Being born and raised in England - and being someone who really likes their food! - I know a thing or two about British comfort foods! The weather in England is, shall we say, on the chillier side … [Read More...]
If you’re spending time at Walt Disney World over the holiday season, you’re probably a little overwhelmed with all the ‘must-do’ activities there are to do (read all about Christmas at Walt Disney World here!) The focus is always on Magic Kingdom, with Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and the beautiful lighting ceremony at Cinderella’s Castle. But as a local, my favorite park over the holidays is Epcot. Not only do they have the Candlelight Processional, which is one of my very favorite things to do over the holidays, but they go all out with celebrating holidays around the world at the International Festival of the Holidays (previously called Holiday’s Around the World, in case you’ve been before!) With food, decorations, and stories from each country highlighting how they celebrate the holiday season, there is so much to see and do, it really is a fantastic experience. There are lots of food options to choose from, as well as a lot of different holiday narrators in each country, so you need to plan your time carefully if you want to see and do everything, especially with kids – I know mine have a limited attention span when it comes to things like this! Here is my guide for 7 things to do at the International Festival of the Holidays at Epcot with kids.
1. Listen to stories of holidays around the world
Each of the countries around the World Showcase features a storyteller during the International Festival of the Holidays, and these storytellers tell the story of how that particular country celebrates the holiday season. These are the absolute highlight of the festival for me, and a great way to not only learn more about how the different countries celebrate and their particular traditions, but also keep kids occupied as you walk around World Showcase. The storytellers are engaging, and the performances are the perfect length of time so that the little ones won’t get restless. The performances are all outdoors, so they are weather permitting; weather this time of year is generally very pleasant, but on a hot day, or a rainy one, you might not get to see them all. The festival guide has a list of the times each storyteller will be out, and it’s pretty difficult to catch all of them, so definitely pick your must-sees. My personal favorite is Helga in the Germany Pavilion, who tells the story of The Nutcracker, while last year my son absolutely loved Pere Noel in the France Pavilion, who tells a story of how children in France leave out their shoes on Christmas Eve. This is my favorite thing to do at Epcot during the holidays!
Father Christmas in the United Kingdom Pavilion
2. Try different countries holiday treats
Pretty much every festival at Epcot these days includes food booths, and this one is no exception. You can pick up a festival passport when you enter Epcot, and this lists the food and drink options you can find at each booth. Each country features different holiday treats and drinks, and just like with the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, portions are small and perfectly sized for sampling without getting too full. There are usually new food items to try each year, and it’s fun to grab a snack or a drink as you sit down to watch a storyteller, or wander around World Showcase. My favorite drink so far this year has been the Spiced Rum Punch Slushie in the France Pavilion, but my 18-month old would definitely tell you that the Cookie Nook in the Festival Center is the place to go!
Spiced Rum Punch Slushie from the France Pavilion
3. Admire the holiday decorations
No one decorates for the holidays quite like Disney does, and Epcot is no exception! Every pavilion is decorated for the holidays, and at night, the lights are beautiful. The America Pavilion is my personal favorite for the decorations, with a gorgeous Christmas tree outside the gift shop, as well as the beautifully decorated American Gardens Theater. My kids love all Christmas decorations, and the ones at Epcot are some of their favorites!
Holiday decorations in the Germany Pavilion
4. Meet Santa and Mrs Claus
There are a few different places you can meet Santa at Walt Disney World over the holidays, but only in the American Pavilion at Epcot can you meet Mrs Claus as well! Tucked in the back of the pavilion next to the gift shop (and just for the record, next the nicest bathrooms in all of Epcot!) you can find Santa and Mrs Claus meeting and greeting guests. The setting for the meet and greet is beautiful, and there is a Photopass photographer there to capture the moment. We visited during the week in November in the middle of the day to find absolutely no line, and plenty of time to chat with Santa (not that my toddler wanted anything to do with him!) but I’m sure the lines can get long on the weekends or closer to Christmas. Santa and Mrs Claus have set times to meet guests every day, and these can be found in the event guide.
Santa and Mrs Claus meet daily in the America Pavilion
5. Shop for merchandise
It would’t be Disney without a little Christmas shopping! Not only will you find plenty of themed t-shirts, sweaters, pins, and other holiday paraphernalia, but the World Showcase offers unique holiday markets with more one-of-a-kind souvenirs. In the Germany Pavilion, for instance, my son was enthralled with a professional glass blower who was making the most beautiful Christmas ornaments. A word of caution however: there are also plenty of pop-up stores I noticed around World Showcase with huge arrays of Disney toys, and my kids had to be hustled past those pretty quickly!
Hand-blown glass ornaments in the Germany Pavilion
6. Watch the Candlelight Processional
Hands down one of my favorite Christmas traditions at Walt Disney World is the Epcot Candlelight Processional. Running from mid-November to the end of the holiday season, the Candlelight Processional is performed at the American Gardens Theater in World Showcase three times a night, so there are plenty of opportunities to catch a show. The Candlelight Processional is the retelling of the Christmas story by a celebrity narrator, accompanied by a live orchestra, the Voices of Liberty singers, a Cast Member choir, and high school choirs from around the country, singing Christmas carols and other holiday favorites. We have seen this show every single year since we moved to Central Florida in 2006, and have taken our kids along since they were tiny babies.
Regardless of whether you are particularly religious or not, the music and songs from this show are fantastic, and really get you in the holiday spirit. The celebrity narrators vary from year to year, but one recurring narrator, and our personal favorite, is Neil Patrick Harris, who does a great job telling the story.
I’ve seen kids of all ages in the theater to watch the show, and most seem to do really well with the show; there is a lot going on with all of the music and lights, and it seems to hold most kids attention. Our eldest has done well with the show every year, but this was the first year our youngest didn’t make it all the way through before losing interest! Obviously you know your kids best, and whether or not this is something they would enjoy sitting through.
Depending on how popular the narrator is on the night you plan to attend, you might want to look into the popular Candlelight Processional dinner package. This comes with a meal at one of the Epcot restaurants (for the last two years, Trattoria al Forno on the Boardwalk has been included as well) and reserved tickets for the show. What time you eat dictates the show time you get tickets for, so if you have a breakfast or lunch reservation on the package, you’ll be seeing an earlier show, whereas a dinner reservation will get you tickets to a later show. When a narrator is extremely popular (Neil Patrick Harris is one of those narrators!) then it is very hard to see the show waiting on a stand-by line; folks have been known to line up as early as 1pm for a 5pm show, and there is no guarantee of getting a seat at all. If you can’t get into the theater at all, there is the option to stand in the back to watch and listen, and this might be a great option if you’re not sure how your kids will like the show.
Neil Patrick Harris narrating the Epcot Candlelight Processional
7. See Illuminations with the Message of Peace
Illuminations is one of my favorite nighttime shows at Walt Disney World, and at Christmas, the show is made all the more beautiful with the addition of the Message of Peace tag. This is a brief addition at the end of the show, with messages from each of the countries around World Showcase, as well as more lasers, fireworks, and music. It is especially powerful at this time of year, and an addition I really love. These fireworks are such a great way to end a day at Epcot as it is, and this message just makes them all the more special. Really, what better way to cap off a day celebrating holidays around the world than with a message of peace and unity?
Have you visited the International Festival of the Holidays at Epcot with kids? What did you do? Let me know in the comments!
I’m pretty good at Christmas shopping for my travel-loving family (see this post on 10 Christmas gift ideas for kids who love to travel) but I always struggle with stocking stuffers! When I was a kid, I used to get things like socks, cassette tapes (showing my age here!) and of course, the obligatory orange (or in my case, a Terry’s Chocolate Orange!) in my stocking, but I’d like to be a little more creative when it comes to the things my kids open first on Christmas morning. I’ve spent this year doing my research and come up with some really awesome stocking stuffer ideas that are perfect for kids like mine who love to take trips and explore new places – and best of all, each of these is under $10! Read ahead for my 10 stocking stuffers for kids who love to travel.
Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase an item after clicking on the link, I will receive a small commission from the sale. This is at no extra cost to you, and as always, all opinions and recommendations are my own.
1. Sleep socks
So not the most creative stocking stuffer, but certainly one of the most practical; I swear, we never return from a trip with the same amount of socks as we leave with! These are one of our travel necessities, and something we never get on a plane without. Too many times I’ve had one of my kids kick off their shoes to get comfy on a flight, only to complain that their feet are now cold. These cozy knitted socks will keep their littles toes warm during travel – and with four pairs in a pack, you’ll have a few back ups!
2. Melissa and Doug Water Wow
I swear every child I know is obsessed with these things, and yet they’re so simple! Coloring pages that come to life when ‘colored’ with a special water pen, the designs are so much fun for kids with absolutely no mess! They’re perfect for road trips, plane trips, or pretty much any trip where you’re going to hear “I’m bored!” within the first five minutes! These coloring books are perfect for little travelers.
3. MyBaby Soundspa on the go
If you think your kids might have a hard time sleeping when they’re away from home, this is the perfect gift to put in their stocking for an upcoming trip. With four soothing sounds, including white noise and a lullaby, this travel sound machine will be just what your little one needs to nod off peacefully in a strange place. It even has a clip to attach to a stroller or a pack and play.
4. Goodnight World books
I’ve talked about how much I love these books before, but small sized books are one of my favorite things to put in a stocking, and these are so perfect for travel! They have them for so many different cities and countries, and we love buying them before visiting a location to read about the fun things we might do once we get there. We have over 20 of these books, and keep collecting them on our travels!
5. Reusable water bottle
A travel necessity for sure, as well as something useful to keep around the house. I buy my boys insulated water bottles so that their drinks are kept cold when we travel to warm places, and vice versa. Reusable water bottles are so much better for the environment than plastic bottles, and we never leave home without ours. I can also say with complete honesty that I’ve found my son much more likely to hydrate properly drinking out of a Batman water bottle!
6. Plug in night light
We’ve had so many issues in the past with kids going to sleep beautifully in a hotel room, only to wake up screaming at 2am because it’s pitch black and they have no idea where they are. We’ve also dealt with the more recent challenge of a child who need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, and needs to find it in the dark quickly! A plug in night light fits easily into your suitcase, and will provide just enough light to allow kids to see where they are. These character ones are so much fun, and provide a little comfort when away from home.
7. Activity set
We get on every single flight, and embark on every single road trip, with at least five activity books (including these Kids’s Travel Guides) to keep our little ones entertained. Coloring, games, puzzles, and stickers, are all an integral part of our travel entertainment package! Of course, Disney ones are going to be all the more popular! These are adorable, and a great stocking stuffer.
8. Mini globe
Harrison absolutely loves looking at globes and maps, not only to see where he’s been, but to plan out where he’s going next! As a child I remember being similarly fascinated by where the countries were, and how big the world seemed to me – I remember being so excited to get out there and explore it! If you have a young explorer, a mini globe is not only an educational toy to teach them more about the world, but a great way to encourage their love of travel!
9. Magnetic travel game set
I must admit to hating card games and games with small pieces on plane trips; it’s so easy to drop things on the floor and never see them again! These magnetic travel games are absolutely fantastic though; the pieces all stick to the metal tins, meaning no matter how much the game is shaken around, all of the parts will stay in one place. They take up very little space in a suitcase, and are the perfect size to pop into a stocking.
10. Luggage tags
Our boys have the most adorable luggage tags for when they travel, and thanks to their small size, they are the perfect stocking stuffer for kids who love to travel! There are so many different ones to choose from, but I really like the Disney ones, especially if you have a Disney trip planned (they would make a great addition to a surprise box if you’re surprising the kids with a trip too!) A word of warning though: put these on your hand luggage instead of your checked bags. I’ve put cute luggage tags on checked luggage before and never seen them again, they just get ripped off too easily. Put them on your hand luggage where they will be safe!
What stocking stuffers for kids who love to travel do you have planned this holiday season? Let me know in the comments!