I’d like to say I kept copious notes in a travel journal about our trip. The reality is that near the end of our trip, I managed a few memories in the notes app of my phone. Honestly, by the time I returned, the fact that we’d been on vacation at all was kind of a blur.
We did a lot of fun things at Disney. We had some amazing foods and some meh ones. We got blisters, sunburns and scraped elbows. We took pictures and naps and tried lots of new things. We rode rides and saw shows. Some of us got excited over squirrels and birds and some of us just got excited.
And so, I give you my mental blur, my “stream of consciousness” (love you hgh!), in no particular order.
Let’s face it. Public restrooms are gross. Even though these were clean by Disney standards, all I could think of were the sheer numbers of people who used those toilets, sinks, doors, et cetera every.single.day. I was grateful that most of the restrooms that we visited were automatic. You didn’t have to touch the flusher or the sink handle or the soap dispenser or the hand dryer. It was, as they say, a good thing. On one of our potty breaks, I overheard a little girl in a nearby stall say “Mommy, I keep trying to go potty but every time I sit down the toilet flushes!”
On another break during dinner at the Maya Grill, I was chatting with a mom while our two littles used the facilities. When they both came out to wash their hands at the kid-sized sink, the mom proudly stated “My very favorite part of Disney–the sinks!” Indeed, the park designers certainly know their clientele.
The Manimal settled right into the bathroom routine. When I asked what was taking so long during one break he said loudly enough for the entire bathroom to hear (and chuckle, I imagine) “Mom, my poo takes long. My pee takes short.”
WDW is full of characters. I don’t know if it’s because my kids are older or because they’re boys, but they were not nearly as excited about the characters as I was. The Tweenager, I get. I mean, what fifth grader wants to write a “What I Did On My Spring Break” paper about how his mom MADE him get his picture taken with Mickey, Goofy and the Green Army Men from “Toy Story”?
But The Manimal? My sweet baby-until-last-October? Mr. Cynical.
He was quite wary from the beginning, so we had to explain that the characters were “just actors”. Well, being the black and white thinker he is, the magic was lost. Witness his interaction with Special Agent Oso on the last day of our trip.
Please excuse the mouth full of food. He was a bit perturbed. The “actor” really played “upset” very well.
On our first day, we thought we’d be smart and drive to the Magic Kingdom. Although we stayed “on property” at the Coronado Springs Resort, we recalled our last visit and the seemingly endless wait for the shuttle buses that run from the WDW resorts to all of the parks.
We parked (in the Pluto Lot, Row 27). Then we walked to the parking tram stop. And waited. Then we rode the parking tram to the transportation center to choose between the monorail or the ferry to get to Magic Kingdom. We chose the ferry. And we waited. We boarded the ferry and rode across the lagoon.
We did the whole thing in reverse at the end of the day except we took the monorail instead of the ferry to the transportation center. Where we boarded the parking tram and traveled to the parking lot (Pluto, row 27).
The next day we took the shuttles. Which pleased Manimal to no end. We didn’t realize quite how impressed he was by the shuttles until we overheard a conversation he had with Diva Nana during the week.
“Nana, they have buses at Dismey but they don’t call them buses. They’re called TRANSPORTATION!”
While the buses were the most convenient mode of transportation, they weren’t necessarily the quietest. Although it was a good reminder of the blessing that was DivaNana and DivaPapa, who graciously babysat the whole week for Little Darth. After hearing the thirty-seven-eleventh baby crying on the bus (on the second day), DH turned to me and said “Remind me to thank your mother.”
Believe it or not, buses weren’t the only rides we did. The Tweenager was very excited (after waiting three years since our last trip) to ride the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney Hollywood Studios. The attraction for this ride is the initial “take off”, where the rider experiences actual g-force. Crazy. During our 15 minute wait (we headed there as soon as we arrived in the morning), Tweenager was kind of dancing in line. I asked if he needed to go to the bathroom and he commented “I’m kind of nervous. My legs are really shaking.” The shaking continued until we got to the front of the line where he very nearly chickened out. He hung in there, though, and enjoyed the ride. Although not enough to want to do it again!
A family fave was Test Track in Epcot. One of DH’s “must ride” attractions, we let The Tweenager go in the “single rider” line. A bit of “controlled freedom” was a good thing for him. When we finished the ride, our fearless Manimal said “That was really fast but I am SO not doing it again!”
We managed to get him on the ride once more at the end of the week. We lied and told him it was different this time.
He bought it.
He didn’t like it any better, but the guy sharing our seat sure got a kick out of his running commentary.
We capped off our last night in Disney with a lovely meal at Le Cellier. As far as meals at WDW, I could eat my way around Epcot and be perfectly happy. I have discovered that everyone has their own opinions about restaurants and there are thirty-seven eleven different reviews for any given dining establishment. Find someone who’s been there before and get their opinions. If you are fortunate to have a friend who’s a self-proclaimed WDW Expert, readily accept any and all offers of trip-planning help they can provide, especially when it comes to dining.
We don’t do Disney often. In fact, we’ll probably not go again for five or six years, when Little Darth is at an age to enjoy the parks. So when we go, while we do try and watch costs in some areas, we choose Disney Dining as a place NOT to try and save. The convenience factor is simply too strong.
One thing to note, though. If you want to eat at Disney, dining package or not, make Advance Dining Reservations.
Repeat after me. ADR.
Do not. I repeat, do NOT make great plans for the Disney Vacay of a Lifetime and get to, say, ‘Ohana, to realize (when you’re ready for dinner at 5:30 pm) that they’ve got nothing open until 9:30 pm. In this age of internet, Disney has made making reservations online easy peasy lemon squeezy. Trust me on this one.
That being said, no reservations are needed for what is arguably the BEST snack in the entire world of Disney. We managed a quick trip to Aloha Isle in the middle of the week and I was nearly reduced to tears at the sheer yummy, pineapple-y goodness of the Dole Whip.
Of course, it may have had something to do with the fact that it was 90+ degrees and humid and I was solo with two tired boys (DH was resting his blister-covered feet in the hotel room).
But seriously, it’s probably a good thing we didn’t have them until midweek. We would’ve used every single one of our snack credits right up front.
The boys enjoyed their meals, but, being CHILDREN, they would’ve been happy with hot dogs or pizza at every meal. The Manimal had that on every menu, since he was on the kids meal plan. Unfortunately, The Tweenager is at that weird in-between stage. Being “9 and up” meant that he was on the adult meal plan. Unfortunately he didn’t use that to his full advantage. He loves his “kid food”, but eats like a stevedore.
His palate will soon catch up with his appetite, I’m sure.
Jedi Training Academy
When we first planned our trip, The Manimal was beside himself with the anticipation of getting to meet Darth Vader. Then we found out the bad news.
Star Tours was closed for renovation and wouldn’t reopen until May 2011. We knew We had chosen Thursday as our DHS day. We arrived at the Jedi Training Academy around 10, having seen a small sign somewhere that indicated you had to “sign up” for the JTA shows. Since they were running some 11 or 13 shows that day, I thought we’d have a fighting chance of getting The Manimal into a show.
Boy were we wrong.
At 10:15 am, the cast member told everyone in line that all spaces were full. After DH and I picked our jaws up off the pavement, I went over and asked the guy what we had to do on Friday to make sure that we got the boys into the show. He was honest and said “Be at the front gate of the park 45 minutes before the park opens.”
Okay, we figured that was doable. Only, because I’m a planner, we somehow ended up at the front gate of the park SEVENTY-FIVE minutes before it opened.
And the kicker?
We weren’t the first ones there.
As it turned out, though, it was a good thing. Allow me to set the scene.
Close your eyes (okay, not really because you need to read, but you get the idea) and imagine the absolute worst possible Black Friday sale you can. We’re talking throngs, hordes of people all trying to enter the building the second it opens.
Now multiply it tenfold.
I’ll spare you the details, but both The Manimal and The Tweenager were chosen for the first show. If we’d followed the cast member’s recommendation and actually been onsite only 45 minutes before the park opened, I seriously doubt if we’d gotten the kids into the show at all.
There ends our travelogue. I’m sure at some point, random stories will pop up, and I’ll regale you when they do. We enjoyed our trip, but I have to say it was nice to pick up Little Darth and go home as a family. I’m sure that The Manimal will be talking about this Disney adventure for years to come.
And if any of you are planning a WDW trip (or any family vacation for that matter) this year, I leave you with these.
May the force be with you.