Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Our First Night Back: Mexico, Morocco, and a Meltdown Too!

Just two hours after our arrival at Orlando International Airport, the kids had settled into our beautifully-appointed room at Disney's impeccably-themed Beach Club Resort.  To clarify, when I say "settled", I mean "burst open the door and tumbled over each other through the room like a pair of crazy hyenas".  Jack and Sadie had been running on varying levels of adrenaline for nine hours, and I could tell that they were heading toward an imminent energy tailspin.  Nevertheless, we were eager to begin our vacation, so after spending a few minutes exploring our new digs, we were ready to "hit the World"! 

The Beach Club Resort is a short five-minute walk away from Epcot's World Showcase, so we decided to begin our second Disney-vacation adventure there.  Epcot is separated into two sections: Future World in the front and World Showcase in the back.  The World Showcase is divided into eleven different pavilions, each representing a nation of the world.  From Mexico to Morocco, each pavilion offers unique opportunities to explore its featured culture through inspired shops, authentic restaurants, talented street performers, and replicas of famous landmarks.  Even kids get caught up in the spirit of World Showcase: little ones will love the KidCot spots in each pavilion where they can create an art project and collect stamps from all the different nations; older kids will have a blast on Agent P Missions for which they borrow a Disney-issued F.O.N.E. and join Perry the Platypus (from Disney's hit TV show Phineas and Ferb) on a quest to save the "World".

On our first trip, we'd only spent one short evening at the World Showcase, and I couldn't wait to get back and really explore all of the details that we'd missed.  To recover from the stress of traveling, we were looking for a laid-back vibe on our arrival night, and I thought that World Showcase would be a perfect fit.  When we strolled into the World Showcase from the International Gateway (the entrance in the back, closest to our resort), we were once again completely in awe of the level of detail in each pavilion.

Winnie the Pooh and Tigger at Epcot's World Showcase
"Let's get a F.O.N.E.!  Let's get a F.O.N.E!!!!!" my son implored, the intensity of his voice shattering my brief moment of serenity.  Over the next few hours, my son raced around World Showcase with his communicator, helping Perry the Platypus save the world from the Evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz while my daughter trailed behind him in a frantic effort to keep up.  Realizing that this was a recipe for a Sadie-induced disaster (not unlike the last time we'd visited Epcot: see "A Magical Meltdown"), we took frequent breaks to meet characters, savor delicious snacks from the various nations, explore shops, and enjoy some street performances. 

Tip Time: One of the best features of Epcot's World Showcase is its street performers.  The sheer number of performances makes it impossible to attend each one, however, so do a little research before you go.  Once you've read about each pavilion's entertainment, pick two or three performances that you'd really like to see.  When you arrive at Epcot, check the Times Guide for performance schedules and work them into your day accordingly. 

Finding the perfect pearl in Japan
By late afternoon, the kids were trudging through World Showcase like zombies, staring straight ahead and barely noticing the magical details around them.  In an prophylactic effort to prevent a meltdown, we decided to escape to our hotel for dinner and a swim while everyone was still mentally stable.  It had truly been a magical afternoon: we'd met some characters, Sadie had found the perfect pearl in Japan, and Jack had saved "the World".  From experience, we'd learned that it's best to end a day at the parks on a high note.

Tip Time: On their arrival day at Disney World, many people  feel the urge to hit the parks right away.  It may be best to resist this impulse, however, especially if your kids had to wake up early to begin traveling that morning.  On most days, the parks are hot and crowded in the afternoon, and attractions will have long waits.  Settling in to your room, exploring your hotel, and taking a dip in the resort's pool is usually a more relaxing way to begin your trip.  If you simply cannot wait to visit a park, Epcot's World Showcase is a great choice due to its low-key vibe and the fact that it hosts very few attractions (which means no waiting in line). 

New pajamas from Minnie!
Within a few minutes of our departure from Epcot's World Showcase, we realized that we'd made the right decision by leaving.  Sadie had degenerated into a grumpy mess, and Jack had become a whiny puddle as he tried to fit his six-year-old long-legged body into our stroller because he JUST COULDN'T WALK ANYMORE!!  Fortunately, our spirits were lifted and the magic was restored when we opened the door to our hotel room and discovered that Mickey and Minnie had visited while we'd been gone.  Best of all, they'd left welcome baskets full of surprises for the kids!

Tip Time: To add a little extra magic to your arrival day, consider leaving a "welcome" gift for your kids at your hotel from their favorite character(s).  You can accomplish this in several ways.  First, you can mail a package to your resort (or give it to the front desk staff upon arrival) and they will discreetly place it in your hotel room for you.  Alternatively, you can order a surprise through Disney Floral and Gifts (check them out at; keep in mind, however, that they cannot deliver your gift to your hotel on your arrival day.  Finally, while your kids are distracted with all of the amenities of their new hotel room, you can surreptitiously unpack the surprise yourself and place it in the hallway, bathroom, balcony, etc.    

As the kids dug into their baskets with huge grins on their faces, I leaned back against the bed and smiled.  Although nothing could ever compare to the pure wonder that the kids had experienced on our first Disney vacation, the magic was definitely still all around us.  I glanced at my mom (who was experiencing the magic for the first time); as she helped the kids unpack their trinkets, the look on her face said it all.  She'd had her first taste of Disney Kool-Aid, and there was no going back.

Meredith McCutcheon
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