Monday, January 6, 2014

Linna's first trip to disney world.

This year for Christmas, my parents surprised Linna (and Mama Saigh) with a trip to Walt Disney World! They just bought a house in Florida, so they thought it would be the perfect time for me and Linna to go and see their new place, AND visit Disney World while we were back in Minnesota visiting over the holidays. Since Papa Saigh had to stay back in Singapore to work (someone has to bring home the bacon, right?!), he didn't get to join us, but I captured almost every moment of Linna's first trip to Disney World to share with him... and you guys too;)

My dad, sister, Linna and my mom in the Magic Kingdom!

Our little princess at another princess' castle.

My sister and Linna with Cinderella's Fairy Godmother.

Bug on the carousel at Downtown Disney.

Since I haven't been to Disney World since I was MUCH younger, I reached out to our Minnesota Baby Facebook friends for advice on hotels, tickets, places to eat/go, etc. Thank you all SO much for the tips, because we followed some of your advice, and we had an amazing experience. When people say Disney World is "magical" (I used to roll my eyes at this), they aren't kidding. I can't even put into words what it's like to experience Disney's Magic Kingdom as a mom. Watching my daughter's face light up in amazement at some of the things she got to see and do, is something I could do over and over again.

Dumbo ride!

We've arrived... and she sleeps.

We drove three hours from my parents home in Estero to Orlando, and decided to do an overnight at a hotel so we weren't rushing anything. We could have stayed MUCH longer, but there's always next time! Choosing a hotel in Orlando is a job in itself. Since there was five of us on this trip (my mom, dad, sister, Linna, and I), we decided to book a larger suite at the BuenaVista Palace, which is right across the street from Downtown Disney. I searched through so many hotel options, but this place seemed like the best fit for us. This hotel was ideal, as it's not in the center of all the Disney action, so we could head back to our rooms when we needed some peace and quiet. The hotel has a free shuttle that runs to and from all four Disney Theme Parks and Water Parks, but the hotel is just a quick walk across the street to Downtown Disney! Plus, the hotel always seems to be running good promotions, so you can get a lot more space in your hotel room for about the same price as you'd pay to be at a hotel in the heart of Walt Disney World. We stayed in a suite, which gave us TWO floors, with two bedrooms (and a bed for each of us), a living and dining area, THREE bathrooms, and private balconies. All of us agreed that we could have lived comfortably for a few weeks in this suite. It was clean, spacious, and we even had a view of the evening fireworks over Downtown Disney! We were so busy running around Disney World, that we didn't even have time to enjoy the great pool at the hotel. There were always a lot of kids playing at the pool, which would have been really fun for our 2-year-old. Although we had most of our meals in the Magic Kingdom or Downtown Disney, we did get to have breakfast at the hotel's Watercress Cafe, and it was very yummy! They even made Minnie Mouse waffles for Linna, since we didn't get to do a character breakfast during this trip. It was only after our trip to Orlando that I realized that the hotel does a character breakfast buffet on Sunday mornings. How convenient! When we return to Disney World for another visit, we'd definitely stay at this hotel again... just a little longer next time:)

A nice "welcome" gift from the hotel! They even gave Linna a Minnie Mouse stuffed toy. So nice!

One of our rooms.

BuenaVista Palace Hotel in Orlando, FL.
Linna enjoying her breakfast at the Watercress Cafe.

On the afternoon that we arrived in Orlando, Mama Saigh hit up the hotel's spa for a relaxing facial and massage, while my parents and sister took Linna to Downtown Disney. I needed a little "me time", and my family was looking forward to some quality time with Linna. The hour-long facial and massage were JUST what I needed after a long flight from Singapore to the US, and a three-hour drive from Estero to Orlando. I'm not gonna lie, I sat in the spa's relaxation area a little longer than I "should" have, but the peace and quiet was simply too inviting:) Thank you Kim Casperson Spa for this much needed mommy-time-out! It's amazing how refreshed a mama can feel after a little spa visit.

After my 2.5 hours of spa bliss, I met up with Linna, my parents, and my sister in Downtown Disney. Linna's eyes were bigger than silver dollars as she checked out all the lights, Disney characters, and the little shops. I LOVE Downtown Disney. It feels like you're walking through an old-fashion village. Of course, almost everything in the shops and restaurants is pricey, but we grabbed a bite to eat at the Rainforest Cafe, and did a little shopping in the adorable shops after. We stayed until dark, but then headed back to the hotel, as my sister wanted to be up bright and early to head to the Magic Kingdom in the morning.

("It's a Small World" ride in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom)

My dad and sister jumped on the hotel shuttle around 8 a.m. to get to the Magic Kingdom (about a 15 minute ride from the hotel), while my mom, Linna and I enjoyed a quick breakfast at the hotel. I wasn't in a rush, and just wanted to enjoy a nice breakfast. We took the ferry to the Magic Kingdom, which was actually a really cold ride, so I'm glad we brought a blanket for Linna to cover up with in the stroller. FYI, a stroller is a MUST if you have little ones in Disney World... do NOT leave home without one! Also, follow my sister's lead and get to the park early to avoid long lines. My dad and sister did the right thing by leaving the hotel at 8 a.m., because my mom, Linna, and I got stuck in a pretty big crowd (my idea of hell), after we left the hotel around 9 a.m. However, once you step foot inside the Magic Kingdom, you simply forget about all that craziness.

The first thing we saw was Cinderella's Castle. Talk about spectacular! Linna was in awe, but even more excited about all the Disney characters walking around the park. Without waiting in any long lines, we met Cinderella's Fairy Godmother, and Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. We waited in line to meet Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck. Linna walked right up to both of them, and gave them big hugs! The line to meet some of the Disney princesses was over an hour long, and since Linna wasn't asking to see anyone in particular, we skipped those meet-and-greets. I think if Linna was a bit older, and obsessed with princesses, we would have waited in line. Again, there's always next time!

Flag lowering ceremony in the Magic Kingdom at the end of the day.

Mama Saigh and Bug at Walt Disney World.

Linna in her new Tinkerbell costume.

The highlight of our entire Magic Kingdom experience was the Disney Parade through the park. THIS was one of the most magical experiences I've ever had with my daughter! I'm not kidding when I say that the parade had both me and my mom in tears. It was so emotional seeing Linna light up in astonishment, as some of her favorite Disney characters waved to her from the parade floats. It was like she couldn't believe that all these characters were walking, singing, and standing right in front of her! She squealed each time a character walked by, and we were all squealing right along with her. The sight of her shocked and excited little face, paired with the "Celebrate" song playing over the park's speakers, was enough to turn me into an emotional mommy mess. And THAT'S how they lured me in! Right after the parade, I found myself racing to one of the Disney shops to buy Linna a $65 Tinkerbell costume. Walt Disney had cast a magic spell over this mama, and our bank account was the victim;) Honestly, if I had to do it all over, I STILL would have bought the damn costume. Linna LOVED it... and we all loved seeing the happiness on her cute little face!

(The parade right through the Magic Kingdom... our favorite!)

There was never a dull moment inside the Magic Kingdom. As far as eating goes, we really just grabbed food along the way. I wish we would have booked a table at one of the character breakfasts inside Cinderella's Castle, but we simply just didn't have enough time. Plus, I think it will be even better when Linna is a little older. We did all the fun rides like "It's a Small World" (I cried during this one too), the Teacup ride, etc., and when you get one of the Fastpass tickets, there isn't much waiting in long lines at all! I think the longest that we ever waited in line was like 10 minutes. These days, Disney World has a lot to keep kids entertained while you're waiting in a longer line.

We left the park just before dark, as we had a three-hour drive back to my parents' house in Estero. If we had to do it all again, we DEFINITELY would have booked a second night at the hotel. There's just so much to do, and we only visited ONE park. A least we have a lot to look forward to when we visit again!

Thanks mom and dad for this truly magical trip. Linna and I can't wait to do it again! Is this coming December too soon for another visit?!

A few tips from Mama Saigh:

1. If you're looking to save money somewhere, book a hotel that's not in one of the Disney Theme Parks. I'm sure those resorts are an amazing experience, but we really enjoyed our stay at the BuenaVista Palace.

2. Get the FASTPASS as often as you can. It's free, and there's no waiting in long lines!

3. December is a great time to visit if you're looking for spring or fall-like weather. It was sunny when we visited on December 18th, 2013, but cool enough so we weren't sweating.

4. Get to the park early to beat the crowd. Also, be prepared to battle a huge crowd if you stay to watch the evening fireworks!

5. Bring a stroller, and back-up clothing for your little potty-trainers. We put our 2-year-old (who is potty-trained) in a diaper while we were at the park, to avoid having to carry around "pee clothes". There's lots of restrooms inside the Magic Kingdom, but be prepared for the inevitable accident!

6. Don't be in a rush. Just ENJOY THE MOMENT! There WILL be crowds of people, and long lines, but don't let that ruin your experience. Remember, this IS the happiest place on Earth:)

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