Saturday morning...Up since 7am, big breakfast, children bouncing off walls with excitement. House cleaned, bags packed in car, key dropped off with neighbours, all family members present and accounted for; hitting the road!
Saturday...later...Smoothest road trip ever! Children happy, gas and food and bathroom breaks all coordinating beautifully. Making amazing time. Family giddy with anticipation.
Saturday...later still...Thick fog and pouring rain through Pennsylvania and Virginias has turned mountain portion of trip from pleasant, picturesque drive into perilous eight-hour exercise in tension for adults. Kids cheerfully watching movies in back seat, blissfully unaware of weather.
Somewhere between really late Saturday and really early Sunday...euphoria over fog lifting and skies clearing has prompted us to decide to drive through the night. Kids sleeping peacefully in back. Will be wonderful surprise when they wake up!
Sunday morning...Arrival at Disney after an hour's sleep at a Georgia rest stop and another hour's break over a long, leisurely, gorgeously grease-laden Southern breakfast. Already hot and sunny. Heaven. Have literally never seen such a look of pure joy as on youngest son's face as we drove through the Disney gates. "We're here? We're really here? At Disney?" Bliss.
Morning at Downtown Disney. Meander up and down the cobblestone streets and in and out of dozens of Disney shops. Soft serve at the ice cream parlour, long walk along the boardwalk by the water. Build and race Lego racecars at the Legoland store, dig for dinosaur bones at the T-Rex Cafe. Cool off in the splash pad. Lunch in a boardwalk cafe, photo op with Woody and Buzz.
Sunday afternoon...Stop at store for booze, snacks and sunscreen.
Check-in at the Caribbean Beach Resort, pick up Magic Bands and pirate swords and refillable resort mugs.
Themed-out waterfront Pirates of the Caribbean room - pirate ship beds, treasure chest dressers, gunpowder keg fridge, pirate flags and swag in every corner. Kids in heaven. Feels like coming home.
Drop bags, remove most of clothes, head to beach.
Sun. Sand. Water. Bliss.
Hours and hours of sandcastle construction. Mommy stretched out on lounge trailing feet in sand. Husband swinging in hammock beneath palms. Cold cocktails all around. Not a cloud in the sky. Heaven.
Sunday...much later...Wander up to Old Port Royale for dinner. Beautiful winding trail meandering along water's edge through lush grounds - drooping palms and leafy fronds, exotic plants and flowers everywhere, white sandy beaches stretching between low pastel buildings. Dinner picked up at the marketplace - usual burgers and fries in a sandpail for the kids - and eaten out on the patio next to the marina. Spot sea turtles and catfish swimming below. Linger until sunset. Wander across bridge to Caribbean Cay island playground. Back in room, pretend pirate play, everyone tucked into pirate ship beds in preparation for Magic Kingdom in the morning.
Monday...Up with the sun, walk up to Old Port Royale for breakfast - Mickey Mouse shaped waffles - before meeting the shuttle to Magic Kingdom. Children literally vibrating with excitement.
Magic day at Magic Kingdom. Start (fittingly) with Pirates of the Caribbean. Clever Mommy made most of mobile app and years of Disney experience to plan out Fast Passes, dining reservations, parade and show seating. Hit all the favourites from one end to the other - Pirates, Jungle Cruise and Aladdin's Magic Carpets in Adventureland; Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain and the Walt Disney World Railroad in Frontierland; the Haunted Mansion and Riverboat in Liberty Square; It's a Small World, Peter Pan's Flight, Under the Sea, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the Prince Charming Carrousel in Fantasyland, Dumbo the Flying Elephant and the Barnstormer in Storybook Circus; the Tomorrowland Speedway, the PeopleMover, Astro Orbiter and, of course, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin in Tomorrowland.
Lunch at the Tortuga Tavern and a pirate tutorial from Captain Jack Sparrow, Mickey-shaped ice cream from Storybook Treats, dinner at the Pinocchio Village Haus and a meet and greet with Woody and Jessie from Toy Story; the Dream Along With Mickey show on Main Street and a happy half-hour cooling off at the circus-themed Casey Jr. Splash and Soak Station; the Main Street Electrical Parade at sundown and the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular fireworks show over Cinderella's castle. That magical final hour of the night when the park clears out and we ride Buzz Lightyear and the PeopleMover over and over again, Tomorrowland lit up overhead and all around us like a futuristic technicolour dream. After 1am by the time the kids are tucked into their pirate ship beds.
Tuesday...Lazy morning in-suite - late sleep-in, lounging around playing new Disney Parks Edition of Uno (the first of many souvenir purchases with the "Grandma and Grandpa money" my parents send the kids to spend at Disney every year).
Meander up to Old Port Royale for breakfast on the boardwalk. Linger over coffee, basking in already-baking-hot sunshine. Snag a spot by the Spanish fortress between the shipwreck splash pad and the pool and spend a blissful half-day swimming, sliding and splashing away. So much fun.
Waterlogged, worn out and sunburnt, pick up picnic supplies at resort shop and head back to "our" beach. Picnic lunch under the palms.
Long afternoon playing on the beach - major sandcastle construction project. Not another soul in sight all afternoon - everyone's at the pools. Feels like our own private beach. Heaven.
Hours later - head up to room to get ready for dinner. Hang out in the air conditioning for a bit before trekking back up to Old Port Royale. Stake out seats right by the screen for the movie by the water and grab burgers and fries in sandpails for dinner from the restaurant and settle in with our food just as the sun starts to set over the water. 101 Dalmations - Disney classic. Fireworks over the water behind the big inflatable screen just as the movie ends and the credits start to roll. Disney magic. A night-time romp across the bridge to the Caribbean Cay island playground and a sleepy stroll back to our suite for bed.
Wednesday...Up and on the shuttle to the Magic Kingdom bright and early in the morning. Family photos in front of the castle with Mickey before sitting down for our breakfast reservation at The Crystal Palace (prime time slot for character breakfast with Tigger and Pooh - had to make reservation almost three months ago). Our favourite restaurant - light, bright, airy, all lush greenery hanging and floor-to-ceiling windows everywhere, delicious all-you-can-eat buffet. Annual tradition. Awesome window table overlooking a waterfall and tropical jungle paradise near the entrance to Adventureland. Stuffed ourselves well beyond capacity. Photo ops with Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyone, and Piglet - baby boy all wide-eyed and star-struck (meeting Disney characters is equivalent of celeb encounter for preschoolers). One of our favourite parts of the trip every year.
After breakfast, make way through Adventureland and Frontierland - perfectly timed Fast Passes for Jungle Cruise, Pirates and Splash Mountain put us on the boat ride across the river just in time to catch the Festival of Fantasy Parade from the top of the trails on Tom Sawyer Island - best view in the park. An hour adventuring on the island - shipwreck playground, abandoned mine, army fortress, underground hideaway and secret caves, window trails and rickety barrel bridges. Oodles of fun - right up until, with typical grace, Mommy trips and stubs by toe on slab of granite by boat dock. Broken.
Hobbled over to Fantasyland for late lunch at Gaston's Tavern and to rest rapidly swelling toe. Long afternoon in Fantasyland on all the favourites - Peter Pan, Pooh, Under the Sea - and brave the never-ending line to ride brand-new Seven Dwarfs Mine Trail for the first time. Kids attempt to remove Sword in the Stone from said stone. Sword stuck. Over to Tomorrowland to ride Speedway, PeopleMover, Astro Orbiter and Buzz Lightyear, then dinner on the patio at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe and create plan of attack for last night at Kingdom.
Hit all the favourites one last time: Buzz Lightyear (oldest child's pick), the Speedway (middle child's pick), Aladdin (youngest child's pick), Pirates (Mommy and Daddy's pick) and Peter Pan (everyone's pick). Watched Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes Nighttime Spectacular fireworks in front of Cinderella's castle and finished our night riding People Mover and Space Ranger Spin over and over. Gift shop run on the way out for souvenirs. After 1am again by the time we're back in our pirate suite.
Snag a set of lounges under the shade of the palms by the shipwreck splash pad and set up for the day. Hours of water fun - splash pad, slides, swimming and sunning. Staff-organized Disney-themed games with prizes on deck. So much fun.
Late lunch on the patio by the cabana bar. Cocktails for Mommy & Daddy.
Back to our beach. Enormous collection of sandpails and shovels after so many burger-in-a-bucket meals. Long, lovely afternoon in the sunshine building sandcastles, playing in the water and lazing in the lounges and hammocks. Whole beach to ourselves again all day. Make friends with the ducks and turtles. Quick dip in the small pool by our suite before heading back to Old Port Royale for dinner.
Marshmallow roast and campfire on the main beach at sunset. Bring dinner from the restaurant out onto the patio for movie by the water again - Finding Nemo. Youngest falls asleep after so much water and sun - manages to sleep right through movie and fireworks. Late night card games back at the room before bed.
Friday...Another morning waking up in heaven. Thirty degrees before breakfast and not a cloud in the sky. Slip easily into our daily resort routine: pirate play, walk up to Old Port Royale, breakfast on the boardwalk; a couple of hours at the splash pad, on the waterslides, in the pool. Lunch and cocktails by the cabana bar, playtime at Caribbean Cay; walk back to "our" private beach, lounging and swimming and playing in the sand all afternoon. Pre-dinner chill-out in-suite, walk back to Old Port Royale for marshmallow roast and campfire on the beach and sunset dinner by the water while watching tonight's movie - the newest Tinkerbell. Final fireworks show of the week, lingering walk back to our suite, let kids stay up extra-late enjoying our last night in our pirate room. Late night cocktails out on the balcony with husband, soaking up the heavy stillness of a hot Southern night. Perfect end to another perfect day.
Saturday...One last day in paradise.
One last morning playing pirates in our pirate ship suite.
One last breakfast on the boardwalk at Old Port Royale.
One last waterlogged morning of swimming and splashing and sliding at the pool.
One last jaunt across to the island playground and one last explore around Caribbean Cay.
One last late lunch by the water.
One last long blissful afternoon soaking up the sun and playing on the beach.
One last good-bye to our favourite place on earth before hopping in the car shortly before sunset to start the long journey home.
Very, very, very late Saturday...Oddly much less motivated on the drive home then the drive Disney-bound...stop at hotel for the night. No attempt to drive through this time.
Sunday...Early start. Long day of driving left but clear, skies this time - perfect driving weather. Sunny skies, good tunes, lots of snacks, happy kids. Awesome road trip.
Late Sunday...Home at last. Tired, happy family. Tucking kids into bed: "Mommy, I love Disney and I can't wait to go back but...I'm glad to be home. Home's my favourite." Bliss