Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Disney World 2013

{Brace yourselves for the longest picture post in the history of this blog... you’ve been warned!}

Last week, the Sims took off to sunny Florida to the happiest place on earth!  Much like Hawaii, I pre-planned myself to death and by the time we were ready to load up, Caroline and Tyler were more pumped about getting in the motor home and finding their “surprises from Mickey and Minnie” than where we were actually heading.  Everything is so much fun when you’re three, you know. :)

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Connor wasn’t sure about any of this business.

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Their reactions were priceless when they saw their goody baskets from Mickey and Minnie!  They were filled with everything Disney I could find:  coloring books, crayons, cookie sheets with alphabet and number magnets, “scenes and stickers” sheets, glittery bracelets (Caroline), sticky hands (Tyler), snack cups that said “My First Trip to Disney World," dry erase boards/markers and puzzles.  Not saying that it was totally because of these, but they were EXCELLENT travelers for the next eight hours!

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I volunteered to drive since Nathan had pulled an all-nighter at the hospital, thinking he could sleep in the back bedroom all the way to Florida.  I was a bit nervous about commandeering a 32-foot vehicle down the open road, but after a few minutes I was all “I GOT THIS!”  (From the nods I got from more than a few truckers, I do believe they agreed).

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After a rest stop or two, we finally arrived at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort!  This was our first time hooking up a motorhome to a campsite and figuring out all the bells and whistles, but luckily I have a smart husband.  We were grilling burgers and watching the Lion King in no time (had to set the tone!).

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The next morning we took our time getting up, made a huge pancake and sausage breakfast, and got ready for the Magic Kingdom.  It was pretty cold for Florida, so Tyler and Caroline wore their only turtleneck shirts.  They couldn’t wait to take Minnie and “Mickey Junior” to see Cinderella’s castle!   One of the neatest things about staying at Fort Wilderness was that all we had to do was walk about 1/4 mile to the marina and catch a ferry over to the Magic Kingdom.  I requested our site to be near that area (The Fort is HUGE – like 700 acres) and they definitely delivered.  To get to other theme parks, we just caught the bus across the street from our loop back to the outpost, then caught the bus to that particular park.  So easy!

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Let me just say that we were shocked upon entering the Magic Kingdom…  It was PACKED to the gills.  You could barely move and I have never been more thankful for fighting for the jogging stroller to come along!  (Nathan finds it a bit cumbersome, but it sure was helpful with navigating the shoulder-to-shoulder traffic).  As luck would have it, “It’s a Small World” had the shortest line so that was our first ride.  Quintessential Disney – so fitting!

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Another ride without a two hour wait:  The RAILROAD.  Little man was in heaven.

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“People Mover” in Tomorrowland proved to be another favorite of the trip. The line moved quickly and you could see a lot of the park as you went through, so we ended up riding it several times while we waited on Fast Pass times to come around.

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Our first family pic in front of the castle!  The kids were so into it! 

(Don’t think I didn’t make this happen a few more times… which Nathan was so into – HA!)

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As we walked from one “land” to another, we caught the character show in front of the castle.  This made Tyler and Caroline stop in their tracks, as it was the first time they’d seen the REAL Mickey and Minnie!! 

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After a few hours at MK, we decided to catch the ferry back to the Fort and grill out.  I know a lot of people like the dining plans at Disney (and we did eat a few meals there), but we really enjoyed cooking our own food.  I went to Sam’s before we left and stocked up on steaks, chicken, burgers and hot dogs and then Nathan fired up the charcoal grill each night.   We had SO much food for so much less money… not to mention it was more delicious than any of our meals elsewhere!   After dinner, we braved the chilly winds and headed back over for more fun.  The crowds were much thinner and we could just walk onto everything – including Dumbo and Mad Tea Party – which Caroline and Tyler were obsessed with!

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We also caught the Electrical Parade on Main Street, which was awesome.

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As much as we thought we’d turn in early that night, it didn’t happen.  We didn’t want to give up all those quick rides and the kids were having a blast!  Everyone was tired enough to fall asleep quickly, which was good, because the next morning was my birthday and our character meal at Tusker House in the Animal Kingdom!  All the kids could talk about for an entire week was meeting Mickey & Minnie in person, so it was a big day for us all.

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While in line for our meet & greet with Donald Duck, Caroline put on a little show.  This girl CRACKS ME UP.

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Our time had come!  The kids were deathly afraid! 

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Once we got inside, though, Tyler came around.  Caroline… not so much.

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She hid between this chair and the wall every time one of the characters got near our table.  The funniest thing was that she was so excited about them, pointing and smiling and SO HAPPY that they were in the room with us.  Then in the heat of the moment she wigged out and wouldn’t even be in their vicinity – unless “mommy goes too!”.  I’m just glad I fixed my hair this time.

Tyler, on the other hand, was a rock star.  He was loving every minute.

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Things turned around for our little sissy once we hit “Camp Minnie and Mickey,” though.  She mustered up the courage and pledged that she REALLY wanted to meet Minnie (who wasn’t part of the breakfast – only Mickey, Donald, Daisy and Goofy).  She was so proud of herself and looked at that autograph no less than one hundred times over the next few days.

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After Minnie, we trekked toward “Africa” and found a zoo-like trail.  At the first exhibit, I could barely see the animal we were supposed to be looking at but Tyler turned around and immediately informed us “it’s a kapi because it has stripes.”  I had NO IDEA what he was talking about, nor did Nathan, and Caroline kept saying it was either a giraffe or a zebra (which we could tell even from a distance that it was not).  They carried on back and forth between “IT’S A KAPI!” and “NO IT’S A ZEBRA!” for about five minutes, and Nathan then looked at me and said, “How do you spell that?  COPY?  I’m going to look it up.  He seems to be pretty sure of himself.”  Being the scholars we are, I concurred with COPY…  Consult Google, stat.

“IT’S A KAPI!”   …   “NO, IT’S A GIRAFFE!  OR A ZEBRA!”

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As Nathan was Googling, we continued our path and came to the end of the exhibit, wherein lied:

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I LITERALLY ALMOST DIED FROM A HEART ATTACK.  My kids often impress me, but this took the cake.  You, kid, are some kind of smart. 

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As we made our way around the rest of the trail, we caught a better glimpse of the “okapi,” which I obviously had to document!  (For the record, we believe he learned this from Go Diego Go.  He never told us, but we can’t think of anywhere else it would have come from. It just surprising that he would recognize the LIVE animal so easily if that was the case.)

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Somewhere in Africa, we caught a sweet safari.  It was our favorite “ride” in the Animal Kingdom for sure.

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Time for a cat nap!

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Posing in front of the Tree of Life was my birthday present.  I said all I wanted was both of them to smile in a picture. :)

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Aside from character interaction, this girl is always willing to bring it-

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On Sunday, we decided to try a slower pace.  Our campsite backed straight up to a great playground as well as a dog park and pond, so between short visits to the Magic Kingdom again, we hung out there. 

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Our mid-afternoon trip to MK was mostly important because we finally got to ride the Buzz Lightyear ride (thank you Fast Pass!).  Oh, and the People Mover yet again.

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On Monday we decided to give Epcot a go.  I assumed Caroline and Tyler would be bored with a lot of it, but they were pulling such crazy hours on this trip that I figured they could nap easily in the stroller if they felt like it (plenty of nights we’d stay at the parks till 9 because of the crowd being so much better at that time, making dinner at 9:30 and bed at 11!).  As we waited for the bus, a plane began writing this message in the sky and I knew it would be a good day regardless.  :)

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Often, I catch these moments totally unprompted, which I LOVE…

(Bus ride to Epcot)

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Another highlight of our entire trip (in both Animal Kingdom and Epcot) was the Finding Nemo attractions.  The show at AK was absolutely fantastic (as well as Lion King) and the ride was pretty cute at Epcot.  Taking pictures in Bruce’s mouth after it was a must-do.

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As I had done each day we weren’t at the campsite for lunch, I packed food and brought it with us.  After we ate our sandwiches, the kids were more interested in delving in the snack bag and strolling than waiting in lines for more rides.  Nathan and I decided that it was a perfect time to cruise around the world, with the first stop being Canada.  We happened upon a random shop in the back of the plaza, and out of all places, Winnie the Poo and Tigger were standing in the back of it WITHOUT A LINE!!!  They had apparently just arrived and were starting the session, so we couldn’t believe our luck.  Caroline was still gun-shy about the whole hugging them thing, but she would stand there for a picture at least.  Tyler, again, was all over it!

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Moments later, while clutching their sacred autographs, this happened right on cue.

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So he and I did some quiet, adult-like exploration.  It was awesome.

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Once through the world, the kids started to wake up and we found ourselves at one of the “Character Spots.”  Part of the reason I booked the meal at Tusker House was so we wouldn’t feel the need to do these, but the line was only 10 minutes and Tyler was PUMPED to see Mickey (again) and Pluto.  Caroline was equally stoked about her girl, Minnie.  What else were we to do?

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Knock us over with a feather!  She HUGGED MINNIE!

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With both kids awake and in good moods, we decided to cruise through the world showcase again.  We just knew they would love the mini-train village in Germany, and boy did they ever.

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And then it was our last day… {SAD}

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It was a warm, 70 degree day and finally felt like Florida, so of course it was time to go!  I felt like taking pictures of every moment, especially since both Tyler and Caroline were really into the whole experience at this point.  They’d finally gotten the hang of Disney World and all of its magic!

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Near the end of the morning, Tyler was ready to “go back to the motorhome and play trains.”  Caroline wasn’t quite through with Dumbo, though, so Nathan stayed back with him and manned the camera.

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Once we got back to Fort Wilderness, we had a picnic lunch outside and let the kids run wild for a little bit.  Tyler had a little too much fun with the sand, as you can see.  100% BOY.

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(Tyler was so filthy we had to recycle one of his outfits… oh well).

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After a few hours of down time, we headed back to the marina to catch the ferry.  Whether it was the weather or the finality of our trip, I made sure to soak this ride in.  The gorgeous sunset.  The beautiful little girl with a side pony tail blowing in the wind, anxiously awaiting glimpses of the castle as we approached.  The little boy lounging in my lap.  It was quite perfect.

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Once we departed the ferry, we could hardly believe our eyes.  NOT A SOUL was in front of the entrance, as if the angels had personally opened the glorious gates just for us!  (After the previous few days, we felt we deserved it :)

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Caroline had taken a nap during our mid-afternoon break, Tyler had not.  A few minutes after entering the MK, this was the state of affairs:

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We did a few things he could sleep through (like Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor), and once he woke up, we exhausted every ride we enjoyed. They loved Pirates of the Caribbean so much that we walked out with two shiny swords, and they even got to visit Caroline’s current favorite read:  Beauty and the Beast.  “Enchanted Tales with Belle” had over a 90 minute wait every other day, but we put in 15 minutes on this particular night.  By the time we made it to the library and met the real Belle up close and personal, they were gun shy.  They wouldn’t go up without me and this picture just says it all!  LOL!

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We stayed later than planned that night, ate sweet kettle corn and rode a million rides.  We bought our Christmas ornament (tradition from every vacation).  We watched our last Electrical Parade and took our final ferry back to Fort Wilderness.  It had been a crazy adventure, but an unforgettable first trip for the kids.  As most families probably determine, they had just about as much fun at the “place to stay” as the “place to play.”  Disney definitely knows how to do it!

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Loaded up and ready to go with their newest prized possessions:  a remote-controlled Mickey & Friends train, pirate swords, and Dumbo!

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We did have a wonderful time, but there’s a few things we won’t do again -like plan our trip during my birthday/President’s weekend! I think the ideal time to go would be September, so we may try that next time.  Most kids are in school, and it would be early enough in the year that most aren’t taking vacation yet.  Also, we wouldn’t have such leisurely mornings and saunter into the parks just before lunch.  Rookie mistake!!  The last day was our best one, and it was largely due to our timing.  We got there around 9, stayed until lunch, then went back late afternoon-evening.  It gave all of us a breather, which is much-needed in a place like Disney World.  I would also skip Tusker House since we ended up seeing a lot of the characters without a lot of effort.  $130 for breakfast is just a bit steep… but maybe I’m cheap.  Not worth it unless you’re on the dining plan, I’d say! 

As for the things I did right…

I planned surprises for each morning that Mickey and Minnie had “sent” over.  They were nothing special – character juices, glow sticks/bracelets/wands, giant swirly suckers (like the ones they sell at the parks) – but they were enough to keep Tyler and Caroline asking for anything.  We told them they could each pick one big prize before we left, and that’s where the Mickey train and Dumbo came in.  We also ate our own food at “home,” and when we were at the parks, I packed peanut butter sandwiches, fruit, granola bars, raisins, squeeze apple sauce, waters, etc.  We NEVER went hungry, and the only snack we bought was the kettle corn on the last night because it smelled amazing.  Disney doesn’t care at all how much food you bring in so I loaded that big ol’ stroller up!  Also a big hit were the glow sticks/necklaces, since once evening hits there are vendors selling every light-up toy you can imagine.  As we were walking one night, one vendor said in passing “smart idea bringing your own!”  Seeing as I found them all at the Dollar Tree, it was a great return on investment.  :)

17 comments:

  1. I can't wait to take our little ones to Disney World!!!!!

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  2. This is great! All of the shirts turned out so cute! :) I'm glad y'all had a great time. We are gearing up to make our trip to Disney in 28 days!!!

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  3. The cookie sheets with magnetic letters are an awesome idea!! Love all the Disney tips too. We can't wait for our twins to get a little older so we can take them there!

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    1. Thank you! Three is really the earliest I think you can take them, I'm glad we waited. I have wanted to take them before based on their Mickey & Minnie fascination but it really would have been "too much" - Disney is expensive and the kids need to be at least big enough to enjoy it!

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  4. Next time you plan on going to disney just call them and ask what the low week is. there is always a low week after the busy week like the week before or after presidents week.

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  5. I've been waiting for this post!! Looks amazing and makes me want to try it...someday.

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    1. Snyder Traveling Circus, Disney Edition" - I can see the blog post now :)

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  6. Oh my.....what an awesome vacation! I don't know who enjoyed it more....you & Nathan or the kids? What a magical place it is indeed. I loved all the pictures & felt like I was right there with you! The twins will love reading this blog one day and so will you & Nate! I love how you plan & hope you will plan one for all of us one day....how much fun could that be!!!! So glad you took the motor home too. It would be too hard to pick a favorite picture....but I did love the b&w of you & Sissy and Nate & Buddy! Thanks for sharing with us!!!!

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  7. Did you rent the motor home? Genius planning. We are heading there next year and I think September would be perfect.

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    1. No actually it belongs to my parents! Hope you have a great time!,

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  8. All in all a great trip! The first trip to WDW can always be overwhelming and exhausting!

    We are a Disney family. We travel down every year in January and a few other intermittent trips here & there. We typically go the last week in January. NO CROWDS. It's after the marathon weekend and there are no 3 day/long weekends for kids in school (we are still comfortable enough with taking the kids out of school for a week). Additionally, it is value season so it is cheaper.

    September is a good month to go, after all are back in school HOWEVER be forewarned it will still be quite hot & humid. It can make for very miserable days & nights.

    Always, always look for deals on the Disney website. They will not apply the deal to your trip unless you mention it to them. Another item to consider..the meal plans. They will save you $$$ and are completely worth it. You pay a fixed rate per day for kids and per adult. It will make those $130 buffets not seem so bad when you're only paying $25/per kid per day.

    Next trip, hit me up. I am a certified Disney travel consultant. Disney only. I love planning Disney trips for my family and others. It woud be my pleasure to help you. It comes at no cost to you. Something to think about. :)

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    1. Thanks for the tips! I will definitely consult with you next time around :-)

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  9. Looks like an amazing trip! I love the leopard minnie shirt!!! The family shots, and the one of them in front of Epcot, just love!! Makes me want to go.

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  10. I can't wait to take my girls to Disney World! They are just under 6 months now and we live in Hawaii, so we still have a few years before we are going to brave that distance--so I have to live vicariously through others :) I LOVE the goody baskets--what a fun way to start out the trip... and little treats continuing each day is a great idea!

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