I started planning this trip during my sabbatical, after feeling discouraged about not traveling during the summer due to unexpected financial strain. But last tax season we got an unexpectedly large refund, so we put 1/3 of it in a savings account for a vacation. On top of what I’ve saved from my small business earnings, it was just enough to make Disney World a possibility. Around that time, we also started using an SPG points credit card (yep, it’s a referral link) for all our expenses, and earned enough points over the course of six months to stay at a nice Sheraton resort.
I planned for three days at Disney parks, one day at Legoland, and two relaxation days where we could hang out at the pool and explore.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a family vacation without complications. Two weeks before we flew out, I slipped on a poorly salted sidewalk in downtown Bangor and banged up my left leg. It still hadn’t healed after 10 days; what I thought was just bruising turned into two large, painful hematomas, and a side trip to the ER for ultrasounds and X-rays. I was afraid I’d have to miss our vacation, but thankfully nothing was broken and I was able to walk around the parks mostly without pain as long as it was wrapped. That didn’t prevent me from spending the week worrying about blood clots and swelling, but who would I be if I didn’t have something to worry about?
Day 1 – Travel
We flew from our home airport to Boston, then to Orlando on Spirit. I know, I know; they have a terrible reputation, but the flights were cheap, and I bought a package deal that included our car rental, carryons, and faster boarding. We had an in-room washer/dryer at our resort, so we were able to travel light.
This trip marked the girls’ first flights, and we learned that Ellie does not like flying. At all. She was a trooper and powered through it, and was handsomely rewarded with an evening trip to the resort pool!
(We also learned she does not like escalators, especially the down ones.)
There was a kitchen in our suite, so we used Instacart to have groceries delivered from Publix (so nice, I wish we could get grocery delivery where we live), and ate breakfasts and most dinners at the resort. That saved a lot of money, so we treated ourselves to nicer restaurants while we were at the parks.
Day 2 – Magic Kingdom
We started our first day at Magic Kingdom bright and early. We found mornings were less crowded and hot; our best hours were from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. I’d picked out a few FastPass+ rides ahead of time, and we used the Disney app to check wait times so we rarely spent more than fifteen minutes in line. It helped that the kids weren’t picky about what they wanted to ride; everything was new to them (and us) so we had just as much fun on the less popular rides as we might have had on the popular ones.
We started with an easy Little Mermaid ride. The teacups were a family favorite, as was the Magic Kingdom railroad. Gwen found the splash pad at the Big Top and I think she could have spent the whole day there if we’d let her. We also did the Haunted Mansion, because I have fond memories of that one from childhood, and it did not disappoint.
We also splurged on the Memory Maker package, meaning I was able to download all the photos taken throughout the parks during our stay, so we took advantage of many Photo Pass opportunities. The convenience of having family photos taken without having to hand someone my phone each time was worth it.
We ate lunch at the Liberty Tree Tavern; the food was great, and it was the perfect opportunity to rest up out of the heat. We found getting in line for an early lunch around 11 a.m. worked best to avoid the crowds.
Our final ride of the day was a FastPass for Big Thunder Mountain, because Ellie insisted she wanted to ride a roller coaster. Tim doesn’t do fast, loopy things, so I crammed into the cart with both girls, and we were off! I have no pictures because…
…I loved it, but I think the girls were traumatized. There were tears. But Ellie says she’d do it again if she could, so maybe there’s hope for her as a future thrill-seeker yet.
We decided to call it a day around 3, but not before having some snacks and seeing the Festival of Fantasy parade. We hadn’t planned to do this, but our exits were roped off for the parade route, and the kids loved seeing their favorite characters. It was a nice surprise to end the day.
After six hours at the park (plus travel time to get there and back), we were all wiped, and we only scratched the surface of Magic Kingdom. When we go back, we’ll plan to spend more time there.
Stay tuned for our experiences at Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios!