How to maximize happiness at the Happiest Place on Earth: A Disney Guide

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I had the opportunity to attend a continuing education course in Anaheim, California recently.  Being a mother of a 3 year old, I have a good reason to also visit the happiest place on earth (but I have to admit, it is for my own amusement as well J).   For my son to enjoy his first time in Disneyland, I had to do some “strategic planning”: which park to hit, rides that are most suitable for my son’s age and interests, Fastpasses, the quietest time of year, plane tickets, food, hotels; the list seems never ending.   I am sure there are many moms out there doing the same – so why reinvent the wheels?  Let me share some of my experience which you may find helpful in planning ahead of time.

The biggest key is to allow yourself time to plan before the trip. A few months in advance can be extremely helpful, considering that there are so many things to think of.  You most likely already have a park in mind, but do consider that Disney World has 4 parks and 2 water parks and is immensely bigger than Disneyland, which only has 2 (for now – they are building a 3rd one). With small children, walking from hotel to park, and trying to hit every park in a week at Disney World may be challenging and not so enjoyable for the little one’s so Disneyland may be more attainable for young first timer.

It is also important to do research on when you want to go.   Some of the least busy times to go to Disney World are the middle of January to the middle of February; late August; and the week after American Thanksgiving to the middle of December. The least busy times at Disneyland are the week after Easter Sunday until the middle of May; after Labour Day to mid October; and after American Thanksgiving to the middle of December. The busiest times are obviously weekends, winter and spring break, summer, and all major holidays.   It is more memorable to go in October when there is a Halloween theme and other special attractions that only happen this time of year but you can also add more personalized touch by signing up for events like dining with characters.  It is better to book these special events in advance online. The Disney Website has its own planner called My Disney Experience, and you can use it to plan hotels, food, attractions and whatever else you are curious about. Calling a Disney representative is also helpful as they can give you ideas and save you time finding out the info on the website.

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Finding a place to stay in or around the Disney area is overwhelming, as there are so many options for this as well. Staying in the park is convenient, because you walk out of your nicely themed hotel and you are already in the park, but they are usually more expensive.  Also, if you are with older or no children, this can be a bit too much Disney for you, and the off-park hotels can give you a break from the crazy hustle and bustle. Hotels around Disney area often provide shuttle services so you can minimize walking as you will be doing all day in the Park!

Line up is no fun for anyone, especially small little ones so Fastpasses are blessings! Fastpasses are essentially tickets with a return time so you can pass through lineups and get right onto the ride.  It works differently for each park – for Disney World, you have to get them beforehand, but at Disneyland you go right to the popular attractions and grab the Fastpass ticket at the ride.  Bear in mind that there are also Fastpasses for meeting some of the favourite characters – for examples, nowadays, with Princess Anna, Elsa and Olaf.   There is also an app that tells you the wait time at each ride and food lines, which is very convenient if you are debating walking across the park. Disney World has wifi built throughout the entire park which makes the app more accessible if you’re from out of country or do not have data.

When you arrive at the park, you can tell Guest Relations if it is your birthday, first visit, or anniversary, you will be given a button to wear which gets the cast’s attention to give you an extra special hello.   There is a disability card that can be provided for those who can’t wait in the long lines due to a disability, which you can also get at Guest Relations. There are strollers to rent in the park for littler children, and if you plan on renting one for more than a day, let the park know and they will give you a discount. Another fun tip, is that if you buy a coffee in the park and keep your receipt, you can take it into any food shop and get it refilled for free (you don’t even need your cup). You can also ask the photographers if they can add special effects to your photos with characters. Make sure you don’t forget an autograph book for the little one’s when they meet the celebrity characters.  You can purchase in the park, or just buy a more affordable Disney themed one at the dollar store at home. It is a good keepsake for children (I still have mine from my first visit to the park).

Being organized and having everything planned beforehand takes away the stress one might have at the beginning of the trip, and allow everything to flow smoothly.   Hope all these tips help you enjoy your time in the park.   Have fun!

 

Love has no border – our dental volunteer mission: Ojochal – Nicaragua

Abre la boca! (open your mouth!) –  Not only did the Nicaraguans open their mouths for us when we visited them in March for our dental mission, they also opened their hearts for us.  When we visited the two different villages during our trip, we found them all very welcoming.  Even though the history of Nicaragua is scarred by dictatorship, civil wars and hurricanes, the people have not given up and are striving to make Nicaragua a better country.  They have such positive outlooks on their lives that we could never tell Nicaragua was the second poorest country in Latin America.  As much as we helped to improve their oral health during our trip, we benefited more as they made us experience true happiness, which lies in what you enjoy and not what you have!   We also made many friends with other dental professionals from all over the country who not only had talent in dentistry but also in music.  Impromptu live bands at the beach were definitely one of the highlights of the trip!

Want to see more about our trip – please visit: http://youtu.be/ro1vXLa04VA

This is how other members of the Children’s Oral Care’s team feel about the trip…

Maria

People in North America seem to think of going to the dentist as a right or a pain they’d rather not endure. It was a real treat to experience those that see it as a blessing and a special occasion. In a village we visited on the last 2 days of our mission in Nicaragua, it was a real eye opener. We were told by our translators that everyone went home and dressed in their best attire to meet us for treatment. They saw it as a gift and a very special day.  They spoiled us with fresh foods for lunch that they prepared in thanks and the children put together a program of song and dance to perform for us. After treatment the kids would just hang around, watched and enjoyed our company.  Quite different from what we know. Some wait for hours in the hot sun, just to have a quick cleaning. I only hope that we would all realize what a privilege we do have in North America.

Cheryl

There are so many things to share about our trip to Nicaragua; in general it was just awesome. It was an eye opener when going out into the villages to perform dental work and seeing how the people actually live. They are very poor people, who truly needed our help. Even though our drives to the villages were quite long, especially when it was an hour drive down a gravel road and you wondered where in the world we were going, it allowed me to see and soak in more of the culture and life of Nicaragua. I was surprised when seeing an oxen/horse and cart used to pull people or their belongings on the main road. Even though each day had its challenges, like not having power for our machines, dust and dirt flying all around or the language barrier, the best part of it all was being able to use my given talents to serve the people there. And through it all I learned a bit of Spanish.

Meghan

Going to Nicaragua was one of the most memorable trips I have ever been on. Someone’s explanation of what a mission trip is does not do justice to what actually happened.  There was so much more that I have experienced.  The warm greeting we got from each village put a smile on my face for the entire time I was working.  When we drove down the dirt roads, we pulled up to villages that have nothing. Each house looked empty and dark but the entire family lives in it. When we came to do the dental work,  each patient showed great cooperation although I could only communicate with my limited body language. The patients were very helpful and very grateful for everything we did.   Parents thanked us even if their children were upset and fearful for the work, which made it that much more rewarding. Life in Nicaragua is so different than back home.  People live without what,  we in North America, feel that we can’t live without.   It makes me realize how little I really need to live a happy, healthy life and to be grateful for what I have already got.  Overall it was an amazing, life transforming experience and I cannot wait to go again.

 

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