* Vacation Video
* Hotel Review: Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
* My Tween's Review of the Edge on the Disney Fantasy
* DCL Port Adventure Review: Tour to Virgin Gorda (TT23)
* DCL Port Adventure Review: The Legendary Kon Tiki Sightseeing and Beach Cruise (ST45) in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
Part 1: Getting There, and Pre-Cruise at Disney World
Now I'm getting into the nitty gritty details of our trip. I keep a journal when we travel so that I can remember the little things along the way--when we woke up, what we did during the day, how we felt, etc. Blogging about our trips when we get home is like my digital scrapbook. It helps me have a record of our trips and remember them fondly.
Before I start with the action, I have to mention how miles and points played into this whole vacation. Last year, I used miles and points to pay for almost our entire trip to Hawaii and most of our Florida trip. This trip was not as much of a miles and points trip, but a carefully planned and budgeted trip. That's not to say we didn't use some miles and points--we flew for (almost) free using Southwest Airlines Rapid Reward points, we stayed at the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport hotel for a reduced rate using points, and we paid for our shuttle to the port using Barclaycard reward points. We were fortunate to get a cast member friends and family rate for the Polynesian Village Resort and free tickets to the Magic Kingdom, both of which were a great bonus!
But we had been saving up for this trip for a while. This was the last big trip we could take before my oldest child goes to middle school, where we won't have as much flexibility to pull him out of school for off-season vacations. We pulled our kids out of school for six days for this trip, and I have no regrets! My kids had to buckle down this past week to make up their school work. However, the cruise cost half as much as it would have cost us to go during the summer. I'm glad we were able to take advantage of the cheaper off-season prices one more time.
The thing about our recent vacation is that it seemed to go a little smoother overall than our past vacations. I'm not sure if it's because we flew in a few days earlier, we got more sleep, our kids are maturing, the stars were aligned, or a combination of all of that. But I'm not complaining.
This is our traditional pre-vacation photo from our previous four cruises:
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
On our previous cruise in October 2014, we flew in the night before our cruise departed. Due to a thunderstorm, our flight was delayed and we almost didn't make our connection and nearly didn't make it to Orlando before our cruise left. I was panicked and stressed, and we were up too late the night before the cruise and grumpy on the first day of the cruise. I vowed to leave earlier for this vacation. I wanted to leave on Thursday (for a Saturday cruise), but the fares were much cheaper on Wednesday night.
I picked up the kids from school at 3:00 p.m. At home, I instructed them to take their school things out of their backpacks and place the toys and electronics they had picked out inside. We left for Dallas Love Field at 4:00 p.m. We hit some traffic, but were inside the airport by 5:00 p.m. for our 8:10 p.m. flight. Plenty of time! We wanted to relax and eat dinner at the airport instead of feeling rushed. We breezed through TSA Pre-Check with the kids and played in the Lil Love Lounge for a while. The kids had Chick Fil A for dinner while Brian and I grabbed some food from La Madeline.
As per usual, we made the kids try to tell us where we should go to catch our flight.
The flight is only slightly over two hours long, but it was getting late. I offered to pay any of my kids $1 if they slept on the plane. Only one kid went for it.
We landed at 11:25 p.m. and boarded the monorail to the main terminal.
I was so glad we were staying at the airport hotel! See my complete review here.
Thursday, January 14, 2016
We woke up at 7:30 a.m., showered, and ate breakfast. Then we got on our Magic Bands. Yee-haw! Let's do this!
I should add that basically from the time we landed in Orlando, the kids kept asking if today was the day we were going on the cruise. Nope, gotta wait a few days!
We didn't wait too long in the Magical Express boarding area:
We were loaded on a Disney Cruise Line bus with porthole windows for our ride to the Polynesian.
On the way to the resort, I received a text with our room number. We just had to stop by the front desk for our leis and a map to our room. See my room and resort review here.
Originally, we had planned on spending the Thursday and Friday before our cruise lounging around the Polynesian, taking in the pool and activities. We've done that before and after a cruise without going into the parks, and my kids are totally fine with it. But the day before, we got an offer we couldn't refuse from a friend for free tickets to the Magic Kingdom! So we dropped our stuff off in the room and met our friend and her kids in the lobby.
After a quick ride on the monorail, we arrived at the Magic Kingdom.
What a beautiful day!
It wasn't very crowded--the crowd calendar said it was a crowd level 4.
We had fast passes for Buzz Lightyear, Autopia, Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain.
We also rode the Teacups, Dumbo, Barnstormer, The Little Mermaid, the carousel, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Shortly before 8 p.m., we headed to the beach to grab some chairs for the fireworks show.
Friday, January 15, 2016
We woke up around 7:30 a.m. We had a 9:00 a.m. reservation at 'Ohana for the character breakfast. We love this place! It was nice to have it a 2-minute walk from our room. Unfortunately, we woke up to rain!
This is our happy place. Good food, great characters and atmosphere. And unlimited POG juice.
After our breakfast reservation, we had our whole day wide open. I wanted to spend some time in the pool because it was recently remodeled and looked awesome! It was drizzling a little bit, but we put on our suits and headed out.
Well, after a few minutes, it rained buckets on us. We were the only crazy people out there. On to Plan B.
We got dressed and took the monorail to the Contemporary Resort. We played in the large arcade for a while.
Oooh, the weather was starting to look better!
We grabbed a quick bite at the Contempo Cafe for lunch:
As we lined up to take the monorail back to the Polynesian, the kids saw this model of the Disney Fantasy. They were so excited! Are we going on the cruise today??!!!?? Nope, one more day!
It was close to 2:00 p.m. now and the sun was now out in full force, so we went back to the pool for a few hours. The temperature was in the 70s and the water was heated, so it felt great. It was a fun and relaxing afternoon. We enjoyed the waterslides and waterfall in the pool.
I left the pool early with Alyssa to get changed and make it to the 3:45 p.m. daily hula lesson in the lobby. She was the only hula student! It reminded me of Aulani (except those hula lessons were much more crowded).
I made a 5:35 p.m. reservation for us for dinner at the Kona Cafe. The torch lighting ceremony took place at 6:00 p.m., so two of my kids went with me to see that while the others waited for our food in the restaurant. I'm glad we could see this since it's unique to the Polynesian Village Resort.
One of my kids didn't make it through dinner. Between the park yesterday and all the pool action, he was exhausted.
Up next: Saturday on the Disney Fantasy