We had saved all year for this vacation. We opened a CD with USAA and socked money into Savings when we could. We had a garage sale for some spending cash and the boys did extra chores around Grandma's house for some souvenir money. Money was not going to be a stresser.
Friday evening, July 24th, over a year after we started planning our magical adventure, we arrived safely at our hotel-destination, Shades of Green.
Shades of Green was beautiful. It is an MWR facility, however, it is also a Disney Parks Resort. So all those benefits of staying on the resort are afforded to the military family staying at the much less-expensive, but equally beautiful Shades of Green.
The advantages of Shades of Green were numerous. Each day one of the four parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom) opened an hour early for guests staying at the Disney Resorts. I found out that purchases made (hats, mugs, tshirts) can be delivered to the resort the next day so that you don't have to carry them all around the park. Of course I saved all of my shopping for the last day so couldn't take them up on the offer but would have gladly! There was free shuttle service from the parks to Shades of Green and vice versa all day. I ached just watching folks walking across the giganamous parking lot at the end of their day to get to their car. We climbed aboard our bus and relaxed for the 5 to 15 minute drive (depending on which park we were at).
Disney is very generously offering free 5 day Park Hopper tickets to service-members through the end of this year. (Disney Tickets for Military Personnel) Family members tickets are greatly discounted too. We purchased those tickets & got hub's free ticket there at Shades of Green and then activated the tickets at Disney World the next day. It was all very easy!
We spent our first day and our last day at Magic Kingdom. Our teenager rode the Dumbo ride with his knees in his armpits and our four-year-old tackled Thunder Mountain with fear and trepidation (and a request to 'LET'S DO IT AGAIN!') Nothing was too little or too big for any one of us. We brought water bottles and took long gulps after each ride. It was HOT. We had our customized-maps from Disney and piggy-backed with the maps we picked up at the park we were in good hands and had our day planned out from the get-go. We mastered the fast-pass system and avoided the 60 to 90 minute waits at the most-popular rides.
I was amazed as a thirty-something-ish gal I felt like I was 10. It felt so good to feel so young. I was just as giddy as my six-year-old. I let my husband take the lead in the planning of our days. He asked for my input and I gave it. But I knew that too many cooks spoil the broth. I wanted us all to enjoy our time.
Our second and fifth day were at Epcot; day three we spent at Hollywood Studios. Our boys were the perfect size as most of the more adventurous rides required you to be 40 inches. Both younger boys are taller than that. *C* (4 years old) could not ride Mission to Mars at Epcot (although quite honestly, he wasn't missing much... I'm not a fan of needless g-forces, needless to say) because you had to be 44 inches for that one. Neither of them, *E* or *C*, could ride the Rockin' Roller coaster at Hollywood Studios as you had to be 48 inches. The teenager and I hit that one together (fast-passes in hand) while Hubs stayed back with the two shorter guys ;). *J* and I decided that Rockin' Roller coaster was definitely worth it! A whole lot of fun. [I LOVE roller coasters... Hubs, not so much. :) ]
Day four, Tuesday, we spent at our hotel. We were in Florida for six full-days with a five-day Disney pass. Right smack in the middle of our trip we took the day off. *E* showed us how much of a fish he was with some non-stop swimming at the pool. I finished a good book. We all took a nap at one point. It was just what our weary feet needed. Rested body's and happy souls (& soles).
We discovered new things about each other. Our 4 and 6 year olders LOVE the thrill of a roller coaster, our 15 year old is young enough to *want* to meet Cinderella (& slightly jealous that she kissed his six-year old brother instead of him). I learned it was nice to sit back and let my husband plan, to give my input but for the most part go along for the ride. We can in fact have a PERFECT vacation as a family!
A HUGE thank you to Disney World for allowing my family of five to enjoy your parks for 5 days (6 days if you include our one day of lounging around the hotel pool) for just under $400. It is a wonderful feeling to be a family again and a wonderful way to make memories. Disney World is top-notch!
- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com