Vacation Unexpected

A week ago I did not know I would be heading home from a Disney Vacation.  I want to tell you the 10 things I learned on my first visit to Disney, but first let me share with you what the original plan was.  Sheri's, my wife, 50th birthday was this past February. We have been wanting to do a major vacation for this for a while now.  So we decided to gather up nine of our closest friends and head to Hilton Head, South Carolina.

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Where We Stayed

We rented a large house right on the beach. You can see the details on how to rent it for your next vacation here. The house was beautiful and just a short walk outside the back deck to the ocean.  We had a beautiful pool to hang out at as well which was just my speed as I'm not a really big sand person, and I don't really care to be IN the ocean… just prefer to look at it.

Florence Decides to Make An Unexpected Visit

When we arrived in South Carolina, we begun to get wind of Hurricane Florence heading toward the East Coast. There was a ton of anxiousness about if we were going to have to cut our stay short.  Watched and read the news till we were actually stressed about it.  Ultimately we decided to take the wait and see approach.  Monday a few of us went to Lawton Stables for a trail ride with some beautiful horses. We were the last ride before the decision was made for them to evacuate the horses off the island.  As we were leaving, news of the Governor of South Carolina ordering the mandatory evacuation of the island.    Of course everyone's phones were being blown up from loved ones encouraging us all to get off the island. Still we decided to wait and see.

Source: WTVD-TV Raleigh-Durham

Unfortunately I woke up Sunday with a terrible sore throat that would linger. That developed into something worse.  Evidently leading me to urgent care to get some much needed meds.  I wasn't sure if I was even going to be able to be seen because many shops and stores had closed with preparations of Flo's visit. I managed to find an urgent care that accepted my insurance, and because the island was so quiet I was seen right away.  On my way back to the house, I stopped off at Kroger to get more bottled water and other hurricane supplies.  I had decided that we all needed buckets to fill with water in case the electricity went off, but of course the hardware store was closed. So I had to improvise with Halloween candy buckets instead.

Flo Spared Us

Well the week went on and we did not get any of the rain, wind or storm surge that was predicted for us.  And even though I was sick most of the week, I did manage to have a great time with my friends.  I just took alot of naps and didn't stay up late with the others to play games like Cards Against Humanity. Which is an awful game but somehow so fun!

One thing that I was determined to do was to shoot a group portrait of my tribe at sunset.  I love this group of women and would do anything for them! And I love this shot.

So after the week in Hilton Head, our plans were to head up to Charleston with two of our friends to do a long weekend of it.  But with all of the impending weather that Flo was bringing in to the Carolina's we decided to head south to Florida.  We drove down and stopped in Savannah, GA on the way and did a “hop on hop off” trolley tour of the historic downtown Savannah.

Cute Boutique Hotel

Then we stayed a super cute boutique hotel in Celebration, Florida. We stayed at the Bohemian Hotel Celebration, Autograph Collection.  When we pulled up into Celebration, I started looking at all of the perfect houses with their perfect yards and white picket fences and I thought there is something different about this town. When we pulled up to the hotel I thought we were on a movie set everything was so perfect!

But let me just say that the Disney experience is not for the faint of heart.  Usually people plan for months for their stay.  We didn't have any kids with us, so we didn't have to worry about scheduling time with Snow White or Elsa from Frozen, but it require some fore thought.  I tried to hook up with various friends who I knew who had Disney experience but the timing was off so we were basically going to go without a real plan.  My wife discovered that Epcot was having their Wine and Food Festival so she was very excited about that.

Arriving at Epcot

Saturday we got up and went and had a leisurely breakfast at a local cafe before heading over the Epcot (mistake #1).  I mean it was a lovely breakfast but that put us way back on our schedule that we were not even aware of at this point.  When we arrived, sometime around 10ish, we decided to pay for preferred parking and was glad we did.  That cut alot of time off just getting to the gates.  And they gave us all small bottles of water, which would come in handy later.

Fortunately one of us had been to the park before although it had been years ago.  She knew that we need to get Fast Passes so we wandered a bit until we found the kiosk.  We had no real clue what rides we wanted to ride or where they were located in the park, but somehow we had this sense of urgency to choose something.  So we choose our 3 rides and of course they ended up being on opposite ends of the park, but fortunately we didn't have much choices left on what time slots we could pick so they were all throughout the day.

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Our Day at Epcot

And off we went! At some point of the day, my wife and friends decide to get a snack treat and I was so hot that I could not even think about eating food from a small concession stand and expecting it to be decent food.  The region we were in the park was Asia so the food they got was something Thai and loved it! I thought it first it must be because they were just so hungry.  But later we passed a Wine and Food parking concession stand and ordered a trio of cheeses, sweet potato ravioli and a nice 2 oz (ha! not enough) pour of Reata Chardonnay from Napa.  And then it dawned on me.  It was the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot… so even though it was concession stands with very small plates… the food and wine was excellent!

There is Nothing Like Florida Heat

The rest of the day was spent walking in the almost unbearable heat.  I was sweating from places I didn't know one could actually sweat from.  And I looked around at all of these parents with these kids and wondered how did they do it.  It was something that I'm not sure I could manage in this heat.  We had a thing going by taking selfies at the beginning of the day and then at the end.  To see the expressions on both occasions really tells the story.

Animal Kingdom was Next

The second day was spent at Animal Kingdom and this was probably my favorite park of the two we visited.  There were more “rides” and attractions it seemed and I loved looking at all of the animals.  I got some cool pics of a safari ride we did.  I love the giraffes and the elephants, but we also saw a rhino, flamingos, and lots of others.

Best Disney Experience

But my ultimate favorite thing I did was the Avator: Flight of Passage.  It is a 3D flying simulator attraction within Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Set in the Avatar universe, the attraction allows guests to take flight on a native mountain Banshee and soar across the landscape of Pandora.*  It took us about an hour to get through the line (as all of the Fast Passes were taken for this attraction), but it was worth it.  You sit on a thing that looks like a motorcycle with 3D glasses on and you are immersed into Avatar universe and fly around.  The virtual reality technology of this ride is incredible and I have never experienced anything like it. Anyone considering going to Animal Kingdom, you do not want to miss this ride.

10 Things I Learned On My First Visit to Disney

  1. Grown adults wear Minnie Ears headbands with bows… even men.
  2. Making your DYI Minnie Ears is a thing.
  3. I know now why there are so many blogs about how to navigate your Disney experience. You need a degree to figure it out.
  4. The giant ball ride at Epcot needs to be modernized. It is no longer a look into the future.
  5. It is hotter than you know what in Florida … and even Walt Disney can’t change that.
  6. Chaffing cream can be your friend. (See number 5)
  7. The avatar ride in Animal Kingdom is awesome! But make sure you schedule a Fast Pass way in advance (see number 3)
  8. Tribes of people wear the same shirt just so u don’t get lost.
  9. Mickey Mouse is no where to be seen in Epcot or Animal Kingdom… in case you think you are gonna get a selfie with him… not gonna happen.
  10. Disney World is not for the faint of heart… it will wear a gown adult out!

I loved my experience at Disney, but if I ever go back… definitely going to have a game plan. Hope this blog post supplied you with a little humor and maybe a little insight on your next Disney visit.  Now its back to reality! I'll be home tomorrow and will be getting ready to start creating new card projects.

What are the 10 things you learned on your first visit to Disney? Comment below!  I would love to get your insights.

*Source: Wikipedia

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