Thursday, August 25, 2011

Disney Day 3: Animal Kingdom

Our third day at the Magic Kingdom started off with this facebook update:
"It appears I will be starting my day with a diet coke and Tylenol cocktail. I hope the kids don't hurt as much as we grownups do..."

That was followed by a video of the kids waking up and saying they were excited about heading to Animal Kingdom and promptly crawling back under the blankets. That could have been an indication of the kind of day we were going to have. Bobby was not thrilled because he didn't want to go to the zoo. I was not thrilled because I had heard it was hotter than the other parks which was later confirmed by a cast member. But, we tried to make the best of it.

 We had a reservation at the Tusker House restaurant in Africa for breakfast and it was so hot we thought we really were in Africa. Thank goodness for air conditioning! We got to meet Donald, Daisy, Goofy and Mickey (safari themed) at this meal. Even though we liked this meal one thing I would do differently would be to make sure I knew which characters are typically at the meal. Because we met Mickey, Goofy and Donald at Chef Mickeys the kids were still happy to see them but not as excited as they were the day before. There are so many different character meals it would be nice to meet other characters. Munchkin loved the juice they gave us and I admit I really liked it too and I am not a juice drinker.
 After breakfast we headed straight for the safari. It was close by and there was not a wait so we basically walked right on. I took my telephoto lens with me and left it in the hotel room safe...yep brought it specifically for the safari....Oh well. We did see quite a few animals on the safari and many of them were pretty close to the jeep we were riding in. This lion was not this close.
 The kids loved the safari though. Little Man said his favorite animal to see was the hippo. Munchkin liked the flamingo babies. :)
After the safari we were in kind of a quandary. Both of us are very familiar with Disneyland and Magic Kingdom was easy to navigate. Having never been to Animal Kingdom we were at a bit of a loss as to what to do. We knew we wanted to go on Expedition Everest and on the Kali Rapids but we were not really sure what else was fun.
While wandering the kids got to beat on a bunch of drums and meet Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore. 
We did know that we wanted to go on Dinosaur so we went to Dinoworld and I hung out with the kids while Bobby ran to get the fast passes. While in Dinoworld the kids found a couple of nifty things to do. One was to check out this awesome Alligator skull and the other was to put a bunch of dino bones in the right places. They had a passport that could be stamped in each of the lands at the kids activity booths.
 The big dizzy roller coaster was closed but I can't say I was disappointed. I used to be able to ride anything but now ugh....Even without the roller coaster there was still plenty to do. The dino area is like a big carnival including the carny games that you have to pay extra for. That didn't happen but we did ride the dino ride that was like Dumbo. All four of us were able to ride one dinosaur and there were controls for the front and back seats. Munchkin....the child who loved Splash Mountain and Big Thunder...screamed her head off because we were up high. There was also a great big kids play area that had water flowing down a wall and a great big fan that if you stood in just the right spot was a giant relief from the heat. The kids probably would have stayed in that play area much longer if we had let them.
Finally it was time for Dinosaur: the ride. This picture is right before scarring our children for life once again. My poor son was terrified...I was kind of scared too so I don't blame him one bit! I think he still likes dinosaurs...maybe...

Next up was the trip to get the fast pass for Expedition Everest. While waiting on the time to pass we walked through another area to see more animals. This is a child that is hot and hungry and cares nothing about the Komodo Dragon behind her:
 In this area they had giant bats, tigers and antelope. There was also a lot of people making it even hotter. I have to admit at this point it was time for lunch. We tried to find one place but no one really wanted to eat there but me and when I realized there was no indoor seating I didn't want to eat there either. We found a pizza place with air and good food. Once we had all eaten and had cold drinks (we had water but it was not icy cold) we were all a bit happier. We still had time to kill before Expedition Everest so we managed to even make it to the Birds of Flight show. I was very impressed with the Bald Eagle. Of course I am not sure about some of the show because I am fairly sure I slept through some of it...feeling old... The kids loved it though and really wanted to go up to the front at the end. We could see them and had no problem with that. Munchkin took good care of Little Man and made sure he stayed right with her.
 Little Man did NOT want to go on Expedition Everest. Since we had 4 fast passes Bobby was able to take Munchkin and then I was able to take her again. Crazy girl. She LOVED it! She did freak a little when we were stuck on the section going up for a few minutes. It was a good thing we were stuck though since Bobby was able to get a picture of us on our way down the big hill.
Munchkin and Bobby on Expedition Everest
 Our last fast pass of the day was for Kali River Rapids. And honestly I can't remember what we did while we were waiting to go on that ride. There was a little lizard in the bushes that I took a picture of, we may have looked at the Gibbons again and I think we just stayed out of the way. We went to the line 5 minutes before our time and the cast member let us through. Now typically I think she would have asked us to wait but there had been a threat of rain so it had been closed and they were trying to get people through.

This is a ride that had the disclaimer at the beginning that you will get wet. Possibly soaked. We got soaked. Somehow Munchkin and I were on the side that went under the waterfall.

 We were done. Once soaked we had done everything we wanted to do at the Animal Kingdom and went back to the hotel. I didn't know if we would go anywhere else that night and posted again on facebook:
We are still getting our moneys worth if we just spend the rest of tonight at the pool....right?
I got a lot of responses that all said yes! and enjoy the resort. We spent a good long time in the All Star Music Resort guitar shaped pool and then decided we were hungry. Since Epcot had extra magic hours we decided to go to China for dinner. We all felt refreshed and ready to head back out.
Once in Epcot we realized we were going to have to walk. I wore flip flops hoping that would help me and my poor blistered feet. We tried to check out Soaring but the fast passes were sold out for the night and we didn't want to wait and hour and half to get on. So we headed for China. When we got there Little Man said he wanted a cheeseburger. Now, I have not been to Epcot in a very long time and I didn't really look at the map before going in so Bobby said that America was just a couple of countries over. I didn't realize how very far it was so I sent him and Little Man to get the cheeseburger while we ordered our food. Munchkin and I ate our food and waited for them to come back...and waited...and waited. I got a to go box and we went out to the front of China hoping to see some of the fireworks....and then it started to sprinkle...and then it proceeded to pour. Oh, did I mention my cell phone was charging at the hotel? We went back to the restaurant to wait and I was just on the verge of asking someone for their cell when Bobby and Little Man made it back to where we were. 
When the rain started they stayed put and Little Man ate his dinner at a table with an umbrella where they could see some of the fireworks.I was really afraid that my sweet husband was getting madder and madder but he had a really good attitude about the whole situation. 
We called Bobby's parents from Germany (because we thought that was funny) and finally made it back to the bus around midnight. 
Our last adventure for the night was on Mission Space. We did the less challenging mission. You know it is going to be bad when they have barf bags in the seat pocket in front of you. I closed my eyes for awhile. Munchkin screamed her head off and Little Man absolutely LOVED it! He did a great job navigating everything and pushing the buttons he was supposed to. I was glad we ended the night on a good note for him after Dinosaur. :) 
I think reading back through it sounds like we did not have a good day but we really did. It was hot and crowded at Animal Kingdom but we did get to do some fun things there. I do think that we may skip that park though if we ever get to do a trip like this again.
Tips for Animal Kingdom: Bring water and snacks and have a lot of patience. Also, use fast passes.
Next: Universal Islands of Adventure

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Disney Day 2: Magic Kingdom

Disney Travel Tip #1: If you have a "smart" phone that has all of your appointments make sure to take a printed copy of your reservations with you. My "smart" phone moved all of my reservations one hour later than I made them.

Our first day was one of getting up early and going to bed late, plenty of sweating and many many blisters in the mean time but also lots of magic!. The kids had been talking about Space Mountain for days so we were prepared to let them ride that as their first ride at Magic Kingdom. But first, we had breakfast.

Disney Travel Tip #2 If you are going with kids and want to see characters without standing in ginormous lines get the dining plan and get reservations for character dining. The characters come right up to your table instead of waiting in the heat (or cold) to see them.

We got to breakfast at Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary Hotel early (or did we?) so we checked out the gift shops and went out on the observation deck for a bit. The anticipation was building for the kids since they could see Space Mountain! I was not really sure they could get more excited until they spotted Mickey Mouse at Chef Mickey's. One of the surprises I managed to keep was that there would be characters at some of our meals. Both Munchkin and Little Man were so excited when each of the characters came to our table, kissed them on the heads and hugged them. They had their autograph books out and ready and even danced around when it was time to dance with the characters.  They got to see Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Pluto that morning. When I checked our dinner reservation time on my phone I did a double take. I knew that I did not schedule dinner for 9 pm. That was when I discovered my phone had moved all of my appointments upon changing time zones. I must commend Chef Mickey's here because I had no idea we were there at the wrong time. When we walked up to the counter and told them our name they gave me a pager. We waited about 10 minutes and were seated. They didn't cancel us or even say we would have to come back at another time, they just seated us. It later occurred to me that our reservation had been earlier and that was why we had to leave so early to get there.

After our exciting breakfast and a video of the kids telling us how awesome Chef Mickey's was we jumped on the monorail and headed for the Magic Kingdom. My backpack was searched along with everyone else carrying a bag and I, of course, picked the wrong line to be admitted. A new thing..or maybe it has just been awhile, they took a fingerprint so no one else could use your card to get into the park. The kids got maps and we were on our way to Tomorrowland. But, before we could reach Tomorrowland we hit Main Street. Munchkin recently saw Mary Poppins and has been randomly singing supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and to her delight there was a band singing that song. She boldly popped over and sang along while taking part in a chorus line!

The kids saw the Buzz Lightyear ride so we got fast passes for that ride and headed for Space Mountain. The line for Space Mountain was only about 15 minutes long. It may have taken us longer to walk to the line than we actually had to wait. Now, being a kid from Cali I am used to Space Mountain being two people next to each other. It is different at Magic Kingdom though. The chair is more like a captains chair and you are lined up behind each other. We get on Space in the front, Munchkin behind me, Little Man and then Bobby. By the time we start heading up the hill Munchkin is yelling "This is freaking me out!! This is freaking me OUT!!! THIS IS FREAKING ME OUT!!! By the midpoint of the ride she is just screaming and Little Man is crying his eyes out. I was screaming because it's fun and I am pretty sure Bobby was back there yelling too. We got off the ride and had to stop before we left the building to console our poor freaked out, scarred for life children. That was really not the best possible start to the day however it really did get better.

While waiting for our turn on Buzz Lightyear we went on the race cars. Little Man did not want to drive until halfway around the track and then leaned over to "help" me. Let's just say there was quite a bit of riding the rail around the track on that pass. Munchkin drove her car around though and did a "smash-up" job of it. ;)

Disney Tip #3 Utilize the fast pass system. It will be your best timesaver.

Once we finished the race cars it was time to head back to Buzz Lightyear. Because we had our fast passes we waited about 5 minutes to get on the ride. Not too shabby! As an added bonus when we came out Buzz was signing autographs. Since this was one of the characters the kids would not get to see at a meal we waited in line for them to meet him. When there were about 5 kids ahead of us he had to go take a break. It was a short one thank goodness because we were hot and sweaty and a little grumpy to be standing in line.

Our adventure continued in Fantasyland where we were headed to get fast passes for Peter Pan. We got sidetracked though when we saw the line for the teacups was walk on. I went once and then stayed off to the side and took pictures while Bobby took the kids on a second time. Bobby spun the kids so fast and they loved it!

The fast pass for Peter Pan gave us two hours to go find something else to do. So, we rode It's a Small World and looked for Hidden Mickeys, rode the Haunted Mansion (score two for scarring our children for life) and looked for the Hidden Mickey, rode the Jungle Cruise and finally went back to Peter Pan. Munchkin and Little Man really wanted to ride together so we let them. I was a little worried about Little Man but he did just fine. Once again, with our fast pass we did not wait long however the guy in front of us was doing this:

Disney Tip #4 Do not try to conduct business on a cell phone in line with 800 screaming children.

While in line for Peter Pan we were hoping the impending storm would hit and be over by the time we were out of the such luck.  We ran over to Frontierland and tried to get a fast pass for Splash Mountain which was closed due to the impending storm. We tried Big Thunder Mountain...closed. Tom Sawyer Island...closed. It was time for a snack. So we used one of dining plan snack credits to get ice cream. It hit the spot and we were ready to find some other rides. We checked out the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse and the went on Pirates. I can't help but compare the ride with the one at Disneyland. The line at Magic Kingdom is all covered which is wonderful. I do miss the meandering of the boat through the Blue Bayou though and the drop has much to be desired. Yes, I realize the water table is higher in Florida than California. Little Man was a bit freaked out but not too bad.

We were finally by the castle and I thought I would check in to make sure on our reservation time for The Royal Table dinner. They actually had a spot open right then and we were able to stop what we were doing and get some dinner. The only problem with going right then was that Cinderella had gone on a quick break so we had to go back down and see her during the meal. To be able to have dinner 2 hours earlier than expected that was a minor inconvenience. I think this was one of my favorite meals of the entire trip. We got to eat in the castle, meet the princesses and have a delicious dinner. I had beef tenderloin and chocolate mousse. Bobby had fish...mahi mahi, maybe? Munchkin had Mac and Cheese and Little Man had chicken nuggets. They also got a build your own dessert which was ice cream or a cupcake. Bobby told me later that he knew it was an expensive dinner (it takes two dining credits per person) when they brought the kids swag. Munchkin got a wand, Little Man got a sword and they both got wishing stars.

At this point in the night I was already starting to walk funny. Remember way back in October I injured my leg so I have not done much walking since then. The leg was fine but by the end of the week Bobby and I both had blisters upon blisters all over our feet.

We did manage to get Big Thunder and Splash Mountain in, which the kids absolutely loved! We got to see a bit of the Electric Lights Parade and finally headed to the front of the park to leave. Getting out of the park was tricky.

Bobby cracked that this would be what the Zombie Apocalypse would look like. Once we finally got to our stop we didn't wait too long for a bus. Munchkin and I got a seat (she sat on my lap) while Bobby stood. Little Man stood for a bit and then sat down on Bobby's feet for the rest of the ride. Both kids zonked out on the way to the All Star Resort and went straight to sleep when we got back to our room. We were exhausted as well and knew that it was going to be an early morning for Day 3.

Next up...Animal Kingdom

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Disney Vacation Travel and Day 1

Months ago we decided to take the kids on a trip to Disney World. One of my favorite memories as a kid was driving down to SoCal to our friends house, loading up in their camper and heading to Disneyland. Even when I was in college I got to go a few times on tickets earned though performing with the APU choir.

When we finally saved up enough to take the trip we called and booked everything. We decided to stay on property so that we could take the buses to the parks and did the dining plan so the kids could meet the characters without having to stand in a ton of lines. There were a few surprises along the way that we managed to keep from the kiddos but I had a hard time containing myself!

We left on Saturday and drove to Atlanta to stay overnight with our sweet friends. We told our kiddos they could yell out the window to their friends while we were passing through so when we actually pulled into the driveway Munchkin said "Where are we? I thought we were staying in a hotel!" She was quite shocked when her best friends daddy opened the door! That was that and we didn't see our children again until dinner time. We let them stay up and watch a movie while we grown ups watched one of the Bourne movies and ate caramel popcorn. :)

Sunday morning the kids jumped some rope and played some basketball before we hopped in the car and headed for the Magic Kingdom. A quick shout out goes out to Google for teaching me all about Spanish Moss on our way down. I was intrigued by the way it hung from the trees. Not only was I on the lookout for Spanish Moss but also for gators. I really thought I might see one but alas I did not.

After what felt like a very long drive we finally arrived at the All Star Music Resort in Buena Vista Florida. Check in was a breeze and we found our room without a problem. Well...kind of. We ended up at the Movie resort before turning around and finding our building at the Music Resort. After the frantic excitement of finding Micky made out of towels on our bed and getting settled we decided to get on the bus and head to Downtown Disney.

I personally was quickly overwhelmed because there were so many people. The kids did fine though. The Lego store was a big hit as was the Disney store with the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique. There was a giant Stitch on top that spit water and Bobby managed to get Little Man right in the water path.

There we so many souvenirs to choose from but we finally decided on autograph books and a pen to take to each of the parks. We finally made our way to Planet Hollywood (we had a $15 voucher for dinner) and put our name in for dinner. It took about an hour to get seated but it was worth the wait. There was plenty of memorabilia to check out and that made the wait a bit more bearable. Our table was right next to the DJ so Munchkin went up all by herself to request a song. What did she pick? Party in the USA. Earworm of the year. ;) We thought it was really funny to look around the restaurant and see so many people dancing along to the song. And, we were so proud of Munchkin going up there all by herself to request the song.
Our day was coming to an end and it was finally time to go back to the hotel. We caught the shuttle and it was packed. We had to stand the whole way back to the hotel and the people on the bus were kind of grumpy and sweaty and someone had gas. What can you do? You pay a lot of money and go all day long. I cut most people some slack that night except for the lady that shoved back at my kid who had never had to stand on a packed shuttle bus before and kind of lost her balance. That lady got a dirty look but it didn't dampen my spirit at all for the upcoming adventure we were about to have.
I am still editing pictures from the trip so hopefully I will have a day by day account with some tips and tricks we learned along the way. :)

Back to School

It is that time of year again. Back to school, back to school. Munchkin and Little Man are very excited about their new teachers and the start of another school year! It will be a big transition for me not having them home and I am going to miss them! But I will go eat lunch with them and volunteer as well. There are lots of transitions going on at school but we are praying for everything to go smoothly.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Summer Time is Travel Time

Well hello blogland! It is good to see you again! I have looked out over the vast expanse of my non summer blogginess and felt shame...well not really..we were really busy all summer. I think there are over 1000 posts unread in my google reader but I was busy making memories with my kiddos. Now if I can get them down on paper that would be fabuloso! :)

We took a road trip and hit 11 states in 15 days. We were home for a week and hit another 2 states in our quest for the perfect family vacation to the "Happiest Place on Earth". I have a whole series planned out on that trip that I am sure the grandparents and family will appreciate. :)

Today I am baking cookies to give to our neighbor that watched our dog and doing a mountain of laundry. Somewhere in there I have to take my daughter to buy school shoes and get each of my kiddos at least one new pair of pants or school shorts. At least I got their school supplies before we left for Florida. Now, where is my label maker........