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

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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Magic Kingdom

In this section of the Florida write-up, I am focusing on the Magic Kingdom. This is probably the best known Disney park, with the Cinderella’s castle, rides and attractions.

(For information, the 12 Hints and Tips for Walt Disney World would be quite a useful pre-read! 12 Hints and Tips for Walt Disney World

If you’re staying off-site, getting to the Magic Kingdom is either a boat trip or monorail ride from the car parking lot. The boat trip will probably add 15 minutes to the journey, but the views are amazing. Having said that, the monorail is my personal favourite! Either way, it gives you chance to sunscreen up!

Getting to the Magic Kingdom for the start of the day is a must do as there is an opening show either in front of the entrance, or (in 2017, due to building work) in front of the castle. It is the perfect way to start the day, so give yourself enough time to get there.

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Reaction to the opening show!

The park is set out in a number of different sections, each with a different theme, but all with rides, characters, mini shows and attractions. Depending on who is in the group, will mean different parts suit different people, However, for the younger people, the area (Fantasyland) behind the castle is most suitable. This is because there are a number of child specific rides such as the merry-go-round, Small World and Winnie the Pooh, as well as a lot of characters! However, use the map/app to plan what suits you the most.

disney-magic-kingdom-map
The map of the Magic Kingdom

If I had to suggest three things for the Magic Kingdom, they would be:

Dole Whip

These are sold next to the Tiki Room show in Adventureland. While there was a 20 minute queue, it is well worth it. Pineapple juice beneath ice cream – delicious!! Also, the pineapple ice cream itself is pretty good!

Shows/Parades

There is generally a parade mid afternoon and various shows in front of the castle and on Main Street throughout the day. You’ll probably bump into the shows on your travels. However, the parade is brilliant for the little ones, especially if you can get in some shade (not great for photos!)

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The Move it Shake it parade

Crystal Palace breakfast

The lunch option is more expensive and the food was not particularly suited to British tastes. However, the buffet breakfast is lovely and having breakfast with Eeyore, Winnie, Tigger and Piglet is amazing. You aren’t rushed at all and it just adds a bit of magic. Book your table as early as you can and if you get an early slot, you are in a perfect position to get brilliant pictures in front of the castle!

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Big Bear hug!!

As you can imagine, the park is pretty large so a pushchair may be needed, and there are loads of places to park it as you go in for rides etc. The park itself is flat so it is easier to walk for little legs! If you have smaller travellers, the bathrooms are decent sized (if you are a dad taking daughter to the toilet!). Also, pretty much every toilet block had a baby change bench for men to change nappies.

Finally, the fireworks are pretty amazing,. Whilst it does get busy, even if you get in front of the castle 5 minutes before the start, you’ll get a good view. You’ll just have to fight the crowds to get back to the car (via the monorail or boat!) It took us an hour to get to the car after the end of the fireworks, so bear that in mind with tired legs!


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12 Hints and Tips for Walt Disney World

Given that there are 4 main parks (plus 2 water parks) within the Walt Disney World complex, I thought that it would be a good idea to give some useful hints & tips which can be used in all of the parks. Think of it as a One-Stop-Shop guide.

Over time, I’ll write more detailed guides for each of the parks to help anyone going in the future.

Book your park tickets in advance

For some reason, they are cheaper in the UK and bought in advance. While you need to be careful who you buy them from, there tends to be some deals on so be a little patient.

Parking

Parking costs $20 a day (in February 2017) unless you stay at a Disney hotel, and then it is free. You can use the receipt all day so if you want to park-hop or go back to the hotel for a bit, that is fine. Also, remember where you park – the car parks are huge and the last thing you want is to forget where you have parked when you’re hot and tired!

Get there early

The queues for the first couple of hours of the day are pretty small and you can do a good part of the park before the crowds get in. Generally it is the cooler part of the day also, so when it gets too hot and the crowds are too big, you don’t feel bad for going back to the hotel for a couple of hours.

Plan

Have a plan for what you want to get out of the day. Do you want to see the characters, or do the fast rides etc? The parks are too big and it is too hot to be wandering aimlessly around the park and it will only lead to arguments.

Security

Walt Disney World is an amazingly safe place, but generally because of the airport style security. It does lead to queues when entering the park, but it is for a reason. Plan accordingly, and make sure you leave your selfie-stick at the hotel.

Fastpasses are your best friend

Once you book your park tickets, link up the tickets to an account and the app and book your queue-jumping fastpasses. You can generally save half an hour on each fastpass, so use them on the busy rides. Also, use them early in the day and when you run out (you get 3 a day) you can get another one.

Food & Drink

$3 for a bottle of water?! Pack your own drinks and snacks and you’ll save a fortune! If you have a decent breakfast, you’ll be good for most of the day, but remember it does get hot so freeze a couple of the bottles you take so you have ice cold water in the afternoon.

Character meals

If you were to splash out on one thing at Disney and you have a child, do a character meal. It is wonderful to see the child interact with a character and just makes the holiday a bit more special. The best value meals are the buffets, especially the breakfast ones as they tend to be a bit cheaper.

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Character meal breakfast at Hollywood Studios

Photopass

There are a host of Disney photographers willing and able to take photos for you free of charge at certain scenic points/character attractions. These link through to your Disney app and so you generally don’t have to take that many photos during the day. Even if you aren’t linked up the the Disney app, they are happy to take a photo using your phone.

Wifi

The Walt Disney World parks have really good Wifi throughout and so you can remain connected throughout the day. This means that you can access the Disney app and update Fastpasses and look at the photos throughout the day. Just be careful of your battery!

Footwear and Clothing

Make sure you plan accordingly. It will be hot and you will be on your feet most of the day, so light clothing and decent shoes are a must.

Suncream

I think that this is obvious…don’t ruin the holiday by having sunburn! Top up as the day goes on.

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Not a cloud in the sky!

There are loads more and it would be good to hear some other hints/tips in the comments section! Hopefully this will help you enjoy Walt Disney World a bit more!


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Flying with a 3 year old

This is the first of a series of posts detailing our February 2017 holiday to Florida. Hopefully they will give a few hints and tips along the way if you’re planning on doing a similar trip in the future.  This time last year, I published “Flying with a Toddler” (https://leedsdad.com/2016/03/01/flying-with-a-toddler-2622016/). However, with the toddler is more of a three-nager now, so I thought that it would be good to a “Flying with a 3 year old” post!

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This time, we flew with Virgin Atlantic from Manchester to Atlanta and then onwards to Tampa. All in all, about 10 hours in the air and total travelling time of 21 hours from door to door! Flying from Manchester is quite good with a young child as there is a toddler play area in Terminal 3 There is also a really decent play area for slightly older children in Terminal 2. (Feb 18 Update – Terminal 2 play area has been removed). As we found out, such facilities are not as available Stateside…

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Terminal 2 play area

On board the plane, the leg-room was decent in the standard seats. However, the additional legroom seats felt very spacious. The additional cost being only a few pounds and so it is well worth it. There were seatback TV’s with a wide variety of programmes/films etc for all passengers. However, however, given the attention span of a 3 year old, this would never be enough! The Virgin Atlantic website suggests that children goody-bags are handed out, but we didn’t see them anywhere, but they would have been good to see.

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Remember to pack child sized earphones!!

Perhaps the most simple and cost effective method of entertainment was to pack small toys that you tend to get from a vending machine for £1 and allow the child to open one whenever they got bored. So long as you get different ones, it should keep them entertained for a while and clearly don’t cost much. If you have a larger budget, a tablet would be useful for all the games that they can entertain themselves with. A good idea is to check before travelling they don’t need internet access! Also, letting them have their own bag  is a great way of giving them a sense of responsibility and pride.

However, clearly a 9 hour flight is a long time for anyone and so meal time is a bit of a treat! Make sure you book your special meal a few weeks before departure. This is what Heidi was served as a “child’s meal” for lunch and tea. I put it in quotes as the serving was ample for a 3 year old!

While Virgin do fly directly to the House of the Mouse, flying indirectly does tend to cost less. While the travel time is longer, it does break up the day a bit. Yes, it is an inconvenience, but if it is the difference between having a holiday or not, the extra bit of adventure is well worth it! Also, you get to clear Customs and Immigration after your first flight which makes it quicker at your final destination. Even with a sleepy 3 year old, it was easy to manage the various passport and security checks.

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However, the easiest way of flying with a 3 year old, is to try and let them sleep! If they are happy with their own company, let them be and relax a bit yourself, after all, it is your holiday too!!


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