Disney during covid

Have you been wanting to go to Disney World but unsure about how they are taking precautions and what that looks like for you and your family? Well you are in luck, I have come with knowledge!

My kids and I went with my parents on Jan 13 and Jan 14th, and let me just tell you… if you are on the fence of wanting to go…. DO IT! Now is the time! Lines are short, the magic is there, and they are doing everything they can to keep everyone safe, and to keep the gates open. So… here’s my run down from our experience at Disney World.

First, let’s start with what I think a lot of people are concerned with… safety! Firstly, you have to reserve your date in advance for whichever park you are interested in going to. They are cautious to make sure the crowds are significantly thinned out. All guests, cast members and personnel on the premises are required to wear a mask that are older than 2, and boy are those workers trained to watch for proper mask wearing. They are so friendly in reminding people to put the mask over your nose and mouth. My Davis wore a mask the first day that didn’t stay on his nose great, and they were so on top of it reminding him to pull it up. I would recommend making sure you have an extra mask just in case yours drops, gets damp from usage or ends up not fitting well for whatever reason. It is permitted to remove your mask while eating, drinking and while stationary. Otherwise, you need to be wearing one, even while taking pictures.

It wasn’t hard to make sure to stay 6 feet apart, even while in line. There were markers on the ground that the kids did such a good job watching for so they could respect the space of the person ahead. And honestly, the lines were so short, these markers didn’t get used much!

Sanitizing stations were all over the place, which made keeping our hands clean very easy! Most of the time, they had one after each ride! Plus, Disney would shut down rides periodically to clean and sanitize them. It felt very safe.

Now, for the action!!

The lines were incredibly short! We spent two days in Disney World… the first day at Epcot, and the second in Magic Kingdom. While in Epcot, we were able to do every ride and show we wanted to do with time to spare. We were only there from 12-7 and felt more than satisfied with what we had done! We rode the Finding Nemo ride multiple times! So many that the kind castmember at the exit showed us a shortcut to get to the front quicker. There was no wait at all! It was incredible. The Frozen Ever After ride is normally such an excruciating long wait that we hadn’t gone on it in previous visits, but this time it was 15 min (which ended up being about 8 min)!

At Magic Kingdom, we were there from 11:30-6:00 and ended up riding 25 rides! In case you were wondering, that’s almost 4 rides per hour!!! Can that be real? Yes… yes it is! The Peter Pan ride is normally at least a 90 min ride, and one that you always want to fastpass traditionally (which fastpasses don’t exist right now… there’s no need), had a 15 min wait time (which was again about an 8 min wait). At the end me, my mom and my boys rode the Barnstormer 6 times in a row, and some of them they let us stay on the cart because there was no one even coming up in line. It was such a blissful experience.

Now for some fast and quick tips!

  1. Make sure to reserve your date in advance! They have the schedule online to control and thin out crowds. Click here for tickets and reservations.
  2. Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be walking more than usual since the crowds are thinned, so make sure you’re comfortable.
  3. Bring water and stay hydrated! It will be easy to get distracted and forget to stay hydrated since you’re moving so much, but drink your water!
  4. Bring a stroller! They do have strollers to rent, but it’s pricey in my opinion and way less functional. Here’s the link to their renting info. If you are going with kids, a stroller is a MUST! Although my kids didn’t use it much, it was handy for throwing things into that we didn’t want to take onto rides or hold while walking around. I will say that they do NOT allow wagons, but if you have a situation that requires a wagon, you can get a exemption tag from guest services. Comment below (or dm me on instagram) if you have questions on that, but here’s the link to their site for their stroller regulations.
  5. Pack a lunch and plan to eat stationary. It was super easy to eat real quick in line, but have some snacks too to keep the hangry pains from putting a damper on the day.
  6. Budget a dollar amount for souvenirs. I gave each of my kids $15 to spend. It was great because they weren’t asking for things in every store, and it was a great motivator for good behavior during the day. Two of my kids spent their money, and one of them chose to save it to buy a dinosaur from Target haha. I’ll give you one guess on who that is… 🙂
  7. Check the weather! If there is a forecast of rain, stop at a Walmart near by and grab rain ponchos for $1, otherwise you’ll spend $20 for a poncho if it rains. I’ve spent the $20 and in the moment I’m grateful for it, but they pack up so easy, it’s better to be better prepared on this one! Also, if it’s below 60 degrees, bring a light jacket. It will be nice to have! Trust me.
  8. Bring extra masks! They’re mandatory to be in the park, and if yours falls down or gets moist, it will be nice to have a back up. Talk to the kids about these rules too, and make sure they understand the expectations. My 4 year old rarely wears them since they’re not required for his age in our state, so we did practicing and talked him through it, and he did great.
  9. They have tons of sanitizing stations, but it wouldn’t hurt to bring your own just to be sure you have it when you want it.
  10. Download the My Disney Experience app ahead of time so you can see real time wait times and when you walk into the park, you’ll know what rides to hit up when. We also love having a physical map too just in case. I’ll also add a tip my mom suggested… put your phone on low power mode so keep the charge high during the day. If you’re worried, bring an external charger (don’t forget the cord). You don’t want to risk missing out on that Disney magic in your kids faces!

I would say this was easily one of my favorite Disney trips. We stayed safe, and created such beautiful memories together. Memories I hope last the kids, myself and my parents a life time!

Happy New Years… 2021 please be good to us!

It’s New Years, and like every other person, I am retrospectively looking at 2020 and thinking about how things have been, what we have accomplished and what we have overcome. Like most people, this year was not easy. We had grand business plans that seems to get ruffled by the mandated shut downs and quarantine. We had trips planned, family that we wanted to visit and way more in person schooling that we were hoping for. We wished for meet the teacher nights, flights to see family, in person craft nights and so much more. As I reflect back on what we actually got from 2020, this is what I see:

I see backyard adventures, I see my kids grow together because for a time, they were their only playmates. I see that they are better problem solvers, and more creative players.

I see massive amounts of elderberry being made with one of my best friends in preparation for the impending pandemic.

I remember taking my kids to the store before everything shut down for good and seeing the shelves cleared, and stocking our own shelves when we could because you never knew what was going to happen next.

I remember doing SO much baking, especially in the beginning.

I will remember pulling together with other local seamstresses to make hundreds of masks for first responders, health care workers and assisted living facilities.

We did workout groups when it was safe, and did sporadic home workouts between.

Lots of home projects!

I will never forget having church at home on Sunday’s, and what it was like being back socially distant and wearing masks.

I cut my own hair for the very first time, and LOVED it!!

We got to know our neighbors better, which included having a social distance bingo night and explored our little neighborhood! We ended up finding a really fun creek that we frequented a lot in Spring/Summer.

The kids got better on their bikes, and Davis learned to ride WITHOUT training wheels!!

We picked strawberries, and made homemade strawberry jam for the first time, which i totally nailed!!

Nolan’s cute preschool teachers brought over packets, activities, and even helped celebrate his birthday! My depth of gratitude for these sweet humans cannot be underestimated! I also am so grateful they were still able to do their Christmas program… that was a major highlight!

The reservoir is only 5 minutes from our house, so we frequented it often! We kayaked, hiked and swam as much as we could!

Despite the travel plans had, we still found time and safe ways to travel. I started the year with a girls trip to Orlando/Boca Raton.

As a family we got to travel to North Topsail Beach, NC…

Treasure Island, FL to visit my parents and sister…

Atlantic Beach, NC

Myrtle Beach, SC

Boone and Blowing Rock, NC!

We had Davis’s first season of flag football, and him finally overcoming his shyness, and actually having fun with it!

The pool was basically our second home this summer… we spent so much time there soaking in the sun, Nolan learning to swim without floaties, and each of the kiddos becoming more and more like fish with everyday.

I see my family connecting with the community to raise awareness for human trafficking in prayer walks, social media posts, donations and marches.

I see Davis closing out Kindergarten and entering First Grade, and Nolan enter Pre-K with great eagerness!

I will remember my utter frustration with the word virtual. Virtual learning, virtual youth activities, and virtual game nights. Grateful that we have tech that can connect us and bring us together for those moments, but especially with virtual learning… my mind and my heart was HEAVY in finding a way to make that work with our family.

I see play dates, spending time with friends that have basically become family to us, and the boys doing their first soccer clinic.

I remember the day vividly when parks reopened and how i literally cried watching my kids play with other kids at a park for the first time in 6 months.

I see our neighborhood pulling together safely for Halloween and Christmas to host events to show kids magic and tradition during this very nontraditional year.

I won’t forget driving around looking at Christmas lights, and drinking hot chocolate. It was one of those simple but perfect and powerful memories.

Most excitingly…. Patrick quit his corporate job so we could fully pursue Carolina Wood Company as our full time gig and income!

When I look back at this year, I’m so saddened by the amount of friction and devastation that I’ve felt and seen friends and family go through. Loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, mental health suffering, physical health being compromised, and families broken apart. But for me and my family, I am grateful for the growth we had this year. I’m grateful for what this year put us through because we are truly better off for it. We have learned SO much, and refined our lives to reflect a better way. We found what is truly important for us, and where we feel the Lord’s hand guiding us. I would have preferred not to learn in this way, but I’m grateful for where we are because I know we are headed in the right direction with the right people right beside us!

Cheers to 2021! It WILL be great!

Magic at Chetola Resort

Okay so you know those cute Hallmark movies that take place in a small town, with so much cute charm you think “this just can’t be real”? Well guys…. I found one!! And if you followed my IG stories from earlier in the week, you know exactly what I’m talking about! Our family just had the best couple days at Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock, NC! If you haven’t been, let me convince you why this is one of the best places you could stay in the area! And let me start by saying that Chetola in Cherokee means Haven of Rest.

We have been fortunate enough to travel and stay in quite a few different places around the country, and this is the only one that that felt like home as soon as we drove onto the property. Sure, part of it is the Christmas magic, which let me tell you is abundantly bright and beautiful! We were in awe by all the beautiful lights strung up around the property, in the restaurant and around the lake. However, I think the real magic truly comes from being able to step back in time and enjoy the beauty of being at “grandmas” house. It felt warm, inviting, and like you belonged there. It brings a sense of home as soon as you walk in.

We stayed in the Quail building, which is toward the end of the property, which may I add backs up towards beautiful woods and just past that is the Tanger Outlets! Major win! We may or may not have done some last minute Christmas shopping there, and Davis’s favorite part.. getting to meet Elvis the dinosaur! Major marketing points for Doc’s Rocks, which of course we had to head to right after seeing this dino!

Anyhow… the Quail building.. it was situated at the edge of the property, so it was a short 1 min drive to the main building and restaurant. If it wasn’t winter, it would have been something we likely would have walked to but in the cold… no thanks! It was a beautiful retreat from the world, which truthfully we needed so badly! Service wasn’t amazing, there were spots up there that nothing would load on our phones, and the main living spots that we knew service would be solid, which allowed the recharge even more powerful for our family. It was a slice of heaven we didn’t know we needed.

The room!

The kitchen is equipped with a stove, oven, microwave, refrigerator, and dishwasher. It has all the workings to make a home cooked meal or heat up some late night snacks. The dining space is right off the kitchen, and that overlooks the family room and balcony. The entire main living space just breathes the ambiance of home. It has all the quaint rustic charm that you want in a cabin retreat, but with all the space and amenities that you need to be comfortable. There are two bathrooms, and two bedrooms, both with the cutest quilts! The kids room had two twin beds and a small closet, and the master was quite large with a king sized bed and a large walk in closet (perfect for the pack n play!). It all felt very clean, which I am VERY picky about! I am weird with smells, and even the appearance of dirty spaces, and I felt very comfortable to kick off our shoes at the end of the day and curl up on the couch to watch a movie or play games!

During the day we explored the area, went tubing, looked at lights and enjoyed the Timberlake Restaurant on the property. There is so much history and beauty up in this little corner of North Carolina, it’s rich with activities, quaint shops, the downtown area of both Blowing Rock and Boone are nearby and we do some of our favorite shopping in those areas!

The Restaurant is open, but are operating at a limited capacity, so if you are wanting to dine there (which I would highly recommend), I would suggest getting a reservation at least a day in advance. We scored a 4:30 reservation with one day notice, and it actually was perfect for our little family, but if you don’t want to eat that early, I would suggest reserving earlier. The staff and food were all wonderful! We tried entrees, appetizers, deserts and of course kids menu items, and all of it was so well done! Our cute waitress, Cait, went above and beyond for our family! They didn’t have coloring pages, so she went out and drew three snowmen on blank papers for them to color. The cutest right?? Plus, she totally indulged Davis in all his dinosaur facts and even taught him a new one, which let me tell you is tough to do! When people go out of their way to be kind, it just leaves a mark on your heart, and we felt that here! Hearts warm and tummies full!

In the main building, which is right next to the restaurant, that’s where our kids favorite part was… the heated swimming pool! Yes! Swimming in December is possible! Our kids were in heaven. I thankfully had remembered to bring swimsuits, but forgot any floaties or pool toys. But, wouldn’t you know, Chetola totally had us covered! They have noodles, a few toys, life jackets and puddle jumpers. All of which gets cleaned and sanitized everyday! It was a great way to burn off that extra energy right before bedtime!

All in all, I would rate this place a 10/10, 5 stars, A+… it checks all of my boxes. It is charming, clean, family friendly, delicious food, wonderful service, and allows one of a kind memories to be made and cherished forever. Chetola… we will be back! Thank you for having us and giving us a “Haven of Rest”!

Should I vacation during COVID-19?

We are all needing a little vacation at this point right?? My personal answer is a resounding YES!!! It is so good for your mental space to take time away from reality and escape for a little bit. Everything has been so overly virtual for the last 6 months, and I think we all need a dose of real life experiences! Right? So in order to do that, we as a family take precautions, follow the guidelines of the properties that we are staying on to be respectful, and be sure if we are sick to stay home! And since we could check off each of those items, we packed our bags and headed to North Myrtle Beach, SC for a 4 day, 3 night stay! Huge thanks to some wonderful neighbors sharing their experiences on this property, we found it and booked it as soon as we could!

We stayed on the Kingston Plantation, which is beautiful and wonderfully located. I have never stayed in a property that was so well equipped to stay on property or not need to use your vehicle your entire stay. There are so many different lodging and dining options, surely there is something for everyone. From condos to hotels, beach front to lake front… they literally have it all, and everything in between. We were able to stay at the Brighton Tower right beside the Embassy Suites hotel. If you saw my Instagram stories, you saw our view was amazing! It looked right over the beach, pools and water park, which we went to religiously, everyday! More on that to come! Or scroll to whichever section you have questions about!

CHECK IN

As you arrive, the check in hub is at the Embassy Suites hotel. With COVID-19, they have had to take precautions so they have signs up everywhere with what they expect from their guests. We are asked to wear masks when indoors and not socially distant. It is not required to wear masks outside! They do ask when checking in to keep socially distant, and have markers to show where to stand.

When we checked in, we were welcomed warmly by Jazmine.

She helped make sure we got where we needed to go, and made sure our room was everything we needed it to be. I was really grateful for her attention to detail which made the check in process easy and quick!

THE CONDO

Lets start with the rooms though because I know there can be a lot of hurdles when you have to select that right room for your family.

Like I said, we were in the Brighton Tower, which consists of condos. Which means, we had a full dining room, full kitchen, 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. All were amazing sizes with incredible views!

early morning sunrise views!

As you walk in and go to the right, you enter the master bedroom, and bathroom. The master bedroom has an amazing balcony view of the water park and ocean. It was absolutely perfect for us. The master also had great sized closets, although not big enough to fit a pack n play entirely. If you have read my previous travel reviews, you know this is something I am ALWAYS looking at. The master bathroom, however did have an option for that if you needed. The master bed was comfortable and well supplied with pillows and blanket options. The bathroom was also well stocked and provided the necessary shampoo, conditioner, soap and towels that you might need.

Since we are in the COVID-19 pandemic, they aren’t servicing the rooms everyday, however they were sure to reiterate that if you need anything, to please call and ask and they can bring up extra towels, shampoo, or pillows.

As you continue in, you have a large dining, living and kitchen area, which also connects to the large balcony from the master. The kitchen was well stocked with all the utensils you need for eating, cooking and prepping food. It was so nice to have the option to eat out or cook something at home when we wanted something a little quicker than a dine in option. We made a quick Walmart run (which is 1.5 miles away from the property), and grabbed a few really easy dinner and lunch options. You will want to check and see if the room you’re staying in has breakfast or if it doesn’t. More on the breakfast below.

The second bedroom has two double beds, which my opinion has the best views of the condo. The boys of course wanted to share a bed (which is so tender), and they can literally lay in bed and just stare out at the ocean. It’s insanely beautiful. Their room had tons of drawer storage and closets as well. There were 11 drawers in all including the nightstand, and we used a total of 6 for the 3 kids. I love having a drawer dedicated to dirty laundry, and then the kids are using the nightstand drawers for their toys (LOL), and we only needed 3 for their clothes. They’re all pretty good sized!

The second bathroom is also massive! It’s a single sink, but lots of floor space, which is perfect for us because we could easily fit a pack n play in there. We probably could have fit 2 in there if we needed to! Also, there is a full sized working washer and dryer as well! I absolutely love when places we are staying at have washers and dryers because then we can do all our laundry before we leave, and come home with clean clothes instead of a mountain of laundry! It’s my OCD shining through, but I’m going to let it have it’s stay.

One of my favorite travel tips I have learned is to bring an oil diffuser. This is in no way related to this property, because it smelt nice, fresh and clean. But I am in such a routine with our oils and our smells at home, that it feels so homey and comfortable having our smells from home when we are traveling! Plus I think it helps the kids adjust really well that first night because the smells are familiar and help them feel safe.

BREAKFAST

The Embassy Suites hotel has a creative new take on the continental breakfast. If you are staying in the Embassy Suites hotel, it is free with your stay. However, if you aren’t it is free for kids and $13 for adults. With COVID-19 being such a big deal, they have had to take extra precautions to protect their staff and guests. They have ready to go bags with a muffin, two small doughnuts, and a piece of fruit. Plus grab and go yogurt cups too!

They also had a hot breakfast option, which included different things on different days, but it would be potatoes or hashbrowns, eggs and waffles or french toast all packaged up in a to go container.

As you made your way around, you would come to the beverage section where they had all the juices, water, coffee and sodas you could want!

how cute are they??

If you wanted any extra fruit, muffins, doughnuts or cold cereal, the last station in the line up had that available. They have someone stationed there that will box up whatever else you’d like!

The kids really loved the doughnuts, so we always snagged an extra on the way out!

POOLS

The property has a ton of pools available and open! The area that we frequented most is the Water Park and Lazy river, but we also visited another pool right next to the Embassy Suites because it was open late, and who needs a bedtime when on vacation? Not us!

The water park is insanely cool. Normally we are such beach goers, but with this water park here, we went to the beach only once and the water park has been a daily occurance (except for day 1 because we got in after they closed).

On the weekend the water park is open from 10-6, and during the week 12-5. They give the kids wrist bands based off age and height that tells the lifeguards which activities they can or can’t do. My oldest is 6 and over 40″ tall, so he could do everything on his own. My middle child is 4 and 36″ so he couldn’t do the lazy river by himself, but could with adult accompaniment. But, he could do the water slide by himself. My youngest is younger than 3 so she couldn’t do water slides or the lazy river without an adult. Hopefully that gives a reference.

The boys literally went down the water slides more than a hundred times easily, and Hallie loved it too. They lived for it! Everyday it was a countdown till 10:00 am when we could head down and get in! The water was perfect temperature, which made for a really relaxing time. I actually got to sit and talk to my husband (uninterrupted) while each of our kids were playing right in front of us for hours on end. It was some type of heaven for sure.