Thursday, June 16, 2016
Planning our Big Family Florida Road Trip
In May we took our first big road trip as a family. Our nephew was getting married in Fort Lauderdale on Memorial Day weekend, and we decided that on this trip we would drive and hit another family favorite on the way...Disney World! The problem with a late-May vacation was that it fell right around the time where baseball was ending, swim meets were beginning, and the dance recital was days away. So our timing was limited, but we made the most of the time we had.
Due to our time and budget constraints, we opted for just two days (three nights) at Disney World and two nights in Fort Lauderdale. We waited until the last minute to make all the reservations, but thankfully it worked out! We went ahead and chose the Fort Lauderdale hotel where the wedding would be held. And I found a great deal on VRBO for the Disney resort about 2 weeks ahead of the trip. We stayed at the Wyndham Bonnet Creek, which is a resort for vacation club condo owners. We booked through a travel agency and got a 2 bedroom condo with full kitchen and 2 full bathrooms, cheaper than we would have paid for a budget hotel with suites like Homewood or Staybridge. The resort had about 6 pools, restaurants, and all kinds of activities we didn't even get to check out on our short visit. It wasn't quite like staying on Disney property, but it worked well for our needs this time. The other overnights on our trip were at a LaQuinta and two Homewood Suites hotels, since we had hotel points to use.
The biggest purchase we made before the trip was a new car! With a baby on the way, growing kids, parents nearby, and the need to be able to carpool more with friends who also have big families, we opted for a used Nissan NV 12-passenger van. It was nice to be able to spread out on the road trip. We packed a cooler and lots of snacks, and really just ate dinner on the road the first night and lunch on the road the 2nd day, plus quite a few stops on the way home. We had space for a suitcase for each person, a giant duffel bag for shoes, and two strollers. I was glad we brought both the regular stroller and the smaller Maclaren umbrella stroller. It was nice to have both at Disney. We could park one centrally if we didn't need it, but then pick it up when both the 2yr old and 5yr old needed a nap!
We bought our Disney tickets through the resort just a few days before the trip. Thankfully we were still able to secure some Fast Passes for the rides, although not for the most popular ones. We decided to try to arrive about an hour before opening time both days and then go straight to those popular rides as soon as they opened (which was about 15mins early both days). This allowed the kids and Steven to ride Test Track, the 7 Dwarves Mine Train, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain before the lines were too long. We ate at counter-service restaurants, which allowed us to make the most of the short time we had there, without "wasting" time at sit-down restaurants. We stayed until both parks closed and definitely got to enjoy two full days, one at Epcot and one at Magic Kingdom.
Our time at the wedding resort was also full and a little crazy. Steven Sr. and Thomas were both in the wedding, so they had commitments both Friday and Saturday afternoons/evenings. We also visited with my cousin and her family for lunch on Saturday, and a high school friend came for a quick visit on Saturday afternoon. It also rained on Saturday until about 3pm. Needless to say, there was not a lot of time to enjoy the resort or the beach! We had a few visits to the pool and two 20-min trips down to the beach. But we did get to enjoy a fabulous wedding and some great time with family!
So, would I do it again? The road trip was hard, especially since we left around 7pm (after ballet class) the first night, driving until almost 1am with a couple kids who were feeling carsick. The rest of our drives were during daylight hours and were not as hard. But it was a lot of driving without a lot of time to settle down and enjoy one place. We stayed at five different hotels during an 8-night trip! So I hope that road trips in the future will allow us a little more time to stop and enjoy one spot, but I'm still grateful we were able to take this trip and see as many fun things and people as we did! More photos to come as I upload pics from each day of the trip....