Putting this vacation into the "History Books" by blogging about it, has filled me with procrastination - stemmed from a total insecurity about how I could possibly summarize a trip of such proportions. This trip has been in the works since the previous time we went to Disneyworld - in 2010 - and with that much anticipation, and expectation - it means its a VERY BIG DEAL to all involved.
But something is better than nothing, so here goes....
Way back in July, Travis had found some great flights (at least on the way there!) that originated out of the Eugene Airport - 15 minutes from our house, vs. the two hour, much bigger and more congested Portland Airport. The Schillings had spent the Thursday night prior at our house and we were at the airport by 4:30 for our 6:10 flight. Impressive for a party of nine (soon to be 14 with the Whites and Mom and Dad joining us).
It was a super smooth check-in - and all of use scored PSA pre-screening, so we didn't even have to take our shoes off or computers out. We'd scored the airport jackpot. =)
Lots of waiting around smiles and selfies took place.
Brayden got a new sweatshirt I found at Macy's the precious day. (I made use of it too). I love the slogan, "Too many people grow up"....perfect for embarking upon a Disney vacation.
The pictures in these blog post were gathered from all sorts of social medias - Instagrams, SnapChats, cell phone pics, and quality camera pics. Hence, you'll see some special captions and graphics along the way from the girls' contributions.
"The Twins"....SOOOO HAPPPPPPY! (In case you are wondering...we weren't trying to twin... we both chose to wear (and Mom too) the maxi dresses/skirts because they are extremely comfortable on the plane and serve as their own blankets when you are trying to sleep...)
Our family - prior to departing from the Eugene Airport.
Moving on to the airplane (I promise Mom and Dad were with us...they were just seated further back).
John snapped these as he walked on to the plane....I love them....
This little girl had been having this trip hyped up to her from so many sources - and we knew she had no idea just how extraordinary it was going to be - but, we all hoped and prayed she'd get a kick out of every single adventure. She exceeded even our highest expectations in her enthusiasm and excitement over it all.
Our layover in Utah was just long enough for Brayden and Ellie to grab a Jamba Juice and the rest of us to visit the restroom before we loaded up again - next stop, Orlando.
I had a lot of fun with this guy all week. He's my nephew, but at nearly 17, he's taller than me, is an intellectual resource, and - all around a cool guy to hang out with.
Whitley did great in staying with Travis and Steph in her carseat, but eventually, they let her wander to hang out with the girls, with me, and then with Aunt Chele. She was one happy camper.
For the most part, John and I just got to sit next to each other. Those looks are, "Hey, I could get used to this kind of carefree air travel without responsibility of a child's welfare...."
We arrived early - in Orlando just after 4pm. So smooth.
We all had to deal with our own counter agents (and different agencies) for rental vehicles - so we joined back up at Marriott's Grande Vista where we were staying. (About a 15 minute drive from Disneyworld).
For the sake of posterity, these are images I pulled from Google that shows what our resort looked like. Almost all of our rooms for the 10 days were taken care of with points and trades, so while we knew it wasn't staying at a "Disney Resort" - we felt immensely blessed when we arrived and saw indeed how "grande" this place was, especially knowing how little we actually paid for it.
This is exactly what our room looked like (or would have if it were clean).
And this is what the interior of that lock-off unit looked like.
Ours wasn't configured exactly like this - in terms of decor or furniture arrangement, but this was the look of the rest of our main room - with access to the patio in the corner.
This is two different directional views of what our bedroom looked like:
Our patio overlooked one of the exterior pools at the resort.
The units were spacious - we were all near each other, but not on top of each other, it was in a good location....really, unless we were staying at say, the Disney Wilderness Resort (not financially feasible for 14!) - you couldn't ask for much more.
Okay - back to the first day. Let me tell you something. Vacation planning for for 14 people, - made up of four unique families, is not a piece of cake. So, we did as very much as possible that we could do ahead of time that would help ease the awkwardness of decision-making, without completely eliminating spontaneous fun altogether. Three to six months prior, we set up a meal a day that was a reservation sit-down experience - generally for lunch, so that if we all went our own direction in the parks, at least we'd have that time to catch up and wind down for some refreshment. Also, thirty days prior, we were able to set up the three Fast Passes a day, thus dictating, for most of us, a general idea of how we'd at least spend our mornings in the park.
One time slot that was NOT planned, however, was our first evening. As far as Michele and I were thinking - we'd snack a lot on the plane, get to the hotel, unpack, make our run for supplies and groceries at Walmart Supercenter, and then get to bed early so we'd be ready to have fun the next day.
But, the guys - well, airplane peanuts didn't cut it for them when it came to a real dinner. (What was I thinking?!) And, for John, when it comes to vacation - its not about the rush, rush, rush, the thrills, or the attractions....it's about the interaction with people and the atmosphere - particularly when it comes to dining.
So, we punted. And John, Michael, and Travis sold us on the idea of eating at the ESPN Club at Disney's Boardwalk Resort. We had eaten at this restaurant previously, and while the food itself was okay, the destination was awesome.
Truth be told, I found myself grumpy en route. I was tired. I was stressing in trying to make decisions that would make everyone happy - and make sure everyone felt included. And, I didn't want to anymore.
But, I ended up apologizing to John halfway through the trip as I recognized a couple of things. 1) These were the sorts of experiences that hallmarked a quality vacation for him, and the Lord knows I'd certainly done plenty to skew the experience to make me happy.... and 2) We kicked off our adventures strong - with a real experience for dinner and not just snacks from Walmart.
We arrived first (thanks to entering and parking where we technically shouldn't have....directions following and ending up in the wrong place was a bit of a trend for all of us this trip).
This restaurant is actually located at one of the Disney Resorts... The Boardwalk.
You can see why I changed my tune upon arrival!!!!
Look, there at the right of this picture...it's Mom and Dad! I told you they came!
And, yes, that's Mikayla in the middle of this one.
We ended up waiting about 30 minutes (we were told they couldn't even estimate the time, which made it feel longer). But, that gave us some time to goof off and take pics on the Boardwalk.
Whitley got lots of attention...
This girl - how she was functioning without having napped much at all on the planes....I don't even know! She is absolutely inspired by her "people", (the group of us that make up her extended family - also described by her as her "everybody") - so it can actually be a jumpstart when she comes back into contact with us (after, for example, falling asleep in the car seat en route).
The next youngest of the group, Ellie, wasn't yet feeling that jumpstart. She WAS feeling the effects of no sleep and a 3-something am wake-up - and at the moment this picture was taken, she was telling her mom (after telling the other kids), "I just feel like I have nothing to be happy about". (The menu wasn't really to her liking). We were CRACKING up - it was just the craziest thing to say at the start of a vacation like this. Bless you, Ellie, for letting us laugh at your expense.
Whitley quickly came to the rescue. It's no secret, that among our five kids, Traig and Ellie take top billing as her favorites - so Whitley had no problem helping Ellie find the joy!
Then, Traig became the #1 playmate.
We took a lot of pictures at this time because we waited an INCREDIBLY long time to be served and to get our bill. It was becoming a running joke. At the point this was taken (post meal), Whitley was almost falling asleep on my head.
We finally were ready to leave - and upon departure saw this taking place in the resort lawn - a "Drive-In" style showing of "The Little Mermaid". I'm pretty sure I teared up at the serendipity of it.
And, then, we were off. All but Mom and Dad braved the craziest 11pm shopping experience at Walmart you could even fathom (was it Black Friday?). Apparently, though, Friday is a key day for vacation arrivals - and many were doing exactly what we were doing there. It just added to the adventure...
DAY ONE PRICELESS MOMENTS:
- That picture of Whitley on the airplane with her mom, followed quickly by her thrill and sound effects as we became airborne on the plane.
- The picturesque sights and feelings on the boardwalk - surrounded by my "people" - all feeling the joy too (though some of us were a little "hangry") - and capped off by that outdoor movie showing.