Where do I even begin?
We had an awesome time. Simon is an amazing little traveler. Just fantastic. He exceeded any possible expectations we could have had for a positive air travel experience. Basically, he rocked. He walked right on, found his seat, sat down and looked out the window. It was a huge sigh of relief for both Chris and me that he was ok with flying.
The DVD player and video iPod were key in keeping him happy and occupied. We also left really early yesterday morning so he was still tired and feel asleep fairly quickly on the first flight.
We stayed at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and it was perfect. With Simon's love of animals this was a really easy decision for us. We went with a safari view room and got to see giraffes eating right outside our window daily. Next time we go we will probably choose a hotel closer to Magic Kingdom - one that we could get to quickly. We rode the bus from Animal Kingdom Lodge to each of the parks and found that to be easy and convenient.
My sister Jessica was able to join us for the first day - that made the experience that much more wonderful. We hit the Magic Kingdom first. Simon was in heaven. We would ask him who he wanted to ride with and he always said "Jessie." We loved having her there.
For us, going at this time of year was the right choice. None of the parks were too crowded, lines were tolerable for Simon (we did have an access pass for people with disabilities and used it just a couple times), but the weather was not so great - including a major downpour just as we were getting off the bus at the Magic Kingdom for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. We were completely SOAKED. Now, we are from Oregon and we are used to rain but man we were WET. Right when we were about ready to call it a night the rain stopped and we stayed for a couple more hours and had a great time. The fireworks and parade were awesome (the stage show at the castle was cancelled due to the weather). Seriosly amazing fireworks - Simon likes fireworks so it was all good.
We attened one character breakfast at Crystal Palace. We were totally unsure how Simon was going to react to the characters and the result: not his thing. We went to the Crystal Palace at the Magic Kingdom for breakfast with Pooh (and asked for a table away from the action when booking). Simon LOVES seeing the characters from a distance but wanted absolutely nothing to do with them up close. We worked with him to just say "hi pooh" and then "bye pooh" (rather than screaming) as they came up to the table. The characters were great in that they did not push it at all and just waved and moved on to the next table. That made it all ok for Simon. (We had scheduled another character meal but decided to cancel and be able to do something else.) All about going with the flow.
Here were Simon's favorites:
2. Playhouse Disney @ MGM. So totally fun and interactive.
3. Dumbo, Winne the Pooh, and the smaller kids roller coasters. He really loved every ride we went on. Both Chris and I were surprised at how much he loved the rides and was totally into and willing to try them out.
4. The big train at the Magic Kingdom. He was all over this one. He really wanted to check out the wheels - that was what was important to him - he was able to get close enough as the train took off (santa picked up a replica of this train in the gift shop) and was so excited.
5. Nemo ride at Epcot. He was grumpy in general on this day but he wanted to go again so I count that as something he enjoyed.
Here are a few of my favorite shots from the week:
Each day we rented a stroller - a must have in our opinion.
One of our days was spent at Sea World - another natural choice for us due to Simon's affection for animals. There were a couple things there that Simon really liked. First was this trampoline set-up. We watched a little boy go first, asked Simon if he wanted to go and he said, "OK." We were so surprised and delighted at his adventurousness.
While at Sea World we went to see the Shamu show - totally thinking that sitting in the splash zone up close (front and center) would be totally fun. NOT FUN for Simon. Hated getting wet and we ended up leaving early...fixed the upset with a treat of course and headed over to the cool play area they have right across from the whale stadium. He loved that area - including a cool whale roller coaster.
We also really loved the seal/pirate show. Lots of laughs.
Not sure that we will go back to Sea World if/when we head that way again. Glad we went and experienced it, but I loved the Disney parks so much more.
Food-wise everything was ok. Not great, but ok. We did get to eat right in front of the big fish tank at the Coral Reef restaurant at Epcot which Simon loved and was a really cool experience. Also enjoyed eating quite a few meals at Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge (convenient) and lunch at Rainforest Cafe in Animal Kingdom park. We signed up for a Disney Meal plan this time and I think that next time we will forgo that and just pay as we go. For us, it just became more of a hastle than anything (hated having to think about it). Also, next time we will pack some cereal/breakfast stuff and other snacks to have in the room.
By the end of the week we were all tired. It is so fun and exciting but just SO MUCH. Next time around we will plan a day just to hang out by the pool (weather permitting of course) and be around the hotel or watch TV - essentially just BE a bit more than the pace we set for ourselves. Most days we ended up coming back to the hotel for an afternoon nap and then went back out again in the evening, but even that was a pretty hectic schedule. By the last day at Epcot Simon was super grumpy and just plain tired so we cut the day short and hung out at the hotel before leaving early Sunday morning.
Overall, a totally crazy wonderful experience. Nothing like seeing your kid get so SUPER excited about rides and seeing Mickey and riding the bus and just having time to be together as a family. That was a huge part of it for us. There were so many moments where Chris and I just looked at each other and smiled as we saw the pure joy on Simon's face. That was what it was all about.
We will totally be going back again in a couple years.