Monday, January 14, 2013

Family Disney Trip 2012 (Disney with 4 tweens)

In early November we took the kids to Disney in Orlando Florida for 5 days.  I have to admit I am a recluctant traveler.  I get motion sick on almost any moving object, I have very little patience and have 4 kids ages 9 to 13.  We tried to make this a frugal trip but that's hard to do at Disney.  Here is our experience.

Getting there.  We flew Jet Blue out of Regan National Airport.  I love, love, love Jet Blue!  I love the satellite TV, wide, cushy seats, extra leg room and the free bag check (only 1 bag per person).  That made the flight soooo nice!  We each checked 1 bag (each child had their own) so we didn't have to shove a ton of bags into the overhead compartments.  The satellite TV occupied all of the kids, and me, during the whole flight.

Getting around.  Since we weren't staying on a Disney property with tram access, we opted to rent a car.  This was a good idea.  Problem was that we rented a Jeep Grand Cherokee which wasn't quite large enough for us the 4 kids.  The kids were uncomfortable even though we weren't in the car for very long.  We should have rented a minivan.  This was a cost savings fail. 

Lodging.  Since we had a timeshare trial (that we purchased a year or so ago for about $99? can't remember exactly) we were able to rent a 2-bedroom, 2-bath Mariott vacation suite for 4 nights provided we went to their 90 minute timeshare spiel.  Honestly, I am a total skeptic and I would never purchase a timeshare but this worked out for us well.  The suite we stayed in was beautiful and clean with maid service each day.  There were 3 pools and a game room on the property that we got to use, and the 90 minutes of our time was really only 90 minutes. 

Tickets.  We purchased 4 day passes to all of the Disney parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Disney Hollywood Studios).  These weren't park hopper passes, we could only go to 1 park each day.  We purchased them through the Mariott where we were staying and the price was a little better than any other that I could find while searching online.  This was the most expensive single expense of the entire trip.

Weather.  Early November was surprisingly (to us) chilly at times.  I wore pants and a hoodie each day.  There were a few times I was really hot (so good thing I had layers) but that was only in the direct sun.  It wasn't warm enough for shorts and sandals the whole day and at nightime I could have used a jacket.
Day 1 (Tuesday).  We took an early flight, so arrived in Orlando before noon.  We picked up the rental car, picked up our tickets at Marriott and drove to Magic Kingdom.  Parking at Disney parks was $14 for the day.  We got to the park around 2PM and the park didn't close until 1AM so we had plenty of time.  We loved the option of taking a ferry to the gate and seeing some of the Disney hotels along the way.  There were almost NO lines this day.  We waited around 20 minutes for some rides but most we practically walked right in.  The kids loved "Space Mountain" and "Splash Mountain", I loved seeing the castle lit up in pink lights at night.

We didn't stay for the fireworks, I can't remember what time we left but there were a ton of people lining up waiting for them.  It was really cold by the time we left.

Day 2 (Wednesday).  We slept in and took our time getting to Epcot.  There was way too much to do here in 1 day.  We had to endure lines this day but they weren't too bad.  I found this park completly overwhelming.  At first I didn't want to go to any of the countries because I'm fascinated with the science stuff at the front.  Being Disney novices, we were very hit and miss with the attractions we choose to visit.  The kids loved "Mission: Space" but weren't too thrilled with "Ellen's Energy Adventure" and "Journey into Imagination with Figment" (this was for 3-year-olds) but the 'play' areas when you get out of the rides are really cool! 

In the afternoon we headed to the countries to meet up with a friend who was visiting Disney with his family.  I really enjoyed this part of the park and this is the part I didn't even really want to visit.  It is so cool the way they make the whole area look and feel like you are in another country. 

Unfortunately the kids were not thrilled with the country area of Epcot so I didn't get to explore nearly enough here. 

The kids were very amused with:  the dancing fountains (my daughter wanted to get drenched even though it was 50 degrees outside and I had no change of clothes for her), the banisters (they were fun to slide down) and the light up sidewalks (areas of the blacktop that would light up and fade out) at night.

Day 3 (Thursday).   Once again we slept in and took our time getting to Animal Kingdom.  This park closes early, at 6PM.  I LOVED this park most of all but I was starting to understand the Disney thing of making the entire park (the streets, buildings,  characters, even the bathrooms) part of the experience.  The Safari was so awesome, just blew me away! 

I loved these beaded animals we saw in Africa in Animal Kingdom.

Day 4 (Friday).   Once again we slept in (this is the theme :)) and took our time getting to Disney Hollywood Studios.