Monday, November 15, 2010

The Herd Goes to Disney

Oh, this blog update has been buzzing around my busy brain for days now!

It all started last Friday morning, 11/5. Hubby and I got up around 5am and got ourselves ready for the big journey. We waited until the last possible second to wake the kiddos and help them dress...we had to meet my parents at the airport around 6:15am. All went without a hitch...our gazillion suitcases (as well as car seat and booster) were checked, we all passed through security and made our way to our gate. That's when we realized our flight was not technically "delayed" but not exactly "on time" either. We eventually made our way onto the plane, having paired off: NCH with my dad, NJH with hubby, CAH with my mom, and KBH with me. We were all extremely excited!! We made our connection in Baltimore with not much time to spare...landed in Orlando without any problems. Waiting in line for the rental cars took a little time, but fruit snacks and granola bars helped pass the time!
As we drove into the resort front parking lot, we were all amazed at what we saw…beautiful palm trees, fountains, an enormous pool…helpful greeters and security personnel…we had the children change into bathing suits and they enjoyed splashing about in the pool and hot tubs. The air temp was mid-60ish but didn’t scare the kids off from waterplay!
Our rooms at the Hilton Resort were absolutely beautiful! Mom and I realized we needed to stock up on groceries, so we left the guys to supervise The Herd at the playground. I will admit that grocery shopping at 5:30pm, after getting up at 5am and flying across the country, was exhausting! But it was well worth it…we enjoyed breakfast at “home” each morning, packed our own lunches most days, and ate dinner at “home” all but two nights (one of which we packed a taco salad to eat at Magic Kingdom while waiting for the parade.) We enjoyed a dinner of chicken, stuffing, and veggies and then hurried the kiddos into bed as they dreamed of Magic Kingdom! The adults sat and visited, and mom and I spent most of the late evening planning our route for the next day. Thanks to many suggestions and tips from many friends, we knew a general “plan” for Day One at Disney.

Saturday morning, we awoke, feeling full of excitement! We headed off to Magic Kingdom with our cooler of bottled water and snacks. As we entered the parking lot, we realized it would be a process to actually enter the park: park your car (remember lot name and row number), take the tram (this was challenging the first time – other visitors appeared more confident and shoved their way onto the first tram…we waited for the next one, watching in awe!) After the tram ride, we got into the Monorail line…it moved more quickly than we thought it would, and in no time, we hopped aboard. Next we had our bags checked by security, then scanned our cards at the gate and each of us entered through the turnstiles. We were in! We loaded the double stroller back up and started walking towards the park like moths fluttering to light…within a few moments of entering the park, a street party started – with floats and people on stilts and dancers and characters and all! Can you say overstimulation? Crowds of people, music…auditory and visual stimulation everywhere we turned! (But it was wonderful!) I loved watching my children take it all in…their eyes wide and jaws open!
We made our way up to Fantasy Land and got in the 20-minute wait line for Dumbo. We were told it doesn’t matter the time of day – that line is always long, for some strange reason. The kids were thrilled to get on the ride and we could see all of Fantasy Land below us and we rode around and around. Next stop, Mickey’s Philharmagic, a 3D movie show, which was fantastic!! Next we were off to It’s A Small World, my favorite ride from childhood. It was even better than I remembered it! All the kids (and adults) were in awe…mouths open as we took it all in, like a dream come true. We rode the famous carousel next…those horses were REALLY high up there! (Yes, I rode one too!) I was a little nervous getting on the Peter Pan ride, not sure how scary Captain Hook would be for the little ones, but they ALL LOVED it!! We discovered the Tea Cup ride was closed for renovations, as was the Pooh ride, but the kids didn’t miss what they didn’t know about. Next we were off to something truly special – a delicious buffet luncheon at The Crystal Palace, with Eeyore, Tigger, Piglet and Pooh Bear!!! (My children are huge Pooh fans, especially NCH! Being 8 ½ didn’t stop him from giving his pal Pooh a big hug!) The food was beyond amazing, and the children were invited to join the characters in a parade around the eating area as we clapped and took pictures. After lunch, we took a ride on the Liberty Bell Riverboat , visited the Swiss Family Tree House and took a ride on the Jungle Cruise. We ended the day with a show at the Enchanted Tiki Room. Yes, we were tired, but remember: when you leave the park, you have to take the Monorail back to the tram, then take the tram to your car and see if you remember where you parked! (Day One, we were in the Daisy Lot.) When we got back to our “home,” hubby and I bathed the Herd while my mom and dad got spaghetti and salad ready for dinner. We were all good and tired, so after planning our next day, we headed to bed.

Sunday morning – we were off for Day 2 at Magic Kingdom! With a little more confidence, we hopped aboard the tram (after parking in Dopey lot) and then…dun-dun-dun – Monorail not working! We turned to get in line for the ferry…and there was a LONG line…I think we had to wait for 3 ferries and finally it was our turn…in a way, we were glad the Monorail was down so we could try the ferry, which was a fun way to get to the park. This time, we headed straight to Tomorrow Land! We were so glad for the friends that educated us about “Fast Passes.” This helped us breeze through several rides and made for happier visitors. Our first ride of the day was “Astro Orbiter” – much like Dumbo, only space ships, way up high on top of a building. Hubby and I were both surprisingly nauseous on this ride, but no one else seemed bothered. We were able to participate in nearly all Tomorrow Land had to offer: Buzz Lightyear ride, Monsters, Inc. show, Space Mountain (CAH, NCH, hubby and I did this one…I opted NOT to go on it again! The others went on the People Mover while we did Space Mountain), Carousel of Progress (we all LOVED this one!! NJH was precious singing along and waving to Rover the dog!), and NJH’s favorite Indy Speedway. We had packed our lunch and we enjoyed it while sitting on a sunny bench in Tomorrow Land. Later, we headed over to Frontier Land just in time for the 3pm parade! NJH and CAH seemed to enjoy the parade the most, waving to Princesses and characters. Afterwards, we headed to Splash Mountain (all but Dad and NJH), and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Mom and Dad took NJH to Tom Sawyer Island…he had a ball!) By then, I was totally pooped, so I actually took a 10-minute sitting-in-the- stroller break while hubby took the older three on a walk. We dragged ourselves back to the Monorail, tram and car, arriving “home” to experiment with a new recipe: needed to use up the left over spaghetti noodles and chicken, so we made our own version of chicken tetrazzini…and it was delish! Next thing we knew, it was bed time for the kids and planning out Epcot for the adults (ok, so Blue Moon for the guys and wine and planning for the ladies!)

Monday – we were on our way to Epcot! I have to admit, I wasn’t very enthusiastic about Epcot. Many friends had told me this was “the park to skip” so I was tentative…but within just moments of entering the park, I was astounded at its beauty, its cleanliness and…lack of terrible lines! There was plenty of room to maneuver the double stroller, and so we were off! Hubby and NCH nabbed us fast passes for Soarin’ (a reported very popular ride) and we all headed to Spaceship Earth (an incredible ride!!), Living with the Land (another fascinating and educational ride…the greenhouses blew me away!!!), and The Circle of Life film (I was afraid this would be an extreme tree-hugger propaganda piece but it was terrific!) We enjoyed the lunch we had packed, again in the beautiful sunshine, and then all but dad and NJH were treated to the amazement of the Soarin’ ride. Later, we made our way to “Norway” for the Maelstrom ride (this was so-so, not quite as exciting as had been “advertised”), but we loved stopping at the Norwegian shop on the way back! (An enormous troll, Viking hats, and beautiful sweaters galore!) Next, NCH and hubby were off to Mission: Space (I read many warnings about this ride, so I opted to do the “lite” version later with my mom and CAH…we loved this tamer version!) Hubby felt so ill after the Mission: Space ride that he decided not to go on the Test Track with KBH, CAH, NCH, my mom and me. We LOVED it! Then it was time to scoot across the park to The Seas area, to enjoy a spectacular dinner at the Coral Reef restaurant. The restaurant had a wall of windows that looked into the aquarium tank next door. We watched a giant sea turtle paddle around, several sharks dart about and sting rays floating by. Dinner was DELICIOUS and our waiter was a riot, telling all kinds of cute jokes and sharing interesting facts about ocean life. The kids got to build their own sundaes for dessert…it was especially cute seeing my dad and NJH share ice cream. After dinner, we headed next door to watch the Turtle Talk show with Crush, the turtle. CAH and NJH went right up front and even asked/answered questions during the show! Next, we rode the most soothing ride on clam-mobiles, the Nemo ride…no one wanted to get off! But we were glad we did when we saw the next room – the aquarium! A 6 million gallon tank with over 60 species of sea life…what fun it was to see dolphins swim right in front of our faces! NJH and CAH were in AWE! Although we didn’t want to leave, it was time for us to use the rest of our fast passes: Mission Space: Lite and Test Track (again!) NJH played in the climbing area at the base of Mission Space and I had to pry him away so we could get to the Illuminations Showcase in time to gaze upon the spectacular fireworks show! I had chills watching the display…it was truly beautiful. I kept thinking: this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for my family, yet this happens at Epcot closing EVERY NIGHT! After the show, all the park employees waved, wearing a Mickey Mouse glove…such a sweet touch at the end of a lovely day! We headed back to our cars in the Journey lot and headed “home” for bed. (Note: there was A LOT more to Epcot…all the “countries” to visit…we only made it as far as Norway, but with older children/adults, the rest of Epcot looked amazing too!!)

Tuesday – ahhhhh! A day of rest! We planned a stay-at-the-resort and swim day…and it was 80 degrees and sunny! The only bump in our day – NJH complained of an earache and actually asked us to take him to the doctor! In no time, hubby and NJH were back from the Minute Clinic at CVS with amoxicillin in hand. Thankfully, the doctor said NJH could swim with the rest of the kiddos, so we spent the day going from pool to fountain to huge chess game to hot tub to pool and back. We cooked hotdogs on the grill for lunch and burgers for dinner. The kids enjoyed the “Dive In” movie (Diary of Wimpy Kid), the resort showed in the pool area. Then it was time for bed and more planning for the final Magic Kingdom day.

- We decided to make it a later start, since we knew we’d be watching the nighttime parade and fireworks show at Magic Kingdom, so hubby made us all a huge breakfast while my mom packed up lunch AND dinner for the herd. We arrived back at Magic Kingdom with all kinds of bags and coolers…too many to fit in the double stroller! We took lots of pictures as we entered the park, and then we were off to enjoy our last time on our favorite rides: Small World, Peter Pan, Mickey’s Philharmagic…and some new ones: Pirates, Aladdin, Country Bears, hubby and NCH went to Hall of Presidents, everyone but NJH and I went on Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain again. NJH talked me into one more time on the Indy Speedway (um…when the ride was over, I got off and turned to help him, but he was too busy STEPPING ON THE GAS! I grabbed for him and pulled him OUT of the car, crazy little 3-year-old!!) Then we enjoyed a leisurely trip on the WDW Railroad all around the park. Next, my mom, hubby, NCH and CAH had to have one more turn on Space Mountain and then we were off to grab a piece of sidewalk to eat dinner and hold our place to watch the parade. Thank goodness we sat down when we did! Main Street was FILLED with people 45 minutes before the parade even began! It was cumbersome putting together the taco salad and doling it out to our party of 8, but it tasted great and it helped pass the time. Before we knew it, the SpectroMagic Parade had begun! Talk about visual and auditory overstimulation – “this dazzling event featured some 600,000 miniature bulbs lit up in wild, changing patterns, moving in concert with sound effects and a dramatic musical score” according to borrowed my Birnbaum Guide Book. It was amazing! And just about 25 minutes later (after enjoying a trail mix snack and meeting some tourists from Japan), we were treated to the fabulous “Wishes” fireworks show, which lit up the sky just above the famous castle. Poor KBH was on overload and had to close her eyes , while striking her famous finger-sucking pose! When the show was over, we joined the slow-moving throng of people to the gates, to the Monorail, to the tram, to the Minnie lot, to our cars…at “home” at last. We exhaustedly planned our next day and flopped into bed.

Thursday – our last day at Disney! Another gorgeous day…sunshine, no humidity, mid 70s…and we were off to Animal Kingdom, parking in the Dinosaur lot, taking the tram to the gates and making our way in. This was a busy park – lots of people (we realized that many people had the day off due to Veteran’s Day)…but we headed right for the Lion King show and it was beyond amazing! I was in total AWE! Of course when they asked some children to come up and join the show during “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” CAH popped right up and joined in the merriment! We were all quite impressed with the singing, dancing, stilt-walking (and JUMPING) and acrobatics during the show. Next we were off on the Wildlife Express to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. There were all kinds of fun things for kids to do…mine especially liked the Affection Section (petting and brushing goats) and a live show with a hawk and a tortoise. (Yep, you guessed it, CAH volunteered to go on stage and help…does she have a future in show business?!) Next we were off on the Kilimanjaro Safari, a fabulous (bouncy) ride with a view of all kinds of animals – zebras, hippos, giraffes, elephants, warthogs, lions, etc. We all loved this one! Our next stop was “Asia” where all but NJH and I enjoyed the Kali River Rapids (WET!) ride, then took in the Flights of Wonder AMAZING bird show (way beyond my expectations!!!) and then hubby, mom, NCH and CAH bravely set out for Expedition Everest (a crazy rollercoaster!) Our final stop was DinoLand…the kids loved playing in the Boneyard and NCH, CAH and hubby talked me into trying the Dinosaur ride – YES, I SCREAMED! It was super scary!! On our way out of the park, we noticed “Finding Nemo: the musical” was about to start…poor hubby, KBH and NJH didn’t make it in time, but the rest of us really enjoyed this unique performance. Sadly, the park was closing and it was time to head “home.” Although we had entertained the idea of going out to eat, we were all too weary and decided to just bathe the kids and enjoy a homemade dinner of chicken Caesar salad. We also got to play “finish it up night” since we couldn’t leave all the food behind (it was hard to tell who enjoyed finishing the ice cream more – my dad or the kids!) Next we got some laundry done and got busy packing…then it was “finish the wine and the Blue Moon” time…and off to bed.

Friday – We were all sad to say goodbye to our beautiful resort, the fancy palm trees, and the gorgeous weather, but off we went to return the rental cars, check our bags and print our boarding passes. Before we knew it, we were flying home!

Okay, so this was WAY longer than I had planned…so what’s my summary? It was a wonderful trip!! I am so thankful to my parents for taking us. This is something we may never have been able to do on our own! What terrific memories we will have with us!

Great stuff: time together, lovely resort, entire Disney experience!

Best rides/shows: Magic Kingdom - Small World, Carousel of Progress, Peter Pan; Epcot – Test Track, Soarin’, Spaceship Earth…ok, so everything at this park was amazing!; Animal Kingdom – Lion King show, Flights of Wonder show

-get reservations for any meals ahead (my mom arranged our two special meals long before our trip)
- use fast passes as much as possible
- know what you’re doing BEFORE you get to the park (we planned each day the night before and that worked really well)
- remember it takes awhile to get IN and OUT of the parks, especially Magic Kingdom
- packing our own food saved not only money, but time!
- factor in a day (or more) of rest
- this is not a “relaxing” or “restful” vacation, but it is a ton of fun!


  1. wow! that sounds like so much fun and craziness as well! i cant wait to take the kids there one day. i wold like bryson to be at least 3... but maybe a little bit older.
    and yes, that was a super duper long post, but i have done the same thing with my thoughst many many time!
    glad you had fun! how AWESOME of your parents to take you guys!

  2. i really enjoyed reading your blog of Disney!!
    it brought back many memories of our recent trip down!
    i loved Epcot too! i'm not sure who started the rumor about Epcot being the park to skip, but they are definitely missing out on a beautiful part of Disney!
    i'm so glad you and the Herd had the opportunity to go to Disney! it is a once in a lifetime experience! and perhaps for some, it may even be a twice in a lifetime experience ;)
    we plan on going back in a few years :)

  3. I really enjoyed reading this! Sounds like you all had a great time! I am hoping that we can do Disney some day when the kid (or kids, if we are blessed to have another one) are older. Glad you enjoyed yourselves!! And it will be wonderful to have this to look back on in a few years (when you have forgotten all that you did!)

  4. Wonderful recap of our time together- Dad and I enjoyed it thoroughly and it was a dream come true for us.

  5. What wonderful memories you captured here. It was so much fun reading. I can't wait for my girls to be older so we can take them.


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