Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Seven Things I Learned About Disney

For anybody thinking of heading to Disney.
  1. Get Memory Makers.  It's $150 if you buy it early and it is SO worth it.  We were able to shoot a few pictures w/ our cameras, but it was nice to have the whole family in photos and random other shots that were taken with a better camera than I have!  Also, you get pictures from rides like Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Test Track, Everest Expedition and more! 
  2. Fast Pass the things you want to ride or see asap!  If you get your magic bands and tickets before you arrive, fast pass things as soon as you can.  If you get to your fast pass attraction and find a short line, go through the short line.  You can change your Fast Pass selections at a kiosk with ease!
  3. If you don't get Magic Bands with your tickets... get them when you get to the park.  They make fast pass, photos, etc easier!! 
  4. Don't be afraid to eat there even if you have allergies!  There are tons of options.  Just let the staff know of your allergies and they will help.
  5. Bring lots of water and snacks!  You'll be thirsty and the kids may get munchy!
  6. Date your spouse if you can.  One of my favorite evenings was when Matt and I left our kiddos with my inlaws at the condo and just meandered through Magic Kingdom and caught the fireworks.  It was fun to just hang out there, go on rides and not worry about losing a child. 
  7. Other than your fast pass ideas... throw your plans out the window, relax and ENJOY!  If the kids want to go to 'x' when your itinerary says 'y', go to 'x' anyway.  The trip is all about the family having a good time, after all. 

The One About Our Disney Experience Overall

On Day 8 we zipped to Downtown Disney.  Unfortunately one of my children got sick in the car, so the child and I sat in the car for an hour while the others ventured out.  We joined them after an hour since the child was feeling much better.  (It's a "usual" thing for this child... not an illness related thing.)  Downtown Disney was nice.  We only ventured into a few stores... the kids LOVED the Lego store the most!  The girls each bought a Lego Friends princess set and the boys bought some sets they liked as well. 

Our Disney experience was overall AWESOME!!  4 days were definitely NOT enough time to hit all the parks thoroughly, but enough time to experience the parks and get a good feel for what they are all about.  I have already started to look into going again in 3-5 years... though I'm not sure we will. 

Disney does an amazing job of keeping the "magic" alive.  If Snow White is performing on stage, she's not anywhere else in the park. That way they keep it as though she's the only Snow White.  If a child or even an adult is wearing a button that says it's their birthday, all the staff says, "Happy Birthday" when they see them... even the guy opening and closing the ropes for the monorail.  When the girls were dressed as princesses, they were treated royally.  The staff would comment on their dresses and call them "Princess".  They loved it!  Even the princesses commented, "What Kingdom are you from?"  Cinderella quipped to Karah,"Look! We're twins!!" since Karah was wearing a Cinderella dress.  All of the princesses except for Merida were so kind to the girls as well. They took time to speak with each girl and asked them questions.  They hugged them and gave them autographs and good pictures.  Merida, for some reason, wasn't very kind and just shooed the children through.  In fact... she only allowed 2 photos and one of them she's making a goofy face.  KT is too.. lol!

I was nervous about eating at Disney and the first two days we were so busy we just snacked on our own food and ate dinner when we got home.  The two days we did eat out went well and I did not get sick!  At Epcot we ate at Chefs de France.  This was a nice sit down restaurant.  I loved that our waiter was from France.  He looked a bit like the guy from ratatouille.  He was very friendly and enjoyed my kiddos quips of "Merci" and "Tres Bien".  The chef came out before we ordered and spoke with me about my gluten and dairy allergies.  I was able to have fish and potatoes that were very tasty!  At Animal Kingdom we ate at Flame Tree BBQ. This is a 'fast food' type restaurant.  When I mentioned my allergies, they sent a chef out w/ a book that had all the ingredients listed.  I was able to pick out a yummy chicken salad.  No repercussions.  There were also frozen fruit popsicles that I could eat and a variety of other snacks in all of the parks.  (Not to mention STARBUCKS!!  I got my soy coffee Frappuccino a few times! yum!)  

Like I said.. overall, our Disney experience was amazing.  I have to admit I wasn't sure what it was going to be like.  The crowds were a bit much and our whole family was a bit overwhelmed by the number of people at Magic Kingdom, but otherwise we had an amazing time and are so thankful for the trip.  Great memories were made!

The Florida Vacation One...Days 6 & 7

I'm catching up from the comfort of my own living room now.  I got a bit busy and tired to keep up! 

Day 6 was Epcot Center!  The first ride we went on was the Test Track.  If you ever get a chance to go to Epcot, hit this rid.  It is fun!!  Definitely Fast Pass it as it was busy right off the bat in the morning.  The kids designed cars and then got to ride around a track... it went faster than I expected and was tons of fun!!

We had lunch in "France" with everybody in our crew.  KT wanted to try a lemon.  Her reaction was priceless.  This girl amuses me.  She also ate her marinara sauce like tomato soup instead of pouring it on her pasta. Silly child.  We ate at Chefs de France and they were very accommodating for my gluten and dairy free needs.  (Will blog about that in my "Overlook of Disney" post.)

We stopped to get a picture taken in front of the ball and fountain.  We took a few serious ones, but I like this silly one with Tinkerbell!  The boys didn't get into it quite as much as us girls did. 

The whole crew...  The lady wasn't sure she'd fit us all in easily, but here we are! 

The girls even got to meet a few princesses... Aurora and Snow White! 

One of my favorite photos with Matt and I in France... if you look closely, you can see our children at the end of the fountain.
Overall, Epcot was great!  Unfortunately the younger two children were complaining, hot and miserable, so after we walked through the World Showcase, listened to some awesome singers in "America" and went on a Viking ride in "Norway", we decided it was time to head home.  We missed out on one section of Epcot, but we had fun anyway and made it back to the condo in time to swim and relax a bit. 

On Day 7,we hit Animal Kingdom!  This was our favorite park, though we didn't get many pictures.  We took a safari ride, went on a rapids ride (my favorite!!) and watched the Nemo musical (which was AWESOME, by the way!) 

Animal Kingdom has this huge tree in the center of the park with carvings all over it.  It is called the Tree of Life. This picture was taken at the end of a very fun, but tiring day.   

One thing Karah and Nathan did there was a roller coaster ride with their Uncle Pete and his girlfriend.  They LOVED it!  Love how the girls are screaming in this picture, but the boys look "ho-hum".  They really wanted to go again, but we ran out of time.
We brought the kids back to the condo and had a mini-date!  Matt and I went back to Magic Kingdom alone.  Wandered the whole park, went on Splash Mountain (which wasn't as thrilling as I had hoped) and watched the fireworks display together.  I wish we had stayed late w/ the kids the night we went to Magic Kingdom. They would have LOVED the fireworks show.  That is one of my biggest regrets about this week in Florida. 

Overall days 6 and 7 were great!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The One With Our Florida Vaction...Days 4-5

Is it day 6 already?  Amazing!  My goal was to blog daily, but one day we didn't do anything except settle in and play in the pool.  Since then we've been so busy I haven't had time to blog!

On Sunday we went to Hollywood Studios. This is the park I wasn't sure we'd spend much time in, so we picked it purposefully for Sunday since the boys had plans to see the Blue Man Group in the evening. 

Hollywood Studios was nice.  The kids got to take in quite a few shows.  Us girls went to see Muppets 3D, Beauty & The Beast and Ariel's show.  Here are my princesses just outside the Beauty and the Beast show. 

After we took in the shows, we wandered a bit through the world of animation and met Mickey and  Minnie!  KT was scared of Minnie at first.  She's always had an aversion to people in full animal costumes, but she warmed up after a bit...
We met up w/ the guys, took in one more show (Muppets 3D again since the guys hadn't seen it) and then scooted back to the hotel for a yummy dinner of pasta and shrimp that my MIL had prepared for us.  Yum!

The boys had fun at Hollywood Studios too... They took in an Indiana Jones and Stunt show. They also went on a ride called Star Tours. We just happened to be there on "May the Fourth" (Star Wars fans know what I'm talking about...)  So we got to see a Star Wars show and see random Star Wars characters walking around.  Unfortunately Disney's official Star Wars weekends don't start until May 16th, so we didn't get to spend time dong that. 

Now I come to yesterday!  Magic Kingdom Day!  I have to admit to being completely overwhelmed by Magic Kingdom.  SO MANY PEOPLE! And so much to do, see and experience.  There is no way to take it all in in one day.  So... we split off again, but not quite as much.  Us girls went off to visit the princesses that we could. We saw Merida, Rapunzel and Cinderella. 

We met back up and went on the People mover... then off to Adventure Land for a ride on the Jungle Cruise, but we stopped by Swiss Family Robinson's tree house first.  After the jungle cruise we got a bit lost... we tried to do a treasure hunt, but the attendant only gave us a map and no talisman... she said our bands would work, but they didn't.  So we ended up scooting into Frontierland to find a FastPass kiosk to change some things only to get caught up in a crowd waiting for the parade.  Somehow we ended up in a shady with a great spot to see the parade!!  It was great AND KT got to see Elsa and Anna!!  After the parade we ended up going to Tom Sawyer's island. I had to laugh because that was one of our favorite parts!  It wasn't very busy over there... we found a secluded picnic table in the midst of trees and sat down to eat and relax.  Then we meandered around the island.  It was relaxing and picked everyone's spirits back up.  We had been feeling a bit stressed with the crowds, fast pass not working right and so on...

After about 40 minutes of relaxation we decided we could hit the crowds again.  We went to Streets of America and took in the show at Hall of Presidents.  KT fell asleep on me, thankfully!!  Then we met up with my inlaws and took a ride on the steam boat.  We ended up splitting up again and the guys went on Pirate's of the Carribean while I took the girls to the carousel and Enchanted Tales with Belle.  I didn't know what that was, exactly... but I thought they might like it.  I was right!  Karah got to be in the show as Mrs. Potts.  It was a cute storytime where they choose children to act out the parts for Belle. They get to meet Belle, play with her and get their pictures taken with her.  So KT got to meet Belle too!!  She was a bit overwhelmed by that.  Belle has been one of her favorites for a few years.

After they our time with Belle, we met up w/ the whole family again.  Matt said that Karah and I should go on the Pirate's ride, so KT went off with Uncle Pete and his family to see ride the tea cups while we went on the Pirate's ride.  It was fun!  Karah and I both liked it. 

By this time it was about 9 pm and we were exhausted!  We decided not to stay for fireworks (slated to be around 10 or so I guess) and headed home.  Unfortunately we missed some fun things, but I guess that's par for the course at Disney.  The one thing I regret is that we didn't get our picture taken in front of the castle.  Otherwise it was an awesome day, fun experiences and great memories made!!

Friday, May 2, 2014

The One With a Florida Vacation... Day 3

This morning began with me wide awake before the children. 
 And when they did wake up, we had a sick child...  We debated what to do, but decided to press on.  We hopped in the car and headed down towards Florida.  We had planned to stop at St. Augustine on our way through, but it was pouring buckets when we went through, so we ended up going on.  We finally reached our condo in Kissimmee around 2:30!!  The kids were happy to be done with the drive!
As soon as we got to the condo, the kiddos unpacked and settled in. 
We went for a walk and marveled at the palm trees... so different from the trees where we live! :)
My inlaws arrived a few hours after we did and settled in.  Everyone went out to dinner except the sick child and I. (the sick child seemed 100% better, but we stayed back anyone just to rest. Mostly because *I* didn't feel like going anywhere! lol! )

After the kiddos were all tucked in, I stepped outside and saw this little guy.  I peeked into the boys room, saw that Erich was still awake and brought him out to see him...

And that concludes Day 3.  Looking forward to more adventures tomorrow!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The One with the Trip to Florida... Day 2.

The morning came early (ish).  KT and Erich always wake up by about 6:15 and today was no exception. They ended up waking most of us, but we managed to be lazy until about 8.  We were headed to Historic Jamestowne when we drove through Colonial Williamsburg.  We decided to stop there instead and wandered around for a little over an hour.  The weather was gorgeous and we enjoyed seeing the sites. 
Somehow I managed to get quite a few pictures of Nathan... and very few of the other children.

Nathan really liked this tree...
And the gardens are blooming beautifully down here!!  
After Williamsburg we hopped back in the car and headed south.  Nothing exciting happened along the way.  We arrived at the hotel in good time. One look at that hotel had us high tailing it out of there!  Stains on the bedding, broken beer bottle outside of the door, no shower curtain... I could go on.  But there was no way we would stay there.  So we hopped back in the car and headed another 45 minutes South.  This hotel is much better, thankfully!!  At least we are 45 minutes closer to our final destination!  And we had fun in the car anyway... singing and laughing.  I have a pretty awesome chauffer...
One more thing... when we arrived at our second hotel tonight, we saw this tree... KT insisted it was fake.  It doesn't look like any trees near us!