We had 5 days of precious family time, sunshine, warm weather, fun and excitement and a collection of amazing memories that will last a life time.
Sounds amazing doesn't it?
Well it was and I am sure we will try to go again.
But let me tell you a few truths...
It is exhausting doing the trip in 5 days! Even without jet lag or a long flight.
2 year olds do not do as well as 4 year olds.
Going when you are tired is not a good idea (like running a half marathon or getting over an illness).
You have to be organised, take a bus to the parks, wait in line for the rides, be in the right place at the right time to see the characters (and wait in line) and have a whole load of patience.
Don't get me wrong, we had a fantastic time and the kids were in awe the whole time. But we had our fair share of tantrums and melt downs (along with many other families) and came home in need of a rest!
So there is the honest truth, now for the good bits. Our highlights. The things we loved and you can only find at Disney. The things that lit up the kids' faces, made Charlotte smile like I have never seen before and left Toby speechless.
1. Meeting the characters. We met Mickey Mouse, Jesse, Mary Poppins, 5 Princesses and the cars Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater. We also met a few characters during the parades. Charlotte high-fived Tigger and during the halloween parade (when she was dressed as Izzy from Jake and the neverland pirates) Wendy asked her for some pixie dust. Her confidence soared with each of these encounters.
2. Lunch with the Princesses. We went to Epcot on day 2 and had lunch with 5 of the Princesses. They came to our table, signed the kids' autograph book and posed for pictures with us all. Charlotte could not sit still (nor could I!) with excitement and Toby fell in love with Ariel. At the end, the Princesses took all the little girls on a parade round the restaurant. With a little encouragement, Charlotte joined in and was on cloud 9 when she got back to our table. She gave her brother the biggest cuddle and the big kids were wiping away tears!
3. The parades. We caught loads of the parades, often by accident as we happened to pop out onto the street at the right time. We were lucky to catch the Electrical parade on the first night and we waited for a while (munching pop corn and costume spotting to pass the time) to get a good spot for the Halloween parade. The kids loved waving at the characters and we thought they were fab! I especially enjoyed the night time one and following the one through Hollywood studios so we felt we were a part of it!
4. The castle, the lights, the rides, the hotel, the iconic buildings.
The things I've seen on tv, heard about for years.
I found it so exciting to be standing underneath Cinderella's castle, the be walking down Main St in the Magical Kingdom, especially at night when it is all lit up. To be standing underneath the Spaceship Earth at Epcot and wandering through each of the countries. To be thundering round Space Mountain, getting wet on Splash mountain and delighting in the pure cheese that is 'It's a small world'.
To wake up at an all-star hotel, with disney magic all around.
Getting away from reality for a few days and being a big kid. Seeing it through my kids' eyes and wishing I was 4 again!
5. The fireworks. We saw 2 firework displays over the Magic Kingdom. For the second one, we were right in front of the castle and were surrounded by fireworks which lit up the sky. Truly breathtaking.
6. The shows. We saw Dreams come true with Mickie and Minnie and gang, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Disney Jr live and the stunt show Lights, Motors, Action. They were all amazing and the kids sat enthralled through every single one.
7. The food. I don't mean the general (not exactly high) standard of it or the fact it was available everywhere. It was the little things. Like the most amazing caramel chocolate popcorn. Having mickey waffles for breakfast. The Norweigan buffet with the Princesses. So so good!
The thing about Disney is that it doesn't matter if you are 4, 14 or 44. There is something for everyone and I dare you not to be amazed, to be carried away with it all, to come home wondering when you can possibly go back again.