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Taking a Toddler To Europe

Taking a Toddler To Europe

When my daughter (the Munchkin) was 16 months old we made a spontaneous decision and went to Europe for a week.  My husband and I had booked 1 week off work and had planned to enjoy a few days at home and a few days a few hours away in Parksville, BC.  About two weeks before this was to occur, we checked flight prices and found a deal too good to pass up.  Soon we were off as a family of three to Europe for one week.

Today I’m giving an overview as to how we planned for this spontaneous trip and why we thought flying 11 hours with a 16 month old was a good idea.

Mouse House Mom Shelby Hancock travels to Rome with a toddler
Enjoying the views in Rome

Upcoming Posts on Rome

This post is the first in a series of posts about travelling with a toddler in Rome.  Upcoming blog posts will include key highlights from our trip and cover how to successfully tour the Coliseum and Forum. I’ll also share how to use Rome’s public transit system instead of the hop-on-hop-off busses.  We also had a successful beach day that I’ll discuss. Stay tuned for these posts in the weeks ahead.  Also, if you have any specific questions please email me and I’ll try to address them.

Mouse House Mom Shelby Hancock travels to Europe with a toddler

Past Toddler Travels

We had traveled six months earlier with our Munchkin to Florida for a two week trip in three different cities. I had also taken her for a weekend to Ohio.  On both trips the Munchkin enjoyed airplane rides and was in a pleasant mood most of the time.  She could sleep in her baby carrier and never had any issues with time zone changes.  Given her successful track record with flying and time zones we thought we could handle the trip.  Also, the departing flight was scheduled for 1  hour after her usual bedtime so we had hopes that she’d sleep.

Toddler Readiness

Our Munchkin had a couple months of walking under her belt.  She also had a few teeth and was a good eater. The Munchkin loved pasta, bread, and tomatoes, which was a good match for Rome! Naps made us worrisome as she was still at the two naps a day stage with a 9:30am nap and a 2pm nap.

Packing for a Week in Europe

We filled our suitcases with summer clothes and focused on bringing as many outfits for our Munchkin as possible.  We knew she may go through double the outfits as us. After all, she was a messy eater and known to get herself really dirty!  We also estimated 7 diapers a day and were able to pack enough diapers into the folds of our clothes and the crevices of our bags. We know what diapers we like and since we had space we decided to bring them along.  I also packed food pouches so she could have a snack on something familiar.  Our daycare suggested we bring any and all drugs from home so we had baby Advil, baby Tylenol, baby Benadryl, teething gel, and a super duty diaper rash cream.  We never used any of it, but it did give me piece of mine knowing we had it just in case.

As for Mom and Dad packing, we each packed one nice outfit that would be suitable for the Vatican – you know, in case Pope Francis wanted to chat over coffee…

Mouse House Mom Shelby Hancock travels to Rome with a toddler
Sometimes you need to nap while on vacation…

Baby Gear

I called our travel company (Transat) to inquire about our airport transfers.  I was advised it was a bus transfer and based on this advice I did not pack a car seat. We found out in Rome that it was a minivan and they didn’t care we had no car seat.  That was pretty stressful, but we had a safe ride.

We decided to bring a hand-me-down umbrella stroller.  The stroller had seen better days, but it still worked!  From all of my pre-trip research we heard that the cobble stones of Europe could wreck a stroller. So from this research I then researched baby stores and found PreNatal chain of baby stores.  They had a great selection of umbrella strollers so the plan was to buy a brand new umbrella stroller when ours broke.  Fortunately/unfortunately (?) our stroller never broke so it returned home with us.

We also traveled with our Ergo Baby Carrier. Recognizing it was above 34 degrees Celsius most days we also bought cooling towels that could go around our necks, over the Munchkin’s legs in the stroller, or in between our body and the Munchkin’s body when in the carrier.

 

Thanks for reading! If you’re planning a family vacation to Europe, I’d love to hear your comments.

Grandma Goes to Pandora World of Avatar

Grandma Goes to Pandora World of Avatar

This is a guest post by Mouse House Mom’s own mother, Marg.  While Marg isn’t the Disney enthusiast that her daughter is, she is a huge Avatar fan.  Since Marg recently returned home from Walt Disney World, she’s guest posting to share her Pandora – The World of Avatar experience with you. I hope you enjoy it.


My husband and I recently returned from a 5 day, Walt Disney World vacation with our son, his wife and their 3 kids (17, 11, and 9). This was our second trip with my grandkids in Walt Disney World and what made this vacation extremely special, was being able to experience the newly opened Pandora – The World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom. While I booked this vacation unaware of Pandora, I certainly felt blessed that it was able to be a part of our vacation.

Grandma goes to Pandora World of Avatar
Grandma goes to Pandora World of Avatar

I’m a huge Avatar fan and in the lead up to our trip I made a special granddaughter date night to watch Avatar with my two granddaughters who were toddlers when the movie was released.

Animal Kingdom is the perfect spot for Pandora.  You would think the Tree of Life at the entrance was put there years ago knowing Pandora would one day come along to compliment it.

Mouse House Mom's Mom goes to Pandora World of Avatar
Strike a pose!

Attractions

Prepare to be truly amazed with the floating mountains, entertainment, and attractions. My personal all-time, favourite attraction was the Flight of Passage. I have never experienced such a true to life ride experience.  The seat is like getting on a motorcycle, but it is soft and your legs feel the movement of the bird breathing.  I have been on many 3D rides that felt realistic, but none compare to the reality of this ride.  It didn’t hurt that my favourite part in the Avatar movie was where Jake Scully takes his flight of passage. In addition to Flight of Passage there is another major attraction: Na’vi River Journey.  This is a slow ride and has no height restrictions, unlike 44 inch height requirement for Flight of Passage

Swotu Waya Na’vi Drum Ceremony

While walking through Pandora, we came upon a live show, the Swotu Waya Na’vi Drum Ceremony.  The performers in the show got my grandkids involved in playing drums and we all learned a new song.  Thanks to the advice of my daughter, we had purchased a Memory Maker and were able to take advantage of the PhotoPass photographer to capture some great shots during this experience.

Mouse House Mom's Mom goes to Pandora World of Avatar
Time to start drumming!

 

Recommendations to Maximize Your Pandora Experience

Having been fortunate to experience Pandora – The World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom in its first month open, I recommend the following to maximize your experience:

  1. Book FastPass ASAP
  2. Bring Snacks
  3. Watch the Movie

More on each tip is provided below.

1. Book FastPass ASAP

Book your 1 Pandora FastPass the moment you get access and book it for early in the day.  Learn from my confusion (I had to call Walt Disney World), when you book your FastPasses for Animal Kingdom, keep in mind you only get 1 Pandora FastPass (per day) for the 2 attractions available (i.e., Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey).  You can use your other 2 FastPasses on some of the other amazing Animal Kingdom attractions.  Don’t book another FastPass too soon because you’ll probably find it hard to leave Pandora!  Although Cast Members do a good job shading the lineups it gets very hot spending up to 3 hours in line is tough for kids and adults.

2. Bring Snacks

Bring water and snacks for the lineups.  It’s important in the Florida heat to stay hydrated. We found munching on snacks kept us from getting grumpy and hungry between meals.

3. Watch the Movie

Watch Avatar before going so you can fully appreciate how true to the movie Pandora is. A word to the wise, Avatar was playing every night on the TV in our Walt Disney World hotel.

Mouse House Mom's Mom goes to Pandora World of Avatar
Everything is realistic in Pandora!

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Cheers,
Marg, the Mouse House Mom’s Mom

Disney PhotoPass at Disneyland

Disney PhotoPass at Disneyland

Wake up extra early? Check. First in line at the bus? Check. Through the ticket gate and in time for Rope Drop? Check. Take digital SLR camera out in preparation of Welcome Show? Check. Take 1 test picture? Check. Drop camera and have pieces fly everywhere? Check. That was how we started our 2016 Walt Disney World vacation and the reason I became familiar with Disney PhotoPass.

The purpose of this blog post is to save you having to go to the trouble of smashing your camera to find out about Disney PhotoPass. We recently traveled to Disneyland and now I’m sharing my knowledge of the Disney PhotoPass at Disneyland with you!

What is Disney PhotoPass at Disneyland?

Disney has photographers located at most key photo spots (more on this below) where they will take your photo with their professional, high quality, digital cameras. The photographer will initially give you a bar code (via app, web, or a card) that links to your photos. You can continue to give this bar code to each photographer and the pictures get added to your account. A full list of photos included in the Disney PhotoPass is listed in the paragraphs that follow. After your vacation you can download your photos within 45 days. Trust me, it’s easy to use!

Shelby Hancock Disney PhotoPass info for Disneyland
Seeing Mickey with our Minnie Mouse.

Why I Like the Disney PhotoPass at Disneyland:

  • Saves you from bringing a camera.
    • We rely on our phones for the majority of our photos, but we still want some vacation memories we can frame. The Disney PhotoPass pictures are top quality and perfect for framing.
  • You can be in your vacation photos.
    • No more playing photographer or asking a stranger to do that. We also like that some photos don’t look like you’re at Disneyland – they look like we sweat a lot and then hired a professional photographer for family photos.
  • It is a good value to buy a Disney PhotoPass, especially if you want Dining Photos.
    • One day is $39 and one week is $78.
Disney PhotoPass pictures Mouse House Mom
Finally not screaming when she meets a character!

Disney PhotoPass Options + Pricing

You can purchase a one day Disney PhotoPass for $39 or a one week Disney PhotoPass for $78.  The photos covered by both options include:

  • Disney PhotoPass photos (including RunDisney race photos and photos from character greetings).
  • Attraction photos (i.e., see Splash Mountain).
  • Dining photos (i.e., the coveted Mickey Mouse family photo from PCH Grill).
  • Magic shots (i.e., photos with embellishments added by the photographer).

The price for the Disney PhotoPass at Disneyland doesn’t change based on when you purchase it. Unlike the Walt Disney World Memory Maker, the price for a Disney PhotoPass doesn’t increase if you buy it last minute. Also, when you buy it isn’t the same as when you activate it. I bought mine on a Monday, but didn’t activate it until the Thursday when we encountered Mickey Mouse out for an unexpected stroll.

One thing that surprised me was the cost of Dining Photos at the character dining restaurants. If I recall correctly, the photo package at Goofy’s Kitchen was almost $40 and if I didn’t already have the PhotoPass I’d be horrible at saying no. A person actually comes to your table with your photos printed out in a beautiful portfolio, which also includes recipes from the restaurant you’re at and they sell it as a package. Thankfully, if you have the Disney PhotoPass and can show that it is active for that time (take out the App and voila) then you get the digital pictures without having to buy the printed out package.

Stop for Photos

If you’ve spent the money on the Disney PhotoPass, make sure you stop and get your photos taken. Using the Disneyland App you can view where the photographers are located. That said, it is pretty intuitive – almost all of the must have photo spots have a Disney photographer present.

I mentioned above that you can get some photos taken that don’t look like you’re at Disneyland. This adds to the versatility of the Disney PhotoPass because now you have some great professional looking family photos that you don’t necessarily associate with a Disney vacation.

Shelby Hancock Family Photos with Disney PhotoPass
Taken in DCA, but could pass for Whistler or a nature hike somewhere else.

Also if you’re on an attraction that has photos, you’ll want to stop at the end and record the code associated with your photo so you can link it to your Disney PhotoPass account later.  I found it easiest to snap a picture with my phone of the code rather than try to enter it on the App in the moment.

Tip: if you want a less crowded Castle picture then get it taken earlier in the day.  However, we’ve never had a problem with the number of people floating through the background of our photos.

Shelby Hancock Disney PhotoPass Castle
Not too crowded at 3pm on a Friday.

Don’t Hesitate to Ask for a Magic Shot

We weren’t having any magic shots offered to us so towards the end of our trip I asked a photographer if they could take a Magic Shot. The photographer was happy to do so, but didn’t tell me what “magic” they’d be adding. The photographer only advised how to pose.  I’m really happy with how the magic shot turned out and its extra special since we were in Disneyland for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon.

Shelby Hancock shares about the Disney PhotoPass
The Magic Shot of my Munchkin and Tinker Bell.

 

Alternative to Disney PhotoPass

One alternative to the Disney PhotoPass is to ask the Disney PhotoPass photographer to take a photo with your camera. They are going to get a pretty good photo and while they’ll snap some with their official camera, you can simply choose not to buy them. Even during the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, cast members (not official photographers) were ready to take a photo with your phone/camera for you.

Just so we’re clear..

I don’t get paid for supporting or speaking positively for any products on this blog. Anything I choose to endorse is because I truly believe in it.

 

 

See ya’,

Shelby Hancock

 

Disneyland Vacation over Mother’s Day

Disneyland Vacation over Mother’s Day

Last month we enjoyed our Disneyland Vacation over Mother’s Day weekend.

To be honest, the trip was planned around the Tinker Bell Half Marathon and the dates collided in a magical way!  While we didn’t seek out a Mother’s Day vacation it was really special spending it on vacation. A full week of not having to wash dishes sounds good to me!

Planning Mother’s Day

In planning how to spend Mother’s Day in Disneyland, I considered our itinerary carefully.  I knew we would be going hard at Disneyland on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and another day might be too exhausting.  Mother’s Day became our day for brunching, baseball, and pool time.  I also wanted to keep the Disney magic alive so I added a Character Meal and time to explore Downtown Disney. I was also running a half marathon on Mother’s Day and didn’t want to over-extend myself.

Restaurants and Dining on Mother’s Day

Disneyland accepts reservations 60 days in advance, but in March when it was getting close to booking there was no Mother’s Day specific dining information available.  Mother’s Day specific information is usually released closer to Mother’s Day on the Disney Blog.  However, a quick Google search told me of past Mother’s Day events.  These dining related events were typically a tea or special dessert being featured on a menu.  I felt that obtaining a reservation 60 days in advance was more important than waiting for the information to be released.

I had reminders in my calendar to make my dining reservations exactly 60 days in advance.  I’m up at 5:30AM for work, which was the perfect time to log in and get my reservation.  Reserving this early allowed me to obtain the exact time I wanted (9:30AM) at Disney’s PCH Grill. I picked Disney’s PCH Grill because I knew I wouldn’t be in Disneyland or California Adventure that day and I wanted to keep the Disney magic alive. Disney’s PCH Grill is located at the Paradise Pier Hotel and upon arrival in the restaurant you are greeted by Mickey Mouse!

Mouse House Mom’s Mother’s Day Tips

My Mouse House Mom tips for a successful Mother’s Day at Disneyland are as follows:

  1. Slow it Down (unless you’re running the Tinker Bell Half Marathon)
    • Ditch the fast paced park day schedule for a laid back day outside the parks.
  2. Character Meal at a Disney Hotel
    • Keep the Disney magic alive when not in the parks by dining with characters.
  3. Pool Time
    • May was hot! Go lounge in the pool. My munchkin loved jumping off the pool deck!
Mother's Day at Disneyland PCH Grill
Mother’s Day brunch at PCH Grill with my three loves.

We added a baseball game to our Mother’s Day and I’ll talk about that later this week when I highlight Father’s Day fun.

Thanks!

 

Related Posts: Tinker Bell Half Marathon Race Report (Race was on Mother’s Day).