Fair warning, this is an elongated blogpost about an an affluent, American family taking a Disney vacation. I am definitely not a “Mouseketeer”. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Disney movies and their musical scores. It’s just so commercialized; Disney is everywhere. Name a children’s movie that isn’t Disney. I don’t dress Millie in Disney clothes because I think its tacky when children wear characters on their clothing. As a child, I liked the princesses but I loved Max Goof (bizarre character to be fascinated with, I know) Max was actually with me through my labor (see previous blog post, “laboring love” for more details). I went on two family vacations to Disney World under the age of five and I don’t remember them, sorry mom. When I was in high school, I skipped on the opportunity to go to Disney World with my marching band. Recently, my in-laws mentioned wanting to take Millie on a vacation to Disney World with the full princess experience; the gown, makeover, sash, carriage ride, etc. ($$$) Call me selfish, but I wanted the first time that I would remember experiencing Disney to be with my little family; my husband, Millie, and me.
With the help of our travel agent and the advice of friends, I planned a spring break trip to Disney World. I surprised my husband with the trip on Christmas morning. Initially, he was not thrilled about the gift of the vacation because he assumed an astronomical price tag however, I informed him of the details and as the trip drew near, he became more excited. I created a Disney trip countdown as a visual aid for Millie comprised of construction paper links, to look like Mickey and Minnie. Each day we removed a link from the chain and March came quickly. (Time moves so much faster with a child).
6am flights are the absolute worst. We did not originally have such an early flight however, the plane we were scheduled for was grounded due to numerous deadly crashes using that same model aircraft (I’m grateful for the switch). We arrived at the airport at 4am, eager to leave the 38 degree, Ohio weather. On the plane, Millie could be a lap-rider because of her age. We had to show the airlines a copy of her birth certificate; we took her original birth certificate without knowing we could bring a copy. Apparently, the airlines would have even accepted a picture of her birth certificate on my phone. (Praise God nothing happened to her original.) Not buying Millie a plane ticket saved us over two-hundred dollars. I was able to book direct flights to Orlando, which was a two hour trip. I wish I would have known that I could have kept Millie in her Ergo-carrier throughout the security and boarding process because having both of my hands free would’ve made things a lot easier. The flight went well and Millie was great on the plane. She was so excited when we landed in Florida and saw pictures of Mickey Mouse everywhere.
Millie loves dogs so I decided the Dalmatian wing of Disney’s All Star Movie resort would be the perfect place for us to stay. The price of this resort was more reasonable than I expected and by staying at Disney, transportation was taken care of to and from the park, as well as back and forth from Disney Springs, and the airport. The shuttle transportation system allowed us to not have to lug Millie’s car seat around. We did however, bring her stroller from home along with us; it did not cost extra money for the stroller to be stowed during our flights and the park had ample stroller parking. I was later informed that the stroller policy at Disney World would be changing soon so if you’re planning a trip with little ones, check that out.
Our vacation commenced by eating Mickey waffles from the resort food court, which were equal parts adorable and delicious. Millie thought the waffles were funny and chose to not eat Mickey’s face. Before we were able to check into our room, we participated in our first family activity; the splash pad at the resort. It was almost 80 degrees in Orlando with little cloud coverage and the occasional breeze. Millie did not want to have to wait to have her sunscreen applied. Advice for parents of a toddler: put the spf on their little bodies before they see the water. Millie had so much fun splashing and dunking her head under. We had the splash pad all to ourselves and it was a blast. The trip was worth the money the moment we saw the joy exude from Millie, playing in the water.
Mill fell asleep on my lap as we soaked up some sun on the beach chairs. We were watching the palm trees sway when the Disney app notified us that our hotel room was available. As we walked by the many Dalmatian puppies in our wing of the resort, Millie would bark and wave. We were pleased to find our room was on the first floor. The room was comfortable; two full beds, a mini fridge, working air conditioning, and Disney decor. Unfortunately, the walls were extremely thin and we could hear every word that our neighbors said (although we couldn’t understand it because they spoke Spanish). I asked the Lord to grant me grace because their screaming baby almost woke my sleeping baby at 2am.
Our first evening in Orlando was spent at Disney Springs however, we found it underwhelming. It was comprised of highend, Disney boutiques and sit down restaurants. We ate delicious, coconut sorbet and returned to the resort.
The next morning, we excitedly boarded the shuttle to Magic Kingdom but on the way to the park, it started to down pour. We had not prepared for rain so we made the decision to ride the shuttle back to the resort and wait out the storm. We ate brunch at the resort and were pleased with the quality of the veggie burger. Once the rain had stopped, we boarded the shuttle to Magic Kingdom for the second time that morning. I was disappointed in the security process because I had to leave Millie in her stroller, unattended, to go through the detectors on my own, as instructed. I was never more than six steps away from her however, Disney is terribly crowded and for a first-time mama with anxiety, I wasn’t having it. Luckily, my husband stayed with her while I went through the metal detector and pushed her over to me once I was through and then he went through himself. What if I was a single mom and didn’t have anyone to stand with her while I went through the metal detector? I expressed my concerns to the security guard who was more concerned with the growing line than my frustrations.
Entering Magic Kingdom was like going through a time warp set back 120 years; the buildings were colonial style, women were dancing with white gloves and parasails, and a barber shop quartet, dressed in stripes of red and white, harmonized in front of a deliciously fragrant candy shop. Main Street had a quaint, small-town feel with shops adorning each side of the road. To our right, we noted a “Meet Mickey and Minnie” sign, which was where we needed to be to utilize a fast pass we scheduled for later. A man asked me to take a picture of his family and for the first time that day, I saw Cinderella’s magical castle. I took a picture of his family and he took a picture of ours.
Large, decorative floats with dancing and singing Disney characters paraded down Main Street. We followed behind a float carrying a dancing, Max Goof until we made it to the Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse statute. Millie was apprehensive about viewing the parade as she buried her head into my shoulder for most of it. My husband recorded the parade on his phone and even though Millie might not have enjoyed the parade then, she loves watching it now.
Similar in ride concept, I chose to fast pass the Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride and Dumbo the Flying Elephant. These rides did not have height requirements, they were categorized as, “slow moving”, we would be able to sit as a family, and they had great reviews for children under two. Millie sat on my lap on the inside seat of the ride car. My husband took control of the car’s height lever which would raise and lower us upon his discretion. Millie was hysterical because she kept a straight face the entire time we rode both rides. I couldn’t tell you if she loved them however, I don’t think she disliked them because she absolutely knows how to show discontent.
We stopped in our tracks upon hearing a screaming trumpet from the Main Street Philharmonic. This small ensemble sounded fantastic and played everything from old circus marches to modern pop. If you are planning a trip to Magic Kingdom, you need to make time in your schedule to listen to this group play good music for fifteen minutes. Another worthwhile venture is finding a stand that sells Mickey pretzels – delicious!
Millie had the opportunity to meet Mickey and Minnie in a small, poorly lit room. The characters were wearing “party” clothes to celebrate Mickey Mouse’s 90th Anniversary. I held Millie on my hip during our wait but upon locking eyes with the large, plastic Mickey head, she wiggled up my body and hid her face in my neck. The characters tried their best to get Millie to smile; Mickey played peek-a-boo with her and danced when I sang the, “Hotdog” song. My husband took a video of this event and again, Millie treasures it even though she wasn’t quite ready to enjoy the actual moment.
Millie’s fear of costumed characters didn’t stop at Mickey Mouse; Daisy Duck had no luck making Millie smile nor did Pluto. They were set in a gypsy theme, which I found unsettling. After taking pictures of Millie looking absolutely horrified, Disney tried to pull a fast one by putting the exit through a souvenir shop. Naturally, Millie was intrigued and wanted everything she could get her hands on. Miraculously, we left the gift shop/exit empty handed. The princesses however, were not as scary to Millie. It could have been because even in costume, they look like actual people. She met Cinderella, who looked like a sloth, and Elena of Avalor, who? While Millie might not have been scared of them, she definitely had no interest in seeing them.
We spent an hours time on Tom Sawyer’s Island. A short raft ride takes you to the island, which was unnecessary. The bumps while docking the raft were abrupt and a walking bridge for the short distance would have been suffice. Once on the island, Millie really enjoyed being able to walk the trails. The terrain was not ideal for a sixteen-month old, so she reluctantly held our hands through most of it. I held Millie while crossing a bridge of barrels that bobbed up and down with each step. There was a small play ground that Millie played on that was overruled by older kids.
I was concerned how nap-time would work while adventuring in the park, but Millie was exhausted by lunch time and would fall asleep in the stroller. Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen was our favorite lunch spot; the air conditioning was on blast, the staff was great, and the food was delicious – I highly recommend the Shiriki Noodle Salad, yum. Eating vegan while at Magic Kingdom was a breeze with the help of amazing chefs.
The Swiss Family Treehouse was our next adventure. There was not a line for this activity and that was refreshing. I was unfamiliar with the story of the Swiss Family Robinson’s however, my husband filled me in as we ventured along. The treehouse had bridges, ramps, and stairs which were fun for Millie to navigate through. I held her hand through most of it because her balance was still wobbly.
I used the My Disney App, week’s before our vacation, to make food reservations at the park. On our first night at Magic Kingdom, we ate dinner at The Crystal Palace, which is a buffet-style restaurant with mingling characters from Winnie the Pooh. Millie hit Piglet in the face, twice, wanted nothing to do with Eeyore, and was scared to death of Tigger. The food was great but not worth the bill. The next morning we ate breakfast at Belle’s Be Our Guest Cafe, which is where I was told was the only place that you could see Belle and the Beast. Unfortunately, neither showed up during our breakfast. We had a terrible time in the line; a staff member told us to return closer to the end of our reservation time yet, while trying to talk us out of the line, four other families got in line before us. The computers were down and they weren’t accepting Magic bands as a form of payment. The food was subpar but that was to be expected from a French menu. The aesthetic of the dining hall was spectacular. It looked just like the ballroom from Beauty and the Beast.
Mickey’s Philharmagic was an interactive, 3D mini-film. I guess you could call this Millie’s first theatre experience and I was surprised when Millie kept her 3D glasses on the entire time. She laughed when Donald Duck came on the screen (she adores him) and when things would come flying at us, she would reach out to try to touch it. Her reactions to the film were the best part.
My travel agent, friends, and colleagues all advised me to not use a fastpass on, It’s a Small World because the line was never long. We chose not to fastpass that ride, but we totally should have because the line was forever long. Due to our terrible line experience at the Be Our Guest Cafe, the staff gave us an additional Fastpass to use that day in the park. After seeing the line for Its a Small World, we updated our magic bands and skipped the longest line that we had seen at the park. We rode in the first car that had plenty of leg room and a bar that Millie stood up and held. She was rocking the boat trying to get the ride to move faster. She loved the singing and the scenery; I thought the dolls were super creepy.
We rode the infamous Teacups – I felt sick as a dog. Mill sat in my lap. My husband spun with one hand and was recording Millie with the other. She proceeded to have the most serious look on her face as we spun around and around. When she realized that the wheel in the middle of the teacup was controlling the spin, she tried to turn it herself. I think if the ride would’ve been twice as long, she would’ve enjoyed it more but boy, I sure was ready to get off!
The shuttle ride back to the resort was amusing as we sat next to an animated, little girl with a blue, Stitch stuffed animal. Millie had acquired a Lilo doll from one of the gift shops outside of the princess meet and greet (she wouldn’t put it down). The two girls played with their dolls together, Lilo and Stitch.
I know I’m forgetting so many details like, Millie and her daddy howling before bed, Millie sitting on Walt’s lap our first evening in the park, the nursing mother’s room that was busting at the seams, the sound of Millie’s feet as she walked with such purpose through the automatic doors to get to the pool..our vacation was amazing. Millie won’t remember it, but with the pictures, videos, and this blogpost I hope she will know how much fun we had – fun that would not have existed without her.
Until next time, Disney.