We drove to Orlando on Sunday. We left mid-morning and made surprisingly good time, arriving at our hotel around dinner time. We pulled up to our fancy hotel (the Swan, which we booked with hotel points from Christopher’s travel), and I tell you, every time I pull up to a nice hotel, it feels like the Grapes of Wrath. We had been traveling with three small children for seven hours. There were McDonald’s bags and smooshed granola bars and Ben had a freshly dirtied diaper. It was both amusing and embarrassing to watch the bell hop unload our seventeen backpacks, double jogger stroller, and giant box of snack food.
Within about 15 minutes of arriving to our room, I had the three kids bathed and in their pj’s. We also unpacked all the suitcases, as the room had (conveniently) five large drawers. The room was small but clean. Our crib had not arrived yet, so I took Ben for a long walk in the umbrella stroller. Our hotel complex, which includes the Disney Swan and Dolphin, are huge and adjacent to the Disney Boardwalk, so there was lots to do and see just in our hotel area.
The kids slept well, every night, in fact. That was a huge blessing. Megan and I shared a bed, Christopher and Gavin shared a bed, and Ben slept in his tiny hotel crib in the corner.
Monday morning we were up before the sun. I had set an alarm but we didn’t need it. Christopher and I had fallen asleep with the kids at 9 p.m., so by 6 a.m. I was in the shower. By 7:15 we were out the door. Every morning we ate breakfast in our hotel room. Usually organic instant oatmeal in plastic cups with hot water from the coffee maker.
Our first stop was to Animal Kingdom, which opened at 8 a.m. for Disney resort guests on Monday (called Extra Magic Hours). Every morning we met my friend Jessica at the gate, who works for Disney and is able to get herself and three people in the parks every day. We paid her a fraction of what it would cost us for tickets, and bought an additional child pass at the gate. We ended up saving about 40%, so between the free hotel and food we brought, we took a Disney World vacation for about as cheap as you can.
Back to Animal Kingdom. Jessica got us in, and we headed straight for Kilimanjaro Safaris in Africa. It was a great first ride at Disney. The scenery was awesome and the animals were roaming around in the cool morning air.
Next Christopher took Megan on Expedition: Everest. She kept her eyes closed during most of it, and we realized she wouldn’t be going on Space Mountain and Tower of Terror like we thought she might. Although she was scared during the ride, she came out smiling.
While Christopher and Megan were gone, I wandered into Dino-rama and got on Triceratop Spin with Gavin and Ben, which is exactly like Dumbo with dinosaurs. The ride was nearly empty so we rode three times in a row, and Gavin was ecstatic. Ben was slightly entertained, and I was slightly nauseated.
Next Christopher took Gavin and Megan on Dinosaur. My “Disney World for Kids” guide book gave it a !!! on the scare factor (the max) and recommended it for kids 8+, but I thought, hey, Gavin can handle dinosaurs and sent him anyway. Gavin came out crying, and Megan was not happy, either. We learned quickly to just say no to scary rides. I had a Baby Swap ticket (we did this a lot) and rode it, and it was loud, dark, and scary. I thought it was kind of fun.
We let the kids run around the Boneyard for a few minutes, a dinosaur-themed playground, and then saw the Festival of the Lion King, Animal Kingdom’s premiere show. There were live actors, puppets, acrobats, and musical theater style performances. It was great, but Ben was horrible. We were starting to get a taste of how rotten he would be on this trip.
We had a wonderful lunch at Flame Tree Barbecue. Christopher got ribs, I got a turkey breast sandwich, and the kids each got a drumstick kids plate. It was plenty of tasty food for $30, and most of our meals were like this. We decided to forgo any sit down dinners, party because of cost but mainly because of Benjamin. Even our twenty-minute counter service meals were too long for him.
After lunch we went and saw the 3D movie, It’s a Bug’s Life. After about two minutes, Ben was crying, so we left the theater. Two minutes later, I was surprised when Christopher came out of the theater with two crying kids. Gavin because he was scared, Megan because she didn’t want to leave the movie.
We went back to the hotel and took four hour naps. Actually, Christopher went to sleep with Gavin and Ben, and I took Megan to the pool for an hour and a half. We snuck back in the hotel room, showered, dressed, and still had time for a good nap. Those boys were tired.
Monday evening we headed to Epcot. Our hotel was an “Epcot resort” so we had a quick water taxi to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. I took Megan and Gavin on The Seas with Nemo & Friends and to Turtle Talk with Crush, where Crush and I “shared a moment” talking about being parents. It was fun. We met up with Christopher and Ben and proceeded to “eat our way” through the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. We had perogies and kielbasa from Poland (Christopher’s pick), sushi from Japan (Megan’s pick), everything off the Greece menu (my pick), pork lettuce wraps from South Korea. Later we staked out a good spot to watch Illuminations, the evening show. While everyone was waiting for the fireworks show, I chased Ben around a quiet English garden. It almost felt like I was in another country, and Ben ran for a solid half hour. We headed back to our spot as the show started.
The first firework went off. Benjamin started screaming. He was shaking in terror. Gavin was whimpering, too.
I headed back to the boat, leaving Megan and Christopher to enjoy the show.
Unfortunately, the boat wasn’t leaving until the show ended, and we could still see and hear the fireworks. Fortunately, Christopher and Megan caught up to us on the boat.
Everyone slept well, again.
** More pictures to come. The internet is being ridiculous.