For Christmas, I decided to take TWO FULL WEEKS off and lug myself, the kids, our 2 suitcases, 3 additional bags, a carseat, and the stroller to the East Coast. Orion has never met his great grandparents, so Christmas seemed like the perfect time to spread some cheer and make Florida our first stop.
To start our adventure, everyone and everything was packed in the car to make the 1.5 hour haul up to the Denver airport. We parked offsite and rode a shuttle bus right to our terminal. That process was actually quite easy and I definitely will be utilizing that service again. The driver was even nice enough to load my bigger items into the shuttle for me. Five stars for the Canopy Airport Parking Lot!
Next was the part of our adventure that I dreaded the most: flying 3.5 hours with kids. We made it through security with little problem, although I had to explain to Savannah at least five times why it was important that her stuffed giraffe needed to go through the scanner. At the gate, we ate some snacks and after several more minutes, Savannah started running around with her face mask over her eyes instead of her mouth and nose. Although quite comical, it was a minor setback and major elevation of anxiety. Luckily, we were still allowed on the plane… for now.
Miraculously, no one sat in the seat next to us, although I would have understood their desire to move elsewhere after seeing the circus I was bringing onto the plane. Even better, the kids did great! Plenty of snacks, movies, books, stickers and paper, and even naps kept time from standing still. I couldn’t believe my good luck.
Once we landed in Orlando, we were greeted at the baggage area by my parents, known as Gah (Grandma) and Grandpa. Gah helped the kids burn off some energy running around the baggage claim while I patiently awaited our suitcases. Once fulfilled, we collected all of our items and gathered into the car to head to our first destination–The Villages, Florida.
If you aren’t familiar, The Villages is a rather large retirement community in central Florida about an hour outside of Orlando. The Villages is essentially a small city comprised of its own complex network of similar styled independent homes, shops and squares, churches, movie theaters, and even a hospital. It boasts a multitude of special events and luxuries for its residents year round (pre-pandemic). Although my grandparents don’t live in The Villages proper, they are in a neighboring retirement community a stone’s throw away and often take advantage of The Villages experience.
We spent the next several days enjoying the company of Great Grandma and Great Grandpa. Orion got to meet his great grandparents for the first time and luckily demonstrated very little ‘stranger danger.’ He was perfectly happy showing off his relatively new walking skills and collecting scattered markers from off the floor. Savannah also really seemed to enjoy her visit. She created and handed out masterpieces of stickers and marker drawings and several times climbed right into Great Grandma’s lap. Our rowdy crowd provided some lively entertainment for their 90+ year old great grandparents.
Sprinkled in the middle of our time with Great Grandma and Great Grandpa, my mom and I took the kids on a day trip to the Magic Kingdom at Disney World. Not only did this trip give Great Grandma and Great Grandpa a break from the chaos of young kids, but it also gave us a chance to visit one of the happiest places on Earth! And a first time experience for Orion (outside the womb)!
At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Disney World shut down for several months; the longest period of time in Disney history since its opening nearly 50 years ago in 1971. It reopened in July 2020 and endorsed strict guidelines for guests regarding social distancing and mask wearing in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. For our trip in late December, Disney supposedly allowed guests in at 35% capacity and mask wearing was mandatory at all times except when stopped for eating and drinking. Large scheduled parades had all been cancelled and character greetings were essentially non-existent. Fast passes had disappeared and rides were not running at full capacity.
Despite all of the changes, we had a great day… mostly. Waiting in line with two littles was challenging at times, and 35% capacity still felt like a LOT of people. However, I can’t complain. I would definitely do it again and would only change the fact that we forgot to eat a Mickey Mouse ice cream bar! A tradition my mom and I have been carrying on for as long as I can remember! Oops. Instead however, we took advantage of the non-existent line (which I’ve never witnessed before) for the Dole Whip pineapple ice cream. Yum!
The cast members were still very friendly and the characters we did see were still enthusiastically waving to guests. Had I not been wearing a mask, I’m not sure I would have been able to recognize much difference pre- and post- pandemic. It was still magical in almost every way. My heart and my kids were all constantly smiling, and we kept very busy alternating between riding, snacking, and taking photos.
We rode almost all of the little kid friendly rides including Savannah’s favorite Prince Charming Regal Carousel. We had a scrumptious gourmet waffle for breakfast and ate a delicious lunch at Be Our Guest restaurant. We kept the kids up (sort of) enjoying every moment until the closing of the Magic Kingdom at 10pm.
For our last few moments of our single day Disney trip, we caught a glimpse of Mickey Mouse himself! I was so excited to share this moment with my kids. The perfect ending to a pretty much perfect day. I can’t wait to go back!
January 24, 2021