We took the BEST trip to Disney World a couple of weeks ago! We were there for 11 days/10 nights and had an absolute blast. Here are our secrets:
We rented a condo at Mike Ditka's Lighthouse Key Resort and Spa. It was almost 2200 square feet and had four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a full kitchen, dining room, living room and laundry room. It was, in short, incredible. It was ONLY $129 per night. AMAZING. Especially when you consider that, on our last trip to Disney World (after which I swore I would never go again) we paid $99 per night for a "Disney Hotel" on property that was MAYBE 300 square feet (one room).
We bought a $30 crockpot when we got there and cooked most of our meals in the crockpot while we were in the park all day. What's that? Oh, you want the recipes? Of course. Yes, I will share those soon. :)
Each kid had a "pack" that they wore around their waist (I refuse to use the f-word ... as in "fanny-pack") (What f-word did you think I meant?) They carried their own snacks for the day, "Disney Dollars" that they had earned at home for their souvenirs, an i.d. card with their name, our names and our cell phone numbers, and pennies for pressing.
Mitchell didn't carry a pack - John carried his stuff for him. But, I wanted his name and our phone numbers on his person somewhere. I didn't want a place that was too obvious - like a nametag, yet I didn't want anything too hidden like a piece of paper in his shoe (who would look there at park security?). I finally came up with what I thought was the perfect solution. I went to PetSmart and bought a little round animal tag that said "Mitchell" and then listed John's cell number and my cell number. And then I bought the cutest little dog collar. Just kidding ... I attached it to his shoelaces ... it was noticeable if someone had found him, but not obvious to everyone walking down Main Street, USA.
We left Charlotte at home with my parents. It was really hard to say goodbye to her, especially because we knew that she didn't understand that we were leaving, and more importantly, that we were coming back. My mom told me when we got home that it seemed like she was a little depressed the first couple of days, but then she perked up and definitely began to "bask" in all the Grammy and PawPaw love she was getting. When we got back, she actually didn't want anything to do with me at the airport, though. She only wanted John (definitely a Daddy's Girl).
We took our Phil & Ted's stroller with the doubles kit so that Mitchell and Holly Grace could both ride if they wanted to. It was awesome. And a lot of moms pushing those tandem double stroller "limos" wanted to know where we got it after they saw the small footprint and maneuverability of it. It's camo blue, in case you were wondering. We also got the double rain cover, pannier bags, and packing tray to take with us, all three of which were invaluable.
Why did we stay so long? Well, consider this: an adult 4-day ticket to DisneyWorld (includes Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Disney's MGM Studios) costs $212. A 10-day ticket is only $13 more at $225. Yes, it's crazy, I know. So, we just figured we'd take our time in each of the parks and not try to "marathon" it by staying from opening until closing. We did not buy the "park hopper" option, but we did buy the Water Park Fun & More Option for an additional $50 per ticket. It allowed us ten (total) entries into the two Disney water parks (normally $39 per day), Disney Quest ($37) and Pleasure Island ($21.95). We went to the water parks three times and Disney Quest twice, so it was definitely worth it.
This year Disney's theme is "Year of a Million Dreams". Now I'm not really sure why they have to have a different theme each year. It seems to me that an appropriate theme that would always be fitting is "Disney - Where it's all about the movies and us cashing in on them". Anyway, on our first full day in Orlando, we went to the Magic Kingdom. Jack, Holly Grace and I rode Space Mountain (yes, she is too young to ride, but she is tall enough and she insisted that she wanted to and so we said, "okay" and yes, she was in tears at the end of it). Well, as we were getting off the ride (tears and all) there were these people at the "disembarking" area handing out free mouse ears as part of the "Year of a Million Dreams" celebration. Apparently, sometimes they just start handing out free "stuff" at random times in the park. So, I gave my mouse ears to Mitchell outside and all three kids then had a pair. So that was a great start to our day. Then, just a little while later, we were riding "Pooh" and there they were again - at the exit! Only this time, they were handing out "Dream Fastpasses". Basically, it was like a credit card on a lanyard. It had nine different break-off tabs for nine of the most popular attractions at the Magic Kingdom that were like Fastpasses (basically, you get to go to the front of the line when you use a fastpass. At least, you get to go in the Fastpass line, which is significantly shorter than the "standby" line). We actually saved most of those Fastpasses because the crowds were so light that day that we didn't need to use them. We did use them, however, when we went back to the Magic Kingdom another day and the lines were longer.
We spend three days at the Magic Kingdom, 1 1/2 days at Animal Kingdom, 1 day at Disney MGM, and one full day and two half days at Epcot. We worked in Water Parks and Disney Quest in the other half days. And the afternoon we arrived in Florida was spent at Cocoa Beach. Until Holly Grace got too much sand in the nether regions of her bathing suit and begged to leave so that she could take a bath. :)
Someday I'll get around to getting the photos off my camera and onto my computer. And then maybe I'll upload them and share. We'll see ...