Friday, June 20, 2014

Trip Recap: Our First WDW Trip (With Toddlers!)

By: Jenna

I’m excited to share my very first trip recap with you all today! I love writing up informative posts that (hopefully!) help you plan your trip, but I remember planning our first trip and how much I enjoyed reading peoples recaps. Seeing how all of the little planning details came together to make for a great trip was really encouraging!

I’ve mentioned in a few of my posts here that I planned our first trip on short notice. Ever since my husband and I got married in 2005, I’ve been attempting to get him to go to Disney. In fact, I tried to convince him that it was the perfect honeymoon spot (he disagreed and we ended up in Hawaii instead). Once we had kids his excuse was that they were too young to enjoy it. I knew better; I grew up in California and my family took Disney trips from the time I was little! I think the fact that he had never been to any Disney park played a big factor in his lack of enthusiasm.

One day he showed a little bit of weakness towards the Disney subject and I pounced on it, like any good wife would. We began checking our credit card points and found that we could stay for free off-site. I consulted the crowd calendars to pick a good time for us to go. Then we looked up flights and found a direct flight into Sanford on sale. After that I found out about Priceline (where you pick the amount you’re willing to spend and the car rental company can choose to agree to those terms) and I booked an SUV for less than $200 for the whole week. And just like that we were headed to Disney in less than three months and spending a fraction of what we had thought it would cost.

I immediately contacted my friend and fellow Real Mom’s Disney blogger, Melissa. She had just been to Disney a couple of weeks prior to our decision to go and I knew she’d have some great advice for me. We emailed back and forth and she helped me make some decisions for our trip. Her kids are close in age to mine, who were just 3 (his birthday was right before we left) and 4 at the time of this trip.

After that I began visiting a plethora of Disney websites. I found the restaurants that we would like to eat at and made a spreadsheet with all of that information. Then I booked our ADR’s (which was a nightmare - most of the good times were taken!). I ended up having to check back every day hoping to snag someone’s cancellation. I ended up getting almost every reservation we wanted but it’s no lie when I say I stalked the reservations site every day, refreshing it up to 200 times a day to get them.

We flew into Sanford late on a Monday night and finally got to our hotel close to midnight. The next morning was our very first day at the park. We have always agreed that when we go to Disney our first and last day will be spent at Magic Kingdom, so we started there.

(Pardon the watermark on these pictures - I used them on my other blog as well).

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For some reason, Brayden refused to take a smiling picture that morning. I think he forgot that we were at the happiest place on earth.

Anyway, that day was spent riding a ton of great rides that the kids loved, their favorites being Barnstormer, the teacups, Under the Sea and Pirates of the Caribbean. We ate lunch at Cosmic Rays (QS) and the food was very good. That night we ate dinner at Paradiso 37 which is located at Downtown Disney. It was not good and I wouldn’t recommend it. It was also the worst dining service we had.

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The next day we headed to Animal Kingdom. We stopped in for a photo op with Dug and Russell (from Up!) first and then headed off to get our Wilderness Explorers Field Guides. You can do activities and get stamps in your book/earn badges just like Russell. We found that most activities were too difficult for our kids so we gave up on it pretty quickly. We ate lunch at the Rainforest Cafe. We’ve been to several before, but it’s one of Brayden’s favorite places to go. The kids both enjoyed the Kilimanjaro Safari and Brayden rode Dinosaur! but it was a bit scary for him. There wasn’t a lot Brody could do at the time, but the one big positive was the character meet and greet spot at the back of the park. We were able to meet Donald and Chip & Dale.

The next day was spent at Hollywood Studios, which was actually the park we almost didn’t visit. When reading about it online it just didn’t seem like there was that much there but it ended up being our second favorite park (after MK). The kids met four of their favorite characters. We stood in line for an hour to meet these guys:

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It was well worth it. The kids still talk about it!

We ate breakfast that morning at Disney Junior Play & Dine at Hollywood and Vine. The kids got to meet Jake, Agent Oso, June and Handy Manny. They had an absolute blast. Jake drew a sword under his name in the autograph book and they thought it was so cool (so did I - how does he do that in that costume?!).

We later ate a snack at Starring Rolls cafe. I’ll talk about this in another post (and update this one with a link) but Starring Rolls has the best cupcakes. They are huge - you can easily share one with a friend, and so good!

While there, we went to the Disney Junior show, the Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Lights, Camera, Action and The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow. We also rode Toy Story Mania (with a fastpass!) and Star Tours (except for Brody who wasn’t tall enough).

We ended the day on a high note and met Brody’s favorite Disney characters:

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He is staring at Mike with pure adoration. It was adorable!

The next day was a break day and we drove to Daytona Beach. That night we ate at T-Rex which is located in Downtown Disney. We are going back to T-Rex on our next trip and I’ve got a tip for you. All of their reservations were gone when I was booking our next trip (and I was 180 days out). I decided to call them to see if they will take phone reservations and it turned out they do! I was able to get the exact date/time that I wanted even though Disney’s website said nothing was available.

The following day was spent at Epcot. Epcot and Animal Kingdom were our least favorite of the parks, but I think as the kids get older we will all enjoy Epcot more. I definitely want to go back and taste my way around all of the countries!

For this trip, we dined at the Coral Reef restaurant and it was really good. The kids LOVED the Nemo ride and I loved visiting London. I had to get a picture in front of the Rose and Crown (Pride and Prejudice fans will understand this).

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That night we headed over to the Polynesian Resort so that we could eat dinner at ‘Ohana. It was our favorite meal of the entire trip! The food was SO good and we had a great time.

Our last day was spent back at the Magic Kingdom. We ate at Chef Mickey that morning (at the Contemporary Resort) and then headed to the park. We met the White Rabbit that day (a complete fluke - he was standing near the teacups with no line whatsoever).

We stumbled across Rapunzel’s tower so I had to get a picture. Tangled is my favorite Disney movie!

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We used that day to ride all of our favorites again and hit a few that we missed the first day, like Peter Pan’s Flight and the Winnie the Pooh ride. Our very last ride of the trip was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

And guess what? By the end of our trip Chris was already talking about going back. That’s how the Disney magic works, folks. ;-)

Phew, that was a really long recap and yet I feel like I left so much out! Be sure to check out our restaurant reviews and all of the other sections of the site for even more details about all of our trips!

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