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I'm a 30-something wife and mom. My boys are my pride and joy. Together, we are navigating being a forever family post international adoption.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Spring Break in Orlando

This year for Spring Break, we took our first big family vacation. We wanted to make it a memorable one so we decided to spend the week in Orlando, Florida. It was extra special  because my Mom decided to join us for the fun.

My Grandma Dolly took me to the Magic Kingdom when I was 6 years old, and I've loved it ever since. When my parents got married when I was 10, it is where they took our newly blended family for their honeymoon. I couldn't think of a more special place for our family to go for our first big vacation.

Hubby and I thought long and hard about where we wanted to stay while in Orlando. There are so many options to choose from: theme park resorts, chain hotels, rental properties. After a lot of consideration we settled on The Cabins at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort. We loved that it was like a little home away from home. There was lots of room for Buddy to play outside and so many potential activities. Staying at a Disney resort also gave us several perks, such as early park admission, free transportation and advanced FastPass+ setup. Since we were going at one of the busiest times of the year, this was a huge pro on the old pro-con list.

We are 100% happy with our choice. The cabin was very comfortable, super cute and the staff was so helpful and friendly. Maintaining routine is important when we are away from home, so having a kitchen was a big help to keep stress levels low. We pre-ordered groceries and they were there when we checked in after a long day of travelling. We enjoyed exploring the grounds together and Buddy could hunt lizards and walk to the pool at the end of our bay whenever he wanted. We all appreciated the fact that we could see the fireworks from our beach without the crowds.

We spent two days at the Magic Kingdom and it was just as magical as I remembered. Buddy even called it Heaven. We took full advantage of being allowed in an hour before general admission. It made the crowds much more tolerable and allowed us to do everything we wanted and more. On our second day, we chose to arrive early and take a break mid day so we could return later in the evening for fireworks and some late night ride-riding. It was my first time in the Magic Kingdom after dark and I am glad I didn't miss out this time.

I have never ridden so many rides at Disney before. All in all, over the 2 days, we road Space Mountain 5 times, Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain and the Jungle Cruise twice, and the Barnstormer, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, the Astro Orbiter, It's a Small World, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Splash Mountain each once. We also road the Disney Railroad, went to Tom Sawyers Island, climbed the Swiss Family Tree-house, ate a turkey leg and churros, shopped for souvenirs and visited the Hall of Presidents. There truly is something for everyone at Disney.

We also spent two days at Universal Studios. We didn't have early admission, so we made sure to be there as early as possible. Since lines were up to 160 minutes long by mid-day, it was totally worth it.

We were most excited to visit the Harry Potter attractions, and if you're a Potterhead it is definitely worth it. We had park-jumper passes so we could take the Hogworts Express between Diagon Alley and Hogsmead. We bought wands (and a robe for Buddy) and wandered around casting spells while drinking Butterbeer and pumpkin juice. It was so cool, especially first thing in the morning.

Universal was really exciting. While Disney was just as I remembered, Universal has made very impressive technological advances. The effects on the rides were unbelievable! We rode Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the Dragon Challenge and Dudley Do-Rights Ripsaw Falls twice. We also road the Incredible Hulk, Dr. Doom's Fearfall, the Jurassic Park River Adventure, Spider Man, Transformers 3-D, the Rip Ride Rocket, Revenge of the Mummy, and Men in Black. We also took in Terminator 3-D, the Jurassic Park Discovery Center, Twister and the Disaster attractions.

For our last full day in Florida, we drove out to Clearwater Beach for a day of relaxing in the sun. Since we had gotten used to getting up early at this point, we did it again to beat the crowds to the beach. Man am I glad that we did!

We got there around 9 AM and found parking no problem, rented a cabana and chairs and enjoyed a mostly empty and not too scorching beach until about noon when things got very busy. By that point we'd had enough peace and quiet so Hubby, Buddy and I took a banana boat ride. Thank goodness I left my string bikini at home because it was really crazy but we had so much fun. Buddy also dug the deepest hole I have ever seen and then didn't understand why he had to fill it in before we went home. He did, begrudgingly, with half-hearted grumbles about us ruining his hard work. What a kid!

After days of concrete and lines, relaxing on the beach was the perfect way to end our trip. We left around 2 PM when the heat and the crowds started getting to us, stopped for a typical (giant) American meal before ending the day at the resort watching the fireworks from the beach.

I don't know any family that spends a week together 24/7 and doesn't get in a few squabbles, and we were no exception. But all in all in was an amazing trip. I asked everyone for their best and worst moments of the trip and this is what I got:

Gramma Bear:
- Worst: The distance from the parking lot to the actual parks, all the screaming kids on the airplane, getting up early (but it was worth it)
- Best: Harry Potter and Universal in general, the beach, the cabin, getting good parking and missing the longest lines (even though it meant getting up early)
- Best of the Best: Getting to know my grandson better, and the company I was with

- Worst: Getting motion sickness (but not puking) on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, getting too much sun at Universal, missing Grem and Swar as we drove by Disney doggie daycare every day
- Best: Riding Space Mountain with no lines (but only once!), warm weather, being able to enjoy nature and wild animals (squirrels, deer, lizards and even an armadillo) at the cabin.
- Best of the Best: The beach, especially walking up and down the shoreline with my family.

- Worst: Having to take an airplane, being too hot, all the walking and my swimming trunks being too tight (which he neglected to tell us until the last day of the trip)
- Best: Universal, especially the Hulk ride, Harry Potter Land and Butterbeer, the beach, the cabin
- Best of the Best: Going to Florida and doing everything

- Worst: Vomit flavored Bertie Botts every flavored beans, getting up early (I am my mother's daughter) and the time at the Orlando airport where the toilet splashed me when I flushed it. Seriously, WTF is up with that!
- Best: Buddy holding my hand all day in an amusement parks, the rides at Universal, beautiful weather, getting to hang out with my Mom.
- Best of the Best: Having amazing memories from our first big family trip.

If you're interested in seeing more pictures, I have an album on my Facebook page.

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