CAT | Destination Guides
October 29, 2012
It’s no secret that fall is a wonderful time to visit Disney World – the weather is cooler, the crowds are down but the magic is in full force. In October, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party is the place to be!
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is a Halloween-themed special event held from 7 p.m. – midnight on select dates in in the Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World. Purchase of an additional event admission ticket is required to attend Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. In 2012 the ticket prices ranged from $50 – $65, depending on the date of your visit.
Disney describes the event as follows:
During Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, Guests of all ages are encouraged to dress up in their favorite Halloween costumes. Even better, you can collect delicious candy as you trick-or-treat around Magic Kingdom theme park.
In addition to many favorite Disney attractions, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is filled with special entertainment, including:
- Mickey’s “Boo-to-You” Halloween Parade—including Disney Characters and the stars of the Haunted Mansion attraction. The parade begins with a spook-tacular ride by the Headless Horseman.
- Happy HalloWishes—a spectacular fireworks show where the Disney Villains go trick-or-treating in the sky.
- Many favorite Disney Characters and Disney Villains in special Halloween costumes.
- Special lighting, music and theming effects transforms special areas of Magic Kingdom theme park into happy haunted hollows.
The tone of the event is, well, “Not-So-Scary”, and is appropriate for children of all ages.
As with everything involved with a Disney vacation, this is not a cheap experience but, in my opinion, it was well worth the price. Here are some tips and tricks to make your Halloween trip a blast!
- The event get more crowded (and more expensive) the closer to Halloween you get. The week before Halloween is a perfect time to visit – close enough that you already have costumes but far enough that it isn’t overly crowded.
- Leave the trick or treating until the end. When you first arrive, you will find lines at all the candy stations but virtually no lines for the rides. We literally would get off a ride and run around to the entrance and hop right back on – a rarity on rides like Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain. A few hours in, the candy stations have plenty of candy and no lines – plus you don’t have to lug the candy around all evening.
- The parade starts near Splash Mountain and this is a great place to find a spot and watch. There seem to be a lot of really little kids that don’t venture to the back of FrontierLand.
- The Spooky Mansion is the most crowded ride – get there early!
- The dance parties are fun if you are in the area where they are being hosted; however, one is probably enough.
- I loved the Villain’s show but if your little one is scared of the Disney Villains, it’s best to avoid (it isn’t scary but sometimes seeing them on stage is enough to trigger nightmares).
- The crowds really begin to thin after the 8:15 parade and 9:30 fireworks. With the park open until midnight, these last few hours are some of the best you will ever spend in the park – no lines and candy everywhere!
- There is a limited amount of Halloween themed merchandise available for sale each night so if you see something you simply must have (the orange ears, for example) buy it when you see it!
- For younger kids, consider a quiet period from around 4 – 6 (maybe catch a Disney movie in your hotel room) so they have plenty of energy for the party. Also, plan on a late morning the next day to give everyone a chance to recover.
- HAVE FUN!!
February 14, 2012
Comments off · Posted by jennifer in Ski Vacations
My kids are excellent skiers. Unfortunately I am not. Which means, we do LOTS of ski school. From the Breckenridge Bombers program to the traditional ski school experience, we are veterans of it all. One of the toughest challenges we face is getting four kids up, dressed and out the door on time and with all the necessary gear. Here are things we have learned after years of trial and error.
- Wear the base layer as PJs. The kids always sleep in their long johns. It saves valuable time in the morning and is a nice cozy way to start the morning (who wants to put on a cold pair of long johns first thing in the morning?)
- Prepare the night before. Pick a convenient spot near the door and lay out everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) in the order it needs to be put on. Give each child a folding chair or designated spot on the floor so they each have their own space and there is no fighting over territory.
- Need a lunch? Pack it completely the night before (use a labeled zip lock bag to keep the lunch together and dry).
- Load all skis, boards and poles in the car the night before.
- After breakfast, require a potty stop (even if they insist they don’t have to go!).
- Everyone gets ready together and in order. Do NOT dress the kids one at a time – the first ones ready get too hot in their gear. Instead, have everyone do each step together. You can help as needed to keep things moving but kids can do a surprising amount by themselves if you let them.
- Wear ALL gear to the slopes including ski boots (it gives them a chance to warm up before heading out on the slopes) and helmets.
- Double check the essentials as you load the car: gloves, neck gators, helmets.
- Pack an essentials bag – we have a bag of spare gloves, neck gators, ear warmers and even a helmet that stays in the car. That way if something gets lost, we have a back up ready to go.
If you forget something, don’t panic. Ski schools often have a spares you can borrow or buy. Ask to check the lost and found for spare gear to borrow if you don’t want to purchase new.
February 2, 2012
While the slopes beckon for many, there are plenty of non-skiing activities at most ski resorts to keep non-skiers happy and entertained. Here are my top five non-ski activities to look for when selecting a ski resort town for a family vacation:
- Sledding or tubing hill. Some resorts have groomed tubing hills complete with magic carpets or tow ropes. These tend to be pricey (up to $30 an hour) so if you are looking for the budget option, ask some locals where they go sledding, pick up a couple of sleds in the local grocery store and head out. A thermos of hot cocoa and some cookies will round out the perfect afternoon. If you are heading to Breckenridge, check out Carter Park behind the elementary school – great sledding (but beware of the rough ride down the middle – little kids should stick to the smoother path on the sides).
- Dog sledding. Kids and adults of all ages will enjoy this fun activity – there are packages from an hour to a full day.
- Children’s museum/rec center. Many mountain resorts have a children’s museum or indoor rec center (or both) that are fun for a day or even après ski. These are generally very affordable but can be crowded and/or have odd hours.
- Shopping. Shopping at a resort can be limited but ski towns have a wide variety of unique stores to fit every budget and taste. Kids will enjoy browsing the local toy store, small book store and even the eclectic gift shop. Ask around for fun kid spots – for example, there is a small indoor play area in the back of Peek A Boo toys in Breckenridge. The upstairs kids area of the Breckenridge visitor center is also a hidden gem – rarely crowded and fun, educational activities for the kids.
- Ceramics studio. Spend an afternoon or après ski evening painting a masterpiece to take home. If you do this early in the trip, you can generally take it home with you, otherwise, they will ship it to your destination.
Of course, no trip would be complete without fun games for the condo/hotel room. You can find our favorites here.
What are your favorite activities?
January 20, 2012
Comments off · Posted by jennifer in Ski Vacations
Gearing kids up to ski is no easy feat – especially the first few times you head out to the slopes. Read the ski school guidelines and they give a laundry list of required items but we have found that it is the little things that make or break the day. Here is my list of little things to remember.
1. Glove/Mitten Cats. Kudos to the Spyder company for finally designing mittens with a convenient loop snap that attaches to a loop on their jacket sleeves. If your mittens/jackets aren’t this hi-tech, your kids NEED mitten clips. I prefer the Glove Cats because the clips hold firm and they are just the right length. Why are these necessary? Little kids are always pulling off their gloves – just ask any ski instructor and they will tell you they spend half the day putting mittens back on kids. These clips prevent mittens from getting left behind. The length is important – too short and they are difficult to attach but too long and dangling mittens drag on the ground and fill with snow.
2. Good socks. It is worth the money to buy high quality padded ski socks that fit properly. Never get socks with “room to grow” that is a recipe for blisters! Also, our socks tend to shrink during the year so I buy an extra pair to open later in the ski season.
3. Labeled helmet. No one likes to dwell on their kids getting injured but when you see someone coming down on a sled with ski patrol, all helmets look remarkably similar. Label your kid’s helmet so you can easily distinguish it. My kids have a purple snake drawn in Sharpie on the top of their helmet and helmet tails (we made fish tails and cheetah tails that attach to the back goggle strap with a zip tie – comment if you are interested in instructions on how to make your own).
4. Contact information. Tuck a business card with your mobile number in at least one pocket.
What little things do you need for a successful ski day with kids?
January 5, 2012
As with all sports, ski resorts know they have to appeal to younger skiers – and not just the coveted 18-24 demographic. Ski resorts need the toddler set to grow up loving to ski. Not only does that breed an adult skier, resorts understand that the entire family will not book a ski vacation if one of the kids hates to ski/board. With that in mind, ski resorts are pulling out all the stops to build a safer, less frustrating bunny slope experience.
Slope Improvements: The bunny slopes used to be created out of an otherwise unusable hill somewhere on the resort property or, worse, at bottom of a long run. No longer! Resorts are paying attention to the beginner experience by regrading slopes, installing magic carpet conveyor lifts to haul skiers back to the top (instead of traditional lifts) and locating them near the ski school. Breckenridge actually has bunny slopes within the confines of their kids’ ski school so the under 7 crowd can learn to stop and turn in a controlled environment (that is conveniently just steps away from hot cocoa & bathrooms).
Safety Improvements: One of the most difficult things for kids to do on skis is get back up once they take a tumble. Handled jerseys help ski instructors (or parents) stand kids up when they fall. They also allow lift operators to give a much needed “pull back” to little kids riding the lift. Some resorts are taking this further with the addition of magnetized jerseys. The magnets stick to the backs of lifts for the ride and the lift operator demagnetizes them at the top so kids can exit the chair lift. An interesting concept that I would like to see in action.
Convenience Factors: Ski nannies and valets are becoming more and more popular with resorts. They help shuttle the kids to and from ski school, which is not an easy task with multiple kids and all their gear. Telluride has staff in parking lots to help parents get kids and gear safely to the ski school. Resorts have also spent money renovating and enlarging the children’s indoor spaces so they are inviting and fun for kids in between ski runs.