Now that I’ve wrapped up Christmas, I hope you are ready to hear A LOT about our trip to Disney World. I literally have posts ready to go for the next three (!) weeks with all of our details. And if you wonder how I can stretch it out that long, let me tell you that I had over 10 pages of typed notes for our trip before we left so my engineer self went into overdrive with this trip and I want to share anything that might help you. I’ll be covering everything from what we did to book and what we learned to the tips that we found for all of the parks and things that we found online that didn’t apply to us but I thought might help you.
I’m going to start off with a chronological look at our trip including more personal stuff like what we did, what the kids liked, etc. And I’ll get to more of the nitty-gritty details after I cover our trip in particular. I’m also going to be adding a page for Disney that I’ll had to the header once I get finished with all my posts so that it will be an easy reference for the future.
So, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!
We chose to drive to Orlando because flights were very expensive and we just couldn’t pull the trigger on the added expense. So we woke the kids up at 4am on Sunday, December 1, and put them in the car in their jammies. We were hoping and praying that they would fall right back to sleep but, unfortunately, they didn’t. James slept maybe a total of 2 hours during the entire ride down, which ended up being a good 12 hour drive due to traffic. And Charlotte didn’t close her eyes for a second! But the miracle of it all was that they were fantastic during the whole ride.
Maybe it was because they had known about our trip since we started planning it back in April and so were excited but weren’t too excited. Or maybe….I really don’t know what it was, but I had plenty of activities for them and along with watching a little bit of Mickey, Doc McStuffins, and Mary Poppins they were great travel companions.
James is checking out some stick puppets that I made for him.
Charlotte’s making up stories with her princess stick puppets.
And maybe the biggest lifesaver was that I had recorded the stories to four read-aloud story books before we left. They could look through those books and have them read to them while we were in the car without us having to do the reading in the car — perfect!
While the kids were great in the car, this pregnant Mama, got very antsy when we were literally stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic just north of Orlando for an hour and a half. Thank you Lord for the technology in iPhones and the Google Maps app that will show you traffic because we got off the interstate and went the back ways a little bit in order to get to Disney in time.
In time for what you ask? We had reservations at Chef Mickey’s for dinner on Sunday night! Not the best planning on our part considering that we had such a long drive, but, since we made it with a little time to spare, we call it a great decision in hindsight because it let the kids get introduced to everything in a smaller dose before we hit a park.
We had heard GREAT things about Chef Mickey’s and were excited to get there. Our kids have loved watching the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on Disney Junior for years so I knew that they would want to get an up close and personal look at all the characters and I’d heard that Chef Mickey’s was a great place to do it without having to stand in line. I would highly recommend a meal here because even with the lesser park crowds when we were there, there was ALWAYS a huge line around the Clubhouse characters in the parks.
We chose to drive from our hotel (Animal Kingdom Jambo House) to the Contemporary Resort where Chef Mickey’s is located. We were told at our hotel that by valeting at one resort, you are able to valet at all Disney resorts without paying an extra fee (you do need to tip each time though). Because of this we were able to simply drive to the Contemporary and drive right up to the door with very little traffic or wait time! Had we not driven ourselves to the Contemporary, I believe that we would have had to have taken the bus to the Magic Kingdom and then ridden the Monorail to the Contemporary. Since we hadn’t done Disney transportation yet and heard to allow 45 minutes for travel anywhere and were tight on time already, it seemed like a better idea to drive ourselves.
We ended up being a few minutes early for our reservation (imagine that!) and so got to look at all the fun Disney stuff in the Contemporary hotel. This included James getting his first sighting of the Monorail. He promptly fell in love and is still talking about the Monorail. One thing about the Contemporary and Chef Mickey’s is that it is loud and there is a lot going on. You can see the Monorail from most tables so you hear it each time it comes through and the restaurant is in the middle of the hotel which is just a huge open area so sound just amplifies. It is not a quiet, peaceful dinner so be prepared for that. And if your kids are easily distracted, well, know that they will be very distracted during your meal!
Once we sat down our waiter brought us our drink orders and then told us that we could go through the buffet. He explained the order of tables that the characters would visit in so we would know when we needed to make sure we were at our table. The buffet had a lot of options on it — everything from a salad bar, to kid friendly chicken nuggets and mac and cheese, to grown up ribs and lasagna — but, like all buffets, it wasn’t the highest quality of food. There was also a dessert buffet with soft serve ice cream that was nice too. And the buffet area was large so the line was never long to wait for food as opposed to another place we ate at later in the trip. [Just as a FYI for toddlers who like lemonade the old-fashioned way, none of the restaurants where we ate had just plain lemonade, it was all flavored with something like pomegranate. Charlotte ended up liking it but was hesitant to try it at first.]
We had gotten our food and started to eat when the characters started coming towards our table. Donald was first and I don’t even have a picture to show you because both of our kids were terrified. Well, Charlotte wasn’t terrified, she was just unsure and didn’t want to get really close to him. James on the other hand started crying when Donald got near him and tried to crawl into Jason’s lap to get away from him. So, no pictures with Donald. I was afraid at this point that our night was going to be a disaster.
But then the star of the show himself arrived.
Jason got a picture with Mickey since this was his first real trip to Disney. James watched with a mixture of fascination and horror. Charlotte was still a little unsure about getting a picture by herself so I stepped in to get one with her. As long as I was next to her she was really excited to see Mickey!
Next came Minnie and Charlotte’s uneasiness disappeared. One look at Minnie’s polka dots, ruffles, and bow and Charlotte because the outgoing little girl that we know her to be!
Pluto was next and while I think James wanted to want to get down and give him a hug he couldn’t move past his fear. But Charlotte jumped right up to hug Pluto’s neck!
As we waited for the last character that was there that night, Goofy, James got tired of hanging out in his chair closest to the characters and so he came to hang out on the bench with Charlotte and me. At least we have proof that we was, indeed, there with us at dinner that night! He even looks pretty happy since there wasn’t a character around!
Goofy finally made it to our table and I think we were all taken aback at how tall he was! It was hard to get a picture with him and Charlotte.
After our last character meeting we packed it up and headed back to the hotel. In addition to pictures with the characters, they all signed Charlotte’s and James’ autograph books and they did a fun dance where everyone spun their napkins around a couple of times while we were there too. I think it was a great way to kick off our vacation since it got the kids in the Disney mood in a less overwhelming setting before we hit the parks the next day. To say that we ALL slept good that night would not be an exaggeration in the least!
Coming up tomorrow….day two with Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and dinner with the Princesses!