Last week I told you all about my Momma Meltdown. You can read the post here if you want to catch up. It wasn't my best moment but ,well, everyone's a work in progress. The whole ordeal was also what brought about one of my funniest (in retrospect) memeories at Walt Disney World. Today I'm going to give you the rest of the story. The ending to the meltdown day; the story my family still laughs about. You are about to find out what happened...
after the meltdown
The meltdown moment is over, I've had a relaxing time on the beach, captured some beautiful pictures of my kids but I can't sit around for long. I look around and notice the open expanse to the right of the boat docks. This area is just an open stretch of grass, bordered on one side by the lake and separated from the Ft. Wilderness campground by a line of trees. I told my family to hop in the golf cart and we would go explore. Before we got in the cart though, we noticed there was not a space big enough to fit the cart through. My husband decided that meant it was a "no carts allowed" area so he and the kids went back to the beach. I told them I would be right back and set off on my own.
Off I went on a sandy/grassy/unmarked walk. I just wanted to see what was down that way, around the bend. Maybe it was a walking path. Maybe it would lead to another recreation area. Should I consult the Ft. Wilderness map given to us upon check in? Absolutely not. It's just a short walk for Pete's sake. I was at Disney World and I was exploring!
Two things you should know about me before we go further:
(Also, the telling of the story is how it sounded in my head.)
So here I am walking to the end of this grassy no-mans-land, enjoying the sights, the peaceful tranquility, the absence of civilization. Wait what? How long is this thing? My people look like dots back there! Oh well, can't be much further.
Walking, walking, talking to myself, more walking. Maybe I should just turn back; there is nothing back here. I'm sweating and more out of shape than I am comfortable with, based on my breathing.(I'm blaming the humidity and Mickey Bars) More walking. Oh what a lovely pier, maybe I can drag the family back here for some photos.
Oh , oops, there's a couple having a romantic moment, let's not interrupt. ( Just so you know it was G rated not R) At least I know people are allowed back here.
Well maybe they are trespassing since no one else is around. I hope I'm not trespassing! I haven't seen any signs posted. That's my excuse if I get caught by a cast member: "Sorry, I didn't see a sign." Please show me a short cut back to people!
Just across from the pier I see an opening in the trees. Yeah, that direction looks good. Onward ho!
I end up at what looks to be a pretty wide path lined with trees and dense brush (woods) on both sides. Yes! Paths lead to places. I head back in the direction of the beach, taking this new scenic route. I'm pretty sure I hear camp sounds in the distance to my left and this definitely looks like a used pathway so I'm not feeling so bad about the whole trespassing where I don't belong thing. I put a little spring in my step knowing that in a few short minutes I will see my family and coax them into exploring with me.
I'm thinking about our day, things we had done and seen. In my head I am trying to visualize where I am in relation to the camp store. (I'm getting kind of thirsty) Just going along my merry way when I hear a noise. Not a people noise, a something noise! I slow down.
Ok, that was a bird.
I walk on.
A rustling sound to my right. Seriously? I just came from the other side of these woods not 5 minutes ago! I would have seen any animal...right?
Don't freak yourself out! You live in the country! You are used to these sounds! Chill out and keep walking.
Fine, let's walk.
More rustling! LOUDER rustling actually! Wait, did that skinny tree shake?
I am mentally talking myself out of running in the other direction, going down the list of possible noise makers and wondering where are the other people, all at the same time. (The mind is a complex thing) Also about this time, I have a flash back to a conversation earlier in the day when my daughter and I were taking a tour of Animal Kingdom. Our guide pointed out the fencing around the perimeter of the park. His words came back to me now...
Those fences are up as an additional precaution should any of our animals escape their holdings. It also helps keeps out the local Florida wildlife: cougars, bears, deer, and un-ticketed guests!
We thought that was a cute joke. I even pondered why I never realized Florida had bears. Back to my trek at Ft. Wilderness, I am now remembering bears and cougars! Birds can't shake a whole tree! Rabbit would be lower to the ground. These quaking leaves are waist tall on me! The limbs and saplings are swaying and moving as if a PERSON was parting them! Crap! Definitely a bear then! My mind did not want to grab on to the fleeting thought of "serial killer" that my imagination had thrown around a few times!
All this time I am keeping a close eye on the suspicious area while trying to creep backwards as calmly and slowly as possible. Do not call attention to yourself! Just get far enough away that you can start running if you have to! I have one hand on my back pack strap, ready to defend myself at a moments notice! Then...new scary noise!
The rustling is now accompanied by a guttural animal vocalization! BACK AWAY FASTER!!!
A split second after I heard the growl, a swirling vortex of terror came exploding out of the brush! I could not comprehend what I was seeing! Like a cartoon version of a fight where the adversaries are rolling like a ball of dust and body parts, two monsters landed not 20 feet in front of me! They landed. I jumped and maybe squealed a little! Bad move on my part, because when I squealed, they noticed!
The ball of fury broke apart to reveal 2 huge...armadillos. I had no idea they could get so big!
In the split second it took me to process the fact that I was not about to be
I freaked out! Hightailed it back a few more feet and stopped when they stopped. How do I proceed? I know they are not life threatening but they seem really aggressive. I figure I will just keep backing away till they lose interest.
FOR REAL! WHERE ARE PEOPLE?
Trying to back up again (heart pounding from fear, relief , and back to semi-fear) I set them in motion again. This time when they charged, I could not take the pressure/suspense any more! This day had way too many extreme emotions and I was done. As the two little terrors chased me, I lost it! I turned and ran full out, arms wind-milling, knees-to-chest, very undignified, squealing/screaming all the way back to where I entered this very wrong turn.
If you were ever a fan of the TV show, FRIENDS, and you remember the Phoebe run. That is what I looked like. At this time I was very thankful for no people around. I only stopped running when I glanced behind me and did not see anything chasing me.
I slowed to a more publically acceptable pace and straightened my appearance as the beach came into view. By the time I made it to my family I looked like John Candy in The Great Outdoors after his horse ran off! My husband asked where I had been for the last 45 min. to which I replied, "I'm ready to go. Let's go now!"
My kids still pick on me about my "terrifying" encounter with "Bear-madillos" and I let them. I can laugh about it now but at the time it was scary. You can laugh, it's ok. I learned my lesson.
Exploring is best done with map and company...at least for me.
Confession time...I had a meltdown at Disney World. I know. I KNOW! I am embarrassed even typing that sentence. We were at the "happiest place on earth", for crying out loud! Kids have meltdowns; mature, responsible adults do not. Right? Well call me an immature momma because I went full out "Grumpy" on my family.
Here's what happened...
Looking back over the years, I'm ashamed to notice a pattern. It pretty much boils down to expectations. I expect that if we are paying for a vacation we are going to get every penny's worth. I want to pack in as much fun and experience and memories in to those 4-7 days that I can say confidently, " YES! That was worth it."
Having two kids, and having traveled with them since they were very young, I know all about down time and taking breaks. I'm good with that. We all need breaks. What I get impatient with is just not wanting to do anything. I hate to just sit on vacation; it seems so unproductive. So on about day 4 of our trip, when my family (husband included) did not want to go back to the parks but instead just sit on the beach at Ft. Wilderness campground...well, I got a bit put out.
What it looked like...
My husband is a huge fan of all the National Lampoon's Vacation movies, so we watch them a lot. I'm sure you all have seen them a time or too as well. I like to think that I am Ellen, patient loving wife to an over eager husband Clark. No. I have recently become aware that I am Clark! I am the one that builds up expectations to the point of impossibility. I also have become aware that, like Clark, I can have over-the-top, ranting meltdowns when the perfect scenario turns out less than perfect.
So, in your mind right now, picture any of the "Vacation" movie "Clark Griswold" flip outs. If you need to Google a video of this, go ahead, I'll wait.
You got it? Well that's what it seemed like at the time...in my head...but I am not the type to make a spectacle of myself in public. I'm pretty sure no one noticed the daggers shooting from my eyes at my sweet husband. Surely no one heard the passive aggressive remarks to my kids. Not one of those happy campers scattered around the beach paid the least bit of attention to my fowl scowl, tapping foot and crossed arms. If they did, they certainly thought I was impersonating "Grumpy" dwarf.
You know who else was unconcerned? My dear family. There they were: the kids trying to build a sandcastle and my husband reclining on a beach chair, eyes closed and hands behind his head. "Fine", I told them. "Well I will just plop myself down in this chair and not do anything either!" "If you all want to sit HERE when you could be having fun over THERE (flinging an arm dramatically towards the Magic Kingdom), that's fine with me!'
To which they all happily replied, "OK".
What happened next...
I was defeated. My family essentially put me in time out with their attitudes. They were great! There they were all relaxed and having fun doing non-park stuff. Me, I just brooded and mentally ticked off the seconds till I could try my next pitch for heading back to the parks.
Then staring out at the water, I started thinking.(There is something so peaceful about the Ft. Wilderness beach area) I stared at the water and listened to the hum of the boats as they taxied guests and I just chilled. I sat and did nothing. I calmed and with a calm body comes a calm mind. I looked around at my loves: husband almost asleep, daughter playing with son in the sand and it was a truly beautiful moment. A calm, non-planned, outside-the-parks fun time.
We must have stayed on the beach for an hour or two. I got some of my favorite pictures of all times and all was well.
Here are some photos from that time...I would have missed these photo ops !
What I learned...
My little family would rather go to Disney World for vacation than anywhere else. Every year, my husband and I talk about taking the kids to see mountains or Yellowstone or the desert or something educational, but for now Disney World is it. We love that there is plenty to do, see, and experience all in one place and that the majority of the vacation is paid for before you ever make it to your room. If we can swing it, we are going to try to make it happen.
The cost is the thing that holds most people back from a Disney trip. Disney Vacation shoppers get their first estimate and immediately experience sticker shock. I get that! Really, I do, but there are ways to save. When we decide on possible vacation dates, I start looking for deals! Disney runs specials from time to time and I always check out MouseSavers and Undercover Tourist to see what they have to offer. ( both of these are highly reputable sites by the way ) Once I get things lined up to a price we are comfortable with, we start paying it down! Let me share how we are doing it this year.
We booked early enough through Disney that we only paid the $200 deposit up front and the rest is due 30 days before we arrive. In the mean time, here are 4 ways we are paying for our trip this year and how you can too!
The Disney experts are brilliant when it comes to detail! I mean, there are some next level tricks they have employed to make you immersed in the Disney atmosphere. Last week I talked about my family's TOP 5 FAVORITE SMELLS at WDW, and I could ( and likely will) write a post about the visual tricks used throughout the Magic Kingdom. (I am such a GEEK) Today though, my advice to all WDW visitors is; Watch where you walk.
No, I'm not talking about crowds, strollers or the groups that feel it necessary to stop in the middle of the walkways to contemplate their next move, blocking the flow of visitors trying to get from point A to point B, causing a traffic jam and anxiety! (Sorry, I have feelings about those who block traffic) No, I'm talking about looking down every once in a while. The park pavements are beautifully and purposefully created with texture fitting the area around it and riddled with details that are most often overlooked. Here are a few of my favorites and where to find them. No photos because 1) I didn't take them and 2) Why show everyone exactly where they are and ruin the fun of the hunt?
First up is a huge compass rose. You will find this beauty in the vicinity of the Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom. You have or will walk all over this spot a few times on your visit. Heck, I didn't even realize the pavement color had changed! There is at least one other compass rose in the park that I know of, but my lips are sealed so you can explore.
Next up is a hidden gem or I guess gems in Adventureland. The pavement in this "land' is imbedded with broken tiles, "jewelry" and "gems". It's as if a pirate was off to burry his treasure and dropped a few items. The particular spot to look for is an area that is imbedded with a few gold coins, jewelry and gems in one place, grouped together. You will know it when you see it by it's high concentration of loot. This would actually be a cute scavenger hunt idea for your little pirates.
Now over to Hollywood Studios. Two giant foot prints are often overlooked; one of a dinosaur, and one of a "Walker". I'm really embarrassed that I didn't pay attention to these areas before because they are pretty obvious when you do notice. I know when I said dinosaur, you probably thought I meant Animal Kingdom, but no, there is a dino print at the HS park. Trust me! If you never find it, message me and I'll tell you where.
The Animal Kingdom I have to just talk about on the whole! I really don't have a favorite thing to walk on in this park but that doesn't mean I don't suggest looking down. It just means there is SO MUCH to see. Where ever you walk in this park, you are stepping on animal, leaf and even human prints. There are remnants of old buildings, straw, places that are "worn out" or "muddy". The walkways are really a work of art that adds to the feel of you surroundings, whether we notice or not. Check it out when you go, its very interesting.
Epcot is home to my absolute favorite thing to walk on in all of Walt Disney World! The Fiber Optic Pavement! If this awesomeness has an official name, I have no idea what it is. It was a distraction for my tired babies when they were young and is so much fun to watch people discover. Now, obviously you WILL see this without having to pay attention...at night... but if you leave the park early you will walk over it without ever knowing since it looks just like regular walkways during the daylight. After dark, these paved squares look like you are stepping on tiny stars, then they change color and create many different patterns. You really have to see it if you never have, it is some very futuristic Disney magic.
Last but not least is not something you should step on but is a delight when you look down and notice. It is what you could call a "seasonal" or "moving" attraction. (insert giggles) We were lucky enough to witness this bit of Disney cuteness on our last trip. If we had been in a hurry, rushing to the next ride and not looking around us we would not have witnessed the mamma duck walking her adorable babies from a grassy area to a water area. This fluffy entourage had it's own Disney Cast Member as a protective escort. The DCM kept a polite distance between the duck family and the onlookers till they were out of traffic. Cuteness overload, so be on watch for friendly natives next time.
That's it. That's my reasons to Look Down and Watch Your Step at Walt Disney World. Remember to look for the little things that make big magic! Do you have a favorite not mentioned? Tell us about it in the comments!
If you are here, reading this post, then you have at least basic knowledge of the magic that is Disney. From the moment you arrive, Disney grabs hold of your senses and you are completely immersed in a whole other world. The colors and textures attract you visually, the music and atmospheric sounds ( birds, crickets etc.) are picked up by your ears and the tastes are too many to go into right now; all of these things help you build strong, vivid memories of your experience. They even cater to your sense of smell by using manufactured and naturally occurring smells in different areas of the park and that's what I found myself and the kiddo's discussing recently. Without further adieu, here are our top 5 smells of Disney World!
A day packed with the expectation and excitement of Disney World is sure to catch up with even experienced visitors. If you are a first timer and find your family on the verge of a monumental, vacation destroying melt-down, have no fear, head to one of our family’s favorite spots to take a break.
Do you have a favorite resting spot in the Magic Kingdom? Tell us about your “rest-a-spell” spot in the comments section
On our trips to Disney World we have stayed in Value Resorts, Moderate Resorts and even Off-site. We love them all for different reasons but our ABSOLUTE FAVORITE (for now) is hands down, the Cabins at Ft. Wilderness! I know what you may be thinking; “Why?”, “There are so many more options to choose from, why stay in the woods?”, “No thanks, I’m not camping on vacation.” I get it. I do. Before you mark it off your list of possibilities, let me try to convince you!
The Ft. Wilderness campground first popped up on our radar almost 10 years ago when, on our first visit, we headed out of a busy Magic Kingdom at closing time with HUNDREDS of other tired visitors and saw the boat lines vs. bus lines. While we registered the fact that there were places to stay a boat ride away from the MK, we didn’t think any more about it. Wow, cool boats, oh well, let’s get to the bus.
A couple of years later, we ate dinner at the Trail’s End Restaurant, even remarked on how neat the area was. Our daughter played on the playground while we waited for our reservation. The vibe was relaxing and friendly but we never explored much of the surroundings till we went back a third time a few years ago with my parents, niece and nephew.
On a hot crowded day in the park, we were heading back to our off-site lodgings for a break, when I remembered the Ft. Wilderness had a great shaded playground, wasn’t overly crowded and had things we wanted to check out. We (all 7 adults and kids) took the quick boat ride across the lake for a rest instead of driving back to our condo. We got some drinks and snacks, my parents sat in rocking chairs watching the kids run around and play on a nearly deserted playground then we went exploring. We walked around past the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue and saw 3 live deer eating in a little grassy spot! Now, we live in a rural area and deer are not new to us, but seeing 3 deer within reaching distance in the Disney World Ft. Wilderness was pretty cool. The kids then went off to explore the stables. In the words of my dad, “I could just stay here the whole day”.
Now, on to our stay! In 2015, I started planning a trip for April 2016. One of my favorite sites for Disney Crowd and discount ticket info, Undercover Tourist, was just starting to offer HOTEL RESERVATIONS. What? Let me check it out. Browsing through the offerings, I came across the Cabins at Ft. Wilderness and the price was somewhere around 33% off the regular nightly cost. Let’s do it! We did and now we are hooked! The cabins (at the right price) may have ruined us for all other resorts.
What’s so great about it? I’ll tell you.
We did not even get around to the campfire sing-along, s'mores and carriage rides. Or the archery classes and horseback rides! There is always next time. I know it may not be everyone’s cup of tea but if your family might be even remotely interested in a cabin stay, I cannot encourage you enough to try it out! You don’t know what you are missing.
This is my growing list of products I love, have used or just plain ole WANT for driving to Disney World. I will add to it from time to time.
on site or off?
In Part One of this Disney planning series, we covered traveling style. If you are just joining us, you can read that post here.
When you think Disney Vacation , you think $ signs. Thinking to save some of that budget to spend elsewhere, off site seems like the way to go. No doubt there are some exceptional values to be found off site but there are many reasons to stay on site as well. As a mom of a Disney loving family that has stayed both on site and off , let me help you compare.
As I mentioned in Part One, our first visit was about 10 years ago and our travel group was multi-generational. We had grandparents, parents and kids; 10 total. So many things we learned this first trip! For now we will just focus on accommodations. Specifically, to stay On-Site or Off Site.
We, all 10, stayed at the Coronado Springs Resort. Each of the 3 families had separate rooms and we did not spend much time there. In fact. Other than sleeping, bathing and changing clothes, we did nothing there. We didn't even try out the fabulous pools! (They have really beautiful pools!)
At the time we only had three requirements: 1) room for all of us together, 2) transportation to the parks for all of us, 3) decent price. We went to the parks all day! The kids slept in the strollers when they got tired; We were younger so I guess we never got tired. On-Site was awesome!
Fast Forward 7 years...We went as a group of 13, again multi-generational, and had access to a Time Share 4 bedroom condo. The Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort is technically on Disney World property but not a Disney resort. It's lovely, and we have stayed there a couple of times since then. Our Vacation Style had changed. The 4-year-olds were now 11 and there were 2 new toddlers along.
This time, we spent a bit more time at the resort. Naps were taken, movies were watched, food was cooked. We visited the parks but did not stay all day long. We drove our own vehicles and paid to park because it was cheaper than the transportation offered by the resort. Our needs were met by Off-Site.
Below are lists that might help you decide if you should stay on property or off. These are just my opinion...
(PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED ON MY OLD SITE thedancingalligator.com)
So you have finally decided on that Disney World vacation. Congrats! You are going to have a blast! The sights! The Smells! The planning!
You may not think planning your vacation is exclamation point worthy but I do. I love the research, the details, the lists! Call me crazy but the planning is almost as fun as the trip. It's the build up I guess. Just make sure you are not building the trip into a PERFECT experience; there is no perfect! Things will go wrong, people will melt down , rides will be delayed and lines will be long. Manage expectations and you will be fine. Now, put on your planning pants and let's get started!
What's your Vacation Style?
It's important to know your Vacation Style before you start planning. Are you a "go with the flow" family? Maybe you are the "cram in as much as possible", type. Maybe you fall somewhere in-between?
Our first trip, when GG was 4 years old. We went as a large, family group and we had no preconceived notions of what to expect except FUN! We planned. We made reservations. My sister made each family a little agenda/flip book. We had a great time. Our most recent trip, with a now 14-year-old GG and a 3.5 yr old BG, was a combination of fun packed park time and chill out down time. GG and I could have gone all day to the parks. I fall into the make-it-worth-EVERY-dollar-spent category. My husband knew we were just a boat ride from our room, so he liked a bit of non-park time. BG being 3, needed a little nap every now and then.
10 years ago, our vacation style was different from now. Our needs were different. In ten years we have traveled to Disney World 7 times. Flown once (I'm not a flier), driven 7 times, stayed on site and off, did and did not do the Dining Plan, budgeted and gone in blind. Every trip was adjusted according to our changing circumstances, vacation style and needs.
Spend a few minutes to think about these questions?
My name is Joni...