It all began last Sunday, February 21st. The magic started when we were picked up at our house by this...
I need to say this before I go any further...the Make a Wish Organization made this trip an incredible one. I didn't think we needed a limo, but it was so fun to start and end our trip like this! The neighborhood was probably wondering what that crazy Williams family was up to at 8am on a Sunday morning!Of course the 9 of us fit in here just fine, but our luggage needed it's own van!
Our flight was at 10:20 out of Rochester. We got to the airport and were greeted by our Wish volunteers Mike and Nicole. They were there to officially see us off and to give us our amazingly generous spending allowance. Make a Wish made sure that we didn't have to pay for a thing throughout our trip. What an incredible blessing...
One of the first bumps in the road was trying to arrange our seats for the plane. Our tickets were booked only a few weeks in advance, which meant they gave us some of the only tickets left. The airline had our children sitting by themselves in seats all throughout the plane. Ha! So with minutes to go before takeoff, we worked with the gate agent to have our seats reassigned. We went with the buddy system...Grandpa/Brady, Grandma Sandy/Cara, Grandma Kathy/Eli, and Meg/Matt/Allie. Oh yes, Allie. We did give her a dose of the anti-nausea medicine Zofran. She fell asleep during the limo ride and even on the plane after lunch!
You should have seen us getting through security! We had to take all of the kids' shoes off, their coats off, plus all of our own shoes, coats, and carry-ons. The buddy system worked great!
All of the kids did great on the plane and by 1:30 we were in Florida! Our next stop was to pick up the rental van. We joked leading up to the trip about our enormous passenger van...but the joke was on us! We barely fit all of the luggage and all of us in that huge van! It was packed completely full and we just had room to sit.
And check out this pile of luggage!
And now the picture that every Disney-bound family takes on that first day! We had more excitement in that van than the Griswold Family had as they ran to the gates of Wally World! We had arrived!
So...just where did Make a Wish have us stay for the week?
The Grand Floridian is a huge resort that is part of Disney's Deluxe group of places to stay. It is located right across the lagoon from the Magic Kingdom and you can access the monorail system right from the resort! This made our days at Disney so wonderful. We were able to easily come back to the Grand halfway through each day so that the kids could nap. Then we headed back out for dinner and evenings of fun! I made everyone wait outside in the hallway before entering our room so that I could take pictures. I knew the rooms would never look the same again!
Our rooms were located in Big Pine Key, a building that was a short walk from the main building. We were so fortunate to have 4 rooms for the 9 of us. My mom had a room on one side of us, my in laws had their own room on the other side of us. We were sandwiched in between them in two of our own rooms. I called the resort the day before we left and found that our family of 6 was slotted to be in one room. With two queen beds, 1 crib, and 3 pack and plays, I just didn't see how we would all fit in one room. The person I spoke with at the Grand Floridian agreed, and he asked his supervisor if they would allow us to have two adjoining rooms to accommodate our family. The supervisor agreed and the two side by side rooms were a huge blessing throughout the week! The kids had their own space and we had ours. During nap time and at night, they could have a quiet dark place to themselves. The best part was that when they were loud and crazy, we knew that the grandparents were on either side of us...not other resort guests!
Did I mention we had balconies that overlooked the lagoon...
Ummm..yes...we had a view of Cinderella's Castle from our balcony! It was so breathtaking to wake up to that view every morning. Listening to the Cara say, "Wow! Cinderella lives there!" just melted my heart!
The kids got adjusted to their new surroundings pretty quickly! Here is Allie jumping on the bed!
That night we had dinner at a quick service place called Gasparilla's at our resort.
Throughout our trip report I'm going to give reviews of the places we ate and the attractions we saw. I know several people who are planning Disney trips and I hope our input might help them and others plan their trip! I'll use a star system. One star (*) will be the lowest rating and four stars (****) will be the highest rating.
Gasparilla's is a 24 hour spot where you can grab a quick meal, drink, or snack. I give it two stars (**) because although it was convenient and the food was adequate, the arcade games didn't make for the best atmosphere. I will say that there is lovely seating outside on the patio with beautiful views of the castle.
The grandparents headed back to the rooms with the kids to get settled for the night, while Matt and I took off in the big, bad van for Give Kids the World Village. Give Kids the World is another organization that works with Make a Wish to fulfill Disney trip wishes which over 90% of Make a Wish kids choose. Most families stay at Give Kids the World Village which is an amazing resort (more on this amazing place later) about 15 minutes from Disney World. Given Allie's car sickness and our need to be close to our resort for naps, we asked to stay at Disney. Matt and I had to go to GKTW Village that first night for orientation since they were the ones who set us up with our Disney package. We had our orientation with about 10 other families who had arrived in Orlando that day for Disney Wish trips.
This was my first heartache moment of the trip. As I looked around the room I suddenly remembered that we weren't just any family on a vacation. We were members of a group of families who shared a commonality...we all had children with life-threatening illnesses. Everyone in that room had a story and I know some were in much darker situations in ours. Sitting in that chair, I closed my eyes and thanked God for our circumstance, for our family, and for blessing us with this trip.
We were given a few special things that night. Brady would wear a button that identified him as a Wish Child. In the end I don't think many noticed his button since he is pretty small and was in a stroller much of the time, but he thought that button was very special. We were given our 3 day Disney passes. And we were also given a special Guest Assistance pass. I called this our Magic Ticket. We were able to rent strollers everyday for free with this pass...AND...we got to use it to access shorter lines at every ride! We never waited more than 10 minutes for a ride! This truly allowed us to maximize our time at the parks!
After our orientation we headed back to our home away from home. Tomorrow we take on the Magic Kingdom!