It was kind of an odd feeling waking up yesterday and not knowing where we’d be staying that night. Our original lodging had fallen through – we were supposed to be staying at a Disney-area resort, who’d offered us lodging when I was working through the local Convention & Visitors Bureau. It was a rental condo with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, plus a water park on-site and the girls had been excited for weeks about it. Not having received final confirmation, I’d been trying to get a hold of my contact there with no success – then late on Monday night (the day before we left North Carolina for Florida), I finally received an email, but instead of confirmation – it as an, “I’m sorry but we can no longer host you”.
I was shocked and a bit panicked. I reached out to our Traveling Mom blogger network for advice and made sure that VisitOrlando knew what was going on as well. And between the amazing women of TMOM, the incredibly helpful CVB folks and the absolute generosity of the people at AllStar Vacation Homes, we found out in before we’d even left the ExtendedStay Deluxe where we’d spent Tuesday night after getting into Orlando quite late that we would be able to stay in a 5-bedroom vacation home near Disney and all of the main Orlando attractions.
Yes, I said FIVE-bedroom. More on that in a bit.
With no real plans for the day since we hadn’t known where we’d be staying, we checked out of our one-night hotel stop and headed over to Downtown Disney. I figured it would be a great introduction to the Disney experience for the girls and we could wander around with no real agenda – just explore. And we could do some souvenir-buying and get that over with so that we wouldn’t be begged to stop every time the girls see a souvenir store in the Disney parks, and wouldn’t have to carry bags of souvenirs around on the days we just want to enjoy the parks and have fun.
Turns out this was both a good idea, and a not-so-good idea. First, it rained on and off for most of the afternoon, so it definitely was helpful to be able to duck into shops or under awnings in Downtown Disney to avoid getting soaked. And given the fact that it took my 6-year-old about 40 minutes to get through the first portion of World of Disney that we entered because she was so amazed and intrigued by everything she saw – getting the souvenirs out of the way to begin with was definitely smart.
This store is HUGE and I don’t think we did make it through the whole thing. It’s also the home of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique so it was cool to watch the little princesses coming out of there all dressed up. I wish we could give Becca that experience, but she was so enthralled with the rest of the store I don’t think she even noticed it.
We don’t even have a Disney Store at our local mall at home anymore (it closed a year or so ago), so watching Becca’s face light up at everything in World of Disney was priceless. Abbi and Hannah were thrilled also, and we let the girls each pick out several items to commemorate their first Disney trip. Abbi picked out a Mickey ears necklace, a plaid hat, and a snow globe. Hannah fell in love with a pink sparkly hat (it’s totally her style, lol), plus a snow globe and Mickey ears earrings. Becca immediately grabbed a Minnie Mouse dress-up set and never let go of it the entire time we were in the store. She also got a t-shirt and Minnie ears hat.
Did you catch that Hannah got earrings? Our thing for the girls has been that they can get their ears pierced for their 10th birthdays, as a fun way to celebrate double-digits and by then they’re old enough to take care of them properly. Hannah’s been anxiously waiting for November to get hers done. Well, since we’re here and this is a really, really special occasion… Ron and I decided that we’d let her get her ears done early while we’re here as an early birthday present, and we let her pick out her first pair of earrings yesterday.
For lunch, we headed over to the Rainforest Café, where the girls were mesmerized by the tropical fish tanks and animatronics. Ron blanched at the cost (it is much more expensive than we really had planned on) but for a one-time fun dining experience with great food and even better ambiance… We splurged. We’re not planning on doing any character dining or other ‘big’ meals while we’re here, so this was something fun to do once and we really enjoyed it.
After lunch, the girls wanted to stop and play at the LEGO store for a while. And this is where the not-so-good portion of doing our souvenir shopping all at once occurred… Hannah handed me her bag to hold onto, but Abbi must have set hers down next to where she was playing. And it disappeared.
I think someone must have grabbed it by accident – just about everyone was carrying the same kind of Disney Parks bag, after all. Or maybe a kid picked it up and their parents didn’t notice right away… Ron thinks someone took it on purpose. Either way, Abbi’s earrings and snow globe were gone. Thankfully she was wearing the hat so she’s not totally without souvenirs. But it definitely put a downer on our first Disney day. We checked with every store and place we’d been and with Guest Relations, but nobody had turned it in. We’ll keep checking back to see if it gets turned in later – I think it may take a while before someone realizes it’s not their bag. It does have a card on it with Abbi’s name on it from a game she played in the Team Mickey store, so we can identify the bag if it gets turned in.
We left downtown Disney around 4pm to head over and check into our vacation home rental. And I’ll talk about this incredible house in a post of it’s own – it really needs some spotlighting. I am now more than sold on vacation home rentals as the way to go on a trip like this – there are so many conveniences we never considered, like the private pool, not having to keep the kids extra quiet to not disturb other hotel guests, a full kitchen to eat and cook in to keep food costs down, and a chance to really, truly relax while on vacation in a way that we never would be able to come close to at a hotel.
Don’t get me wrong – hotels are great, especially if you’re in and out all the time and aren’t going to be spending as much time there. But on this trip, we wanted to build in lots of ‘down’ time since Ron’s been working 12+ hour days for weeks and we didn’t want to burn the girls out by trying to fill our days too full. This option is exactly what we would have wanted if we’d known it was available. Now we do.
Today is our first ‘down’ day at Ron’s request – the girls have been in the pool since about 30 seconds after they woke up and Ron’s out there with them. I think I’m headed that way right now too, so I’ll post later about our day and this house. And tomorrow… Disney’s Animal Kingdom!