May 11th-18th we took a family trip to celebrate James graduation from his MBA program. We had a (mostly) great time. Here’s the breakdown. I’ll do another post with pictures once I have them all in one place!
Tuesday 11th- Arrived in Orlando and hopped on the Magical Express to our home for the week, Animal Kingdom Lodge. Walking in was like entering another world. There were cast members at the entrance playing drums and dancing and once we were inside it was breath taking! It’s a beautiful hotel with tons of African artifacts to look at. Check in was a breeze, we had a guy from Colorado who gladly upgraded our room when I asked. We ended up with a room that had bunk beds and a savanna view which was exactly what I was hoping for even though I had only reserved a standard room. It was perfection! Once we were in our room the groceries I had ordered online were delivered and then we headed down to grab dinner and go swimming. The kids LOVED the pool which had it’s own waterslide. We all swam til we were exhausted and then crashed in our beds!
Wednesday 12th- We were up early this morning for breakfast at The Crystal Palace with Winnie the Pooh and friends. We were all tired from being up late and the time change, but we made it there on time anyway. We were seated right away and had met all the characters before we were even done eating. Then we headed into the park. We didn’t know it at the time but it would be the best day we had anywhere, the crowds were amazingly small and the heat wasn’t terrible. We walked on to pretty much every ride all day long. We hit all the major attractions and did Splash Mountain twice. Ian was tall enough for Space Mountain this year and he did it! After he said he didn’t really like it but it didn’t totally freak him out either. One of the best moments of the day was when we got off the Tea Cup ride and Alice in Wonderland had just walked up for a character greeting. Gracie talked to her for a bit, she played a bit of hide and seek with Ian, and I got my picture with her as well. She was excellent, totally stayed in character, it made me feel like I was a kid again! We headed home for lunch and a break and then came back for dinner and a few more rides before the Wishes fireworks display. We ended up with not such a great view of the fireworks, but we had ice cream while we watched which made it all better. Then we headed out of the park in the mass of humanity that had gathered. It was a long but really fun day. We didn’t get the kids to bed til after 10 though which ended up causing a domino effect of crabbiness for the next couple of days.
Thursday 13th- We chucked our plans to get up early since we had been up so late the night before. The kids didn’t wake up til 9:30! We headed out to Epcot and got there around 11. It was super busy! We managed to get on all the major rides without much waiting thanks to fast passes and the strategies laid out in The Unofficial Guide. Ian and I didn’t do the Mission Space ride but James and Gracie liked it. We all loved Soarin’ and we got to do Test Track which was great. The kids started getting really grumpy around 4 but we had to stay because we had reservations for dinner with the princesses in Norway at 5. It ended up being a strange kind of torture hanging around til our reservation. Both kids were crying and it was hot. Gracie refused to put on the princess dress we had brought from home just for this dinner. We were all trying our best to be patient and finally we made it in. Then I discovered the photo card in the camera was full so I missed a picture of Gracie with Belle. Once we sat down to eat there was a hair in my main dish and Ian spilled a huge cup of milk all down his lap and all over the floor. We were pretty much a mess! Once we had some food everyone chilled out though and Gracie had some really nice talks with the princesses and we took pictures after I had furiously deleted some off the card. We left the park after dinner and had a relaxing night in the pool, which we were figuring out was probably the kids favorite thing of the whole trip.
Friday 14th- I had reserved a babysitter for this morning so James and I could go do what we wanted sans children. It was a very good decision! The kids stayed with an awesome sitter, Amanda, and she took them swimming all morning long while James and I went on a leisurely shopping trip and out for lunch. My hope was the kids would have had fun and be ready for another park when we returned. Unfortunately they were totally exhausted from playing. Against our better judgment we decided to head out anyway. And we forgot the stroller (easy to do when you are not use to ever taking a stroller anywhere). We wanted to do Hollywood Studios for the new Buzz Light year ride and the Star Wars ride and maybe a couple shows. Unfortunately when we got there the fast passes for the Buzz ride were all gone and the wait was over an hour. So we went to Star Wars which the kids liked. Then James and Ian made their own custom light sabers which was really cool. We watched the Jedi training camp also. Then we went to check on the Buzz ride. Still over an hour wait. So we went into the Little Mermaid show. At this point Ian had decided he’d had just about enough and insisted on being carried while loudly protesting about every thing we said or did or offered. The show was good and he had just calmed down when it started raining in the show (it was an effect and it was awesome) but he HATES showers and water falling on his head and he completely freaked out. Thankfully it was just a few seconds. Then the show ended and we headed back out to the blazing heat to get some dinner. Long story short, this situation ended with Gracie tripping, falling, scrapping both knees and wetting her pants all in about 20 seconds time. She was crying, I was furious at James, Ian was angry about life in general and James was trying to somehow keep us from all emploding. It was by far our finest Disney moment, I’m pretty sure there were a number of people who thought we should have our parenting cards revoked and that I should be in anger management classes. Oh well. Once dinner was eaten and Gracie was all cleaned up we headed back to the hotel. At this point James and I decided that we were totally scrapping all plans and from this point out doing whatever the kids wanted. Even though I thought that we were taking things pretty easy it was obviously still too much for the kids and it was HOT which was draining us all. Oh, and it was also at this point we realized that Ian was coming down with some sort of cough and snot thing.
Saturday 15th- We slept in and then went to the pool. Had lunch and a rest and then the kids wanted to go back to the pool. We were suppose to eat at Boma in our hotel that night but James and I decided instead to hire a sitter again so we could go back to Epcot and do the world showcase which we had totally skipped when we were there the first time (except for Norway where our dinner was). So we called the service and they sent another sitter, Mary. She was great and took the kids back to the pool while James and I headed out. We ate and drank our way through the World Showcase and the kids went to bed on time. It was a win-win for everyone.
Sunday 16th- We had breakfast with Chef Mickey. Then it was Ian’s day and he wanted to go to the Magic Kingdom. He called all the shots and told us what rides to go on. By lunch time he was done so we went to the room, rested, had lunch and hit the pool. Around dinner time one of my old high school friends and her son came and ate with us and then we hung out and chatted a bit. It was so nice to see her and I think the kids had a mostly good time!
Monday 17th- Gracie’s day. She wanted Magic Kingdom also so we headed back there. We did whatever she said, had lunch there and stayed til about 3:30. We got stuck by a parade which worked out because we ended up with an awesome view of it. We headed back to the hotel where we relaxed and then had dinner at Jiko, one of the nicer restaurants at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It was delicious!! After that James took the kids to the pool while I packed up all our stuff.
All in all we had a really great time. We learned a few things though.
1. 6 days/7 nights is really not enough time to do all the parks with small children. It’s just not. We never even made it to Animal Kingdom Park and we were staying right there!!! So don’t over plan. Our kids are generally extremely flexible and easy going but except for our first day they absolutely could not handle more than about 5 hours a day at a park.
2. Disney World is HOT in May. I think the heat index was over 90 every day we were there. Since we were coming from weather that had barely been consistently 60 it was a huge shock to the system and drained us a lot. I think we will be going in February or March from now on. We always went off season February with my dad and that’s also when we went on our honeymoon and it was awesome. The downside of off season is that some good things can be on refurbishment, but it’s not that big a deal really, since the crowds are almost non existent and everything is cheaper.
3. Paying for a nice hotel with a good pool and a good bus system is totally worth every dime. I’m thinking that next time we may actually stay on the monorail though, since the kids pretty much wanted to only do Magic Kingdom anyway.
4. Hiring a babysitter on vacation is a great idea and again, totally worth the money. Just use a good service that is insured and bonded and look for reviews online to check them out.
5. Put the kids to bed early and get up early!!! The parks are less crowded and less hot and the kids have more energy. Use the afternoons and evenings for the pool, restaurants, and generally lazy time. It feels kind of weird to enforce a regular bed time while on vacation but honestly the best days we had were because we put the kids to bed by 8. When we let them stay up we paid for it big time!
6. Plan a park every other day and use the off days to chill out. It’s easy to not relax at Disney because there is so much to do. Make yourself relax!
7. Don’t forget the cough and cold medicine. The change in climate plus the constant change of air conditioning to outdoor heat and the humidity will make at least one person sick and paying for stuff in the gift shop will double the cost of your trip (ok, not really, but kinda). And their selection of childrens medicine sucked.