Thursday, December 13, 2012

Stay Away, Isaac!

With our return to Disney World quickly approaching, our house had transformed into "vacation-prep central".  Clean clothes were piled high in laundry baskets, waiting to be folded into open suitcases.  Water toys and sunscreen and coloring books (crucial for downtime) covered virtually every surface in our home.  Dining reservation numbers and airport tickets were neatly tucked into a binder, just waiting to be confirmed.  I was so happily consumed with last-minute preparations that I had almost forgotten that we were traveling to Walt Disney World during peak hurricane season.  That all changed two nights before our departure when I heard my husband mutter "uh-oh" as he checked the weather forecast for the Orlando area.

Here he comes! (CNN Tracker)
"What-oh???" I demanded, feeling a sense of dread rising in the depths of my being.

"Well, it's not a big deal...yet.  There's just some sort of tropical depression in the Atlantic.  It might hit Florida.  It might not.  It's still a few days out," he responded.

OK.  Not a big deal.  Not a big deal.  I forced myself to think positively as I continued folding and packing.  No matter how many times I repeated this mantra to myself, though, I was far from convinced of its validity.  Still, I knew that I had to push forward, as we were going on this trip...tropical depression or no tropical depression.

Tip Time: In the event that the National Hurricane Center issues a hurricane warning for the Orlando area seven days or less prior to the arrival date of your Disney World vacation, you may cancel or reschedule your vacation without incurring any fees.  Keep in mind, however, that this policy only applies if a hurricane warning is issued (which is very rare for the Orlando area since it is so far inland).  If a tropical depression or tropical storm threatens Orlando (both are less severe than a hurricane), no special cancellation policy applies.  Your best bet in this case is to continue your trip as planned.  If a tropical storm is severe enough to require theme park closures (a very rare occurrence), your hotel will issue instructions on how to proceed.  In most cases, theme parks will remain open (even during torrential downpours)!

For the next two days, I closely monitored the tropical depression's progress.  By the morning of our departure, it was almost universally predicted that the depression would strengthen into Tropical Storm Isaac.  Beyond that, the computer models were somewhat conflicted about the storm's path and landfall date, although most models showed it slamming into one of Florida's two coasts.

Nevertheless, our departure day had arrived, and I forced myself to refocus my energy.  At the very least, the Orlando weather forecast for the next few days was beautiful: sunny and warm with only a slight chance of afternoon rain.  In the best interest of our entire group, I decided to take our vacation one day at a time.  And today was the biggest day of all!  We were going back to Disney World!

We had booked the earliest flight possible out of Detroit Metro Airport with a departure time of 8:30am, so we needed to arrive at the airport by 7:00am.  We'd planned to pick up my mom on the way, so we needed to leave our house at 5:00am.  Consequently, we found ourselves waking our two groggy kids up at the ridiculously early time of 4:45am. 

Jack and Sadie leaped out of bed and each broke their personal-best records for dressing and teeth-brushing.  Pure adrenaline propelled them to the car and kept their spirits high for the entire car ride.  By the time we arrived at the airport, however, the adrenaline had worn off and they'd become "emotionally fragile" (as my mother likes to say), especially my daughter (who places an extremely high value on her sleep).  They were experiencing a volatile combination of sleep deprivation and intense excitement, and the grenade was about to explode at any minute.

Tip Time: When booking a flight to Disney World, it's important to not only consider how early you will have to arrive at the airport but also how early you will need to wake up.  If you will have to rouse your children much before their normal wake-up time, it may be best to opt for a later flight.  Remember, nobody is going to have much fun on your arrival day if your kids are on the verge of an exhaustion-induced meltdown.    

Fortunately, I'd brought an arsenal of activities to occupy the kids in the airport, and the time passed quickly.  Before we knew it, we were boarding the airplane and we were officially on our way!  After an uneventful flight, we touched down at Orlando International Airport.  As we strolled through the terminal on the way to claim our rental car, I took a moment to glance around at the palm trees outside.  I could hardly believe that we were back! 

Within an hour, we were walking through the front door of Disney's Beach Club resort, our home for the next five nights.  The piped-in scent of the ocean hit me almost immediately as we entered the airy lobby.  "Welcome home," greeted a Cast Member as she whisked us to the check-in desk, motioning for bell services to take care of our luggage.  Bursting with excitement, my kids chattered away to my mom, who was simply in awe of the hotel's decor.  I glanced at my husband, and a big smile spread across his face.  Hurricane or no hurricane, this was going to be the best vacation ever!!


Next Up: Our First Evening at Epcot, Mary Poppins and a Meltdown, and Isaac Heads Our Way.

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