Mountain climbers return to Matterhorn mountain.
  • Starting in fall of 2012, ”Glow with the Show“ will be added to Fantasmic.
  • Major renovation to the Disneyland Hotel is complete including a new restaurant and new monorail pool slide.
  • Pirates League coming to Disneyland starting September 2012

Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World Fantasyland Expansion

©Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Online

In 2010, Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom began a massive renovation that includes:

  • Building two Dumbo rides with new wait time technology to eliminate long lines
  • Removing ”Snow White’s Scary Adventure“
  • New Ariel’s Grotto meet and greet with Ariel and the new attraction ”Under the Sea – Voyage of the Little Mermaid“
  • Beauty and the Beast village and castle including Gaston’s tavern, the Beast’s castle and Belle’s cottage.
  • New dining restaurant called ”Be Our Guest“ that serves lunch and dinner. Reservations opened on August 20th.
  • Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train attraction will open in 2014
  • New Storybook Circus meet and greet with Mickey and Friends
  • Princess Meet & Greet new area will open in 2013
  • Casey’s Jr Soak n’ Splash Station (now open)
  • New Fantasyland Train Station
  • Goofy the Great’s Barnstormer attraction
Other changes at Walt Disney World include:
  • Test Track closes to undergo major renovation and changes
  • New Art of Animation resort opens
Walt Disney World Art of Animation Resort - great with kids
©Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Online
  • At the Grand Floridian, construction has begun on new DVC villas.
  • New restaurants open in Epcot World Showcase in Italy (Via Napoli) and Mexico (La Hacienda de San Angel)
  • New baby animals born at Animal Kingdom, including an Okapi named Nafuna

Grand Opening for the expansion of Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom is December 6th of 2012, with some attractions opening in the next two years.

Those are a lot of changes for both parks! The new Cars Land has brought a large number of new visitors to Disneyland, and if your kids are like mine, they love Cars! We are also looking forward to the Magic Kingdom Fantasyland expansion as it will almost double the size of Fantasyland, and it is the first time that Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid have their own area of the park.

If you haven’t been to Disneyland or Disney World in awhile, it may be time to take a visit and see all the new and wonderful changes!

According to the Kids

preschoolears: According to the Kids

Disney Junior Favorites

by Jory Hastings

We are beginning a fun series of posts that are inspired by the point of view of our kids. It is always fun to look at things through their eyes and find out their opinions. We are starting out with the topic of Disney Junior shows, according to my kids.

At my house, we watch a lot of Disney Junior and enjoy many of the Disney shows. While I thought I knew what my kids loved, I decided to ask them about the shows they watch, and which ones they really loved. Here is a list of their favorite Disney Junior shows, in order of their favorites.

1. Octonauts“Creature report!” This is a quirky show about animals who live under the sea in a submarine and study sea creatures and sea life. I was actually surprised this was number one, but I do find this show has a nice educational value as they learn about different sea animals.

2. Doc McStuffinsIt’s the Big Book of BooBoos! A new show about a little girl who is a doctor for toys and has the magic powers to talk to them. Definitely a favorite in our house for sure. My kids play Doc McStuffins with their own toys now.

3. Jake and the NeverLand PiratesWhat’s the pirate password? This is a fun show about a group of kids who are pirates in NeverLand and work together to outwit Captain Hook. That sneaky crook! My kids love pretending to be the different characters.

4. Handy Manny – Our favorite handyman who has talking tools, and talks in both English and Spanish throughout the show. While it has been on for quite awhile, it is still a favorite in our house. “You break it, we fix it!”

5. Jungle Junction – Jungle animals that have wheels instead of feet. Fun and cute stories. When this first started, it would have been at the top of the list but interest has faded a bit.

6. Minnie’s BowToons – This really isn’t a show but short little shows that come after Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. My girls love these.

7. Mickey Mouse ClubhouseMeeska Mouska Mickey Mouse! This is really the number one show for my littlest one. This kids still enjoy watching it with him.

8. Little EinsteinsBlast Off! This is a show about four genius kids who solve problems and challenges together. There haven’t been new shows for this in quite awhile, but my kids enjoy the reruns every now and then.

While that puts the current shows in order of their preference, there are a few shows that aren’t on the regular Disney Junior that get an honorable mention from me, as they were big favorites when they were on.

  1. Higglytown Heroes – This show has recently been re-run on the Disney Junior Channel, and my kids loved this show for sure!
  2. My Friends Tigger and Pooh – Long live the scooter! My kids used to put on their helmets and scoot around pretending to be Super Sleuths, just like Darby, Pooh and Tigger.
  3. Bear in the Big Blue House – One of the finest shows with puppets and music and great stories! Who can forget the welcome by Bear at the door, and the goodbye song with the moon? Good stuff!!

What shows do your kids love? How do you think they would rank them? Post a comment and tell me what their favorite shows are, according to them!

Disneyland Pixie Dust

by Jory Hastings

While Disneyland is filled with magical attractions and shows for everyone, there are special experiences for children that I think add that little bit of pixie dust to a family vacation. We are currently planning our own Disneyland trip and are hoping to add some pixie dust for our children as well. The pixie dust I am referring to include the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Studio 365 and new this fall, Pirates League.

Our oldest daughter got to experience Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique when she was five, and her and a friend did it together. It far exceeded my expectations and I thought it was so well done. Little girls are transformed into princesses by Fairy Godmothers, who do their hair, nails and makeup. You can choose a princess dress for them, and they can receive a tiara. Plenty of Disney magic everywhere with a magic mirror and magic wands. It is quite fun! Our upcoming trip, we are planning to have both our daughters do it together, and it should be so much fun to watch. At the time we were planning this special experience, Disneyland didn’t really have something for little boys except at BBB. They can do a Prince package and turn your little boy into a Prince. It is not as spectacular as the princess packages, but our son got excited and was ready to do it. He will have his hair done (a bit) and get a sword and shield.

Starting September 1st, Pirates League will be coming to Disneyland! This is very exciting because this offers something special for boys! Originally started at Disney World, it recently ended there in July. Pirates League offers three packages: First Mate, Empress, and Jake and the Never land Pirates. Children are transformed through makeup and costumes into these characters. I was so excited that Disneyland would now offer something for boys, I figured my little guy (age 6) would be overjoyed, especially since he loves Jake and the NeverLand Pirates. Unfortunately, I must have really sold the Prince package at BBB because he is set on that. My brave 8-year old daughter chimed in “I’ll do it!” So I may end up with two princesses, a prince, and a princess pirate. It all sounds magical either way!

mage from Disney Blog

If you have older children who would like a bit of pixie dust themselves, Studio 365 in Downtown Disney transforms girls into fun super stars with fun makeover packages that include hair, makeup and add-ons like color streaks and glitter. Clothing is separate. Young men can choose the Rock Star look as well.

All these experiences require advanced reservations and reservations have already begun for Pirates League. They can also do something frightful and special on Halloween party nights but reservations go quickly! I’m looking forward to experiencing some pixie dust this trip and seeing my children create a special memory! And I’m still hoping I can talk my little guy into a pirate experience! Fingers crossed!

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