If you missed the first post about planning for our trip, you can read it here.
And, like my other Disney posts, any tips and tricks I find helpful will be written in blue italics so that they're easy to find (both for our future trips and for others who might be planning to go!)
Our Disney Dream drive started early. We left the house around 5am while it was still dark outside. After a quick stop for gas and coffee, we were headed south with our friends leading the way.
And I just realized I haven't mentioned the fact that we went with some of our greatest friends, Jamie and Les Bradford. We met them in a young marrieds Bible study almost 7 years ago and ended up being neighbors soon after that! The funny part is that we both had been planning our Disney cruises and didn't know the other was planning to go; we had just booked our trip when Jamie mentioned to me that they might be going, and I was like "YEESSSSSS!!! GET ON OUR SHIP!!!" And the rest is history! We were able to link our reservations so that we could eat together at night and even our staterooms were right down the hall from each other. Jamie has a 3 year old son, Gage, (he actually turned 3 ON the cruise which was super fun!), and she is pregnant with a little sister who will be here in February! So once we knew we had friends going with us, it only made it more exciting.
It rained a little for the first couple hours. I went right back to sleep (since I was up until midnight checking and re-checking my packing lists!) and the kids did too. The kids and I slept until around 8am. We did a drive-thru breakfast and kept going. I don't think we stopped again until maybe around 1pm and we were a pretty good ways into Florida by then. After a bathroom break and a quick drive-thru lunch at Chick Fil A, we got back on the road. We made it to Orlando right before 3pm (Eastern) so all in all it took us around 9 hours. It really wasn't a bad drive at all and leaving early eliminated lots of rush hour traffic problems so we felt like we'd made a good choice to drive.
These girls were bright eyed and bushy-tailed once they woke up and remembered where we were going.
The minivan was packed FULL. Probably overpacked, to be honest. But I'll show you how we survived what I thought was going to be the road trip from youknowwhere.
I put the oldest two in the back since they both like to do the same sorts of activities. That way we had one of the middle captain's chairs empty and I could climb back and help them eat, play, break up fights, etc. (And I pretty much ended up sitting back there the entire trip.)
I put this bin in between them that contained several library books we'd checked out, a few magazines we'd gotten in the mail (toy magazines and American Girl and a Highlights). We also borrowed a couple of Leapsters and a few games.
I had one bin that was full of snacks. I love the no-spill toddler bowls and they were critical for this trip. I also bought the set of orange bowls in the dollar section at Target.
These are also from the dollar aisle and came 3 to a pack. I brought them for the boat because they don't have kids cups on the cruise ship. They were also great for the car too and I will probably keep them in the car for the times when we need to stop for drinks and don't have cups.
One of my favorite things for eating on the road: CAR SEAT TRAVEL TRAYS!
I've gone through a couple different brands of car seat trays since Mary Ella was a baby and I find that if you want them for eating, a cup holder is a must! Even if your car seat already has a cup holder, these make it easier because they don't have to reach around the trays to grab their cups. :)
The kids have these car seat trays which buckle to their seats and have built in cup holders. These are great for road trips. They are a little small to use for coloring but are great for meals on the go.
A diaper bin full of diapers, disposable changing pads, flushable wipes, pull-ups for Sam (we kept him in a pull-up for the entire road trip just in case), diaper cream and diaper trash bags.
And finally - our awesome car kits. Which I also jokingly call our "ANYTHING TO KEEP YOU FROM SCREAMING" boxes full o' fun craftivities. Bring lots of car activities! Don't forget to pack plenty for driving both there and back! Stuff that takes time is preferable (stickers, beads, etc.)
I bought these plastic flat bins (which are probably 16x16 inches) at Michael's while they were on sale for $5 each. They are scrapbook supply boxes I believe. I put the kids names on them with vinyl and for about a month or so, anytime I saw any sort of craft appropriate for the car, I would buy it and by the time our trip rolled around I had tons of stuff for them to do. Everything came from the dollar section at either Target, Michael's or the Dollar Tree.
Here's Sam's box so you can see what's inside.
Foam stickers and paper, a Ninja Turtle coloring/sticker pack, foam faces with stick-on eyes/ears/noses/etc, pipe cleaners and animal-shaped beads, ladybug stickers, Monsters University markers, a couple coloring books, wooden crafts with markers, stamps, and a few fun figurines.
Mary Ella's box contained much of the same, but with more girly/princess stuff and a few school-related workbooks too.
I also bought her this journal (again, dollar section at Michael's!) and thought it would be cute for her to record some of each day's activities much like her journal at school. Along the way, she kept asking me how to spell certain words but I never knew what she was writing. Some of the entries were hilarious.
For instance: U (As in "uh" as in "a") pirate ship is big. Uh pirate ship is big.
Or "The car ride was long."
The LOVED these sticker activity books. Sam's was a backpack and Mary Ella's was a cupcake.
They have tons of stickers in the book that all coordinate with certain pages in the book.
They loved looking for the stickers that went on each page and this took up tons of time. :)
I also filled up a small lunchbox full of Disney "peoples" as Sam calls them, in case the crafts got old.
Little Sis tried to stretch out her legs and touch Daddy's seat several times.
They took a few short naps along the way.
And thankfully our driver didn't need a nap. Nor did he complain about having to drive.
Get a driver that won't complain.
We decided to stop in Orlando at Downtown Disney to get dinner and let the kids run around and get a break from the car for a while. Downtown Disney did not disappoint with the Halloween decorations!
The kids loved looking around at all the stores, especially the Lego store and the big Disney store. The boys stopped and stared at the dinosaurs at the T-Rex cafe. They were loving it. Sam kept saying, "I wuv Disney wuh-wuhld. Gage! Do you wuv Disney wuh-wuhld??!"
I wasn't sure how Emma Kate would react to the character statues but she loved them.
She called Cinderella "Yeh-yuh" (the same thing she calls her sister) and kept pointing and saying "Cheese" and giving her hugs.
Every time she saw something she recognized and she would point and grin and get so excited.
When we went to Disney back in February Emma Kate wasn't walking yet so it was so fun this time seeing her walk around the souvenir store. I found out pretty quickly that she loves her some Minnie Mouse.
Anywhere she saw a Minnie, she was reaching for it.
The princess section now has a magic mirror that allows you to see yourself dressed in each Disney princesses' outfit. Mary Ella thought this was so cool and asked if we could buy it. Unfortunately this wasn't a souvenir. Not one that we could afford, anyway.
And EK just kept walking around the store, grabbing what she saw fit.
After a quick dinner at Wolfgang Puck's, we were off to Port Canaveral!
And back to travel tips:
BRING YO DOLLA BILLS.
Seriously. Bring a lot of dollars. Or just cash in general (they can give you change at most of them if you have bigger bills.) Florida is a toll state. Meaning they like to collect money from people trying to get from point A to point B, even if point A is only a couple miles from point B. You will go through lots of toll booths. Particularly on the way from Orlando to Port Canaveral. We knew to bring cash for bag and shuttle guys, but I never read anything about cash for tolls, so this came as a surprise to us. Thankfully I had enough dollar bills to get us through all 38 toll booths (not really 38 but there were a LOT of them), but needless to say we were sort of lacking in the dollar bill department the next day when we needed to tip some baggage and shuttle folks. Eeek! Sorry! But around $40 cash should do the trick for all tolls and other people!
We finally arrived at our hotel and we were actually able to see one of the Disney ships from our window! This is a horrible picture but you can tell by the red smoke stacks that this is the Disney ship. We thought it was ours but now I'm pretty sure it was the Magic and not the Dream. The kids couldn't believe how big it was! Which of course made them even more excited.
For potential future cruisers: We stayed at the Country Inn and Suites which is about a 3 minute drive from Port Canaveral (the actual port where you board the ship.) They have a "Stay and Cruise" deal where you get your hotel room, a free hot breakfast buffet and a free shuttle ride to the terminal. You leave your car at the hotel instead of paying for the parking deck at the terminal, which is $15 a day (so $75 if you do the 4-night cruise like we did.) We knew we'd be staying overnight anyway so the stay-and-cruise deal sounded like a pretty good plan! Everything was great. Rooms were huge (a den, kitchenette, and bedroom with two separate TV's and a good sized bathroom) and breakfast was delish!
We would definitely do this again. :)
And that, folks, is our quick recap of our travel day! The real fun begins in the next post. ;)
I'll be back soon for more Disney Cruise fun and pictures from our first day aboard the ship!