Friday, February 24, 2017

Make A Wish Trip

Where do I begin? There is no way I can sufficiently describe the amazing awesomeness that was Ruby's Make-A-Wish trip to Disney. The red carpet treatment extended beyond any boundaries I could have imagined when she was given the trip towards the end of her treatment last year. (During Ruby's hospitalization we were asked to apply for a Wish for Ruby, and shortly after she finished treatment, we were given the green light that she was approved for a Disney trip. We chose to wait until this week because of school schedules and our schedules and to allow Ruby to be as recovered from the chemo as possible.)
We flew to Florida on Friday night, where we were greeted by a Make A Wish volunteer escort. She walked us directly to the baggage claim and then straight out to the rental car lot where our car (and car seat) were waiting for us. This already felt like star treatment. We then drove about 40 minutes to the Give Kids The World Village (I will dedicate a whole blog post to that place later!) where we were again greeted by someone waiting specifically for us. There was a to-go dinner in our 'villa', and a volunteer walked me through a brief orientation to give me all of the details we would need for the week.
At our disposal, we had several days of tickets for the Disney parks, Sea World, Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure, and many other 'smaller' Orlando attractions. In addition, we had free parking, free photo services, and some perks at each park. The best perk? The mack-daddy of all fast passes at each park. At Sea World it meant getting preferential seating at shows if we wanted, trays of fish to feed the sea lions and sharks, and first dibs in line for any rides. At Universal/Islands of Adventure it gave us first dibs in most lines, and special parking. And at the Disney parks it was a Genie Pass which gave us preferential treatment for photos around the park (including the photo files), fast pass lines for any rides at ALL times, and front of the line privileges to meet the characters.
For reals.

Our first day we hit Sea World, where the big kids rode their first 'real' roller coaster. They didn't mess around either; they rode one that dangled their feet and turned them every which way, AND they rode it twice! We saw several shows, fed several animals, and even got rained on a little. Eli and Maddux loved the sea lion show most. That night we made it back for dinner and having fun around the village.
Lehr and I agree that the character benefits were by far the best, especially for Ruby. Not only did she get to meet way more princesses and characters than she even had a working knowledge of, but many of them gave her lots of one-on-one attention. Our first encounter was at Epcot with Jasmine. We waited in line for a minute, unsure of how to use our pass (we hadn't done that yet), and then Lehr decided to find someone to ask. That cast member not only brought us to another entrance, but she raced us around the back way to intercept Jasmine walking to her post so that Ruby could meet her in the alley and walk with her. Unbelievable.
And when it came time to meet Elsa and Anna? We were ushered into a back room to find Anna hiding from Ruby, so Ruby got to 'hide and snow seek' with her for a minute. The look on her face when she saw Anna was perfect. (This had such a lasting impression that Ruby looked behind the curtain a few days later when she met Rapunzel.) Needless to say, Ruby absolutely loved meeting these two, as they are the only two Disney characters she really knew about before this trip. The Frozen ride was a big hit with Ruby too, as she had the opportunity to sing along to Let It Go and see her favorite characters while she rode in a boat through the scenes. It was very dark in there, but I grabbed some video anyway to get her audio reactions. We stayed well after dinner, but not late for the fireworks. It was such a good day that we didn't want to push our luck.
The big kids definitely appreciated the benefits of having this crazy fast pass access too. Time after time we walked up and boarded a ride within 10 minutes of arriving, even though the lines for everyone else were estimated to be 50-90 minutes. This allowed us to cover a lot of ground at all of the parks.
The following day we opted to split up, leaving Lehr and Ruby at the village to swim and play while I took Eli and Maddux to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. The two parks are right next to each other (they share an entrance and parking deck), and they each have a Harry Potter section. We'd decided to focus on that park of the parks, likely not doing many of the other rides or attractions. It's a good thing too because we got three rougher rides/coasters in a row that messed with my equilibrium so much that I ended up sitting down for about an hour afterward to regain my balance. The kids loved the HP stuff, but around 3 they both agreed we should head home to play with Daddy and Ruby. We even managed to go in the pool before dinner because it was so warm out that day! Oh, and the village had an awesome Halloween party that night that we were able to participate in.
We followed that day up with the Magic Kingdom. Another day full of sprinting around the park, hitting many rides. We counted 15 rides, lots of character meetings, two sit down meals, one parade and the fireworks. Pretty impressive...totally a perk of having that pass! Eli and Maddux and I didn't get to Space Mountain until after the fireworks, but they agreed that it was worth the wait. They LOVED it and it was a great ride to end the day on.
Our last full day was full of rain, so rather than slop through another park, we opted to stay back at the village. Unfortunately we didn't get to golf because of the rain, and we only found one hour of non-rain to swim, but there were plenty of games to play, ice cream cones to eat, and naps to take to pass the time. Oh, and the kids got to ride on horses...Ruby LOVED that! After dinner we participated in a Village Idol show and then watched Toy Story in the theater next door. (Did I mention how cool the Village was?!?) Village Idol is where any/all kids that want to perform an 'act' get up on stage and then get feedback from judges (all positive). We saw everything from jokes to light saber skills. Eli, Maddux and Ruby got up and danced to "Bad Blood" - totally impressed that the big kids would volunteer to do that.
Our flight wasn't until after lunch the next day, so we opted to get out early and hit Epcot for a few hours before heading to the airport. After all, we'll never have the access with that pass again! We saw Elsa and Anna again, rode the frozen ride, and hit Test Track...a great end to a great trip!

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