My husband and I love to document life moments through photography. Some of the best memories we love to look back at are our personal family vacations. If you haven’t gone to The Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida yet, here’s a glimpse of our summer vacation story. Hopefully it will give you some tips about travelling there if you plan to do so in the near future. Or perhaps it can shed some light on how it feels to travel with kids from ages 2.5 years to 11 years old.
So, being a business owner of a portrait studio, managing and operating inside the mall with the mandatory 70 hrs/week mall hours, and booked out months in advance for weekend wedding work, it just made sense to do a last minute family vacation during the week. It was now or next year since the kids would start school in a few weeks. We were going to driving, so this was our plan: We would leave Charlotte, North Carolina during the night and arrive in Orlando, Florida in the morning ( a total of 8 hours – not bad right, when you’re a passenger ) – just in time for the amusement park to open! Call us cray cray – but that’s how our vacation started! It was actually a great idea since the kids were sound asleep (and we only made 1 stop to refuel) plus night owl traffic was a breeze, until we hit Orlando! We arrived near Magic Kingdom around 8 am to hit the morning and amusement park traffic. We stopped by a rest area just a few miles away the exit. Everyone freshened up while my husband, Thay (pronounced like “tie”) tried to catch up on some sleep. Thay is an awesome long distant driver so of course he drove all the way which allowed me to catch up on some sleep and do my makeup in the car. Makeup was not as perfect as I would like, but, I had to look decent for Mickey Mouse! My bags were still noticeable since the rest in the car was not as satisfying as the comfort of your own bed. But then, we do what we do to make things happen for these 3 darling monkeys of ours!
We thought we were arriving to the park pretty early at 9 am but boy were we wrong! The parking lot was already packed and we had a hike from where we parked to the entrance of the gates. Admission was a bit pricey but, hey – this is the land where dreams come true! Adults were $105 and kids from 3 - 9 years were $99. My little one got in for free since he was under 3. The box office agents were very pleasant and helpful – we were handed our admission cards where we wrote our names on the back in permanent marker. The cards were scanned each time we entered a ride or attraction. This was something new from our last visit 5 years ago. (we got wrist bands last time) I also saw kids scanning their watches instead of using the cards.
Once we passed the bags checkpoint and screening booth, we entered the waiting area for the Ferry Boat. Seeing the Magic Kingdom from afar was such an exciting feeling. My son, who is 2.5 years, just recently got introduced to “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” on the Disney Channel. He also likes so many other Disney movies and shows such as CARS, Frozen, Doc McStuffin, Sophia the First, but his favorite is doing the hot dog dance from the “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” episodes. So, he knew we were going to see “the castle” and it was pretty fun seeing the excitement in his little eyes. The girls visited the park years ago when Penelli was 4 and Kashia was 2. They can remember a few things but now that they are older, I know they would have more vivid memories of this family trip.
The Ferry Boat ride was smooth and we can hear all the exited chatter all around the upper and lower deck of the boat. There were people that came from all over and throughout the day, I heard so many foreign languages. Which made me realize – do people really travel across the world to this park while we can just make a straight overnight drive and visit the park over and over? It was just a moment to remind me of how privileged we are to live in this nation!
So, as any typical Mom would do, I made everyone use the restrooms before the start of our all day walk. The restrooms seemed a bit outdated but they were still very well kept and clean. We also had to rent a double seated stroller (one seat was for my ginormous camera bag!) which was about $30 for all day rental. There was a Mary Poppins dance performance right beside the restroom area so it kept the kids entertained while they waited for everyone to finish using the facilities. The sun was definitely not fun waiting in though. It was probably 95 degrees and the air was super sticky. Add that with breathing bodies within a few feet proximity around you. Yes, I was glad I wore my tank top underneath by button up shirt, and luckily my daughter’s bag had an extra hair elastic tie so I could pull up my hair from the sweat. The heat was getting more bothersome and we had to make our first stop at the ice cream shop. So, root beer floats and ice cones helped relieved the grumpy campers for a bit.
I’m the type of Mom that likes to stop and smell the flowers, so yes, of course I’m going to be taking pictures everywhere. This was probably the most annoying part of the trip for my grown girls. The camera has been in front of them all their lives so, yes, Mom can over do it sometimes! And the anticipation to get on the rides was the only thing on their mind. It was a waste of time to pose and fake smile – so you can visibly see my 9 year old, Kashia, was pretty expressive about how she felt about Mama being a paparazzi.
We finally lined up for our first ride, which was the Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups. I remember this ride from our first visit. It was probably one of my favorite group rides. Penelli, Kashia and I lined up while Daddy kept Nano company. He would rather sit on the stroller all day than get on these big kid rides.
We did finally go to a family ride, which was the Jungle Cruise. That was probably my favorite “family” ride next to the “It’s A Small World.” Both of those rides were pretty laid back as you sit on the boat and it glides through a little tour of moving figurines. Nano enjoyed the colorful dolls from “It’s A Small World” most since they were cute and the music was fun. He also enjoyed being the driver in the car of the Tomorrowland Speedway with his daddy.
The girls wanted to ride everything, but the lines were so long. We finally decided to sign up for the Fast Pass (which we thought was a charge to upgrade, but it was free with limited options). So how it works is you locate a Fast Pass kiosk to register your first 3 rides (using your admission card) – each ride or attraction indicated a time frame of which you would be able to get into the ride without waiting at the end of the long lines. Once the first 3 rides were completed, you would have to return back to the kiosks and register one ride at a time for the immediate access. Of course the one the girls wanted to ride the most was one of the popular ones and the wait time was 60 minutes – Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain. These rides did not have a Fast Pass option so we had to wait in line, or at least Thay and the girls waited in line. I just knew Nano wouldn’t have the patience plus some rides were not for toddlers. So, to kill time and keep him entertained, we walked the entire park, probably twice. I knew all the shortcuts by the end of the day! We also stopped at a few gift shops and that really kept him happy! Of course, we had to get some souvenirs so Nano was a happy camper as he got his favorite toys. One purchase that was well worth the $20 was a bubble-blowing gun that lit up as it creates bubbles. That thing totally shifted his attitude and made him a happier guy who now all of a sudden wanted to walk around instead of being strolled around. So, yes – if you have grumpy two-year-old with you, this toy will solve the problem quite nicely.
Once we started getting on rides, the girls didn’t want to stop. I was pretty amazed by how patient they were waiting in the long lines with the thick summer heat. They said they weren’t even hungry! But for Nano and Mommy, food was our main event so we had to get our share of chicken tenders and fries. The food court was jam pack but to my surprise the lines were pretty fast! In the Tomorrowland area (and only that section) they also have some delicious turkey legs that we tore up in minutes. Those drum sticks were worth the $10 and 20 minute wait – a must try! One attraction that caught us by surprise was the Ana and Elsa meet and greet. We stood in line for almost 2 hours just for a 5 minute visit. After that, meeting and greeting any other Disney characters was not on our agenda! We were hoping to see Mickey Mouse walking around but we never saw him.
The day was wrapping up so fast. Although we were at the park for over 12 hours, it just seemed like we just got there. We knew when it was 10:30 pm when everyone started camping around the front of the castle. Announcements were made that the firework show was going to start. I remember from our last visit how magnificent the show was! This was probably one of the things I was looking forward to the most, plus I knew Nano would totally enjoy it since his eyes glitter up whenever there are gleams of light.
The day ended with some more last minute rides before the close of the amusement park at 12 am (since the wait time got shorter after the firework show), a last visit to the gift store for t-shirts, collectable pins and more toys, and a venti peach tea lemonade for me and a venti pike place for Daddy (who was going to drive an hour straight to Tampa for our next excursion – white sand beaches.) That Starbucks cup sure made him a happy guy! Overall, it was another amazing family trip with lots of great magical memories that we enjoyed capturing as much as soaking up the fleeting moments. I hope you found some helpful tips to prepare for your trip to the Magic Kingdom or if you've been there already, perhaps these images will refresh your memories of your last visit there.
Photographs taken with iPhone 6 and Canon 6D