Saturday, July 27, 2013

Vacation Preparation

Going on vacation for any extended period of time calls for some planning and preparation.  But when you are going to visit two different states and have two children with severe food allergies, you really have to plan ahead!

My sister is getting married in Washington DC, but we were already planning on trying to go to Disneyworld this summer.  So when we found out about the wedding plans, we decided to visit Florida and Washington DC in one big trip.  The kids know we are going to DC and that their aunt is getting married (the girls will be flower girls), but they don't know we are going to Disney.  I can't wait to see their faces when we surprise them upon arrival!

I began food prep weeks ago, baking and freezing lots of snacks, meals, and treats.  They don't eat a lot of junk food, but vacation is a special occasion that calls for lots of treats (especially when your little one has a food allergy -- treats are all that more special).  I've also stocked up on packaged foods that Bubs and GirlyGirl can have for snacks and treats, such as Enjoy Life bars and cookies, fruit strips, Surfs Sweets all natural candies, Fruit Crisps, and more. 

Cutie (3 years old) was having trouble conceptualizing how long it was until our vacation began.  She kept asking if we were leaving after nap.  :)  So I made one of these timeless countdown chains which we dubbed the "Vacation Chain."  And the kicker:  The child who has been most well behaved gets to tear off the next chain.  These kids were on their best behavior.  It's funny what motivates a child!

Our vacation chain

I also made sure to stock up on the necessary extras -- fast melt generic Benadryl and EpiPens, which was really easy this year since Mylan is offering their special $0 copay.

There's also the obvious vacation planning including reserving hotel rooms, purchasing Disney park tickets, renting a stroller, etc. 

Finding a hotel room that accommodates six is more difficult than I thought.  I figured we'd be OK with one bed, and the kids could sleep on the floor in their sleeping bags.  But I guess there are regulations that we have to follow.  (We don't travel often.)  So our search for a large hotel room that has a full kitchen and washer/dryer and is also affordable led us to book a room in Orlando rather than on the Disney resort.  We will have about a 30 minute commute to the parks, but our hotel offers a free shuttle, which will be an adventure in itself for the kids.  And apparently there are no hotels that accommodate six in DC.  So again, we are staying outside of the city, but we are close to the metro line which will take us anywhere we want to go!  Another adventure for the kids!

It is also a small ordeal to purchase park tickets.  Curls is still free since she is under 3, which helps tremendously.  We searched for deals on tickets, but they are hard to come by, especially if you are not staying in a Disney resort.  I found an online agent that offers a small discount on each ticket price, but which also includes tax in the ticket price (unlike Disney), so we saved around $100 total on a 4-day park pass and Sea World tickets.  Not bad!  They need to be mailed to your home, and we didn't plan far enough ahead, so we did pay a small fee for express shipping just to be sure we had them in time.

Then we had to think about stroller rental.  I originally thought about just renting the park strollers, but they are awfully expensive and there are no good pockets or baskets for the mountains of stuff I carry with me.  I read this review on SuperJenn and decided to rent a stroller through Kingdom Strollers.  They will deliver right to our hotel (and pick up there too), and it's ours for the week!  And it's much cheaper than the Disney park strollers.

Next come the cleaning and packing.  I really am a neat freak, but I have lost some of OCDness since I've had kids.  While I wish my house were spic and span all the time, it's just not possible if I want to keep my sanity (and spend precious time with my kids)!  But I do like my house to be clean before we leave on vacation.  So I spent some time sorting through toys and taking loads down to the basement to declutter the living room.  I will do the usual bathroom/kitchen/floor cleaning right before we leave.

It is so nice that we will have a washer and dryer in our hotel in Orlando so I can pack a bit lighter.  Clothing packing is not a big deal, but food packing takes some work.  I have two Rubbermaid tubs and a large cooler full of food for the two weeks.  Once we get there, I'll hit the local grocery store to buy food for the rest of us.  I plan on carrying most of our food each day to cut costs (it's great that Disney allows you to do this).  I'll just prepare lunches, snacks, and suppers each morning and pack them up for the day. 

Since the drive to Orlando will be a two day undertaking, I need to keep Bubs' meals for the first two days easily accessible for each stop.  I'll make them before leaving home and just keep them on top in the cooler.  I also don't want to completely unload our van for a short overnight stay in Chattanooga (we plan on arriving late and leaving early), so I will pack a quick overnight bag with just clothes and toiletries to grab for the night. 

We don't watch a lot of TV or movies, but I have been pouring Disney movies down the kids' throats recently so they will know what all the excitement is all about.  They have tons of Disney toys, etc, and we read lots of Disney stories, but there is something about watching the moves to add to the excitement. 

We will also keep the kids plugged in to a portable DVD player for the two day drive.  Hopefully this will eliminate (or at least decrease) the amount of arguing from the back seat!  We are loaded up on Disney and other kids movies for the trek.

I am packing princess dress-up dresses for the girls since I don't want to pay big bucks at the parks.  I have to sneak them in the bags, along with homemade Character Autograph books for each kid with their name on it.  They turned out so cute (thanks to the idea from SuperJenn)!

Character Autograph Books for each child

Finally we arranged for the neighbors to keep and eye on the house and feed the dog while we are gone.  Seems like everything is ready!  I'm getting excited!

I felt like I was very well prepared with everything ahead of time.  All tickets purchased, all rooms booked, itinerary typed, food made and frozen, Disney research done, flower girl dresses bought.  But it seemed as if the vacation gods were against us!  It seemed as if something were telling us not to go.

First, the hubs' grandmother has recently been diagnosed with cancer and was scheduled to have surgery the week before we leave.  Then his father was diagnosed with a painful autoimmune condition.  Then his mother was hospitalized with severe abdominal pain. Then a few days before departure, two of the girls get the stomach bug!  I called around looking for barf bags to travel with (because it will inevitably travel though the family), but I couldn't find them anywhere!  We'll just have to take our chances.  Then a giant turkey flies into our van (luckily the only damage is a broken side mirror, but it won't get fixed before we leave).  Finally, a tropical storm is brewing and is set to hit Florida right when we arrive!  That's still several days away, so I'm hoping it changes course. 

So no matter how much you plan and prep, you still have to go with the flow.  I'm hoping we are getting all this madness out of the way before we leave so we can have a wonderful, relaxing, enjoyable vacation.  I'll keep you posted!

1 comment:

  1. Hope you have a great trip!! You have planned hard and deserve to enjoy. Don't worry about Jake. :0) Gretchen