Thursday, January 28, 2016

Doing Disney in Small Doses

Enjoying our Disney "vacation" 2016
RVentures took us to Orlando in January where we have enjoyed the last three weeks at Walt Disney World. While staying in the Wildebeest at Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground, we made good use of our "Disney Weekday Select" season pass to explore the four parks. We also discovered little "hints" that made our visit more enjoyable. 

Visiting with Adam in October 2000 (selfies were not invented yet, so Kevin is taking the picture)
This is our fourth visit to Disney World. We first came on our honeymoon 30 years ago spending a day each at Magic Kingdom and Epcot. In 1992 we brought Kevin, our then 5 year old, for a week long trip and stayed in a hotel off Disney property. In 2000 we again returned with both of our sons, Kevin (13) and Adam (7). That time we stayed on Disney property and were able to take advantage of Disney transportation and extended park hours. We were also able to fully enjoy the excitement ... and struggles of doing Disney with kids. And now, 16 years later, we return to see the parks at a slower, more leisurely adult pace ... without the temptations of souvenirs and treats ... and without the feeling that we have to "see it all" in one day. Thus our first hint:

It is very enjoyable if you can do Disney in Small Doses

We stayed at Fort Wilderness campground, which is one of the original Disney properties. The paved RV sites are large and surrounded by tall pines, flowering shrubs and tropical palms which gave us a very private feeling. They all provide full hook ups. Sidewalks allowed us to walk or bike to the two pools, catch the campfire program, eat at a Disney restaurant, or visit a gift/grocery store. And best of all, it was wonderful to be able to come back to the peacefulness of "home" after a hectic day at the parks.

To get to the parks, we just had to catch one the buses that took us to either the boat or bus transportation. From there, we could easily reach any of the Disney parks or hotels. Easy traveling, but ...
 Plan an hour to travel between your campsite and the Disney park attraction.
Oh, and bring a snack, just in case the journey home turns into a two hour tour. Not that Chris would ever have a "hangry" meltdown ...

Now, we are in Florida in January, so this fact leads to another hint:

Be prepared for cool and/or wet weather.

We saw a lot of "frozen" princesses and "wet" mermaids. Pack the rain gear ... although the folks at Disney will be more than happy to sell you a rain poncho for $10! Take those warm coats, hats and mittens for the cool days.  Shorts will most likely not be needed ... but still look very fashionable with the face mask!

Next hint became obvious on our first day at the Magic Kingdom ...

Even though it is the "Off Season", there will still be LOTS of people!

Many Americans are trying to escape winter, and Disney also attracts many international travelers, especially South Americans who are enjoying their summer vacation. So be prepared for long waits at some of the newer and more popular attractions such as Toy Story Midway Mania, Kilimanjaro Safaris, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

Another hint when amidst the Disney crowds:

Enjoy the parades, shows and outdoor entertainment that can handle larger numbers of visitors

Disney really does a great job of attracting wonderful talent ... and you don't have to wait in long lines to enjoy first class entertainment! Among our favorites:

Magic Kingdom Parades
"Frozen" Sing Along
"Finding Nemo" the Musical
 Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage!

With all the people, there were waits of 30 to 140 minutes on the most popular rides, which leads to the next hint ...

Take advantage of your Fast Pass option

We could get three Fast Pass selections at a time, so we planned our park visit around those three attractions. We were able to stay in the park for a shorter period of time, yet we still felt that we were able to do everything that we wanted ... including our favorite, "The Tower of Terror", multiple times!


When we visited Disney on our honeymoon, Doug surprised me with dinner in the castle. Although I do not remember what I ate, I do treasure the "experience" of eating with my "prince" in Cinderella's castle.

During this visit, we ate at Disney's newest "experience" restaurant, "Be My Guest". Lovely surroundings, but impossible to get dinner reservations, so we enjoyed a lunch date. This all leads to our next hint:

Disney food may not always be worth all the hype.

Lunch consisted of expensive sandwiches and cold fries served cafeteria style. But the feeling of being treated like a princess in the Beast's magical and slightly scary castle made the experience memorable.

A suggestion ...
Skip the meal and just go for the dessert

The strawberry cream cheese cupcake was very yummy! And the "gray stuff, it's delicious. If you don't believe me, ask the dishes!"

In 2000, we enjoyed Epcot from the eyes of our boys. Test Track Speedway was a favorite, but exploring the World Showcase ... not so much. Which brings us to our next hint ...

Epcot is a Totally New Experience without kids!!!

The Land exhibit ... the Seas exhibit ... all the nerdly science stuff ... exploring World Showcase ... dessert in France ... just walking around and taking in the natural beauty.  We can do what we want??? What a great concept!

Although, much to Doug's dismay, he is getting to be a bit of a wimp when it comes to big rides. The more intense Mission Space experience proved to be a little too much for his delicate stomach! 

I found the Moroccan fountain that I am pictured at during our honeymoon visit ... we both are still beautiful after 30 years, right Doug? 

When we visited Hollywood Studios in 1992, the "Honey, I Shrunk the Kid" was a popular movie, and the playground was a highlight for our son.

The playground is still there, but not for long. Very few kids playing there are familiar with the original film, referring to it as the "big bug park". So next fall Disney will be redoing that section of Hollywood Studios with a new Star Wars and Toy Story attraction.

Animal Kingdom was a very new park when we last visited in 2000. We enjoyed seeing how they have expanded the animal habitats, attractions, and exhibits since we last visited. 

The Tree of Life still has the same magnificence ...
... and Mt Everest can now be seen on the horizon

... and the Kilimanjaro Safari animals and habitat has flourished.

Recognise this guy? It's our RV's namesake ... The Wildebeest in his natural habitat. Not sure he would appreciate a big, pink RV being named after him!

What Mr Gorilla really thinks of all the tourists invading his home!

Our hint for Animal Kingdom ...

Visit on cool mornings when the animals are more active, and visit more than once as there is lots to see!

We came back to meet some friends of ours for a second visit ... and spent another whole day seeing things that we didn't see the first time. Don't miss ... Finding Nemo, The Lion King, Expedition Everest, or Flights of Wonder.

Speaking of friends, I am reminded of another hint:

Meals shared with friends, whether at a Disney Resort Hotel or at your campsite, are Magical!

Breakfast at the Grand Floridian
Gulf shrimp on the grill

S'mores at the Fort Wilderness campfire

The greatest benefit of doing Disney in small doses over a longer period of time, is that we were able to visit the parks at different times of the day. We could arrive early one day, spend the afternoon the next day, and stay late another.  And that brings us to another helpful hint:

Be well rested so that you can really enjoy the late night parades, programs and firework displays at each park.

From the "Main Street Electric Parade" ...

... to the "Celebrate the Magic" light show

... to the Magic Kingdom's "Wishes" Nighttime Spectacular

... to Epcot's IllumiNation display

... to Hollywood Studios' "Fantasmic" 

... and their "Symphony in the Stars"

All this leads us to the conclusion:

Disney still has the "Magical" touch!

We would love to hear your favorite Disney memory or hint!

Until next time ... discover the "Magic" all around you ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Catching Up on a Rainy Day in Florida


We arrived at the "happy place", Walt Disney World for a three week stay. With all the parks to visit and sites to see, we haven't "checked in" with you for a while. Rain moved in today ... and Doug declared this to be a "coffee and pj" morning, so while he does the dishes, I will get you caught up on RVentures.

We made it back to Florida and celebrated the New Year in Panama City with wonderful friends. Once again we were surrounded by horses, oranges, greenery, and slightly warmer temps.  I love that the Christmas poinsettias are still blooming outside! We enjoyed seeing the equestrian skills of Lindsey and Stacy with their pals, Panda and Yogi.

The temps dipped into the 40s, so the winter coat came in handy ... yes, you can say it ... wimps! I decided that in January, it is still better to shovel horse droppings than snow!

The Wildebeest did enjoy his rest on the "farm", but it was time to explore southern Florida. After a small delay due to the front suspension not wanting to air up until it warmed up a bit first, we hit the road. First stop ... Ocala. Doug decided to get our generator fixed at the Cummins dealer located about 10 miles from his parents (Cummins in Ocala - very nice place to get your Cummins engine or Onan generator serviced), and we got to enjoy a relaxing visit with family. 

Loved that our daily walks are surrounded by so much blooming beauty such as Christmas cactus and red roses.

We took a day trip to Homosassa Spring State Park where we met another RV full time couple who we got to know in Little Rock. Love it that our travel paths meet once again!

Homosassa Spring State Park is an "assisted living" park for injured Florida wild life. It was wonderful to see flamingos, alligators, manatees, eagles and "Lu", the resident hippo, up close. 

 Now hippos are not technically Florida natives, but Lu was here when the state of Florida took over the area that was previously a zoo. At 56 years old, Lu seems to be enjoying her Florida retirement as much as we are!

We were also able to meet up with some "long distance" amigos. Doug's college roommate, Luis was visiting from Columbia, South America, and we were thrilled to be able to meet up with him and his friend. The visit also prompted me to start working on one of my retirement "bucket list" items ... learn Spanish. Using the app "Duolingo", Doug and I are working toward our goal in a fun and easy way. My incentive to keep at it ... a future visit to Columbia. I think that our fans would like to read the "RVentures International" version!

Generator fixed and the Wildebeest restocked with food ... time to begin RVentures "where dreams come true" ... Walt Disney World.

Someone once asked me how we "vacation" when we are always on "vacation". I can now say that we check into Fort Wilderness Campground, activate our Disney passes, and see all there is to see! As Florida residents, we are able to get a year long select seasonal pass for $275. The pass is only good Monday through Friday, and not valid during the busy times of Christmas, spring break and summer. Since we will be here three weeks, we figure that the fifteen days of Disney magic will be more than enough.

Nestled among the tall pines and tropical palms, we have the luxury of being close to Disney transportation to the parks, yet able to retreat to our quiet home after a crowd-packed day at the parks. Can hardly see the Wildebeest in there, but I am glad that its distinctive color makes it easy to find through the forest. 

Dopey seems to enjoy "hanging out" at the Disney campground and happy to reconnect with the other dwarfs and Snow White. There is no lack of Disney mascots in the campground. Other campers bring their Disney inflatables and lights, and the nightly campfire features a sing-a-long with Chip n Dale. 

So far we have been at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios numerous times. Love taking in the parks "in small doses" and finding new attractions each time. Lots to take in ... hope to be able to share some of the "magic moments" with you in future posts.

Until next time ... spend time with your special buddies ... and enjoy the adventures in your life.