Thursday, May 31, 2012

Disneyland Katie Style

How to do Disneyland on a Budget...

Just Kidding.
When I was getting ready for our big Disneyland 2012 Adventure I searched the internet for blogs and articles on how to do Disneyland On a Budget... Then I proceeded to forget/ ignore/ disregard everything I had spent months learning and did Disneyland Katie Style.

So here are some tips on how to do Disneyland Katie Style.

One of the things on my Bucket List of things to do before I die is Learn to Fly an Airplane.  Yep, it sounds crazy if you know my feelings about Math and you know that Pilots are required to understand numbers in order to navigate an aircraft.  But whatever.  I love airplanes, I love flying, and someday I will fly with the Blue Angels.   So the first event of our trip to Disneyland was meeting the pilot.

 Doing a vacation Katie Style would mean that you would shove your cute children out of the way so you could squeeze up into the cockpit and snap a picture of yourself with the pilot.  I did not do that.  But I wish I would have.

Riley was my flying buddy, and ride buddy, and bus buddy, Ok, she was my only child that would sit by me.- She was my only buddy.

Our kids were pretty much rock stars on the flights down to L.A.   I was prepared for break downs, fear, boredom, and ear popping.  Instead- they were pretty much the happiest kids ever. And I knew we were in for the World's Greatest Vacation Disneyland 2012... or maybe they were storing up the mood swings and breakdowns for Disneyland.

The latter proved to be true.

I am not going to be a typical Mommy Blogger who only writes all of the perfect things about her vacation and her children, giving a false sense of reality and a parenting complex to others who read her blog lie to you, there were some rough moments.

Like leaving the Hotel our first morning, and wanting to take a picture of my kids (since I heard you should do that every day in case you lose a child - so you would have an  updated photo with the actual clothes and description of what they were wearing that day... paranoia is a wonderful thing) and the adorable outfits that I made for them (with Aleisa's help of course).  And this is what I got:

They may be grumpy- but the outfits are kind of adorable, right?

We experienced those faces most mornings of our adventure.  We would get to the park early each day and "play" all morning until nap time, then go back to the Hotel, exhausted from the tantrums- er, I mean rides- and take a nap.  Then we would wake up and head back to the Happiest Place on Earth and stay till the park closed having the time of our lives!  Seriously, they were wonderful from 4:00pm till midnight!  Apparently on vacation my kids become Night People.  Looking through the pictures you can tell the exact time of day by the expression on my kids' faces. Doing Disneyland Katie Style means bribing your kids to have fun all morning and then sitting back to enjoy the afternoon and evening.  Next time we may go to the pool till noon every day and skip the A.M. Drama.

Another way to do Disneyland Katie Style is to ditch Ridemax and every other app that will help you fit in all of the rides with the least amount of waiting in line.  Ditch the rides because your kids will find way more joy hugging Chip and Dale, Mickey Mouse, and even the White Rabbit which they have never heard of.  (And the highlight of D-L 2012 will be seeing Macie spontaneously kiss Dale on the nose)

Macie's First Kiss

Taking photos with the Characters was probably one of the best parts of the entire trip. They loved hugging and kissing each character. That was pretty much the only thing that could get a smile before noon.

Before we planned our vacation I dreamed of taking my kids to Disneyland. But I felt like it was hopeless to think of a trip this extravagant before we finished P.A. school.  (I know to most of you, this isn't that extravagant.  Most people I know have taken their kids on tons of trips like this for years- bur for us, in our situation, this was HUGE)  I felt like I was living my own Fairy Tale. You think Sleeping Beauty was happy when she got that wake up kiss?  She had nothing on the kind of happiness I felt.

P.S. can you tell my kids are from Seattle and have no idea what to do when the sun comes out? 

Of course Mickey isn't complete without Minnie.

One way to do Disneyland Katie Style is to not follow any of my instincts.  When you see the long line for Mickey and  you also see that your Disney App claims there is only a 5 minute wait for Space Mountain- you skip your instincts and get in line for Mickey.  Normally I am the girl who wants to get my money's worth.  And more importantly I don't like to leave any party feeling like I missed out on something. So after reading the Blogs, the tips, and the advice I felt the need to fit it all in.  After all, who knows if we will ever get back here again?  But not this trip.  This time- I followed my kids (not my instincts) and didn't miss a thing.  Ok, maybe we never made it to the Tower of Terror or Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, but we did ride those teacups!

 Another important thing to do when you Vacation Katie Style is to care about Style.  I still remember the first time I went to Disneyland I was probably about 5 years old (Riley's age).  For the most part I think I enjoyed Disneyland- but sadly my memories of the Happiest Place on Earth are scarred with one vivid detail. Style.  I was in my "I only wear dresses or tutus" phase and my mom had only packed shorts.  Now that I have a 5  year old of my own I realize how difficult it is for them to understand that most of their wardrobe is left at home and a mom can only pack so much for a trip.  But when I was 5 - I just thought she was being mean.  I remember walking down New Orleans Square and seeing a teenage girl wearing a skirt.  (I remember it so well- that when we finally made it over to that part of the park I actually had a flashback!) I was devastated.  Why was she allowed to wear a skirt at Disneyland?  How could I ever have fun wearing shorts??  It was a cruel cruel world.  So when I let my girls get dressed on the second morning of our trip (the day we would have lunch with the Princesses) I let them pick their own clothes.  And even let Riley choose her own hairstyle!  This was one of the hardest things I have done as a Mother.  And when they insisted that they wear their Princess Dress Up Slippers- I let them.

Anyone seen the Modern Family episode when Gloria wears heals to Disneyland? We got lots of comments about our shoes.

Lunch with the Princesses.

 Another way to do Disneyland Katie Style is to just plain give up on the perfect shot.  I think after that first pic at the Hotel we can all determine that my kids just don't like to pose for pictures.  I could let this frustrate me, I could scour the park for the dream background, for the right lighting, the perfect smile or I could just set the camera down and just watch them smile for real.  This was one of my best decisions.  I may not have all of the adorable pics that most moms get at a place like that-- but I am not most moms, am I?

Waiting for the parade 
  Waiting for the Parade to start and watching it was one of the highlights of the vacation. (Really, waiting for anything to start was a ton of fun!  We bought the kids the light up bubble guns for Fantasmic and had tons of fun blowing bubbles together while we waited for the show to start.  Katie Style means buying a ridiculously over priced souvenir because it is fun.)  Maybe because it was in the evening (after naps), or maybe it was just watching my kids smile and have fun waiting on a curb.  A few days before we left for California I was playing with my kids at the park.  For some reason we were laughing our heads off.  I felt the tender reminder that we could be happy anywhere.  While I was still excited for Disneyland and a true vacation - I also realized that we are happy at the park, on walks, and playing in our backyard.  It was a nice gift to my heart to remember that Disneyland would be fun- but it would not be our only memory.  Disneyland Katie Style means no pressure.  Have fun, then go home- and keep having fun.

And now, in case you didn't believe me when I said we had some majorly grumpy moments- I will give you a little example.  I will show you the picture - you guess the time of day:

Blake on the Carousel... what time do you think?
Eating Fun Dip Candy- laughing at our green tongues... what time?
Posing in a car, what time?
A smile almost as big as her ice cream... a.m. or p.m?

Every now and then Cotton Candy worked to get rid of the grumpies.

So, you see, something magical about that afternoon nap for my kids.  To be honest, even with a bit of the morning grumpies- we still had some wonderful moments before lunch.

Favorite Parts of Disneyland:
JT: Watching the kids enjoy Fantasmic and the Parade.  (and he is embarrassed to admit that he loved the date with me because he doesn't want to sound like a bad dad- but the fact that our kids screamed and cried if they had to go on a ride with me demonstrates that he is clearly not a bad dad!)
KT: World of Color. I actually cried.  There is something really special to me about listening to beautiful music, seeing amazing art on a surface of water, and knowing that I was making a memory with my kids.  I will never forget how happy I was.
Riley: Aladdin (the performance at California Adventure) which was a surprise since she covered her ears for the whole thing! And Soaring California. 
Blake: Seeing the Characters and Toy Story Midway Mania :)
Macie: The Parade, where she waved ecstatically calling out to Donald Duck.  And It's a Small World, where she waved to each character as if she was in a parade for them.

Last but not least.  If you really want to do a vacation in true Katie Style- I highly recommend leaving your kids.


By Thursday- I was getting a little tired of hearing the same complaint that no one wanted to go on rides with me.  Riley was the only one who was excited to be with me.  This was really hard on my heart.  (like, cry-myself-to-sleep-hard)  And I realized I needed a minute alone, with someone who loves to be by me.  And since my kids weren't fans of going in the morning- we left them.  With a babysitter.  At the Hotel.  And JT and I had a wonderful date to the Happiest Place on Earth.  (I gotta say, at first I felt guilty leaving my kids on vacation so I cancelled on the babysitter, but when I saw how happy my kids were to stay home and play- and how excited JT was to be alone with me- I got over myself and ditched the kids!)

Riding all of the rides that the kids were afraid of :)
One other thing we loved was walking home at night.  JT and I have always loved taking walks at night.  (Before Riley was born we would walk a mile or two to the grocery store for a treat at midnight, we loved it)  We would skip the bus back to the Hotel at night and just let the kids fall asleep in the stroller as we walked home reminiscing about the fun we had that day. This also gave me a chance to enjoy how Californians love to light up their palm trees with Christmas Lights.  Ahhhh, palm trees :)

Riley loved Hot Chocolate on our nightly walks home :)
Anything cuter than sleeping with Minnie, Kitty, and glow stick?

So there you go.  Vacation my way.  Including bribery, tears, slippers, grumpy faces, smiley faces, kisses, laughs, bubbles, cotton candy,  and everything I wanted it to be.  It is funny how much you can miss something so simple- like a week at Disneyland.  But I do miss it. I feel so blessed that things "worked out" the way they did so that we could have one big hurrah before P.A. school starts.  It has become painfully clear how hard the next few years are going to be on us- and I am so grateful to have something so Magical to look back on.  

Who needs a Princess?  We are making our own Happily Ever After.


  1. :) I am so happy that you had a great time. Disney is so magical & your kids will forget the grumpy parts & just remember the love. Too cool.

    Best part? That you left the kids & went & rode the rides. GENIUS!!

  2. Vacationing with kids is hard work! Of course a huge highlight would be leaving them and having a night for yourselves. :) I'm glad for you that you got to do a big to-do before the next few crazy years.

  3. Love your post! I love that you got to go and enjoyed yourself. I think Disney is THE place to enjoy the magic that sustains you at home when things are tough! We went an entire YEAR ago and I still often think of our time there as a family and how fun it was to do what my kids' wanted and how we were so happy!! Moms need that magic! And I'm sure moms of soon-to-be P.A. students need it a tad more!!

  4. Thanks for these helpful hints on how to be on budget while having a Disney World Vacation