Life on Cottage Hill: PAGES

Friday, February 12, 2016

home sweet home.

We are HOME (!!) from Disney World. After a 4am wake-up call to catch an early morning flight all three babies are fast asleep, giving this mama some much needed quiet time. Our time at Disney somehow feels like it was one of the fastest and longest weeks all at the same time- while it flew by, there were also moments that didn't feel that way at all... waiting in lines and navigating through crowds with a "just turned TWO!" year old will do that to you.  

But it was worth it. All of it. In so many ways, it was worth it to see their faces light up time and time again.Especially Audrey. I don't think she could be at a more perfect age and stage for this trip- our sweet peanut embodies all that the Disney magic stands for. 

I will forever remember holding her late at night watching the fireworks in front of Cinderella's Castle as she leaned into my ear, whispering over the music, "Oh, Mommy, thank you for bringing us here, I'm just so happy!" It was the sweetest. 

There's a part of me that feels like "well, now I have it figured out" - I know what I would do again and what I would do differently and so naturally you start to plan out the next trip in your head. But, for me- for us- I'm going to write it down here so I can file it away and pull it back out down the road when we go again (when Jonah + Emma are old enough to remember and really enjoy it). There are far too many other places in the world I want to explore with these babies of mine to go back to the same place too many times. 

But please don't tell Jackson and Audrey that. When we were walking out of the Magic Kingdom for the last time I told them to say "goodbye" for now! And they said, "see you in a few months!" I gently told them to try again ;)

Things I would do again-

1. Fly. I am not a fan of long road trips with little people. I'm just not. Maybe when they're older it will be a great adventure, but for now it's torture for them to be in car-seats so long and who wants to show up to vacation already exhausted from dealing with that. We flew and it worked out perfectly. It made for some early mornings and juggling so many bags through security is never fun, but it's all over so much faster and well worth it. We flew Allegiant which has affordable flight prices, but it meant flying into an airport a little farther away (45 minutes versus 20). At first I was bummed by that, but then realized it was a good thing because the airport was so small it was a breeze getting through with kids. 

2. Stay at a Disney Resort. This, to me, is what completes the "magic" of Disney. You are 100% living in that world 24/7 when you stay on property. We stayed at Old Key West Resort- it's one of the only ones that offers such large condos which we wanted so we could all stay in the same place with Nanna & Pop. Our place was enormous. It had 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, full kitchen, dining room, family room, etc. I requested ground level so we could just drive the strollers right in, it was right by the bus stop... I could go on. We had a rental van for getting to/from the airport and it was a nice "back-up" in case we wanted to drive anywhere, but we quickly learned that the buses are awesome and hands-down preferred those for getting to/from the parks. And, of course, there are a ton of other perks to the resorts: lots of dining options, a big pool/playground/campfire/etc area, cast members everywhere to help with any little thing, etc. 

3. The Disney Dining Plan. This to me would be a no-brainer when going back to Disney. The Dining Plan gave us both more than enough to eat, but it also gave us the freedom of not having to carry cash/money everywhere, it provided a ton of flex in what we were going to eat and the "table service" credits gave us many of our most memorable moments with character meals. Further, when at a resort (either our own or any other resort), we had refillable mugs for each person for 24/7 access to coffee, water and drinks. 

4. Breakfast at Cinderella's Castle. Speaking of the dining plan. We used 2 table credits per person for breakfast at Cinderella's Castle. That basically means it was a pricey little breakfast :), BUT it was one of my most favorite parts of the trip. And I would definitely do breakfast again (versus lunch or dinner). Why? Because you get access to the Magic Kingdom before it opens! That is huge. That means walking in with virtually nobody there except a few photographers happy to take photos for you. It was so peaceful, beautiful, relaxing (that is a word that doesn't get used a lot at Disney)... I loved it. We took our time walking down Main Street to the castle where we were greeted by Cinderella herself. Audrey spent some time talking to her and taking photos then we climbed up the spiral staircase to the dining room upstairs. During breakfast several princesses walked around the room spending time with all of the children, there were cute little details like a sword for all of the boys and wands for all of the girls. And then one of the highlights of the trip for Audrey and a moment I'm sure she won't soon forget... we were getting ready to leave, to walk down the long staircase when Cinderella came around the corner. She too was headed downstairs so she looked at Audrey and said, "Princess, would you like to walk with me down the stairs?" She held her hand out to Audrey and they so sweetly walked all the way down together. This staircase, you should know, is 4 stories high and our peanut as you can imagine talked to Cinderella the entire time- she had so much to tell her! At the bottom Cinderella gave Audrey one last long hug and told her goodbye. And that my friends is how Disney sucks you in. 

5. The Bibbity Bobbity Boutique. I made reservations months and months ago for Audrey to get turned into a princess at Cinderella's Castle the second day we were there. Later I started to somewhat second-guess that choice because it's just so expensive and I felt guilty for the extravagance of it all, but honestly, I would do it again. 100%. I'll share all of the photos in another post... but it was seriously precious.

6. Going "off-season" + with celebrations. We went to Disney in one of the least crowded weeks of the year (second week of February). Let me just say if that was one of the least crowded time I simply would not enjoy my time there during a "crowded" week. There were some moments when it was chaos- so. many. people. With small children and strollers and just wanting to BREATHE it felt honestly really silly at times... like here we are, all of these people just wanting to experience the magic of Disney and yet we're tripping over each other and weaving in and out of crowds just to stand in lines. Thankfully those moments were lesser because of when we went so for sure next time will again pull the kids out of school for a week simply for my sanity :). And secondly, I loved that we were there for both Jonah and Jacksons' birthdays. It was so fun to celebrate at Disney!! (even if Jonah won't remember it ;))

Things I would do DIFFERENTLY-

1. Lunch at Be Our Guest. I would certainly want to eat at Belle's castle again, but would do so with "table service" credits at dinner time. The lunch version just fell flat- we had reservations and yet still waited in line for awhile, the food was just OK (except the "Grey stuff" that really was delicious!) and Belle wasn't even there!? From what I've read, the dinner version is much more thoughtful... something to remember for next time. 

2. The Animal Kingdom. I'm just so bummed still about The Animal Kingdom. I was so pumped for that park and honestly the day just didn't go as planned. Partly because I think we were all tired from it being our last day, but also because the safari "broke down" in the morning when we had our fast pass so by the time it was up and running all of the people in what felt like the world were waiting to ride so we missed out in lieu of our sanity of not waiting around with a very tired Jonah who miraculously fell asleep in his stroller which NEVER HAPPENS. The animals and things we did see were awesome- the park is stunning and the lunch with characters at The Tusker House was some of the best food all week in my opinion. 

3. Fast Passes. I have a love/hate relationship with these things. I love that when done right they save you a ton of time in lines. I hate that they require you to think so far ahead. Meaning, I don't want to HAVE to be at a certain part of the park at a certain time... it just makes it feel too rushed and not vacation-y at times, but well worth it for the rides that you just really love. Now that I know which we really do love I will plan differently. 

4. Weather + Germs. OK, so these things I can't really control for, but my WISH for next time would be for warmer weather. This year typically for Florida is perfect- not too hot, not too cold, but for the first few days we were there it was windier/cooler than normal from the cold front/blizzard hitting the rest of the country, which just meant bundling up more than we had hoped. Thankfully the sun was most always shining, we had zero rain and we had plenty of warm weather too. Secondly, we unfortunately brought germs with us on the trip. Two days before we left I was hit hard by the stomach flu and on the second night I was up all night with Jonah and Audrey who took terms getting sick. Thankfully they seemed to recover much more quickly than I did so by  mid-morning they were ready to go again. The downside just being zero sleep. 

Much, MUCH :) more to come as I continue sifting through photos and re-living the week. Ahhh... I love these babies of mine and these sweet adventures. We are so very lucky and spoiled and every little thing in betwen. 

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