Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Disney World 2011!!!

Did we intend to go to Disney World twice in a 12 month period? No – no, we didn’t. But when my parents invited us last year, we couldn’t say no. And we’ve been planning this year’s trip with the Cornwells for YEARS!! It’s so fun that it finally came to fruition. We ended up going the first full week of January due to a number of factors: my work schedule, several of our kids hit milestones later in the year that cause them to be more expensive, etc.

James and I decided to drive. It’s about 18-19 hours, so we decided to go straight through the night in hopes of making it easier on the kids. The way the dates fell, it meant we needed to leave on New Year’s Eve. We decided to time it so that we could spend NYE in New Orleans. It was a ton of fun. We got there around 8 and were one set of very few insane parents to take our children to Bourbon Street that night. :) We had a great Cajun dinner right by the windows, though, and enjoyed watching all the mayhem. The girls got lots of beads and were loving that part. After dinner, we went over to the other side of the river and found a fabulous spot to watch the fireworks with the New Orleans skyline as a backdrop. The girls both made it until midnight and loved watching the fireworks. We loaded up and kept driving to Orlando right after midnight, and both kids crashed and slept most of the way through the night.

So, we met up in Orlando on Sunday morning and joined our two families in a great 3 bedroom condo at Old Key West. We have six kids currently under the age of 10 between us. I really was mentally prepared for some significant chaos. How could there not be with six kids, right? But seriously, there really wasn’t. All of the kids did SO great! Poor Reese was pushed really hard and let us know it a few times, but seriously nothing that we didn’t ask for.

Here are a few photos of our condo. Our family had our own large bedroom upstairs. The girls shared a queen bed (and did great), and James and I were in the other. It was so nice to have so much room for our large group – Thanks, Cornwells!!

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That afternoon, we took a quick trip to Downtown Disney for lunch and then let the kids swim in the pool for a while (it was 80 degrees!). We spent the later evening at Hollywood Studios enjoying the Osborne Family Christmas Lights and the Fantasmic show.

P1000140 The whole group (Lori and I were the photographers) on the way to Downtown Disney

P1000143 It’s funny to see them in shorts on the “snow covered” Christmas decorations.

P1000147 Ellie participated in the dancing portion of the “pool party” and received a bouncy ball and a slap bracelet. She was elated and super cute doing the Macarena.

P1000154 Emma ADORES babies and made fast friends with “Baby Reese”.

P1000155 All of us at Hollywood Studios

P1000161 Since we just went for a few hours, we just shared the Cornwell stroller, so Reese and Emma got the rides. Emma asked for the map, and I laughed as she looked at it as if she were going to navigate for us.

P1000180 The Fantasmic show – pretty fun!

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Emma wanted to swim while Reese napped earlier, so we gave it a shot to skip her nap. She decided to just fall asleep in my arms (up until then – that was so rare) at the Fantasmic show. So sweet. Throughout the week, we usually skipped her nap and she’d often fall asleep on me around 6 or 6:30 each evening. Pretty cute, and she usually stayed pretty happy through all of that which was nice.

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The lights were amazing – over 5 million!

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Ellie tried to catch the “snow” (soap!) on her tongue. Yuk!

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 P1000200 Loved all the angels and the nativity scene.

On Monday, we spent all day at Hollywood Studios. While I do really love HS, I think we picked a bad day to go. It was really crowded which made it a little less pleasant than usual. That said, we still had a good day. Lori and I hung out with the three youngest girls while the rest of the crew went on some bigger rides.

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That day, we had lunch at the Sci-Fi Diner where all of the tables are drive-in cars. There are cartoons playing and little speakers for you to hear. It was pretty fun.

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IMG_1491 James and I were in the back seat of our car, so we had to make out. :)

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I love this photo of everyone, but Emma in particular just makes me smile.

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Highlights at Hollywood Studios are definitely the Toy Story ride and the Tower of Terror. We didn’t get to do everything due to the crowds, but it was a fun day for sure. This is probably the one I’d recommend skipping, though, if you can’t cover all parks and you have littles.

On Tuesday, we went to Epcot. Here, we had our first character meal – breakfast in Norway with the princesses. I HIGHLY recommend this breakfast. I thought it was better than Cinderella’s Royal Castle from last year which is way more expensive. The princesses were great, and the food was fabulous.

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P1000297 How cute are our little princesses??

P1000304 Belle was the featured princess for the breakfast.

P1000308 Princess Aurora (sleeping beauty)

P1000317Cinderella

P1000321  Ariel (my girls’ fave)

P1000325 Snow White

P1000324 Snow White with Baby Reese in her Snow White dress (with an added bonus of creepy Paul in the background)

IMG_1623 Emma had no problem eating on this trip. :) Neither of my kids did.

P1000339 The Nemo ride at Epcot is a MUST DO if you have littles. The ride itself is cute, but it ends in an aquarium – Disney style. I think our little ones would have spent hours in there. Another super cool thing that I didn’t discover until our last day there was Turtle Talk with Crush. DON’T MISS THIS IF YOU GO! It’s seriously the coolest thing. You go in a little theater and the kids sit on the carpet in the front, and the parents sit on benches in the back. Crush comes on the screen in cartoon form, but can “see” the kids and calls on them and talks to them. He’s hilarious, and it’s super interactive – so cool.

P1000349 Because the Cornwells are Disney VISA members, we got an exclusive meet and greet with Minnie and Goofy at Epcot.

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We spent a lot of time in the Innoventions buildings at Epcot – also a good place to hang with littles. For those tall enough, the ride Soarin’ is a MUST DO. We went on it with Ellie while the Cornwells watched Emma and then we switched. It’s my favorite Disney ride – pay attention to the smells they pipe into the room – so cool. Speaking of, do you all know about rider swap?! If you have a child too short for a ride, one adult can go with the older child in the normal line and Disney Crew Members give you a “fast pass” for the other adult. And the older child gets to go twice – it’s the best! We used it a LOT while we were there.

On Wednesday, we spent our first day at Magic Kingdom. Goodness, it truly is a magical place. Lori says that it doesn’t feel like we’re really at Disney World until we go there, and I can definitely understand what she means.

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Because we had a large group, we were able to have a “Magical Gatherings” breakfast (only for groups of 8 or more) at Exhibition Hall. Again, the food was WONDERFUL, and we got to meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck and Goofy. The kids loved it.

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IMG_1773 Emma hugging Mickey

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P1000388 After breakfast, we ran into the Fairy Godmother by the castle.

P1000393 Lovin’ that Fantasyland Carousel

P1000395Look at that sweet happy face!

P1000399 We found out that one of my friends from work was taking her daughter to Disney World the same week we were there – fun, right?! So, we met up with Lisa and Olivia for a bit on Wednesday morning. Olivia is precious and gave us a full rendition of “It’s a Small World”, and it was so fun to get to connect with them for a few hours.

The favorite rides on Wednesday were Goofy’s Barnstormer roller coaster (both kids enjoyed that one), the carousel, and really everything else in Fantasyland especially including Small World. Emma kept saying “Yet’s go on another wide!!”

P1000414 In the early evening, we took the monorail over to the Grand Floridian for our character dinner at 1900 Park Fair. Again, it was fabulous food – I’d highly recommend this one, too. We met Cinderella, Prince Charming, the Step Mother and the Step Sisters. The latter were hilarious and stayed in character the whole time. At one points, Druscilla said, “The only step sister here is Cinderella.” Ha!

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P1000422 After having a ton of dessert from the buffet, the waitress brought TWO of these to our table to celebrate Lori’s 40th birthday which was coming up on Sunday. We didn’t even put a dent in it, but it was pretty, huh?

P1000425Here’s the castle at night. Isn’t it beautiful?!

P1000426And the lights on main street.

On Thursday, we headed over to Animal Kingdom. I admit, there was a time in high school when I thought this park was just a glorified zoo. It’s seriously my favorite now. I love it. The best show at Disney World is there – The Finding Nemo show – fabulous! And the Lion King show is there, too, which is also really fun. The best roller coaster is there which is Expedition Everest. The safari ride is pretty cool, and the dinosaur playground is awesome for the littles. It closes early (5pm), so it’s a shorter day which is always nice, too. We had a wonderful lunch at the Tusker House which got us priority seating at Nemo – very cool.

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Then, on Friday, we returned for day two at Magic Kingdom. Again, super fun.

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P1000524 We had lunch at the Crystal Palace with Winnie the Pooh and friends. Another nice meal.

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Then Saturday was going home day. We decided to spend the morning at Epcot before heading out. We got a few more rides in, and this is where I discovered Turtle Talk with Crush mentioned above. :)

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And perhaps the kids’ favorite ride of the whole trip? All the wheelchairs that were by the bus stop on our way back to the resort Saturday – ha!

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So, we started driving back that Saturday afternoon and got home Sunday in time to make it to church. Crazy, right? It was a fabulous trip – so glad we did it. Disney really knows what they’re doing, and they do things really well. For those of you planning Disney trips in the near future, here are my tips:

  • Take a stroller. We took our double stroller, and it was great for both girls to get to rest and have a place for storage.
  • We went pretty hard this trip – a park each day. It’s really inexpensive to add on an extra day to a 5 or 6 day pass. I’d recommend going ahead and getting as many days as you’re there and then just using them as you wish. We don’t splurge for the park hopper. With planning, it’s not necessary.
  • Definitely check the websites for which parks to go to which days. There are websites out there that tell you which ones are crowded which days based on a ton of stats. Use those.
  • Do the meal plan if you want to do character meals. The meal plan is really reasonable, and you can do the character meals as one of your table service meals each day. Don’t do ALL character meals, but definitely take advantage and do 3-4 if you’re there for a week.
  • Book character meals EARLY! As early as possible.
  • Stay on property if you can. If not, we’ve been known to “go to breakfast” at a resort and just use Disney transportation from there for the day. Bad, I know. Blame my dad.
  • Definitely do two days at Magic Kingdom and one at Animal Kingdom. Epcot should be the next priority followed by Hollywood Studios (in my humble opinion)
  • Go off season if you can. I really don’t think you could pay me to go in the middle of July or August. Too hot and too crowded.
  • Definitely get one of the iPhone apps where it tells you the wait times on the rides, and make strategic use of Fast Passes – massive time saver.
  • Have fun!

 

I’m really grateful we’ve been blessed to go twice. Thanks, again, Cornwells – We loved it! Hopefully we can do it again in a few years!