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Trip Report The Family Vacation: Disney World, St Pete's Beach

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I just spent 4 jam packed days at Disney World, and then 3 days as a slug on the beach at St Pete's Beach. The family in this case was me, my dear DIL, granddaughter age 12 (but thinks she's 16), grandson 10, grandson 5. My son just changed jobs and couldn't come. He said he was fine (hates crowds) but I was sad for him. I had a great time with his family.

We planned the trip around cheap airfare, kid's school schedules, and Disney park rates. We squeaked through before the summer rates kicked in. We tried to be organized looking at websites, reading guide books, and listening to lots and lots of other people's stories. Disney is overwhelming. We were on overload which is how a lot of people feel. This was my 3rd time there, but it has been 15 years since the last time. This was the kid's first time.

Some random thoughts and memories:

We stayed on site. We picked Port Orleans Riverside, a moderate priced resort. It was a great choice. There was a trundle bed so we could have 5 in the room, but it did not feel crowded. It was a beautiful wooded setting, and there were buses every few minutes to the parks.

We bought a cheap umbrella stroller for the 5 year old. He looked at in with contempt ("i'm not a baby!") but was soon happily crawling in it. There is stroller rental on site, but is pricey. This cost $15 at Walmart.

We studied web sites devoted to all things Disney. These people know their stuff and could direct us to the right days to visit the parks when the crowds were less. They told us what attractions were most popular and when we should get fast passes. They were right on with all their advice. It felt so good to get in the fast pass lane and bypass the waiting, We never lost a lot of time waiting in lines.

We figured out early we would wear ourselves out trying to get to everything. We did a park a day, what we saw we were happy with and had no regrets if we missed stuff. A few days, we went back to the resort to swim in the afternoon and went back to the park at night.

I wore a pedometer and averaged 7-8 miles a day. We started out carrying backpacks and large purses, and everyday saw the wisdom of lightening the load. The last day, I was only carrying money, my park pass and sunscreen.

We did not get the Disney meal plan. I know it works great for a lot of people. We just knew these kids are not big eaters and I did not want all the desserts that came with this. If I get dessert I would eat it, and then regret it. We had rented a mini-van since we flew into a smaller airport (Sanford) and were able to stop at a grocery store before Disney. I had gotten a cheap price on the van through Priceline so didn't feel bad having it for the 4 Disney days. We always ate breakfast in the room, and had snacks. We only had one reservation prior to arrival, and that was The Biergarten in Germany World Showcase in Epcot. It was a great buffet, and there was dancing. (OK, the polka but it was fun) Food was expensive, but we knew that going in.

The kids wanted a lot of trinkets and tschotskes.. The boys were happy with the pressed penny machines in most of the gift shops. For 51 cents you can choose which penny design you want and turn the crank. Maybe a rip off, but it satisfied them.

Disney exceeded our expectations. The attractions had lots of attention to detail, the parks were beautifully clean, and the workers were friendly. My favorite ride was Toy Story Mania. It was the first ride we went on, and the kids faces said it all, they were having a ball.

So after being Disneyed out, we headed for the white sandy beach of St Pete's Beach. These Illinois kids were enthralled with the ocean. The water was like bathwater, pure heaven!! We found a favorite gelato shop (I think it was Larry's) with the type of creamy gelato I had only previously had in Italy. We ate one meal at Crabby Bill's which was great seafood. Mainly we laid around on the beach and built sand castles. We had SPF 50 and 80 sunblock so no burns on these blonde kids. It was very hot down there, but oh so pretty. Our resort was just OK, I think Disney raised the bar for me.

There are people who live to vacation at Disney, I will not be one of them since there are too many places to go in this big old world. But as the Disney advertisements promise, we did make good memories. Of course with three kids you get the kid fights, some whining, and one pee the pants moment (literally, the 5 year old!), but these are part and parcel. My DIL and I still like each other, so this trip was a great success, well worth the money spent.

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