"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."

Monday, December 26, 2011

Florida Vacation Overview

So this year for Christmas we went to Disney World, Florida. Now if you know Brandon and I at all, you know that we are not vacationers. I don't think we have ever in our entire marriage gone on an actual vacation. You know, with flights and hotel rooms and such. I don't think we've really even gone away for a weekend, excepting a couple of business trips and road trips to visit family. We are both just too frugal to fork out the dough for an expensive vacation. You might say we're cheap. A vacation to Disney World would most likely have never (ever) happened without some outside motivation.

My mom decided to host Christmas in Orlando this year for anyone in our family that wanted to join in. She has these awesome time-share condos with kitchens very close to Disney World. They took care of the food and transportation so we were just responsible for our flights and park tickets. It was still very expensive, but we never would have done it on our own. I'm so glad we were compelled to take such a vacation. We've been scheming and planning for almost a year now, and it's hard to believe that it's over! It was such an amazing trip. And our kids were the perfect ages to go. Except for Rylan. He stayed home with Brandon's parents who graciously watched him all week.

It's a really difficult thing to blog about an 8 day vacation with nearly 500 photos taken (plus those taken by the other people with us.) I don't want this to turn into a long and boring travelog, but for posterity I want to jot down a few memories of our trip. Here is a brief overview of what we did each day.

Day 1: Travel.
We were in airports and on airplanes from early in the morning until late at night. None of the kids had ever been on a plane before so they were really excited. They brought some smiles to the other passengers as they giggled loudly throughout the first takeoff. One of our flights was greatly delayed and so they upgraded us to free direct TV for the flight. They kids watched cartoons for 5 hours and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. (We don't have cartoons at home.) Our final flight was cancelled so we had to stay in a hotel in New Jersey and catch the first flight out the next morning after about 5 hours of sleep. It was a good thing we were so excited to get to our destination or we might not have made it.

Day 2: Travel, arrive, unpack, sleep. In the late afternoon we all went to an awesome u-pick citrus orchard nearby. We all loved it. Those were the best oranges, grapefruit, and pummelo I have ever tasted. The weather was also beautiful. We were so excited to be in Florida.

Orlando, Florida

Day 3: Disney's Hollywood Studios

We got up bright and early and headed out to Disney's Hollywood Studios. We arrived shortly after opening and rushed in to get our fastpasses to Toy Story Midway Mania. We really learned how to work those fastpasses. If you are planning a disney trip in the near future, drop me a line. I have some great tips... We didn't see everything there because the kids wanted to repeat some of their favorites and frankly because we were all really tired from traveling. I think for the most part we got to see everything we wanted. The crowd favorite was Star Tours. It is much improved since I was a kid. Such an amazing ride. I think the kids would have ridden it all day if the lines wouldn't have been so long. Toy Story was also really cool.

My mom and I took Mason on the Tower of Terror. It is the scariest ride I have ever been on. We all felt sick for about an hour afterwards. Mason HATED it. Luckily the girls were too short to ride. I don't recommend it. I made Brandon go on the Rockin' Rollercoaster with me, and I think he actually liked it. Talk about fast! When we got off the ride both Brandon and Ken's hair were sticking straight up in the air. I promptly got motion sickness and felt horrible for the rest of the night. It was worth it though. The kids also loved the Fantasmic! show with all the fireworks and characters. It was pretty impressive. We all slept like babies that night.

Day 4: Disney's Animal Kingdom.

We were so hammered that morning that we decided to sleep in a bit. It proved to be a good decision. Shane and Ken went fishing, and Kelsey and Carlee went to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure with Harry Potter World. We decided to forego it because the kids weren't tall enough to go on most of the rides. It was a good decision.

So my mom and our family went to Animal Kingdom. We checked the crowd calculator and it was estimated to be the slowest day there all week. Another good decision. We didn't even need our fastpasses for anything except Dinosaur because the crowds were so small. Kelsey and Carlee had a similar experience at Universal. They were able to go on the big Harry Potter ride 4 times in a row without waiting in lines! From what I've read, that's unheard of. We hardly waited in a line all day. It was so nice and relaxing. This park has a ton of shade and is very family oriented. It's somewhat like a giant zoo with rides mixed in. They also have some great dinosaur rides and awesome shows. It was Ellorie's favorite day of our trip. (The komodo dragon may or may not have had something to do with it.)

That night the kids finally got to go swimming in the awesome pools at the condo we stayed at. I hesitate to say it, but I think the kids liked swimming almost as much as the parks. I wish we had stayed a few extra days so we could enjoy the pools and go to the beach. Maybe next time. (Ha!)

Day 5: Disney's Magic Kingdom.

We started really early this day, which was awesome because we practically walked on every ride for the first two hours. Fast Passes are essential here. We were pretty good at them by our 3rd park. I don't think we waited more than 30 minutes for anything all day long. We crammed in a whole lot of rides.

This park is SO huge and has so much to see it it somewhat overwhelming. It is truly a magical place where bubbles and fireworks appear spontaneously throughout the day. It's visually and physically a lot to take in. Next time we will rent a stroller. We walked and walked and walked and walked. Finally the kids just gave up and sat down right there in the middle of the sidewalk. Followed shortly by the adults. We had to take lots of breaks and keep them hydrated. We had big plans to stay until the 11:00 firework show and parade, but of course, that was way too much for one day. It was still awesome. It was Averie and Mason's favorite park. I also loved it because everyone was together that day. I loved spending time with Mom, Ken, Kelsey, Shane, and Carlee. I really missed the rest of the family this day that wasn't able to come.

The kids went swimming that night, but just for a few minutes. We were all exhausted.

Day 6: Epcot Center

After such a busy week we weren't sure we could handle another park, but we decided to give it a try since we already had the tickets. Just a half day. It was wonderful to go there with the expectation of only seeing a few things. We ran in to get fastpasses to Soarin' first because that ride generally has 180 minute wait. It was a good thing too, because by the time we got them they were nearly gone. It was the last ride of the day for us. After getting the fastpasses we went on the Test Track ride, which everyone loved. Then on a boat ride to see all the gardens and cool plant things (I can't remember the name of that ride.) Mom and Ken loved it and ended up taking a back lot tour of the gardens while our family went to "The Sea" and all the aquariums therein. It was a blast. I couldn't believe the awesome aquariums they have there. Dolphins, huge sea turtles, manatees, gigantic fish, sharks, etc. The kids would have happily stayed there all day. The Nemo ride and Turtle Talk with Crush were favorites as well.

We also watched some dolphin training sessions that were amazing. This park was right up our alley. We didn't even attempt to go to the different countries at Epcot. It was just too much walking for us. We'll save that for the "next time" list. We really enjoyed the Soarin' ride at the end of the day. I think it was one of my favorites. It really gives you the sensation of hang gliding over the coast of California. It's complete with scents, wind, and a wrap around visual. It was quite an experience.

That night the kids went swimming again, for longer this time. They loved the pools there with the warm water and perfect weather. Ellorie begged me the entire week to move there.

Another highlight of our trip was all the characters that were scattered around the parks. I made the kids autograph books before we left. They got a bunch of signatures and really had fun looking for characters. Animal Kingdom is the mother lode for character sightings.

Character Sightings (all parks)

Day 7 (er... 6 1/2?): Travel home

We had a mere 4 hours of sleep and then we were up yet again to leave for the airport. The journey home seemed much longer because we were all tired and cranky. We were somewhat separated on all the flights home and we had a really long layover at the Denver airport before our final flight. I won't feel bad if I don't see another airport for a very long time. The kids finally fell asleep on our last flight home for about 2 hours. We arrived just in time to get ready for Christmas Eve the following day. Talk about a whirlwind! We're still feeling the jet lag a bit. I think I went to bed at 7:00 last night again. Hopefully I adjust before school starts again.

It was an amazing experience and I hope my kids will remember it for a long, long time.


Brittany said...

I LOVE the Tower of Terror!!! It's my favorite. I went to Florida with one of my friends one time and during one of the parades, we rode it over and over and over.

Anna said...

The Tower of Terror is MY FAVORITE ride in Hollywood Studios! I'm wish you had a better experience on it.
It sounds (and looks) like you had a fabulous time. You'll have to do it all AGAIN one Rylan can enjoy himself there.

Shatzi said...

I have to chime in and say the Tower of Terror was my favorite too. But, we went with no kids. That probably makes a difference. What a fun trip! I'm seriously jealous.