When our children turn ten, we treat them to a 10-year-old trip. To catch up on the full story with Clare, check out part one, part two, part three, part four and part five. And, if you want to follow our escapade on Instagram, just search the hashtag #clarecelebrates10atdisney
The 10-year-old trip is legendary at our house.
It’s more than a milestone, or counting your age on two full hands. It’s an adventure.
Because we have six children, uninterrupted one-on-one time with them is precious. We don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, this sharing with other siblings gig, but we do think a trip with just one is worth saving our pennies. And so we do whatever necessary to make it happen. The catch? The child has to choose one parent for the trip, a destination and the place must include a plane ride.
Our oldest kicked it off with a trip to Washington, D.C., our second chose New York City and kid three picked the Windy City. Clare? She chose me and Disney! I can’t tell you how providential the timing was for the both of us. She’s my thrill seeker and my Harry Potter nerd, so I knew we’d be taking in some awesome coasters and hitting up Harry Potter World. Yes. Please. The adventure: let’s get to it.
Typically, we wait to surprise the birthday kid on the actual date of the trip. We try, very hard, to plan it as close to the actual birthday as possible. But, six kids and life. Clare’s actual birthday is June 28, but Disney in late June sounded horrific, so we moved it to the first week in May, right after Will’s confirmation. Crazy, yes. We told her two days before we left and I thought she might faint at the kitchen table. The kids usually miss a few days of school, but in fourth grade, I hardly think that’s criminal. And, we’re not habitual school absentees.
Nana took us to the airport for our direct flight from Austin to Orlando. Praise Jesus for my foot boot; it earned us pre-board on Southwest and front row seats. I opted to have us stay on-site at Disney because we wanted easy access to the parks and I didn’t want the hassle of renting a car. We used Über to get to/from Universal. $28 well spent.
We had a walking lunch from the airport and then caught the free Magical Express bus from the airport to our hotel. It was, indeed, magical. When we arrived at the Boardwalk, the staff already had a room ready several hours early, so we dropped our luggage and headed straight to Animal Kingdom. I loosely used all my planning tricks from this family vacation which meant this one was a breeze! We scored a great room rate via Undercover Tourist, too. Oh, and because I know you’ll ask, those shirts are from Happily Ever Tees!
We hit the Kilimanjaro Safari first. I was a little worried since it was mid-afternoon, but the animals were almost all out and having a blast. Clare and I scored seats up front and our guide was just fantastic.
Then, it was off to the Lion King show (awesome) and to scope out the line at Expedition Everest. I detest backwards roller coasters, but Clare wanted to do it so I found my big girl undies. We were super disappointed to arrive and see that the single rider line was shut down and the wait was 45 minutes. That is, until we met Cast Member Evan manning the line. I remarked to Clare, “I’m happy to wait, but it’s your birthday so you decide.” He perked right up, grabbed us both and ushered us straight to the ride itself. No waiting. He even asked Clare what row she wanted. What?! When we got off, Evan was standing there waiting, to give us a birthday button, a hug and two more fast passes to ride anything in the park.
Let me go ahead and come clean and share this happened to us time and time again throughout our stay in Orlando. That birthday button opened some serious doors (literally and figuratively) the entire week. Lesson learned? Take a 10-year-old birthday girl with you on every Disney vacation.
Clare was also a pin-trading fool. This was the sight I saw over and over again throughout the parks. She chose well. I wanted to steal some of her pins!
We headed over to Primeval Whirl (while we found our legs) and subsequently broke it. Turns out that wasn’t the first time we would do that to a ride. We waited about 10 minutes and really got to know our seatmates and then it started rolling. Slightly anticlimactic, but at least we were in the shade! We’d had enough of the heat and decided to ride the Kali River Rapids. Clare and I met the nicest mom and 13yo son. In fact, we hit it off so well, we ended up riding DINOSAUR with them and walking the park a bit. They were absolutely hilarious and even gave us, you guessed it, two more fast passes. At this point, I’m trying to figure out how we’re going to use them all!
We ended the night at the new Rivers of Light show. Uh-mazing. We scored front row seats with our Fast Passes. I wouldn’t normally burn a FP for a night show (it means you miss out any additional FP for the day), but because we arrived mid-afternoon, I felt like it was warranted. Super glad we used it.
The worst part of the day was waiting for the bus to take us back to our beds. We were both beat. I think Clare was asleep before I even finished brushing my teeth!
Tomorrow, we conquer Magic Kingdom -from rope drop to park close – ditch the fireworks, run into an unlikely pirate, binge ride one coaster and break another one. True story.