For our vacation this year, we decided on going to Walt Disney World (WDW) for Christmas. The girls have been very excited about the prospect of going back for a while now, but last year was just a little too hectic for everyone to try to squeeze it in. Since we were not going to visit any of my family for Christmas and my Mom is a Disney fanatic, Grandma and Papa decided to join us on our vacation. At the time we planned and booked the trip, the Delta variant was subsiding and the WDW parks were still limited to around 70% capacity, so it seemed like the perfect time to try to get in a family Christmas Vacation in with Mickey and Minnie Mouse in Florida.
Planning went a lot easier this time around due to going through the same thing a few years ago, but it was not easier on the wallet. Due to visiting during the Christmas window, we were unable to get our resort rooms or park tickets at the military discount rate. Also, because of the girls’ school and parenting plan visitation schedules, the week before or after Christmas is really the only time that we could go without me taking them out of school (which I refuse to do at their age). Either way, we rarely go on vacation, so splurging every other year did not seem like such a bad plan. After securing our resort rooms, park tickets and reservations, and airline tickets, we went about buying everything Disney for the trip, including new clothes, water bottles, and “Disney Family” MagicBands.
By now, I am an expert at packing the girls and I’s bags for trips and this absolutely came in handy when packing for WDW. Not only did I include everything that we needed (clothes, shoes, toothbrushes, etc.) and wanted (glow sticks, sunglasses, snacks, etc.), but I also packed an extra suitcase of clothes so that the girls had fresh clothes when I dropped them off in Southern California after the trip. We were definitely prepared for almost every scenario. Rain? We had ponchos for that. Airport or resort has issues with our reservations? I had all the documentation in my bag. Someone gets sick? Probably should have bought some Walgreen’s stock given all the medication I had on hand. Pretty proud of myself for how prepared I was for anything that could possibly happen (and thankfully, we did not need most of it).
The girls’ great-grandmother, who they affectionately refer to as “Baba,” pleaded with me for the girls to spend Christmas with her. Once I said “yes,” this request turned into a couple days, then a few, then more than a week. Since I figured the girls would be happy to spend a week eating and doing whatever they wanted, Baba and the girls’ Tios (uncles) would love to have them for the holidays, and that I needed a “vacation from our vacation,” it seemed like a good move for everyone (as stated in a previous post, the initial reason was because we may have been moving overseas and it may have been a while before they could see one another again).
So we headed out early on Saturday morning so that we could be in Long Beach for an early dinner. The girls had a great half-day with “the Familia,” before we headed to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
While I do not particularly recommend LAX to anyone (I prefer either the Long Beach or John Wayne International Airports in Southern California), initially it was not too bad. It was absolutely busy, but after an hour, our car was parked, our bags were checked, and we were through security. Not too shabby for one of the busiest airports in the world.
Unfortunately, this is where things started to go off the rails on the trip out to Orlando. First, our flight was delayed an hour. Given that we were planning to arrive in Orlando the following day around 7:20 am, this was not too big of a deal. Delays certainly happen, especially around the holidays, so we were patient and drove on. But since we had planned so well for scenarios such as these, the girls just simply brought out their Where’s Waldo? activity and Hidden Picture books to pass the time.
The second delay was another matter though, as it bumped our departure time back another two hours. While this still got us into Orlando at a very respectable time that would not impede on our WDW vacation, it meant that the girls would be sleeping in the airport for a while in lieu of immediately on the plane. At one point, the girls and I were so tired and frustrated that we just wanted to go home; if they had cancelled our flight, I was honestly ready to do just that. Either way, not the greatest start to our trip.
Once we got on the plane, as expected, the girls and I went right to sleep (the girls before takeoff, with me following suit shortly after). Because of how tired we were and how hard we slept, that was one of the shortest flights in recent memory. Before we knew it, we had touched down in Orlando and woke up smiling.
After the airline issues subsided, we started to ease back into vacation mode. Thankfully, the Orlando International Airport helped a lot with this, as the entire terminal was decorated to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World. Thank you, Orlando, for making us feel welcomed and getting us back in the spirit.
We then made our way to the WDW Magical Express, the courtesy transportation that would take us to the resort. This is a major perk when staying at a WDW resort, but unfortunately, the service is being cancelled starting in 2022. Mr. Chapek, if you are reading this, please reconsider cancelling the Magical Express service, as it is very convenient (especially for single parents) and another great reason to stay at a WDW resort.
Once we arrived at the Port Orleans – French Quarter Resort, the Disney and Christmas magic started to set in. The girls were immediately greeted with Mardi Gras beads and brightly colored coins to make wishes in the fountain. After we checked-in and stowed our bags, we decided to walk the grounds while they prepared our room (we planned for this so we could have a day on the front end to enjoy the facilities).
First we checked out the pool area, which fully lived up to expectations with the serpent slide. They even had the Gator Mardi Gras Band out for our arrival. The girls then spent some time on the playground before heading inside to get some much anticipated beignets.
While the beignets at the French Quarter were amazing, the girls were just not impressed. Elaina took a couple bites before shoving it back in the bag while Gabriella refused to even try them. Sometimes I just do not understand kids; Elaina will eat funnel cake or sopapillas all day, but beignets seemed to be a step too far (spoiler alert: they are all the same thing).
We eventually found our way to the video arcade, where the girls spent another hour killing time before our room was ready. Their favorite game was a roller coaster simulator, which unfortunately got better reviews from them than one of the major coasters in the parks.
They also played Skee-Ball and then some air hockey, that is until Gabriella hurt her left hand by placing it on the latter’s playing surface (never a good idea). And contrary to the ensuring outburst, Elaina did not try to hit her hand on purpose.
With about an hour to go before our room was ready, we decided to stop in for lunch at the sole restaurant on the resort. Elaina chose the pasta and meatballs while I opted for a huge slice of pepperoni pizza; Gabriella, as per her picky norm, went with chocolate milk and a breadstick (since this was a travel day, I cut Gabriella some slack on what she ate, but I assure you, once regular park treats came into the mix, she knew she had to start eating).
After lunch, the girls got a Mickey Pop from the general store and we took a stroll along the river path. And yes, I definitely stayed between the girls and the river, because the “Beware of Alligators and Snakes” signs are still very much a presence. Kind of taking no chances on that one.
When we finally got to the room, Elaina was woefully unimpressed (Gabbs, always easy to please, was indifferent). The phrases “this does not feel like a Disney World room” and “where are the princesses?!?” may have been uttered multiples times. Last time I checked though, they chose which resort we were going to stay at, so at some point she was ready and willing to give up princess pictures on the wall for an easily accessible water slide and splash pad.
I thought the room was fine and lived up to expectations (mine at least). Also, in defense of the French Quarter, the shower curtains had frogs on them, and since they could have been either Princess Tiana, Prince Naveen, or both, maybe the room did have a princess in it after all. Either way, Elaina felt that the room was not Disney-themed enough. Duly noted.
Immediately upon getting to our room, we changed to go to the pool and splash pad. One of the major reasons we stayed at Port Orleans – French Quarter instead of another Moderate Resort Hotel was because of the splash pad, pool, and serpent slide that were located a few hundred feet from our room. On our first day at the resort, we probably spent about two hours in the pool area, so we certainly got use out of the facilities.
After we finished at the pool, we changed and headed over to Disney Springs, the nightlife area for food and shopping. Our first stop was the Lego store to see the newest creations and they did not disappoint. Not only did they have new Star Wars characters and Elsa and Anna built, but also a scene of Prince Phillip fighting against Maleficent at the end of Sleeping Beauty (above). Truly epic.
After that, we walked around for a while looking for food, but after finding no suitable options, the girls settled for a pretzel and a churro. As promised, we also made a stop in the World of Disney store to look at stuffed animals. They had an ample supply of Disney Babies, so Elaina chose Dumbo and Gabriella chose Eeyore to add to their stuffy collection. We were still pretty tired, so after that, we took the boat back to the hotel room.
Even though our travel plans got a little delayed, once we got to the resort everything started falling into place. Grandma and Papa arrived late that night and we would wait to see them in the morning. The girls immediately went to sleep upon getting under the covers, cuddling with their new friends almost the entire time. We were going to visit EPCOT in the morning and the girls and I certainly needed to get our rest. And after our terrible travel day, we all deserved it.
Thanks for checking in on us.