We just got back from our first true family vacation. It was blissful in many ways, as it was our first trip to a specific destination aside from a few weekend getaways. We drove from North Carolina to Orlando, approximately an 8 hour ride for us. We went to Magic Kingdom, Legoland in Winter Haven (45 min from Orlando), and then on the way home we stopped on Amelia Island/Fernandino Beach for 2 nights to soak up some sand. Literally. Sand everywhere!
First off – we did not stay on Disney property. We are people on a budget over here, and a hotel room with 2 young kids sounds horrendous. Lights out at 8pm everyone! Yes, there are suites, but at a cost higher than we are willing to pay. We found an incredible 3 bedroom condo in Davenport on VRBO.com for $88/night plus cleaning fee/taxes. They actually have their own website too. I highly recommend it. It was an easy 15-20 minute traffic free drive to Magic Kingdom. We did Magic Kingdom 2 different days – Thursday and Saturday the first week in May. Thursday we were able to park very close and walk to the monorail location (we arrived around 8:15am, the park opened at 9am). It stopped at two Disney resorts on the way to the park, and would have been a quick ride except the monorail in front of us had technical problems so we got stuck on it for an extra 15 minutes. Saturday it was much busier and we had to take the tram from the parking lot to the monorail location(actually we took the ferry instead of the monorail this time, because we figured it would be a lot more crowded on the monorail with the resort pickups) to the entrance of Magic Kingdom. It was about a 10 minute ride, if that.
The condo was gorgeous and had nicer amenities and decor than most hotels. It’s in the Bahama Bay Resort, which is a Wyndham resort. There was a neighborhood pool in the courtyard behind our condo. There was a playground in a grassy area at the other side of the condo. It was a 2 minute walk to the clubhouse pool and splash pad (which was fantastic). A 3 minute drive (or 10 minute walk) to the on site restaurant, pool and beach area (Tiki thatch huts for shade, lounge chairs with cushions, white sand, poolside drinks – it bordered Lake Davenport, which has alligators, so no swimming, it was fenced off). There was a pier for fishing and a walking/jogging trail that circled the complex. We will absolutely stay here again. My son loved the star wars themed bedroom!
I looked into the dining reservations at Disney, but there wasn’t a ton available because I was booking a few weeks before our trip…and $30/person for breakfast with the characters just didn’t seem to be worth it. Seriously, my kids were not going to care. My daughter loves her some Minnie & Mickey, but we had a FastPass to see Mickey and we were going to see Minnie as well. Which we did, she loved them, and we saved a boatload of money eating cereal at the condo vs cereal at a buffet (which my son would have picked. He loves cereal).
As a result of our budget/lack of planning choices, we packed a small cooler with turkey sandwiches/fruit/raw veggies/snacks/water and took it with us to Magic Kingdom and Legoland all 3 days. I had a small backpack I used as well for additional snacks (you can never have too many!) We did buy ice cream in the park as an afternoon pick me up. Gotta get the Mickey Ice Cream Sandwich!!
A friend told me about the Disney App and Fastpasses, and it was fantastic to be able to use the app to check lines and see what we scheduled for our day. We didn’t make it past 3pm either day at Magic Kingdom, both kids were dragging (one was asleep) and my 5 year old was ready to chill out and hit the pool at the condo.
We also did meal prep for those 3 nights so we wouldn’t have to eat out. For budgeting and also health reasons, but also the fact that eating out with 2 tired kids isn’t that relaxing for us. There were a few charcoal grills in the complex, so we made turkey burgers one night paired with a simple cucumber/tomato/goat cheese salad I had made at home before we left.
Another night we did tacos – ground turkey meat with homemade taco seasoning I brought along, with a bag of shredded cheddar, lettuce wraps and tomato. I forgot the salsa. Whoops. All I had to do was brown the meat for that meal so not too much prep.
The last dinner I sauteed some chicken sausage with squash and cauliflower rice. I was getting tired of cooking dinner on vacation at this point, but fortunately this was the last meal I had to cook and it was pretty easy.
We went to Legoland on Friday in between the Magic Kingdom days and it was perfectly planned, if I do say so myself. Legoland was line-free and not crowded at all. The rides were slow, but that’s how my kids like them. The Knight’s Joust was my 5 year old’s favorite. The weather was cooler and felt wonderful. We also got to meet Kai, the Ninja Lego dude, and get his picture with him and he picked out a small lego set for his souvenir. We caught a Pirate Water show, played with legos in the Imagination Center and the Duplos area was perfect for my 2 year old! The Lego themed carousel was also pretty cute and both kids enjoyed it.
After the 3 nights of cooking in Orlando and our last day in Magic Kingdom the following day, we headed north to Amelia Island for our next 2 nights (about 3 hours away). We stopped and ate at a Ruby Tuesday’s on the way and arrived early evening. We had a fabulous beach day the next day (we were there from 9:30am-2pm!), during which we ate lunch at Sliders which was right next to the beach. Then we headed into downtown Fernandino Beach for the Shrimp Festival, which we had just learned was happening that weekend! Of course Shea fell asleep in her stroller immediately after our arrival at the festival, so we opted to enjoy dinner in air conditioning at The Salty Pelican. They had a limited menu due to the festival and I was reminded why I don’t eat fries. It tastes so good when it hits your lips!! But awful afterwards, blech.
We returned back to the condo and hit the pool, which was right next to our building. The sun was dipping below the trees and the water was a bit chilly. After about 20 minutes of shivering we returned to the condo for bedtime!
It was sad to have to pack up and head back the next day (Monday). We packed our last lunch and headed home, stopping in Savannah’s Forsythe Park along the way. It was a beautiful park, we saw the famed fountain and we played at the playground for a bit, but the beauty was marred by the somewhat aggressively talking homeless population loitering around the Cafe, which was right next the playground. There were also quite a few napping under shade trees. I don’t know why this was unexpected for me as it’s a city. Duh. I guess because I don’t see homeless in the suburbs where we live and I don’t get into Charlotte parks all that often. I’m a sucker for spanish moss though and there was plenty of it in Forsythe Park and the playground was pretty fantastic. Perfect for burning a little energy before hopping in the car for 4 more hours!
All in all – it was a fabulous trip. I’m hoping we can do it again in 2-3 more years! What are your Disney adventures? Did you go anywhere else on your trip?