So, my family was given an amazing opportunity to go on an amazing trip.
Before my Mom died she gave instructions to cremate her, then wait until everyone could more easily go (and enjoy ourselves), then have a family trip to scatter her ashes on the sea shore. She wanted us to all go together and have a wonderful time. She cashed out some retirement accounts and put the money aside and gave my dad all the instructions. Her only details were it had to be at the seashore and we had to go have a lovely big family vacation. My dad decided to return her to her native Florida and to take the kids to Disney World. I am glad we waited a while – it was nice not to have that fresh grief hanging over us and to enjoy our time.
Now, we have tried to get together every summer the last few years for a vacation, and we have tried to do Christmas for most of the years until the last 2. However, none of us can afford a big elaborate vacation, so it is usually something like a camp out or a big cabin where we all share a big room with bunk beds. Those have been really fun, and the goal has been spending time together, which is the important part. You can imagine this trip was quite different and truly a memory maker.
I tried to start with the “important” part of the trip, but it just isn’t happening, so I am going to just go in chronological order.
The first part was Disney World for the kids (and the grown up kids.)
We arrived in Orlando in the evening, so we really didn’t use the first day of tickets much, and part of our party was delayed by over 4 hours due to mechanical problems on their plane, so they just got to swim in the hotel pool “in the dark of night” as my nephew said. They seemed to think it was magical anyway. My dad was worried about us not getting our money’s worth because the flights got in so late that day. It’s ok, after the days we spent there I was exhausted and so was everyone else, so I think it worked out just right.
My family and my Dad arrived first. After we got checked in at the https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/port-orleans-resort-riverside/ we had dinner and then my family went to Downtown Disney https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/destinations/downtown-disney/ by boat. They have an arcade my son wanted to go to and we thought that night was a good time to get it out of the way. That way he was able to get some of the excitement out of the way and sleep and we weren’t wasting our entire first day. We had a good time that night, looking at things, riding the boat, riding the bus back, playing at the arcade. If you get the chance to go, I highly recommend this area for adult type entertainment. They have tons of bars, clubs, music, dancing and restaurants. Also, who knew that Disney is so big with the gay crowd? Not me.
Our rooms were lovely. I highly recommend this resort in the park. If I could go with my family again, I would spend a few extra days just to enjoy the resort. They had terrific pools, fishing, bikes to rent, horse and buggy rides and more. It could honestly be a vacation in and of itself. We had a meal plan and in our hotel there was a “cafeteria” area that was delicious. We ate there at least once a day, but there were also several other restaurants as well as at least one bar. The theme of the resort was “the bayou” – like in Princess and the Frog. The decorations were terrific, the pool right outside our front door was terrific, the atmosphere in general – terrific. No major noise, extremely clean, just lovely. Disney puts the same amount of details into everything – our carpet looked like wood flooring and there was a secret pull out trundle bed hidden in the wall – with a crocodile and the frogs painted in the wall over it. We weren’t very close in relation to each other except brother #1 and my family. (brothers are listed in age order, not by how much I like them or anything. #1=born first, #3=born third… brother #2 and his fiance (partner woman) didn’t get to join us until the beach house.) My dad was off in another area and the brother #3’s family was quite a ways away, but they got to stay in “the mansion…” We had thought the agent told them to put us together, but this worked out just fine, no big deal to stay separately for us.
Since we had the meal plan, we got 2 meals and a snack every day. I decided to have groceries delivered to our hotel for everyone to keep in their room. Most of us decided to do breakfast in the room to avoid the breakfast rush and to avoid having to deal with children in a restaurant that early. It was a great decision for our family at least. I highly recommend this if you go, especially if you have any picky eaters. The delivery fee was totally worth the convenience, and since we had 4 families, we split it up. (https://www.orlandogroceryexpress.com/)
We had all kind of decided the parks we wanted to hit on certain days and the things we really wanted to see the most, but being on a family vacation really highlights the differences in families. I thought it was funny to see how everyone did things differently. Brother #1’s wife knows that their boys are only good for a certain amount of time. She had it down to 3 or 4 things they truly wanted to see. They hit that park, saw those things, and went back to the hotel for a rest or swim, then they did it again later. I personally knew that my son can go most of the day, but he doesn’t like to be rushed from thing to thing. We kind of like to go to an area of the park and see what looks interesting, which I was really glad we did in Tomorrow Land. I think we had the best time there. I wish I had done that more at the Magic Kingdom because that day was our best day. Brother #3’s family had certain shows or performances they wanted to see (they are all artsy and musicy and stuff) and they planned the rest of the activities around those things. They have a different dynamic in their family than the rest of us. There are two fairly energetic and young acting parents – one who is very pregnant, there is a teenager who has been “adopted” into the family, and there are two young girls, one 5 and one 2. So they had a large range of “wanted” activities. They split up some, the teenage boy and the dad going on big rides and the mom and girls going to things like Nemo and Dumbo. All of our methods seemed to work for our individual families. Brother #3 wanted to really go to every place – so they spent a couple hours at a water park, then went for a few hours to Animal Kingdom, etc. They also stayed out until the parks closed …. I didn’t want to spend our whole day on buses and ferrys and monorails and walking from park to park, so I picked the things I thought would appeal to us most. I also have to be careful of my energy usage or I fatigue quickly. I decided not spending my energy on walking from area to area in the heat would serve us better. We did stay out longer than I would have imagined us doing. My husband and I didn’t get to see all we would have liked to – but really, you can’t. We decided if we really wanted to see as much as possible, a 10 day stay would be necessary. There is just so much to see and with lines and such you end up not doing it all. Plus we had a night that got rained out and all the rides closed, so that was disappointing. But we saw our major wants, saw light parades and fireworks and the castle transformation, and had a great time. My goal was everyone having a great time and spending time together. We accomplished that.
The funniest part was Brother #1 told me that they had changed their plans to go to Hollywood Studios first instead of the Magic Kingdom because star wars was there for a last day. I normally get all anxious if I have to change plans, but I thought – hey, we are here once, why not? I am glad we went with them – we saw things we would have missed otherwise, were able to find out when and where to sign up for Jedi Training for the boys the next morning, and it was nice for my son to see his cousins most of that day because after that we were able to split up and go do our own thing without the kids feeling like they didn’t see each other. We didn’t really see my nieces until the beach house but a minute or two and I think both groups would have liked to see each other more, but it simply wouldn’t have worked out trying to follow all the families around every day. We did watch the light parade with them and that was fun.
I have to tell you a funny story. We got up early and hit Hollywood before it opened on our second full day to try to sign the boys up for Jedi Training. We wanted to do it as early as possible so we could get on with the rest of our day at another part of the park. We were in line when the gates opened and not too far back either. As the people started surging forward we were worried all of these people were there for Jedi Training. My sister in law picked up her little guy who wasn’t feeling well, grabbed her older one by the hand and practically ran to the place we were supposed to go. My son wasn’t feeling that well either, so my brother picked him up and put him on his shoulders and we walked fast (though not as fast as sis). At almost the last minute the crowd surged the other way away from us, to our relief and when we got to Jedi Training we were just behind a few people in line (thanks to sis running her little hiney off). Her competitive side does come in handy. Jedi Training was totally cool, BTW. And making your own light saber – also totally cool.
The last day my husband and son decided to do it differently than I had planned as well. They wanted to hit the big exciting rides as much as possible, so we ended up fast passing and snaking back and forth across the parks to do that. My dad joined them on a few rides and the boys had a blast.
In all it was magical, tiring, fun and the trip of a lifetime.
A few thoughts: first – fast passes -they don’t cost extra like some of us thought. Do them. Second- check into any extra fun stuff happening before you go. We were able to see star wars parades, many Star Wars characters walking around, and do jedi training all because my brother looked and saw what was available. You never know what you might find, they seem to have special stuff going on all the time. Holidays are very special in the Magic Kingdom. Third – if you haven’t gone before, check out the “disney parks” movies that tell you some fun stuff to try and even some behind the scenes hints. There are a few on Netflix. My son and I saw several things we wanted to try that I never saw advertised or even highlighted on the website which were some of our favorites. Fourth – take your own ponchos and glow sticks. It will probably rain, and theirs are ridiculously expensive and all the kids want glow sticks for the parade of lights and fireworks. Fifth – when the fireworks and parade are going on is a terrific time to ride rides – no lines, so I suggest seeing that stuff the first day and hitting the rides every night after that. Sixth: we did a character lunch and it was totally worth making a reservation a long time in advance and paying extra. You do have to make reservations like up to 3 months in advance, but it is so much better than standing in line to see characters for 2 minutes. The characters came to our table, we got pictures with many of them, and they even did some fun dances and such with the kids. It was a terrific meal experience for my son who is afraid of food, so it was so worth it for me. Sixth – balloons are expensive. Seventh – just have fun. Let having fun be your goal. Don’t think about what you are missing, don’t think about what you didn’t see, just think about the great time you had. My son only missed out on one thing he wanted to do and he didn’t mention it to me until the last day. I feel kind of bad about it, but I guess it gives us something to look forward to if we can ever go again.