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We’ve upgraded!!!

I photographed a beautiful wedding today.  The brides are so much in love that it just radiated off of them.  Their joy was infectious.  And even me dragging them into the snow in -30something temperatures couldn’t dampen their spirits.  I do have to admit, jumping back into the car after being out in that cold made me think about how great the temperatures in Florida are going to feel this January.  LOL

It was a freezing cold Yule, and today was just as frigid, but like our two brides?  Nothing is going to put the chill on the excitement I feel about our upcoming Disney trip.

Our big reveal yesterday didn’t go exactly as planned.  Mostly I think the girl was just overwhelmed and didn’t really process the news.  Damon took a video, and I’m hoping he’ll get it to me so I can share it before too long.  It really was cute.  And honestly?  We may have surprised the kid, but she surprised us right back!

We thought all along that staying in a Little Mermaid room at Art of Animation was HUGE for her.  It’s all she’s talked about whenever we’ve talked about Disney World.  So we booked at the AoA resort, in an Ariel room.  It wasn’t where I wanted to be, but I knew it would make her sooo happy.  So when we told her where she’d be staying we were both shocked when she asked if we could stay at a different WDW resort “with different things to explore” we were shocked.  But I have to admit, I was kind of excited.

As of last night we have upgraded from a value resort to a moderate one.  We couldn’t afford to get the Royal Room at Port Orleans (which the girl fell in love with) but we were able to get a standard room – and they are just beautiful.  So grown up, with the most beautiful linens…  and a double vanity (two sinks and mirrors).  It’s going to be a dream come true.  And with the free dining plan that is being offered it only ended up being an extra hundred dollars or so over what our stay at the Art of Animation would have been.  And get this!  Instead of the quick service dining plan, we get the regular dining plan.  Know what that means?  CHARACTER DINING!!!

I am over the moon!  We are going to be eating with Mary Poppins, Alice, the Mad Hatter, some of the princesses, the gang from the Hundred Acre Wood…  it’s going to be amazing!  I was excited for this trip before.  But now?  Now?  OMG!  Waiting just got a whole heck of a lot harder!  LOL

Shiny New Shoes

More than any other item you pack for a Disney vacation, your shoes have the potential to make or break your trip.  You will be walking more than you’ve likely ever walked before.  Disney is not a lay around on the beach vacation, it is a get up and move and don’t stop until you drop vacation.  You will come home exhausted (yes, you may need a vacation after this vacation).  And your shoes will either keep you in good spirits or have you grumbling and miserable.

We are a DAWGS family.  The classic beach/garden clog is ugly as sin… seriously, they are the most butt ugly shoes out there, but they are so stinkin’ comfortable.  And they have gotten a whole lot better.  Half the time when I’m in DAWGS, only other DAWGS fans even recognize them.  They’ve come a long way from that first ugly shoe (though they still make them, and we still love them for putzing in the back yard or at the lake).  So when I decided the girl and I needed new shoes for our January Disney trip, the DAWG store was where we went.  And seriously, how cute are these?!?!

And yeah…  get yourself some new shoes for WDW, but break them in BEFORE you go.  Trust me!  😉

The new Disability Access program at WDW and the MSEP

A couple of weeks ago I had emailed the good folks at Walt Disney World with a bit of a query.  On our last trip, in spite of the fact that members of our group have several disabilities, we avoided using the Access program.  I believe one should do what they can to avoid any misuse of equal access programs, and while we certainly qualified to use it, if we could do without, it’s what I’d prefer.  I don’t want my daughter or much younger sister growing up thinking they deserve special privileges simply because they face different challenges than others.  And with the old program, anyone with an access card skips to the front of the line – which is clearly not about equality but about special privileges (which is why it was so abused).  Anyway…

I had emailed the people at WDW to ask about seating for the Main Street Electrical Parade.  This was one time when I desperately wished we had requested assistance on our last trip.  The wait resulted in a lot of anxiety for two members of our party, a melt down for one, and a whole lot of pain for two.  Sitting on the concrete for over an hour trying to hold a spot was not good for any of us.  I was hoping there would be some kind of reserved seating available.  Turns out not… they only have special seating for those guests who are non-ambulatory.  She did give me some tips for the parade though, so hopefully that will help.  Because in spite of the pain (both physical and mental) the MSEP remains on our must do list.

So while that wasn’t great news, she did fill me on on the NEW Disability Access program at Disney World – and that is something I’m excited about.  She encouraged me to participate on our upcoming trip, because the new program addresses the concerns I had with the old program.  Now, instead of ushering people to the front of the line, offering special privileges and inviting misuse, it now works more like the old Fast Passes.

Individuals with special needs request a special card, and instead of hoping into line, get it stamped at the entry to the queue.  It is stamped with the time they are to return, so they are waiting for the same amount of time as everyone else in the line.  But instead of having to stand there (and cause anxiety or pain flare-ups or what-have-you) they can then go sit down, eat, run in circles, meditate, draw, go pee… whatever they need to do to mitigate their symptoms, returning for the time on their card.  At which point they rejoin the queue at the place they would have been standing when their card was stamped.  Now, that doesn’t mean they won’t have to stand in line at all, but it does reduce the time in the line without removing the wait.

I love this new accessibility program.  It ensures those with special needs are able to have equal access to the rides, shows, character meetings, etc without granting an advantage and inviting misuse or program abuse.  And I do think this is a much better idea, and is a change I’m looking forward to experiencing.  Granted it doesn’t help with the MSEP, but hopefully by lessening the stress throughout the day (both physically and emotionally) it will be a little easier too…  because it really cannot be missed!  😉

I can’t believe I fell in love with WDW!

I’m finding the secret much harder to keep this year.

Last December I had no trouble at all keeping the surprise of our first trip to Walt Disney World secret.  We were going FOR the girl.  The trip was for her, and I honestly found little excitement in the idea of going beyond knowing how much she was going to love it.  I knew I wanted to take her while the magic of Disney was still real, when the princesses are really princesses, and Mickey isn’t some person in a costume but the real Mickey Mouse.  I was excited for HER.  I had no excitement over the trip on my behalf.  I like vacations that are away from the tourists, away from commercialism, away from the hustle and bustle.  Give me the quiet of a place devoid of man but full of life.  So the idea that I could fall in love with the most touristy commercialized place on the planet was entirely foreign…  yet that’s exactly what happened.

This year the secret of our January trip to WDW is SOOO hard to keep.  I am so excited, and not just for her.  I’m excited for ME TOO.  It was the best time of my life, and I can’t wait to do it again.  We are better prepared, we know more, and therefore we’ll be able to do more and see more.  😀  It’s going to be so stinkin’ awesome!

I really didn’t expect to fall in love with the place, but I did.  There really is something so magical about it all.  The magic is real because WE made it real.  We jumped in and did everything wholeheartedly.  Sure, we did it for the girl , but it was for us too.  And I can’t wait to go back.

Damon, Lily-Ann, and myself... with Zazu.

Damon, Lily-Ann, and myself… with Zazu.

Our Advent Calendar

Just like last year, we’re keeping our trip to Walt Disney World a surprise until Yule.  This year though, we’re leading up to the reveal with her advent calendar.  We bought a whole bunch of Disney pins off eBay, and have put them inside dated Disney ornaments:

Disney ornaments from Target

Disney ornaments from Target

So every day the girl gets a new pin.  

She loved the first one:

Wearing her Mickey Mouse pin on December 1st.

Showing off her Mickey Mouse pin.

But by the third was catching onto the theme and finding it less than fun.  Last year her advent calendar included little baggies filled with little toys, MLP clothes, LPS accessories, and other odds and ends with a lot more playability.  Then, by about day five, she realized these are the same pins they use for pin trading at WDW…  and a world of possibilities came flooding in on her.  Now she’s excited to see which one is inside each ornament, and likes to think about which might be keepers and which might be good for trading.

Her first five pins.

Her first five pins.

I am so looking forward to the big reveal on the 21st.  I know she’s just going to be over the moon to learn our next trip is coming up so quickly.  It’s going to be amazing!

WDW Here We Come… again!

We are now one month our from our second trip to Walt Disney World.  We loved our first trip (in January/February of 2013) sooo much, that shortly after returning we began planning for a return visit.  This time we’ll be heading off on January 14th, once month from today, and will again be staying for ten days (two of which are devoted to travel).  Unfortunately we couldn’t afford to bring my sister along this time, but I’m sure it will be just as magical though very different without her.  Oh!  And the girl doesn’t know about the trip yet, so don’t spill the beans.  We’ll be revealing the surprise on Yule!  hehehe

Anyway…

To get in the spirit of things I’m planning to blog “30 Days of Disney”.

I realized in my WDW posts from our last trip that I had barely scratched the surface.  There was still SOOO much I hadn’t shared, and just a ton of pictures that never made it onto the blog.  I can’t wait to start talking Disney with the kid, but until the 21st I’m stuck trying to keep my excitement bottled up.  I’m hoping y’all won’t mind being a bit of an outlet for me.  I am crazy excited about this trip.

So this is the first of 30 Walt Disney World posts.  For now, let’s just recap where we’ve been and what we’ve seen:

https://td365.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/disneys-magic-kingdom/

https://td365.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/disneys-animal-kingdom/

https://td365.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/disneys-hollywood-studios/

https://td365.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/epcot/

https://td365.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/downtown-disney/

https://td365.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/disneys-art-of-animation-resort/

https://td365.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/character-meets-at-walt-disney-world/

https://td365.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/from-youngling-to-padawan-at-disneys-hollywood-studios/

https://td365.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/disney-nighttime-magic/

Each of the above posts is graphic-laden.  Tons of photos!  And I highly recommend clicking on the pictures to see them a little larger than the thumbnails allow.  They are worth it!  I promise.

And just for good measure, here’s a favourite post of the Pinterest crew:  https://td365.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/doing-disney-the-smith-way/

Downtown Disney

I have to admit… after listening to folk rave about Downtown Disney, I found the shopping district to be a HUGE letdown.  Most of what you find there are your typical stores that you can find at any mall in any city.  I’m shopping at Downtown Disney because I want to find DISNEY stuff.  So while yeah, you’ll find things at Downtown Disney that you won’t find at any of the Disney parks it’s because it’s not Disney related.

Lily-Ann loved the princess store.  She bought herself a purse and gloves set (courtesy of Karla Amaya, our travel agent, who gave the girl some Disney Dollars to spend), and I bought her a tiara.  We also found a thank you gift for my sister and her girlfriend who watched over our furry and feathered family members while we were gone – a very cool mad hatter tea pot and tea set.  Seriously, if we could have afforded two of them, I’d have got one for myself.  LOL

The other cool shop was the Lego store.  It really was neat to see that many sets all in one place – and I loved the create your own figures center as well as the bulk lego pieces.  That was pretty awesome.  And I adored the amazing lego dragon they had built out front.  It was seriously incredible!

Other than that, there were little bits and pieces here and there…  but overall?  It was a pretty underwhelming experience.  We were glad when we decided to head back to our resort.  It was a MUCH cooler place to spend the remainder of our last day.  🙂

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The last of the four Walt Disney World parks is Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and I realize it’s cliched to say it, but while it’s the last it’s not the least.  Hollywood Studios is AMAZING!  I’ve already shared the photos from the girl’s Jedi Training School experience, which was totally incredible and jealousy inducing, but that was just one small part of our day.

There are just a TON of character meets at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the lines were minimal compared to many of the other parks.  There’s a bunch to do, yet this park doesn’t feel quite as overwhelming as the others (of course, by this point we had our system pretty much perfected – which really helps).  And it’s not totally kid-centric either, which was great.  This park definitely had the broadest appeal, with everything from Star Wars to the Muppets to Phineas and Ferb to Pixar’s greatest hits to classic Disney as well.  We loved everything about this one.  It was fabulous!

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