Monday, April 15, 2013

Our freakin' amazing Disney Vacation!

Apparently my public has been waiting to hear about our Disney trip. :) For those of you traveling with toddlers or young ones in the near future, I hope this helps!

For Christmas, my amazing parents planned a week-long Disney Vacation for our whole family. Four parks in five days + Disney Dining Plan + staying on the Disney grounds= perfection!

Since the drive to Orlando is a lengthy one, we decided to make it a two-day drive. We stopped the first night at Tevie's brother's house. We celebrated my birthday a few days early and got to visit with Dane's Poppy and Gran, Uncle Jess & Aunt Meagan, and Aunt Theresa before heading to Florida.

The next day vacation began!! We started the day with a new, special toy for Dane to play with in the car: a Monsters Inc play set. Really, it only needed to consist of Sulley (Suzzy) and Roz because they are his favorites. Sulley I get, but Roz? Who knows. :)

A dear friend from college lives in Birmingham. So even though it was going to add another 90minutes or so to the trip, it gave us a place to stay and the opportunity to break up an otherwise long trip. If you're traveling with a little one, I would recommend this. Two shorter days are easier for us than one excruciatingly long one (we ended up with two painfully long days on the way home, but I'll get there in a minute.)
I folded down the seats in our Expedition and brought lots of pillows and blankets so we could stretch out. This ended up being crucial especially when Dane was begging to get "down" (out of his seat) while we sat (literally with the vehicle in park) in traffic for long periods of time. That is my one caveat: NEVER GO ON VACATION DURING SPRING BREAK. The traffic was miserable!

Thankfully, movies and playing wore our little guy out and he napped pretty well in the car.
So after a night with Uncle Bruce (and a super nice dinner, thanks again!!) we were headed for Disney! Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning! (Props to you if you can name that Disney movie!)

Dane got carsick for the first time EVER while we sat in traffic in Atlanta. Thankfully we were close to an exit so Tevie pulled off. We got him cleaned up, let him run around and breathe fresh air for a minute and then got back on the interstate to sit in that traffic again. :( It may add more time to the trip, but, for us, stopping along the way is hugely beneficial. We love Chik-fil-A and since we live in a depraved area of the country where there isn't one on every corner, we take advantage of eating there when traveling. They are usually close the interstate, always clean, and the Christian music on the overhead radio is a major plus. Dane also enjoyed his first Five Guys experience on this trip. He is a ketchup-lover just like every other Gooden boy.

After 9 hours and some less than awesome traffic, we MADE IT!
We stayed at the Ft. Wilderness Campground. Dad and my sister, Brynn, met us in the golf cart at the main entrance and we followed them to our site. Dane was happy to see them, but really he was just glad to be riding the golf cart. :) It was the one thing he asked for over and over again all week... lucky for him, he can ride it at Papa and Granna's any time he wants!
I wish we had planned for a day to just hang out at the campground. It had so many cool things that we didn't get to do because we were so worn out by the end of the day.

Sunday morning was our first day in the park (and my BIRTHDAY!). It was Easter Sunday, and as you know, we celebrate that day a little differently: we Forget the Frock. Here we are in our Orphan Tshirts at Magic Kingdom.
 On your birthday, you get a pin to wear that reads "Happy Birthday" and has your name written on it. ALL DAY LONG Cast Members wished me a happy birthday. Not gonna lie, it was pretty cool!
birthday lunch at "Be Our Guest". Worth the wait!!!

I've lost count of the number of times I've been to Disney World/Land, but I felt like this was the first time because I was seeing it as Dane saw it. Disney with your child is truly magical. But, he was a bit overwhelmed with everything!
taking in all the sights on Main Street USA
riding the carousel with daddy
Riding Dumbo with Mommy and Daddy & It's a Small World with Papa
I asked them to "lean in" for a picture, and this is what I got. My brother is very funny!

When you stay in the park (meaning at any of the Disney resorts), you get to the opportunity to be a part of Extra Magic hours. So you're in the park before the commonfolk every day! This was crucial with Dane, especially on our first day at Magic Kingdom. We hit the park first thing and had finished all of Fantasy Land before the lines started. We walked right on to the new Little Mermaid ride and even Peter Pan. We even got to run over to Tomorrow Land and ride Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin before the crowds got too bad. 

The best part of our first day at Magic Kingdom (other than it being my birthday!) was Dane's FIRST HAIRCUT! The sweet woman who cut his hair deserves a sainthood. Thank you, Beverlene, for making it such a special occasion! Dane didn't want to sit in the chair, so Papa bribed him with a Mickey-shaped rice krispie treat. That did the trick!

 With the Disney Dining Plan you eat like kings all week. It's a good thing you walk so much, other wise we all would have been sick. Apparently we chose the more popular restaurants, because even 3 months in advance we either couldn't get in or got a weird reservation time. Mostly we ended up eating a really early dinner (like 3:45pm), which was great for the little guy. After getting up early to get to the park, it was nice to eat early and go back to rest and recoup for the evening. Because we visited Magic Kingdom twice, on our second day at that park we slept in (well some of us! The men were ready to hit rides early, so the Toddler and his entourage slept in and took our time) and hit the park late, took a midday/early evening break and then went back for the 9pm parade and fireworks. So worth it! Dane had so much fun that night! 

Dane has never been a great napper. I was really worried about how that whole thing was going to go. We brought out Chicco stroller. It's ginormus, but reclines and he likes riding in it. We thought we might need midday breaks for naps, but Dane would inevitably pass out in someone's lap on a ride or during a show and take a good hour-long nap in his stroller. Even with all the noise and commotion, he napped like a champ.

riding the People Mover...sound asleep!
So, Sunday (and Wednesday) was Magic Kingdom. Monday was Hollywood Studios. Personally, other than the Toy Story Midway Mania ride (use Extra Magic hours, be there waiting in the line for the gates to open and then RUN for it and grab a FastPass--worth it!!), I could do without this park. But it might have been one of Dane's best days. He got to meet Mike &Sulley from Monsters, Inc. In general, he was all about waving hello and giving high-fives to the characters, he did NOT want to be hugged for touched. :) 

The Disney Junior Live show is at HS. I would have PAID to see just that. Dane's faces were absolutely priceless. I used up all the memory on my phone taking video in that show. He was in heaven!
Tuesday was Animal Kingdom. This was the hottest day of our trip, but because the park is so shaded with trees for the animal enclosures, it didn't feel bad at all. Dane is the biggest animal lover. I don't think there was a section of this park he didn't like!

We started with breakfast at the Tusker House. The secret is to book an 8am reservation. The park doesn't open until 9am (unless there are EMH) so you can be the first people on the Kilimanjaro Safaris! 

That white smear all over my dress is dried hand sanitizer. Looong story, but let's just say this germophobe haaated being in a theme park all day without hand sanitizer!

Dane seemed particularly fond of Daisy Duck

rockin' Aunt B's shades at the Bird Show

looking for Nemo while we waited for Finding Nemo: The Musical to begin!
After a full day at Animal Kingdom, we had dinner at Animal Kingdom Lodge. My favorite meal of the week!

Our Epcot day was cute waaaaay short due to rain. :( We enjoyed a few of the sights before the rain hit though!

 We walked to Japan in the World Showcase for lunch... and then the rain hit. Dane fell asleep (midbite!) during lunch. So, we folded up the stroller and I tied up the Moby wrap and carried my sleeping toddler (who is HUGE and killed my back!) through the rain back to the car. We laughed the whole way and had fun though! It wasn't raining too hard for my parents, sister and brother-in-law though-- they grabbed a beer in Germany before meeting us at the car!

Feeling guilty about cancelling dinner reservations at Epcot, and because the rain finally stopped, we decided to head back out for one last evening of fun before heading home the next day. Tevie discovered the Boardwalk had a bunch of restaurants and shopping, so we loaded up in the car and headed there. Take my advice: skip Downtown Disney and head to the Boardwalk!!! Awesome atmosphere, lots of restaurants and cute gift shops and (at least for us) NO CROWDS! It was the perfect ending to a perfect week!

My parents are AAA members, so we had a ton of perks associated with that like seating for fireworks and great parking. Other than the spring break crowds, I wouldn't change a thing! We originally booked this week because my brother's high school jazz band was supposed to be playing at Disney during this time. Their date was changed to the summer, but we kept ours. The weather, minus some rain, was beautiful and everyone is so stinkin' nice at Disneyworld!

The trip home included another night with Uncle Bruce and lunch at a little greasy spoon that makes te BEST Philly Cheese steak sandwich I have ever had. If I ever come up missing, look for me in Homewood, AL. The downtown was full of more cute little shops that I could handle and the homes... o.m.g. Absolute preciousness.

 Unfortunately, after leaving Birmingham, our trip home was not the icing on the cake of our awesome week. After 4+ hours in crazy I-65 traffic, we booked a hotel room and pulled off that parking lot that was the interstate that day. It ended up being a super-fun night for us. Eating take-out on the floor, drinking wine out of a coffee cup and watching Final Four basketball was just what the doctor ordered.
We were finally in the homestretch, just 40 miles from home, when our battery died. PRAISE THE LORD in Tevie's home town so his parents could come to our rescue. An impromptu ice cream date with Poppy and Gran made it a not-so-bad stop. :)

Our trip was truly magical, traffic and breakdown included. :) Dane was a total rockstar the whole time. When mommy and daddy were tired of being in the car, he was still ready to power through and watch another movie on the DVD player! We can't wait to go back!