Disney World, Part 2

A few months ago I wrote a whiny post about my kids choosing a trip to Disney World instead of a two-week camping trip. I didn’t want to go to Disney World but foolishly let The Boy and The Girl decide where we’d vacation. I don’t do crowds well under the best of circumstances and throw in tired, travel-weary children and I was pretty sure I’d wind up in Disney jail for assaulting someone.

We are now home from our visit and I can say I managed to avoid a criminal record and actually enjoyed our time in the Happiest Place on Earth. Yes, there were lots of people and, yes, it was overwhelming at times but the kids had a fabulous time and it was worth it. I made sure we had down time for the kids (and me) to decompress and get away from the masses, which is what made the whole trip bearable.

We stayed at the Port Orleans French Quarter resort, which was well-maintained and our room was nice but tight with four people. One of the buildings in the resort was being refurbished but we never heard construction noise or were bothered by the work. I was amazed by how clean the resort was with all the people there.

Our first real Disney experience involved princess and knight make-overs at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. We went to the Disney Springs location because I didn’t make reservations soon enough to get into the salon at Cinderella’s Castle. I’d originally booked the lowest tier of make-overs for The Girl and The Boy but I’m a sucker and upgraded when we got there. As we were waiting for our turn all these little girls were coming out wearing princess gowns (which wasn’t included in what I’d first chosen) and I didn’t want to explain to my princess that Mommy was too cheap to pay for a gown. And since The Girl got an upgraded package The Boy did too.

The Castle package for The Girl involved glittery makeup, a princess-like hair style and she was able to choose which princess gown she wanted. (Elsa was the winner.) The Boy was transformed into a knight with an armor-printed t-shirt (complete with attached cape), a gelled hair style (complete with dragon scales sprinkled in) and a foam sword and shield. He was sworn to protect the royals and was knighted with his own sword. The Fairy Godmothers In Training were fantastic with the kids, and talked with them about what it was like to attend Fairy Godmother school. Did you know they are in school for 1,000 years before being sent out on their own? It was definitely worth the cost and I’d highly recommend it if you have little ones who would enjoy becoming a knight or a princess.

After the kids’ transformations we headed to Epcot for rides and dinner. Frozen Ever After was a fun and slightly thrilling ride, which was perfect for our anxious Boy who didn’t like any of the faster rides. Turtle Talk with Crush kept the kids and adults entertained. We had dinner at The Garden Grill, a farm-to-fork type restaurant that slowly turns through various landscape scenes. We met Mickey and Pluto there and the kids were able to get their autographs. Our picky eater, The Girl, was not enjoying the family-style meal but lucked out when the entire building was evacuated for undisclosed reasons. We still don’t know what happened but had already been served most of the meal when we were told the building was being emptied. We were not charged for the meal.

A day at Magic Kingdom was next and the relative emptiness of Epcot did not prepare me for the mass of people there. The Girl loved the fast rides; The Boy not so much. The Pilot and I split up and he took The Boy on the slower rides and to see the Hall of Presidents while The Girl and I hit a couple of roller coasters. We left just as the fireworks were starting because it’d been a full day and we were all pooped.

Animal Kingdom was the destination for the next day and we took a river journey in Pandora, went on a safari and had lunch with Mickey, Donald, Daisy and Goofy. The safari was nothing short of amazing — and I don’t use that word lightly. The animals are up close and personal and free to roam. One of the trucks in front of us had to stop while an animal (we never found out which one) blocked the road. Don’t miss this attraction even if you don’t have a Fast Pass for it. I liked walking around the Tree of Life and finding all the animals carved into it. We cut the day short to head back to the resort to swim and relax but I could have spent the entire day there.

On our last full day, we decided to head back to Magic Kingdom to spend more time in Adventureland, which we had missed the first time we were there. The one thing we didn’t do that I wish we had was to take a raft to Tom Sawyer’s Island but we just ran out of time. The Swiss Family Robinson Tree House was interesting and the kids enjoyed climbing to the top and back down. You get a nice view of the park from the upper platforms and we did it twice. The Boy really liked that one.

The Pilot and I dropped the kiddos off at The Sandcastle Club at the Beach Club resort for that evening. They were able to eat there and spend the evening doing kid-friendly activities (dress up, making a volcano, eating snacks and playing video games). They even got to meet Captain Hook and Mr. Smee that evening. The Pilot and I headed back to Epcot for dinner at the Coral Reef, where you can eat in front of giant aquarium. We got to see SCUBA divers working in the tank and one of them got the entire restaurant to do The Wave. It was a nice adult evening and more relaxing because we knew the kids were having a good time too.

After all my complaining about going on this trip, I did end up having a good time and could see us returning in a few years. I’d do things a little differently next time, though. I don’t think we’d sign up for a dining plan again as we struggled to use all the entitlements. That’s partly because we didn’t get charged for one dinner and we were able to stock up on snacks and sandwiches for the trip home but it was a lot of food. When you’re trying to make better food choices an included dessert is not always beneficial. It would be nice if you could make substitutions, say a salad instead of dessert. Some restaurants allowed you to do that but not all. I’d probably skip Magic Kingdom in the future and spend more time at Epcot and Animal Kingdom. Epcot has more educational activities and The Boy (a scientist at heart) really liked those exhibits. The Girl said her favorite park was Magic Kingdom but I don’t think she’d complain about spending more time with the animals, especially if we also do some of the fast rides there.

The one thing I would do the same, however, is go off season. I can’t imagine the parks being even more crowded than they were. The crush of people was enough to severely test my patience. If there were even more humans, I’d definitely need to budget bail money into our trip planning.