Hello to all my family and friends out there! It has been a while since my last post, it seems that this is becoming a common theme. To catch everyone up we have settled into our new home, lots of D.I.Y. remodels, got Joyce situated in a new school, Faith started pre-school, and we are still off and on trying to get Zori to go on the big girl potty (sometimes more successful than others, but over the last two days we’ve thrown away 2 pairs of underwear)! The girls were also honored to be flower girls in their Uncle Joshy’s wedding in December. Zori technically didn’t make it down the isle with her flower petals and ended up locking herself in a room by the end of the night, but it was a beautiful wedding, and I now finally have a sister! So from my last post to the end of 2015 we have had many changes and lots of fun.
I started to name this, “The Most Magical Place on Earth” but then I thought there are still so many other “Magical” places I would love to go. So, for now, we will say Disney World ranks as “The Most Magical Place in America”, in my book anyways. So there you have it, the Love family made our quest to Disney World this January over the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, and I have to say, with BiBi’s help, we conquered it! I have to give credit where it is due; myself and BiBi have some amazing clients that gave us tons of great tips and information to help plan. Not to mention letting us use their family time share, borrow strollers, etc! Did I mention, I love my job, and my clients?
Knowing how helpful it was for me to get the inside scoop on Disney for planning, I decided maybe I could do the same thing for others on the blog. First, I have to say that we were more non-conventional, opting to stay outside of the park. With a family our size and knowing that Zori would never sleep if we were all in the same room together, we decided it would be best to have a town home or condo somewhere close by so the kids could have their own room, BiBi could have her own room, and myself and Dane could have our own room. JaJa originally planned on going but my Dad had a really bad wreck a few months before and she still needed to be with him. So we missed her but hope JaJa and PawPaw can both come with us next time. I have to say it was such a blessing to have BiBi with us. She would keep Faith and Zori occupied with a snack, going to see another characters, or finding a playground, while we took Joyce to ride the big rides. It was good to have one adult per child. And if you have family volunteering to come with you, let them. And yes, I was the Mom that made her child wear a harness. Zori is a runner, and although she got by with not wearing it the first day, she did have to wear it for brief periods every other day. It was hysterical when we met Princess Tianna on our last night, Zori was wearing the puppy harness and in her best southern drawl voice Tianna says, “well, oh my, she has a dog on her back”! We also took two strollers, an umbrella stroller, and one slightly more durable for Faith. This was the best decision because most days we were putting in about 20,000 steps, occasionally more. When Faith insisted on being independent and walking, we just had a stroller to put our bags in, no big deal. And I promise you would rather take one if possible rather than rent one from Disney because they charge about $30 a day.
First of all I need to say I think one of the best places to get your tickets is at https://www.undercovertourist.com. I called them several times and they are so helpful, and courteous. I got my tickets in just a few days after ordering them. They are one of the best prices around, and you have to be careful because there are a lot of scams out there with Disney tickets. You can also sign up for the MouseSavers Newsletter at http://www.mousesavers.com/sign-up-for-the-free-mousesavers-newsletter-and-optional-hot-deals-emails/. They occasionally sale Undercover Tourist Disney Tickets at an even greater discount, although I heard it was only a few dollars difference. I also did a good bit of research from, “the Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2014” by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa. I didn’t read it cover to cover but hit the highlights and it was very helpful. There are also Disney facebook groups you can join that give helpful tips for people who are planning and those that are already there. Also, I found that it was extremely beneficial to go ahead and make an account on https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/plan/my-disney-experience/. This is where you will enter all your ticket info, and then link that up to dining reservations, or other entertainment reservations, which by the way you can reserve with a credit card before you even have your tickets (which is what I did for Tusker House and Akershus). The website can take some time to figure out, so I was glad to have done this several months in advance. You can also start reserving fast passes up to 60 days before you travel and I think 90 days before travel if you stay in the park. If you stay in the park you automatically get a magic band when you purchase a ticket, but out of park guest do not. You can purchase them, and it is convenient if you have the extra $12-15 per person, but when you are on a budget we didn’t mind pulling out the regular tickets for everything. BiBi was very generous and bought the Memory Maker package which if you do at least 3 days before you go, you save $20. This way whenever we saw a Disney photographer (they are everywhere) they would take our picture, scan our card, and it was automatically uploaded onto our MyDisney account. It was amazing not to stress so much about getting the perfect picture because theirs were always better than anything I could do.
The place we stayed was called, The Fountains at Champions Gatehttp://www.fountainsatchampionsgate.com/. It had a full kitchen, living room, 3 bedrooms, and 2 and 1/2 baths. It was an amazing resting place for our crazy week. And it was only a 20 min. drive to the parks! We decided to save as much money as possible, so we pre-cooked and froze meals, brought them in a cooler, then unthawed and baked. We had four of these meals prepared along with sausage cheese balls, and sausage cheese muffins. We spent a little less than $200 on additional groceries to make a breakfast casserole, and snacks to take into the park. Which you are allowed to take in a cooler bag and we had it packed with pb&j’s, crackers, waters, capri suns, lunchables, etc. This saved us tons of money, because it cut down on our snack money in the parks. We took down about $1,000 for gas, groceries, eating out, and souvenirs. Dane actually brought some money home. My mother-in-law came up with a great idea before we went. She started getting the girls to help her around the house when they were over and she would give them a little money as a reward. Before the trip they had earned, $50 so she got a Disney gift card with this and took it down. She also got each one of the girls a $25 Disney gift card to use while we were there. The girls spent half of that our first night at Downtown Disney on candied Mickey Mouse apples, Anna and Elsa rice krispie treats, and other sweets. They spent the remaining balance our first day in the park, really our first five minutes in Hollywood Studios, getting their faces painted. The workers did such a great job we gave them a small tip, and then they told us if we kept the receipt the girls could have free touch ups done the rest of the day.
Some people suggest taking a day in between the parks to have a pool day/rest day. We did the opposite. We left at 3:30am on Saturday hoping the kids would sleep the majority of the way. This plan did not work out so well. We only got about an hour and a half of napping out of each kid the entire 11 hours in the car, and all at different times. But they were very well behaved minus the last 30 mins in the car. It took us a little longer because I was trying to be spontaneous and adventurous so out of the blue I told Dane to take a detour to go see the Fort in St. Augustine. I remembered loving this as a kid. Well, first off we ended up at Fort Mose, which is not where I had planned but ended up being pretty cool. It apparently was the fist free African American community. http://www.fortmose.org/ . So there was a lot of great information about Africa which Joyce enjoyed. Then we headed to Fort Matanzas, where I had originally intended. We pulled up, the kids played on the huge beautiful trees, then I saw the next ferry ran at 12:30pm and it was 12:15pm. I thought, perfect timing as I’m walking in to buy our ferry pass. When I get in, the man at the desk tells me the ferry just quit working and there would be no more trips the rest of the day. So, I put on my happy face and went out and told the kids we would just have to look at the Fort from across the water. I kept thinking, oh no, is this an impending sign for the rest of the trip, much like most of our travel has gone the past several years. If you kept up with the blog, you know what I’m talking about. But truthfully, it was as if Tinkerbell had sprinkled fairy dust on all of us the entire trip. I have been known to complain about things not going my way, but on this trip I’m delighted to say it was the opposite. Even the kids had some type of magical trance put over them with their nearly perfect behavior. And I digress, back to my original thought…
We finally ended up getting there around 3:30pm, so 8-9 hours went to 12hours. So that night all we did was unpack, and Dane took the kids to the pool while BiBi and I went grocery shopping. Sunday we slept in then had a fabulous breakfast and for lunch Dane and I met up with friends that live in Florida, while BiBi took the kids to the pool. That night we went to Disney Springs and had a blast. We had a 2 hour wait to get into RainForest Cafe but we were able to walk around and see a dance performance, shop, and partake in a dance contest all before dinner. Monday was our first day in the park and we went to Hollywood Studios.
I was pleasantly surprised by it because there was way more to do than I had remembered. Joyce got to ride her first Roller Coaster and we realized quickly she is a thrill junkie. She got to ride Tower of Terror three times that day. BiBi and I went with her once, and I have to admit Joyce and I were dying laughing at BiBi freaking out on the ride! And we, of course, went back that night to see the Fantasmic show, which was as mesmerizing to me as it was to my 11, 4, and 2 year olds. Tuesday was Animal Kingdom day, and we had our character breakfast at Tusker House in Africa. We had a 10:40am time and it was perfect because they had started to put a few lunch items out on the buffet, and it was African cuisine so Joyce loved it. Tusker House was by far, to me, the best atmosphere and great time with the characters (Mickey, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy).
After a long night at Hollywood Studios it was nice to get home early that day (Animal Kingdom closed at 5pm and we stayed until they kicked us out). Wednesday was our first day at Magic Kingdom! And I got to meet Ariel with my girls! If you have known me for any amount of time you would know how monumental that moment was since I can quote/sing the entire movie and am basically obsessed with all things Little Mermaid. They also have The Enchanted Tales with Belle and all the kids and Dane were selected to help Belle tell the story. That was very exciting. And The Festival of Fantasty parade was amazing, we got a great spot and the characters kept waving to the girls. We took a break around 3pm and headed back to our place.
I would try to get the girls to nap everyday while we made dinner, but they were just too excited and jacked up. We went back to Magic Kingdom that evening and stayed past 9pm, (technically when non-Disney park guest had to leave). We watched the backside of the fireworks that night and ran around trying to ride as many rides as we could before they kicked us out. By Thursday we were all starting to get tired. We took our time at Epcot and we had our Breakfast with the princesses that morning. It was a lot more expensive than I thought it was going to be, but since we had made so many meals we were okay. They had a buffet for pastries and cold items but the main breakfast food was served family style, so you don’t get as much for the money. But the time with the Ariel, Aurora, Belle, Cinderella, and Snow White was worth at, at least once in a lifetime. We did purchase the Disney Passport for the girls to get them stamped in every country. The girls started to loose interest so I was running around trying to get them stamped for them. We didn’t go back that night for the show at Epcot because we were so tired and we wanted to make our last day at Magic Kingdom count, and we did!
Sadly, Friday was our last day. As everyone at home was bundled inside for the snow/ice storm, the Love family went big at Magic Kingdom. We finished riding all the rides on our to-do list, Faith and Zori both rode their first roller coaster on Goofy’s Barnstormer and had a blast. Faith just screamed the entire time while still having this goofy smile on her face, it was hysterical. And after Zori rode it the first time, she got off saying, “Again, Ride it Again!”, so we did! Oh and how could I forget, we started our morning off heading straight to get in line to meet Anna and Elsa because I could never get a fast pass for this. The wait time said 45 mins but we didn’t wait more than 30, and it was so worth it. This was probably Faith and Zori’s favorite thing the entire trip. And we made sure to get a good spot for the Electrical Parade and the Fireworks show that night, and they didn’t disappoint. The kids just stood heads up in amazement watching Tink fly through the air then the fireworks going off. After that we ran over to meet Tianna, then we got to end our night meeting TinkerBell then Mickey Mouse. And this Mickey did a card trick and talked to us! This may have been one of Joyce’s favorites. She couldn’t get over Mickey talking. It was the best way to end our trip, for sure.
I will try to wrap this up, as I’m sure I have already lost some of you with my long windedness. Make sure you sign up for your fast passes as early as possible so you can start planning your day around those things. By the end of the trip we realized if we had a fast pass for something and the wait time was less than 20 minutes then we would just go through the regular line and then switch our fast pass. This became a challenge for Dane because we were able to be so much more productive. I would say this was one of the best times of the year to go. The crowds were really not bad at all. We had a few chilly days but we were prepared, so no big deal, and we weren’t there for the pool so that was okay too. Also, make sure you try the pineapple dole whip if you are a pineapple fan, it was amazing. We had this while we watched the parade. Also the BBQ Fries in Frontierland are at an outdoor stand, and were so good! I hope these tips help and you enjoyed reading about our family quest to Disney World. Dane says he is good for at least 5-10 years to go back, but I’m hoping to convince him that 3 years would be reasonable. =) Happy Planning!