Last week, I wrote about friends who have nurtured and become my extended family. This week, I was delighted to host my two daughters and their kids for a week at magical Disney World and Universal Studios.
Lucky for me, the kids had a mid-winter break, giving us a chance to use my timeshare In Orlando. By the way, I don’t recommend buying a timeshare, but it does give us an excuse and place to go every February, and boy am I having a ball with them!
Fortunately the Florida weather held up to its reputation, setting the scene for a picture-perfect getaway. I’ve been in Florida launching Dan’s Papers Palm Beach these past few months and have loved every minute of my time there, but I have missed my kids and grandkids dearly.
It was great to be together again, and we even had an added child! My daughter Elizabeth recently got engaged and we included her beloved Dino’s daughter.
Being experienced at traversing the crowded parks, we planned one day at the pools and the other at the enormous parks.
I love Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but this year it was packed wall to wall with people. I think every square inch of Universal was filled with guests, but I am guessing that at least 90% of them were unmasked! I wore mine indoors while waiting for the rides.
Even though we had a “fast pass” that helped the lines move faster, it remained a hike to get on the rides.
The five kids, squealing with joy, voted that their best ride was the roller coaster at Universal that was enormous and sent the kids down steep hills, and even turned them upside down! I watched from the sidelines in horror!
One of my favorite experiences was our voyage in the Animal Kingdom, where we missed my favorite “Lion King” show, but did get to go on a safari, during which I reminisced sweet memories of my “real,” fabulous safari in South Africa.
For now the kids got joy from what they saw.
They also loved a water ride so much they did it twice, getting soaking wet both times!
With the massive crowds in the park making it difficult to get around, I used a lifesaving scooter that had plenty of room for everyone to put their filled-to-the-brim backpacks. Good thing they had a change of clothes!
With the help of a guide we hired for the day, we made our way to the memorable Epcot Center. We decided to pile into our rented SUV for the 15-minute drive to the park. We had paid for parking in the Animal Kingdom lot and it was free in Epcot.
The highlight of that day was a new show and ride based on “Avatar.” It made me feel like I was flying high over the imaginary world of Pandora, the fictional world featured in the hit film.
The seat rumbled and twisted, making me feel like I was flying as the brilliant animation made the trip exhilarating, but thankfully kept my stomach where it should be!
That wasn’t the case for a race car ride that I was assured would be “easy” on my guts. We began slowly in the exhibit sponsored by Chevrolet, but suddenly speeded into the open air and I had to scream with all my guts to relieve the stress, feeling like I was going to explode!
I thought to myself, “this is fun?” The kids say it is, but I’m not so sure!
The greatest fun for me was to see the children walking together arm over arm as we headed from ride to ride. It made my heart soar!
Our stay at the Sheraton Vistana Villages offered us great rooms with a kitchen that made having breakfast together easy!
The pool days required me to get up early and reserve eight lounges for our family. There was a sign that said “No reserved lounges,” but no one listened and the staff did not enforce the “rule.”
When the kids left for home before me, I found a quiet, adults-only pool — it was totally calm and quiet! Nevertheless, I miss the kids throwing the football at each other in the pool and squealing as they darted through the sprinklers.
What an extraordinary time we had together! The trip is one for the memory book!