Sunday, September 13, 2020

Visiting Walt Disney World During COVID-19 (With and Without Kids)

 I've been asked a lot and been promising to write this post for some time now. Two months after Walt Disney World officially opened back up since closing down during the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020 (March-July), here it is. 

I've visited the various theme parks and resorts around 20 times since reopening, and have seen some changes and learned a lot through the process. 

I could write a short novel on the subject, but instead will just jam out the major points and then maybe ramble on a bit after that...

- Masks are required for all guests aged 2+. Yes, the masks add to the heat and are not enjoyable, but are a fair tradeoff for being able to be at Disney and enjoy a small break from reality. Wear them correctly and use common sense.

- I prefer the disposable masks myself; they are lightweight and I don't have to wash them. My four year old likes the official Disney masks the best. He wears a size Medium. (Disney masks run smaaaaaaallll). 

- Bring at least two, if not three masks per person per day. It's nice to put on a fresh mask after sweating, eating, etc halfway through the day.

- If you bring a stroller:

    - bring a rain cover. Pack it and it won't rain ;) (More Rain Tips to be linked here...)

    - Don't overload it just because you can. The more stuff you schlep, the more you'll have to do to get through security, fold it up if to get on a water transportation, bus, escalator, etc. Diaper bag, rain cover, stroller fan, Yeti of ice water, and a misting water bottle are our must-haves).

    - if you have a young baby, bring a carrier. Plan to park the stroller in one 'land' and explore it all using the carrier. Then move on to the next. 

-The lines are going to look long due to social distancing. The wait times are sometimes inflated, but better to be safe than sorry, and it makes for a happy feeling when the actual wait time is much lower. You know what I mean. 

- Speaking of lines, PICK ONE LINE AND STAY IN IT!!! When you arrive at security or the turn stiles, there will be lines. Choose one and relax. Don't start a long day on a hectic note. You'll get it, I promise (as long as you have your ticket media and Park Pass...)

- The parks are closing early in the evening, but there are ways to extend the magic. Just think, when Walt Disney World opened in 1971, it was dubbed as The Vacation Kingdom of the World, and the ONE park, Magic Kingdom, closed at 6. People shopped, dined, danced, enjoyed water activities, etc. Try to reframe it as old school and retro, but with masks! Ha!

- Remember, at the end of the day, you are choosing to be there and experience Disney during this unprecedented time. You can choose to enjoy it or not. Try to make the best of it and understand that the Cast Members are there for you to escape and play. They're doing more than their original job description asked. We all are because PANDEMIC. 

- Be nice, smile, and HAVE FUN! 

(Also, contact me when you're ready to book a trip. There are so many little pointers, ins and outs, that I can't possibly write here but love to pass along as we 'talk shop' and plan your trip.)

(PS It's free- Disney pays me. Doesn't cost you a penny more. Disney bakes in commission to every price/vacation. When you book through me, I get that. When you book straight through Disney, they keep it.)

(PPS have you SEEN the wait times on hold for Disney lately?? Trust me, you don't want to be doing that unless you're being paid to. So let me!)

Ok but seriously the rules still apply as always: don't over schedule, play to take it slow and/or take a break, try to enjoy the moments and make the best of them. Now there's just an extra layer of stuff to add to the experience. 

Hope this helped. I'm sure I'll add more as things pop into my head. Any questions you have, please ask below. 

As always, thanks for reading. Can't believe some of y'all are still around this here space. XXXOOO



Saturday, May 16, 2020

Our Wedding

Exactly a year from the day we were engaged, John and I were married on May 16, 2015.

Which was *almost* 2 years exactly to the day we met at La Cava tequila bar in Mexico at Epcot!

I always knew I wanted a small wedding, and we both didn't feel the need to spend a pant load of money to say 'I do.'

(Sidenote: I appreciate and love attending big weddings, and respect those who wish to put on a lavish celebration for the occasion. I just personally didn't want the fanfare, all eyes on me, attention. Which is funny because as a teacher, you have people watching you all day. In my case, as a Kindergarten teacher, I had 18 pairs of little eyes watching my every move-- it never failed to trip me out whenever I'd be reading the class a book, and would look out at the circle time rug to see ALL OF THEM staring at me lollll. But it's different when you're in front of kids vs. adults and our wedding ended up being perfect for us. There's one thing I would have changed though, and I'll get to that later.)

So, after thinking about some informal, personal spaces (renting a suite at Animal Kingdom Lodge and having the ceremony on the balcony, or at Leu Gardens in nature, but then you have rain to contend with, riverfront in a little historic park in Melbourne, Florida...) we decided just to keep it easy and tie the knot on our balcony at our first apartment together.

I've always said I'd love our family friend, Hugh, to perform the ceremony. He and my dad were friends in high school and college, so he's literally known me my whole life. It serendipitously happened that he was living in South Florida for a short interim as a fill-in pastor for a church down there, so he was able to drive up to Orlando for the weekend!

I found my dream dress at BHLDN, the Anthropologie wedding shop, at a brick-and-mortar shop in NYC. (There's only a handful of physical BHLDN outposts in the country, so this was super exciting to me!)
So, my whole 'say yes to the dress' was me and my mom, and a handful of other women (salesperson, other shoppers) in an Anthro fitting room :) Again, it was great. No fuss.

I picked out a few decorations from there as well--simple small glass hanging vases, pretty paper plates, a cute banner-- to put around our apartment. We filled the balcony with plants and hung curtains.

We had immediate family only- my mom and dad, one of my three brothers and his family, John's mom and stepdad, and John's three siblings.

The morning of the big day, my niece and I went to Disney to celebrate the last day of us having the same initials (we were both A. H. before I took my married name).

Then my parents and I met at my brother's time share condo where my friend Christine did my hair and makeup. She nailed it.

My niece, Amelia, was our photographer. I think she was 11 at the time, HA! She did great and we have wonderful, candid memories from the day, but one thing I wish I had splurged on was a photographer. And it's funny, now I know a handful of friends who I would have asked in a heartbeat.
I briefly looked in to hiring a couple who are a popular Disney fan-base wedding photography team, but the cost for their session vs. the informal, unusual nature of our ceremony just didn't make sense.

Needless to say, we have some good pics, but most of them are from a lower angle, which for me and my inherited double chins is not the most flattering. Ah well, what can you do. Next time I'll hire someone ;)

 I walked the 'aisle' from our bedroom through the kitchen and living room out onto the balcony to meet my hubs-to-be, with family on the couch and kitchen chairs pulled up to the sides to create an aisle. Music was from a playlist on our computer.

We had a cheese and fruit tray from Publix, and a few bottles of Veuve Cliquot. We toasted with my great-grandmothers champagne flutes from HER wedding back in the 1920s. My wristlet purse was from my mom's aunt in the 1950s. My engagement/wedding ring is circa 1890 NYC, and was found in an antique jewelry shop on Park Avenue (Alice Kwartler) during one of our first trips as a couple in 2013 (John got the info and filed it away for later. #winning).

So let's see, that's something old, something new, something borrowed, oh! and the something blue was a small blue crystal embedded in the bottom of my wedding heels (they just came like that, so cute, and so perfect!)

Our first dance was to Herman's Hermits "Something Tells Me I'm Into Something Good." We danced to them the day we met in Epcot as part of the Flower & Garden Festival's Garden Rocks Concert Series in 2013. More about that in our How We Met post to come.

After some dancing and celebrating and taking family pictures in our living room, we all caravanned to Norman's at the Ritz Carlton for dinner. We had reserved the wine room for our small party of 11; it was perfect! Several of us had the tasting menu, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves. We put away a fair amount of wine (John had a couple bottles of GOOD STUFF himself, and kept saying, "We have to hit a minimum!" lol).

Finally, my parents drove me and John to the Boardwalk Resort for our first night as husband and wife. John and I headed down to the Boardwalk and played some of the carnival games. He actually won two basketballs and was crazy accurate in the free throw game for how much wine he had. We still have the balls in the attic.

I don't remember if we popped into Epcot or not, I don't think we did. I know we ordered some pizza slices from the pizza window late into the evening, and the CM told us we could have cheese pizza right then, but that the pepperoni we ordered was going to take 10 minutes. We waited the 10 minutes for fresh, hot pepperoni pizza. Such a random detail but one we both remember and laugh about to this day whenever we have to wait a bit for something we really want.

We danced in our resort room to "At Last I See The Light" from the Tangled soundtrack; John still says it makes him think of me whenever we hear it. We sat on our balcony and had a drink and ate pizza and enjoyed the evening.

The next morning, we headed to Epcot to celebrate in the very place we had met two years earlier. Friends and family came along, and we had the best day. We started off with breakfast and mimosas in the France pavilion, and I remember there was a pop up rain shower that morning, and it was so romantic sipping mimosas in fake France, watching the rain, with my new husband. We danced to Herman's Hermits again that day. How convenient that they play the Flower & Garden Festival on our special weekend every year ;) (Fingers crossed Peter Noone keeps ticking because we didn't make it this year due to COVID-19 closures. They would have been playing RIGHT NOW! He's not getting any younger, so here's hoping they'll be back next year!) We of course had to visit La Cava del Tequila and use our special engraved glasses (we earned those through a Twitter contest when we first started dating. They ran a promo through Twitter where you tweet each time you visit, and after 20 visits you got an engraved glass that they keep in storage there. We use them when we visit on special occasions.) We finished the day at Big River Brewing Company on the Boardwalk with our friend Disney Bill who was there they day we met at La Cava.

Oh! And for our 'rehearsal dinner' (lol, there wasn't one) the night before the wedding, we all went to Kobe Japanese Steakhouse. Fun times, fun times.

It's funny, because John was adamant about not having a Disney wedding, which I was really fine with too. But that's why he nixed the idea of getting married in our room at a Disney resort and the like. However, he wanted to go on a cruise for our honeymoon, and I didn't have any desire to do that at all. I wanted Hawaii. But after running the costs, he suggested we do a week on the Disney Fantasy as a compromise, and it was the best decision ever. I'm telling you, my Disney-tolerating husband (he is not a Disney stan) can't say enough good things about DCL, and I would 100% recommend it as a honeymoon venture even though the perception is it's overrun with kids. It's not, but more on that in my DCL Fantasy Honeymoon Cruise Recap (which I still need to finish lol oy vey).

Anyway, that's about it. We've talked about a vow renewal sometime in the future, but as it is, we're happy with how it turned out and could never have imagined the life we have now, five years ago standing on the balcony saying 'I do.'

Love you John. Here's to the next five years and the rest of our lives.

XO, Ashley