As I mentioned in my last post, I spend this past week at Walt Disney World with part of my extended family. We've been really lucky because my grandparents became part of the Disney Vacation Club (kind of like timeshare for Disney properties) when I was very young, so my family has been visiting Disney World frequently since my cousins and I were little (and before some of them and my sister were even born). So many of my best memories took place with my family all over the Disney parks and the resort where we always stay. My grandparents are generous enough to provide our lodging, and this time we were able to take advantage of the "Disney's Armed Forces Salute" ticket prices. I was able to purchase up to 12 Four-Day Park Hoppers for my family at a VERY discounted rate on Fort Bragg. Thank you Disney!!
This was my first trip to Disney World in quite a few years, and I was overwhelmed by the comfort and happiness I felt when we pulled into Old Key West Resort the first day. All of the staff and our front door mat greeted us with a "Welcome Home," and it truly did feel like a homecoming for us. We love that place! Especially after the 10 hour drive...
I was bummed that the Mister couldn't join us because of his work schedule; we haven't been to Disney World since we've been together. But I am looking forward to the opportunity to take him and our little one back sometime in the near future. He hasn't been to Disney World since he was a kid, and I think he'd really enjoy coming along with my family, as we consider ourselves WDW experts. ; ) I was also missing my cousins who weren't there with us this time. I hope we all get to go back together as adults one day - it's so hard to plan big trips like that now that we're grown-ups with real jobs and babies of our own.
However, that is one of the greatest attributes of Disney World, its ability to grow with you. There are attractions for the littlest kiddos and the most adrenaline-hungry teenagers. And the street shows, musicals, exhibitions, beautiful resorts, and magic keep parents smiling, too. Although I had to miss out on some of the fun this time (I did a lot of holding my family's bags and sunglasses while they rode rides that are off limits for preggos), I found myself grinning just thinking about all of us taking Baby Dixon once he or she is old enough to take it all in. I can't wait!
Here are some photos of our trips below if you care to see!
A lot of our time at WDW is spent waiting for or riding on buses - but it's such a nice perk of staying on Disney property. We don't have to worry about the traffic, parking, or walking from the parking lots to park entrances. And if you're enjoying adult beverages you don't have to think about arranging transportation (although I obviously wasn't partaking on this trip).
This was our first experience with the new set-up for Disney's passes. Everything is now loaded onto a "Magic Band" that you wear. We were able to walk into the park with just these bands and our fingerprints. Additionally, we we could link our individual bands with our debit cards, so we didn't have to keep up with money and wallets in the parks, which we loved. But we did have some major glitches that we've never experienced before at Disney parks. We were stopped multiple times at entrances because people in our party's reservations had been switched in their system (e.g. my uncle scanned as my sister one time). And we weren't originally able to link our passes to our bands or the My Disney Experience app due to a technical glitch, so we couldn't reserve Fast Passes in advance (Fast Passes allow you to walk onto a ride at a certain predetermined time interval instead of waiting in line). We were really disappointed about this because 1) the only other way to reserve Fast Passes was at kiosks in the parks, and by the time we got to the kiosks in the morning the only times available were in the evening, 2) the lines for almost all the attractions and rides were 60-80 minutes, so we would only be able to enjoy a few rides a day, and 3) we were really unfamiliar with the new system and the competition for Fast Passes. In the past, Fast Passes were only available for those staying on Disney property, and all we had to do was scan our passes outside of the ride and it would print us a ticket to bring back in an hour or two to walk on. Of course this new system is more fair for those not staying on Disney property, and we would have been happy with it if everything had worked correctly and we had been able to reserve Fast Passes in advance.
We spent a lot of time in the first couple of days waiting outside Guest Services for my parents as they tried to iron out why our passes weren't linking and why names in our party were switching between passes. However, Disney pulled through and more than made up for our wasted time with some "no-strings attached" Fast Passes we could use each day at any ride at any time for everyone in our party. Later that day, one of the Guest Services representatives we'd spoken to earlier even visited our villa personally with our corrected passes and a gift card for all 18 of us to enjoy breakfast on Disney. Even though we were pretty frustrated in the beginning, we were really impressed with the customer service we received.
At one point, when we were particularly hot and tired of waiting outside Guest Services at Hollywood Studios, my sister, Caroline, had her hand on top of this column, just messing around out of boredom. An employee walked by and chastised her, in a not so very nice way, saying, "You're not going to climb that wall." So, we had to take a photo in remembrance of the occasion. We were feeling a little bratty that morning after all the trouble, and I can't help but laugh every time I look at this photo now. [From left to right - my brother, Lowden, his girlfriend, Brittany, me, and Caroline]
The highlight of the trip for me was Monday evening when we visited the fairly new Be Our Guest restaurant which is INSIDE the Beast's castle in a recently added area of Fantasyland within Magic Kingdom. I'm a Beauty and the Beast fanatic, and I will admit I teared up a little when I walked inside. It was just such a perfect reproduction of the scenes from the movie! We sat in the "Forbidden West Wing," complete with an enchanted rose and a ripped painting of the Prince that changed to the Beast when "lightning" flashed outside the window. The restaurant also had seating in the ballroom (with snow falling outside!) and a third room with a huge music box with Belle and the Beast dancing on top. We had a chance to take photos with the Beast after dinner, and you can tell how thrilled I was by how hard I'm cheesing in the picture above. Everything was just beautiful. I definitely suggest it to anyone visiting WDW in the future (but make sure you make reservations beforehand). FYI - The gray stuff was delicious.
I had forgotten how unafraid of humans the wildlife is around the parks. I made friends with this bird while I was waiting for my family to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Magic Kingdom.
We were a little amazed during the Frozen parade in Hollywood Studios when it started snowing in July. I can't imagine how magical that must have been for the children there experiencing it.
We had a lot of fun with Lowden as he took on the "Drinking Around the World Challenge" at Epcot's World Showcase. I'm looking forward to hopefully doing it with Chris next time we go - he was very jealous he couldn't participate, but I kept him updated by text message.
We got to watch a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral on Thursday night!
I knew I wanted to buy something special for the baby while we were at Disney World. I decided on Nala and Simba stuffed animals! My most beloved stuffed animal (that I slept with for much longer than I care to admit) was a Nala I got on my first trip to WDW. Since this was technically baby's first trip, I thought it was fitting! Without knowing the baby's gender, I couldn't decide between Nala and Simba, so I got both because they weren't very pricey. You can see my Nala above with the baby's cubs. I think they are darling, and I hope the baby loves them as much as I love mine!
There ya have it! It was such a great week. I firmly believe that everyone needs to go to Disney World at some point in their lives : ). Thanks to my Baggie and Pop-Pop and the Disney Armed Forces Salute for making this trip possible!