Why Stay at a Disney Resort Hotel?

This post comes partly from the many times I’ve been asked this question from friends, family members, and potential clients and partly because of the recent release of a video from Disney Parks. There are so many perks of staying on property that it definitely makes up for any cost savings you might incur (or may not in the long run if you take other factors into account). This post will serve as an overview of all the benefits of staying on property and how that may translate into possible cost savings and a better overall experience.

First… the Video!

Before we begin, take a few moments to watch the video released by Disney Parks that provides a brief overview of the benefits with a little “flare.”

 

Now a Bit More Detail….

A bit cheeky, I know, but hey! That’s Disney! Now that you’ve got the gist, let’s talk about each point the video makes in a bit more detail.

“With more than twenty fun hotels you get to pick your theme…”

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While theming may not be at the top of your mind on other vacations, at Disney theming is top notch and can completely transform your stay into your own “disney dream.” Experience the tropics of Hawaii with a pool overlooking the “beach” at the Polynesian, the relaxing ambiance of the Louisiana Bayou at Port Orleans Riverside, or watch animals right outside your window in savannah view rooms at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It’s basically a real life “Choose Your Own Adventure.”

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The thing to drive home here is there are MANY choices of all different price ranges from Deluxe and Villa Accommodations to Moderate Level priced rooms and even Value resorts, each with their own distinct theme and ambiance.

“There are water sports all kinds and sorts that fill the seven seas..”

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There are so many different recreation options to enjoy at Walt Disney World resorts. Well themed pools with waterslides (moderate and deluxe) and sometimes whirl pools, are just the start! At the various resorts (depending on location) you can find boats for rent, fishing, fishing excursions, parasailing, archery, horse back riding, horse drawn carriage rides, bike riding (regular and surrey bikes), and more (all for various fees).

Looking for FREE things to fill your non park days? There are plenty of those too! Many resorts (depending on location) offer planned activities by the pool, outdoor movies, theming tours, and campfires as well as other children’s activities in the various recreation areas. Some places have specialized free activities as well like borrowing night vision goggles to watch the animals after dark at the Animal Kingdom Lodge or sitting on the beach for the Electric Water Pageant (and Magic Kingdom Fireworks) at the Magic Kingdom Area resorts.

There is definitely enough to do at the resorts to fill a couple days without setting foot inside the park. This can allow for a more relaxing vacation and help you save money on ticket costs.

 “… Restaurants for beauvivants, such fine amenities..”

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You can always find great meals in the parks if you know where to look… but some of the BEST restaurants are at the resorts on Disney property. There are so many options from counter service to fine dining and everything in between. Some of the quick service locations have more options than those in the parks and seating is often less crowded. If fine dining is what you’re after, there are many signature restaurants at the resorts to choose from including the creme de la creme Victoria and Albert’s at the Grand Floridian!

You can find a variety of cuisines for just about anyone’s palate by doing a little resort hopping. African and Indian flavors abound at the Animal Kingdom Lodge while Hawaiian and Asian fusion can be found at the Polynesian. Don’t worry though there are plenty for pickier eaters to! Steakhouses, Italian dishes, American pub style restaurants, barbecue, and more. Many places have kids menus and all can make accommodations for dietary needs or allergies.

Remember, with free in resort transportation you can easily hop to a resort other than your own for dinner, lunch, or some sightseeing!

“Since your resort hotel can be so near a Disney Park, you can play all day with Mickey and see fireworks at dark.”

This is a big one, especially for those with children. By staying at a Disney resort you can easily go back to the resort to take a break and recharge before watching the fireworks. Even with base tickets (without the hopper option) you are welcome to come and go freely from the same park each day. It is a great option to go back to the resort for a midday nap, swim, and lunch/snack break before returning for the fireworks. This allows you to avoid the hottest part of the day and typically the longest lines of the day.

In order to do this while staying off property you’d probably need to rent a car (which can add a huge cost to the total of your trip). Some off property resorts have shuttle services but they are typically few and far between and can be inconvenient to locate which adds to the “commute” time. Driving yourself can also be a hassle in having to locate and get back to your car, driving a considerable distance back to the resort and doing the process in reverse when returning. As I will talk about a little later, Disney makes this process relatively painless with their free in resort transportation system.

“Stay right here with us and then you’ll get some magic powers. Extra time inside the parks we call it extra magic hours.”

For those guests going on adults only trips or trips with older children and/or teenagers this is probably the biggest perk. Each day at least one park either opens an hour earlier or stays open up to three hours later ONLY for Walt Disney World Resort guests. A schedule of these hours can be found on Disney’s Park Hours Calendar.

During these hours, lines are considerably shorter allowing resort guests to get in a lot of their favorite rides with lower wait times. By utilizing extra magic hours well, you are more likely to hit all of your “must do” attractions and leave time to enjoy the pool! You may also be able to fit more in a day and, if you wish save on the added costs of an extra day on park tickets.

“We’ll give you each a magic band, wear it on your favorite hand.”

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Magic Bands are your key to EVERYTHING while at the Disney resort. They become your room key, your park tickets, your fastpass+, your photopass,  and even your credit card (should you wish to allow for charging privileges to the one linked to your account). If you wanted to, you could walk around with just your Magic Band and be completely prepared!

Non- resort guests can buy these on property should they wish (with no charging privileges or access to resorts) but again an added expense.

“To cut down on your wait, make a fastpass date, we’ll help you get on through.”

Fastpass+ is another great perk for resort guests. Fastpass+ allows resort guests to make reservations for  attractions per day of their stay up to 60 days in advance of their check in date. Non-Resort guests can still make these reservations, but not until 30 days before the day they’d like their Fastpass+ reservations.

This is especially important for the most popular attractions, shows, and character meet and greets. Fastpass+ for rides like Seven Dwarves Mine Train and Toy Story Midway Mania, shows like Fireworks and Parades, and character meet and greets like Anna and Elsa may no longer be available at 30 days. These attractions can have wait times upward of 2 hours at times so the Fastpass+ reservations can make a huge difference in your day. Time spent standing in these lines could be time spent on other attractions, beating the heat in the pool, or relaxing in the air conditioning.

“We can pick you up with our airport bus. Drop your bags and you at your doorstep PLUS with the drive off your mind leave your worries behind. Transportation it’s on us!”

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Alright, we all know that traveling is the least fun part of the trip. You may have to get up at the crack of dawn to get to the airport hours before the flight to get through security. There may be long lines in checkin bags or getting through TSA. The airport food isn’t great, flights are cramped, sometimes bumpy. When you arrive at Orlando airport, you then have to wait in baggage claim, maneuver around with your bags, figure out how to get to the hotel and pay an expensive fare to do so… Wait. Rewind!

When staying at a Walt Disney World resort, Disney takes care of you once you touch down at MCO. All you need to do is navigate your way to the Magical Express area. If you arrive before 10pm Disney can even grab your bags off of the carousel and deliver them to your room (please allow up to three hours for this process after check in). Once at the Magical Express desk, all you need to do is tap your Magic Band and the cast member will point you in the right direction for a bus to your resort. With the new  online check in process, you may be eligible to get your room number sent to you via text message allowing you to go directly to the room once it is ready and skip any check in lines.

Flight got delayed? No problem, Disney provides this service round the clock (minus the bag service after 10pm). You do not even have to call to change your transportation, it will be there waiting for you!

Though some other offsite hotels may have shuttle transportation to and from the airport, most do not. The last time I took a cab (in 2008 to meet a friend) it cost $68 one way from the airport to Downtown Disney (and has probably gone up). Other methods may be cheaper but may require additional coordination particularly when you have flight delays or other interruptions. Here, Disney can save you money, time, and frustration.

“Take a monorail or a boat or bus. There’s no fee, no charge, there’s no mess, no fuss! With the drive off your mind leave your worries behind. Transportation it’s on us!”

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Not only is transportation provided free of charge to and from the airport, it is also provided throughout the Walt Disney World Resort. You can get from any resort to any park, water park, or Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) by taking either a bus, boat, or monorail. You can also get from park to park, and from resort to resort (though it may involve a transfer at another destination). There is no need for the added cost of a rental car or parking costs at the parks or your resort. If you do, however, bring or rent a car parking is free to all resort guests at all parks, Disney springs, and the resort.

While some non-Disney resorts offer some shuttles to and from the parks, they are typically (again) few and far between. You may not have opportunities to go back and forth from your resort easily during the day. Disney makes this process, along with park hopping, getting meals at another location, and checking out different recreation opportunities at the resort easy!

Now that you know all the great benefits of staying on property at the Walt Disney World Resort, it’s time to begin planning your next trip!

Let me help you plan the most magical vacation possible! I’ll work with you to find the best possible price for your vacation, continue to look for promotions that can be applied, take care of your dining reservations, help you with Fastpass+ recommendations and more all free of charge to you! Contact me today for a free quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com!

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Stretching Comfort Zones at Walt Disney World

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Stretching Comfort Zones at Walt Disney World

After talking a little bit about common fears at Walt Disney World, I felt it was important to talk about stretching comfort zones and facing some of those fears when possible. First, it is important to think of comfort zones like a spectrum.

Comfort Zone Spectrum

On one side of the spectrum is the “comfort zone.” Think of this like a green light. You are in this zone when doing things you find easy, simple, and fun but also things that are dull or boring. These are things you are completely comfortable doing without support or assistance. Things like writing your name, playing your favorite game that you’ve played many times, or doing easy chores could fall into this category

Toward the middle there is the “stretch zone.” Think of this like a yellow light. You may be in this zone when something is new or unfamiliar to you, you are doing something that is somewhat difficult or tricky for you, or you are doing something that makes you nervous. Sometimes things you may be somewhat scared of fall into this category.

On the other side of the spectrum is the “panic zone.” Think of this like a red light. These are things that you are very fearful of or anxious about and that when attempted or forced into may cause you to panic. Things that make you enter your panic zone can trigger anxiety attacks or have long lasting traumatizing effects that lead to deep rooted fears or aversions. When faced with something in their “panic zone” some people completely shut down, others flee, others build a defense or “fight” (also known as the “Fight or Flight” response).

Stretching Your Comfort Zone

When stretching your comfort zone, you want to do things that make you a bit nervous or cause you to stop and think (things in your “stretch zone”) rather than things you feel will cause you to be completely terrified or out of your element.

To stretch your or your child’s comfort zone at Walt Disney World, try to find rides that put yourself or them in their stretch zone rather than their panic zone. Part of that involves facing only one fear at a time. If your child is afraid of both heights and drops, it’s best to avoid things that involve both those fears (like Tower of Terror and Splash Mountain) and start with rides that only involve one of those fears in a somewhat gentle way (like Dumbo).

When Stretching Your/Your Child’s Comfort Zone at Walt Disney World, Be Sure to Follow These Guidelines:

1. People cope better with novel situations in a supportive environment. Being with people that unconditionally support you and you trust will keep you safe helps you feel more comfortable taking chances and risks. Encourage the person who is a bit nervous. Hold their hand if they need or provide other positive touch. Discourage other members of the party from making fun of them. 

2. People cope better when they know what to expect. Explaining what the ride is like and entails in the most honest but least threatening way can help someone prepare themselves for what they are about to experience. This is a main premise of Child Life practice! When it comes to comfort zones, surprises are not your friend!

3. Start small and build up. Going back to the stretch zone vs. panic zone, you don’t want to put the person into panic mode from the start. This may cause them to never want to try again or to have a terrible day or rest of the vacation because of their traumatic experience. They may even begin to associate Walt Disney World in general with that negative experience. You can always then take it one step further and try something bigger if they have a good experience, but it can be very hard to erase that negative experience from memory!

4. Always offer options and a sense of control when possible. When people are trying new things that may make them a bit nervous give them some choices. Going back to the fear of heights, allowing them to choose between things like Dumbo or Astro Orbiter may help them take ownership of their decision to try and be slightly less nervous. For younger kids, offering 2 choices is best to ensure they do not get overwhelmed. Rides like Dumbo that allow the person to control how high they go will also help them feel a sense of control.

5. Allow the person to have an out… even if they change their mind at the last second. The person may be ready to try up until they get to the ride load area. It’s important to let them know it’s okay to change their mind. Forcing the person to then get on the ride can have detrimental effects in their trust in you if they end up in their panic zone. When traveling with small children (and two adults), Disney offers a rider switch option so that if one child decides they no longer want to go on one adult can stay behind with that child while the other adult goes with the other child(ren). Once they come off, the kids can then go again with the second adult without much of a wait! Just let a cast member know in the line when you get to the front that you’d like to try this option.

6. Don’t force a child before they’re ready. Again, if they aren’t ready to do something and enter into their panic zone, it may have detrimental effects in their trust in you.

7. Validate, Validate, Validate. When a child tries something new, whether they liked it or not, applaud their effort for trying and validate their feelings. If they enjoyed themselves this can look something like this: Mickey I know you were pretty nervous about  trying that ride because of the big drop, but you were so brave and tried it anyway. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

If they had a tough time, it may look something like this: Mickey, it seemed like that ride was pretty scary for you. I’m so sorry it wasn’t what you expected. Even though you didn’t end up liking it, you were so brave for trying something new. We can take a break from these type of rides and you can decide what we try next. (This again places some control back into the person’s hands after they may have felt like they lost some control during that fearful experience).

8. Bravery is not the absence of fear… or tears… or screaming. A big thing we always talk about with kids in the hospital is that being brave doesn’t mean not being afraid or not crying or not screaming but more that you tried your best to do what you needed to do to help  yourself get better. At Disney, bravery is trying something new, trying something that makes you nervous. You can scream your head off and cry but still be brave! Praise those trying new things for being brave, even if they cry or scream or are terrified the entire time!

Have any experience stretching your or your child’s comfort zone at Disney? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Common Fears and Walt Disney World Attractions

Walt Disney World offers attractions for children and adults of varying preferences in terms of thrills. For those who do not enjoy roller coaster type rides, there are still many different rides to choose from. However, the thrill of the roller coaster isn’t the only fear that may be faced at Disney. Sometimes, attractions that you may not think could trigger a fear, may surprise you. If you or your child has particular fears, it is best to plan ahead to prepare for attractions that may stretch your comfort zone and avoid those that may just be a little to extreme for your or your child’s taste.

Here is a list of more common fears and attractions that may trigger those fears….

Keep in mind these attractions include varying degrees of thrills. Not all attractions on each list will trigger fears for all who have that particular fear, however, their design warrants mention because of the possibility to do so. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me through the comment section or by email at childcentereddisney@gmail.com.

Heights

The following attractions include portions that the ride vehicle is higher/above scenery or ground level.

Animal Kingdom: Expedition Everest, Primeval Whirl, Triceratops Spin Magic Kingdom: Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Barnstormer, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Big Thunder Mountain, Astro Orbiter, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Magic Carpets of Aladdin, Peter Pan’s Flight, Swiss Family Treehouse, Tomorrowland Transit Authority, Haunted Mansion, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel EPCOT: Soarin’, Test Track, Sum of all Thrills, Mission: SPACE (though it is simulated) Hollywood Studios: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show (depending on how far up in the bleachers you sit- the bleachers here are on a relatively steep incline), Star Tours: The Adventure Continues (also simulated)

Speed

The following attractions include portions at higher speeds and many also include quick turns.

Animal Kingdom: Expedition Everest, Primeval Whirl Magic Kingdom: Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Barnstormer, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain EPCOT: Test Track Hollywood Studios: Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

Dark

The following rides either include very low ambient lighting or portions that are completely dark (at times unexpected).

Animal Kingdom: Expedition Everest, It’s Tough to Be a Bug, Dinosaur,   Magic Kingdom: Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, Tomorrowland Transit Authority, Haunted Mansion, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Carousel of Progress, Stitch’s Great Escape, Country Bear Jamboree, Mickey’s Philharmagic, Jungle Cruise, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Pirates of the Caribbean, Enchanted Tiki Room EPCOT: Soarin’, Test Track, Sum of all Thrills, Mission: SPACE, Ellen’s Energy Adventure, Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros, Journey into Imagination with Figment, Spaceship Earth, Hollywood Studios: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith,  Star Tours: The Adventure Continues, The Great Movie Ride, Muppet Vision 3D, Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Drops

The following rides include quick and sometimes unexpected hills or drops.

Animal Kingdom: Expedition Everest, Primeval Whirl, Kali River Rapids Magic Kingdom: Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Barnstormer, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Big Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean EPCOT:  Sum of all Thrills  Hollywood Studios: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

Surprises (Things that Jump Out)

These attractions include elements of surprise that either pop out from unexpected places or appear to quickly come toward you (particularly 3D shows).

Animal Kingdom: Expedition Everest, It’s Tough to Be a Bug, Dinosaur,   Magic Kingdom: Haunted Mansion, Stitch’s Great Escape, Mickey’s Philharmagic EPCOT: Soarin’, Test Track,  Journey into Imagination with Figment, Mission: SPACE Hollywood Studios: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror,  Star Tours: The Adventure Continues, The Great Movie Ride, Muppet Vision 3D, Toy Story Midway Mania

Spinning/Weightlessness

The following attractions include moments of weightlessness or involve a great deal of spinning (more intense than a Carousel or Dumbo type ride).

Animal Kingdom: Expedition Everest, Primeval Whirl Magic Kingdom: Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Mad Tea Party EPCOT:  Sum of all Thrills,  Mission: SPACE Hollywood Studios: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, Toy Story Midway Mania

Claustrophobia

The following attractions either include small, tight, or crowded spaces either in the loading process or actual ride design that may be particularly troublesome for those with claustrophobia.

Animal Kingdom: Dinosaur Magic Kingdom: Haunted Mansion EPCOT:  Sum of all Thrills,  Mission: SPACE Hollywood Studios: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

Motion Simulation

The following attractions include motion simulators that may be troublesome for those with motion sickness.

Magic Kingdom: Mickey’s Philharmagic EPCOT:  Sum of all Thrills,  Mission: SPACE, Soarin’ Hollywood Studios: Star Tours: The Adventure Continues, Toy Story Midway Mania

Loud Noises

The following attractions include particularly loud noises that may be particularly disturbing to those with sensory sensitivities.

Animal Kingdom: Expedition Everest, It’s Tough to Be a Bug, Dinosaur  Magic Kingdom: Wishes EPCOT: Test Track,  Journey into Imagination with Figment, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth Hollywood Studios: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith,  Star Tours: The Adventure Continues, Fantastic!, Lights, Motors, Action!: Extreme Stunt Show, Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, The Great Movie Ride

Water

The following attractions take place on a boat, travel over a body of water, or involve  water elements that may get the guest wet (from slight sprinkles to being soaked).

Animal Kingdom: Kali River Rapids, Kilimanjaro Safaris  Magic Kingdom: Splash Mountain, Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Casey Junior’s Splash ‘n’ Soak Section, It’s a Small World, Liberty Square Riverboat, Mickey’s Philharmagic (slight sprinkles), Tom Sawyer’s Island, EPCOT: Soarin’, Test Track (slight sprinkles),  Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros, Living with the Land Hollywood Studios:  Muppet Vision 3D (slight sprinkles), Fantasmic! (slight sprinkles)

Have any categories to add or attractions that should be placed in the categories above? Please comment below and I will add them to the list!

Next up: Comfort Zones and Walt Disney World. In this post I will discuss stretching your or your child’s comfort zones in Walt Disney World without placing them in their panic zone. Stay Tuned!

How “It’s Tough to Be a Bug” May Just Ruin the Other 3D Shows for your Kids

The 3D shows at Walt Disney World are amazing. Mickey’s Philarmagic is actually one of my favorite attractions because I just feel a rush of magic as I’m taken through the various movies of my childhood via the songs I felt such connections to. Top it off with being able to watch young children reaching for Ariel’s hands during “Part of Your World” and I just melt. Muppet Vision 3D is also a classic for me. Sure, the show never changes and sure, the technology is a bit outdated but it’s still good in my book. The problem is, working at Disney, I talked to many parents whose children would not even set foot in those two attractions because they were so traumatized by It’s Tough to Be a Bug. It’s really too bad they had seen that one before the other two.

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So…. Here’s my public service announcement.

It’s Tough to Be a Bug shouldn’t be taken lightly with young children. Obviously, you know your children better than anyone else and know what may bother them and what won’t. Only you or your child can decide whether they will enjoy the ride or not, but for those who may not be familiar with the ride here are some things you may want to consider:

1. It’s Dark: I know what you’re thinking…. obviously it’s dark it’s a 3d show! But I emphasize this because this theater feels MUCH darker than Philharmagic and the Muppets.

2. Spiders Come Down from the Ceiling: Let me rephrase that, VERY LARGE spiders come down from the ceiling. They don’t touch you, but for a child still in that fantasy versus reality phase who is not yet able to think logically and concretely they may not really be able to comprehend that the spiders can’t touch them at that moment. Also, when they do come down from the ceiling the smoke and light effects make it even more daunting.

3. Stingers in your Back: If you sit all the way back in the bench there is a point where they simulate stingers and you get poked in the back. Of course it’s not sharp or painful but it can be startling even for adults!

4. Hopper: He’s a bad guy, we all know. But in my opinion, he’s down right creepy in this show. The way the light hits his face, what he says to the crowd, the smoke effects, it’s definitely enough to give the right (or wrong, really) kid nightmares.

5. Bugs Exiting: Just before you leave the theater, the benches ripple a bit under you as if bugs are crawling under your bottom. For kids who have been fine up to this point, it shouldn’t be a problem.It will probably be funny for them. However, for kids who have been having a hard time with the show, this could be that icing on the cake that sets them over.

Again, only you and your child can decide if this ride is right for you. This is definitely one of those rides that if you aren’t sure how your child will react, you should prepare them for what to expect. If they don’t want to go, just skip it and don’t think twice. This isn’t a must-do by any means.

The way kids brains work at the preschool and toddler age, they can make associations between bad experiences and similar situations. In the same way that they may freak out when they come into the hospital after a bad IV experience. After being traumatized by “It’s Tough to Be a Bug” they may have similar adverse reactions when you bring them to the other 3D shows or even a movie theater. The settings are just so close that they may not be able to rationalize it as a completely different experience.

Again, just something to think about. And remember, it’s always okay for a child to be afraid. Validating those feelings for them by letting them know you think it’s okay will help them develop the self efficacy to overcome those fears in the future at their own pace. If this one is questionable, try Mickey’s Philarmagic or Muppet Vision 3D first to test the waters. Though not every child will be okay with those either, they are definitely less threatening than “It’s Tough to Be a Bug!”