Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Disney Recap aka - my big fat TOLD YOU SO to all the nay-sayers!

This may be my longest post ever b/c I'm not going to break it into parts! Mostly I'm writing this for my own journaling purposes, but if you read the whole thing...way to go! :) 

Well, folks, we survived Disney with a 2-yr old. In fact, I would say we more than survived...we thrived!

Let me start by saying, we had a rocky start. We were supposed to leave early (like 6:30 AM) Saturday morning to arrive in Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) in time for a 1 PM lunch reservation at the T-Rex restaurant. From there, we were planning to spend the rest of our day resort hopping and checking out the Christmas decorations. Friday afternoon at 4 PM, I got a call from daycare that Grayson was throwing up!

He has never had a stomach bug so I was panicking. That night was stressful as I watched my poor little boy throw up two more times. I called and canceled our lunch reservations, but was not ready to call off the whole trip just yet. I prayed intently over him for immediate healing. Yes, I had some selfish reasons b/c I really wanted to go on this trip I had literally been planning for MONTHS and it was my birthday and it was going to be so magical. But of course I also just wanted my little one to feel better as quickly as possible, for his own sake. After a couple hours, he was up and walking around, chowing down on crackers, and acting mostly normal. He fell asleep on Scott in the living room, which is uncharacteristic, but we were still feeling hopeful. We packed as planned that night, but decided we would take it slow in the morning and maybe leave that afternoon instead.

Grayson was fussy over the night and I was feeling very discouraged. But thank the Lord, he woke up the next morning and was acting fine! He told me he wanted to go to Mickey Mouse's house! So, we had a slow morning, made sure he was able to keep down some breakfast, and left around lunch time. Unfortunately we were not able to see any of the resorts or get any other Disney Spring dining reservations, but we did walk around Disney Springs for a little while and let Grayson check out the gift shop area of T-Rex and Rainforest Cafe...both of which he really enjoyed. Scott's parents arrived that evening and we met up and had dinner at Macaroni Grill.

Our first two park days were at Magic Kingdom. I had a happy birthday pin (that I wore all three days!), and loved having random people and cast members shout "Happy birthday!" to me all day long. :) Unfortunately our first day had to be a short one because we didn't buy tickets to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (nor did we have park hoppers), meaning that our day had to end at 7 pm. But we still made the absolute most of our day and did pretty much everything I had planned (which was a lot!).

There were only two bummer moments. One was that the talking Mickey wasn't talking due to technical issues. The other was that we waited for 20 minutes in a line that we thought was for the Under the Sea ride (which claimed a 10 minute wait) only to discover that it was actually the Ariel meet and greet (which we had Fastpasses for the next day!). We left the line after spending those 20 minutes there so we could make it to our Jungle Cruise fastpass. That was annoying, but honestly, no big deal!

It took Grayson a little while to get into the Disney spirit. Don't get me wrong...he was laid back and caused us no issues or stress...but he seemed almost emotionless for many of the rides and meet and greets, which was a little disappointing. I was expecting the same kind of enthusiasm he has while watching the parade on youtube or watching Disney movies. I imagined I would be crying at the magic of it all as he smiled and laughed and commented on everything. But mostly he just quietly took it all in. Usually after a ride or attraction, he would say, "I liked that!" But you couldn't always tell it during the ride itself! But to his credit, he was awesome during everything! He enjoyed Haunted Mansion, calling it the Halloween House (he LOVES Halloween) and his only comment during the ride was, "it's pretty dark in here!" He also was not afraid of Pirates of the Caribbean. Even the drop didn't register a reaction from him. I was nervous about both of these rides, so it was a relief that he liked them so much. We even rode Pirates again the next day!

The only meltdown he had during our first day was getting off the Winnie the Pooh ride. He wanted to get off by himself (he's very independent these days) but it's one of those moving sidewalks and we didn't have time so I had to pick him up. But he was fine by the time we left the ride area and were on our way to the next thing. In fact, those were the only tantrums he had during the whole trip (wanting to get off rides by himself. I think it happened 2-3 more times while we were there). Grayson's favorite part of the day (and probably mine as well) was probably the Festival of Fantasy Parade. He has seen it a thousand times on Youtube, but he still got so excited when he saw the dragon!!

We received a little extra Disney magic on our first day as well. After meeting Mickey (the first thing we did), we were debating purchasing a set of Mickey ears for Grayson. We knew he probably wouldn't wear them, but it seemed like something we should do! A very nice cast member came over and was talking with us and helping us find the right size. She asked if we wanted his name on the back. We asked how much that was (I think she could tell we were literally thinking through a budgeted amount) and she said, "I'll do it for free. He's cute!" Awesome!! We also had some trouble booking a 4th fastpass later in the day and a cast member tried helping us and ended up writing Scott a paper pass since he was the only one in our group who couldn't get the Haunted Mansion FP and she also wrote a ticket for a free Mickey ice cream bar! The three of us shared one before heading to Haunted Mansion. :)

Despite the park closing early for us, we managed to get a ton done in the last hour or so of the day! We just kept saying, well...we have time for one more thing! And that one more thing led to another one more thing! I think Grayson's favorite ride of the day was The People Mover in TomorrowLand. After that, we decided we had time for the Buzz Lightyear ride. After that, we only had about 20 minutes left and I suggested we just take our time walking out and explore Main Street a bit. But we noticed Monster Inc Laugh Floor only had a 10 minute wait. Why not? Grayson really liked that one! Then, we really did have to head out because we didn't have bands for the party so we couldn't ride anything else. But we took our time walking out, stopping to take pictures along the way.

I knew it snowed on Main St. during the Christmas party, but I figured that didn't happen until later. We were all in awe as we walked onto Main St and it was snowing!! I think I teared up at that moment because I assumed we wouldn't get to see that. It really was magical! Grayson kept commenting on the snow and trying to catch it. It was awesome! Truly the perfect way to end a day at the parks!

It was still early, so we headed to Red Lobster for my birthday dinner where I enjoyed some tasty crab legs! Grayson didn't want to eat any of it, but he happily helped me rip the legs off! :)

That night we said goodbye to Scott's parents and hello to my mom! By the time we were back in our room, it was pretty late. But we took a few minutes to exchange Christmas presents with my mom since we wouldn't see her again before Christmas, and we weren't sure if we would have time on the other days since we had early and late days at the park planned. Eventually Grayson looked at us all and said, "I gotta go to sleep!" haha! I'm not surprised that he was tired. This kid kept fighting his nap until he finally passed out at 4pm in the line for It's a Small World. He took about an hour nap in the stroller after that. But that night, he passed out and slept great! He had a whole queen sized bed to himself in the hotel room and I think he quite enjoyed it! :)

The next morning we had 8:25 AM breakfast reservations at Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom. This was great because we were able to get into the park a whole hour earlier than we would have otherwise! I wasn't sure if the character breakfast would be worth it since the day before Grayson wasn't overly excited about meeting characters (not afraid, just not enthusiastic either), but he was a whole new kid on day 2! It was like he understood what was happening so he could relax and enjoy it all more. Also, maybe he just felt better physically since he had been sick just a few days prior. Anyway, we loved our breakfast at Crystal Palace with the Winnie the Pooh characters! The whole time, Grayson was spotting them around the room and pointing them out excitedly. He seemed most eager to meet Eeyore (one of his favorites!), but was surprisingly most shy around him. We met Winnie the Pooh last and by the time he came around, Grayson actually held up his arms for Pooh to pick him up! SO SWEET! We had a wonderful time, I just wish I had taken more time to enjoy the food. I was so excited about meeting the characters and didn't want to miss any of them, that I rushed to get my food from the buffet (didn't even go all the way down the line!) and barely ate it because I was distracted watching for characters! ha! But it was easily the best food we had in the parks.

Day 2 was even more magical than Day 1! I forgot to say we started the day off by getting free parking! It costs $20, but the cast member saw my birthday pin. He high fived me and said December birthdays were the best. And then he handed back my money and a receipt for $0 and said to have a great birthday! I was so excited!!

We were able to do everything I had planned for the day and more! Scott and my mom rode Space Mountain as soon as we were done with breakfast, which wasn't even on my agenda, but I'm so glad Scott got to ride it since it's one of his favorites! Obviously this pregnant mama wasn't able to ride any coasters this trip! Grayson's nap schedule was much more reasonable this day. He fell asleep quickly while I held him during Hall of Presidents (where my mom and I both cried! So moving!). We transferred him to his stroller afterward and he slept for THREE HOURS! We parked at an outdoor table at Cosmic Rays and had lunch, walked around the shops of Main Street, listened to the band play Christmas music (rather loudly), and even watched the Dream Along with Mickey show in front of the castle, which included very loud music and fireworks! He slept through it all!

He woke up just in time for us to ride Carousel of Progress before our fastpasses to Buzz Lightyear. We maximized every part of the day! We even walked around and played at Tom Sawyer's Island for a while so Grayson could run around for a bit. We stayed late--watched the Electrical Parade, which Grayson enjoyed even though he was very sleepy. Immediately after it ended, he said "I gotta go night-night." I gave him his paci and put him in his stroller and he was out in minutes! He slept straight through the Celebrate the Magic castle projection show. We had great spots to view this (and the parade) but were dismayed to realize we couldn't see the fireworks from where we were at all! It was really crowded and we were tired, so we decided to go ahead and leave and catch glimpses of the fireworks show on our way out. Yes, I wish we could have sat and watched the whole thing, but I could tell it was awesome. I was very thankful when we were boarding the monorail and I looked back at the massive crowd that had gathered behind us after the show was over! Leaving about 15 minutes early probably saved us at least an hour of travel time! Grayson slept until we had to move him to his carseat. He was not happy with that, but he went back to sleep soon after.

It's hard to say what our favorite part of Day 2 was...it was all so awesome! The only bummer part of that day was that we had some bubbles in our backpack that leaked out and ruined a couple of board books and got my wallet soaked. Fortunately it did not get to our camera or the autograph book, so it wasn't too much of a disaster! I don't know what Grayson's favorite thing was. Maybe the Under the Sea ride, which we did twice. Or maybe our breakfast with the characters. Or, probably it was riding Dumbo and Aladdin's Magic Carpets (like Dumbo but with carpets). This was definitely his favorite type of ride at Disney. He also loved the Triceratops Spin in Animal Kingdom, which is the same concept. I can't believe we all survived a 15 hour day at Magic Kingdom without any drama or tantrums, but we did and it was awesome! :)

Day 3 was a little tougher to compare. I love Animal Kingdom and remembered it being one of my favorite parks when we went 4 years ago. But this time it just felt like a letdown after our two days at Magic Kingdom. Plus, we packed SO much into each day at MK, the slow pace and lack of attractions at AK felt a bit lack-luster. I was pretty disappointed and wondered if we had made a mistake even going there. But it was too late to do anything about it since we didn't have park hoppers. It was insanely crowded (despite crowd predictors saying otherwise), and very difficult to walk around. Also, the park closed at 7 pm but most of the attractions closed at 4:45. We weren't able to see all the animal exhibits, just due to how things played out. Many of the shows we wanted to see had conflicting show times, so we couldn't even do all of those. And the food I was really looking forward to was probably my least favorite of all the places we ate on our trip.

But I won't say it was a complete bust. We had some great moments at Animal Kingdom. It really was worth it, but it was so different from our previous days, and with it being our last day, that was hard to deal with. But it was still a lot of fun! The Festival of the Lion King show was AMAZING! Grayson absolutely loved it. And we stopped by the giant animatronic Simba on our way out to wave at him and say goodbye. I guess the person controlling him from the sound booth noticed us because Simba turned his head to look down at us and he lifted his paw and waved! It was so awesome and Grayson smiled so big! :)

Grayson also really enjoyed the Safari ride. After that, he took a 2 hour nap in his stroller. In the meantime, we all ate lunch, Scott rode Everest twice, and my mom and I watched the monkeys play. The Nemo show was also magical and Grayson loved that as well. We had some great character interactions while we were there -- Pluto and Goofy, Mickey and Minnie (all four in Christmas outfits), and Baloo and King Louie were super entertaining. King Louie pointed out that he and Grayson had the same color hair. :) Mickey was also the only one to ever acknowledge my belly. He patted it and gave it a kiss. So sweet!

Grayson really loved the Dumbo-like ride (rode it twice) and honestly, his favorite part was probably the Boneyard playground! After all the attractions except the roller coasters closed down, we still had about an hour of park time left so we went to the playground. It was easily the best playground I've ever seen! Grayson and Scott played, and played HARD, for that whole hour until park closing! Even though it was a tame and short day compared to the long day before, we were all sufficiently tired. We talked about touring some resorts or doing something Disney-related that night, but none of us had it in us. My mom headed out b/c she had to be back at work the next day. Scott and I got some Taco Bell and ate it in bed at the hotel while watching HGTV (our vacation tradition!) and Grayson snoozed.

Again the next day we toyed with the idea of touring resorts or going back to Disney Springs just so it didn't have to end right away, but we decided it would just be delaying the inevitable and would pale in comparison to the parks. It would have been a good way to start the trip, but not end it. We headed out after breakfast and got home in time to play outside and let Grayson get some energy out from being in the car for so long. It was slightly depressing, as any vacation end is, but it was also comforting to come home to our house all decorated for Christmas and play with Grayson in our own yard.

 I just can't say enough about how wonderful our trip was. Ever since we got back, Scott and I have been talking about our next one! We will definitely be going back before Adam turns 3 so he can get in free! (Oh, yeah...we are having another little boy and naming him Adam! Eek...I've been really bad about posting on here lately! Haven't written since October! Oops!)

I may write another post about tips, but there are about a billion of those in the world already, so maybe not! :) I will just say...it's worth it. Don't let nay-sayers stop you! 2 year olds can definitely have fun and it will be magical. Just do it! :)

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