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Monday, May 1, 2017

Parker Family Disney Trip 2017: Animal Kingdom

When we went to Disney with Zach's family back in 2012 the trip only included MK and DHS (Zach and I actually had our little family skip the DHS day as we'd just went for Kye's first visit). This time we all agreed that we wanted to visit Animal Kingdom as well! Colt and Payton LOVE animals!

You know it's going to be a great day when you happen to park in the Unicorn section!


I felt some guilt over ALL of us being there together because Courtney and Brad didn't get as much quality time with their kids. Since Zach and I do take our kids to Disney decently often, we didn't mind at all that they were ALL about their cousins the entire trip (it was adorable). I was worried the cousin time might take away from the memories for Courtney and Brad with their kids but they both seemed totally cool with it and I'm secretly hoping that maybe they'll want to go back as a family ;) My personal goal for the trip was to, of course, convert everyone to Disney Lovers!

All day long there was a lot of cousin hand holding which is just precious!!! I mean two 8 year old boys completely unembarrassed about it!


It made my heart SO HAPPY that Courtney was really into the outfit planning for our trip! She found the shirts, the designs and handled the whole thing for us all! We did matching cousin shirts for both park days and the ladies in our crew did matching Animal Kingdom shirts too :) Casie's Custom Designs did them all and they turned out awesome!





My rule of thumb is to always try to arrive at the parks a good 45-60 min prior to park opening. This way if they let you in early, you're in early! Planning these two Disney days for 13 people during Spring Break was no easy task. Especially when you factor in that of the 13 people we had two two year olds, 3 people with auto immune diseases and 1 over halfway through a pregnancy! We decided to go back for naps on the Animal Kingdom day and I did my best to arrange everything to minimize walking, maximize fun. ;) 

When we visited Animal Kingdom last time we picked up a couple Wilderness Explorers books and knew that Colt and Payton would be ALL about them! We found a station that was handing them out prior to park opening. It's a bit of a process to get the books so I'd def recommend handling this first thing if possible! It also gave the kids all something to do while they waited for the park to open. 


Stop it. Too adorable :)


Our matching shirts! Love how they turned out with the gold!



The Fleming Family!



Our whole crew ready for an awesome day!



G-Mama and Big Papa with the boys...


and the girls!

(Side note but we debated just bringing a single stroller for this trip and having Britt walk. SO glad we decided to bring the double. We couldn't have handled Britt's complaining if she'd been made to walk...she loves to ride haha!)


When Animal Kingdom opens people pretty much dash for the Safari (we know because we're usually with them) but I got us 9:30 fast passes for it so instead we dashed to meet Mickey and Minnie and were among the first people to get there for the day! Tess was SO PUMPED when she saw Mickey and Minnie!













Carter's turn! (Colt and Payton met them first in our group and none of us remembered to scan a band for their pics but I know Court got some with her phone! Payton said it was her favorite thing from the trip!)




My personal favorite group shot from the trip! 


One thing I didn't really factor in when planning out the days was BATHROOM BREAKS. 13 people take a lot of potty breaks. We have a rule in our family that when one person needs to go potty, we all need to try to go. But we had all just gone when we arrived at the park and it'd only been like 45 min so I believed Tess when she said she didn't have to go. Zach and I didn't either so we snuck away for a second to get a couple pics from a photo pass person of just us together in front of the Tree of Life. Tess came down and asked to take the pictures with us. DUH. I was all about that! Y'all this was my most favorite moment of the trip. I know it's random but we rarely ever get to have pictures of Zach AND I with JUST Tess. It just doesn't happen with a third child (we have tons of me and Tess or Zach and Tess but very few of the both of us and just her!). She was in a super cute mood and I love how these turned out! I know we'll always cherish them!





We headed over to the safari and used our fast passes to beat the 45 min wait time! It's always fun to have a fastness when a line is long ;) I've mentioned this in prior posts but the safari is a ride where it's recommend NOT to ride if you are pregnant. However. Sitting up front makes for a much less bumpy experience and they've changed it where the storyline of being chased isn't in it anymore so it's much slower and easy going than it was in the past. We waited a bit for a jeep to come along that could fit us all and allow for a front row seat but it was worth it to make sure Casey was comfortable! When I rode in the back while pregnant with Britt I got some really scary cramping so we didn't want that experience for her! 

This was THE best Safari experience we've ever been part of. From now on I'm going to try not to be the first herd of people to ride it in the morning. Waiting a bit and being closer to 10:00 to ride allowed the animals to get nice and awake and active. Seriously every animal we saw was on the move which was so, so awesome! 

It's great to have your Wilderness Explorers books first thing so they can use them throughout the day! These were a HIT!










Giraffes are probably Tess's favorite animal if I had to guess at her favorite because she talked about them the most leading up to the trip and I was SO pumped that they were so awesome for her on the ride! We got to see the baby one up close and we got to see them RUN and even have them close enough to our jeep where we could have reached out and touched them. It was AWESOME.  







And we had one blocking the road too!





Baby monkeys!




Baby Elephant!



Getting to see the lions awake was super cool too as they are almost always asleep!



Running Zebra!


It was not only the coolest safari ride we've been part of, it also took the longest. Which was totally worth it but also meant there was no way we could make The Lion King showing we had scheduled. It meant a bit more walking but we were able to still make it all happen. We went across the park so the big kids could ride Dinosaur then back across to see Lion King then BACK across to see Nemo (which is by Dinosaur). My original plan was Safari then Lion King because they are so close then cross the park just once and do Dinosaur and Nemo together. But it all worked out and really was worth all the extra walking to have such a cool safari experience!

We couldn't be on our way without stopping to get our badges first! I will say if you are planning to do Wilderness Explorers then you need to plan a good bit of extra time for it. If we do this again I will a lot a solid 10 min extra per area that has a badge. It's awesome that the cast members are passionate and have so many hands on things to do but it does take up a good chunk of time! If we're ever able to do Annual Passes then I'd love to go to Animal Kingdom and treat it like a zoo and complete the entire Wilderness Explorer book with the kids! They really loved it!





While the big kids did Dinosaur the littles did a couple slides on the slide and then we headed back to be able to get into Lion King. We really should have just stayed over there and not bothered with the walk for just a couple times down a slide!





Mr. Rusty haha


When I originally made the itineraries I had one for the "little kids" and one for the "big kids." Mr Rusty told me he was in the "little kid" group (meaning he didn't do rollercoasters) but then he rode this with them anyway. He was covering his ears the whole time hahaha

Zach had a BLAST with Brad this trip. He said Brad was so fun to ride stuff with b/c he cracked up the whole time. Usually it's just Zach and Kye on all the "big kid" rides so he liked getting to experience it with other adults for a change ;) All the big kid cousins had a BLAST together on the rides! 


We got into Lion King and had THE BEST SEATS EVER. But we were stressing about if the big kid crew would make it. You're not allowed to save seats and with it being Spring Break and crowded we weren't sure if there would be seats left by the time the big kids got to us. When we saw them enter in the building Mrs. Charlotte literally cried. It was so cute but she loves The Lion King Show (y'all it really is a MUST SEE) and was just so so glad that everyone was there to get to see it. 

We talked a good bit on this trip about how we find joy and Mrs. Charlotte and I are JUST alike with Disney. We both just love seeing everyone else's reactions and for her having all of her grandchildren together at Disney was just super, super special. She loved watching them all interact together and loved getting to see them all having so much fun. Duh. I will totally be that way too! Mr. Rusty wasn't quite as into it. I think he enjoys the kids better in a smaller group and he enjoyed the times he was able to spend with them more one on one while riding things together than he did in the overall Disney experience. 







Heading to Nemo!


G-Mama for the win with some popcorn snacks :) 


We had the best seats ever for Lion King but the furthest back ones for Nemo. BUT I will say I enjoyed that perspective. Sitting a little further back allowed us to see the ENTIRE show and it really is so great. I love the storyline (the lesson is deeper than the movie) and always shed a tear or two (so does Mrs. Charlotte). I think Brad and Mr Rusty got a little nap in while we watched ;)


We went back to the room to let the kids all nap (they ate lunch in the car on the way) and the adults prepped for the evening, ate some lunch, and rested. 

We only had a couple hours before we had to be back up at the park for the evening but it was great to get that break and good for the little ones to get that sleep! 

Zach knows I love hibiscus flowers so he picked one for me on our way in ;) 


Russell!!!


Getting to see The Tree of Life up close and personal!


It's Tough to Be a Bug! It's a bit scary y'all so just b/c you see Tess doing it doesn't mean I'd recommend it for little ones. She just is very, very easy going. When Britt was this age? No. Way. 




My little family enjoys animals but we're like run by and glance kind of people ;) Colt and Payton LOVE animals (Tess is the same way!) and love watching animal shows and were excited to see all the animals at the park. I was SO BUMMED that we went to ride the train to see Rafiki's Animal Watch area and it was closed for the day. I'm not sure why they closed so early! But we just used that time to walk through the animal exhibits and got to see many different animals. Even for us non-hardcore-animal-lovers Disney just does things SO WELL that I enjoyed walking through it all to see the beautiful designs! 



Earning those badges!





They really do dig tunnels!




The gorillas were all super close to the glass...which was awesome...but they were also....

pooping into their hands...



annnnd eating it. 


Probably one of the grossest things I've ever witnessed! And they were ALL doing it. And were like having their butts face the glass so we could all see it happen. I swear they were messing with us! I asked a cast member and they said it's a completely normal thing they do in the wild. It's so they can ingest any nutrients that their body didn't absorb the first time around. He said even though they don't need to do it at Disney, it's just part of their makeup and something they do! 


It was cute watching the babies wrestle!



"Yeah I eat my poop. Whatcha gonna do about it?"



Animal Kingdom is super beautiful and they have many cultures represented! 


Disney Ducks!


Another stop for our Wilderness Explorers


Checking out more animals



Doesn't she have the most perfect pony tail???


An awake tiger!





Zach can only take so much of the animal watching so he went and got us all tables and researched the best quick service food options. We brought dinner for our kids but bought for ourselves and omg y'all I had the best luck with Disney food this trip! I LOVED this meal. I rarely get to enjoy a meal where I don't have to pick things out that I don't like but I liked everything in this! It was rice and honey chicken and beans and it was so, so yummy. It's from Yak and Yeti!


The only rain we had during park time was during dinner which worked out great as we were in a covered area!





Setting up for Rivers of Light!


We had a VERY chill afternoon/evening. We enjoyed looking at all the animals and then the big kids split off to go use their Fastpasses for Everest. Mrs. Charlotte rode with them so Casey and I took the little ones to the Dinosaur area to ride the little dino ride and then to play on the playground. 

More of that sweet cousin handholding!












On their way to Everest!








I guess Zach misled Mrs Charlotte and Courtney about how scary the ride actually was haha So the second time they rode (they had rider swap) Mrs Charlotte and Courtney sat out ;) 


Kye's thing he was MOST excited about for the whole trip was to ride Everest with Colt JUST them. I'm so glad it worked out where they were able to do that! It was his favorite thing from the trip!





We had a TON of downtime (which is just so great!) so all the big kids met up with us at the playground and Zach spent some quality time with Tess going up and down the slides :) 









Tess LOVES Uncle Brad. She was SO cute with him! She was scared of this dinosaur noice in a section of the playground and wanted him go check it out for her ;)


Our crazy crew!





We had fast passes for Rivers of Light which I've been SO excited to see! While we waited some of the adults when and got some Disney treats :) 

Tessie kissing on Carter


YUM!


Omg y'all. So I was the only adult by the 4 big cousins. And each of them had a cup of ice cream. When I thought of "cup" I envisioned the ice cream like in the cup. Instead the cup was like a cone and the ice cream was WAY above the edge of the cup. It had already melted a ton by the time it got to us and watching those kids try to eat that melting mess was hilarious. Plus being the only adult near them got tricky trying to avoid disaster everywhere haha! I kept scooping it off and putting it in my float! The people behind us were cracking up!




The show started. And then less than 5 min into it, it stopped. They said it would be starting over soon so we waited. And then it started again but I do NOT think it was right. We saw World of Color when we went to Disney California Adventure and I've heard Rivers of Light is very similar. Y'all. It wasn't even close. I don't think the water imagery was working or something. It def left me wanting more because now I want to go back to be able to see it as it's meant to be seen!






Here are two videos I took



We headed out after "Rivers of Light" ended and it started DOWN POURING on our walk to the car. Like we were all DRENCHED. It was an exciting way to end the day! 


Overall the day really went so, so great. Everyone had a good time and we were able to see and do just about everything we'd hoped for! I was nervous about Spring Break crowds but with a solid plan we didn't have any issues (we visited Animal Kingdom on Sunday April 2nd!). We didn't get back to the room until close to 10 and had to be up early for MK the next day! 

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