Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How our 10 days at Disney World turned into 20 (for only the cost of our campsite)!

Once we drove into Florida and were Orlando bound, we knew that at some point we would want to head over to Disney World. We had previously taken the older 3 kids 2.5 years ago, and knew that once they saw the signs that they would be asking to go. All told, we love Disney World as much as the kids and couldn't wait either! We held off for almost a week, enjoying our time at the campground and making new friends, but once I had something firm and solid for my next job assignment, we went ahead and made plans. 

We originally planned to spend 10 days at Disney World in January of this year, with a few weekend trips this winter/spring and another extended visit before we leave Florida later this spring/summer. A delay with my start date for my next project meant that we were afforded the opportunity to double our time at Disney for only the cost of extending our Fort Wilderness campsite reservation 3 nights! What follows are some of our tips and tricks for making Disney World as fun and affordable as possible.

The biggest and most overarching thing that I can say about heading to Disney World is to MAKE A PLAN. This is not a place that you head to on a whim and all willy-nilly. Putting in the time beforehand can save you many headaches, a lot of money, and make the whole experience a lot more pleasurable for everyone. When we came in 2010, we spent months planning our trip, and it paid off. We were able to reuse much of that research this time around, which is what allowed us to be ready to go with only a week's notice. If possible, I recommend to start planning 6-12 months before your trip, especially if you have never been to Disney World before or if it has been a long time since your last visit.

I will break this up into separate posts to address each specific theme park. Breakdowns on visiting each park are in follow-up posts. 

Magic Kingdom
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney's Animal Kingdom

Continue reading this post to see our tips for theme park admission, lodging, transportation, and general theme park navigation.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Goodbye, 2012. Welcome, 2013!

2012 will go down in the history of our family as the year that we chose to become who we are.

We set some pretty lofty goals for ourselves this time last year. While we aren't exactly where we expected to be, I like where we have found ourselves today a lot better than any plans that we could have set for ourselves.

Our primary goals for 2012 were:

  • Learn more fully and practice more intentionally what it means to live a life of simplicity
  • Make choices that promote health and wholeness for ourselves, our family and those around us
  • Increase our value of people over things, experience over possession and community over the individual
  • Learn a new hobby or two (the ideas for these are still rattling around...)
  • Find greater joy in the journey--it's not all about the destination. In fact, it's hardly at all about the destination.
Let's look back and see what that looked like in the past 12 months, shall we?

January gave us a fabulous, unexpected, opportunity to make choices to promote health and wholeness for ourselves, our family and those around us by our unfortunate invasion of the lice population. Yay.
We also enrolled all of the kids in swim lessons, as we looked ahead to living life in campgrounds with swimming pools and visits to state/national parks with rivers, lakes and streams to explore. Our little fishies did fantastic at learning water safety and swimming skills.
January also began "The Great Purge" in which we sold, donated, free cycled, recycled, or threw away at least 75% of our possessions. And you know what? The only things we've missed, so far, have been Jason's table saw/mitre saw, which we needed for one day and that we don't have room for on our rig anyway.

In February we took further steps toward simplifying our space by ditching our microwave--an act that we were told we would soon regret and a little bit of amazement at how we can live without one. I'm happy to report that in almost 10 months, we've not missed it once beyond the first few days of forgetting that it was gone and now when the kids see folks with microwaves in their homes they ask us why they have one and what it's for. Huge strides toward healthier living with this small, easy step.

March began with Ian learning the "do's and don'ts" of electricity the hard way, Lydia's 5th birthday and the first of our massive yard sale extravaganzas. We also poured ourselves into several home improvement projects to help prepare our home in Indianapolis for sale.

April was where the rubber hit the road and we let the cat out of the bag, removing all doubt that we are crazy dreamers--but also doers who follow our dreams. We put our house up for sale at the beginning of the month, publicly shared our goal of indefinite fulltime travel beginning in July, and sold our second car.

In May we found and purchased our new home on wheels, sold our minivan and purchased our first truck to pull our home with. We learned how to live life with one vehicle, the kids finished school and we started our countdown to move-in!

In June we finished cleaning out the excess from our lives (seriously, even as borderline minimalists to begin with, this was a 6-month, all-encompassing undertaking!) and threw our home clearance sale extravaganza! We sold our Harley, cleared out our house, moved the heirloom furniture and other irreplaceables to storage, hitched up our home and headed West!
Shortly after leaving we were met with our first roadblock; a blown-out tire and a busted intercooler in our truck's engine. After a 5-day breakdown in St. Louis, we began to learn what infinite flexibility is all about.

We arrived in Colorado on the 4th of July and enjoyed settling into the Roaring Fork Valley for the next several months. Jason got to help with the renovation of a hotel on the ski slopes of Snowmass and the kids and I adjusted to small-town life in Basalt.

August brought on many beautiful hikes, our first rodeo, learning to hoop, beginning to geocache together as a family. We started to find our stride.

September brought on an earlier fall than we were accustomed to in the midwest, but the most beautiful fall that I've ever experienced! There are no words to describe the beauty of the yellow Aspens juxtaposed with the evergreens on the Rocky Mountain slopes. We also celebrated the onset of autumn with the Snowmass Balloon Festival.

October began much the same, but by mid-month it was time for us to travel onward. We went West through Moab, UT for a brief visit and enjoyed the amazing countryside! While we were there, we learned the truth about our truck when it was unable to pull us out of the valley and found ourselves staying a few days longer than planned, driving out of town with a new truck, and heading back to Colorado instead of Arizona, as originally planned. Go figure!

November began with leaving Colorado (again), this time heading East. We met more Fulltime Families in Denver, (finally) got a contract on our house-on-dirt just 3 weeks after signing with a new realtor, and continued East to Ohio to visit with family. Jason got a call to work in Maryland, so we ended the month on the West Virginia/Maryland border just minutes away from more family and in one of the most beautiful pockets of countryside that this nation holds.

December seemed to bring things full circle for us. We closed on our Indianapolis house, Jason had the month off of work and we were afforded the wonderful gift of being able to travel the East Coast through Washington, DC, Williamsburg, VA, Hilton Head, SC, Savannah, GA and end the year in Orlando, FL. We completed a few projects along the way that will lead to more togetherness as a family, and have enjoyed sharing life with several other Fulltime Families while here in Orlando.

As we move into 2013, I am confident that God has amazing plans ahead for our family. In retrospect, some of the best parts to this journey in 2012 have been the most trying in the midst of them, and I do not expect the year ahead to be full of sunshine and rainbows. However, if we stay the course and continue to keep our goals in mind, we'll find that the sun shines brightest as it peeks beyond the clouds. The rainbows are most radiant in the midst of the storm, and the rainbow is a reminder that God is always present and always keeps His promises.