Universal Studios

Of course I had to see my boy Harry before heading back to the 808. And I still loved loved loved Hogwarts and Hogsmeade (although sad that they haven’t expanded to include things like Gringotts like in Florida). And the 600 calorie butterbeer was still superb (of which I had 4). But there’s just something a little… Not disneyesque about that place. Oh well.

 

Emma (or Ryan for Emma) decided to sleep through early morning access into the park so I made my way without them. And therefore was the first person into Hogsmeade… good to know I still got it! (And by “IT” I mean my theme park death marching skills of course.)

They finally showed up 1 hour and 5 rides later, ready to go!

Everyone’s a critic!

By far the scariest thing Emma encountered on the whole trip. A Minion. No joke the kid was freaked! Meanwhile the animatronic HUGE velocirapter they had next to the Jurassic Park ride made her smile, jump up and down and call out “Hi Dinosaur Hi!!!”

Wake me up in a week or so

I get that Emma won’t remember this trip and so many things about the park were lost on her (outside of Sophia, Elsa and Anna she is clueless about the Princesses).

But the happiness I saw for the entire time at Disney, so worth it (until I see my credit card bill and remember that they charged me $10 for a hot dog… That in no way as good as a $1 NYC dirty water hot dog).

Ears!

Bubbles (and pouch eating on the go)

Watching Doc McStuffins and Sofia the First and Mickey’s Clubhouse too

Sorry, lots and lots of character love ahead

I love love love that after getting her picture, Emma totally photo bombed me.

A clearly not hyped up on Disneyland love (and probably sugar) Emma getting ready for bed after night one… yeah right.

How to never wait in line at Disneyland

I never thought about asking other family members to come along to Disneyland to help watch Emma so Ryan and I didn’t spend the entire time catering to her and her level of rides. But when family members of all sides offered to be the one to come I was thrilled. Over the last couple of years, countless high school classmates took their kids on their maiden trip to Disney and each time it included a slew of aunts, uncles and grandparents. From my mind, we just had to decide which side to take. And then Ryan said no. It had been a rough three years of trying to move to Hawaii, moving to Hawaii without Ryan, selling our Connecticut condo, Ryan finally moving, and still trying to get settled and raise a toddler. So when he said he wanted a family vacation of just the three of us who am I to argue.

On the trip he told me he lied and in reality everyone knows that I create death match style itineraries for our trips to Disney and everyone refused to go. I am going to believe story #1 was the correct one.

Since Ryan is much better at getting Emma to sleep and also much more into going back out and doing things later at night on vacations than I am I figured that he would take Emma back to the hotel for a nap in the afternoon, leaving me to ride the adult rides and then after we met back up in the evening, he would stay at the park while we headed back to sleep. That plan worked out way better than I ever envisioned thanks to the fastpass system. As many people know the fastpass system shoots you to the front of the line but you are only allowed 1 fastpass every 1-2 hours or so. We worked it so the person that stayed in the park kept both passes. Which means you got two rides every 1-2 hours. We would help collect passes for the other person towards the end of our stints in the park and for some rides, like the Matterhorn, California Screamin’, Splash Mountain and Radiator Springs we just continued to walk directly onto the rides using the single rider lane. Even when I used a fastpass, being a single rider usually propelled me ahead of all the other fastpass users. Sure you are all alone in those pictures of you screaming down splash mountain, but you get to go on splash mountain 5 times in an hour of you wanted to.

The Success of Operation: Get Emma To Like Rides

I was truly worried at the beginning of this year that, after all the money spent and planning done, Emma would bolt at the tamest of rides. Which is why operation: get Emma to like rides was put into motion. By the time we left for Disneyland she was a fan of the merry go round and the helicopters (like Dumbo but much harder for adults to get in and out of).

On day one we stuck to all of the Toddler approved rides, Nemo’s submarine, Astro Orbiters, the carousel, Casey Jr.’s train, Dumbo.

Day two I was a little skeptical about because I figured the cars land rides weren’t actually intended for two year olds she just happens to be tall for her age. But she liked them. She liked them so much that when I took her back to ride it one last time to kill time before dinner and let Ryan enjoy Soarin’ by himself, she broke down into hysterics when the ride ended and we had to get off, fighting my grasp as I carried her out of there. So there I was, all alone with a toddler in full meltdown mode in the exit corridor of a ride 10 minutes before our dinner reservations (so I wasn’t about to put us in line again) when I saw a Disney employee walk up to us. Just what I needed, to be told that I shouldn’t be loitering in the exit corridor with my tantrum-throwing menace. Fantastic.

BUT that’s not what she said. She smiled and talked sweetly to Emma asking her if she really wanted to ride again. Emma was too far gone in hysterics to answer. I was still assuming we were about to get in trouble when the employee goes, “I can get you to the front of the line to ride it again.” What?! And she did. Straight through to the handicap entrance ahead of everyone else with patient, sweet kids who understand the importance of waiting for your turn. She calmed down for a little while but as soon as we found ourselves first to line up behind the gate to pick a car the tantrum started again, “the car is RIGHT there! Go away Mommy.” I’m not sure what the other people standing in line thought but it made me realize that I shouldn’t be so quick to judge parents with kids melting down in line, assuming it’s because the kid was too scared and didn’t want to be tortured with a scary ride. Maybe it’s because they are impatient and really excited for the ride.

And by day three, amidst Emma liking things we had not expected her to like, Ryan and I decided to give it a try with our all time favorite rides, the haunted mansion (for him) and the Pirates of the Caribbean (for me). Timing was on our side for the Haunted Mansion as it was decked out in a Nightmare Before Christmas theme they do every Halloween. Maybe she would have freaked out if it was there real haunted mansion, but with the new, more cartoony feel, she was excited to wave (and call out) to Jack and fell in love with Zero.

Meanwhile, I may have put her “parroting me” skills to use in hopes of getting her to love Pirates. Pretty soon she was waving her arms back and forth with me singing “yo ho yo ho” and squealing “weeee” down the downhill drops. Phew… operation get Emma to like rides was a success.

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Day one: Disneyland – Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage – first ride of the trip

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Day one: Disneyland –  Astro Orbiter

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Day one: Disneyland – King Arthur’s Carousel – the first of 1,000 rides on this carousel – oh the irony that this is the ride that prompted Operation: Get Emma to Like Rides

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Day one: Disneyland – King Arthur’s Carousel  – as I was saying…. same day different outfit (i.e. Emma post nap)… same darn ride

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Day two: California Adventure – Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train (and Sonja’s first time in A Bug’s Land besides seeing A Bug’s Life… oh these rides are sllloooowwww)

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Day two: California Adventure – Flik’s Flyers… I look so attractive… in other news Anaheim was H.O.T.

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Day two: California Adventure – King Triton’s Carousel of the Sea – Voted favorite ride ever by Miss Emma

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Day three: Disneyland – Mad Tea Party… yup, just as horrendous as I thought it would be, and at least Emma wasn’t strong enough to turn the wheel

Day three: Prop picture… because after the breakdown over the long line for Peter Pan and even for the much shorter Alice and Wonderland, Ryan and I were over all fantasyland rides and their ridiculous wait times.

Disneyland or Bust

As y’all know… Huge Disney fanatic over here. Which is why I talked Ryan into having Disneyland be our first family summer vacation ever (err… Fall vacation… got to go when the crowds are at an all time low after all). I patiently answered everyone’s “Emma is too young” comments with a smirk and an “it’s not really for her” response and read up on every “Dumbo or die” kid schedule out there. And cried over forking over a gazillion dollars just to stay on Disneyland property because shuttles to and from the much more affordable offsite hotels were not going to work for my nap-hating FOMO two-year-old.

And finally last Saturday we were off!

My dad loaded Emma up with treats for the plane and Ryan’s parents’ present of a Minnie Mouse luggage tag somehow turned into a “cell phone” Emma had to take everywhere (off topic but I am amazed by kids’ creativity / imagination).

The flight wasn’t as horrific as carrying an 8-month-old up and down the aisle for the entire 11 hour trip or changing her diaper when the plane is trying to take off, but not as great as the massive amount of strangers telling me what a perfectly behaved child I had.

Oh well, you win some you lose some.

I’m baaaaccckkk

Be forewarned… With a few nights off and a couple precious weekends here and there I have done nothing but work since I got a crazy assignment last December (read: boring boring life). Until last Saturday when we all jetted off to Disney.

And then my daughter and husband passed out from the exhaustion of it all for most of the flight home, giving me nothing else to do but blog the whole thing.