Hi, Everyone. I'm FINALLY ready to blow up your reader with some posts on DISNEY WORLD! Woot-woot! So, this week will be Disney week on this little 'ole blog. I know your excitement is over-the-top :-).
These posts will be pretty detailed because I want to remember the little things about our amazing trip, but I know that this stuff won't be interesting to many of you. Confession: Before I went to Disney World myself, I would barely skim other bloggers' Disney World posts. However, now that I can relate to them, I love 'em! So skim if you must . . . no hard feelings!
Okay, so I want to begin with a little background on how we ended up going to Disney World in the first place. Neither Chris or myself are really Disney fans (or I should say, we weren't before we went there). He had never been to any Disney theme park, and I had only been one time - to Epcot for one day - in college. This wasn't something that we had experienced as kids and couldn't wait to introduce our kids to. In fact, a trip to Disney World wasn't really even on our radar for a looooong time, if ever.
However, our dear friends, Ross & Tia, are BIG Disney fans and make several trips a year. Waaaaaaay back in August of 2012, they invited us to vacation with them to Disney World and stay for free with them at the Disney resort, Saratoga Springs. We love to travel, and even though we didn't think Disney World interested us too much, we started looking into how we could make it work. We knew airline tickets to Florida would be a significant cost, so we looked into that first. Chris discovered that he had enough frequent flier miles (from when he traveled alllll the time with work . . . something he no longer does) to get three tickets and only have to pay fees on them. In other words, our whole family (because we wouldn't need a ticket for Brenson since he was not quite a year old) could fly to Florida for $30 ($10 in fees for each ticket)! He also had enough rewards points to rent us a vehicle for free for the week. With free lodging, super-cheap airfare, and a free rental car, how could we say no?
So, we gratefully and excitedly told our friends that we'd love to go with them and began making plans!
We decided to go during the first week of February, from February 1st to February 9th. Brenson's first birthday was on February 10th and Brianna would turn three on February 18th. She was really the perfect age for the trip. She was old enough to appreciate all the activities, but still believed in all the magic of Disney. Plus, since she was technically still two years old, we didn't have to purchase park tickets for her :-). Brenson was honestly a bit young, but he did so well. Better than I expected, though we were careful to make sure he was got adequate rest during the trip (more on that later).
Even though we didn't know it when we first planned the dates for our trip, it turned out to be the perfect time for a vacation. We lost B3 at the very beginning of January, and this was the ideal get-away to help us move forward from that loss. However, had it been any closer to our loss, I don't think I could have dealt with it. Planning the trip also gave me something to focus on and look forward to after the loss, and I really, really needed that at the time. Such a blessing!
Since neither Chris nor myself knew anything about Disney World, we were a bit overwhelmed with the planning process. I mean, Disney World is HUGE and there is so, so, so much to do. Where to even begin? I enlisted my blog-friend, Emily Parker, for a little help. I knew that she would have good advice that comes from lots of experience :-). We also ordered the Disney World free Vacation Planning DVD to help introduce everything to Brianna and get her pumped about it. That worked so well!
We told Brianna not long before Christmas about going to Disney World and meeting Princesses, and she was SO excited. I had told her that we would be going after Christmas, so a few days after Christmas she started asking constantly when we were going. I didn't think about how it would seem like a long time after Christmas to her, and I really wished that we had waited to tell her. Since it was too late to untell her, I made this adorable countdown chain to help her visualize how long it was before our trip:
Each night, we would take one link off of the chain. The night before we left, we took the last link off the chain and Brianna knew that we were leaving the next day. It worked like a charm!
This says, "Get your ears, it's time for cheers. Brianna and Brenson are going to Disney World. The countdown is on!"
Brenson even loved this, so the kiddos took turns ripping a chain off each night.
It was also a great reminder for Chris and me to not leave all the planning until the last minute! I really wanted this trip to go as smoothly as possible, which meant that I needed to put a lot of time into research and planning. I read this book almost cover-to-cover:
It was extremely helpful! It gave descriptions of all the rides at all the parks, rated restaurants, gave all sorts of tips and tricks, and was just overall a great investment for someone who was as Disney ignorant as we were! Such a great resource!
Even though Chris and I are both very experienced fliers, I was probably most nervous about the actual travel to and from Florida. We had flown several times with Brianna, but we still called our airline just to make sure that we had everything we needed for both Brianna (who was now old enough for her own ticket and seat) and Brenson (who was flying as an infant-in-arms). It was recommended to us that we travel with copies of their birth certificates, so we made sure to do that. We also verified that our double stroller could be gate checked for free, and our airline had no problem with that.
The preparation for the trip was very time consuming, but I was so glad we put the time into doing our research. We seriously had the smoothest trip possible, and that made it all that much better. Posts on our actual trip coming up soon!