Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

One of the things in my bucket list as a parent was to take by child to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at the Disney Complex in Florida. In July 2019, with Heidi having just turned 6, we went to Disney Springs to turn my princess into a Disney princess.

What is Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique?

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is a make-over service which allows children to look and feel like a princess, with all the Disney magic. Whilst this blog post will be focused on the Princess makeover, boys can have a makeover as well, so don’t feel that you have to discriminate between siblings!!

Excited before going in!

You have a range of options as to how far the makeover goes, from just makeup, to a makeup/costume makeover. We did the make-up option in an attempt to keep it simple (and cheap!), but the experience was amazing.

The rest of the blog contains spoilers, so please don’t read if you want surprises!!

At the Start

As you enter Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, you’re greeted by a Disney Cast Member, who books you in. Then they will quickly go through what you/your child wants. It is a good idea to know before you go in, and potentially explain to your child what they can/can’t have. I was clear with Heidi that she couldn’t have a princess dress, simply because of the heat. As a result of that chat, we didn’t have an argument at the start!!

A Cast Member will call you in and explain what will happen, with regards to the makeover. Then the Fairy Godmother makes an appearance…

Afterwards, you pay and have the chance to buy a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique T-shirt and other associated merchandise as well.

The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique experience

Your Cast Member will collect you and you will go into the salon. There are around 14 spaces for children to have their makeover in the single room, but it doesn’t feel cramped at all. There is 1 seat per child for an adult, so you might have to decide who gets to watch!

The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique salon
The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique salon

A Disney photographer will take a “before” photo, and then the Cast Member will start the makeover.  This is where i give a big shout out to Madison (from Northport, AL) who was amazing with Heidi. If your child is confident and outgoing, they will have an amazing time with the Cast Member, talking about all things Disney and general life.  Heidi had an amazing time just talking away about sweets/candy, our holiday/vacation and everything in between. It is an idea to keep listening discretely to the conversation as it can be magical!

The make-up takes around 30 minutes or so, and then the chair is spun, giving the big reveal. This is another magical moment, and it is best not to spoil it by letting them see themselves beforehand!! The Disney photographer  will be on hand at this point as well.

After this, they apply a little bit of nail polish, and then you’re done. The whole thing is really relaxed and adaptable, as we found out as Heidi didn’t want her right thumb painting!!

The end result!!

As part of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique experience, you also get some nail polish, shampoo, glitter and brush to take home!!

The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Photoshoot

After the makeover, you get the chance to have a few photos done with the Disney photographers in front of a couple of props. For this, you are best to have the Photopass and so don’t forget your Magicband or photocard.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique with Cinderella's carriage

This extra photos were amazing and it was really nice to have professional photos with proper lighting etc, marking the moment. Chances are you won’t do this more than once, and so it is a really nice touch. The electronic versions of the photos are included within the Photopass package.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Main Street

Just be aware that you have to leave Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and walk a couple of minutes within Disney Springs, to get some of the photos done.

Some things to consider when booking Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

Timing during your holiday – we did Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique on our last full day as I wanted Heidi to have the makeup on when we got home. It did last very well, and I would probably do the same again.

Timing during the day – by having the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, you’re treated like a Princess when on Disney sites. As such, you might want the full princess experience and spend the day in the parks. For me, that would have been too much and too hot for Heidi, but it is something to consider. You can also have the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique experience at the Magic Kingdom.

Reservations – it is pretty much essential to book in advance. You can book 180 days in advance and they do get booked up quickly. The Disney Springs site is a bit quieter than the Magic Kingdom one however.

Overall

Having the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique experience was one of the best things we’ve done at Disney, which is high praise. Yes, it is a bit expensive, but it is one of those things you will probably only have chance to do once, and I’m so happy that we did it.


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Pluto’s Pad Villa – Florida

In July 2019, we made our third visit to Pluto’s Pad in the Kissimmee region of Florida and given the amazing time that we had, I thought that it would make a very fitting blog post.  Even if Pluto’s Pad isn’t right for you for your trip to Florida, then hopefully it will give you some ideas as to what to look for.

Location

Pluto’s Pad is located about 10-15 minutes away from Walt Disney World and as such, it is an easy drive to the parks.  This is ideal if you have a small child as you don’t want to waste time on the road, and you don’t want them falling asleep on the way back!

Pluto’s Pad is in an “ordinary” housing community and as such, you are in “real” America. Some people may not want this, but allowing Heidi to see what the country is really like, talk to the locals and play in American playgrounds was a real perk for us.  Being out of the Disney bubble is such a good thing, especially when you’re in the parks every day!

However, we weren’t in the wilderness by any means. You’re only 5 minutes drive from US-192, which is the main East-West road in the area. Here are all the restaurants and tourist shops that you could dream of. The Wal-mart here is absolutely huge, with queues similarly sized, therefore midnight shopping is encouraged!

Pluto's Pad lizard
The friendly lizards keep you company

Unless you’re staying on the Disney site, a car is a must, but getting used to driving in the US is easy!

To see what the villa is like, check out Heidi’s YouTube video:

Villa Facilities

What we like about Pluto’s Pad is that there are a few little perks, which you don’t normally get from other villas. Yes, it has a pool and a huge TV, which most villas have.

Pluto's Pad TV
Yes, a HUGE TV!

However, it has free international landline calls, which was vital for us, especially having elderly relatives back at home. There was also the games room which had a pool table, basketball game, air hockey and darts. In truth, we were too tired from the parks to make best use of these, but on the lazy days, we did use them a little.

Pluto's Pad swimming pool
The pool was a big plus point!

There were also a few toys in the games room that Heidi loved to play with and having them made the villa feel more like a home. It also meant that we didn’t have to pack all her toys and teddies!!  Also, there were a few board games for us to play in the evening and we had varying success in teaching Heidi how to play Monopoly and Scrabble!!

Service

The service that the villa owners/management company provide really makes a difference. As such, this is where reading (unpaid, unbiased) reviews is a must. 

There are a couple of things which highlight what a good service the owners of Pluto’s Pad provide. -Once, an email was replied to in 9 minutes. Yes, that is the exception rather than the norm, but it just highlights how much they care about your booking and their property.  Also, when they knew that Heidi was staying, because of her age, they made sure Disney bed coverings were put on. A couple of teddies were added on the bed, just to make it feel extra special.

Pluto's Pad bedroom
Disney bedding

This is where the booking process is so important and if it takes 2 weeks to get a reply to an initial enquiry, it may be a sign of problems to come. Also, feedback on websites/word of mouth is so important.

Also, the welcome pack was such a nice little touch, with enough snacks/drinks to get you through the first leg-lag induced evening!!

Pluto's Pad welcome pack
The Welcome Pack!

How to Find Pluto’s Pad

I am somewhat loathed to link Pluto’s Pad, in case it becomes too popular and we can’t to stay again!! However, that is somewhat selfish, so you can find them on the following links:

https://www.homeaway.co.uk/p8009347

https://www.plutospad.com/

For complete disclosure, there has been absolutely no input into this blog post and there has been no payment etc for it.

Continue reading Pluto’s Pad Villa – Florida

Sunscape Splash Resort – Montego Bay

We went to Montego Bay, Jamaica in February 2018 and stayed at the Sunscape Splash Resort. If you like this, you’ll love a couple of other blog posts:

Sunscape Splash

Location

Sunscape Splash is located on the beachfront, around 3 miles south of Montego Bay International Airport.  It is around 15-20 minutes by transfer from the airport to the hotel, but this can depend on traffic and if you are the first of last drop-off. We were  the first drop-off, which was much appreciated after a long day of travelling!! However, the coach did have a loop of Bob Marley’s greatest hits on loop, which definitely got us acclimatised into Jamaica.

Rooms

Being a single dad with a 4 year old, we didn’t really need much in way of facilities in the room. The room had a HUGE king sized bed, a fridge, a balcony, a drying rack as well as a shower.

A nice, neat room!

The fridge was replenished every day with a couple of soft drinks and a Red Stripe and the room was tidied every day  to a good standard.

Shower

The room had a decent sized TV although there was an eclectic selection of channels, featuring some US channels, some local channels and some South American channels. However, you’re not going to Jamaica to watch TV! The free in-hotel WiFi carried up to the rooms very well so using mobile devices also works well.

The Sunscape Splash rooms are in tower blocks, and using the lifts is very much advised because of the heat! I would have thought that there would be more queues for the lifts, but there wasn’t!

Beach

As the hotel is on the beach, you have a lovely stretch of beach to play on and calm water to swim in.  Even though we went in February, the water was warm, clear and calm. The best of the water is towards the Cove end of the beach, as there is a lot of seagrass, but it won’t stop you from getting in the water.  They rope off the sea so you can’t get too far out to sea, but the water never gets too deep, so less than confident swimmers should still be ok.

The beach has a few pebbles on, but certainly nothing to worry about. There are no beach/pool toys provided, so make sure you bring your own if your child likes to build sandcastles etc! There were enough sun loungers on the beach for people, but I imagine that if the hotel is much busier, then it would be a problem.

Pools

There are 5 pools to enjoy at the Sunscape Splash. One of these pools is adults-only, with a swim-up bar and one is a children-only (probably up to 6 years old) paddling pool with small slide. You have a “regular” pool with swim-up bar, an “entertainment” pool, as well as a lazy river with slides.

Entertainment Pool

We hung out at the “entertainment” pool and the sun loungers were taken before the pool was open. However,it didn’t matter that much to us as we were in the pool most of the day! Most of the children played in this pool and they had the music playing all day, with various entertainment occurring throughout.

The lazy river is exactly as it is described, with rubber rings free for use floating around.  Feeding into part of the river are the signature slides, which we didn’t manage to get on because Heidi was a bit scared! However, they were big enough so that I would have gone on with her. I think any child older than 7 would be ok to go on their own.

All the swimming pools are relatively shallow (4ft deep or so) and have lifeguards on at all times. As such, the pools are only open during the day (9.30 to 5pm from memory)

Entertainment/Kids Club

As mentioned above, the entertainment pool is where the action is during the day. However, we did go to Kids Club after evening meal a couple of times. There is a timetable on the various notice boards showing what activities are happening.

For Kids Club, they did a different thing each evening and Heidi loved the cook-out that they had one evening. There are no adults allowed in the Kids Club and the children are safe in the enclosed Kids Club section. Each parent gets a pager in case anything goes wrong and you can watch them from a bridge on the lazy river, so if you’re missing them, you can watch them!

Rocking the Kids Club backpack!

Food

The food and drink is free and plentiful! There are 5 restaurants, but with a 4 year old, we found that the buffet restaurant was the best, so she could eat what she fancied.  The food was decent quality, especially the breakfasts, and there was plenty of choice.

We ate at the Italian Restaurant a couple of times and the food was of better quality, as to be expected. Service was of decent speed and the atmosphere was lovely as we made friends each evening!

Restaurants/buffet are open at set times, but the 24 hours snack bar is open, well, all the time! You can get a sandwich here, as well as sweet snacks, coffee and ice cream. During the day, there is a pool side snack bar, serving hot dogs, fries, popcorn etc. Perfect for a between meal snack!

There are soft drinks machines in operation and my tip would be to take a decent sized drinks bottle so you don’t have to go to get drinks all the time, especially as the glasses provided are small. There is a bar as well near the entertainment pool, and as I don’t drink, I can only comment that the mocktails got a thumbs up from us!

Mocktail!

Sunscape Splash vs Sunscape Cove

I’ve seen various questions as to the difference between Sunscape Splash and Sunscape Cove. As far as I am aware, the Cove has access to a couple more restaurants and the Sunscape Cove rooms are more condominium type, rather than in high rise towers.

View from the Sunscape Splash balcony

The Sunscape Cove rooms tend to be a bit further away from the restaurants, and the service is apparently a bit better, but we certainly had no complaints with the Sunscape Splash facilities.

Overall

Happy Heidi = Happy Holiday!

Heidi and I absolutely loved this hotel. Because of the entertainment, Heidi was a love of all things reggae and that is wonderful to see and hear.  The security situation at the time meant that we didn’t see much of the “real” Jamaica, which was a shame. However, because of the hotel security, we felt really safe.  Would we come back to the Sunscape Splash? If Heidi had her way, absolutely! She bugs me regularly every day and if your child has enjoyed their holiday, then it’s money well spent!!

Continue reading Sunscape Splash Resort – Montego Bay

Hotel Europa Splash

In August 2018, we went to the Hotel Europa Splash on the Costa Brava for a week in the sun. Here is what we thought of the hotel!

Hotel Europa Splash

Location

Hotel Europa Splash is located on the Costa Brava coast, just over an hour north of Barcelona and 45 minutes south east of Girona airport. The hotel itself is on the south side of the seaside town of Malgrat and just north of Santa Susanna.

The hotel is just the other side of the main road from the beach and so getting onto the beach is easy and only a 5 minute walk. There is an underground subway so you don’t have to worry about crossing main roads. As the hotel is located in the town of Malgrat, there are plenty of gift shops, restaurants and mini supermarkets right outside the hotel.

Food

Here is where Hotel Europa Splash could do better. As part of the all inclusive package, you get breakfast, lunch and evening meal, as well as poolside snacks and unlimited drinks.

If I’m being honest, the meals from the restaurant were not great and after a while, they became very bland and same-y. Obviously they have to cater for people from different nationalities and so they have to try and please a lot of people.

We had better success with the poolside kiosk which served chicken nuggets, toasties, chips and hot dogs during the day. These were Heidi’s favourites and we probably ate these more than the normal. Also, the bars served the most amazing milkshakes, but make sure you as an adult taste them before the children, sometimes they go a big wrong!!

If you go to the bar inside, they have a wide array of drinks available, but if you ask for a children’s cocktail, they can make something especially for the children to make them feel all grown up (iti s just lemonade with colouring in!)

If you’re going out for the day, you can ask for a picnic to be made for you. We did this a couple of times and it was always a ham & cheese sandwich with fruit and a drink. If you’re struggling with the restaurant, this might be a good alternative.

Picnic

Accommodation

The accommodation is quite basic, but you don’t really spend much time in the hotel room anyway! The room consists of a double bed, TV, fridge, a balcony and a walk-in shower/wet room.

View from the balcony

The maid service seemed pretty good and we had fresh bottle of water every day in the room. They also arranged Heidi’s teddies on the bed each day which was a nice touch.

Perhaps the most important part is that the TV is in Spanish. However, for some programmes, they have English in the background. Therefore, you need to press the speech bubble button on the remote control and select English. We did this with Disney Channel and it worked every time. Also, the TV carries BBC World News.

Facilities

The Hotel Europa Splash itself has a main swimming pool, a kids splash pool and slides going into a smaller pool. There are lifeguards on throughout and music playing out to the main pool.

The hotel has a wonderful rooftop terrace which is ideal of sunbathing, but also good for taking wonderful photos, as you can see!

There is also a gym, but no-one goes on holiday for a gym!

You also have access to the sister hotel just along the road. Here, the hotel is bigger with more pools/slides, and better food, but the hotel is bigger and you can feel a little lost in there, especially when trying to look after little ones!!

Entertainment

The entertainment team were the best part of the Hotel Europa Splash and worked so hard to entertain the little ones. Check out the notice board for the running order, we found that the evening entertainment was the best part. The mini disco is a bit repetitive but because there is a little bit of time after evening meal, a lot of the children played together and that was nice. Heidi loved this part so much, she wanted to play rather than eat!

Heidi and the entertainment team!

 

One word of warning is that 2/3 times a week, they have various photo opportunities (a snake, parrot, weird looking Mickey Mouse etc!) Please note that these cost €10 each and so be careful!

We did do Kids Club a couple of times as it was nice and quiet (and cool!) but whilst the entertainment team do speak English, it is probably better if you stay with your child, to make sure they understand everything.

Twice a week, they do a walking tour to the beach to the foam party. Whilst it goes on for 2 hours, you’ll only be there for an hour at the most. It is good fun, but make sure you bring a towel or two!.

Foam party!

Conclusion

Overall, we did have a lovely holiday and the Hotel Europa Splash was just the right size for us and what we needed. Would we go back? Probably not, as I wouldn’t want to have the exact same holiday, but for a short burst in the sun, it is a pretty good place.

Continue reading Hotel Europa Splash

Dolphin Cove, Montego Bay

Ok, I’ll get straight to the point with this one. If you ever get the chance to swim with a dolphin, do it. Do whatever it takes to do it. We did just that when we visited Dolphin Cove.

Yes, you may not enjoy it, but you can say that you have done it. This was the highlight of our holiday and is the one thing that Heidi always mentions when she is asked about her holiday.

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We booked the visit, including transport, directly with Dolphin Cove and it felt a bit safer and more official doing it that way. The journey took about 40 minutes from Montego Bay and the driver was excellent in making us feel safe on some very unsafe roads. Our guide for the day told us lots about the local areas we passed through.

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Because Heidi is only 4 and not a brilliant swimmer, we booked the Encounter Experience. This involved stroking, dancing, singing and generally playing with the dolphins. Each person got a couple of minutes as a time with the dolphins doing each activity. As there were 6 in our group, it was quite fast paced, but not at all rushed. I didn’t feel like we had done a “cheap” option.

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Even though we had lifejackets given to us, I felt that it was best to hold Heidi throughout, so she could have the security of knowing she was safe. This meant that she could enjoy it more, as the water was about 4 ft high. However, at no point did any of us feel unsafe.

The dolphin handlers were amazing and were particularly good with Heidi. This is probably because she was the only child in our group and took time afterwards so she could feed the dolphins a few more fish!

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The attraction also has a stingray enclosure, a camel, donkey and ostriches (the shark attraction was closed). However, let’s be honest, it’s all about the dolphins!

A couple of tips which might help if you go…

  • Take a full change of clothes as the last thing you want is to wear your swimming clothes on the coach on the way back to the hotel
  • Budget for buying photos if this is your first time of swimming with the dolphins. The photos are amazing, as I’m sure you can tell, and if you go into the day knowing you’ll buy them, then you won’t have an awkward decision to make.

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This is our first time swimming with them and hopefully, if money allows, we can do it again. If any businesses want to give us a free dolphin swimming session, I won’t say no!!!


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Club Mobay – Montego Bay

As you may know, I went to Montego Bay, Jamaica, with my 4 year old daughter, as a single parent. (You can read my open letter to Heidi here.  One of things that made me feel better about the travelling experience was the Club Mobay service both on arrival and departure that we had booked. As they are both different, I thought that I would break them down…

Arrivals

A Club Mobay member of staff meets you as you get into the terminal. They escort you through the entire passport/customs process through to where your transport is.

You do save plenty of time going through passport control as the queues can be long. This is because you get the next available passport control officer. Generally, getting through baggage reclaim and customs is generally a breeze anyway. The best bit is where they direct you to where you need to go once you clear customs.  In a strange airport in a new country, having that helping hand to make sure you’re in the right place really does help.

You can make use of the arrivals lounge if your transport isn’t ready and there are drinks, snacks and lovely cold towels! We did find that by saving time through passport control, you did end up waiting for other people who were going to be on your coach to the hotel. As such, you don’t really save much time in total.

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Very tired after a long day of travelling!!

However, you are looked after from start to end By the Club Mobay reps and it is a very friendly welcome into Jamaica.

Departures

The Departures service is a bit less personal as there is no meet and greet service. You get a separate lane through passport control and security, which is useful and you get a lounge with food and drinks before your flight. If you are going to have a meal before your flight, it might work out cheaper to do this option.

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Jamaican Beef Patties

As the food is a complimentary buffet, then you can eat as much or as little as you want. These is also a kids play room which is a good touch (not all airports have them!)

One thing I would recommend is to arrange for an earlier drop off at the airport. The check-in process was long when we departed and as a result, we didn’t have that much time in the lounge. As a result, I would make sure you get to the airport earlier to make best use of the service!!

All in all, it is a wonderful little service that is offered and one that I am sure that we would use again. It is perfect for families as it just takes a little bit of the stress out of travelling!!


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Travelling with a 4 year old as a single parent

The thought of travelling as a single parent is a scary prospect.  That is not a bad thing – it shows that you care. However, having been to Jamaica (with a connection in Atlanta) with just myself and my 4 year old, I thought that I would give some hints and tips which might make it easier, especially (but not specifically) if you’re a single parent.

Plan your bags

Chances are that you’ll be in a cramped seating area with your beloved child and they will want everything out of the bag at once – tablet, sweets, drink etc!! The best way to avoid a meltdown is to organise your bags so you know where everything is. That way, you can quickly pick items out of the bag without disrupting where everything else is!

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Food always helps!

Travel and Legal Documents

Most importantly, make sure you have your tickets, travel vouchers for the hotel/transfers and your passport. Make sure your passport is in date and generally has 6 months left when you enter the country. Also, make sure you don’t need any additional Visas or injections. (My guide to applying for a passport can be found here)

Also, if you’re a single parent, make sure you have a copy of your child’s birth certificate and correspondence from the other parent that you have their permission to go out of the country. I never got asked for these, but I have heard of people who have been asked.

Also, take copies of the documents and put a set in a different bag, a set with someone at home and an electronic copy as well.

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Security

Airport security is perhaps one of the worst things in the world to do as a single parent travelling.  One tip is to look really stressed and hope that an airport employee takes pity on you and helps you through the process a little!!

However, when you know when you’re going to be going through it, take all your electronics and fluids out. Either carry them, or put them in a carrier bag so when you get to the x-ray machine, you can easily put them on the conveyor belt and disregard the carrier bag if needed.  Different countries have different rules about children taking their shoes off. As such, either ask before you get to the x-ray machines or just get your child into the habit of taking them off.

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Hopefully the destination will be worth it!

Take pictures

Part of this is to look back at the brilliant time you have had. However, it is useful to take pictures of your bag so you can remember what it looks like when you land. Also, take pictures of your child so that if the worst happens and you lose them, you know what clothes they have on.

If you want ultimate parent points, just go for matching clothes – it really does work!!!

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This combo got amazing comments!!

Have fun!!

Life is about having fun and chances are you’re going on holiday and will have a great time. Relax and it’ll all be fine!

I have blog posts on Flying with a toddler and Flying with a 3 year old if they are of interest too!!

If you have any other hints or tips on travelling, please leave them in the comments below!


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Seaworld

Continuing the Florida guide (which can be found here) we went to Seaworld in February 2017 and spent all day in the park, which was certainly a test of our stamina in the heat! However, we had a lovely day, especially as it was something a little different to the Disney parks. So without further ado, here are 5 things to do at Seaworld, especially if you have a small child:

Check out the ticket deals

We decided to go on the day, but bought the tickets in the villa before setting off. We lucked into an “all you can eat” option that was only available on the day and it was for free! I wouldn’t recommend that strategy as buying in advance is always cheaper, but it is worth being aware of.

If you go for this option, you can basically have a full meal and drink every single hour!! You probably won’t get value for money (at full price) but if you do get the package, you will enjoy it!! The drinks are obviously the key, although they do come without lids and straws for the safety of the animals.

Play cards with the animals

At the end of the Wild Arctic ride (take the walking route if you get motion sickness!) you get to see a wide range of animals. However, if you’re lucky, there will be a sea lion who will play cards with a member of staff and honestly, it is amazing to watch! (the picture doesn’t do it justice!)

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Go to the child friendly play area

While you technically don’t need a child to play in the water fountain, it does help! Just make sure you bring a spare pair of clothes!

There is a huge rope climbing frame for the older children (8+ I would think). However, the rope is not kind to the legs, but there are smaller rides for the younger children. It can help break up the day a bit and give the grown-ups a chance to rest.

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Just after the train ride in the child-friendly area

Check out the penguins

The Antarctica ride is a lovely ride showing the plight of a new born penguin and ends up seeing the real thing in their enclosure. There are 2 options on the ride, a fast or slow ride. The slow ride is absolutely fine for the younger ones. The penguins at the end are gorgeous and perhaps even better, the room is ice cold. This is exactly what you need in the middle of the day and might be the only time you complain of being too cold!!

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Watch the Pets Ahoy show

The show is inside (can you see a theme here!) and all the animals in the show have been rescued. The animals include dogs, cats, birds etc and they perform little tricks with the assistance of their handlers. The show is about 15-20 minutes long and at the end, you can stroke the animals and ask any questions to the handlers.

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Seaworld is a large park and so comfortable shoes are a must, as well as a plan!  If you don’t go for the all you can eat plan, then consider the refillable drinks offer. There is little shelter in the park and you seem to drink more here than at the other parks. We didn’t go on any of the big rides, but looking at Kraken, make sure all your valuables are safely secured.  It is quite funny to see all the debris that has been collected where the ride goes upside down!

As Seaworld is one of the biggest and well known attractions in Orlando, you really need to do it. It is so different to all the others, and as I hope to have shown, you don’t need to go on a single ride to have a great day out!!


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Orlando Science Center

Regular readers of the blog will know that Heidi is quite the scientist, with our regular trips to Mini Einsteins (read here) and almost continual rocket experiments.  So a trip to the Orlando Science Center seemed like a perfect way to fuel this interest whilst on holiday and make sure she was learning a little whilst away from nursery.

Location

Orlando Science Center is around 30 minute drive away from the Disney parks. Located up I-4 near downtown Orlando, and it is a relatively easy drive, apart from the traffic near the parks. There is onsite parking ($5) in a multi-story car park where there are plenty of spaces. However. please don’t make the same mistake I did and park on the top floor – the sun makes the car remarkably hot!!

Activities

Orlando Science Center is a fully indoor attraction (good for rainy days!) and has 4 floors. Our favourite was the top floor with the lab and hands-on experiments. The lab had around 7 little experiments for people to try out. These included testing the acidity of food/drink and testing the strength of structures. We had done a few of them back at home previously, so it was good to know that the science methods were the same on the other side of the Atlantic.

Also on the top floor were lots of hands-on, visual experiments which were ideal for smaller children. The dinosaur exhibit was also on the top floor and for any dinosaur fan, the impressive structures would really help their learning and bring them to life.

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The next couple of floors down were slightly too advanced for Heidi. This was because they were to do with complex structures and space. These would have been ideal for children around 7 years old and older as they would have linked into the school curriculum quite well.

However, there was still plenty for our 3 year old as there was a play area focused around farms/produce. This is where the children could run around and “play” but they could also focus on learning. There was also a lovely wet play/water table area in this area which had a similar effect.

On the ground floor, there was a lovely small animal section. In here are some adorable turtles as well as quite a lot of small water creatures – highlighting the Florida eco-system. Again, for a 3 year old, it was mainly about seeing the animals, rather than learning about them in great detail!!

Top Tip!

The best idea is to play the day around the pop-up activities throughout the day and take it from there. When we went, the activities weren’t well signposted, but the friendly staff went above and beyond to help. Likewise, the staff member in the Lab area (she had ginger hair and was losing her voice!!) took a real shine to Heidi and made a very good visit a little bit more special!

Facilities

In terms of facilities, there is a Subway on site, which is useful for a snack. However, if you’re staying all day, you might need something more substantial. As you would expect Stateside, the toilet/changing facilities are brilliant.

At May 2017, it costs $19.95 for adults, $13.95 for children aged 3 and over and under 3’s are free. As well as all the learning, you also get a screening to a “Hollywood Movie” as well as films in the CineDome. We didn’t take advantage of either because, well, a 3 year old on holiday doesn’t want to see films!!! This cost feels about right, but obviously for overseas visitors, the exchange rate plays a part.

Heidi was probably a year or so too young for Orlando Science Center.  We did stay around 3 hours and that is with us being slightly tired after walking round the parks etc.  However, that just means that we can go back again at some point and learn it all again!!


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Crayola Experience, Orlando

While visiting the Magic Kingdom (link here!) was amazing for Heidi, perhaps the attraction in Florida which she was most excited about was the Crayola Experience. Actually, it was Heidi who wanted to go here because she had seen numerous videos on YouTube. Once she saw a leaflet, she knew she wanted to go!!

Despite the colourful design of the building, it is difficult to find as it is around the back of the Florida Mall., and you can’t see it from the roadside. However, head into the Florida Mall and you’ll see it whilst driving round the car park.

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Just a little bit colourful!

As you might imagine, the Crayola Experience is an attraction that is based around arts/crafts. So if your child is into those activities, you’re in luck! There is also a soft play area/climbing frame which is really good which will help the little ones burn off some energy too!

When you enter, you each get 2 coins so you can get a personalised crayon and piece of play-doh to mould and play with. Additional coins are 50c and the personalised crayon is a lovely keepsake which the little ones can actually use and enjoy!

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Playing with the Play Doh!

The Crayola Experience is essentially a number of different activity tables dotted around where you can do various creative pieces of work. Some are based on computer imagery, such as designing an outfit for a fashion show (see my effort below!). Some are more “old fashioned” involving colouring, painting and those kinds of activities.

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Fashion of the future!

The favourites were the Drip Art (melted crayon dripping onto a spinning card) and the Melt and Mould where a crayon is melted and, you guessed it, moulded, into a shape such as a car, ring etc. Sadly, neither made it back across the Atlantic in one piece!!

We spent just over 2 hours there. A good tip is to plan your visit for when a Florida afternoon thunderstorm is arriving or when you can get a good discount on the tickets. We lucked into the late arrival discount (after 5pm) which made a significant saving. As Florida Mall is next door, you can do some shopping and go to their Food Court for a meal. Here there is quite a good range of shops and food outlets. Older children will be able to spend more time here for sure (Heidi was 3)

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All the colours of the Crayola rainbow!

The main activities are on a single floor which makes it easy with a pushchair. However, but to get the most out of it, your child needs to be comfortable drawing/being creative. Any child younger than 3 isn’t going to get the most out of it (however, they are free!)

Given that our visit to Crayola Experience was over 2 months ago now, Heidi keeps on talking about our visit enthusiastically. I feel as though it was a success and I am sure on our next visit to Florida, she will get even more out of it!!!!


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