By Angie Roberts Harris
Most of our crew had never been toDisney World and this trip was our Christmas celebration, summer vacation, and family reunion all rolled together in one grand package! I had seven months to plan and wanted to make certain that it was especially magical for all our first timers as well as keeping the Christmas spirit.
A few simple activities, planned in advance, made our Disney trip extra magical:
* Adventure Totes - Bobby, Leah, and myself went to the park early on ‘arrival’ day and met everyone at the entrance. The kids were not going to the hotel first, so Tante Leah made small bags out of Disney material with surprises for the first day! Pins for trading, Mickey Mouse ears, fruit snacks, water, and pennies for smashing. They were very excited!
* Door Decorations - We decorated the doors and windows of our hotel rooms! The Dollar Tree was a treasure trove for inexpensive Disney items like door covers, puzzles, coloring books, Christmas decorations, and toys. We never had to worry about remembering which rooms were ours at the end of the day! The cost of decorating four hotel rooms plus Disney themed toys for six grandkids was about $25.00.
* Penny smashing – This is a popular tradition at the Disney parks. A penny plus .50 cents will get you a fun souvenir engraving of favorite rides, characters, events, or the park logos on your penny (or you can smash a quarter for a dollar if you are on a luxury trip). We brought coins for each child in snack baggies and the kids had a great time collecting and comparing their smashed pennies at meal times. There are hundreds of the smashing machines tucked into every nook and cranny of the parks. What fun! Bonus: They are easy to tote around all day and to pack for the return trip home.
* Treasure Boxes - There is nothing like an awesome treasure box, matey! We made individual boxes for the children by decoupaging cigar boxes (.50 cents per box at a local store) with Disney scrapbook paper. The kids loved them and couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel to put their smashed pennies and other small treasures in their boxes.
* Pin trading - Another fun Disney custom! It was wonderful to watch our grandkids engage in ‘pin talk’ to other children in the park while on the bus or waiting in line for rides. They would compare pins, discuss their favorites, or exchange information on where to find the rare ones with hidden Mickeys. We purchased lanyards with a basic set of Disney pins attached (Amazon.com) for a fraction of the cost of buying them on park and put them in their treasure boxes. The parents had just as much fun helping the little ones with their pins!
* Magic Bands - We booked our package far enough in advance to be able to pick different colors for our magic bands at no extra cost. My oldest son chose funny nicknames for his family’s armbands and months later, they are still calling his son Abba Labba. Good times!
* The Dress - We celebrated our granddaughter’s fourth birthday during our stay and scored an 8:00 a.m. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique appointment. Beforehand, I purchased a quinceañera dress similar to a Disney princess dress which cost less, was better quality, and very poofy! On the morning of her special day, she was surprised with her new ‘cupcake’ dress. It was amazing and the wow factor was ‘winner winner chicken dinner’!
Planning ahead made everything more exciting for me as Nana Gigi. It was exhilarating to drive under the entrance banner that reads ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’, watch their faces light up when they saw Cinderella’s castle, or the love in their eyes when watching the parades march past. Once you are there, all these extra details are very small compared to the production and magic of Walt Disney and the love of being with my entire family.
It was worth every penny, second, and detail.
“A man should never neglect his family for business.” - Walt Disney
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Angie Roberts Harris has been Going Out The Door to Disney since 1974 when she was 11 years old. Today she travels to the ‘happiest place on earth’ with her husband and their crew of 5 children and their families.