Disney World 2015

I've been to Disney World a few times in my life. Once back in 2006 with Chris and Simon and a few other times when CKU events were held in Orlando. This past week we made the trip again - this time with Aaron, Katie, Simon, Anna and Audrey. You can read about our 2006 adventure here.

Magic is a word that tends to get thrown around a lot, but really and truly there is a whole lot of magic in that place. 

But before we get to that, let's start at the beginning: 

Katie and I flew to Orlando before Aaron and the kids and I taught five workshops at the awesome She Scrapbooks. Loved being back in a real-world scrapbook store again - such a great, relaxed environment for workshops. There was a lot of laughing, and a bit of crying (good kind of course), and lots of stories being told. Big thanks to Stephanie and her staff for making our stay so enjoyable. 

After finishing up the workshops Stephanie drove Katie and I to our "home" for the next five days: Disney's Art Of Animation Resort

It was a really great choice for this trip - especially in that we were able to get a "family suite" that fit six people staying all together. 

Art of Animation is in the budget category of Disney lodging (previously in 2006 we stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge) and it was honestly perfect for this trip. The rooms were clean, the food was fine (we did the Deluxe Dining Plan), the pools were fun and we were able to use the Disney buses for transportation to and from the parks (never had to wait longer than 10 mins). 

Aaron flew across the country with Simon, Anna and his daughter Audrey. They made it one piece with only a few minor hiccups along the way (par for the travel course). Before they arrived we did a bit of shopping at the Disney store in Downtown Disney and picked up some t-shirts and lanyards and pins to surprise the kids when they got to the room. 

We stayed in the Cars section of the resort and loved the Cozy Cone pool. It was HOT and humid (hot here at home while we were away too which is crazy) and the kids loved swimming in the pool the first night and a few other times as well. 

In terms of cameras for this trip I ended up just using my iPhone. I brought my DSLR along but ended up not wanting to carry it because it's heavy and I was already carrying a backpack of kid-related stuff that was enough.  

Before I get much further, our goal was simply to have fun. It wasn't to see every single thing (just crazy) or ride every ride as many times as we wanted or make sure we didn't miss a single thing. We're a pretty go with the flow group of travelers but we did have a general plan mapped out in advance of which parks we were hitting on which days. For our trip we choose a 3-day Park Hopper pass (I love being able to go from park to park on one day) knowing that some of us would be spending at least one day of our trip at Universal Studios to visit Harry Potter World. 

We started with Magic Kingdom because it's still the favorite. One of the first things we did when we got in the park was get both girls a dress - they ended up wanting to get the same one (Belle from Beauty and the Beast). 

The Disney World app is awesome and we used it regularly - if you are going you should definitely download it for all kinds of reasons (fast passes, information, maps, etc). 

One of our first stops was Splash Mountain. Simon wasn't interested (he wanted to do Sorcerer's of the Magic Kingdom - more about that in a minute) so Katie took him to work on that and the rest of us waited in line (about 30 minutes) for Splash Mountain. 

This was the first time for both girls on this ride (both first time at Disney World) and they LOVED it. Both were shouting "Again, again!" at the end of the ride. 

It wasn't long before it started to rain/thunderstorm on that first day. We had lunch reservations at the Liberty Tree Tavern which ended up being perfect timing when it really started to pour (even though the four of us that rode Splash Mountain were already soaked and got completely drenched as we made our way over to the restaurant). 

Simon, not generally a fan of rain (which is tough when you live in Oregon), did pretty darn well with the poncho. 

So Sorcerer's of the Magic Kingdom - this was something I had no idea about before this trip. Simon found it via the app as he was researching and it ended up being one of his favorite things. It's basically a scavenger hunt throughout the park. You start at the Main Street Firehouse to learn how to play and pick up a set of spell cards and a map. From there you follow the clues on the map and use the cards to defeat evil villains that appear in various hidden locations. He was seriously all over this - loved it. 

On this trip he was definitely less interested in the rides and more interestd in scavenger-hunt sorts of activities in each of the different parks. 

One of the best parts of this trip was having a one-child to one-adult ratio. Having kids that are far apart in age (seven years with some special needs thrown in to the mix) can be a bit of a challenge on a trip like this with the varied interests. Because we had more adults on hand we were able to split up when necessary which made for a better overall experience for everyone. 

In the afternoon Katie, Simon, Anna and I headed back to the hotel for a rest while Aaron and Audrey kept going. Anna immediately fell asleep on the bus of course. We met back up later in the evening at Hollywood Studios for the Frozen Sing-A-Long

The photo above, though blurry and grainy, perfectly captures the awesomeness of that show. 

We stuck around for fireworks and a popcorn snack before heading back to the hotel. 

On Tuesday we started the day at Epcot (I don't think I took any photos there) and ended the evening with fireworks and rides at Magic Kingdom again. 

Before the fireworks and Main Street Electrical Parade we ate dinner at The Crystal Palace - a character meal featuring Winnie The Pooh and Friends. I wasn't sure if the girls were going to be into this one or feel like they were "too old" but they loved it. 

We did utilize the Disability Access Service Card that Disney World offers (similar to a Fast Pass but this allows you to not have to wait in line and rather come back at an assigned time). This proved very helpful as we couldn't always plan ahead for how Simon was going to be doing/feeling at a particular time. It gave us just enough flexibility (and the freedom to move around while we waited for a particular ride). We rented a wheelchair for Simon on a couple of the days (which he was truly so, so happy about) and a double-stroller for the girls - having both those options really made a difference in their overall ability to enjoy the experience (especially in the crowds and heat). It's a lot of walking for anyone, but particularly challenging for someone with less stamina. 

On Wednesday the girls and Katie had a pool day while Aaron and I took Simon to Universal Studios to experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The girls didn't really care (and it's expensive for the two park pass) and Katie was ready for a hang-out day so it worked out just right. 

I might have choked up getting on the train between Hogwarts and Diagon Alley. 

Simon, of course, was over the moon. 

Movies live in Simon's head. They are on repeat in his mind and seeing a favorite storyline come to life was definitely magic. He's read a few of the books and seen all the movies multiple times. It was rad. 

We started at Diagon Alley - because you have to get your school supplies before you go to Hogwarts. 

First thing we did was go to Ollivanders and buy an interactive wand so he could walk around and practice spells (another scavenger hunt style of activity). He did some of those and then we ate at the Leaky Cauldron and tried butterbeer (of course). We rode the Gringotts ride - liked it - and then walked around doing more spells 

Next we made our way via the train over to Hogsmeade and Hogwarts. We also used a similar Disability Pass at Universal which cut down the wait time for the big ride: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Once was enough for me on that one (the 3D and 4D visual effects + the motion of the ride = not great for me) but Aaron and Simon turned right around and rode it again. 

Simon picked up a chocolate frog (Rowena Ravenclaw on the card) at Honeydukes

We also rode the Flight of the Hippogriff a couple of times as well. Love seeing Simon smiling and happy. We really took our time and let him set the pace - another thing that was nice about being able to take him on his own. And, as he will gladly tell you, he's not a fan of glitter so it was a nice break from those glittery 6-year-olds. 

After getting his fill of Harry Potter stuff (he easily could have stayed there multiple days just playing with the interactive wands) we explored a bit more or Islands Of Adventure which basically meant we rode every water ride they had available and go completely soaked: Ripsaw FallsJurassic Park River Adventure, and Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges. Water rides are my favorite. I had brought along his swim trunks and water shirt to change into because I knew from past experience (not a good one) that going on any water rides would require that. 

And yes, on Thursday we got wet again. This time at Animal Kingdom where we started our day. Girls loved it too. 

In the afternoon it was the girl's turn for some magic which included going to the Bibbity Bobbidi Boutique for princess makeovers. Anna did this when she was three at Disneyland and she still talks about it. 

Simon and Katie stayed at Animal Kingdom checking out the animals and other attractions. Simon ending up riding the Expedition Everest roller coaster on his own and got stuck on the ride when there was one of those emergency stops that results in everyone having to evacuate the ride. As serious luck would have it he was right at the very end of the ride and Katie was able to be right there to help him exit. They then got a free fast pass to the front of the Safari line because of the stopped Everest ride. 

We met back up at Epcot for a princess dinner at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (in Norway). We tried getting reservations for dinner at Cinderella's Castle a few months ago but it was all booked up. This ended up being a great option. 

This day also represented the most challenging in terms of kid meltdowns. It had been building up and one by one they were all reaching their point of no return. Somehow, miraculously, they all made it through dinner. Katie took them all back to the room after dinner and Aaron and I got to run around Epcot and then over to Magic Kingdom for a few more rides on our own. We didn't last too long - we were tired. 

On Friday we had a late flight out of Orlando so once we were all packed up we spent some time at the pool before boarding the bus to head to the airport. 

Love Simon photobombing in the background. 

It's a 5.5 hour flight (or so) from Orlando to Seattle. Anna looked like this most of the time. I slept. Simon slept. Aaron and Audrey each did a bit. Katie never sleeps on planes. 

Coming back into Seattle looked like this. So beautiful.

We got into Seattle around 10pm and our flight to Eugene was supposed to leave around 11pm (putting us home right around midnight). Unfortunately they ended up canceling our flight after maintenance delays around midnight (for us by that time it was 3am since we'd been on East coast time). They put us up in a nearby hotel and we took a flight mid-day on the 4th of July (that's the short version of a much longer story that includes me crying when talking to the gate agent in the morning when we got back to the airport to do it all over again). 

It was a good trip. 

Magic, yes. Fun, yes. Challenging, yes. It felt rushed but I'm just not sure there's another way to do Disney World when you live on the opposite coast. We missed a few rides I generally would never miss - Tower Of Terror being one - just because it didn't work out - which was fine because it wasn't all about me. Totally worth it. 

We'll definitely be back again in another few years. 

It was the best feeling to get home on the 4th in time to take a nap before heading over to our friend's to celebrate. 

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45 thoughts

  1. Laura_Steingiser says…
    07/07/2015

    Ali, what a great trip. I love a day of no photos at Epcot. Sometimes, it is great to just experience and keep the memories. We LOVE WDW and went last year with our 2 adult daughters, who still love it, one still being a princess! The water parks are the best. So awesome that they have passes for those of us who have difficulties waiting, we were all over the fast passes ourselves. What a wonderful day with Simon and his scavenger hunt. So happy for your lovely new family.

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. audmac says…
    07/07/2015

    Thanks for sharing! It looks like you all had a wonderful time!

    Ali, This is unrelated, but wanted to ask. A few years back I took a class on your website, I believe it was called "destination" ? It was travel related.... Anyway with your new site, do you know if I still am able to access it? And if so where? Thanks

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. AliEdwards says…
      07/07/2015

      Hey! How about Scrapbook On The Road? Send katie@aliedwards.com an email and she will get you set up.

  3. Coffeemomma says…
    07/07/2015

    I am a loyal reader and an infrequent commenter. I've been following your blog since the very early days, and I feel privileged you have chosen to share some of Simons story with all of us. As a lover of Disney world, (and Potter!)I found myself nodding along here and there reading this, and geared up at the expression on Simons face in HPW. All of this is just so lovely and relaxed...I love how you talk so often about meeting your kids exactly where they are, with no judgements. I'm rambling....but I found myself very moved by these words and pictures today. :)

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. jchurch2 says…
      07/08/2015

      I totally agree

  4. mtercha says…
    07/07/2015

    Very beautiful post. My daughter was 4 when we did the princess makeover. So fun. Love those photos, mine and theirs. It is so magical there. Another world, really. Beautiful, heartfelt, and honest writing. Thanks for sharing. Michelle t

    Reply 0 Replies
  5. deemommaof2 says…
    07/07/2015

    Love reading your posts. Your writing style is lovely; like we are sitting together having a coffee. It's truly refreshing how real, honest and authentic you are. Thanks for all you do Ali.

    Reply 0 Replies
  6. jenjeb says…
    07/07/2015

    Sounds like it was a wonderful trip Ali! I also have been a reader of yours for years and it is truly a joy to see Simon progress to the young man he is now. I love your honest and true detailing of how the trip went. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. katie1980 says…
    07/07/2015

    Ali, what a great post! Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I love that the DAS pass was available so Simon could experience the parks in a way that suited him, that's such a fab idea.
    Bless him, though, he looks so cute and little lying down on that white bench - adorable! Even though he's a "big kid" now, he's still your little boy. Wow.
    (And I think you meant you tried butterbeer at Happy Potter, not butterbean! - probably predictive text/ autocorrect again!)
    Looking forward to my WITL kit being sent out, and really getting into the groove of that project next month, and trying to prioritise my me-time at the moment, so that will be great! Thanks for all you share, I do like popping in to "visit"!

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. AliEdwards says…
      07/07/2015

      I totally did mean that - autocorrect can be SO wrong sometimes :).

  8. Carolly says…
    07/07/2015

    Huge heart emojis!!!!!!
    What a great trip, and although you didn't pull out the big camera- you got some really great photos!!!!!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  9. happytoscrap says…
    07/07/2015

    What a fantastic trip to Disneyworld! They must have re-opened the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Norway). We took our girls there when they were 5 and 8 (now 15 and 18!)
    Your family looks so happy! You are such a wonderful story teller. So enjoyed going along on your trip!

    Also, I was one of the fortunate ones to attend your classes in Florida. It was so nice to meet you and Katie. The classes renewed my interest to making mini albums. Thank you. I would love to see you come again to Florida!

    I bet we would love to see how you document your Disneyworld trip! I'm 4 Disney trips behind!

    Reply 0 Replies
  10. cathyzielske says…
    07/07/2015

    Loved reading this, Ali. An adventure indeed.

    Reply 0 Replies
  11. kraftkris says…
    07/07/2015

    Sounds like an amazing trip! Can't wait to see how you scrapbook it (assuming you will).

    I live in Georgia and I tried to get down to your class in Florida but it just did not work out! I was bummed but hopefully will have another chance sometime!

    Reply 0 Replies
  12. papergoddess says…
    07/07/2015

    Love Disney World! Sounds like you got just enough magic in. You are so right though, it's not really a relaxing vacation!

    Reply 0 Replies
  13. jambajuice57 says…
    07/07/2015

    Priceless photos and words, Ali. What a wonderful experience. I especially loved the photos of Simon at the Harry Potter adventure, the one with Simon, you and Aaron is gorgeous. I appreciate that you are so flexible with not trying to keep everyone on the same track, doing the same thing for the sake of "togetherness" on a trip like this. From the decision to take three vs five kids to Florida, to customizing the experience so that all of them got to enjoy activities appropriate just for them, to ensuring the one to one adult/kid ratio - you are so smart about this. It's a joy to see how things are unfolding for you. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. jchurch2 says…
      07/08/2015

      Well said. Totally agree....must remember that flexibility when we take my daughter, son-in-law and grandson in October.

  14. edillow says…
    07/07/2015

    We went to Universal a couple of weeks ago too, before the move from AL to NM : ) I'm like Simon—I could have stayed the entire time just at Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley.

    Reply 0 Replies
  15. angelzmom says…
    07/07/2015

    Wow! Just wow! You're an extraordinary writer, Ali, and I love reading posts like this. Glad you all made wonderful memories. Welcome home! :)

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. anniebeagle says…
    07/07/2015

    Love this post!! I might have choked up when I read that you might have choked up getting on the train between Hogwarts and Diagon Alley. Sigh... :) My oldest son is reading all the HP books for the first time this summer. I like to re-read them (and watch the movies and listen to the audio books!) every couple of years. After seeing your pictures and reading about Simon's experience at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I know we HAVE TO GO! :)

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Cameragal8 says…
      07/08/2015

      I teared up then as well, Ali. I know exactly how you felt. My girlfriend and I are impatiently awaiting the opening of the California location. I just can't deal with humidity.

  17. angymuse says…
    07/07/2015

    FIRSTLY, WHEN YOU WRITE ABOUT ANNA.. ITS SO HEARTWARMING BUT WHEN YOU WRITE ABOUT SIMON.. IT JUST TUGS AT MY HEART STRINGS! YOU ARE SO AMAZING... I EVEN CRIED A BIT AND LAUGHED HYSTERICALLY READING ABOUT SIMON'S COMMENT ABOUT THE GIRLS AND THEIR GLITTER SOO FUNNY. I KNOW IT CANT BE EASY HAVING TO BE 2 DIFFERENT MOMS TO YOUR 2 EXTREMELY DIFFERENT KIDS. NOT JUST IN AGE BUT EVERYTHING ELSE.. LITERALLY. I APPLAUD YOU AND ADMIRE YOU. WHEN I STARTED READING YOUR BLOG ABOUT A YEAR AGO.. OF COURSE I WENT BACK AND READ ALL THE POSTS ABOUT SIMON AND I AM SOO GLAD TO SEE HIM DOING SO WELL. LOOKS LIKE YOU HAVE IT MOSTLY FIGURED OUT.. IN TERMS OF UNDERSTANDING WHAT HE LIKES AND DOESNT LIKE. IM GLAD YOU ALL HAD A NICE TIME. I CANT WAIT TO GO AGAIN. AND MUST MUST MUST GO TO HARRY POTTER WORLD.. MY SON IS ONLY 3 BUT I WILL MAKE HIM BE A HARRY POTTER FAN IF I HAVE TO! LOL

    QUESTION THOUGH. DID YOU WRITE YOUR POST ALL FROM MEMORY? OR DO THE PICTURES JOG YOUR MEMORY? OR DO YOU JOT NOTES DOWN AS THE DAY GOES BY?? TELL ME YOUR SECRET.. :)

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. AliEdwards says…
      07/07/2015

      Hi! No notes, just use the photos as my guide. And doing it right after the event helps a lot.

  18. blestchick says…
    07/07/2015

    Hi Ali,

    I loved this post and the encouragement to consider a wheelchair for our next trip. My daughter has incredibly low stamina and is ASD but hadn't really considered this option.

    I just discovered this author and her books Scavenger Hunt Adventures and thought Simon might love it if you're ever in any of these cities with him: http://www.scavengerhuntadventures.com/index.html

    Cheers,
    Tracy.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. AliEdwards says…
      07/07/2015

      Oh cool - thanks Tracy. The wheelchair was a really good option for Simon. I think it would have been different if he wasn't excited at that option or felt uncomfortable or embarrassed in any way - it was exactly the opposite for him.

  19. crazystampwoman says…
    07/07/2015

    I'm so glad you listed all the info on Universal here! I am taking my ASD son to Harry Potter next summer; I am overjoyed that he will be able to get the AAP to help him deal with the crowds and waiting in line at rides. That was my biggest fear, as he has a hard time with that. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Reply 0 Replies
  20. Raylene says…
    07/07/2015

    This was a terrific read, Ali! While you & Aaron were in Galapagos, I was in Orlando at Universal/ Harry Potter World. Loved it so much! I didn't go on any rides, but I carefully looked at everything there! At breakfast at the Three Broomsticks! Thanks for sharing . . . it was a good memory trigger! Nice to read about how to managed three kids . . . I love it that Aaron's daughter is a good Sis for Anna!

    Reply 0 Replies
  21. AnitaBonita says…
    07/07/2015

    We have a son who is almost 19...when he outgrew his special needs stroller at around age 13 (he's very tiny with a number of medical/developmental issues including ASD), we started using a wheelchair for malls and outings etc. He was a bit too impulsive for just one adult to manage...we could turn the seatbelt of the wheelchair around to make it a bit too hard for him to easily escape :) What is funny is that he has some very good verbal skills and although he liked his chair, he occasionally felt compelled to explain to someone that 'I'm not that kind of handicapped, but I am impulsive sometimes and forget rules about listening'. It took other people aback a little, but cracked me up everytime. He rarely uses it anymore, a handhold in a crowd is good enough containment most of the time now. It served a great purpose for awhile and made life a bit easier and safer all the way around. We do what we have to do when we need to, complex situations call for creative solutions...keep up the good work!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  22. ScrappinMyHeartOut says…
    07/07/2015

    So happy that except for a few hitches you shared a magical time at Disney World. Glad Anna enjoyed the Frozen Sing-a-long and fireworks - those are current favorites of ours. I also love how Simon enjoyed scavenger hunting and is all about Harry Potter. My daughter and I have read the series together 7 full times and are on round 8 right now. There are some fun quizzes online - things like "which house would you be in" or "which character would you be" - Simon may enjoy partaking in them. There's also a site called Pottermore that he may enjoy, it's sponsored by JK Rowling. https://www.pottermore.com/en-us/

    Reply 0 Replies
  23. northcarmen says…
    07/07/2015

    I enjoyed reading your post -- it was a good "escape" for me in the midst of a very difficult, intense time in my life (evacuated while raging forest fires threaten my home and those of many others). I appreciate your candidness about the hard parts. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is on my personal bucket list -- maybe someday. :)

    I have a question about the WITL kit -- if I need to change the mailing address I put on my pre-order, how much notice do you/Studio Calico need for the change? We may not be able to get our mail for quite some time (the mayor is predicting a "prolonged" evacuation, and it's been 4 days already since the mandatory evacuation, so who knows), so I may want the package sent elsewhere. If you know or could check, it would be appreciated.

    Best wishes. :)

    Carmen.

    Reply 2 Replies
    1. AliEdwards says…
      07/08/2015

      Hi Carmen - I'm so sorry to read about what is happening for you at home right now. Please start a conversation with Customer Service and they will assist you in the process.

    2. northcarmen says…
      07/09/2015

      Okay. Many thanks for your concern and for the advice. I am praying all will be restored to at least close to normal soon. :)

  24. pinksoup says…
    07/08/2015

    Oh my gosh Ali, this was wonderful! I knew exactly where you were in most of these photos. Especially Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. We had so much fun playing that. As a Florida resident, we take advantage of the annual passes and go so many times that I feel qualified to be a tour guide! It's an even trade off for the hot weather we have to endure. I just love what you write about each photo and the experience in general. I'm also impressed that you took all these photos with an iPhone. I have an iPhone 4 and don't get as good a picture.
    Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed it all and look forward to doing WITL in August.
    Kathy

    Reply 0 Replies
  25. sleepeybear says…
    07/08/2015

    What a lovely summary! Because my husband and I are in the midst of planning an anniversary trip to Orlando in October, this planted the much-needed seed to let myself go with the flow when we're there...be it taking (or not taking) pictures, honoring our bodies' rhythms and needs as we go through the day, and finding the balance between making the most of the visit and simply enjoying the place. Thank you for that.

    Reply 0 Replies

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