Sunday, December 21, 2014
After all the planning...it was finally here.
On Saturday morning, December 13, at 4:15 AM, we woke up the kids, had them brush their teeth and comb their hair, and come down stairs for a surprise.
They came down the stairs to find a red gift bag on the counter. Inside they found t-shirts (with pants and socks to be ready to go) that said, "Keep calm think Disney". None of them quite understood what was going on.
What was going on?
SURPRISE??!?!?! We are going to Disney World...in 10 minutes!! Grandpa Bob was there ready to take us to the airport.
We arrived in Orlando at 12:30 and to the resort a short 40 minutes later. Our bags, well Disney got them from the checked area and brought them to our room! Amazing! After a quick stop at our room at Art of Animation in a Cars themed room, we were off to Epcot where we road Mission Space, Spaceship Earth, and Soarin ( is a hang glider simulator that "flies" over various areas of California and is a very cool ride!). We also checked out Journey into Imagination with Figment,
Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable, Living with the Land. For Dinner, we had reservations (for 6 months!) at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall for Princess Dining. We arrived, waited a bit, got a picture with one princess and were shown to our table. We quickly went through the appetizer buffet before the princesses started walking through the rooms. The kids did not like the main course of the meal so we were lucky they liked something on the buffet. It was a fun way to start but we were not impressed with the dining experience. We made the mistake of going back to ride Mission Space again. Once in our rocket, we were strapped in and the instructions were read, then nothing. The young girl came around and said they had an issue and would be with us shortly. 20 minutes past with us harnessed in. We were not happy. Time was ticking as we wanted to watch Illuminations, A nightly fireworks and laser show that tells a story about the creation of Earth to celebrating the people of the world. We had to run to the show to see it. On the way there, Addison, Asher and I lost Chris and Alivia. We watched the show apart, then tried to find each other. The show, by the way, was fabulous!! Chris was not happy, though. We ended up meeting up at the bus stop. It was beyond crazy.
On Sunday we went to the Animal Kingdom arriving at 9 am at opening. We had 3 fast passes again, which are wonderful. We hit Kilimanjaro Safaris, which is a safaris through their animal area seeing elephants, tigers, giraffes and more. It is pretty cool. Expedition Everest was by far our favorite ride. The girls started crying asking us why we were making them do something they didn't want to do. We had a rule if one wanted to go we all had to go. Well, Asher, Chris and I wanted to ride it. Initially, they babied out and left with Chris (I would not have let them leave) and Chris got a switcher pass to go again. A switch pass is a fast pass for 3 people that helps in odd events or if a child is not tall enough, etc. Chris ended up going once with Alivia and then going again with Addison. They both claimed to not like it. The ride had no hills or anything. It did go backwards and was super fun (check out my facebook page to ride the ride with Asher and I. I videoed it and showed it to Alivia.We also had a fast pass to Dinosaur, which must not have been memorable because I don't really remember it. :) We rode the Kali River Rapids and got wet and then froze all afternoon. We left the ponchos in the room! Big mistake. We saw the Festival of the Lion King (good show), walked trails by the cool Tree of Life, The kids played in the Boneyard (which is an open play space and they loved it), and saw the wonderful show, "It's tough to be a bug." So fun! For dinner, we ate at the Rain Forest Cafe, which was fun and good. It was late when we left the park and we were ready for bed!
On Monday we hit Hollywood Studios. We started off seeing Buzz Lightyear and Woody at Pixar Place. Our first fast pass was to Toy Story Mania, an interactive 3D shooting gallery featuring characters from the Toy Story films. I personally thought the ride was silly and not worth the 90+ minute line people were waiting in. I mean seriously, 90 minutes!! That is crazy!! We went to Star Tours, a 3D motion simulator ride, set in the Star Wars universe. It is the refurbished prequel to the original attraction. It is a cool ride. We used a fast pass but the main line was only 20 minutes. We could pick from Toy Story or Rockin Roller Coaster for a fast pass and you could only have one of those 2. So, we went to Hollywood 2 days picking one of those fast passes per visit. Now that I know, I would have skipped the silly Toy Story to go to Rockin Roller Coaster. But, Asher was too short for Rockin. I'll get to that. We also had a fast pass to Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, a thrill ride that drops in an elevator with multiple high speed drops and ascents. Special effects include smell, lighting and sound. Very cool ride. Alivia and Addison called it the Terror of Torture. It was not bad...it was fun. Hollywood has many shows, too. We saw (rode) the Great Movie Ride (also silly), Beauty and the Beast, Indiana Jones, watched the Jedi Training with Dark Vader, Muppets in 3D (very cool show), Lights, Motor Action stunt show, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, and the kids liked Honey I shrunk the kids play area. We waited in a freakishly long line to see the Frozen Show and just got in. We had a fast pass for Friday but it was not until 12:15 and we had to be back for our airport bus at 1:15, cutting it too close. At night we saw Fantasmic, This nighttime spectacle with water projection screens, fireworks, and Disney character. My favorite was Osborne Street of Dancing Lights. All the buildings are covered in lights and dance to Christmas Music. It is Fabulous!! We ate diner and the Sci-Fi drive in diner. It was just like a 1950's drive in including the old cars to eat in. It was fun!
Tuesday and Wednesday we went to Magic Kingdom. We arrived and watched the opening of Magic Kingdom on Tuesday at 8 AM when all the characters come out to greet everyone and sing. It was fun and exciting. Magic Kingdom is huge. And, not knowing this, the fast passes I selected were all over the place. The websites did not say anything about this (or I missed it if they did). We walked and walked!! We road space mountain, a roller coaster in the dark, the haunted mansion, big thunder mountain railroad, pirates of the Caribbean, Magic Carpets of Aladdin, took the Jungle Cruise, walked through the Swiss Family Treehouse, road its a small world (and Asher wished the ride would GO FASTER!!), road the teacups (Mad Tea Party,), watched Mickey's Philharmagic, road Peter Pan's Flight, Road a Little Mermaid ride, Road Buzz Lightyears Space Ranger Spin, Astro Orbiter, Tomorrow land speed way which were little cars you could drive around a race track, the transit authority (which was to be the transit of the future), and watched Monster Inc's laugh floor (which was really funny), and the kids liked this smaller roller coaster, The Barnstormer. It was maybe a 45 second ride. There is a lot to do at Magic. We ate a buffet lunch at the Crystal Palace where the kids saw Pooh and friends. I would recommend this one. Eating buffets seemed to be the way to go because the offerings were so limited on the other menus that many times there was nothing we liked. On Tuesday I had purchased tickets to Mickey's very Merry Christmas because I had read there were fewer people, lines, during the event. Um, not true for the most part. Chris was exhausted so saved us a spot for the Frozen Castle Event, Christmas Parade and Fireworks while the kids and I road the 7 Dwarfs Mine train. The line for 7 dwarfs is typically 60-90 minutes at least. It said 60 minutes when we jumped in line but the line didn't look that long AND I was hoping the timer was wrong. It turned out to be about 35 minutes. We finished up and raced to get back to Chris who was seriously getting lost in the crowds of people. When we got dinner of hotdogs! there was no place to sit. I walked for 10 minutes to find a place where we stood to eat. It was insane. The Disney cast members are very rigid with their rules, too. They are like walking, talking robots. It was weird and a little creepy actually. The Frozen Castle show, lighted Castle show and fireworks were seriously amazing!! HOWEVER, the kids were exhausted. We arrived a the park at 8 am because I thought the Christmas Party was WEDNESDAY NIGHT! So it turned out to be a very long day. After the fireworks, we went back inside the park to find the free cocoa and cookies that came with this $$$ Christmas Party Tickets. After a little rest, we decided to get in the lower line for Ana and Elsa from Frozen. During the day it is usually 90+ minutes to see these 2 but it said 30 minutes when we got in line. It was an hour. Seriously!! They were WAY off! The kids were laying on the ground by the time we reached them, but they perked up when they met the princesses. Then it was back to the bus. We waited probably an hour and a half for a bus. There were lines of people. And, wheelchairs and scooters can ride ride up to the bus and get on without waiting, sometimes filling up the bus with the chairs and scooters because their families can get on to. I understand they have special needs but come on. We got back to our room at 1 AM!!! It was crazy!!
On Wednesday, we slept in a bit and arrived at the park after 9 (and Magic opened at 8). We road the haunted mansion again for Addison and Big thunder mountain for Alivia, space mountain for all, and used the fast pass we had so Daddy could ride 7 dwarfs mine train. We also road Splash mountain with ponchos. We did not know how that would work with its 50 foot drop, but we all survived without any tears (and they liked it!). For Lunch we ate at Cinderella's Castle. We saw all the princesses (even though we had seen pretty much all of them at the first dinner). It was cool to be inside the castle eating. Asher even got a sword. Very cool and fun. We left mid afternoon to go to the resort so the kids could swim a bit. For dinner, we ate at Chef Mickeys, a buffet at Contemporary Resort right next to Magic. The buffet was wonderful (although Asher could not find a thing to eat!). The desserts were amazing and cute! We ended day 2 sitting down for an hour waiting for the electrical parade and meeting some new people from New York. The parade was fun and cute too, just as I remembered Disney Lands electrical parade I saw as a kid. Another "Magical" day.
Thursday it was back to Epcot. We road Fast Track with a fast pass and saw the remaining shows we had not seen, Turtle Talk with Crush and the Seas with Nemo and Friends (both cute). We then walked through the Epcot Worlds. Our friends Jen and Dan had told us about being able to select pearls at Epcot in Japan. We found the store and Alivia and Addison picked out the ugliest, hairiest oyster in hopes of getting 2 pearls. They got 2!!! It was so fun! The lady taught the girls to say 1, 2, 3 in Japanese (sun, knee, itchy!). Addison said it was the best part of her day. Now, we have to make them into necklaces for them. After all the fun, we went to Downtown Disney to go shopping. The kids were exhausted and hated this. We split from there and they swam. We planned on going back to Epcot for the Evening Entertainment, but the kids wanted to eat at the resort...so we did.
Friday morning we went back to Hollywood for our final day. We got right on the Tower of Terror walking right on without a line! Then we used our fast pass to the Rockin Roller Coaster with Aerosmith. Asher, at 44 inches, could not ride as the ride required you to be 48 inches. He was VERY disappointed!! We got a switch pass. Alivia and I rode first, then Chris and Addi rode, and then Addi and I rode again. They do have a single person line that is shorter than the 90 minute normal line. We then went back to see the Frozen Show again so we could video it. It is a very good, fun show.
It was then time to go. We went back to our hotel and fixed things on our bill. We had the dining plan but they charged our credit card instead of our dining plan (very frustrating!). They fixed it and gave us extra credit on our credit card. Very nice! We had meals left over when we left though. So...in the end, Disney came ahead.
Websites I used to plan: http://wdwprepschool.com/ and easywdw.com and http://yourfirstvisit.net/. We loved Art of Animation and would recommend. But, if you have a smaller family and can afford it, staying at the Contemporary resort would be great as it is close enough to walk back and on the monorail if you don't want to walk. Stay on Disney to make your life easier. Believe me, you do not want to have to drive back. And, you keep your vacation Disney focused. We did not stress about going to the beach. We asked the kids and they wanted to swim at the pool...so that is what we did. We will do a beach vacation next time. Pack in layers, at least in the winter. It is chilly in the morning and evening but warm during the day. Take a carry on bag filled with snacks. You will eat the snacks and then have the carry on bag to put souvenirs in for your return trip home. It worked great! Check your Disney dining plan daily so you know what you have left to use (which we did not do) so you are not getting 15 snacks upon check out (which is what we did) and leaving behind meals that you paid for. And, go to Disney. It is worth the money for a lifetime of memories.
We will return. We loved Disney. Everyone is happy there (except Addison). We learned a lot about our family. Chris is very laid back, I am not. Alivia is a worrier about everything and saves her money. Addison likes to whine, is rarely happy even at Walt Disney World, and spends every single penny she has (she bought something almost every day we were there!) and Asher has so much energy and can be very ornery. Asher picked on his sisters a lot! He drove me CRAZY!! with his endless energy. It was an amazing trip, a trip of a lifetime, magical :). We are thankful we saved and were able to go...finally.
Here is to returning again, someday.