Problem #1: Any money saved on the hotel would quickly be eaten up with money spent on meals in the park. Normally, we don't buy any food in the parks. We usually stay at our favorite non-Disney resort that comes equipped with a full kitchen, so we pack lunches and snacks and save a bundle.
Problem #2: Although the middle of January lends itself to thinned out crowds, taking the kids out of school would have been a problem. Had we children who dedicated themselves to their academics and could afford to miss a few days with the promise of eagerly catching up the next week, we probably would have done it. Sadly, we have no such children.
Problem #3: Kyle needed to actually GO to the conference rather than play with us all day, and family memories aren't nearly as memorable when the whole family isn't there. So, the family vacation was a no-go.
Until.....we found out Joe was also attending a conference in Orlando that same week, and Julynn was planning to bring Ky down and take him to Legoland. So, with some "slight" nudging from Julynn, we booked some last-minute tickets for just Davis and I to meet up with them (and Kyle, of course). The only tricky bit was telling the girls that Davis was going to Disney World. On a plane. With just mom. And meeting up with a cousin. I was preparing for Meltdown 2012 but they didn't even bat an eye at being left out of Disney World, they were most upset about not getting to see a cousin. However, they were pleased as punch to hear that they each got to spend a few nights at a friend's house. Since we don't ever let them sleep over at friend's houses, they thought they'd won the Lottery - actually the bonus Lottery since two of the three nights were school nights.
The trip was a blast. Davis drank in every bit of it. As soon as we got to the airport, Davis started in with his verbal processing. He held up the line at the security checkpoint by giving the ticket checker a detailed itinerary of our trip, he entertained our fellow monorail riders (the tram that goes between terminals) with his very loud description of how a monorail works (magnets) interrupted only by his announcement of which terminal we were approaching.
He also insisted on pulling our suitcase (such a gentleman) while repeating loudly, "I got it" all the way to the plane. Once on the plane, he said hello to every seated passenger we passed on our way to our seats, and again held up the line by chatting with a lady he saw playing Angry Birds on her iPad. He wanted to know what level she was on and which Angry Bird was her favorite.
We were almost to our seats when an older male flight attendant said to Davis, "Hey little guy, is your big sister taking you to Orlando." To which Davis loudly replied, "Oh, she's not my sister, she's my mom." The flight attendant just smiled. Once seated, Davis immediately grabbed the information pamphlet out of the seat back pocket, pointed to all the different plane types and asked which one we were on. I had no idea. I told him to ask the next flight attendant who walked by. Which, of course, he did. And, of course, it was the same one he'd already talked to. After he told him which plane we were on, he said, "Is your big sister going to take you to Walt Disney World while you're in Orlando?" Davis replied (full voice), "This is not my sister, look at her, look at me, she's my MOM."
With his nose back in the pamphlet, Davis came upon the page about safety procedures. At the bottom of the page, there was a picture of a lady in water holding her seat cushion in front of her. Davis gave me a quizzical look and said, "Um, why is that lady in water?" To which I said, "Well, sometimes planes don't work the way they are supposed to and she's just showing us what to do if they don't." His reply, "Well, how's she going to get to her destination?" Good question.
The drink cart was next and once again, it was "big sister" guy. "Hey there, what do you think your big sister is going to want to drink?" "Look, this is not my SISTER! She is my MOM! I already have 3 sisters, Eden, Abby, and Katie (exaggerated counting on fingers)! I am her SON!" Flight attendant's reply, "Well, if you call her your big sister she might give you a Play Station." Quizzical look from Davis, then, "She doesn't even HAVE one of those!" Poor kid.
Once in Orlando, we made it to the amazing Yacht Club Beach Resort. It was beautiful.
Kyle was still at the conference, so Davis and I grabbed some lunch/dinner (it was 3:30). It's weird traveling with only one kid. I seem to be much more permissive. Hypothetical scenario: There's a candy store in the airport that sells candy in bins for somewhere around $15 a pound. I'm walking with all four kids, they see the store and "Mom, can we PLEEEESE get some for the plane?" To which I sweetly respond, "What?! Are you out of your friggin' minds?! Do you see how expensive that stuff is?!" I'm walking with one kid. My response to the same question, "Sure honey, get whatever you want." I now see how only children are so easily spoiled and hope beyond hope that mine will grow up with a well-oiled healthy response to disappointment. I'm banking on them being better people because of it. Right?
Please tell me I'm right.
Next was a quick evening trip to the Magic Kingdom. Unfortunately, we didn't get there until about 5:00 and it closed at 8:00, plus it was raining. We were able to meet up with our friend Emily, who we knew in New Jersey. She works at Disney now, so she was able to get us in for free. So nice of her. She brought her adorable son Logan and her new baby girl Addison. Davis loved rubbing Addison's head and running around with Logan in an almost empty Magic Kingdom.
That night, Joe, Julynn, and Ky met us at our hotel and walked around a bit. My ankle was done for the day, so I stayed behind in the room, but apparently there was an incident with Kyle, Davis, and an unbalanced hammock. I wasn't there, so I can't speak to it, but by all accounts it would have won the $100,000 prize on AFV.
The next morning, Julynn and Ky came and got us and we were off to Legoland. Well, on AND off to Legoland. Little known fact about me: I can't read maps. I mean, I can READ them, I just can't translate what's written on the map to which direction the car should be going. Wait, that's map reading isn't it? Anyway, I didn't get us too far off course and we got there eventually. Ky and Davis had a moment of silence at the entrance. They wouldn't even look at the camera. (Ky is in the red shirt and Davis is . . . passed out somewhere behind the sign.)
In mine and Julynn's truly unprofessional opinions, Legoland wasn't the greatest. The rides were kind of cheesy and carnivally (spell check is telling me that's not a word - I think it should be) and the employees were clueless. My favorite example was the lady manning the game-playing booth. Lego has a few board games on the market and there was a booth were you could pick one of the games and play it with an employee. Davis was all over that, but when he picked his game, the lady started leafing through her pile of instruction booklets because she had no clue how to play it. Davis, being 7, had no patience for that, so he just started making up the rules as he went. The lady just went with it and kept saying, "yeah, that sounds right." Seriously.
Of course, the boys had to run into any store they saw with the hopes mom would give in. Ky, had his own money (good little boy) and Davis just prayed I'd cave. His prayers were answered. I'm a sucker. At the first check-out counter, Davis said to the lady, "You're probably wondering why you've never seen me before, but that's because this is my first time at Legoland Florida. I got here by American Airlines. A A dot com." I'm sure that's just what the lady was wondering.
Despite the less than thrilling thrills, the Lego sculptures were truly amazing. I can't even imagine the thought and time that must have gone it to making some of these.
FUN CAPTION CONTEST!
"Boys are just curious by nature."
"Is he Luke's REAL father?"
"How much was burned off in the lava?"
"Is it just his arm that's robotic?"
Anyhoo, in the middle of Legoland, there's a miniature world of Lego cities. They are built to scale replicas of actually cities. They were amazing!
|The NYC set-up was huge, this was just the Times Square portion of it.|
Like I said, the details were incredible, and if you looked really close, you could find some hilarious scenes within scenes I'm sure the builders had fun coming up with.
|Lego street gang - chains and all.|
|Here come two afro-clad lego people.|
|Workers having lunch.|
One of the highlights of the day was the Lego driving school. Davis and Ky got to drive little Lego cars all over a little road course. No track attached to the cars, just free to drive. Of course, there were stop signs, stop lights, no passing zones, and strict rules about bumping into each other. Davis said he only hit one car. "But it was an accident!" "And I said I was sorry!" "And no one got hurt!" So, can I still get my license?" Lego driver's license, $30.00. Davis asking the lady at the license counter if all the kids in the license display photos ALSO said they were sorry. Priceless.
|These bricks come apart - cool, huh? He also got a laminated one to carry around.|
That evening, we met up with the dads and went to dinner at Chevy's. It's one of our favorite restaurants, but we can't ever find one, so we got lucky. For some reason, whenever we are at a table eating, Davis is compelled to find a lap rather than sit in his own seat. That lap is usually mine, but he chose a different one that night.
Apparently the boys hadn't had enough Legos for the day, because after dinner, we headed to the Lego store in Downtown Disney. They were mesmerized by the wall of Legos and, again, the amazing sculptures.
|Hallelujah for somewhere to sit.|
The next morning at Universal Studios was spent going through Super Hero world. Julynn and I got separated from the group and got lost in Dr. Suess land. I told her I was going to buy Joe one of those huge Cat in the Hat striped hats so we wouldn't lose him again. But, get this, they had been out of them for two weeks. How do you have a hat store in Dr. Suess land and no Dr. Suess hats? Crazy. We decided to just hang on Joe's leg - kid style (you know when they sit on your foot) instead. That worked fine.
Next up was Harry Potter World. This place was seriously impressive. I thought Disney was the only massive conglomerate that could pull off a great theme park - turns out I was wrong. Harry Potter world was amazing. It was small, but perfected down to every small detail. Moaning Myrtle greeted you in the bathrooms, mandrakes screamed in the window of the florist, and Honeydukes sold all the treats described in the books. Incidentally, when Davis heard the mandrakes screaming, he froze and said, "why am I not petrified?" Kyle told him it was because they were still too small to have the full effect.
|Looking down the street|
|One of the mandrakes in the window (creepy, right?)|
Davis couldn't wait to get into Olivander's wand shop and buy Harry's wand. It became the first order of business, in fact, because he said he needed to whip up a spell to stop his feet from hurting. Of course, he announced this in full voice, in a tiny shop. Several people asked him if he could put his spell on their feet, too.
|The Wand Shop|
We left Olivander's with Harry Potter's wand and a stuffed Hedwig puppet. Instead of moving it's mouth, though, there is a wooden dowel inside so you can turn her head and she makes chirping sounds. Davis loves that thing.
Hogwarts Castle was brilliant. Touring the castle is actually the line for the main ride. It starts in the garden and then winds its way through the castle itself. Once inside, you walk through the dining hall, Dumbledore's office, the dungeons, a few classrooms. The pictures on the wall were amazing. I knew they would move somehow, but I thought they'd look more like TV screens inside frames. They didn't at all. They really looked like oil paintings talking and moving. The ride was incredible, but sadly, Davis wasn't tall enough to ride it. Maybe next time.
We had one last day in Universal Studios so we went to the movie area. Rather than a lot of rides, this area had more "experiences." Joe got to "experience" one of the experiences up close when he was chosen to be an evil scientist in a special effects demonstration.
|Joe is the one in the middle|
We found this cool little alley/walkway and let the boys pretend they were having a rumble.
Kyle is working on plans to build this set in our backyard for future photo shoots.
We all got a kick out of this gadget:
|You put quarters in and the machine "mists" you|
The last stop of the day was to a fun playground area where the parents could sit and the boys could run. Joe talked us all into going on the tree house water slide that isn't supposed to get you "that wet." He was right until you get the last foot of the ride and the motion of your raft stopping causes a huge splash of water to drench the seat of your pants. So fun.
|In the tree waiting for the "I promise you won't get wet" water slide. Suckers.|
On the way out of the park, we passed a Shrek and Donkey take-your-picture-with-a-character set up. It was actually kind of funny because all you see of Donkey is his head sticking out of a barn door. He's talking and making snarky remarks about the people coming up to get their picture taken. Little known fact about Davis, he is terrified of dressed up characters. We had no idea until this moment:
|I'm standing in the photo line taking the picture|
|Up close. He's hard to read, isn't he?|
|Kyle (sans Davis) with Shrek|
There were some awesome memories made. The girls loved their souvenirs. We brought Eden a bauble ring, Abby a make a wish necklace and Katie some sparkly earrings. They were excited for the gifts, but can't wait for their very own vacation with mom and dad and hoping with everything in them, it'll also include a cousin.