Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Summer Vacation 2008: DisneyWorld!

Every other summer we camp somewhere in our pop-up camper for our summer vacation. We have had some awesome vacations doing so: Durango, CO and Branson, MO are two of our favorite vacation memories. This summer, I did not do any early planning, so by the time I got around to checking campgrounds in our home state of TX, everything was booked. So what to do? Jack (otherwise known as my oldest child) immediately exclaimed Disneyworld (and yes, it was always an exclamation. Like this: DisneyWorld! DisneyWorld!! DISNEYWORLD!!!) Then he got Meghan on his side. Claire and Anna still wanted to camp however, and I did too. Solution: Camping at DisneyWorld's Fort Wilderness Campground! We booked 8 days for the first week in August. We have been home a week now from our vacation, and it was as always, WONDERFUL. The camping aspect was different then our usual camping trips. We pretty much used our camper as home base and spent most of our time in the parks. But we still cooked out a couple nights, made smores, and spent time in line waiting for showers to make it seem like a legitimate camping trip! The campground is beautiful with lots to do. Disney just does everything right. This was our 4th trip there, and every time it just gets better.

Here are some favorite pictures and memories from the trip. (Note: No, we did not adopt a very pretty South American teenager this past year. The extra girl you see in the pics is Meghan's BFF, Natalie. She is like our 4th daughter and has vacationed with the McAfees for two summers in a row now. Crazy girl!)

The drive to Florida included Jack drinking Amp energy drink. Our fearless leader towed our camper and survived 5 females in a car for 1 1/2 days. Of course, he knew Disney would be his reward.
Our obligatory backseat road trip picture. Included in this pic is our 5th daughter and Claire's BFF, Jenna. We made a Flat Jenna complete with Mickey ears to bring on our trip and take lots of pics with us. Unfortunately, Flat Jenna only made it a day on our trip before I lost her somewhere in Magic Kingdom. We were SO sad. I think she is somewhere in the Haunted Mansion ride.

Our destination! There is a funny arrival story to tell here. Jack relies on Google maps to get him everywhere. He printed directions to DisneyWorld and the campground before we left and we diligently followed those directions when we arrived in Orlando. What we didn't know is that Google maps took us the quickest, shortest way. Which also happened to be the back way in. As in: employee entrance. As in: no "Welcome to DisneyWorld" entrance. In other words: I know we are here because I can see Downtown Disney, but where the hell are we? If anyone knows Jack, he HATES to be lost. He is about to lose it at this point and has told all the kids to be quiet because he has no idea where he is supposed to be going. That's when I come up with the (brilliant) solution to find a Fort Wilderness bus and follow it to the campground. Not more than 10 seconds later, Natalie shouts, "There's a Fort Wildnerness bus" and Jack grudgingly follows it muttering expletives the entire time about how stupid this is. Well, the bus made a stop at Typhoon Lagoon and Jack is really irritated now. The kids are absolutely silent. Welcome to DisneyWorld Natalie! Aren't you glad you signed on for the next 10 days with the McAfees! We follow the bus in and Jack parks and jumps out of the car. He is off to get directions to the Fort from a bus driver. The kids and I laugh nervously while he is gone....hehehe....we're here. Isn't this fun? What a great trip this is going to be. If Dad gets us to the campground, that is. And is talking to any of us. OK, the short version of this is that we got directions and made it there! Everything from that point went off without a hitch. Our campsite was great and we got everything set up with no problems. Yay! We ARE at DisneyWorld!

Arrival Day: Magic Kingdom and Chef Mickeys

Our first walk down Main Street at Magic Kingdom

Chef Mickey himself!

Goofy having fun with Meghan

Pluto and girls

Aww....Minnie Mouse!

Donald Duck...isn't he short?

Claire, Natalie and Meghan at one of the Contemporary shops. You'll see one of our favorite pastimes is taking pictures of ourselves in hats.

This was our 1st souvenir purchase. I mean, just look at that. How could we resist Anna's sweet face holding baby Tinkerbell?

2nd Day: Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom

Boat ride from Fort Wilderness to Magic Kingdom

Natalie and Meghan after the Pirates of the Carribean ride.

That's our crew on Splash Mountain. I didn't ride it at first, but later in the week, I would!

Claire holding Flat Jenna on the Jungle Cruise. This is right before Jenna became one of the Happy Haunts on the Haunted Mansion ride.

Primeval Whirl coaster at Animal Kingdom. The girls loved this, but Jack's head got all messed up from the spinning after one ride. Three years ago, he rode it 3 times in a row with Claire and was fine. It sucks getting old. :)

Jack, Natalie, Claire and Anna rode Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom. This is Anna posing as the Yeti. Meghan and I didn't ride it, but Meghan worked up the courage to do it later in the week.

3rd Day: Epcot and Illuminations

The girls waiting for the Epcot bus at the Fort Wilderness bus stop. We are up early for the park opening.

Family pic with the Epcot Ball.

We won Dream Fast Passes at the Living Seas! So cool! This pass got us to the front of the line on every major ride at Epcot. We road Test Track 3 times! We just happened to be in the right place at the right time. (No that isn't Jack after a day in the FL sun....that's the Cast Member who awarded us our "dream".) Awesomeness.

Outside the Living Seas attraction.

Posing with Mary Poppins in "England" at the World Showcase.

French Pavilion at the World Showcase. Love this pic of the girls.

Did Jack enjoy the Grand Marnier and Grey Goose slushies at the French Pavillion. Oui, oui.

Posing in "Morocco."

Natalie is half German, so we made sure to get some pics of "Germany" for her mom and grandmother.

A little less dignified family pic at Epcot World Showcase. Yes, that is a German beverage in my hand. Don't judge....did you not see Jack double fisting those slushies in France?

Are these not the scariest Vikings you've ever seen?
The girls are defending the giant troll in the Norwegian pavilion.

After completing the World Showcase, we headed back to Future World for one more Test Track and Mission Space ride since we had our Dream fastpasses. Meghan didn't go on Mission Space the first time because she was scared, but afterwards she gave it a thumbs up, along with Claire and Natalie. Anna rode it with us earlier and she hated it. She was the Commander and the ride was a little too real for her. She thought she really had to crash land our shuttle!

Camping out at our Illuminations spot. As you can see, we made ourselves at home. Love Illuminations.....love the music, fireworks, everything about it. Great way to end a great day.

4th Day: Sleep In and Blizzard Beach Waterpark

Today was our day to sleep in! In order to beat the crowds I had been waking everyone early to get to the parks at opening. Any self respecting teenager will tell you that getting up at 7am is not much of a vacation. So Meghan and Natalie enjoyed their morning of extra sleep.

Claire found a giant Stitch (her favorite Disney character) at Epcot the day before and he made his way back to our camper. She slept with him every night.

Anna hugging her baby Tinkerbell doll good morning.
After waking, we did a big buffet breakfast at the campground restaurant, Trail's End. Then we headed to Blizzard Beach. I didn't bring my camera to the waterpark, but we had a great day there with lots of rides and trips around the lazy river.

We had planned to do the campfire and movie night back at Fort Wilderness, but the weather was kind of stormy, so it was canceled. Instead, we spent some time at the Trading Post where Jack and Meghan played checkers and Claire and Natalie posed for some goofy pics.

Inside of the Meadows Trading Post at the campground.

5th Day: Magic Kingdom, Spectromagic Parade and Wishes Fireworks

We entered Magic Kingdom before the parked opened today to have breakfast with Pooh and his friends at Crystal Palace. The breakfast is yummy, the characters are fun, and you get in the park before everyone else does!

Here is our chipper gang after breakfast. Now we are ready to hit the park!

You are never too old for the Dumbo ride. It's tradition!

Claire and Anna on their Dumbo. This ride is for you Aunt Beverly!


The girls were captured by the evil Emporer Zurg after riding the Buzz Lightyear ride.


We came back to the campground in the early afternoon. I took Claire and Anna swimming while Jack, Meghan and Natalie relaxed in the camper. (Read: Jack slept while Meghan and Natalie text-messaged friends back home.)

We went back to Magic Kingdom in the evening for the Spectromagic parade. This is us waiting for the parade to start. Afterwards, we watched the fireworks show, Wishes, in front of the castle. Breathtaking! Another great day!

6th Day: Disney Hollywood Studios and Campfire/Movie Night at Fort Wilderness

This is Jack and Anna on the Disney bus to Hollywood Studios. It's another early park opening morning, and you can tell it's day 6! This is definitely not a relaxing vacation.

Claire slowly waking up for our Disney Hollywood Studios day. Claire is our brave coaster girl. She was looking forward to Tower of Terror and Rock-n-Roller coaster at this park. Unfortunately, she went on Tower of Terror with Jack and Natalie first. This ride scared the bejezus out of her. Jack said it was just too scarily-themed and she was already freaked out before the ride began. Once they started the drops, she was beside herself and came out crying, my poor baby! Needless to say, she did not even want to attempt RnR, which is a shame because she does all the other big coasters. Jack said she would have loved it. That's okay, we have an excuse to come back for another trip, right CB?

I snapped this pic of the girls while Jack and Natalie rode Rock-n-Roller Coaster. It was so much fun, Natalie convinced Meghan to ride it! (Meghan is not normally a big coaster rider. But she was so brave this trip. She rode Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Expedition Everest and RnR coaster!)

Haha....this is Anna at the RnR shop which is Aerosmith themed. She's rocking out with a Stephen Tyler wig on!

Meghan and Natalie just off the ride!

So pumped!

0 to 65 in 2.8 seconds. Loops and corkscrews. Yeah, baby. Two thumps up!

Did I mention the girls liked to pose in hats?

And eye patches?

Meghan loves Wall-E!

We had dinner back at the pop-up after Hollywood Studios.

This is the campfire/movie site at Fort Wilderness. We started our evening roasting marshmellows for s'mores.

The girls enjoyed their s'mores!

Then Chip and Dale and a guitar/fiddle player came out to lead campfire songs.

Here are the girls enjoying the sing-a-long. :) Seriously, would teenagers ever act like that in the real world?

Anna, obviously, on sugar high after about three s'mores.

Dale came over to hang with girls. Then we watched a movie, Sky High, on the huge outdoor screen under the stars. Jack had not seen the movie before and loved it. It was a great, relaxing evening. They do this campfire/movie every night at the campground and we were sad we didn't get another chance to do it. Very fun. Another awesome day.

7th Day: Animal Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Lodge

The girls posing in front of Animal Kingdom. Do you see my dorky husband leaping up from behind the bushes?

A few of the animals we saw on the Kilamajaro Safari ride.

At the 3-D show, It's Tough to be a Bug.

This is Expedition Everest, the big coaster at Animal Kingdom. This coaster actually goes backwards for a big portion of the ride. Natalie and Meghan agree: thumbs up!

Claire gives it two thumbs up as well!

That is Jack in the very last car in the gray t-shirt. You can't see her, but Anna is next to him. They loved it too!

This was getting off the Kali River Rapids ride. You have a very good chance of getting soaked on it. As you can see, that is exactly what happened. Normally that's okay...except, I was the one to get the brunt of it. And it had just stormed. And cooled down about 20 degrees with no sun. And we had dinner reservations at Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge an hour later. Yeah, thumbs down from me.
Not a pretty view....but that there is soaked right down through the undies, folks.

These two pictures above are of Animal Kingdom Lodge. Unfortunately, we didn't take any inside pictures. It's beautiful. We walked back out to the savannah. The giraffe picture shows the hotel room balconies that look out over the animals. It is so cool to imagine having your morning cup of coffee looking out over giraffes and zebras. We had dinner at Boma which is a really different buffet. Lots of African inspired foods....some we liked, some not so much. But it is really a cool place to spend an evening. I don't think I would ever stay there because I prefer the theming at Wilderness Lodge (my favorite), but it is really fun to visit.

8th and last Day: Sleep in, Downtown Disney and Fantasmic

If Jack were a Disney character, he would definitely be Goofy. I saw a man wearing a shirt at one of the parks that said "I'm Goofy. What's your excuse?" with a big picture of Goofy's face. That would have been the perfect souvenir for him. We had fun taking pictures of us wearing/using Disney merchandise at all the stores. :)

Posing with Buzz outside of the Once Upon A Toy store...

And with Mr. Potato Head.

This Stitch spits water at unsuspecting shoppers.

Behold the Holy Grail of Disney shops! The girls and Jack each filled a bag of goodies for themselves. The girls pose with their candy bags on the bus ride back to the campground.

Our golf cart! The Fort rents golf carts for an obscene amount of money to use around the campground. (Although you can drive your car in and out of the campground, they do not allow them to be driven around the campground.) The carts all look alike, so we decorated ours to recognize it easily when returning from the parks. We named our cart the Princess Mobile and decorated it with princess stickers and pink and white tulle.

A pic of our pop-up on it's site. We were in Loop 500 and liked the location alot. It was equal distance to the lake/marina and the pool/campfire site. We were only two sites away from the comfort station which made it very convenient.

A view of Fort Wildnerness as we golf cart up to the buses.

A couple of the camping loops and sites from the main road.

We used Disney buses to get to all of the parks from the campground, except for Magic Kingdom, where we went by boat from the marina.

After spending a couple hours back at the Fort, we decided to spend our last evening at Hollywood Studios to see Fantasmic!

Claire can't resist giving Tower of Terror two last big thumbs down on our way to the Fantasmic! theater.

Claire shows off her pin lanyard. She collects Lilo and Stitch pins and traded a pin with cast member while waiting for the show to begin.

Waiting for the show to begin.

Pictures don't really do this show justice. It was a great way to end our vacation.

Meghan and Natalie couldn't resist one last pic in front of Rock-n-Roller coaster.

Heading out of Hollywood Studios, we said goodbye to DisneyWorld and a really great summer vacation. We loved the campground and felt there was still so much to do! We had a blast at all four parks, and at Blizzard Beach. It was hot, but so is home. And we would rather be hot at Disney than hot and bored at home. We would definitely do August again. Then again, like Jack said, it would be fun to do Disney in a sweatshirt. :) Maybe the holidays next time?

Until then Mickey!

The End

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