Our family took a vacation to Disney World! I cannot describe just how magical this adventure has been for our family. We have had a few bumps in the road this summer and Disney was just what our family needed. I originally booked this vacation back in February of this year. I wanted our first visit to be at a time of year that was not so busy because I was not sure how the kids would do in large crowds. September was a great time to go despite the rain we experienced every day. Hayden has been counting down for months and Monday the 17th arrived and he knew it was time to go to Mickey's house. We flew out of BWI instead of Philadelphia so we could fly during Julia's nap schedule and catch a direct flight. On our way to Baltimore Hayden kept saying are we there yet mommy. Thank goodness we did not drive 18 hours. I was so worried about how we were going to manage 4 pieces of luggage, carryons, strollers, two kids and my husband and I. We survived! I dropped my hubby and the kids at the departure for southwest and off to long term parking I went.
Once I arrived back with my family we curbside checked our luggage and off to security we went. As many of you are aware Hayden is not able to walk independent and he was in his stroller and so was Julia. I don't think the security agents at BWI understood and they made us take him out of the stroller and walk him through the security check point. Luckily Hayden is only 32 pounds and he is not terribly heavy to lift. I do wonder how we will tackle this obstacle when he is bigger? Once through security we grabbed a bite to eat and had to quickly board our flight. I have to say I love Southwest! I was nervous with the no assigned seats but we were able to pre board which made things so easy. I loved that we could have the kids in the strollers until we reached the airplane door. Hayden was so excited to fly on the airplane but I must admit I was nervous about how the kids would do. Well, my nerves were not needed they were amazing. Julia fell asleep an hour into the flight. She was too busy wanting to see all the passengers to fall asleep right away. I followed the doctors orders and had both kids drinking on take off. However, I felt terrible Julia was sound asleep when we were landing she woke up screaming. I think her poor ears popped. Lesson learned even if your child is asleep wake them up to avoid the ear pressure.
It was a two hour flight from Baltimore to sunny Orlando, Florida. We decided to use the Disney magical express and Disney transportation. I will talk about the pro's and con's of using this service when you have children with special needs. I loved that I did not have to retrieve our own luggage and it was delivered right to our hotel. I loved that we took a big motor coach to the resort. This was worth the free service. We stayed at the French quarters which I enjoyed. The rooms were a great size since we requested a handicapped accessible room and the resort was quiet. Everyone was extremely pleasant at our hotel. Since we did not rent a car we had to use Disney transportation. This included water taxi's, monorails, and buses. My least favorite of the transportation were the buses. The kids could not stay in their strollers so we stood in a long line waiting for the arrival of the appropriate bus. Once the bus arrived the kids had to come out of the strollers. So, we had to carry both kids plus strollers on the bus. The buses were often packed and only had standing room at times. This was the con of the trip. The buses were very difficult to manage with two non walking children. Maybe if Julia had been walking it would have been easier but with two non walkers this was hard. I absolutely loved the boats and monorail system. The kids could stay in their strollers and it made it easier to load them in and out. I think our next trip to Disney we will do one of two things: rent a car or stay at a resort that is closer to magic kingdom to use the monorail only.
I had planned to go to each resort: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. Unfortunately, we got rained out of Animal Kingdom. I was so disappointed I think the kids would have loved seeing the animals. By far the best place to go was Magic Kingdom for the ages of our kids 4 and 1. Followed by Epcot and then Hollywood Studios. I think in all honesty when I return to Disney next year or the year after we will skip Hollywood Studios and spend two days in Magic Kingdom. The best thing about Hollywood Studios for us was Hayden getting to see Lightning Mcqueen, Mater, Buzz and Woody. I was pleasantly surprised he enjoyed Epcot. We only were able to see half the countries but he enjoyed it. Note to self do not take your children to Norway! It was scary. We ended up eating in Germany at the Beirgarten. That was a huge hit because of the live entertainment and the food was great. We also stayed for the Illumination show. The kids lasted through half the show before they got scared. I think if we watched it again we would watch it from the entrance and not up close so it is not so loud. Magic Kingdom we spent most of our time in Fantasy-land That is where the most age appropriate rides were and we just did not have time to visit the other sections of Magic Kingdom. We started off our day in Magic Kingdom eating breakfast at Crystal Palace. We loved it! Hayden loved all the characters and the food was fantastic. If you go here for breakfast make sure you try the french toast! It is amazing!! After breakfast we ventured over to ride some rides. Hayden was so excited and I was impressed how well he did. We went on dumbo, Peter Pan, Winnie the Poo, train, Its a small world, the carousel, and Hayden and his daddy drove race cars. I don't think we will venture to Peter Pan again it was dark and scary for the children. I was actually surprised how dark some of the rides were. I brought glow sticks with us but did not think I needed them on rides. I will remember that for our next trip.
We ended up eating at several character meals. I decide all for breakfast since my family loves breakfast. We ate at Chef Mickey, Crystal Palace and Ohana. I loved each of them in the order I listed them. I think we will try Ohana for dinner next time because I heard dinner is amazing. Chef Mickey was Hayden's absolute favorite place to eat. Also, a big tip if you want to save time trying to have pictures with the characters this is where to do it. The characters come to your table and you can get pictures with everyone.
I can't emphasize enough how magical this trip was for our family. Just seeing the smile on Hayden's face melted my heart. I honestly do not think he had a better time in his life yet. I also know I want to take my family back there again before Julia turns three just to save on ticket prices again. Disney is so big and there is so much to see that I knew we would not fit it in this trip. I am just happy we were able to get away and forget about our special needs and just have fun. Sometimes that is exactly what your family needs to take a break from doctors, therapies, and school and just enjoy life. I hope to do this more often with our family because sometimes the day to day can become overwhelming. I failed to mention that even though we were getting away from our day to day with special needs it was apparent many others were doing the same thing. We met so many amazing families in Disney World. I loved that no one looked at my child like something was wrong. I loved that I could talk to another family who got it. It made me feel for a brief moment that our family is not the only family going through struggles. I even found a cute adaptive stroller for Hayden as he gets bigger. One that doesn't look to medical. That was my biggest concern trying to have a somewhat normal adaptive stroller versus a "Hey look at me" stroller. I also am amazed at how nice everyone was during our trip to Disney. Sometimes it makes me feel like I need to move South. Strangers helped us with our strollers, strangers helped me with our kids, and offered their seats on the buses. It was simply nice to have kindness experienced by people you have never met. It reminds me every day that there is kindness out there that is forgotten with the day to day hustle and bustle. I love the south and the hospitality it offered our family! I will end this post with some pictures of our adventure.