Thursday, April 14, 2022

Managing the Magic - An Educational Vacation to Disney World - Arrival Day

Just before the start of Spring Break, my family took off for a long awaited Disney World vacation. We hopped on a red eye non-stop flight to Florida from chilly Washington State to see some incredible attractions, get some much needed sunshine, and make some memories as a family. Knowing that things like Disneyland can seem big and overwhelming to the Impossible Girl, we prepared for the trip by watching youtube videos and vlogs of attractions. We made lists of must do attractions. My Sailor and I got up at 4am and stayed on hold for over 5 hours to get her a couple advance choice Lightening Lane passes for her DAS (Disability Access Pass).  We had 2 sets of noise canceling headphones packed, glowing goodies to make dark spaces brighter and less intimidating, hats, sun screen, sun glasses, carriers and Magic Bands. We were ready to go! 
  Or were we? 
Being a Disney fan pretty much my entire life, this isn't The Impossible Girl's first foray into the Theme Park World.
Seeing the Castle
Her first trip to Disneyland occured in May of 2017. It went off without a hitch, going on as many attractions as a kid of her size could muster. At about two and a half years old, she soaked everything in with a sense of wonder and surprise one would expect from kids and, well, Disney.

Her next trip to Disneyland was a year later. In May of 2018, I shed a tear when the Impossible Girl, who wasn't trusting of others, approached Elsa and hugged her, unbidden, for about ninty seconds (and God bless that Elsa for not letting go until she did and not showing a bit of impatience). She grew so much during that trip as a human and it was amazing. 

Okay, I will call a spade a spade. A family vacation is really parenting on the road. It tests your parenting strategies, skills, and patience. Can you keep a kid occupied and safe under new and different cicumstances? Can you handle behavoir issues you may not see at home? Do you have any idea of who to call if a medical emergency occured (they are, afterall, called 'accidents' for a reason)? Can you share a hotel room and single bathroom with a 6 year old for over a week? What eating habits will you indulge in? Will you enforce veggies before sweets or will 10am ice cream be a thing? And in the wake of Covid, will you wear masks? Eat outdoors only? There are a LOT of extra decisions made that can make vacationing with a family less care-free than a typical, adults only trip.

2019 Trip to Disneyland

But I have been and will always be a fan of "Take the damn trip." Even trips to theme parks allows kids to interact with (and see parents/role models interact with) the world around them in a completely different way than they do at home. The sights and sounds and tastes are stimulating and, especially at big tourist destinations, you'll come across people who don't look like or sound like you. You come across foods you may have never tried or heard of. And, if you know me or you've been following me, you know I believe travel broadens our world view no matter what age we do it in. So, no matter what I say from here on out - Take the Damn Trip. 

So, with that out of the way, let me say I'm incredibly grateful that we had the chance to take this trip together. After pandemic life since 2020 (which, for our family, included about 17 months of submarine deployment life), we are glad everyone is healthy and the world feels safe enough to move about a bit. But, as you may be able to guess from this excessive preamble, this visit to the World's most Magical place, didn't go as any of us expected. 

Our first day, we landed at about 6am. We found our transportation to the resort thanks to the generousity of a rental car shuttle driver, who took pity on us and drove us to the Sunshine Flyer terminal on the other side of the airport. There had been a mix or reports about this new company but generally treated us well. The Impossible Girl was excited to board our bus train to the resort. She slept better than the adults did on the flight, and she loves airports, flying, and traveling. She wheeled her own suit case and carried her own back pack through the airport. She sipped at an early morning hot chocolate from a Starbucks stand while we parents caffinated for the day before pick up. On the way to the resort, we watched old 1920's cartoons and learned some train trivia from the video provided. We had the entire bus to ourselves. Not a bad way to start the magic (despite being exhausted from the flight).

We spent most of the day exploring the resort - Port Orleans Riverside. It lived up to it's peaceful reputation. The only down sides were the rooms were loud (we heard our neighbors every morning and I'm sure they heard us). The Princess theme Royal Room was just what the doctor ordered to add a little extra magic to our stay.

Now, here is where I'm going to start something. Every day I write about, I'm going to include the accomodations we found profoundly helpful and NECESSARY for enjoying our vacation. Honestly, I debated even writing about the challenges right now. This story isn't just 'J's Journey' now. This story belongs to my husband and my daughter as well. But as a mother in this situation, it feels very lonely and isolating to be managing this - especially when it peaks at Disney World of all places. So I've decided to write this in case there is some other parent out there who is feeling like they are the only person in the world managing this. I know I can't be alone - and if you are one of those parents reading this - know that you are not alone. You, special reader, are not the first, nor the last. Here's what helped us. Maybe it will help you too.

TODAY'S ACCOMODATIONS NEEDED: Headphones and carrier. 
LOCATIONS VISITED: Port Orleans Riverside, Disney Springs, T- Rex Cafe, Morimoto Asia

View from our hotel room

The Arcade was a big hit and a great way to pass some time.

The Resort offers a Water Taxi to Disney Springs, the main shopping area.

We promised the Dino-Loving Impossible Girl that our lunch would be at the T-Rex Cafe, so we went off to Disney Springs to make good on our promise.
Checking out the cool sculptures in front of the Lego Store.

The dino roars are a little loud, and the place is a little dark, but she enjoyed it! 

Enjoying an adult libation. Yeah vacation!

Cashing in on some Build A Bear Bucks from Christmas, she built a Triceratops friend! She proudly asked for what she wanted inside of it as well (which is a big deal!).

Welcome to the family, Rainbow Heart Triceratops!
Our room was ready after lunch, so we went back for some R&R. We changed into more Florida Friendly clothing (ie shorts) and returned to Disney Springs to explore some more and have an amazing dinner at Morimoto Asia.
 The food was amazing. We had a Chef's Choice Nigiri Sushi platter but by now, The Impossible Girl was exhausted and hot, so we got to break in the new carrier! 
Running late to our reservation - this makes it quicker!

The Girl Grabbed the Camera and Took our photo on the Water Taxi back to the Hotel

The water taxi is so soothing. It was a tiring day for all, but we enjoyed getting back to the hotel and getting into those comfy sheets for bed time - Ready for our first park day, Animal Kingdom! 
  As exciting as it sounds - that was also the day we realized just how crippling anxiety can be.  Even when you're 6.5 and you've been excited and prepped about this trip for months...
  If you're wondering if someone without a visible challenge should qualify for DAS, follow our adventures, and decide for yourself. 

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