When I was a child, I don’t think I was really aware that Walt Disney World was a real place. Of course I grew up watching all the films (my favourites were Aladdin and The Little Mermaid) and I knew all the words to every song but I didn’t know that there was an actual place you could go and visit to experience the magic. It wasn’t until my best friend went on holiday to Florida one summer when we were both in middle school that I realised that Walt Disney World even existed. She came back with tanned skin and tales of rollercoasters and meeting characters and sunshine and I instantly knew that one day I had to visit.
I don’t remember begging my Mum or Dad to take me there, although I presume I must have asked at some point. I was quite happy with our holidays to Spain and then as I got older I guess Disney World lost it’s appeal a bit. After all, why would an adult want to go somewhere designed for kids? (Ha! How wrong could I be?!). I was much more interested in exploring other places, and ended up travelling to Australia and New Zealand after my A-levels instead.
It wasn’t until I had children myself that Walt Disney World landed firmly back on my radar as being somewhere I wanted to visit. Just seeing my girls’ faces light up whilst watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on TV when they were toddlers, and following their growing love of the Disney Princesses as Tangled, Frozen and Moana were released at the cinema (of course, Mimi is less enthusiastic about the girls and far more interested in the villains) told me that it was absolutely somewhere that we had to take them one day.
Sadly when the girls were small Walt Disney World was, quite simply, way beyond our reach financially. So I added it to my ’40 Things Before I’m 40′ list assuming that it would be when they were much older that we’d eventually make it out there. We saved up for all the ‘big’ things as the years went by – our wedding, buying our first house – and then realised that if we could save for those things we could save for a trip to Florida. We put every spare penny aside and finally, after several years of saving, we had enough to be able to go.
We ummed and ahhed backwards and forwards for months, trying to figure out what would be the best age to take the girls. I wanted them to be young enough to still believe in the magic, but old enough to remember everything. I think we timed it just right with the ages they were when we went (10, 9 and 7). And we were very aware that we want to move house at some point in the not too distant future (also on my 40 before 40 list!) and that this trip would use up an awful lot of our hard-earned savings. In the end we decided that it would be worth it – after all, when I’m on my deathbed what am I going to be more pleased that we chose to do? That we bought a pile of bricks? Or that we took our girls to the happiest place on earth and gave them an experience of a lifetime?
So that was it, decision made.
We booked in January last year (2017) to go during October half term. Knowing that a week just wouldn’t be enough for everything we wanted to do, we added on a few extra days which we took the girls out of school for. We managed to keep it a secret for nine whole months before we did the big reveal. Sophie knew she was coming with us and did brilliantly to keep it quiet for such a long time.
Here’s a little video of the moment they found out:
We had an absolutely fantastic time of course. I’m going to be truthful – it was blooming hard work. It turns out that trying to keep six very different people all happy at the same time is actually quite tricky, and there were a lot of compromises all round. The Disney magic weaved it’s spell though and completely enchanted all of us – even the husband. The first time we saw Cinderella’s Castle on Main Street I got a little bit emotional and when we actually met Mickey Mouse I admit I had tears in my eyes. We immersed ourselves in the experience of it all as much as we could and made sure we visited the Magic Kingdom (twice!), Hollywood Studios, Epcot and the Animal Kingdom as well as having plenty of time to enjoy the sunshine and relax by the pool.
I’m so glad we decided to do it. I know for sure we’ll be back. This trip was all about meeting as many characters as we could and absorbing as much of the magic as possible. Next time we go back (probably when the girls are teenagers by the time we’ve saved up for it again!) it’ll be more about the rides, the water parks, squeezing in a trip to Universal Studios, trying out all the other things there are to see and do in and around Orlando, and taking day trips to explore further afield and find out what else the Sunshine State has to offer.
I’m going to be writing plenty of posts all about what we got up to each day and details of the fabulous place we stayed in, but for now here’s a selection of my favourite photos from our trip – the ones that hold the most memories for me. There is also a little video at the end of some bits and pieces I filmed while we were out there. It doesn’t cover everything we did as I kept forgetting to film and it was so hard to choose in the moment whether to capture a photograph or take a video but I’ll get better with time and practice. The girls love watching it – it brings back so many happy memories every time we see it. It truly was the trip of a lifetime for us and it’s something that’s going to make me smile every single time I think about it.