Monday, February 6, 2012

Disney World Vacation: Getting There

Not this past weekend, but the one before, we snuck away for our very first family vacation with just our little family. Jon and I haven't been on a trip alone together since our honeymoon, and then our one-year anniversary weekend in Vegas. This was the first trip we'd taken in five years that wasn't with family, or specifically to visit family - though we did get a few chances to see his local uncle, aunt, and cousin (+ beau) while we were there. And where did we go?? Walt Disney World, of course! 

Here are some photos and highlights from our trip to the Magic Kingdom. You can see the full collection of vacation photos here (minus all these pesky words).

Saturday, January 21st:

We got up at 3:30am for a 5am taxi to LAX. We managed to achieve our goal of being completely packed by Thursday night, and just had a few last-minute things to do that morning (like the AngelCare monitor). Jon & I got all ready, woke Alice and dressed her just before the taxi arrived, threw the bags in the car and hit the road. We fed Alice her breakfast in the car, which was unexpectedly difficult because the sun was not yet up... 

At the gate, we let Alice run around as much as possible. Jon took her to watch airplanes and she had a good time waving at everything, including a pair of pilots in their cockpit, working on their pre-flight checklist. We also applied her first Safety Tat temporary tattoo. We ordered them online and customized to include both our cell phone numbers. Since Alice can't yet say her name, we thought these would be an extra good measure in case she got separated from us at any point. Jon chose the orange kitty theme (of course) and Alice loved rolling up her sleeves to show it off and point at the kitty. We put them on the backs of her hand, extending up her wrist, so that it would be visible to anyone even if she were wearing long sleeves.
getting a tat and having an airport snack. 
Alice did great on the plane, no trouble with her ears despite not having a pacifier, and no real screaming or crying. She was a bit cranky and frantic and would have been happier if she slept, but we were able to keep her occupied with a big bag of tricks. We brought a tote filled with a bunch of new toys and things, including a fun felt "quiet book" that I threw together in the week before we left. That bought us a good 20-30 minutes toward the end of the flight!

guess what? you can't throw felt!
We landed, hopped on board Disney's Magical Express bus to the resorts, and were checking in to the Beach Club by 5pm local time (about 12 hours after our wake up call, awesome). We had strategically booked a room with a balcony, knowing that it would be a crucial component of our napping strategy so we could be out Alice's sightline and earshot during naps and bedtime. You can understand our dismay then when we found that our room's "balcony" was more like a "French window" with only enough room for one person to stand and technically say they were outside. We called down to the front desk and they kindly found us another room with a "full balcony," which did the trick. We popped open the PeaPod and let Alice have a little rest while we retired to said balcony and cracked a celebratory "Welcome to vacation!" adult beverage, procured from the hotel food mart.

cheers to vacation!
a grainy night shot from our balcony with a view of the volleyball court, Crescent Lake, and the Dolphin hotel. 
another grainy shot. Welcome to vacation!
Then we continued the celebratory, "Welcome to vacation!" theme with dinner at the neighboring Yacht Club's casual restaurant, the Captain's Grille, and stopped for ice cream at Beaches & Cream on our walk back to the room. And then it was bedtime for all! 

Sunday, January 22nd:

We planned a "free" day for our first full day of vacation. We let Alice be our alarm clock, and then went for a walk around Crescent Lake, taking in the view of the Beach Club & Yacht Club, Swan & Dolphin hotels, and the Boardwalk hotel and shops. Then Jon headed off to meet his cousin and her beau, who live in town and had kindly offered to ferry us to a grocery store so we could stock up on Alice's favorite foods. While he was gone, Alice and I ran a few laps around the lake and then headed back to our room to get our swimsuits on. When the grocery party returned, we all headed out for lunch and a nice little visit at Beaches & Cream. And then it was time to hit the pool! 

We decided to stay at the Beach Club for a few reasons, not the least of which was that we picked the cheapest week in the off-season, so room rates were way, way low. It was within walking distance to Epcot, where we were planning to spend the majority of our park playing time. But most importantly, it has arguably the best pool on Disney property. This was integral to our vacation itinerary, which included two "free" days for doing nothing but playing at the hotel and pool.

Alice hasn't been to a proper pool since she was about 3 months old, so this was a virtually new experience for her. She loved playing with the buckets and toys on the kiddie beach, which had really cool sand. It might have been synthetic- definitely engineered - but it was really heavy and washed right off so you didn't have it stuck to your feet all day.

After a quick nap, we headed over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner at Sanaa. We'd eaten at Boma before and were excited to try this newer restaurant which boasts better views of the animals than either of the other restaurants. We arrived just as the sun was setting and we got to see some giraffe, zebra, and gnu roaming the savannah from our vantage point in the lobby. Unfortunately, by the time we made it down to our table at the restaurant, the sun had completely set and we could barely make out the animals grazing just outside the windows. From my seat, I was just able to see a pair of zebras munching their way down the path. Alice was pretty tired and out of sorts. We tried our best to keep her entertained with stickers, but our meal was a bit rushed. Just as well, though, since we couldn't see any animals. I would definitely recommend visiting this restaurant before sunset! 

slightly delirious, with stickers.
If you've visited the Walt Disney World resort, you might remember that it can be difficult to get from resort hotel to hotel via the bus system. The buses run from the hotels to the parks and back but not from hotel to hotel, so you have to take a bus from your hotel to a park and then catch another bus to whichever other hotel you're headed to. This becomes even more complicated once the parks close, since the transportation options change and dwindle then. We had a bit of a hard time getting back to our hotel after dinner. On our way there, we took a bus from the Beach Club to the Animal Kingdom and then caught a bus to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Since the Animal Kingdom park was closed by the time we finished dinner, we couldn't retrace our route. We should have taken the bus to Downtown Disney but the Epcot bus came first. We were pretty sure that there wasn't a bus from Epcot to the Beach Club, since the hotel is so close to the park and has it's own walking entrance. But the driver assured me that I could get back to our hotel if I took his bus. Wrong-O, bucko. The guy at the Epcot bus station recommended we take a bus to the Hollywood Studios and catch a boat back to the Beach Club, so we tried that. But when we got there we found that the boats had stopped operating for the night. Awesome. Luckily, the hotel was just a short walk from the park entrance, so we hoofed it from there which was actually kind of pleasant. It would have been a perfect end to the evening if only I'd had an ice cream cone in my hand...

Aside from the transportation kerfuffle, our relaxing "free" day was the perfect way to start the vacation and our dinner at Sanaa was a great seque into our first morning at the parks. Next I'll post some photos and tidbits from our play days!

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