We always swore that if we had kids, we wouldn't consider taking them to Disney World (hello expensive!) before they were about third grade because we wanted our expense and effort to pay off in memories they'd actually keep. But, when your husband has a work conference for five days in Orlando on the Disney property with a free shuttle to all the Disney parks and a hotel room all paid?
You buy two tickets to Disney World and make some of your own memories with kids who won't remember their first trip to the Happiest Place on Earth at all. Both kids were free and I know you might not believe it, but Benjamin lasted the entire 10 hours of the park exploring without tantrums or naps and totally rallied to the end. I swear they sprinkle magic fairy dust all over that joint.
It was my first trip to DW and while I definitely enjoyed it, I missed some obvious favorites that are part of DL. Though, I've never been to Epcot, Disney Studios or Animal Kingdom either, and I do believe some of those differences are evened out by visiting all of the parks... if you have that kind of time and money, of course.
Taking kids was a whole other experience. Even though it was technically a new park to me, they are very similar in layout and have the same overall rides or something equivalent to the Disney park I'm used to. It didn't feel like a very new experience. It was crazy passing by Space Mountain with less than a 10 minute wait in favor of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh instead. We went on none (except Pirates) of the rides we would normally hit up and favored the rides we would never go on before. It was actually quite fantastic seeing the park through the eyes of a small child, unlike the teenager and adult-without-child I had last been when visiting a Disney park.
We worked the Fastpass system to our full advantage while there and even used the child swap system a number of times that granted Benjamin back-to-back rides with each of us while the other hung out with Claire (which was perfect when the toddler immediately requested "again, again" after every ride... was nice to actually say, OKAY sometimes!). We used all three fastpasses early and continued to add another on immediately after, allowing us to wait no longer than about 5-10 minutes to get on any ride. When Elliot left to head back to the hotel for a the conference kickoff dinner, I stayed the final two hours with the kids and used both fastpasses (his and mine) to get on two rides immediately. I highly recommend selecting your first three fastpasses strategically and as early as you can to get rid of them so you can use more and more of them throughout the day. Plan this at home before you get there. I also recommend keeping all of the fastpasses separate so you have more flexibility to take different kids on different rides at different times. Being connected means all people 3yo+ are forced to be on the same schedule when Child 1 might want to go on Splash Mountain and Child 2 might prefer Big Thunder Mountain. If you play your cards on the fastpasses properly, you can get a lot more rides in with very little wait time.
We arrived at the park at 9:08 a.m. and left around 6:45 p.m. (open 9a-7p that day). We breaked shortly for lunch, but the rest of the time was spent walking about, riding rides and meeting characters. The entire first hour was basically devoted to meeting Mickey Mouse and making our way to the first fastpass ride. The character lines were the longest lines all day we waited for, thanks to the fastpasses and off-season!
We experienced the following rides/attractions/shows/character meetings:
Meeting Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater (a must-do! Mickey talks to you personally!) - longest line of 35min.
Barnstormer (x2) "A little bit scary, SO fun"
Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (fastpass #1)
Meeting Buzz Lightyear
Dumbo the Flying Elephant (x2)
It's a Small World (x2) - more info below, but such a crazy thing happened!
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (fastpass #2)
Meeting Winnie the Pooh and Tigger - second longest line of about 25min.
Mickey's PhilharMagic - Benjamin's first interactive 3D show. It's great!
Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor - super funny!
Peter Pan's Flight (x2) (fastpass #3)
Pirate's of the Caribbean - only has one drop at DW and two drops at DL! Better at DL and significantly longer.
Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
Swiss Family Treehouse
Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover - "more escalators!"
Under the Sea, Journey of the Little Mermaid
The only rides Claire was not allowed on that we took Benjamin on were the Barnstormer and Tomorrowland Speedway. She was even allowed to ride in the Ergo on some of the rides and handled the drop on Pirates of the Caribbean just fine.
Now for the photos:
On our way to Orlando! The kids were basically perfect the first leg and the way back, decent. Just before I took that #familyselfie, Benjamin was saying, "I coming Mickey Mouse!" Benjamin caught in the act of hitting his sister on the hotel room bed. Sunset boat cruise at Downtown Disney.
Best family Mickey photo we managed & a washed-out photo of us on Main Street.
The first ride (Benjamin's game face!) & the only spotting of Benjamin wearing his Mickey hat. Basically ever.
Um, yes I do! Turns out they are friends and both live in Toronto. She remembered my face from an Instagram post of Laura's from TWO YEARS AGO! We chatted and rode the long It's a Small World ride ... how's that for irony ... and said our goodbyes. And now we're Instagram friends. More Canadian friends, check!
Most stupid thing I did while there? Spent $20 on an inflatable gator at the Hilton pool. You see how big that thing is resting on top of my Double BOB stroller? So big and underused that I insisted on bringing it home to get more use out of it. He did find a friend to play with at one point and enjoyed the alligator back in the hotel room. Seriously, you guys. I thought it was a good idea to buy this to go through the lazy river (that shoots water, so baby hated it), but it turns out it's impossible to be 5'3" and manage getting off an alligator in fast moving water with a toddler who cannot swim and a small baby without capsizing the stupid reptile. I had a complete stranger help get Benjamin off and pulled a muscle getting Claire and myself off that stupid thing. Scarred for life. In that last photo, Benjamin's reciting something we say at storytime and I just thought it was too cute that I needed to share.
And there you have it, folks. Benjamin's second major theme park (Cedar Park first) and flight # we've lost count by now. Claire's first amusement park and fourth flight, ironically, both to/from Florida. Her next flight? Whistler, baby!