Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Photo Flashback: Disney World Vacation October 2015

This Photo Flashback goes all the way back to the first week of October, 2015.... about 2 weeks ago.
The entire Growing Up Disney Family spent a week at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge,  Kidani Village.  This is a sampling of the over 750 pictures I took on this trip... I promise I won't post all of them.

We will be doing a review of Kidani Village, tell you all about MNSSHP, Remy's Hide and Squeek, and Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival.  We will also do some restaurant reviews and post more pictures from this trip over the next few weeks.

Walt Disney World
The View from our balcony at Kidani Village was fantastic.

Walt Disney World
Sculpture at the base of the Tree of Life at the Animal Kingdom Park.

Walt Disney World
Lamp Post at the Magic Kingdom decked out for MNSSHP

Walt Disney World
Fantastic Fireworks at MNSSHP!

Mulch Sweat and Shears
On a sad note. This was taken on the last week of Mulch Sweat & Shears appearing at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
We will miss your Bandscaping.

Thanks for stopping by

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Strollers: To Rent or Bring Your Own...Our Experience with Amusement Park Rentals

We returned from Walt Disney World about a week ago.  It was a great trip.  My girls are 4 and 6 and the little one has finally passed the magical 40 inch tall mark, allowing Minnie to try Soarin' and Star Tours.  She hated them both but that's another story.

Growing Up Disney, stroller rental at Disney World
My four plus my mom.  That's her own scooter but Amusement Park Rentals has similar models available for rent.

I knew we still needed a stroller for Walt Disney World.  Since I now have a preschooler and a first grader, we rarely use a stroller anymore.  The zoo here is huge and a great place for a picnic so I take a stroller with us on those outings to carry Minnie and our stuff but otherwise, my collection of strollers is parked and awaiting Craigslist.  I wear a Fitbit and my step count was over 100,000 for the week at Disney World without any dedicated exercise time.  That's a lot of walking for an adult and a ton for a child.  Yes, Tink is too old for a stroller at home but WDW is a whole different game.  

If you need a stroller for vacation, you have several options:
1. take your own
2. rent from Disney
3. rent offsite

Let's look at each of these options.  First, bringing your own stroller.  We have done this many times and it is nice when it works out.  On past trips, we have always packed our own stroller when driving.  When flying, I have lugged either a single or double stroller down the jetway for gate check (free.)  I don't want my strollers getting dirty under the plane so I always put them in a travel bag (sadly, another cost.)  And this works fine if you have enough connection time between flights since you have to wait for the stroller to be brought back up.

The second stroller option is renting from Disney however I don't really consider this a viable option in most cases.  The Disney strollers are hard plastic and expensive.  The current daily rates for Disney strollers are $15 for a single and $31 for a double.  If you pay in advance for a length of stay pass, then you save a few dollars per day.  At these rates, I can't see this being a good idea for more than one day.  I have a friend whose youngest children were 3 and 7 on their last trip.  The 7-year-old was a very independent boy who wanted nothing to do with a stroller and didn't need one for most of the trip.  However one day he was very tired and whiny and my friend said the rental fee at the park was totally worth it.  Disney strollers are available right inside each park and have to be returned before you leave that park so you'll have to carry your tired child back to the bus or parking lot.  If you park hop, you return the stroller as you exit park #1 and show your receipt to pick up a stroller at park #2.

The third option is renting a stroller from an offsite vendor.   You don't have to use space in your vehicle for a stroller or worry about the airlines damaging your stroller.  Rental is a great idea if you don't have a stroller anymore or if you need a larger one than you normally use.  The offsite rental companies also offer the models that work best at the parks.  I used one of my own on one trip and was ready to trash it by the time I walked down Main Street once.  It worked fine at home but wasn't a good choice at WDW.  I wished I had rented on that vacation.   Renting a stroller also means you don't have to haul a stroller around the airport or wait on it to come back to you.  On this last trip, we didn't have long layovers and our flight home out of Orlando was delayed.  We made our connecting flight but it was tight and we just might have missed it if we had to wait on a stroller.

I was given a free rental stroller from Amusement Park Rentals on this trip and it was fabulous.  They rent single and double City Mini GTs and BOB Revolution strollers.  We have taken our own double BOB to Disney before and it was great inside the parks.  It's bulky on the buses but a good option for RunDisney types or if you are driving to the parks.  I've used double City Minis in both GT and original models.  Of all these, the City Mini GT was our favorite.  It is the beefed up version of the original with a little more headroom, better tires and an adjustable handlebar.  My husband did most of the stroller pushing and carrying.  He was happy with how small the stroller folded for the bus, how easy it was to maneuver even when loaded with 90 pounds of little girls, and the adjustable handlebar was a really nice feature so he didn't have to bend over while pushing the stroller.  A parent console is included and provides a good place for a couple of cups and a storage spot for napkins, hand sanitizer, etc.  The oversized canopies were wonderful protection from sun and rain.  The seats have a nearly flat recline and my girls happily napped while we were out and about.
Silly husband plus tired girls leaving Magic Kingdom and heading for the bus.  The back of the seat is mesh for ventilation and has a pull-down cover if the weather calls for it.

Up late and happy at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.  Being able to have both girls corralled in the big crowds was wonderful.

children napping in a stroller at Disney World
The kiddos napped while I enjoyed some loaded mac n' cheese from the Food and Wine Festival. 

We had our stroller for a week.  A 7 day rental of a City Mini GT from Amusement Park Rentals is $80.00 and you can add insurance for $25.00 for a total of $105.00.  A 7 day length-of-stay rental of a stroller from Walt Disney World is $189.00.  So you save a bundle with an offsite rental and have a much more comfortable and convenient stroller.

Amusement Park Rental's website is easy to use and the CEO, James Zimbardi, prides himself on excellent customer service.  On the site you can rent single and double strollers as well as practically anything else you could need to outfit your hotel room or vacation home for taking care of a baby or small children.  They offer high chairs, cribs, pack and plays, car seats and more.  If you have someone in your group with a mobility issue, Amusement Park Rentals can help with a scooter or wheelchair during your stay.  They even have cornhole boards and volleyball nets if you are having a big gathering.  When you reserve whatever you need from their long list of items, you'll set a meeting time.  James or a member of his team will deliver your rented items and make sure you know how to use them.  The stroller we used was really clean and in good shape.  By the way, if you bring your own stroller and it gets really dirty, Amusement Park Rentals also offers a stroller cleaning service and you get one of their strollers while they clean yours.

City Mini Double, rental stroller at Disney

Disney stroller rental, City Mini Double folded
This stroller is so easy to fold.  Just take everything out and pull up on the handles in the seats.  This narrow fold works great on Disney transportation.

Amusement Park Rentals puts the family's name on the card on the basket as well as the tag hanging from the handle.  We add a yellow luggage handle cover to the stroller to help us spot it in stroller parking.

The stroller folds small enough to fit between the bed and the wall, saving on precious floor space.

I got a call from James the day before we arrived in Orlando to confirm our meeting time and he checked in with me on the morning of pick-up to make sure our estimated time worked with our Magical Express schedule.  He was very prompt and you can't miss the van.  I was glad to be able to meet James at the beginning of our trip and to say thank you at the end of the week.

Amusement Park Rentals van

I can definitely recommend Amusement Park Rentals for stroller rental during your Walt Disney World vacation.  I thank them for allowing us to use a stroller for the purposes of this review.  These are my honest thoughts on the stroller and the rental service.  Full Disclosure

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Spot It! Disney Frozen Game Review

Don't you love it when an educational game is really fun? And simple? And includes favorite Disney characters?  Well, this game is all of that.  

Spot It! Numbers and Shapes Disney Frozen Olaf (long name, good game) is the newest game in the Disney-themed Spot It! line from Blue Orange Games.

Disney Frozen Spot It, Blue Orange Games, Olaf

Disney Frozen Spot It, Blue Orange Games, Olaf

About a year ago, I reviewed Spot It! Words Disney Princess.  Tink really enjoys that game but since you have to be able to read, it is too advanced for the preschool set.  However, the Numbers and Shapes version of the game is perfect for ages 3 and up.

The Spot It! games all work on the same idea.  Each card matches one image/word/number/shape with one image/word/number/shape from each other card.  Minnie enjoys Spot It! Numbers and Shapes and since you can play with 2-6 players, the whole family can play this game together.

There are several variations on the basic game to keep the challenge going but the idea is always to find a match between two cards.  I know that sounds really easy but sometimes it's surprisingly tough to find the match!  

The game comes packaged in a durable tin so you can easily toss this one in your bag to play anytime.  If you need to keep a smaller child occupied while a older child is in a practice or lesson this fall, start up a game of Spot It! and the little one will be secretly practicing their letters and numbers while having fun and enjoying some time with you. And I love that each card works with all the others.  If you lose one, it won't make much difference in game play.  Your youngster can look for a match with these cards on a road trip and if one disappears, no worries.   

The Spot It! games cost around $10.  I've seen them a little more and a little less, depending on where you purchase.  They are available at independent toy stores and the big name stores like Amazon and Target.  

Have you tried any of the Spot It! games?  There are lots of themes available, both Disney and non-Disney options.   The version we played included Olaf and some of his favorite things from summer. 

Thank you to Blue Orange Games for providing this game so we could play it and share with you.  

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Star Wars Star Destroyer Strike Game Review

I have another Star Wars game review to share with you.  Star Destroyer Strike is a fun new game from Wonder Forge and is based on characters from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Star Wars Star Destroyer Strike Game

Star Wars Star Destroyer Strike Game

Here's the official description of the game: 
Choose carefully or the enemy will strike!
Strategy and suspense collide in this exciting
escape game! Advance your Resistance
heroes toward safety, but move fast—the Star
Destroyer Finalizer is on your tail. The spinning
starship of the dreaded First Order can aim in
any direction, and you may be in the line of fire!
Bounce the beam off the mirrored deflector
shield toward your enemies, and evade the
surprise laser blasts! It’s fast-moving, family fun
in a galaxy far, far away!

The Star Destroyer is really the star of this game.  It's in the middle of the playing area and starts each round of play.  Each player gets four characters, one each of Chewbacca, Rey, Poe and Finn, and the goal is to move one of them to the safe zone at the end of the arm.  To begin playing, spin the Star Destroyer to start the timer.  It plays some really fun music from the movie and I have a video below so you can hear it and see the laser.  Before the timer runs out, players take turns completing actions from the cards, either a Resistance action that benefits yourself or a First Order action that impacts another player.  When the alarm sounds, play stops and you see if any of the heroes are taken out by the laser fire.  It took us a couple of times playing through the game to get the hang of it but once we understood the rules, we had a really good time.  

Star Wars Star Destroyer Strike Game

This video below isn't the greatest as I was still trying to defend my heroes.  But I really wanted you to see and hear the Star Destroyer to get a feel for this game.  Only my husband and I were playing because my four-year-old was too young for the game and the music scared my six-year-old.  Star Wars music can be rather ominous and Tink really didn't like it.  I think older children and Star Wars fans will love this game.  I'm giving my copy to a friend and her husband and ten-year-old boy are huge Star Wars fans.  Once I get their thoughts, I will update this post.  

The official suggestion for this game is ages 6 and up.  I would agree with that for most six-year-olds.  Tink would have been able to follow along if she hadn't been scared by the music.  My four-year-old thought the Star Destroyer was awesome and just wanted to play with that, so I don't think most kids would be bothered.

Overall, I think Star Destroyer Strike is a game that you will actually enjoy playing with your kids.    They have to practice a little strategy in choosing which pieces to move and which actions to take on their turn.  It's a fast-moving addition to family game night that is enough fun for it to be played with again and again but doesn't necessarily take up a ton of time like some board games.  

This game is exclusively available at Target.  Here's a link.  (It's not an affiliate link, just for your convenience.)  

Thank you to Wonder Forge for providing this game for the review.  (Disclosure)
(The video may not work on a mobile device but is viewable on a desktop/laptop.)