Friday, March 25, 2016

Disney Wrap Up/Landing Post/Final Thoughts

In case you missed it, here is a list of all my daily posts:


I was reviewing my Disney Wrap Up Post from our last trip and it was good to reflect on what we did that wanted to do and what has changed since last time. Here is the link to the post if you want to check it out, but I will also talk about it below. 

1. Lodging

We stayed at three different resorts on this trip. We had originally had one week booked at the Hilton Grand Vacations by Seaworld but then had to shift our dates back because of Scott's office spring break times with his boss so that is why we added the extra days at Star Island resort (it also saved a bit on air fares traveling a tiny bit earlier than the typical spring break crowds although I had to take two unpaid from school so really it ended up being a moot point). Scott and I had originally talked about taking a day trip to the beach and we figured since we were flying into Sanford (which is a bit northeast of Orlando), why not just book a night or two at a Cocoa Beach hotel before heading to Orlando? We were originally going to do this before Scott's parents met us (they were driving while we flew) but they ended up joining us. 



Was it a little it a little bit of hassle to pack up and unpack? A bit, but it worked out fine for us. We fit all our stuff into one suitcase and packed lightly so it was pretty easy. 

With all the lodging changes and staying off property (and flying into Sanford) we did have to rent a car. We had a great experience with Alamo and will use them again. They gave us a free upgrade to a mini van which was awesome because then we could take Scott's parents with us instead of using two cars. We originally wanted to rent a minivan but decided not to at the last minute because it was so much more expensive. So- a win! It was really fun riding in a minivan and I loved it. The only downside to driving yourself to Disney parks is the $20 fee for parking but if you leave and come back you just show them your receipt and you don't have to re-pay. 

We enjoyed staying off Disney property as each resort was a condo and had a full kitchen, laundry and plenty of space for 5 people. There was even our own jacuzzi tub in the master bath! Scott's dad had originally wanted to book everyone a week at Bonnet Creek (super cushy, right on Disney property) but they were full even a year out. We appreciated their generosity in taking us to Florida for a week on their timeshare! 

2. Parks

I had written last time that I had wanted to do Epcot and so I'm glad we worked it in this time! I think Michael was originally confused as he was not sure it was really "Disney" as it didn't have the castle or Star Wars or anything he remembered ....well that's because he had never been there before. I think Epcot is definitely a two day park but we got a lot out of our day.


I had originally planned to do an all Disney park tour while we were in Florida but then when we decided to do the beach part of the trip we started thinking outside of the box and make our trip other things besides Disney. We for sure knew we wanted to go to SeaWorld since it was right by our resort and then decided we'd better go to Legoland on this trip since lots of resources say it is great for younger children (and it was!). It felt like a nice well rounded vacation that wasn't all Disney and we enjoyed the slower pace of the other parks and beach. We also spent a big chunk of time each day at our resort swimming and that made it feel very vacation-y as well. I would have loved to do a whole week of just relaxing but that is hard to do in the Orlando area with so many fun things!!

3. Attractions

Magic Kingdom
We did several attractions this trip that I had marked down we wanted to do last time but didn't make it such as: Tea Cups, Space Mountain, and Seven Dwarves. The only thing I would add to be sure to do for next time is meet Mickey at Town Square and the night parade. 

I have several things on my list "for next time" that I want to check out:

-American Adventure
-New Soarin' with new movie (was closed for refurb while we were there)
-Mission Space (I'm sure Michael would love!)
-France and Canada Movies
-Japan Department Store
-Agent P's adventure for Michael (he did seem a bit bored while we were exploring China but maybe was also tired) 
-More exploring of the countries!
-Norway (was under construction and I can't wait to see the new things).
-Princess Meal at Akerhaus 

Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom
Both of these parks are undergoing HUGE changes that are definitely on our list to check out when they are done (hopefully in the next 4-5 years when the girls will be old enough to go without a stroller). I do still want to book a character pre-park opening breakfast at Tusker house at Animal Kingdom and actually had it booked at 180 days out before finalizing my plans. 

4. Other
-I did buy the memory maker package ahead of time to save a bit of money and we enjoyed using it and felt it was a good value for us. I like it because it forces us to have group photos with ME in them! :o) We also got all ride photos included in the package which was fun (except Seven Dwarfs which you need a magic band for, there is no kiosk to scan your card to add it to your account). 
-I took my dSLR camera and shot with it most of the time. I only used my 35mm lens at the parks and I pulled out my 18-55 once for the wide angle at the beach. I carried it on a Rapid Strap the whole time for easy, cross body access. 
-I also wore a cross body purse (Vera Bradley Hipster in Sierra) and I could wear both my camera and the purse cross body comfortably. 
-I took some photos with my iphone (mostly selfies, I'm sure you noticed- ha!). Scott also took lots of photos on his phone which he shared with me. It was nice because he did a good job of capturing some of me, too! 
-In my last post I mentioned visiting in June instead of spring break. The last few times we've traveled in the spring, I've had to take time off work and it is a little silly especially when I have the whole summer off. It was hot and crowded when we were there this year at spring break and I don't think it would be much different in early June. 
-We flew Allegiant Air from DSM to Orlando Sanford because it is a direct flight. We tried pricing out other flights but they would take a whole day of travel and were a comprable price. Flying direct is so nice because you are there in just 2.5 hours! 

I will also take some time to revisit my original WDW Tips and see if they still rang true on this trip. 

1. Plan well to maximize time
Check! I have been planning this trip ever since Scott's parents told us they booked the timeshare a year ago. I listen to weekly WDW podcasts and so I feel like I'm mostly in the loop on new things in Disney. 

My favorite resources are:

-this is a great resouce to look for speficic questions about questions you might not have answers to anywhere else. This is where I learned about the early breakfast at Be Our Guest/ Mine Train strategy. People on this board are pros! It can be intimidating if you don't know what you are looking for but I utilize the search function a lot to find answers I need.  I also love reading people's trip reports and the fastpass+ strategy posts. 

I listen to this podcast weekly mostly because I love the team of people! 

This is a great website for touring plans and strategies. The author has a funny sense of humor that I enjoy. He also will "test" his plans with photos and times to see how they really work in the park. I used his plans for my touring strategies and they were spot on. 

The Queue Podcast
This is a new podcast I started listening to because I enjoy the two podcaster's instagram accounts (@Ohyeahdisney and @disneysinglerider). They have an actual background in audio engineering/music so the podcast sounds great and has all sorts of fun jingles and music throughout. They are also both huge Disney music geeks which I'm pretty sure makes us BFFs. 

This podcast is done by the author of the Unofficial Guide books, Len Testa, and is always very informative. They do news segments and also history segements. The audio is not great so sometimes it is hard to listen to but I do enjoy the information. 

I subscribed to for about $15 for the year and it gave me access to the Lines App which is very handy in the parks. It has live ride wait times (posted and actual wait times), park hours, show times and can give you good data on crowd levels. If you buy the current year's version of the Unofficial Guide book you can get a discount code for the subscription. I do recommend the Unofficial Guide book for first timers or if you haven't visited in a while. It is the bible of Walt Disney World! 

This is pretty much a big commericial for Walt Disney World but it is FREE and we did order it just for something fun to come in the mail. It does take some ridicous amount of time to actually arrive so this is something you can order for fun while you are still months out from your vacation. 

I used this resource for my Seaworld planning guide. It is hard to find SeaWorld planning tips out there but this worked well. 

We used my friend Lisa to book our tickes for our trip. She is a great resource and made our ticket buying process easy! I can't wait to book our next trip with her. 

2. Get to the Parks when they open
We did a pretty good job of this on this trip although I really felt we could have been 15 minutes earlier than we were, basically every day. It takes a while to travel to the actual parks and there is a lot involved to get from the door of your resort to the actual park so plan accordingly. We got done so much in the first few hours that getting up early was worth it. It would surprise you that most people on vacation are not early risers and lots of people think that because the parks open at 9, that is when they need to be there. Not the case- at Magic Kingdom, the opening show is at 8:40 and they let you in the gates at 8:45. If you are driving, you have to take a monorail/ferry to even get to the front gates which takes time after parking your car (and walking to the station). It's a process but you are rewarded with your effort if you make it. 

3. Get a good stroller
We did not use a stroller this trip!! It was glorious. It was a huge time saver because we didn't have to park it and then find it afterwards. We missed having the cargo space to hold a sack lunch but that was pretty much it. 


4. Consider brown bagging it
We did not do any sack lunches on this trip mostly because we were trying to pack light and didn't have the stroller to hold our food. However, we did stop at Publix to buy things like bagels, peanut butter, granola bars, snacks for the hotel, bottled water, instant coffee and travel cups. We didn't have a cooler and sometimes our food would be in the car all day so that limited us a bit but it worked out. I threw granola bars in my bag for a quick snack in the park and we ate a quick breakfast at the condo in the mornings. However, our food cost was considerably more since we were eating primarily in the parks but we expected that. 

Here is my original list: 

5. Get Dining Reservations early
You can make your dining reservations 180 days before your trip and I woke up at 5a.m. when our window opened to get the ones I wanted. The hardest one to get are at Be Our Guest but we snagged them! We ate their twice just to make up for last time when I really wanted to eat there and couldn't. 

6. Use PhotoPass and the Photographers
We got good use of this! As I mentioned earlier, we did purchase this ahead of time to save a bit of money and used it a ton. The My Disney Experience app has really improved since we were there and it is easy to download your photos right from the app to your phone. I did have to make it a point to tell everyone, "now we are going to take our photo in front of the Castle" and try to have it scheduled in our plan. I also loved having the ride photos! 

(this photopass photo is easily a million times better than the one I took!)

7. Know yourself and your family
We did not do as much this trip as I would have liked but I did feel like it was busy, hot and crowded and as soon as I felt like we were getting overwhelmed, I knew it was time to take a break. Michael and I had worked hard getting our legs in shape for the trip but I knew Scott's parents were feeling tired (they are 75) and no matter what it IS a physical vacation. Dave and Margie actually ended up staying back at the resort on our Legoland day- I think they were happy for the break! 

8. Put on the mouse ears
I tried to do a good job remembering this was our vacation and to be flexible. I only got upset at Scott once in the car when we were behind schedule (again) on our way to Legoland. It is hard to get him going in the morning and that can be frustrating for me. There was also extra stress to make sure his parents were up and ready to leave on time in the morning and not getting lost if they were following us in their car. We made it work and I think overall everyone had a great time. I had many of my own "magical moments" just watching Michael be happy. I loved watching swim in the pool with the hugest smile on his face; playing on the beach, excited to find shells; dancing in line at Test Track after designing his car, and being thrilled after riding a big ride. That is the real magic!



The Girls
In case you are wondering....yes, we did leave the girls at home for the trip. My mom was very kind and generous to take two weeks of vacation to come and stay at our house with the girls. My sister helped her as well and my aunt, grandparents and dad all visited, too (I think she was busy!). Anna and Brynn still went to daycare for part of the time and I think it was good for them to stay in a familiar environment with their regular routine. I know my mom enjoyed it and I hope that she has great memories from her time with the girls all to herself. We face timed with them a few times and we missed them terribly. We maybe could have taken one baby along with us but two babies is an entirely different ball game and there was no way it would have worked (or been fun for anyone, mostly me!). 

I like Gramie had a fun time with them while we were away! 

The Future
We were so blessed to be able to go on this trip due to the generosity of Scott's parents. I would love to go to Disney every year but at this point in time, we probably won't be back for 4 or 5 years. We would love to take a Disney cruise when the girls are older (maybe when they are 3 or 4?) and then go back to WDW when they are old enough to be out of a stroller and the new lands are open. Our next trip for sure will include a trip to Universal as we are reading Harry Potter and want to see Hogwarts and Diagon Alley. There are also other fun things I'd love to do like a waterpark or Discovery Cove where you can swim with dolphins. I know those things skew to older kids and I hope there will be time for all that in the future. I try to keep reminding myself that there are other places we hope to visit on vacation besides Disney! 




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Spring Break Trip Day 6 Legoland Trip Report

Day 6 of our spring break trip was Legoland! 


It is no secret that Michael loves all things Lego. He is such a fun age and we had heard Legoland is perfect for younger/elementary aged children so we figured we'd better do it on this trip, especially since he was the only kid with us! 



Legoland is located in Winter Haven, which is about 45 minutes south of Orlando. We fueled up with our Starbucks and enjoyed the time together in the car. I actually enjoyed getting out of the Orlando area and seeing some "real" Florida- lots and lots of orange groves! Michael kept saying, "orange orchards" and was amazed to see the little oranges growing on the trees. If I would have done more research, I would have planned a side trip to a grove! 



Michael was feeling a bit under the weather due to tummy troubles right when we arrived but he perked up in no time! 



I was really going into this day without having much of a feel for the park at all. The map seemed confusing to me when I looked at it ahead of time and it was a bit hard to navigate the park. I had found some good tips online and made a rough schedule for us to follow. It did help knowing what for sure we wanted to hit and then we ended up skipping some things when they looked to young to Michael. 


Getting in the park was a pretty easy process (and close parking!) so even though we were there later than I had anticipated, it was still fine. It is also worth noting that Legoland doesn't open until 10a.m.- it was nice to not feel like we had to get super early for our day.

 We headed for the very back of the park first to check out Driving School. 





This is fun because kids can drive these Lego cars that are not on a track- they are free to go wherever they want! They are supposed to be obeying the traffic signs to earn their driver's license but it was kind of a free for all! The cars went pretty slowly so no worries.  


Next up was Flying School which is a roller coaster where your feet dangle down. I had heard some reports saying that some adults will have trouble fitting into the rides and this was one I was worried about- not a problem at all. Neither Scott nor I had any trouble on any of the rides and we are both tall and not small people. 



It was definitely a bigger coaster than Michael was used to! It was fun and pretty short. 


Up next was Boating school, where you get to drive little boats around a course. For some reason this was a long wait for us. The boats are slow and load slowly. They had a little play area of Legos kids could do while they were waiting. Michael also got a new minifigure he enjoyed playing with while he waited. 




Michael and I rode together and Scott was in a boat behind us. Well...Michael and I got into trouble right away when we spun our boat completely around and got stuck! Luckily I managed to get us out the bind but by the Scott had passed us by. He stayed ahead of us the whole time and ended up finishing five boats before us! It is clear who the experienced boat driver in our family is (and who clearly needs to go to real boating school-hint, it's me!). 



Scott took this photo as he was laughing at us because he had already finished and unloaded while we were still on the course! 

After these three rides, we took a little break to let Michael play in this little zone where they could make cars and race them. He loved it! I think he could have spent all day in there. Scott scoped out the lunch situation and we decided to get some grab and go sandwiches and eat while watching the ski show at 12:15. 



We were super excited to see the waterski show. It is a throwback to the park's history as Cypress Gardens where they hosted ski lessons and ski shows. Fun fact- Scott's mom actually learned how to waterski at the original Cypress Gardens back in the 50's where her family took an airplane (a big deal!!) to Florida to celebrate her grandparent's wedding anniversary. I have seen some film footage from this trip and it is so neat. What a time! 


Scott and I also saw a waterski show on one of our first trips together when we went to the Wisconsin Dells when we were dating in college. 


We ate our lunch before the show started and they had nice seats and shade. 

The show was super cute and featured some waterskiing Lego people and also regular people. It was a cute story about Pirates and I was really entertained! I would not miss this!! 




Scott's favorite part was the super cool Nautique boats they used to pull the skiiers. This is the same brand of boat he has and I could tell he was just watching the boats the whole show! They were beautiful. 



Hopefully the show gave Michael a little bit of a spark to get up on waterskis sometime in the future. Water sports are so fun and he is a lucky boy to have a dad who is skilled in that area. If Scott can get me to pop up on a wakeboard, there is hope for basically anyone. :o) 

The waterski show is in the Cypress Gardens area so we explored over there for a bit. Legoland has preserved the original gardens which date back to the 1920s. I think it is actually a National Historic landmark and we were happy to view them. I really wanted to see the famous banyan tree and was pretty excited about it. Scott could not understand but when he saw it he got it. This tree is amazing! 



These photos can not even do it justice. It is HUGE and crazy looking. It is like something from another world. I loved it. Scott thought I was crazy for saying that seeing this tree was a highlight of my vacation but it was! I'd never seen anything like it before. 


There were so many lovely benches and places to sit in the gardens. We even saw a tiny crocodile! It would be fun just to relax, meditate, and enjoy nature for a whole day but alas....we had more to do! 



The Lego Technic Coaster was a fun one and a pretty crazy ride. It starts with a huge hill and then you spend the rest of it up high doing tight corners. You are in a tiny ride vehicle that I was pretty was made out of real legos and it kind of freaked me out. 



We also did the famous Dragon coaster that is on all the ads and was a must do for Michael. It was fun! 

(we were really into putting our arms up on everything this vacation if you can't tell!). 

We finally arrived at Chima. This was a water ride and so we decided it would probably be our last ride. It is a boat ride that you spray targets with and end up getting SOAKED on. We were so wet afterwards! It was super fun but crazy wet. 


We took some time before heading out of the park (and the Big Store) to finally check out Miniland. Everything in this area is so neat! 


The Star Wars area was definitely a favorite for all of us and I was proud of myself that I could identify all of the scenes now that I have seen every movie. Go me!




We also took a spin on Island in the Sky which takes you up to get views of the park from the sky. It was a really nice ride and relaxing at the end of the day since we could sit and it was shady. 


We spent some time looking in the multiple Lego stores and Michael eventually settled on a new Minecraft set he wanted to take home. It was the one with the "Iron Gollum"- don't ask me I have no idea. They had a ton of new Star Wars sets that I hadn't seen before so I think they just recently came out with a new line. Those Lego people are marketing geniuses! 

Overall, we had a really nice time at Legoland. I was glad we did it especially since we had the time and a rental car to get there. It was nice to end our trip with this day because it is the park we spent the least amount of time at. It was clear at the end of this day we were ready to go when we were ready to go- I think each day the heat, lines, and walking got to us a bit more. 

We headed back to our resort to spend some time swimming and enjoy the hot day as it was in the 90's! Michael loved swimming at this resort so much! This day was so beautiful I thought I could totally had spent the whole week just swimming and enjoying the resort. 


We swam and took a pizza from the restaurant by the pool back to the condo for dinner. It was awesome, easy and perfect. 


Sadly, that is it for our trip! :o( 

We had a really nice flight time out of Sanford (3:30ish) and so we slept in the next morning, did one last swim tour (we swam in all three pools to say goodbye and I actually teared up a bit to see Michael having such a blast), showered and packed and headed to the airport. Since Dave and Margie were staying at the condo the rest of the week, there was no worry about being out by a certain time and that was very nice. 

We even drove by Orlando Watersports complex on the way to the airport! 


We ate lunch at the airport, loaded up on snacks and magazines and headed back to DSM. Scott paid extra for the row with more leg room and it was pretty cushy. I loved being in the front of the plane, it felt felt less claustrophobic to me. 


The flight home was beautiful and a bit bumpy, but I dealt with it by watching the clouds change, the scenery and catching up on my podcasts from the week. 


When we arrived home the airport was crazycakes busy because everyone was arriving to DSM for the first round of the NCAA tournament. It was actually pretty good planning on end our vacation right before the tourney started because then we could spend the next four days immersed in basketball! 

I'll have my wrap up post up next! Thanks for stopping by! 

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