For Michael’s 30th birthday we went to California. He had never been that far west before. The plan was for us to both experience Disneyland for the first time together (my family went to California Adventure the year it opened).
My very kind and generous parents kept our 1 year old, since I was not about to fly cross country with him.
We flew Richmond to Dallas, Dallas to Los Angeles since the Santa Anna flights weren’t at great times or prices. I opted for a car service in advance since we hadn’t used Uber before and didn’t want to attempt to drive ourselves.
The trip out was uneventful. We landed around 10am local time, dropped our luggage at the hotel and ran to Downtown Disney. It was amazing how different it was from Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. So different!
A quick lunch at the first place we saw, then some shopping. I snagged us last minute reservations at Napa Rose for dinner.
Our first park day was of course, Disneyland. It’s hard to describe how much a place you’ve never been can mean to you. I truly didn’t know what to expect, and the whole day was quite baffling.
Baffling because I hadn’t used paper fast passes in years. And because Disneyland is so familiar feeling due to it’s similarity to Magic Kingdom Park, but nothing is the same. And because we walked on the first 4 (?) rides, but then were overwhelmed by crowds. Completely overwhelmed. And because with our Fantasmic dining package at the Blue Bayou we got a cushion. A literal cushion. To sit. In the sitting area. What.
I loved it. But I don’t like feeling confused and lost! My own fault for assuming my Disney World expertise would help me in any way. I am very, very grateful we were able to get MaxPass (it launched that day) since in eliminated the frustration of finding the blasted Fast Pass distribution kiosks. Also with MaxPass you could literally get your next FastPass for almost immediate use as soon as you were scanned to ride.
Fantasmic was incredible.
Our second park day started EARLY since I was determined to do the DVC Member Morning Powerwalk thing. That was pleasant, and a brisk jaunt around the park before it opened help us get our bearings. The cast member leading the walk discouraged pictures however. Oh well.
It felt like we accomplished more at California Adventure since we were able to more efficiently utilize MaxPass.
Sadly, I was sick so we left early for nap with the intention of coming back in time for lobster nachos and World of Color.
Convinced that liquor would cure what ailed me, I headed to Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar while Michael picked up some gifts at Downtown Disney. After a few friendly drinks we realized World of Color was not going to happen, so we went back to the hotel for bed. Tragically, Michael later came down with extreme food poisoning and we ended up spending the night at the ER. But that’s another story for another day.
Because of our night in the hospital our explore LA day was cancelled and we just slept and ate pizza. We eventually made it back to Downtown Disney and saw Spiderman: Homecoming which was lovely. But at this point we both just wanted to go home, see our baby, and sleep in our own bed.
The trip home was a bit more arduous since we were woken up with a call from the airline saying our flight was cancelled, then we had to scramble to pack and get an earlier flight out of LAX.
It’s hard to leave your child on the other side of the country, no matter how happy and well cared for he is.
It can be traumatizing to have a hospital visit in very unfamiliar territory.
Uber is actually great.
I wish I had done more planning in advance and that fireworks at Disneyland hadn’t been canceled for wind.
I’d like to go back, in about 10 years. The crowds aren’t for the faint of heart and if I’m going to travel that far again, we might as well go all the way to Hawaii.
We had a week long vacation in June 2016 at this lovely house called King BEEch in Southern Shores. You can read more about our traveling with a 5 months old here. I have been vacationing at the Outer Banks my whole life, and each return trip is pleasant and relaxing. Not much changes year to year, and the familiarity adds to the laid back vibe.
Some of my Outer Banks favorites include:
Oh boy was there a big change on this trip. Started to realize that baby travel is one thing, but active moving baby travel is an entirely different ball game. Michael and I wanted to take a little family trip to Walt Disney World to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party for the first time. Shockingly, even with 10+ trips under my belt, I had never been at Christmas time.
We had an easy itinerary, direct flight to Sanford, rented a car and stayed at Disney’s Old Key West Resort using our Disney Vacation Club points. It was a super cheap trip, $300 total for round trip direct flights, “free” hotel accommodations, discounted party tickets.
Sweet baby Edward was beginning to roll around, crawl, stand up, cruise – all the active baby things. This meant it was getting harder and harder to hold on to him!
Here’s my must haves for the trip:
Although it was becoming more tiring, I'm still so glad we took this trip. The holiday season is always so crazy, it was so nice to take a little family trip.
In October 2016 we had an epic Florida trip which involved a slightly crazy plan to add Disney to any trip to the state. We were going to Miami for my dear friend’s wedding. She was so sweet to also invite my parents, which means I was going to have plenty of help. To make doubly sure we had enough hands for 9 month old Edward, we also took my wonderful little sister who is a baby whisperer. And to top it all off I wanted my older sister and my niece to come along for the Disney portion of the trip. Logistically, it was a bit complicated!
This was also my first trip not nursing (yipee) which meant taking all the bottles. One flight down, 1 hour drive to Disney World, 3 hour drive from Disney World to Ft. Lauderdale airport, 1 hour shuttle ride to our hotel in Miami. Phew!
Here's my must haves for the trip:
It was a fabulous trip, but absolutely could not have done it without help. Many hands make light work and a happy baby!
In June 2016 we had a week long family vacation at the Outer Banks. This honestly wasn’t as easy as traveling to Disney World. So much relaxing time and less activities means you need more paraphernalia to help entertain baby.
Must haves for traveling with a 5 month old:
In April 2016 we took our first family “run-cation” to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida for Michael to run a half marathon. Read my dear sister’s post about her first Run Disney experience here! Our baby was less than 3 months old on this trip and I was very intimidated by the thought of traveling with him. I’m happy to report that (with lots of help) this trip was a breeze.
Must haves for traveling with a 3 month old:
As with all travel, pack your patience! Most meals we ate in shifts, and that's ok! Disney World is a wonderful place to have a baby since most of your fellow guests are parents or grandparents. Everyone we encountered was very understanding and helpful! (Thank you kind stranger who snapped me into the Bjorn when my arms weren't long enough!)
In January I became a mom.
After 9 months, I cannot believe our baby is here - happy, healthy, and so perfect.
Everyone gives you advice and everyone has an opinion. Everyone compares your baby to their own or themselves. It's all part of the package. My only advice is this: find your village. They say it takes a village to raise a child and I am so very grateful for my village.
So far, we have taken baby Edward to Disney World twice, a week at the Outer Banks, and a long weekend in Miami Beach. Travelling with a baby is an adventure, but not to be feared! I'd like to share what I've learned so far about family life with a little one, travel with this little one, and venture into mommy blog land along with my normal Disney banter. I hope you'll continue to read along!
We arrived at Walt Disney World Resort on Friday evening the weekend of the first Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon. We were staying at Port Orleans Riverside, which meant we could take the boat to Disney Springs. We had what we thought was plenty of time to get there, but it took a full hour and ten minutes for the (dark, rainy) boat ride and navigating through the Disney Springs Friday night crowd. It was shoulder to shoulder and we hustled across through to arrive 10 minutes late for our 9:30 reservation.
The interior alone is reason enough to visit Morimoto Asia. It's visually stunning. It was a packed house, but we were seated promptly and the service was adequate. It's always hard in restaurants that are packed and noisy to hear the server, much less the other person at your own table!
We'd had a long day of traveling and were not terribly hungry, so we thought a couple basic appetizers and a refreshing beverage would set us up quite nicely. The menu is fairly standard Asian fair. We chose the vegetable roll and kakuni pork bao. Both were tasty, if somewhat unremarkable. The pork bao was missing the lettuce and spicy mayo, but the pork belly and steamed bun were good enough on their own.
What made the night was the sake sangria: Asian pears, apple plum, tangerine juice, sake, light white wine, and plum wine. It's sold by the glass for $12 or a carafe for $34 (serves 3-4). Hmmmmmmmmm....you know you will likely want 2 glasses, so, you might as well order the carafe... Good choice! And delicious!! I only wish there had been more of the amazing Asian pear, which was used as a garnish.
Needless to say, the trip back to the resort was far more entertaining! We barely made the last boat at 11:30 and thoroughly entertained our fellow travelers, at least that was our perception!
Would we return? Yes. The interior of the restaurant and the sake sangria warrant another visit. The menu is extensive and I would definitely like to make a more adventurous sampling of some of the more interesting sounding dishes, for example, the L.A. BBQ Kalbi. It's great to see Disney Springs seriously entering the food as a destination scene and Morimoto Asia is a great addition.
Let me start this by saying I am not a trainer or in any way shape or form qualified to give advice about running! This is just my opinion on the Walt Disney World Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon which also happens to be my first half marathon.
I was listening to podcasts on a daily basis about a year ago, I just had my baby girl Aurora who was colicky pretty much every day from 4-10 pm so a great way to pass time was to listen to Disney podcasts and pace the living room. The only way to keep her happy was pacing or pushing her in the stroller for hours at a time. I heard one from The Unofficial Guide's Disney Dish with Len Testa and Jim Hill about how Run Disney came to be. All the sudden I got this crazy urge, I had to run a half marathon, and ASAP! Naturally I tell Carter, Disney planner extraordinaire, and tell her to make it happen!!! Michael her husband also was up for the challenge, a running buddy is the most important part of a race! There was the inaugural Star Wars half and since I didn't think Michael would be that excited of a participant for the Princess half, and would also be the dad of a literal new born Star Wars it was!
Carter and I logged onto DVC's website (DVC members get early entry into race registration) and signed up. It was easy, and we registered so close together our bib numbers were one number apart! Up next was training, I decided on using the Hal Higdon training method. Since the only previous race I had done was the Ukrops Monument Avenue 10k ten years prior, I had used his method then and felt well trained. I like the simplicity, starting running can be so confusing and overwhelming. I made a chart and put it in my planner and started documenting on Instagram to keep me accountable.
Getting back into running I worked on just getting up to two miles unbroken. It was a struggle, I live in a super hilly city and pushing a stroller is no joke so it took me about 6 weeks. I would run solo on the weekends when David could watch the kids, or push Princess Aurora at a more leisurely pace. Training started shortly after our September WDW trip, doing some runs but mostly walking. Through the colder weather around Christmas I fell off training some and resumed in January. The training plan is 12 weeks and I gave myself 16, to allow for missed days.
The last big run Michael and I did 10 miles on an indoor track. Michael did about an 8 minute mile and I averaged about 12-13 minutes but finished! Run Disney recommends training at a 15 minute pace to keep from falling behind the 16 minute marker. If you can't keep above that you run the risk of being swept by the dreaded "balloon people".
Just before the half marathon my husband David left on an outtage, which meant the last few weeks were super stressful and sleep deprived! Not ideal, but there is never a perfect time to train. We left the Friday before the race with my mom, aunt Jennifer, Carter, Michael, and the three "babies" Trace, Aurora, and Edward. Flying is super dehydrating and it's hard to find enough time to eat with one baby who loves food so much she's taking food off your plate and another who thinks eating is a waste of time! So Saturday the day before the half I did not fuel properly before the race. We also managed to lose Trace in Disney Springs, so all in all not the best pre race day. I woke up sick sick sick that morning! I was so glad Michael was up already and waiting other wise I may not have made it. This is where having a "race buddy" is so important! I truly wouldn't have made it even to the race if I had to go alone. Our bus came almost right at 2:30 AM and we were off!
We got there and it was COLD but that's a lovely alternative to the normal Florida heat. They had character meet and greets, a dj, and there were concessions with food. I would recommend bringing your own food for the start and re fueling during the race, I didn't eat anything this morning since I had been sick and didn't want to risk getting sick before or during the race! We met _ and then headed to the pin to wait to head to our corral. It was a walk just from the pin to our corral and I wasn't quite prepared for how dark it would be for so long! The moon was gorgeous, and it all was so surreal with the lights and the crowd. We were in the front of our corral J and waited some more. It's a lot of waiting but to me it seemed to go fairly quickly. The race start was 5 AM and our corral started around 5:40.
During our wait the other runners were generally friendly and it was nice to talk to people and we even met a few fellow runners from our home state. The energy was contagious and I was so excited to start running (and to be warm!). They do a burst of fireworks for the start of each corral and it was amazing how big they seemed once we finally got to the start!
We took off running aaaaand... It was dark... Really dark! We were on one of the main roads, we went by a band playing Star Wars music (there was a lot of that!) and we headed into backlot Epcot. It was so quiet at this point, no music and no one was talking really just running along. It was cool/weird to see "behind the scenes", a lot of people working cleaning, taking out trash, unloading trucks just getting ready for the day with a bunch of crazy people running by in the dark. When we entered world show case that was my favorite part of the whole race! It was lit with the torches, lights, and special effect lighting used during illuminations, and more Star Wars music! It has always been my dream to run through world showcase, so I tried to go slow, but I was so excited I ended up running most of it! There was our first water station as well and we hit mile 3 coming out of Epcot. The first three miles flew by!!! The other 10 not so much...
After Epcot we ran through Boardwalk, I loved running the boardwalk and I was impressed by that many people running how solid it is! They do such a good job of making it appear like a traditional wooden walkway. Going by Swan and Dolphin we hit some of the worst bottlenecks, it was narrow and very uneven. I heard quite a few people fall, and some of the faster runners who were in the back of the pack (I'm guessing late or no proof of time?) really came shoving through right about then. It was upsetting to see how they would literally run over anyone in there way knocking slower runners to the ground. I know it was frustrating at times how slow it went through the tighter paths but there was no cause to hurt anyone! That being said the majority of the runners were polite and would raise their arm and announce that they were slowing their pace to avoid collisions. After the boardwalk we headed to Hollywood Studios for a brief interval through the park. There had been a few meet and greets so far but all had a 15 minute plus wait, while I wasn't concerned with my time I didn't want to ride in a golf cart either! Unless you want to add the time of a mile or more it would be hard to stop and wait. Hollywood Studios had the best meet and greets at least as far as setting in my opinion. My favorite part of Hollywood Studios was seeing the Chinese theatre without the hat, it looked amazing early in the morning, just like the original!
Then we hit the highway, we arrived Atlanta Animal Kingdom around mile 6 I believe. The mile markers and my Fitbit watch were already a quarter mile off so I forget the markers exactly. We ran the entire parking lot at AK, or at least it seemed that way! It was neat to see the other runners already looping back out of AK. They were all very encouraging to us who were about 3 miles behind them! AK was incredible in the morning. Hearing the animals and seeing the monkeys playing was so fun. The park had filled in so much more since I had been there early after the opening. The authenticity blew me away, it really looked like marketplaces were just opening up in the morning. There were Cliff energy shots at this point for the nutrition stop, but I had packed a squeezie pouch and opted for that. Powerade was also added to the water stops, it was lime and the volunteers called them margarita shots!!! I wish!!!
We were back on the highway at this point and this was the longest and most grueling stretch of the race. There was NOTHING! Up until now there had been lights, music, or stops for characters but the last stretch was oddly quiet. There was one lone dj, I was definitely wishing I had brought my headphones at this point. The sun was up and right in my eyes... Complain complain... But it was so inspiring to see people easily twice my age just cooking along! I found a group at this point and tailed them just trying to keep some sort of pace. Lots of biofreeze stops though! I didn't use it, but it was nice to know it was an option for future races. I do wish I had grabbed some Tylenol! They had a medic tent and then we took a turn onto a dirt path.
The last mile or so was on "dirt" which is sand in Florida so the majority of us were walking at this point since it was narrow and uneven as well, and we were just plain tired! Finally we got to the ESPN sports center and it picked back up just in time for the finish line! I saw little Aurora and just burst into tears, she did too! Crossing the finish line was hugely emotion for me, I'm not one to set out to do something so to actually complete a race was a definite dream come true!
After the race there was food for the runners as well as water and Powerade and of course the MEDAL! The photo pass photographers were there to get a picture, it was then I realized my number was creased so I don't have any race pictures. But that's ok because I ran it and I will never forget it! We all met up at B and were able to board our bus relatively quickly. It felt amazing to sit down after standing and running for so long. 13 plus miles is FAR! I clocked 13.54 on my Fitbit watch as opposed to the 13.1 a half is supposed to be, but I have to account for a lot of "swervage"!
After the race I felt great! Again though I didn't refuel properly at all, I was too busy holding and nursing miss Aurora I didn't make time to eat and drink. Don't make that mistake! I have never been so so sick!!! I was about to call 911, but Fritos, Tylenol, and good old water saved the day. I kicked everyone out of the room and slept for 20 minutes and was human again!
We went to Disney Springs with medals on, I had to be careful as its heavy not to clonck the babies in the head with it. They are so heavy and of course bling!!! It was nice to walk around in the lovely weather and stretch a little and EAT! The next day I woke up feeling great and not sore at all! Maybe puking helped?! Whatever it worked! All in all I would do it again in a heartbeat!!! I felt like I trained as best as I could, there are things I would do differently but at the time couldn't be helped. Life goes on training or not, but in the future I would definitely try and get down two days before a half just to get better adjusted. Eating, hydrating, and resting before a race is so important and as a mom those three things are tough to come by. Definitely ask for help! I wouldn't do another race while breastfeeding, honestly it was too big a toll to ask my body, I survived but would NOT recommend it. That being said I saw two very pregnant women running right by me in the race! Definitely bringing headphones for the next race. The parks were great and early on in the initial crush it's best not to have them on for safety to be able to hear runners and announcements around you. The last stretch of this course at least was very quiet and the highway was wide enough that it was easy to move without worrying about hitting someone. A lot of people were running in groups so that makes it a little difficult for passing at times. I wish I had been better about speaking up and just saying excuse me. A lot of time/energy gets wasted passing people so consider that when you're training!
I can't wait for my next Run Disney event! I learned some good lessons and had an amazing first half marathon. I'm so grateful to Michael for committing to this race with me. He did amazing! It kept me inspired having someone who was running ahead of me. The text message alerts kept me going!! Definitely was one of my favorite WDW trips ever, truly life changing!
This September my family got to check off item #1 on our Disney bucket list, a week long stay at The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, our Disney Vacation Club home resort.
It was magical!
To get the most out of our points, our party of 8 stayed in a 2 bedroom lock-off villa and a deluxe studio. Unfortunately they were unable to get our rooms on the same floor, but they were still fairly close. The rooms were spacious and beautifully decorated. We had no complaints! The murphy bed under the TV was a HUGE hit with my 4-year-old nephew.
2 bedroom lock-off villa, 4th floor, standard view-
Deluxe Studio, 3rd floor, standard view-
A few of our favorite things during this stay included the exemplary cast members, proximity to Magic Kingdom and Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, and the super fun aquatic play area at the pool.
We loved having the option of taking the monorail or a boat to Magic Kingdom! There is an incomplete walkway, I'll be interested to see if they add that as an access option in the future. I'm so happy this is our home resort, counting down to our next visit!