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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Disney World 2011
No matter how fabulous a trip is, coming home is always sweet.  For that I am thankful!

The trip by the way was a 10- just perfect!  I asked a lot of people for advice before leaving.  THANKS!  Here is what I'd pass on to anyone planning a first time trip to DisneyWorld.

1.) Buy this book.  I skimmed it a few days before we left and it helped me realize I had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into.  Once we got to Florida and I remembered how much I hate huge crowds,  I bucked up the $7 and got an online version which included daily plans to avoid the worst crowds.  Sounds cookoo and way over the top but it was fantastic.  The last day we didn't have a plan to follow and Emma is still lamenting that fact.

2.) Arrive early.  Even earlier than you think you should.  We left our hotel by 7 and walked through the gates as soon as Mickey opened them at 8.  A few minutes before 8 Mickey and his crew arrive by train for a welcoming show.  What a wonderful difference getting there early made.  We rode multiple rides before 9, no lines, no heat, happy family!

Riding the ferry to Magic Kingdom.  We were one of two families on the boat!

Here the girls are on the first ride of the day. No one else was on the Magic Carpets...they were allowed to stay on and ride as many times as they wanted.  It was the same for Pirates of the Caribbean, The Jungle Cruise, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  Seriously, as many times as they wanted!

3.) Schedule just one character's enough.  We had dinner in Epcot at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall with the princesses.  It was a hit with all of us.  The food was pretty good and the girls felt so special with all that princess attention.  
Ariel and Lucy - a red head connection

Kevin sporting the Ergo Carrier and a backpack...what a Dad!
4.) Bring the baby.  We've heard of a few families who left their under one year old at home.  We never even considered that an option and boy am I glad.  Of course she didn't care if we were at Disney World or Sam's.  She even got to ride all of the rides in Fantasyland plus a few others.  Also, bring a carrier, it will keep the baby happy.  
All of Lucy's naps were taken right here.
5.) Rent a stroller from an Orlando based stroller rental company.  We have a double stroller but there was no way we were dragging that beast through the airport with the rest of our entourage.  We brought our umbrella stroller and thought at 5 and 7 the big girls would be fine walking.  Well, the baby didn't want to ride in the stroller and after our first day, which ended up being a 12 hour day (NOT part of the detailed plan)  and by our best estimation at least 7 miles of walking, the kids were done walking!  We ended up renting a double stroller for the next 2 days from Disney at $31 a day.  Our friends, who were also at Disney, rented a nice double jogging stroller for 4 days from said company for $80.  You do the math.

Disney takes it out of you.
6.) To stay at a Disney resort or not?  

     *If money were no object we'd stay at The Contemporary, right outside of Magic Kingdom, or The    Yacht Club, right outside of Epcot.   But money is totally an object.    We stayed off site, at a nice Doubletree for $70/night (all that traveling Kevin does has a few perks).
     * Guests at the Disney resorts have extra magic hours.  This is when the park opens early and stays open late.  During our visit there were no extra morning hours at Magic Kingdom  so we were always the first ones there.  As for extra nighttime hours,  do you really see us staying at Disney World until 3 in the morning?
     * Mickey picks your luggage up at the airport and delivers it to your room if you stay at a Disney resort.  Ok, that would be fantastic.  But, if that had been the case this trip we would have missed Kevin's amazing Clark Griswald moment on our last day.  At the airport, he was dragging two huge wheeled duffel bags, two booster seats and a carseat.  The kids got on the elevator before us, and as Kevin attempted to get on, the whole lot of bags tipped over, the door to the elevator closed with the kids on by themselves.  Kevin used some choice language, stomped his feet, threw down the bags and shook his fist....I am not making this up.  I would love to have that security footage.  The girls and I giggled over that all day today!
    *You can use the interDisney transportation if you stay on site.  Again, nice.  We parked in the first or second row of the parking lot each day.  Not a big deal.
Do you think she would have been any happier staying at a Disney resort?
Me either.
* You don't have far to travel when you stay for the nightly shows.  We didn't stay for the nightly shows.  We don't stay up that late, even on vacation.
While the Disney resorts seem very nice and full of perks, we were just fine staying off of the property.

7.) Relax.  It's vacation.  You will not see or do everything.  It's ok.  Our kids were worn out by lunch every day.  The first day we had dinner reservations at 5 in Epcot.  Per our plan we were to head back to the hotel after lunch and relax before dinner.  We got a little carried away and didn't leave.  By 1 we were zapped but knew we couldn't make it to the hotel, and then back to Epcot by 5 without a lot of's a time when the on site hotel would have come in handy.  Never fear though, we camped out for a bit in the baby care center, a nice little place with a nursing room, changing room and a tv/book area for older's a time when the baby came in handy!  It was quiet, cool, and a great place to get away from the craziness for a bit.  We saw the Philharmagic after and by that time felt ready to hit the park again!
Leave it to Emma to fit in some reading at Disney World.

8.) Pack sun hats, and extra clothes.  I did neither of these things.  It was in the mid to upper 80's our entire trip--it felt so great.   I am, though, a nervous Nelly when it comes to sun so I was always chasing somebody around with sunscreen.  I wish the kids had had their sun hats.  I saw lots of kids with them on, smart moms!  Also, pack extra clothes.  Emma got soaked on Splash Mountain and had to wear bike shorts ordinarily worn under her dresses around.  Plus, after a long morning at Disney, chances are, if you are returning to a park in the late afternoon/evening you'll want a change of clothes.  

A differing opinion of Splash Mountain.

                    9.) Schedule a few rest days. Our schedule went like this-
Friday- Seaworld
Saturday- Relax at pool
Sunday- Disney
Monday- Disney
Tuesday- Disney
Wednesday- Home
We spent time at the pool every afternoon except Monday.  By our third day at Disney we were spent.  We fizzled out very quickly Wednesday morning.  I wish we had scheduled a pool day for all day Tuesday and had our last day on  Wednesday at Disney, returning home on Thursday.  We only did Magic Kingdom and Epcot and we for our pace that was just right.  In fact there was a lot of Epcot we didn't see.

10.) If you have time go to Seaworld.  It is lots of fun with a laid back feeling.  We went our first day and it was a nice place to start.  The rides for small kids were perfect, with no lines and just enough thrill for the girls.  Remember, Emma wants nothing to do with anything even slightly scary.  Ellie is a different story, these rides were just a warm up for her.  The shows were enjoyable and we loved seeing Shamu!

On another note, avoid the Horses of Arabia show, unless you happen to have free tickets like us and you go on one of your off evenings, then as Kevin said, it is worth free.  The horses are beautiful but it stops there.  

It was a wonderful week spent together with lots of memories.  I think the kids are already planning our next trip!

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