Travel dates: May 2-5, 2012
Travel method: Personal vehicle
Resort: Port Orleans French Quarter
Accommodations: King bed with Pack ‘n Play
Ages represented in group: Early 30s, 18 months
Disney Resort experience represented in group: Frequent
Cast of characters: Tiffany, 32 (I turned 32 the last day of our trip); Nick, 34 (DH); Andrew, 18 months (DS). I have a confession to make: For the longest time, I thought DH stood for “Disney husband,” DS for “Disney son,” etc. I know better now, but I still prefer to think of my boys as my “Disney husband” and “Disney son.” We live about two hours from the World but don't get there nearly as often as I'd like. Hopefully that will change in the future.
This trip has been in the making since Nick and I took our last trip in April 2010 (two years between trips … yikes!). I was about halfway through my pregnancy and already dreaming of bringing our firstborn to the World.
The plan was to go for Andrew’s first birthday and Food & Wine in October 2011, but we had some unexpected expenses come up and made the decision to postpone our trip until the spring. It wasn’t easy for me to cancel the October trip – we had a resort reservation, ADRs and an appointment for Andrew’s first haircut at Harmony Barber Shop – but we already have a lot going on in the fall, what with the baby’s birthday, holidays and college football (geaux Tigers!), so we thought a spring trip would provide a nice break. Plus, it was our first true family vacation. We fly to New Orleans and Nashville to visit our families often, but this trip was just the three of us. We celebrated Andrew’s first visit and my 32nd birthday, as well as the amazing father and husband that is Nick.
Our Travel Dates:
We chose early May for a few reasons:
1. Moderate crowds, according to TouringPlans.com’s crowd calendar. I thought the crowds were pretty big, actually (will we *ever* see truly moderate crowds again?), but Nick told me afterward that he thought they weren’t that bad.
2. Warm, but not HOT weather. We were hopeful for “warm” weather, but it ended up being *hot*.
3. Cinco de Tee-oh! My birthday is on May 5, which was awesome in my college and pre-baby years, but now it isn’t quite as fun ... until we throw Disney into the mix.
I'm all about spending long weekends at Disney World, but for this – our first "real" family vacation – I wanted it to feel like a vacation. Our plan was to arrive on property midday Wednesday, spend two-and-a-half days in the parks and drive home midday Saturday, giving us time to relax, do laundry, etc. before going back to work and daycare on Monday.
Our Resort Choice:
We tend to stick with moderate resorts for our visits. As much as we would love to stay in a deluxe, it just isn’t in our budget right now; even with discounts there’s a substantial difference between the moderates and deluxes, and I can’t help but think about what else that money could be going toward (tickets, meals, souvenirs…).
We've stayed at Port Orleans French Quarter, Port Orleans Riverside and Caribbean Beach before, but we're always up for trying something new, so initially we chose Coronado Springs for this trip. We liked the look of CSR and the fact that it's the most "deluxe" of the mods.
As soon as the spring room-only discounts were released late last year, I booked a king-bed room at CSR. I think our savings was 25 percent … not too shabby. Then, a couple of months before our trip, I was playing on the Disney site and noticed the Florida resident spring room-only discount was more substantial, so I changed our reservation and saved us an additional $37. When we were about five weeks out, I rethought our resort choice. Yes, it’s fun to stay in “new” places and the theming of CSR is right up our alley, but I absolutely LOVE Port Orleans French Quarter. Its smaller size, the boat to Downtown Disney, the fact that it reminds me of home… I called CRO to check availability and was pleasantly surprised to get a room with a king at POFQ. Score! We kept our Florida resident discount but paid a bit more than we would have at CSR.
Nick and I can sleep in a queen bed if we absolutely have to, but we sleep much better when we have a king to crash in. We had a Pack ‘n Play in the room and brought our PnP mattress from home (the “mattress” that comes with the PnP doesn’t cut it).
Our Dining and Portrait Reservations:
I made, canceled and remade several ADRs while planning, and we ended up with only one: Via Napoli on our Epcot day. I don’t like the idea of being tied to a schedule, Nick and I aren’t foodies, and – at this point – Andrew is afraid of characters.
For my birthday gift, I decided I wanted professional pictures of us as a family. We have 6-month and 12-month portraits of Andrew, but none of the three of us. So I reserved a 20-minute session through Disney Event Photography. It was for the evening of our arrival day at the Poly.
With all of that behind us … as Peter Pan says, here we go!
Wednesday, May 2, 2012:
Leave home after lunch and make the two-hour drive to WDW. Check into POFQ, unpack and rest or explore a bit, then get ready for our portrait session and head over to the Poly. After our session, have dinner before returning to POFQ to explore and maybe swim. Go to bed at our usual bedtime (especially Andrew).
I woke up at my usual time and went for a run. When I got home, Nick and Andrew were up, so Nick went to the gym while I made breakfast for Andrew. When Nick got back from working out, I took a shower, and Andrew and I went to Walmart for a few things while Nick ran a few errands of his own. He took a shower when he got home while I did my makeup.
By then it was time for lunch. I made us sandwiches and set Andrew up in his high chair while Nick loaded the car. After he and I ate, it was time to hit the road. We left a little after noon, and Andrew was asleep before we hit the interstate. He slept most of the way there, waking up once but falling back asleep. He woke up for good as we drove onto property, so we pointed out the characters on the welcome sign and all of the sights.
The drive takes us almost exactly two hours door to door, and we were checking in at Port Orleans French Quarter at 2 p.m. I had done online check-in 10 days prior, so I picked up our packet, which included a birthday button for me, and asked for a First Visit button for Andrew. While I was checking in, Nick and Andrew were playing near the fountain in the lobby (the kid *loves* water), then wandered into the gift shop, which is where I found them. We drove over to Building 4 and lugged our stuff to our room, 4126. Wow, what a great location!
We had a corner room right next to the food court, which was super convenient. Even though we didn't eat there (well, we got dessert once), we went there to fill our Camelbak bottles with ice and water every morning. It was a much shorter walk than the walk to the ice machine, which I think was in Building 7. The only time our room location sucked was around 3 a.m. every night. A CM area was catty-corner to our room, and every night I heard CMs talking -- scratch that, *yelling* -- outside. It sounded like they were standing on our doorstep. It got so bad the second night that I was about to call the front desk when they finally shut up. Luckily they never woke up Nick or Andrew (I'm the light sleeper of the group).
We last stayed at POFQ in April 2010, pre-renovation. The changes aren't dramatic, but I like what I saw. I love purple, gold and green together, and I really like the tile in the bathroom, too (I am not, however, a fan of the dark green wainscoting). Even Nick noticed the changes, which pleasantly surprised me.
I called the front desk for a Pack 'n Play since there wasn't one in our room. We also noticed that the fridge wasn't on, but later we saw that it wasn't plugged in. I'm glad we didn't call about that! That would've been embarrassing.
We unpacked a bit and set off to explore. Our first stop? Mardi Grogs! Nick got a Michelob Ultra, I got a Pina Colava (pina colada, Bacardi Razz and raspberry puree ... holy YUM!) and we got a water for Andrew. Our total was $17.71, including tip.
We walked over to the pool, where the afternoon dance party was starting. The CMs were dancing with kids to "Pumpin' Up the Party," parents were snapping pictures, and even more kids, parents, grandparents, you name it were playing in the pool or sitting in lounge chairs, just enjoying being there.
I'm ashamed to admit that I got teary-eyed at that point. I'd been looking forward to this trip for so long -- planning and adjusting plans and longing for our first real family vacation -- and now it was HERE. I feel so blessed to have been able to take a fun, relaxing vacation with my little family. Nick and I work so hard, both at our jobs and as parents (and I know you all do, too), and I felt such a release to finally BE at Walt Disney World -- my Happiest Place on Earth -- with my two favorite people, and to have three fun-filled days ahead of us. OK, enough sappy stuff.
We took our drinks over to the little playground, where there were a couple of little girls playing. This was the first of many, many stops to let Andrew enjoy some "free play." He and Nick, my kid at heart, joined the little girls on the playground while I sipped my drink and Instagrammed a few pictures.
After an hour or so of roaming the grounds, we headed back to our room to get ready for our portrait session. I changed Andrew, Nick took a quick shower, and I freshened up my makeup and ran the straightener through my hair before changing my outfit. We had our own impromptu photo shoot before heading to the Poly at 4:30 p.m.
It was the first time visiting the Poly for all of us and at first I was underwhelmed, but I really grew to love it. I guess I was expecting it to be massive, with lush greenery and flowing water everywhere, but the Great Ceremonial House -- or at least what we saw of it -- was pretty dark and compact. I guess that's to be expected of a structure from the early '70s, but it wasn't love at first sight. Once we explored the grounds a bit, though, and visited again later in our trip, both Nick and I got the bug and started talking about staying there on a future visit. There's something about the smell, too -- I don't know if it's all of the water features or the flora and fauna, but it smells so fresh and tropical. Or is that just me?
Anyway, we went up to the PhotoPass desk on the second floor and met our photographer, CM Jake. Poor Jake was wearing a long-sleeve dark shirt and black pants, and it was pretty darn hot and humid, even at 5 p.m. He said he and the other photographers are trying to convince their bosses to let them wear shorts in the summer, but no dice so far.
I had a couple of shots/spots in mind (on the beach with the castle in the background, and in a hammock), so we made our way down to the beach, stopping near some pretty foliage to get a couple of shots. Once we got to the beach, Andrew spotted a mother duck with her ducklings and took off after them. He was thisclose to jumping into the water before Nick reached him. Whew! After that pretty much all he wanted to do was run around, but we were able to get a few shots -- on the beach, at the top of the hill (I think maybe it's where wedding ceremonies are held?), lying in a hammock and on a rope bridge.
Jake was great. He was willing to spend more time with us even though we'd "only" purchased the 20-minute session (I say "only" because it was $150), but Andrew was pretty antsy so we didn't take up too much more of his time. Maybe 30 minutes altogether, and in that time we got 65 shots. For the 20-minute session, I'd say the value was there (I don't know that I would say the same about the hourlong session for $350); I just wish Andrew had been a bit more cooperative. Looking at the pictures, I also wish we'd gotten his hair cut beforehand. It's out of control!
Our CD wouldn't be ready for an hour and a half and Jake said we could pick it up another time, so we left the Poly and headed to Buffalo Wild Wings at the Crossroads for dinner. Nick and I got a couple of Blue Moons, and we got some water for Andrew. For dinner we ordered him the kids' chicken finger meal. I got the wrap with grilled chicken and medium sauce, and Nick got 12 hot wings with a side of Wild sauce.
Andrew, who hadn't eaten much that day, cleaned his plate. Seriously, I've never seen the kid eat so much! He ate all three chicken fingers (big ones, too) and most of his fries (Nick and I had a couple each). After getting something into his belly, he was his usual happy self (he was a bit grumpy while we were at the Poly). Our total with tip was $43.61.
Back at POFQ, we changed into our swimsuits and went out to the pool. It was pretty chilly by that time, so we tried the kiddie pool. It was warmer (Nick says because of all the kids peeing in it all day long), but the problem was the outside air was so cool.
Andrew's teeth were chattering, but he didn't want to get out. Being the horrible parents we are, we made him leave the pool area and went to the food court for a chocolate chip cookie and Mickey head-shaped Rice Krispies treat ($6.59). On the way out, we saw a bunny that Andrew became enamored with. We watched him for a while and took a few pictures, then Andrew waved "bye" and we were on our way.
Nick gave Andrew a bath when we got back to our room, then I read a few books to him (we brought some favorites from home) and put him in the Pack 'n Play next to the bed. He went down with no problem, and Nick and I played on our iPad and iPhones for a while (with the lights off) before calling it a night. It was pretty early -- maybe 9:30 -- when the two of us went to sleep.