sunburn? vinegar.

My biggest use of vinegar is when I dye Easter eggs and make Good Season’s Italian dressing. But I almost always seem to have it in my pantry.

A few summers ago, a friend of mine called me while on vacation at the beach. Her young son had a painful sunburn on his back and shoulders. Solarcaine was not working. And it was nearing bedtime.

I don’t remember where I got this (ya know I probably read it somewhere), but I immediately remembered:


Best on clean dry skin (NO RUBBING – just pat or air dry). If you have a spray bottle, pour vinegar into it and lightly spray on sunburned skin. Let it evaporate. The sting (and the smell of vinegar) should be GONE. Reapply about 3 or 4 hours later, if needed.

She didn’t have a spray bottle, so I suggested a paper towel, saturated in vinegar, laid gently on his shoulders to apply the vinegar. It worked. He was able to get to sleep – and anyone who’s tried to get a sunburned kid to sleep, knows – that is a huge feat! (The paper towel application is better for faces too – it just stinks a little during application.)

NOTE: If there are ANY open wounds on the skin (bug bites, scratches, etc.) the vinegar will sting and burn in that spot, so DON’T do it!

For a more complete description of the process, check out this entry.

Find great recipes and helpful kitchen tips at Kitchen Tip Tuesdays hosted by Tammy’s Recipes! Check out MY past Kitchen Tip Tuesday posts HERE.

Find more ideas over at Works for Me Wednesday, hosted by Kristen at We Are THAT Family. MY previous Works for Me Wednesday posts are HERE.

Works for Me Wednesday posts prior to February 2009 are archived at Rocks In My Dryer.

I miss SPF2 Coppertone suntan OIL.

We’re trying to work out a week at Daytona Beach Ocean Walk Resort again in the next few weeks. Last summer, we stayed there for 5 nights. SO much fun! I posted photos and a kind of review last year. We loved the fact that everything we wanted to do was within walking distance. We parked the van in the garage when we got there and didn’t get back into it until the day we checked out. The beach, two pools with a lazy river, entertainment complex with movies, restaurants, shops and across the street a water park, arcade, laser tag, go carts, mini-golf and the BEST? A SPA at the hotel that accepted the Spa Finder gift certificate I won at a Christmas party, so I even got a massage! GREAT vacation. Bought it on eBay. Seriously. GREAT deal.

I’m a Florida girl. I went to the beach on Saturdays, some when I was in high school, more when I was in college. I remember I parked my car on the beach at New Smyrna once. (It was allowed back then.) Hung out with friends all day. Then the tide came in. Not good. The tires did not budge. Not good. No cell phones back then. Just lots of freaking out about how much trouble I was going to get in and how I was going to get the car home with an engine full of salt water. Thankfully, lots of tanned, good looking guys, drippin in machismo, surrounded my Mustang and pretty much lifted it out of the sand and back a few feet before it was completely water logged or dragged out to sea and turned into an artificial reef. What? I was 16. I thought it could happen.

So I’ve been to the ocean a few times. Mostly the east coast of Florida. Daytona Beach, Cocoa Beach, Cape Canaveral, Jetty Park, New Smyrna . . . I love the beach. Kinda. Here’s a few things I’ve learned about myself:

I DON’T like swimming in the ocean. I’ve gone in far enough to STAND and catch a wave with a boogie board or a raft, but actually SWIM in the ocean? No. Riptides. Fish touching my legs. The movie Jaws. eek.

I DO like walking, basking, sleeping and reading on the beach. I know I’m not supposed to sleep and bask – skin cancer – I know. I don’t really do it anymore. We all lather up SPF50+ now. But the days of SPF2 Coppertone Suntan OIL? I can still smell it. The deep brown skin and bleached blond hair from a bottle of Sun In spray? Good times. Good times.

I DO like sitting on the beach, building sand castles and sand . . . stuff. Digging trenches. Burying my feet and legs. Digging up sand crabs for bait. Sand fills up in your bathing suit bottom and you have to trudge out to the ocean at least waist deep and do a little dance, hopping nobody has goggles and can hold their breath for a long time.

I DON’T like going to the beach for the DAY. The 60 to 90 minute, sand in my pants, wet bathing suit, sticky skin drive home is miserable. HATE that.

I LOVE going to the beach when we stay overnight. Spending the entire day outside in the sun and sand and getting to take a shower IMMEDIATELY after. Then going out for a bucket of Cajun shrimp and ICE cold beer at Bubba Gumps. Then waking up the next and doing it all over, but with different sea food at the end of the day? Like maybe blackened mahi mahi? Oh, now why did I go there? I’m ready for vacation now.

I LOVE sitting out on the balcony of a hotel at night, listening to the surf and (hopefully, if the moon is right) watching the waves.

I DO like walking on the beach at sunrise and sunset. Breathtaking.

I DO like riding out the channel at Cape Canaveral in a boat EARLY in the morning. You can actually FEEL the tension sliding off your back behind you as you get farther away from land.

I especially like standing on the top deck of a Disney Cruise Ship as it makes its way down the channel.

I DON’T like walking on the beach at night. The scurrying little sand crabs freak me out. If I walk at night, I want a flash light. A BIG one.

oh. And my final DON’T like? Shaving my legs the same day I’m going to the ocean. ow. ow. ow. ow. Shave the night before. Trust me.

To find out what others learned this week, check out What I Learned this Week hosted by Musings of a Housewife.

Thanks, Kristin for inspiring this post!

Our “Best Practices” for Disney in the Summer.

Walt Disney World in the summer is HOT. And I mean REALLY Hot. If you can go ANY other time of the year, do it. You will not miss the melting, the heat rash or the dehydration. And I am not exaggerating.

Expect the lines to be long. And I mean REALLY long. 120 minutes for Space Mountain is normal. It is possible to spend 12 hours at a Disney theme park and ride only 5 or 6 attractions. If you see a 45 minute line, be thankful. You will NEVER see this:


That’s Pirates of the Caribbean in February of 2008. Three days ago we waited 12 minutes. (February is a GREAT time to go to WDW.)

The heat and the lines aside, we’ve vacationed there in the summer for years. Even though we live 45 minutes from Walt Disney World, we’ve stayed in the resorts. Due to school schedules, we had to go in the summer just like everyone else. But we learned a few things about going to Disney in the summer:

We try to go when surrounding counties are still in school or back in school. Since we’re in private school, our calendars are sometimes off from public school by a week or two. For instance, the last day of school for Osceola County, where WDW is located, is June 4, 2009. Surrounding counties get out on June 3rd. Our last day of school is May 21st. The public schools begin again on August 24th. We begin on August 13th. So THIS year, if we were to go to Disney for a week, we would try to go at the beginning of the summer so we wouldn’t have to contend with locals so much.

Extra Magic Hours
. Each day, one of the four theme parks at WDW has Extra Magic Hours. Resort guests – DISNEY resort guests – are allowed admittance into one of the parks one hour early and can stay inside that same park an extra three hours after closing. (You can leave and come back. You don’t have to stay the entire time.)

We NEVER take advantage of MORNING Extra Magic Hours. For example. Today, Sunday, February 15th, Magic Kingdom has extra magic hours. If we were staying on property we would NOT go to Magic Kingdom MORNING Extra Magic Hours because Magic Kingdom would be MOBBED with resort guests. We would instead, go to one of the OTHER parks because MOST of the resort guests are at Magic Kingdom.

Exception to the Morning Extra Magic Hours? Animal Kingdom. By far, the hottest of the parks. Not a lot of air conditioning at Animal Kingdom. If you want to see the animals, go EARLY. Leave when it gets hot. Come back in late afternoon or early evening. When you are on the safari and you see the animals lounging in what seems to be the perfect Kodak spot, it’s no accident. There’s an air conditioning vent out there to make that spot more attractive to them. The animals get air conditioning. You don’t. For years, we flat out skipped Animal Kingdom in the summer. It’s better in February.

We ALWAYS take advantage of the EVENING Extra Magic Hours. Even when PinkGirl was little. She adjusted to the change in schedule very quickly. Sometimes FirstHusband or I would take her off into a nook somewhere so she could nap in the stroller, but for the most part, she was right there with us, having fun.

My FAVORITE Extra Magic Hours are at Typhoon Lagoon on Saturday nights. A water park in the dark is FUN. Blizzard Beach doesn’t do Extra Magic Hours.

Water to Drink, Water to Spray.
Drinking. A bottle of water is $2.50. And it’s Dasani. We either bring our own bottles of spring water or buy ONE bottle of Dasani and fill it up at water fountains. We invested in the Disney bottle straps and either wore them around our neck or hung them on the stroller when PinkGirl was younger.

Spraying. Disney sells bottles of water with battery operated fans attached. For $17.00 each. Because they have Disney characters on them. Walmart sells similar bottles for about $3.99 each. No Disney characters. (A few years ago – the price is probably higher now.) We have both, but I got my Disney “misters” at garage sales. (okay, except for one. I bought ONE for $17.00 one year.) FirstHusband rigged up a fan and mister for PinkGirl that attached to her stroller canopy.

Sunscreens and Hats. Waterproof sunscreen. Nowhere near a baby or toddler’s hands. They WILL rub it in their eyes. That only happened to us once. Once was enough. Hats or visors means sunscreen isn’t needed on the forehead – which means it won’t run into eyes. Sunscreen in the eyes: BAD.

Extra Change of Kids Clothes. There are various places in the parks that kids can get squirted with water. And it is a GREAT way to cool off. But later? Wet socks can lead to blisters. Wet clothing can lead to chaffing. We kept a change of clothes for each kid in a a Ziplock bag. Wet clothes went in there after the kids got soaked. I’ll write another post on our “best practices” with regard to clothing, but let me say here – denim is NOT moisture wicking and when it gets wet, it can take a while to dry, no matter how hot it is.

Take a Break During the Heat of the Day. When PinkGirl was little, we would take a break during the heat of the day. If you’ve read ANYthing on Disney vacations, you’ve seen this before. DON’T IGNORE THIS ADVICE if you have little ones. We stayed at the Yacht and Beach Club resorts, for 3 summers. They are within walking distance to the back gate of EPCOT. From EPCOT, you can take a boat to Hollywood Studios or a monorail to Magic Kingdom. So it was VERY easy for FirstHusband and I to split up during the day. One of us would take PinkGirl back to the room for a nap while the other would take FavoriteSon on some “big kid” rides. It was wonderful. One grown-up got to rest with PinkGirl and the other got one-on-one time with FavoriteSon. (We were able to stay at these resorts because we had friends and family who got us what is called a “Friends and Family” rate, but there are less expensive resorts in that same area, still within walking distance from the back gate of EPCOT.)

But our BEST strategy for going to Disney World in the summer?

We Went Nocturnal. When PinkGirl got older and didn’t need naps, we adapted again. We went nocturnal. Here’s the typical schedule:

Sleep in.
Spend the heat of the day at (1) Typhoon Lagoon, (2) Blizzard Beach or (3) the resort pool.
Take showers and get washed up for an early dinner (between 5 and 6pm)
Go to a REALLY nice dinner on property. (Character dinners are GREAT!)
Right after dinner, go to whichever park has Extra Magic Hours.
Stay for extra Magic Hours after the park closed for regular guests.
Leave that park around 2:00 a.m., getting back to the room and in bed around 3:00 a.m.

This is a GREAT summer schedule. By the evening, most of the resort guests who were at the theme park gate bright and early for Extra Magic Hours have long since left that park because they’re exhausted.

I’ll be writing more on our Walt Disney World “Best Practices” and I’ll list them under the “” page above, so check back!

Want to learn cool tips and tricks from lots of different people? Click on over to Works for Me Wednesday hosted by Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer!

sunrise. midnight.

You’re looking at our view from the 5th floor of the Ocean Walk Resort at Daytona Beach this past week.

FirstHusband called me from the road (actually, from the airport) on Monday to tell me he had unexpectedly gotten some time off this week – could I book a hotel somewhere for Wednesday night through Saturday night. Not so easy. We wanted to go to the east coast (of Florida) just in case our boat repair was completed this week. (Didn’t happen.) We wanted a one bedroom suite overlooking the ocean in a hotel with a better than good pool – and we wanted it for less than $200 a night. We could have used FirstHusband’s hotel points, but all the pools were . . . boring.

My first choice was Ron Jon’s Cape Caribe because it overlooks Cape Canaveral and if the boat was ready, we would be minutes away. Booked. We could only get Wednesday and Thursday night. I started looking at the choices for our hotel points. Again. Boring. And booked. (After all, I was trying to get a room for four nights – in peak season – with less than 36 hours notice.) Then I remembered Ocean Walk at Daytona Beach. I had taken the kids there with a bunch of moms and kids two years ago. We went the day school got out and stayed 3 nights. It was great! Two pools, one with a water slide, a separate lazy river, two hot tubs and a kiddie pool, right on the ocean. The resort is attached to the Ocean Walk Shoppes which is 3 stories of restaurants, a movie theater and shopping. Across the street is Daytona Lagoon – which has a water park, go carts, arcade and mini-golf and laser tag. Perfect.

I called to make the reservation and this time, I got Wednesday, Thursday ($167 each) and Friday ($172) night. But not Saturday night. Probably better, this way we have Sunday as a “down day” before regular life begins again on Monday. (and THAT is why I do NOT understand the benefit of a timeshare. We can book a weeks vacation for nearly the same as the annual maintenance fee for a time share.)

We ended up on the 7th floor, in a one bedroom with a balcony overlooking the ocean. (I loaded more photos on KeepandShare. Click HERE to take a look!).

Unfortunately, the air conditioning wasn’t working and the room hadn’t been cleaned yet. ewww.

Justin, at the front desk moved us in a matter of minutes and we ended up on the 5th floor. Again, the air wasn’t working properly. The thermostat said it was 72 degrees, but FirstHusband’s travel alarm clock thermostat read 80 degrees. We called guest services and asked if they would send someone to check it out. We got unpacked and changed into bathing suits, but before we could even get out the door to the pool, maintenance knocked on it. In minutes, he had “flushed the system” and it was blowing cold air. Sweet. You know, I don’t care about problems like this if they are fixed. Quickly. Great service so far.

Now, down to the pool and looking for the pool towels. And looking. FirstHusband went to the front desk to find them and Justin immediately asked him how the room worked out. Very nice. We were told the place to get the towels was closed for the day but that we could use our room towels. FirstHuband and FavoriteSon went up to our room to get our own beach towels (just take them, you won’t be sorry). It was already 76 degrees. They came back down and we spent some time in the lazy river and hot tub. When we went up to get dressed for dinner there was a bag of towels at our door and the phone was ringing as we came inside. It was Janet at the front desk, asking if we got our extra towels. Very nice.

We went to dinner at Johnny Rockets and, again – GREAT service. Our server was friendly, attentive and didn’t treat the kids like they were “just kids” if you know what I mean. He already had a good tip before he explained that he had only been working there two weeks, just moved from Kentucky with his wife and daughter to be near his wife’s elderly father. He was a landscaper by trade, but had a little bit of a learning curve because the plants were so different here than in Kentucky. hmmm. The story was good, delivered in a friendly way, but he told it while cleaning an already clean table next to us. It felt a little contrived. Plus, he skipped the standard question resort servers always open with when they want to chat. “So, where you from?” Still, he already had a good tip because he was so attentive and, just GOOD at his job. His ketchup smiley face for PinkGirl’s fries was just a bonus.

We went back to the room and I thought I’d check my blog, even though Ocean Walk advertised that wireless internet was available in the lobby, I thought I’d try. yep. Room 506 gets wireless internet. Low signal at the kitchen counter, fair signal on the balcony and great signal from the bedroom.

Let me take a break and mention the room. Clean. Pleasantly decorated. Full size fridge with an ice maker. We forgot to turn it on when got into the room, but we brought an ice chest, so we had a bag of ice. The curtains in the bedroom were strange. The window looked out into the hallway. It was a full pane of glass, so it didn’t open, but the curtains didn’t cover the entire window. Check out the photo of the bedroom, above. The curtains didn’t close. Luckily, we had a chip clip.

Some “positives” about the room?
Overall, it was not the nicest hotel we’ve ever stayed in, but it was clean.
The pools were great.
It was close to everything we wanted to do (we didn’t use the van once).
Equipped with a washer/dryer, a blowdryer, two televisions, a dvd player, a vacuum, an iron, a (no fee) combination safe and well equipped kitchen with a full size fridge with an ice maker, coffee maker, toaster, microwave, oven, stove and a dishwasher.

Some things you might want to consider before staying at Ocean Walk Daytona Beach?
Unfortunately, the mattresses were NOT comfortable.
And the pillows ranged from rock hard to lumpy soft.
Keep in mind, this is timeshare resort, so no daily maid service.
That means no daily shampoo/soap/conditioner replenishment.
Water pressure ranged from fair to almost non-existent. (We tried to shower at “off peak” shower times.)

Some things about the room that didn’t bother us, but might annoy someone else?
There was NO shelf in the bathroom to hold ANYTHING.
The bathroom was missing one drawer.
The floor lamp in the living room was missing a light bulb.
Some hooks on the balcony curtains had come off the rod.
The safe was too small to fit the laptop computer.
The alarm clock was broken.

As for the uncomfortable mattress? I had a $50 Spa Finder gift certificate burning a hole in my purse and was very happy to discover that the resort’s spa, Vacation Therapy Spa, accepted it! I supplemented the gift certificate a little and opted for a 50 minute full body Swedish massage. I supplemented it $10 more for a “firm” Swedish massage. Wonderful experience!

On Thursday around 11:30 am, I called to make an appointment for a massage and got an appointment for 12:30 – just one hour later! I arrived 15 minutes early, as requested. The brochure said to arrive 30 minutes prior to an appointment, but the person I spoke with on the phone ended the conversation by saying, “I’ll see you around 12:15.” I walked in and was immediately taken back to the locker room, given a big white robe to wear and a key for a locker. I changed, locked up my stuff and went into this little waiting area. Soft music, dim lighting, a beaded metal curtain surrounding the little room. I picked up a magazine (dated 2 days before) and someone asked me if I wanted water (I did) and then even asked me if I wanted lemon (I didn’t). (As someone who doesn’t like lemon in their water, I always appreciate it when I’m asked.) The massage therapist, Kathleen came to get me and took me back to the therapy room. Again, soft music, dim lighting, candles, and a fountain just outside the door – which you could hear from inside the room. One full body massage later, I’m feeling very relaxed. She did a GREAT job. After the massage, she took me back to the little room with the beaded metal curtain and gave me more water (came with the lemon this time, but I didn’t even care). She even came back after a few minutes to explain some stretching exercises I could do to help the arthritis in my neck. I knew most of them, but learned two more. (Chin to shoulder and the “backstroke.”) Overall WONDERFUL experience!

We spent the rest of the day Thursday just hanging around the pool and ocean. I even read a FICTION book! (Dream When You’re Feeling Blue by Elizabeth Berg) FirstHusband was reading Cold Sassy Tree (recommended by Lisa Writes) and he really liked it. Thanks AGAIN, Lisa! We ended the day with dinner at R.J. Gators (for some reason, it was called Backwater Fresh Grill, but the ticket and Ocean Walk signs referred to it as R.J. Gators). Whatever the name, it was GOOD. Great service and great food!

Friday, we went to Daytona Lagoon (Florida residents, don’t forget your drivers licenses for an $8 discount per ticket). The food wasn’t all that good and, at around $8 per person, we blew the money we saved on the discount. Better to eat before you go, because outside food and drinks are not allowed. At the very least, there’s a Burger King next to the parking garage. Great little water park! PinkGirl’s favorite part was this giant structure with 3 water slides, water spurting out everywhere and at the very top, a GIANT bucket that tipped when it filled up – sending water everywhere. Plenty of seating surrounding this area and what I liked best was the fact that the chairs were low and right at the edge of the water, so I could dangle my feet and legs in the water and see the entire structure. PinkGirl lasted about an hour and a half and then had a complete breakdown – a combination of over excitement, low blood sugar, lack of sleep and (we think) sunscreen and sweat in her eyes. FirstHusband took her back to the room and I stayed with FavoriteSon to ride the slides and hang out in the lazy river. The lazy river was nice, but there were very Very VERY few tubes. It was after 3:00 p.m. and not that crowded – but I would say that for every three people in the lazy river, only one person had a tube. That said, I probably only went around 2 or 3 times before I got one. The music was classic rock, but you could only hear it in certain parts of the river. I love me a lazy river and FavoriteSon and I must have floated for over an hour. Maybe an hour and a half.

We went back to Daytona Lagoon that night so FirstHusband and FavoriteSon rode the go carts and they had a GREAT time! Dinner at Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Company and then back to Daytona Lagoon for laser tag. FavoriteSon scored only 25 points below the winner! After we bought the tickets, PinkGirl refused to wear the big, heavy jacket. She finally relented after I promised to stay right with her. After about a minute inside, she was off on her own and didn’t want my help. I was just another target.

Saturday, we went deep sea fishing on a party boat, but this post is already L O N G, so I’ll post about that later.

(By the way, I didn’t post while on vacation because I just don’t think it’s a good idea to announce on the internet: “My house is empty!” I know none of you are going to trek on down to Florida and break in, but I just think it’s more prudent to mention travel AFTER it is complete and we’re back home. Many of my fellow bloggers talk about trips and preparation and blogging while on vacation and I just don’t think it’s a good idea. I wish everyone would post after they get home. Especially if they post their real name and what city they live in. So. I’m paranoid. In this case, what can it hurt?)

Back to life. Back to reality.

DisneyQuest. pros and cons.

June 2008. PinkGirl is 50.

INCHES, that is.

And that is a GOOD thing. It is a VERY good thing. We’ve been WAITING for this for a VERY long time. Thank. You. GOD!!!!!

We went to DisneyQuest this weekend and for the first time EVER, PinkGirl didn’t go home angry or in tears. DisneyQuest is a 5 story arcade. For a VERY long time, for our family, it has been a 5 story source of sadness. Weepiness. A 5 story source of frustration and . . . temper tantrums. Because the COOLest things to do at DisneyQuest (according to PinkGirl) require the cool “enjoyer” of such cool things – to be a minimum of 51 inches tall.

Today, PinkGirl is . . . .

50 and 1/2 inch tall. But she wore the right shoes. (Well, they were her regular shoes. But still.)

So, Friday, June 6th, 2008 was a MOMENTOUS day in our family! PinkGirl got to ride BOTH the Cyberspace Mountain virtual roller coaster AND the Buzz Lightyear bumper cars! FINALLY!

We’ve been going to Disney Quest for years, and FavoriteSon has always had fun there. But he was taller than 51 inches the first time we ever set foot in the cybrolator (elevator) and watched Genie on the “magic mirror.” When you are more than 51 inches tall, the only things between you and every single ride/game at Disney Quest are the que lines and your own level of courage and adventure. When you are under 51 inches tall, the ride attendants stop you.

Take a look at these great photos and don’t miss the video link to see the Cyberspace Mountain “barrel” in action. (Skip the idealistic plea by the site owner to call or email Disney’s guest services to stop them from shutting down. I haven’t heard any “closing” rumors myself, but if Disney wants to close Disney Quest they’re going to do it, no matter what “guests” say. The only way to “save” Disney Quest is to buy tickets. Lots and LOTS of tickets.)

Let me give you my view of the “Pros and Cons” of Disney Quest.

The “Cons”
Some may not agree with me, but Disney Quest is not the best place on Disney property to bring a baby, a toddler or an elderly family member. Preschoolers are a little easier, and there are actually some things they will even enjoy, but the height restrictions will limit their fun.

First of all, strollers are NOT allowed. That makes for either a tired kid or a tired parent (from carrying said tired kid). Usually both.

There’s not a lot of seating near the action. There’s some dining seating near the games, but very, very little. So if a parent plans to sit and watch kids, they’re going to have to wait on a spot – and in some areas of the arcade – there is no “spot” to sit. There is a room full of dining tables, but it is surrounded by walls so you can’t see anyone in the game/ride areas. Lack of seating and the “no stroller” rule make for a LOT of standing for everyone.

It it is LOUD. The kind of loud that causes you to yell, “WHAT?” when someone talks to you. After a few hours of this, any little one can become overstimulated and, thus – cranky. I USUALLY have the ability to tune out background noise, so I don’t notice it so much. If you or a family member can’t take extended, loud noise, this isn’t the place to go. Consider splitting up and letting the “noise sensitive” members of your group explore Downtown Disney. There’s lots to do.

You can lose sight of a little one in the BLINK of an eye! This place is not set up like Chuck E. Cheese, where you get your arm stamped and your arm stamp has to match the stamp on the kid’s arm before you can leave with the kid. People are moving and kids are moving faster. The kids pop from game to game as a spot opens up. If they aren’t fast, they stand and wait. and wait. and wait. Lighting is not bright and it’s difficult to keep up with kids if you get distracted for even a second or two. Those parents who make their kids walk with them from game to game are serious “fun suckers” and (at $37 for ages 10 and up) they are throwing away some very expensive fun time. I usually either park myself (standing, of course) in a central location and follow the kids with my eyes or I kick it into gear and keep up.

Some of the rides can be scary for little ones. PinkGirl HATED the Pirates of the Caribbean ride/game last summer. Wearing 3D goggles, four people go into a small room, surrounded by a screen. Standing on a platform that looks like the deck of a pirate ship, the platform tips and sways, while everyone shoots cannons at attacking pirate ships and at some point, the Krakken comes out of the water and you have to shoot it too. This year, PinkGirl (age 7) LOVED Invasion, which is similar, except you are sitting down. You have to rescue people and shoot aliens. What a difference a year made. You just have to know your own kid and make a judgment call.

The food service changed the first weekend of June 2008. One week later – not a good change so far. No more Cheesecake Factory and in the FoodQuest counter service restaurant, the portion size of the BEST chicken Caesar salad I’ve ever had is now less than half. No more pizza by the slice, rather individual pizzas, which are smaller than the slices were. If you bought the plastic cup for refills, they will still honor it and allow you to purchase a large drink at refill price.

The SongMakers are frequently broken, but when the work, they are pretty fun. Up to four people can fit inside an isolated sound booth with a touch screen computer, which is used to create an original song. You pick the style of music, the song title, lyrics and either a male or female singer. Then you pick from over 1,000 rhyming lyric “snippets” to create a song. It comes out to 2,000,000,000 (two BILLION) possible lyric combinations per song. When the song is finished, you pick the artwork for the CD cover. Of course, the CD is available to purchase. Last year, I think it was $12.95.

The “Pros”

It is FUN. Do NOT touch my right arm when I’m busy shooting the Centipede. And, under NO circumstances are you to touch my Superzapper. Seriously. Back away.

There are ALL kinds of video games. LOTS of “retro” games and LOTS of newer games. Pinball out the wahzoo – even human pinball, where you stand on a platform and rock to move your ball around on a big screen with 12(?) other players. (GREAT workout!) LOTS of virtual “ride” type games.

A big favorite is the Cyberspace Mountain virtual roller coaster. With Bill Nye the Science Guy as your guide, you design your coaster, incorporating a sequence of maneuvers varying in thrill levels. You can select barrel rolls, loops, jumps . . . whatever you want. In the end, the computer “rates” your coaster for a fear factor or thrill level, from 1 (nice and easy) to 5 (i’m gonna ralph). PinkGirl’s first coaster measured a “1” and didn’t go upside down at all. FavoriteSon’s measured a 5 and went upside down as many times as was possible. FavoriteDad rode with both kiddos. When the attendant asks you if you have anything in your pockets, trust them when they encourage you to empty them into the little bowl and lock them in the cabinet outside the door to your coaster. (you keep the key.) Ladies? You might want to tuck in the front of your shirt. Leave hats in the cabinet too or you will end up holding it and it will cover your face for the recording. Because you may want to buy the video of yourself riding your coaster. cha ching. Family members are allowed to stand outside your coaster and watch you inside the barrel too.

Another hit for those over 51 inches is the Buzz Lightyear bumper cars. You need a driver and a shooter. The driver tries to roll over the “asteroids” (black rubber balls) because the car picks them up and deposits them inside the car. The shooter retrieves the asteroid, loads it in the shooter, closes the “hatch” on the shooter, points and shoots at one of three possible targets on another car. Since your car has three targets also, the driver’s second task is to avoid incoming asteroids. If you get hit, your car spins out of control for 10 to 15 seconds. If you’re not careful, you could spend the entire ride simulating the Teacups at Magic Kingdom. Oh, and don’t try to shoot before the cars start up. If your shooter jams, you’re going to be annoyed. And sick from spinning because you were defenseless for the entire ride. Good times. Good times.

For us, the fact that many of the virtual rides are suited for groups of 2 or 4 is a good thing. For some families, that won’t work out so well. Before PinkGirl was old/tall enough, we used the Rider Switch Pass, also known as the “baby swap” to allow both FirstHusband and myself to have fun with FavoriteSon while the other stayed with PinkGirl.

If you go in “good” weather, it’s usually not horribly crowded. In bad weather it is very often PACKED. (Think it’s a good place to hang out to avoid the rainy Florida summer afternoons? So does everyone else on Disney property.) Summer during the day is often PACKED with summer camp field trips. Last summer, we would often go to a water park (Typhoon Lagoon is pretty much across the street) and then hop on over to Downtown Disney and Disney Quest for dinner and evening fun just as the summer campers were loading on their buses. Perfect timing.

Disney Quest is also a GREAT place to hang out if it is too early to check in at a resort. If you arrive in town and don’t want to waste a day of your ticket package on a theme park for only a few hours of time, Downtown Disney and Disney Quest are a great option. When we stay at one of the resorts, we often spend the evening there after dinner, sometimes leaving just in time for Extra Magic Hours. It was really great when PinkGirl was little. One of the grownups could stay in the room and get PinkGirl to bed, while the other could take FavoriteSon to Disney Quest for some big kid/one on one time. This was really helpful when we stayed in a one room resort suite. The little kid could sleep, but the big kids (us included) didn’t have to be quiet in the dark. It’s also a GREAT place to have fun in the heat of the day.

The annual pass is GREAT for us. For the last few years, we’ve been premium annual passholders. that means we could get into Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon and Disney Quest ALL year – no block out dates. Our tickets expire June 8th and this year, since we bought the boat, we are going to spend most of our summer vacation time on the ocean. I think we’ve decided to buy Disney Quest/water parks annual passes for $129 and, later in the fall, buy seasonal passes (with blockout dates). With a single admission fee of $37, we only have to go to Disney Quest 3 times before we (almost) break even. That doesn’t even include any water park visits.

Now that PinkGirl is tall enough to do EVERYthing at Disney Quest, we are going to be having a LOT more fun there.

Check out the Frequently Asked Questions at for more insider tips.

peace. love. mickey.

I love Disney. I am a Disney freak. My dad worked at Disney World before it opened in 1971. I walked through the Haunted Mansion when there was still plastic on the doom buggies. My dad was part of the team responsible for painting the original underwater fantasy in the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride (he brought me LOTS of “treasure!”) I once punched one of the three little pigs in the nose to see if it would bounce back like a spring (it didn’t – and I got a spanking.) I danced in a yellow gingham dress in front of Big Thunder Railroad during it’s grand opening! I walked the Candelight Procession every Christmas for 4 years. I learned to sing the alto part of the Hallelujah chorus in warehouse rehearsals behind the fire station in Magic Kingdom. I know how to sneak into Space Mountain (no. I’m not telling. That would be wrong.) I used to LOVE the Mickey Mouse Review (they moved it to Japan, I think.) I went to Grad Night and took a nap in the Hall of Presidents at 3:00 a.m.. I went to Night of Joy for years. I remember “E” tickets. I am a Disney freak.

Now WE are Disney freaks. Our family loves Disney World. We’ve gone to Disney on vacation every summer for as long as I can remember. Even though we only live 45 minutes away, we still stay at the hotels. We figure that people travel from all over the WORLD to stay there, why shouldn’t we? We don’t have travel expenses and we can bring our own car. We love the Disney experience, the Disney fun, the Disney food . . . the Disney MAGIC.

We’ve been annual pass holders since my daughter turned 3. Before that, we were able to rely on friends and family to get us into the parks for free and get us the “friends and family” discount at the hotels. Once PinkGirl turned 3, she became a paying customer and since cast members can only let in 3 people and themselves, we had to pay for her ticket. After years of imposing on said friends and family, we finally made the move to annual pass holder. All four theme parks – Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios (formerly known as MGM Studios), no block out dates. Then we upgraded to premium annual pass holders to include the two water parks – Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, and the 5 story arcade – DisneyQuest.

Every year we go to multiple Star Wars weekends at Hollywood Studios and the Christmas Candelight Procession at EPCOT.  We go to the Flower and Garden Show and the Food and Wine Festival.  We go to the parks multiple days in the year (for no special reason) . . . in addition to spending a week there in the summer. We know the tricks, the out of the way places and which bathrooms don’t have automatic flushing toilets (this was very important to PinkGirl).

PinkGirl and I are going to Magic Kingdom and EPCOT today, as a matter of fact. FirstHusband and FavoriteSon have been on a field trip to Georgia for the last three days and they will arrive back in Orlando around 4:30 p.m. and drive out to meet us for dinner somewhere “on property.” (Disney property, that is.)

EPCOT closes earlier than Magic Kingdom today, so PinkGirl and I will start there. The boys will join us for dinner (dinner at EPCOT!) and then we will probably go over to Magic Kingdom and stay till closing (11:00 p.m.) .

So, with that kind of background, you can bet I know some stuff about visiting Disney World. I should share. And I will – beginning today. PinkGirl wants to go to Crystal Palace for dinner (at Magic Kingdom). That’s a character dinner where Pooh, Tigger, Eyeore and Piglet visit you at the table. If we eat there, we will call 407-WDW-DINE and arrange “priority seating” (not reservations), for one of last available times of the evening, usually around 9:00 p.m. Why so late? Because the restaurant crowd is thinning out. Big time. And when there aren’t that many people left in the restaurant, do you know what you get? Pooh, Tigger, Eyeore and Piglet ALL at your table AT THE SAME TIME. You get your picture taken with ALL the guys.  Together!

Pooh and Friends!

peace. love. mickey.