Our mindful Disney vacation

Yesterday, we returned from a week-long family vacation in the sunshine of Florida and the Bahamas. This was our first big family vacation. Prior to this, we had enjoyed road trips and cottage getaways in Ontario, so by ‘big vacation’ I mean that this was Wanderlust Juniors’ first time on an airplane. It was also the first time on a cruise ship for all four of us, and we spent a wonderful week together.

We wanted to take our children to Disney World for the out-of-this-world experience. However, I have a very low tolerance for crowds and do not enjoy roller coasters. Although Mr. Wanderlust has a slightly better tolerance for both crowds and rides, we planned our vacation carefully. After hearing excellent reviews of Disney cruise lines and learning about the option to embark on a three-night cruise to the Bahamas, we were sold. We reasoned that if we were to find that we did not enjoy the cruise, at least we would not have had to suffer through it for too long. Nothing to worry about there! The experience turned out to be relaxing and entertaining, and the three days flew by too quickly. At Castaway Cay, a private Disney island in the Bahamas, Mr. Wanderlust got to cross an item off his ‘bucket list’ after feeding stingrays and snorkeling with them. I half joke that he must have been an oceanic creature in one of his past lives, given his passion for aquatic fauna, and he doesn’t rush to correct me.

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Off the Disney Magic and on to enjoy a day at Disney’s Castaway Cay in the Bahamas

Following the cruise, we planned to visit two Disney parks. After careful consideration of the various options, we chose to visit Magic Kingdom because we wanted to see the classic, and Hollywood Studios for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones attractions. However, before heading back to Orlando, we drove in our rental car along the coast from Port Canaveral to Barrier Island Sanctuary in Melbourne Beach. Mr. Wanderlust is a cause-related partner of The Sea Turtle Conservancy, located in Gainesville, Florida, and although we were not prepared to drive for a few hours to that location but were in the vicinity of Barrier Island Sanctuary, Mr. Wanderlust wanted to pay a visit to this educational centre to share his passion for ocean life advocacy with Wanderlust Juniors. We learned about the sea turtles that nest on the local beaches, and the potential threats they face. We also explored the local beach and admired the gorgeous green plants that grow on the path that leads from the educational centre to the beach.

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Exploring the beach near Barrier Island Sanctuary

On Monday, we visited Disney’s Magic Kingdom and, thanks to a relaxed itinerary and carefully chosen Fast Passes, were able to thoroughly enjoy eight hours at the park, without ever feeling rushed. We allowed Wanderlust Juniors to choose the rides and respected their decision to avoid certain others. We also created many opportunities to rest in the shade while having a snack and drinking water. Packing our own lunches with groceries from the local supermarket was not only a cost-effective but also a healthier alternative to many of the conventional eateries at the park. We left Magic Kingdom feeling tired but happy. We provided Wanderlust Juniors with a choice for the following day: visit Hollywood Studios or drive back to the beach near Port Canaveral. They chose the latter. Like their introvert outdoor adventure-loving parents, they prefer a balance of quiet days outside in nature and several hours spent among fun crowds.

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Fun at Cocoa Beach
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Mr. Wanderlust is in the background, lost in deep thoughts.

We had a great day at Cocoa Beach and also went on an impromptu walk on a nature trail near Melbourne Beach. We cut our trek short because (a) by the time we arrived on the trail, mosquitoes started to come out in search of a snack, and we did not have bug spray with us. (b) We all were wearing sandals after a day at the beach, as the walk on the trail was a spur-of-the-moment decision. (c) We read in the guest book at the start of the trail that alligators can often be seen near the trail; the sun was starting to set and we did not want to find ourselves on a dark trail with alligators and mosquitoes. Mr. Wanderlust was somewhat saddened at having missed the prospect of coming face-to-face with an alligator, but I suppose that is yet another item to add to his ‘bucket list’ for a future travel adventure.

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While searching for alligators, we found a few mosquitoes and lizards.

On our last day in Florida, we visited Hollywood Studios, where the eldest Wanderlust Junior trained to be a Jedi, then battled Seventh Sister. We also watched the Indiana Jones show twice, went on a Star Wars ride, and explored a few other attractions. Once again, we took our time moving through the park, working around our relaxed Fast Pass agenda, and left after dark to head back to our hotel to pack for our return flight.

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Just singing in the rain at Hollywood Studios

And that, dear reader, is how the Wanderlusts mindfully enjoy Disney — with beach breaks in-between. We asked Wanderlust Juniors whether they prefer the beach or Disney parks. Their answer? Although they like Disney, they would always rather go to the beach. We couldn’t argue with that.

Have you visited Disney World or Disneyland recently? Do you have any mindful tips to offer to readers who might be planning their own family vacation to the parks in the near future? Please leave a comment below. 

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