There's nothing more enjoyable than planning a family vacation, but as many of you know, sometimes the preparation and anticipation can end up being more fun than the actual trip. Well, that is a slight exaggeration, but we can all agree that taking your family on the road is stressful. Everyone is out of routine. Your sleep cycles and regular diets are significantly disrupted, which can be a recipe for dramatic mood swings, tantrums, and tears all around. However, despite all that, the memories made outweigh everything else.
I'm happy to say that our latest family adventure didn't have any of the above. The experience far outweighed the planning, and we have a ton of memories firmly stashed in our memory banks (and in my Instagram highlights reel). In fact, I'd go as far as to say that Disney World in Orlando, Florida, should be your number one family trip in 2019. I feel so incredibly grateful that Chevrolet offered this super-fun press trip so that my husband and I could surprise our son, Neon, for an early 10th birthday present. I can't explain how much fun it was, but I'll give it a go.
Read on to find out what we did and where we stayed so you can start planning your trip.
STAY AT THE ICONIC GRAND FLORIDAN RESORT AND SPA
I had heard about Disney's Grand Floridian hotel, but it's not until you see it that you believe it. This place is truly magical. The architecture transplants you into another world, one that is filled with princesses and dragons (or maybe that was the result of a 3 a.m. wake-up call and two flights to get there?). The hospitality and service are definitely five-star, and the pool is the perfect place to entertain (and wear out) the kids when us parents need some major chill time.
I highly recommend the Grand Floridian Cafe too. Despite it not being listed on the menu, the waiter catered to our vegetarian and gluten-free requirements. The wine list is really good too.
DRIVE OUT TO THE KENNEDY SPACE CENTER
Before we planned our visit to the many worlds of Disney, we took to the road for a quick trip to the Kennedy Space Center along Florida's "space coast." We were provided a brand-new 2018 Chevy Traverse to take us there, and while the scenery on the way is beautiful, this mid-size SUV also has inbuilt wifi so the kids can stream movies and music along the way too. It's very handy.
There are so many educational moments at the space center, and they were all really fun and interesting for both adults and our 10-year-old alike. Our favorite part was learning about the Atlantis space shuttle and being able to touch and feel replicas of the original. The center even had astronaut simulators you could test out. There's a ton of photo opportunities, and the space shop is really cool too.
HIRE A DISNEY VIP TOUR GUIDE
Did you even know that Disney had these? We did but thought they were only accessible to celebrities and actual VIPs, but it turns out, anyone can hire a tour guide at Disney, and here's why it's worth the money:
1. Not only do they know where to go (no need for maps here), but they also educate you on the history of Disney along the way and have a wealth of information on just about anything related to the park.
2. They have a personal car to drive you in between the parks so you don't have to worry about wasting time on the public trams or monorails. They have access to special backstage areas (where no photos are allowed) and can get you into any part of the park you want to go.
3. No need to stress about long lines or organize you fast pass in advance. The VIP tour guide takes you to the front of the line for every ride. We waited less than five minutes for the very popular Avatar ride in the Animal Kingdom, and the wait time was three hours. They also hold your bags and personal belongings when you're on the rides that guarantee to get you soaked.
4. Since there is no wait time, we were able to ride a total of 14 rides across all four parks in under eight hours. That is insane considering the average rides most people can do in a day is four to five. We were absolutely exhausted by the end of it, and our feet were aching, but it was worth it. I couldn't wipe the smile of my son's face for days after. In fact, he's still smiling.
ANIMAL KINGDOM IS SUPERIOR TO ALL OTHER DISNEY WORLDS
Out of all the worlds we did that day, the Animal Kingdom was our absolute favorite. The biggest drawcard is Pandora, the real-life version of the world in James Cameron's film Avatar. You really feel immersed in this surreal reality complete with animal and forest sounds from the action film. Every detail has been considered, and it's breathtaking.
The rides in this park are also really cool. If you're a thrill seeker, be sure to line up for Expedition Everest. It's fast and super fun. If you're not so much into speed, then the Kilimanjaro Safari ride is great. You hop onto a military-style truck and take a guided tour of an African savanna, complete with all the animals including the hippos, elephants, impalas, zebras, and more. It's a whole other world within a world.
Outside of Animal Kingdom, we also really loved the Magic Kingdom. The Space Mountain ride is slightly different to the California version but just as fun (and scary). Since we were coming from Los Angeles, Disney's Hollywood Studios wasn't as much of an attraction for us, but you have to go just to ride the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. It goes from 0 to 57 mph in 2.8 seconds, and you loop upside down and around in the dark the entire time while Aerosmith tunes blast. It's crazy cool. The new Toy Story Land is also incredible and a must-see.
GO AROUND THE WORLD AT EPCOT
If you're looking for something a little more laid-back and experiential, then head on over to Epcot. The rides here are a little slower or educational, except for the Chevy Test Track that is. This is the fastest ride at all the parks with a speed of 65 mph, and the end result is hilarious laughter and major windswept hair. (Take a peek at the image below to see what I mean.)
We visited Epcot at the end of our day, post-14 rides, and it was also when we said goodbye to our VIP tour guide, Jonathan. (We would definitely book him again.) So we spent the remaining hours of daylight just casually making our way around the world, literally. Disney has re-created 11 countries from Germany to China complete with immersive experiences and restaurants to indulge in the local food. My favorite was the Morocco Pavillion with the Agrabah market from Aladdin, one of my favorite children's movies.
Honestly, this was one of the most memorable trips we've ever had as a family, and I can't wait to plan the next one. If my son has anything to do with it, we'll be visiting Disney World annually. Okay, let's be honest, I want to go back just as much as he does.
This trip was paid for by Chevrolet. The editor's opinions are her own.