Like so many others we had travel plans for spring 2020. Our plans were pretty big. We had a 10 day trip to Walt Disney World planned. We were also bringing other guests with us and many of our friends were were going to be vacationing at the same time. Including ourselves it was a group of 25 people! 2020 had other plans and Walt Disney World was closed. Just a few weeks after the missed trip and with much uncertainty, I booked three tickets for the kids and me to go Orlando for August. I eventually talked my grumpy husband into traveling with us for half of the trip. I didn’t pick a hotel. I didn’t make any plans. I didn’t know if we could or would go on vacation.
At the end of May, Walt Disney World announced reopening dates. In June, we decided we were going to try something different if we traveled. As we watched videos of Legoland and Universal Orlando with the kids we were very open with them that this was a “maybe” vacation. They very unanimously picked Legoland as their vacation destination.
As the trip approached our plans evolved even with continued uncertainty. Every conversation about what to do started with “If we go…” or “This may not happen, but…” First, we decided we’d visit Epcot as a family on one of the days we’d be together. After Legoland, we’d visit the beach, and when Grumpy traveled home the kids and I would spend a little time at Disney.
I had five days prior to our arrival to cancel Legoland. Work had been stressful for both Grumpy and myself. On August 6, nine days before we were leaving, he decided to take some time off work and stay the entire trip. We were finally certain that we were going to travel. He said it best: “If we feel uncomfortable in any situation, we just leave it. Period.” The only exception being on the airplane. This was now our plan. Too many people. Not safe? That’s it, we remove ourselves and go somewhere else.
I rearranged his air travel and while doing so found a better offer if we all arrived a day earlier than planned. I booked Disney Springs hotel, Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista, for the extra night. The extra night meant a return to Magic Kingdom before our new adventure would start. Now, I just needed to actually pack for vacation!
Packing looked a little different. We a small packing cube dedicated to our masks. I had mini hand sanitizers for every backpack plus two 12oz containers– the new maximum size allowed on a plane by TSA— to use as refills or as needed. I also packed a Sam’s Club size container of disinfectant wipes. I’ve never done that before. I also packed our clothes differently for this trip. Normally, I have our clothes packed by day. (I could write an entire blog post about that.) This time everyone had their own packing cube. It was going to be a wear whatever you want free-for-all. Sort of.
On August 14 we were ready to go. There was anxiety, relief, and excitement all at once.
There was no one at the airport in Cleveland. Our direct flight on Frontier Airlines was barely full and we had an entire row– two on each side– to ourselves. No one was in the row in front of us either. I had purchased a bundled that included our bags and seat selection, but would have paid for seats even if I had not. Sometimes I chance the seats, but this wasn’t the time for that. When we arrived at Orlando International Airport there was also no one there. I’ve never seen it so empty. It was strange.
Our arrival was about 15 minutes early. We quickly grabbed our bags and rental car then were on the way towards the Disney Springs area. I felt like it was the shortest drive ever. I didn’t actually time it, but I think it was only twenty minutes. It was exciting just to be somewhere new, but still familiar.
We threw our bags down in the room and took a short walk to Disney Springs to find dinner and enjoy the summer evening. I didn’t want to stay too late though because I was finally an excited kind of anxious for the morning at Magic Kingdom.
Finally Back Home
We started moving a little later than I wanted to on Saturday morning, but at 8:27am we were at the gates of Magic Kingdom. I was ecstatic to be back! I had been following along with all the updates to policies and procedures released by Disney and on social media to see how smoothly things were running. Social distancing meant limited number of people on transportation to the parks. That’s a huge change when we are accustomed to standing room only. It’s also an adjustment to time since the capacity is limited the transportation can take longer. The kids choice of transportation was the Monorail. I was happy with it because of the views as we arrive, but we had to wait for a second one to arrive so we could travel to the park.
On approach Cinderella Castle and her new paint job were visible. All I could say was “It’s Pink.” I was trying to reserve judgement for an up-close view. At 9:05am we were getting close to it. We had just made it to through the gates and to the front of the train station. As soon as I walked under the train station arches I started to cry. I could hear the music playing, people were enjoying the park, and one of the new character cavalcades with Rabbit and Piglet had just pulled out of the backstage area next to Harmony Barber Shop (currently closed). We were back to the magic!
Walking on Main Street was an overwhelming feeling. There were more tears. And weird looks from Grumpy. I heard the kids chattering about the Castle. Diva also repeated how “we’re back.” While driving to the park I saw my friend, Julie, was also arriving. We met for a few minutes on Main Street to say hi and catch up. She also snapped a few family pictures for us. My kids figured out how they would show their “mask smiles” in pictures.
I stared at the Castle for a little bit. Standing in front of it. I didn’t care that it was pink. I cared that I was back. It was a great feeling.
Now, we needed to figure out what to do. I literally walked into the park with no plans whatsoever. My little Peanut was looking in the My Disney Experience app at wait times. There were virtually none. It was just a debate of where to go. Do we ride Buzz Lightyear Space Spin? Go for one of the rollercoasters? Peter Pan? Seriously, Peter Pan had a 10 minute wait. That never happens.
Grumpy had started to complain about the heat already. We walked into Fantasyland and he saw Mickey’s Philharmagic. The kids got excited too. I asked if that was really the first thing they wanted to do and it was. I actually laughed out loud as we went inside. Of all the things that we could choose this was it. As we waited to be seated, I remembered our first time in the theatre. My little Diva was reaching out for Donald to “catch him.” We were the only ones inside the theatre originally. One other family joined right before the doors closed.
Next we walked around the corner to ride Peter Pan. I took a picture of the posted wait time almost an hour after the park opened. I was still having a hard time believing it was only 5 minutes. It wasn’t though, it was simply a two minute walk through the queue line. It took me more time to take some pictures than actually wait. After the short ride through Neverland I made a beeline for It’s A Small World. I swore during the park closure that I would never, ever complain about hearing the song on repeat again and that I would enjoy the ride. It was literally music to my ears!
Diva was requesting Splash Mountain and it only had a 25 minute wait, but we actually weren’t staying much longer so we decided Storybook Circus was a better use of our time. We rode Dumbo and then took two rides on the Barnstromer, because, well, why wouldn’t we ride their favorite little ride multiple times.
We wanted to get to Legoland, approximately an hour away, so we could enjoy the park day there as well. It closed at 5pm, so it was necessary to leave pretty early to maximize our time there as well. It was hard to walk out of Magic Kingdom. I gazed at the Castle a bit more as we made our exit.
As we were about to exit the park, the princesses were making their exit from the train station. We stood across from the popcorn cart to watch them and wave. There was nearly no one around and it felt like they were saying “hi” and waving only to us. It was hard to leave. I could have sat down on Main Street all day.
Not surprisingly, not many people were leaving the park. We had one side of the Monorail car completely to ourselves. We talked about everything we need to do when we return to the park later days during the trip. It was an awesome start to our vacation!
** A special note about this blog. Traveling during this pandemic was a difficult decision. I also realize it’s not a decision everyone is ready to make. It’s very personal, and while we made the decision as you could tell I still had apprehension. In the end, I’m so happy we traveled. It was very good for all of us mentally to have that change of scenery. I use this blog to share with all of you that are here reading, but also as my journal and scrapbook. It’s not to convince you that it’s time to travel. It’s sharing my personal experience and memories. Weigh all your options and do what’s right and best for you and your family. **
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