It all started down a bad road the day before we left for our trip. My wife and I were heading to Orlando for a seven-day fun filled vacation to Disney with our three boys, my wife’s parents and her sister. I was out at the store, making a few last minute purchases, but as I approached my car in the parking lot, I noticed puffs of smoke easing out from under my car hood and then a sudden POP burst out like a gunshot. Not a good sign. I opened the hood to see what was going on. Everything looked normal, despite the earlier noise and smoke, so I held my breath and willed the car over to the dealership to for a checkup while we were gone.

My car trouble set our family’s departure back a couple hours and our loaded minivan didn’t arrive at the Newark Airport Hilton until close to 10PM. In what felt like just minutes later, the alarm went off at 5:15AM and we herded the boys out the door and to the shuttle bus with what seemed like at least fifty bags in tow. I had a frightening premonition of how the next week might be, sharing a single hotel room together and attempting to get some sleep.

Thankfully, only half of the State of New Jersey showed up at the airport security check point that morning, making it especially fun times with the entire family. We had our youngest wearing a bear backpack with one of those little leashes on it to keep him from scampering off, but even that only works so well in a tight security line. His Ba-Boom-Ma (blanky) may very well have contracted unspeakable germs from constant dragging along the airport floor. We checked two big suitcases that were right at the fifty pound limit, yet curiously we still needed eight additional carry-ons. How is that possible?

Six months prior to our trip, we had made the inspired decision to save $250 for our (quick) three-hour flight to Orlando, and have our not-quite two year old sit on our lap rather than buy him his own seat. After 40 minutes of sitting on the plane and still not leaving the tarmac, our savings plan wasn’t looking like such a bright idea. The woman’s seat in front of our son was rocking back and forth from his kicks so wildly that she must have thought the amusement park rides had begun early. Thankfully, Continental decided to grace us with individual Direct TV screens on the back of each seat, so with three quick swipes of my credit card, I decided that any distractions we could find were worth it if it helped keep the boys quiet.

Disney's Magical ExpressWhen we arrived in Orlando, we were lucky enough to have reservations at an “on site” Disney hotel. This provided us with mountains of benefits such as the free meal plan, buses to the parks, and the “pinch me I must be dreaming” Disney Magic Express bus. We’d be whisked directly from the airport to our hotel without having to even think about checked our bags or any other troublesome ideas. Unfortunately, there was a 30 minute line waiting for the bus, most of which time our youngest spend lying on floor trying to sleep. Our other son waited until just before our bus pulled up to share that he desperately needed a bathroom stop. It was Magical!

Fortunately, when we got to our hotel, we met up with my wife’s parents, Nana and Pop Pop, and our two adjoining rooms were ready. Unfortunately, the Magical bleeping Express wouldn’t be delivering our checked bags for several hours, and we were left unable to change into our shorts or swim suits. At long last, the bags did arrive and we went for a quick swim in the pool, which was actually a lot of fun.

Realizing it was getting late, we hurried down to the stop for the shuttle bus that takes guests between the different Disney properties and headed off to Epcot for our inaugural “table service” dinner. After a long wait and extra time spent hauling the monster (best in class) double stroller on and off the bus and through park security, it was pretty late, dark, and we’d missed our dinner reservation. Tired and ravenous, our group scrambled to find the closest food available, quickly ate and then turned around and went home to get some sleep. By 9:30, we were all out cold.

I was more than a bit worried. If getting there is half the fun, then this vacation was in trouble.

Read Part 2 Here: The Yeti and the ER

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