After the New Year, the Calkins Family embarked on our much-anticipated vacation to Walt Disney World. Resort reservations made. Tickets purchased. Bags packed. And Disney movies watched again and again. After months of preparing the girls for this trip, we set off from Fort Huachuca late at night so that we could catch our early morning flight to Orlando.
Many months ago, the first thing that I did to prepare for our trip was to make our reservations. I priced out the Walt Disney World (WDW) resorts that were in our price range and presented these options (and their amenities) to the girls. They decided on Port Orleans – Riverside, so I called the reservation hotline to book it. WDW not only has an amazing military discount on their resorts, but the customer service agents did an excellent job of providing me with other similar options that were well within my price range. We settled on the Royal Guest room at Port Orleans – Riverside, also known as the “Princess Suites.” After my girls saw the pictures of the rooms, adorned with genie lamps, magic mirrors, and pictures of Ariel, Rapunzel, and Tiana, they could not have been happier with our choice. After securing the rooms, I reserved what the girls considered to be the most important part of the trip: Lunch at Cinderella’s Royal Table inside the castle at the Magic Kingdom (I have to make my little princesses feel like royalty, right?). Although this started a trend of them asking me daily what princesses were going to be there (“Darlings, just like yesterday, I have no idea.”), it was another wonderful event for them to look forward to on our vacation. The last item of long-term planning was the purchase of the park tickets. Thankfully, the military discount for these was pretty substantial as well, so three four-day park hoppers did not cost me an arm and a leg. Once those important items were purchased (I purchased plane tickets as well, but I do not think anyone really wants to read about that), the next step was to pack correctly the week before our trip.
By now, I am an expert at packing the girls’ suitcases for a trip, but packing for WDW was a new experience. To prepare for this, I researched numerous blogs on what to pack for WDW and then personalized it for what our family likely needed (Sunscreen? Definitely. Diapers? So last year.). The list that I ended up using as a template was the Comprehensive Packing List from Disney Tourist Blog (https://www.disneytouristblog.com/what-to-pack-for-disney/), which did a great job of making sure that I did not forgot anything that was necessary or neglect adding something that I may need at some point.
Like I said before, I am an expert at packing my girls for a trip, but out of clothing, I would have most certainly have forgotten to bring water shoes. If we would have made it to the splash pad, these would have definitely come in handy. Since I am a planner by nature, I was well ahead of this list when it came to bringing the necessary documents. But I would have definitely forgotten stamps, because why on earth would I bring stamps to WDW (oh, postcards for the girls to send to Mom… Add stamps to the list then). Out of toiletries, you will definitely need (tons of) hand sanitizer, sunscreen (even in the winter), lip balm, and headache medicine. And for those that are not avid walkers or hikers (another benefit to being in the military), I would highly recommend moleskin, as you will certainly be needing it by Day 3. For WDW just as much as the flight, load up on snacks. We brought packages of fruit snacks, granola bars, Cliff bars, applesauce packets, and goldfish crackers for snacking, and boy did they come in handy (while saving money!). Also, do not forget water bottles, of which I brought two for when we needed to swap one out for a cold one back at the hotel. Even I was amazed at how many times that I refilled them throughout the day. The Park Accessories category is dependent on when you go and what is right for your family. While I brought them, we have absolutely no need for umbrellas, ponchos, hats, blankets, or pin lanyards. Having said that, having the correct change for the pressed penny machines was an excellent suggestion. Those things are all over the parks, including the hotels, and the girls loved getting them every chance the could. And MagicBands… I could write a whole post on how amazing these things are. But I will save that for later; just do not forget them. Miscellaneous is also dependent on what is needed for your family (I brought insect repellent and did not even put it in my day bag for the parks). Packing for the immediate flight is a whole different matter though.
I probably go a little overboard with the backpack prior to flying with the girls, but I would rather be safe than sorry. I simply never want to be that poor parent whose child is crying on the airplane (yet I now completely understand and no longer judge other parents when their child is losing their mind mid-flight, because it happens). The backpack is stuffed to the brim with coloring books, crayons, snacks, candy, hand sanitizer (can you ever have enough?), more snacks (seriously, can you ever have enough?!?), books, and to be used in case of emergencies, the tablet (Amazon Fire) and iPad, already with Netflix and Amazon Prime shows downloaded onto them. The latter came in especially handy given that I had booked us flights with airlines that did not have screens on the backs of the seats. Anyways, even though we arrived at the airport at 2am and our flight for Orlando left at 4am, the girls did amazing and eventually passed out on my lap during both flights.
Prior to arriving in Orlando, I had prepared the girls for what was waiting for them (i.e. they were not going to get off the plane and walk straight into the Magic Kingdom). I explained to them that after we landed, we had to take the Magical Express bus (where they could watch cartoons during the drive) to our hotel room and that we were not going to go to Epcot until the next day. As many times as I told them, they always failed to hear the last part of that statement.
Anyways, we followed the signs at the airport and hopped on the Magical Express that would take us to the resort. While I took in the Florida scenery, the girls (as promised) got to watch old Goofy cartoons (these are the best, by the way) the entire drive. If it did not already feel like our vacation had started for them, that feeling definitely kicked in once they saw the hotel.
The biggest mistake that I made with this vacation is that I did not have a relaxation day planned in the middle of our vacation where we had no plans and just took advantage of the activities that the resort had to offer. Because of this oversight, the day we arrived was really the only chance for us to enjoy the resort without having to hurry to one of the parks. We ended up checking out the pool, the playground (which included hammocks), the general store, and the arcade, as well as taking a boat ride to Disney Springs (WDW’s version of Downtown Disney).
The girls, after snacking all day, opted for a light dinner of spaghetti and breadsticks at the resort before the boat ride. While they were not too impressed with the shopping area, they loved the boat ride down the river and Goofy’s Candy Shop featuring Mickey-Shaped every-kind-of-cookie-or-confection-you-can-possibly-imagine. And Elaina even got to see Rey (from the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy) in Lego form, which made me equally happy (because I am totally not brainwashing them to like Star Wars or anything). An important note before you enter into the WDW parks: Purchase both the Memory Maker photograph plan and get your little ones autograph books (as well as multi-colored Sharpies). They are both extremely worth it and added to our overall Disney experience (you will hear a lot about these two items in the following posts).
All in all, travelling went fairly smooth and meltdowns were at a minimum. The girls were really happy to finally be at WDW, after waiting months and thinking that Dad had lied to them. There is not really much that I would have changed so far, but we have not even gotten to a park yet, so there was plenty of time for things to go wrong.
But it is a new year and I am looking a lot more positive at life, so nothing is going to ruin this trip. We are going to have a great time and a truly memorable vacation. Thanks for stopping by, and make sure to stay in touch as tomorrow (in post timeline, since we are already back) we head to our first park: Epcot.