epic adventure: getting there.

Earlier this summer, Aidan and I embarked on an epic three-week vacation, just the two of us. We were both super excited. We were going to do new things, and I was just happy to have all the time to hang out with my {awesome} kid. The trip started off smoothly enough. We got to the airport, we got to go through TSA-precheck, and we were at security in no time. Things were going great until a storm rolled in and we got grounded just as we were pulling from the gate. Two hours we sat in the plane. And I was freaking out. I’d arranged for a limo to take us from the airport to the resort as a surprise for Aidan and I was worried we’d get tagged as a no-show. The flight status wasn’t updating (it said we were in the air and on-time!) and I was so worried I’d miss this limo surprise for Aidan.

We did get off the ground eventually, though. Thank goodness. I was starting to feel like Chicago wasn’t going to let us go.

On Our Way!

We finally got to Orlando, and the limo guy wasn’t there! I called them and they said not to worry, there was some sort of back up. They’d gotten my message and the flight info and he’d come find me by baggage claim. Meanwhile, Aidan was standing there with HIS bag. My enormous purple bag was no where to be found. Cue more panic! All my cute outfits and hair thingies and OMG nooo!

After a lot of running around and freaking out, we found out that the bag had come in on another flight, so it was on another carousel. Meanwhile, this limo guy, who had finally found us, was so patient and helpful. And when we went out to the limo…the look on Aidan’s face made everything worth it!!!

Riding in Style!

The limo ride included a 30 minute grocery stop, but Aidan and I had a list so we were done in 15. We’d also packed a bag full of snacks and brought that with us on the plane. This trip, we were doing food differently. Instead of eating all of our meals and snacks in the park (I didn’t buy the dining plan), we had a few sit down meals, a few counter service meals, and we ate breakfast and snacks (except special Disneyfied snacks) that we’d brought with us. Every morning, Aidan loaded his bag with granola bars, chips, Pop-tarts, and a bottle of water and a bottle with an energy drink. I did the same. When we got hungry, we’d snack on our bars. Ice water is free in the parks if you get it from a stand with a fountain, so we’d just drink down our energy drinks (I know!) and then fill the bottles up with the free ice water. Instead of sneaking to the food court and dropping $10 on a pizza when the late night hunger pangs hit, I just made myself a turkey sandwich and ate it in my room. Or the night we got back early, I took it to the Movies Under the Stars, and watched Wall-E while I chowed down.

But I’m getting ahead of myself! We got to the Resort (Pop Century) and because of their newfangled system, we didn’t even have to go to the desk to check in. I’d checked in online, and while we were at the airport, I got a text with my room number! We were able to go straight to the room!

And it was a nice room, with a nice surprise waiting for us on the bed:

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After unpacking our groceries and changing, we headed to Downtown Disney. Aidan of course wanted to go to the LEGO store, I wanted to do my own shopping, and I’d thought we’d have dinner there. But we ended up eating at the food court at the resort, which is fine by me because I happen to love that food court. Then it was bed time, because it was Animal Kingdom the next day!

That’s all for now. Next time, I’ll talk about our time in the parks, the awesome dessert we got at Garden Grill, and more. :)

i confess part 4 {disney world edition}

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i confess… the first time i went to disney world, in 2001, i was scared i wouldn’t like it. i’d been wanting to go for so long, i was worried i’d be let down after having built it up in my mind for so many years. but nope, i fell right in love with it!

I Finally Met Mickey!
my first time ever meeting mickey mouse!
august 2001

i confess… i both love and hate the wealth of information out there about how to enhance the park experience. i love it because of all the neat stuff i now know, but i hate it because everyone and their mommas know it too. and somehow that makes it less special because everyone wants to be special. #disneyhipster

i confess… the chocolate covered pineapple i had on my last trip continues to haunt me because it was JUST THAT GOOD.

i confess… i wasn’t sure about all the changes happening at disney and i almost skipped out on going this year because of it. magicbands, fastpass+, all the preplanning one has to do now. but you know what? i went on the trip with all that and still had a wonderful time.

i confess… disney amazes me with how it brings magic to kids of all ages. there are people in forums who say that they never get “magical” moments when they are not with kids, but i find that not to be the case with me. i’ve been given free stuff, gotten hugs from strangers, even been selected to be in a parade, just to name a few of the cool things i’ve had happen to me.

Jammin' Jungle Parade

i confess… i like mickey’s not so scary halloween party just a tiny bit better than mickey’s very merry christmas party.

Us with Witch Minnie

i confess… meeting a princess still gets me all starry-eyed.

Meeting Naveen & Tiana
especially if it’s princess tiana

i confess… every time i go without aidan, i feel guilty. so that’s why i always immediately book a trip with him to happen within the year.

i confess… taking my mommy to disney was one of the best things i’ve ever done. she loved the trip so much and i loved making her so happy. i don’t think i’d ever seen her smile and laugh as much as she did on that trip.

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look at her smile! and this was even before she’d ridden soarin’!

i confess… i have been to disney world 10 times and i still can’t wait to go back!

all hail mickey mouse.

Disney World 2014 Collage

Guess who recently returned from a really cool Disney vacation? If you guessed ME, you’d be right! :) I didn’t post much about it here because well, it was such a random, sorta last minute thing. See, my brother-in-law Eli and his wife Melissa both work for the Disney company in California, so they get free tickets (four each!) and discounted accommodations for the parks. They also run marathons and crazy things like that. They came to Orlando to do the Wine & Dine Half Marathon and then to vacation a bit. Adam’s family was joining them, along with Melissa’s mom. That left one space for me! I just had to pay for my flight and contribute a bit to the room cost, which was VERY VERY reasonable, what they asked. And of course, buy my own food, etc.

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the gang!

The trip was from November 7-15. I had to be with Eli to get let into the park, and then I could do whatever I want the rest of the day. Sometimes I stuck with Adam’s family (his mom, dad, sister, and niece), sometimes I hung with Melissa, Eli, and Vicky. Sometimes we were ALL together. A lot of times I went off by myself. I took a lot of selfies! Ha.

Back at Epcot!! ???? #Epcot #disneyworld #selfie #disney

The Magic started right away, when I went to check in and the guy at the desk gave me a pile of stickers and coloring books and crayons and buttons! And it just kept continuing, with people doing nice things, my friend Joe getting us into Garden Grill for dinner even though it had been booked for months, big hugs from Mickey Mouse and the gang, and so much more.

Here are the things I’ve learned the times that I was on my own at Disney World:

1. It’s an interesting experience. I loved the freedom of doing what I wanted when I wanted. It was much faster and easier to weasel my way through crowds when I was by myself. I enjoyed just answering to myself. If I wanted to do something, I did it. I didn’t have to get approval or wait for people, I could just go for it. And single rider lines for rides are the best. I pretty much walked right on to Test Track more than once. And there are some really warm and open people at Disney World. I talked to one wonderful woman about ten minutes and by the end of the conversation, she was embracing me. Little girls seemed to love me–so many would just stop and smile and/or say “hi” to me or just start talking to me. Little boys, too! And I got a free churro because I was at the Christmas Party by myself. If I wanted to sit and people watch, it was OK for me to do that. I didn’t feel like I was putting people out when my tiny bladder made its needs known loudly and often. If people in the group were doing something I wasn’t all that into, I liked being able to say “I’m going to do [some other thing] and I’ll catch up with you later.” I loved that.

2. Eating was so cheap when it was just me! Before I left for Disney, I purchased $150 in Disney gift cards from Target (using my RedCard so I’d save 5%), and I didn’t use all of it. Granted, one meal was an expensive one and I paid for that NOT using the gift card, but the rest? Well, I came home with $20 left, and I’d even bought a souvenir with some of the gift card money. This was done with some extra help though: I had granola bars and Pop-Tarts in my room. I bought one bottle of water and kept refilling it, and I also bought a refillable drink mug (with a gift card!) to use when I was at the resort. Seeing as I was there so many nights, it was a good investment, especially on my resort day. I also have a small appetite, so many times, the kid’s meal was adequate for me. I also forgot about my gift cards and got a couple of Food & Wine entries with cash. So, truthfully, I probably spent about $180 to feed myself at Disney World for nine days, including a refillable drink mug, a fancy sit down meal, and novelty snacks. I’d say $20 a day isn’t bad.

3. During a long trip like this, a day in the middle to do NOTHING is a fantastic idea. I never knew the value of it until last week. I realized that I am absolutely capable of melting down like the toddlers at the end of the night (or morning or whenever) who have had ENOUGH. I was like that Monday night after the Christmas party. I was just DONE. Then I dropped my brand new phone INTO the Murphy bed that I was sleeping on (which was very comfortable by the way). I didn’t sleep well. By Tuesday morning, I was a mess. I got on my computer while waiting for maintenance to come and help me get my phone out. I took my medication, and tried to calm down. It worked. Maintenance came and my phone was rescued and unharmed. The meds kicked in. I pulled on my bathing suit and decided to stick around the resort all day. I hung out at the pool and had a drink, and talked to my mom and Aidan on the phone. Then I took a nice, hot bath before heading to the food court for something yummy to eat. (Probably corn dogs, seeing as I can’t seem to get enough of the things lately.) It was a nice, relaxing, much-needed day of downtime and self care. I highly recommend a resort/pool day for all long Disney trips.

Poolside drinksies!!!! #vacation #goodlife #disney #disneyworld #selfie ??????????

I got to spend time at Disney with a little kid, which doesn’t happen often. I mean, there are kids THERE, but they’re not with me, so yeah. Hanging out with Lola was great. To hear that little voice say “I want to sit with RONNI” was soooo fun!

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how cute is this?

And I had to admire how they kept her fed and happy with PB&J, fruit, cheese sticks, popcorn, etc. They didn’t have to spend a lot of money on her nor worry about feeding her since she can be a picky little eater. And because she was in her stroller, they could just feed her just about anywhere. Chris and I didn’t do that with Aidan! Not that he’d have eaten PB&J anyway….

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I got to do some new things this trip. I finally got to see Fantasmic! :) I’d been hearing about this fireworks show for years and years but it always seemed like a pain in a butt to get to. You had to line up a million years before to get a good seat or even a seat at all, blah blah blah. But FastPass+ made it possible for Cassidy and me to get front row center seats (now, we’d have normally never wasted a Fast Pass on a show but that’s about all they had available by the time we made it to Hollywood Studios that evening), so there it was. And I LOVED it! It lived up to the hype for sure!

I sat at the Pinocchio restaurant and waved to people riding it’s a small world. That was fun.

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is so much fun! Such a cute coaster!

I saw Finding Nemo: The Musical. I liked it, but The Festival of the Lion King wins. I missed the Jammin’ Jungle Parade. So sad it’s gone. I heard it is coming back after all the work is done in Animal Kingdom. I hope so.

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Animal Kingdom in the dark! That was certainly new! It either closes so early or it stays dark so late that I’ve never see it at night. It’s just as pretty.

And there was Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, where I got to meet these guys:

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And see Main Street look like this (complete with fake snow):

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The pictures do not do the castle justice, how pretty it is. It’s incredible, and now they’ve incorporated Elsa and Anna and Olaf (from Frozen) into the castle lighting in a very clever way. I approve! :) Here’s a video of the very ending, complete with a “wooo” from me.

And oh oh oh, I got to see the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights! It was sooooo cool. Definitely will put you in the holiday spirit, as long as you can handle the crowds!! Here’s a snippet!

Honestly, I cannot even begin to put all the stuff I got to see and do. It was just a nice, long, awesome vacation. If you’d like to see more photos, click here! There’s lots to see! :)

And I leave you with a photo of Mickey and me. Because yes.

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Till next time! :)

jammin’ in the jungle!

Animal Kingdom

previous posts:
epic disney world!!
a magical day.
two worlds.
a slow start for hollywood.

Our last day at Disney World took us to Animal Kingdom, which is painfully underrated in my opinion. Of course, there is the safari, and Dinosaur, and Expedition Everest, but it’s just a beautiful park in itself. It’s one of those parks I’d like to just go and hang out in and read or something, except there’s too much to do and see to just sit! Ha.

We’d had mild weather all week, and this Friday was the first day we’d gotten to experience the true Florida summer sun. Even I wasn’t prepared for it… but I still loved it.

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We didn’t ride much at Animal Kingdom. Aidan and I rode Dinosaur. I was really impressed he wanted to ride it–it’s kind of a scary ride! I still have to close my eyes at parts… but we still had fun.

We spent some time over at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. I like to go over there because I get to do things like make Falandos hold a big pile of poop.

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All four of us did the safari, and there were lots of animals out. Our Fast Pass time was later than I’d normally have it, so I was worried. I needn’t have.

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We finished the safari just in time to see the Jammin’ Jungle Parade! YAY! Now that I know most of the dance steps, the parade dancers like to come over and dance with me. It’s really cool!

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It's Sarah!
yay, sarah! she’s one of my favorite disney performers.

This was our last day at Disney World. :( After finally making our way back to the park, it was a mad dash to meet our car (this time an Escalade!) and head to the airport. Where the travel snags started again.

Our flight was to leave at 7:45. Imagine our shock when we saw that our flight had been delayed until 11pm. And as we stood there, the numbers flipped until after MIDNIGHT. Well. We figured we’d just relax, shop, have dinner… except randomly, they gave us another flight, which left at 8:15. I was convinced we were going to miss our flight. It was 7:45 already. Security was taking FOREVER. Talk about stress… trying to make it our gate on time…. where they weren’t even boarding. We made it home OK. Hungry, tired, and sad that the trip was over, but happy we had a few days together to talk about it and relive it through our pictures and stories.

So naturally, we’ll be planning next year’s trip soon….

That’s all of the trip reports for this Disney vacation. If you want to see all the pictures, just click here! :)

Till next time!

a slow start for hollywood

Hollywood Studios

previous posts
epic disney world!!
a magical day.
two worlds.

Thursday morning was a slow start for us. We slept in, took our time getting ready, and then, when we were finally on our way out the door, the rain came down with a fierceness. THEN, a friend of mine, Joey, who used to live in Chicago but had relocated to Orlando wanted to have lunch with us. So we hung around the resort and waited for them.

We played in the arcade while we waited for Joey and the gang. With our package, we got some free play time, but Falandos and I went ahead and splurged for a bit more. I’d never done that before–I feel like Aidan plays enough video games that it’s stupid to go to freaking DISNEY WORLD and play more, but because we were waiting and it was rainy, we both went for it. Aidan racked up the tickets.

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aidan playing fruit ninja

We had a great lunch, catching up, making new friends, hanging out. I’m not a huge Hollywood Studios geek, so I didn’t mind not getting to the parks super early in the morning. (Really, the only reason to do that is to get on Toy Story Midway Mania, which Aidan and I both said wasn’t a “must do”, and for Tower of Terror, which gets a resounding HELL TO THE NO from Aidan.)

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lunch with friends and family

We got to Hollywood Studios and the clouds were looking crazy ominous. We made our way to the Animation building and proceeded to spend hours inside, meeting characters, drawing pictures, and people watching!

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That's Incredible

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By the time we got out of there, the rain had cleared up! It was a beautiful evening with perfect weather and low crowds. We rode the Great Movie Ride, went on the Backstage Tour, and saw Muppet Vision 3D. Then, it was time for dinner at 50s Prime Time Cafe.

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cutest mommy ever!

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aidan finishing up his drawing before diving into that big ole pile of friend chicken

My mom said this was her favorite meal out of the three table service restaurants. The food was yummy, the atmosphere was fun, and we LOVED when Falandos got reamed out by “Mama.”

After dinner, we enjoyed the outside some more. The crowds were pretty non-existent. Aidan and I rode Star Tours three times in a row with barely any wait. He even got to be the Rebel Spy on one of the “flights”!

We finished off our night in the gift shops, of course!

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When we got back to the resort, Aidan wanted to use up the last of his arcade points. He did and hit a lucky jackpot on one of the machines and got a TON of tickets! He got to pick out bunch of little cheap toys and candy, which made him pretty happy.

It was a low key day, but it was really fun, relaxing, and fulfilling. We all had an awesome time. :)

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