Once or twice a year we head down to Florida. It’s an absolute privilege my children get as a byproduct of having in-laws and friends that now reside in the Sunshine State.
Last week I did a little venting on the myth that is the “family vacation.” I blame the steroids I was on for bronchitis, and not even the kind that helps me ride bikes fast. The other kind that makes me eat a ton, get puffy and turn into the Hulk.
So yeah, it was stressful, but it was also truthfully fun as hell, because as annoying as we can all be to each other, we’re still basically the dopest people I know, and when we’re faced with hating each other’s guts for 7 days or having fun, we always rally and have a blast. I credit Andy’s ability to throw full bottles of Xanax at me when I’m being a douche bag.
Now, because this is a journey we make on the regular, you’d think I’ve become some sort of travel-savvy Disney fanatic, I mean I’m taping an actual travel show for shits sake. Not the case. Traveling with a 3, 5 and 6 year old is a whole other monster, and that monster is survival. I’m a family vacation survivalist, just trying to get shit done as cheaply, efficiently, and as less homicidally as possible. Because caskets are expensive and missing mortgage payments freaks Andy out.
So, I want to tell you about our latest getaway, and offer you up tips as well, with the disclaimer that I’m a layman and I spent most of the vacation with a buzz because Andy doesn’t let me drive the rental car.
Where We Stay? This is our fourth year renting a private home in Orlando. Four bedrooms, two masters, a stocked game room, and private heated pool and hot tub. HOVA! Psych. yeah it’s actually stupid cheap to rent a home for a week. Listen, there are tons of hotels in Orlando, and I’ve stayed in plenty. There are tons of on-site hotels at Disney, and I’ve stayed in plenty of those, too. They are great if you are going to a Disney park every day, enjoy taking buses, paying a lot of money for food, and imagining what it’s like to live in a DivaCup. Unless, of course, you can spring for the super pricey, hella nice hotels, but those cost infinity dollars. So instead, we rent a giant house for a whole week for an average of about $500, which we almost always split with whomever we vacation with, because it’s way funner to drink in your own private hot tub with friends. You can see the house we rented above, and more pictures of the pool area in my Maxi Skirt post. This is our second year vacationing with my friend Amber, and it’s one of my favorite traditions because I already know we can make it a whole week without hating each other. My favorite rental site? VRBO.com
The Beach. I’m afraid of the ocean, this is no secret, it’s full of monsters and dead stuff and if I was in charge I would drain it. The thought of taking my children to the beach was horrifying, but Andy was all, they should experience the ocean blahhhhhh I don’t care if my whole family ends up in the belly of a shark. So I got on board, and we met my amazing friend Maria in St. Pete and headed to Fort De Soto. It ended up being a blast, mostly because it was freezing and deserted. We ran around, picked up shells, and then explored the abandoned Fort and pretended the idea of locking our children in a jail cell was preposterous, but seriously, how much easier would it be if they could be locked away for extended periods of time each day. I’d have so much time to, like, be productive. I might even learn a new Rosetta Stone language or something. Childhood socialization is a myth. Look how awesome Nell turned out!?
Walt Disney World: Ah yes, the Mouse. The good, the bad, the what the fuck did we just spend $3000 on? Magic. The answer is magic. We’ve been taking trips to Disney World since Jude was 2, and I can say with the utmost certainty, only two of the four Disney parks work for us; Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Epcot is a little above them in terms of day long entertainment, and we tried Animal Kingdom once, but paying $400 for a day at a glorified zoo took me to my angry place.
At the moment, Hollywood Studios is our favorite park. I know, you’d think it’d be Magic Kingdom, but the truth of the matter is, Magic Kingdom is your favorite park. Kids today don’t know who the fuck half those people are, and the rides are almost all dark and creepy. We go to Magic Kingdom for us, for the nostalgia. Yes, there are some recognizable characters here and there, but overall, it’s a big fat reminder that you are old, your kids are bored, and cartoons are drawn by robots now.
Hollywood Studios is the land of Pixar, as in, all the shit your kids currently watch. But, it also has some pretty rad stuff for us, too. While it’s not as ride heavy as Magic Kingdom, it has some pretty amazing shows, and before you roll your eyes at sitting through a show, they’re actually pretty awesome. Definitely don’t miss Muppet Vision 3D, Lights Motor Action the Extreme Stunt Show, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Playhouse Disney Live on Stage (especially if you have little ones, but note you’ll be sitting on the floor for 20 minutes and GUESS WHAT YOU’RE OLD, so have fun getting up from that), and Beauty and the Beast (my friend Matt is a dancer with the show and it’s epic). In terms of rides, we love The Great Movie Ride (actually just rode this for the first time last week, totally a rad ride), Star Tours (the boys love this, but it makes me pukey because it’s motion simulated), Studio Backlot Tour, and Toy Story Midway Mania (yes, they will tell you a billion times, get a fast past for this ASAP, it’s fun and it has the longest waits). If you get there early enough, I also recommend signing your kids up for Jedi training Classes, which is exactly what it sounds like, tiny kids learning to be Jedis and fight Vader. It’s like whatever the equivalent of little kid wet dreams are.
I don’t really have a ton of helpful information to offer you in regards to Magic Kingdom. It’s really pretty, which is nice, because it gives you something to look at while you’re waiting in lines, which you happen to do a lot of there. I recommend ditching the purse all together, buying a backpack, and loading the shit out of it with snacks, ipods, and extra clothes. Patience is the name of the game at Magic Kingdom, and I’m not saying it’s not worth it, it’s just that you need to be prepared for it to prevent full-on psychological break downs. For me, the best part of the whole experience is the Mainstreet Electrical Parade. It’s amazing, but come 7:30-8:00pm, you need to find a spot along the street and plop your ass down. Send someone to go grab some food somewhere and don’t move, because if you want to have good seats to this parade, you have to grab them early. When it comes to Disney parade spot saving? Bitches be crazy.
- Let your kids dress up. Gigi went full on fashion show for y’all the other day, and we’ve found that letting our kids dress up and have a blast makes the experience that much more fun, and the characters and staff are that much more interactive with you.
- Don’t go in March. I swear to God, this was our undoing. It’s spring break and packed, in fact Magic Kingdom was closed everyday the week we were there due to capacity. We never, ever usually go during peak season, because I hate strangers touching me, but this was a last minute trip. We typically go off season, like February, October or November. In fact, we’re headed back this November. I feel like I must be high right now to even write that out loud. Not sure how busy it will be for your trip? Google a crowd calendar.
- This year we bought the kids autograph books, and they fucking loved it. Hoarding signatures became their new favorite thing.
- Make dining reservations, like…now. Listen, unless you love lugging picnic lunches around, you’re going to pay out the nose for cafeteria food anyways, might as well spend that same amount at a nice park restaurant and have some amazing food, plus with a reservation, you just walk on in. It’s typical for people to make their dining reservations when they book their trip, so they can sometimes book more than a few months in advance, so my advice is, the second you you know what day you are going to what park, make your food reservations. You can do that by clicking here. You do not need your actual tickets or the Disney meal plan to take advantage of this. Anyone can make reservations, so do it.
- Speaking of food, in terms of Hollywood Studios, their night show Fantasmic is epic, but the line and seating is a nightmare. You can actually buy a Fantasmic Meal package at one of the participating restaurants. You pay just a touch more, but worth it because the food is amazing, and it gets you VIP seating, which has you literally walking in right before the show starts, sitting front row, and they sell beer there. Worthsies. Our favorite Fantasmic Package restaurants are Hollywood & Vine and Mama Melrose. Again, make a reservation and mention the Fantasmic package when you’re doing it.
- The big money grab at the Mainstreet Electrical Light Parade are the folks pushing carts and carts of light-up crap. First of all, it’s cash only, and by 9pm, you don’t have any of that left. And second, it’s like $30 for a light up plastic sword. So, I’ve started going to Target, buying all the fun glow necklaces, swords and wands I can get my hands on, tossing them in the backpack for the day, then pulling them out while we wait for the parade.
At the end of the day, even though the crowds and expenses stress Andy and I the hell out, we know the kids had a blast. So we just try to remember that. Over and over again. Mostly when we’re looking at utility bills.
Oh, P.S. LegoLand. We didn’t go to LegoLand this trip, but we’ve gone twice before and if you have small kids, it’s a must. Check out my review of it here.
P.P.S. Feel free to share any tips you have in the comments sections. Keeping in mind I do the absolute bare minimum to have a good time, but that I totally appreciate your enthusiasm.