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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Disney Prep and Arrival!

Yes, this starts what will be a MASSIVE amount of Disney Posts! You've been warned :) I'm also going to put any tips I have in BOLD and then will do a combined Disney tip posts with all the tips after I finish up with all of our memories from this vacation :)


Growing up we visit Disney World many times. We lived near Orlando when I was very young and still continued to visit the area even after we moved to Atlanta since all of our extended family still lived there. I'm so thankful for the love of Disney my mom instilled in me at a young age. Do I remember those trips? Not really. But the magical feeling of Disney totally fills my heart and I know it's because we did visit so often when I was young and because my mom has that youthful, magical spirit that made us believers :) 

The older I get, the more I fall in love with all things Disney. In college Zach and I have a friend who would go to Disney all the time and we joked that she was crazy but now I would TOTALLY go more often if finances allowed!!! I'm envious of my friends with season passes for sure!!!

We have visited Disney quite a few times in the past couple of years. Kye actually went to the parks three times while he was four years old! So awesome :) Disney is one of those things that the more often you go, the better it gets. I have WAY more knowledge when planning than I did in the past and my attitude about it is so much more relaxed. This trip was Britt's first visit. Zach and I agreed that we'd take each kid on a BIG first visit trip and then do smaller, quicker trips in-between. This was our second time ever taking a big Disney trip and I was SO pumped about it!!! 

When planning a Disney trip, you MUST plan in advance. Which is not a big deal for me. I'm a natural planner and I love the process so I enjoyed putting all the plans in motion for this trip throughout the past year. We decided to go in Feb for her first visit for multiple reasons. 1) Lowest crowd level I could find other than if we waited until September 2) Cooler weather 3) I'd be earlier along in my pregnancy. 

While Feb had it's advantages, the disadvantage was that Britt was a little younger than Kye was for his first trip. He was 2 ½ and she was 2 years and 2 months. I did NOT do as much prep to get Britt ready for the trip as I did with Kye. We literally talk about Disney every single day in our home. Seriously. So no prep was needed. Britt knows ALL about Disney. She's like a dang pro and hadn't even visited the parks yet :) So even though she was younger than he was for her first trip, I felt confident that she'd enjoy it and that it'd go fine. She also potty trained younger than he did so it worked out where she's really been potty trained just as long as he had been for his first visit!

Of course I already had the main plans set in place for months, but in the weeks leading up to the trip I did my "last minute" prep stuff. I got us all packed up, I planned out our daily ride itineraries, and I read through the Unofficial Guide Book for this year. Did I need to buy it and read it? No. But my other copy is from 2011. And a LOT has changed since then so I felt it was good to get a refresher. If it's your first time planning a big trip then I HIGHLY recommend this book!!!
I have talked before about my "Emily Luck." Basically, a LOT of things go "wrong" in any situation but they always work out in the end. I have learned that about myself and have learned not to let the bumps in the road stress me out. Leading up to our first trip for Kye he actually got strep throat. Awesome. We were ALL sick which was NOT a good way to start out! We also had downpour rain expected for each day! Again, not a good way to start. I was a nut case leading up to that trip and I refused to let that happen this time around.

I actually started packing us to leave an entire week before we left. Which I'm thankful for as when the bumps in the road did come up, I had already packed so I didn't have to worry about that on my plate too! In the week leading up to this trip I felt mega congested and had to take this funky looking Sudafed stuff. On top of that BRITT seemed sick. It freaked me out b/c the child has never been sick before. Ever. So I went early in the week and took her to the walk-in clinic for the first time. Thankfully they said her fever was from teething and that she also just had the allergy stuff we all get when the seasons change. Whew. The SAME morning I got up to get ready to take Britt to the walk-in...I found Zach sick as a dog. He had been up all night in pain due to his first ever kidney stone. No joke. I was so worried about him because we have never experienced that before and I didn't know what to expect or how to handle it. Thankfully it must have been very small as after that one night of bad, bad pain he felt a lot better. 

Also in the days before the trip our weather report was CRAZY. One day it showed that the lows would be in the 30s so I dragged out all the layers I could pack for us and jackets and socks etc. Then it started showing rain for the whole trip so I went to Target and stocked up on rain coats and ponchos and all the rain gear I could for the trip. Yes, I am a believer in being over prepared! 

Then when I went to start making our daily ride itineraries I got two more blows of bad news: Lion King would not be showing at Animal Kingdom during our visit. Which we LOVED when we last went to Animal Kingdom for Kye's first visit. So that was a bummer. Lion King is one of Britt's fav movies and I KNEW she would LOVE that show. THEN I found out that Splash Mountain would also be closed. Which, I mean, the ride totally needed to be updated. Last time we were there it broke down several times. But the timing for it to be closed was bad for us because it's Kye's favorite ride. I knew Britt wouldn't know what she was missing with the Lion King show and I felt confident that Kye would have SO MUCH fun that he'd be okay without getting to ride Splash Mountain this time. 

I really, really did so good handling all the craziness that week. Sick husband, feeling sick myself, potentially sick child, crazy weather predictions, favorite rides being closed. THEN the moment came that finally brought me to my breaking point. I mean for a hormonal pregnant woman to keep it together with all of that was hard enough!!!

We had decided since this trip was so close to Kye's birthday that we would skip out on a big birthday party for him this year and instead celebrate at Disney. We, of course, talked to Kye about this and let him decide and he was pumped to do a Disney birthday celebration (what kid wouldn't be??? heck...what adult wouldn't be?!?!). I knew a week at Disney followed by putting together a birthday party would be too much on myself so I was thankful he was down to celebrate there and I was VERY excited about all the special surprises we had planned for him :)

When putting together the daily itineraries I worked out our plans for his birthday gift. Back when we visited Downtown Disney before we saw this place called RideMakerz. Basically you get to build your own, awesome, remote control car. They are pretty dang pricey so when we decided to have Kye's birthday celebration at Disney, I didn't buy him many birthday gifts (literally I spent $40 total on the stuff I got for him) and Zach and I were PUMPED for him to get to build his own RideMakerz car as his big gift from us. I went online to find out their hours to work out when we would go do it and guess what?!?! It's no longer there. Seriously. They are totally redoing all of Downtown Disney and that's part of the complete remodel so it's closed. And there is no replacement. 

At that point I started to cry. Which may sound silly but that was my breaking moment with it all! I called Downtown Disney and spoke to three different people. I asked them for advice on what to do for his gift instead. I mean I did NOT want to just spend money on stupid, random JUNK. I also wouldn't have time to possibly buy him a replacement birthday present before his birthday (when we got back his birthday was only 2 days later!). Zach and I talked about it and we decided that when we got to Orlando on arrival day that I would go during naps to Downtown Disney by myself and look around and find some way to make up for the RideMakerz thing being gone. We both reminded ourselves (yes, Zach was bummed too! I'm telling y'all...we have been PUMPED about this gift!) that KYE did NOT know about the gift. So he wasn't going to be disappointed and that's what matters!!! And now it frees us up to do it as a present for him some other time once they re-open :) 

After our bits of rough stuff, I was ready for a MAGICAL time. I had full confidence that our trip would be amazing. That's the way my luck works: things are rough to get going but then they always work out in the end. I kept the faith and kept on moving :) 

The good stuff started coming our way when I called the rental place we were staying at and asked if we could get early check in and they said yes! So we were able to leave first thing Saturday morning to hit the road!!!

This trip Mrs. Charlotte came along with us. Both my mom and Zach's mom came for Kye's first trip. I think it's important to include the grandparents in big events and I hope my kids invite ME when they take their kids to Disney for the first time!!! That first visit is SO magical and it's a special time I want to share with those I know love our babies the most, and of course that's the grandparents! Obviously my mom wasn't coming for Britt's first visit and I'm so thankful Mrs. Charlotte was able to. Originally she was going to ride with us but she did decide to take her own car (which I felt so bad her driving by herself!). Mrs. Charlotte is a bit of a worrier and she was worried something may happen back at home while she was gone and that she'd need her car to get back quickly. With Casey being pregnant and Courtney's health sometimes being unpredictable that's a valid concern for sure so I totally understood! 

For this trip I started a new Disney tradition! Rachael's family always brings their Disney stuffed animals with them to Disney and I love that :) So we loaded up all of ours in a big trash bag and brought them along. Each kid got to pick two of them to hold on the trip down :) 
We got checked in right at lunch time so I made lunch while Zach unpacked the car. We stayed at Regal Palms and I truly do love it there. It's the same place we debated purchasing and while I don't regret not buying one right now, I do so want to eventually :) It's really the PERFECT amount of space! We had four bedrooms. Mrs. Charlotte had her own master suite with bathroom down stairs and we all had our own rooms upstairs. I LOVED having so much SPACE. I don't know how people stay on property! It's SO much more expensive and the rooms are SO small!!! I love that we could spread out and were able to utilize the full kitchen! Plus we stayed for the entire week (Sat-Sat) for under $800 total. You can't beat that!!!

In preparation for the trip I found some Mickey cookies on sale (after Valentine's Day!) and brought them along with us. We celebrated our arrival with a post-lunch treat!

While the kids napped Zach went to get groceries for our stay, Mrs. Charlotte rested, and I went to Downtown Disney to figure out all this birthday mess. If you are going to Disney anytime soon be warned: it is a NIGHTMARE at Downtown Disney right now. They are really revamping the entire area which means parking is a ZOO. AND a lot of the marketplace shops and such are closed (I thought I would go into the sports store and find a cool personalized football jersey as a replacement gift...nope, closed). It was also raining when I went and I was on a mission to walk the entire marketplace area, find inspiration for Kye's birthday, and get out. I was in beast mode about it and really did get in and out pretty fast!!! 

If you are looking for an experience type present here is what I found in Downtown Disney. The main reason I loved the RideMakerz thing was because Kye would get to basically build his own gift. It would provide both a super fun, memorable experience and something he'd get to keep and enjoy at home. My goal was to find something that would offer a similar combo of experience and gift. I took pictures of everything and planned to go over it all with Zach when I got back and have a game plan for when we took Kye. Y'all know me well enough to know...I don't do much of anything without having a plan :) There was NO WAY I was going to just take Kye to Downtown Disney and randomly come up with ideas. I knew he'd enjoy it more if it was pre-planned. I also knew we had a certain gift budget and I needed to kinda pre-select what we'd spend it on to avoid going over. AND Zach and I both agreed that if we just told him he could pick out his own gifts...it would not be good. First off it could end up going over budget. Secondly, there's a good chance he'd end up with something junky he'd never use. And finally, and most importantly, it would be overwhelming for him. Our kids aren't used to EVER getting to buy stuff when we go places. Can you imagine us telling him to pick anything he wanted especially at Disney?!?! It would have just been WAY too much for him to take in haha!

I knew I would be limited in the experience/gift combo department as I had already talked to the cast members about it when I called so my expectations were low. 

We are NOT Star Wars people but I figured he might like to build his own action figure?
And a "light saber" could just be a sword to him which is cool
Getting to fill his own bag of candy? Um that would be heaven for our rarely-gets-sweets kid!
I'm not a HUGE stuffed animal fan and we don't really do much with dinosaurs but it's an experience and a night present to keep
and it's kinda cool?
Kye doesn't play with the small sized legos yet but getting to build his own men could be fun!
As could filling a bucket with some random pieces?
I left the Downtown Disney area feeling pretty good about my options. I also had a long talk with a super sweet and knowledgable cast member and she pointed me in the right direction as far as a BIG gift for him. We decided to take him the next day during naps and I brought back the pictures I took as well as a map of the Marketplace area and Zach and I made a plan of action together that we thought would be fun for Kye as his special birthday present outing!

When I got back the kids were just waking up. I was SLAMMED with a bad headache. Thankfully, it was the worst I had the whole trip and we didn't have any afternoon plans so I was able to rest a good bit. Originally Zach and I planned to go to Ikea that night to pick out things for the nursery but I was EXHAUSTED and with a pounding headache I told him I just needed to sleep and not attempt to go attack IKEA. He was going to Atlanta for work soon after our trip and I could just go online and pick things for him to get :)

Since we had downtime Kye went ahead and got done with some of his homework. I got all of his work for the week from his teacher. When it comes to planning a Disney trip: SKIP SCHOOL. It's worth the kids missing the days at school in order to get the lowest crowd levels. In the long run, in my opinion, magical Disney memories far override anything that they might be covering at school while we're away. We may feel differently about it as the kids get older...but I doubt it ;) Thankfully his teacher gave us all of the work he'd be missing so he was able to complete it all before going back to school the following week and wasn't behind at all!
Our favorite travel meal is crock pot cube steak. We make it at home too but for some reason we just LOVE to eat it on vacation ;) Zach got some yummy rolls when at the store which was a HUGE treat b/c we never ever get fresh rolls at home. I had plugged in the crock pot when we arrived and the food was ready right at dinner time! 

After dinner we gave the kids their first Disney surprise of the trip! A SUPER cute pack of Disney character finger puppets for the bath tub! I happened to see it at Walmart after Christmas for only $2. Couldn't pass that up ;) 
We got to bed early and were ready and excited for our first full day at Disney!!!

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