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Holiday 2019 Family Vacation: Disney World and Universal Studios

Our First Vacation with Baby

I had already started planning our third family vacation to Disney World and (our first) to Universal Studios months before I found out I was pregnant with our firstborn son, Darius. I had put down the initial deposit immediately after our previous trip in December 2018, and I did not find out about the baby until February 2019. I decided to keep our plans going because Darius’s due date was the end of September 2019 and we would not be going on our vacation until December.

The baby was born a few days late, right at the beginning of October. I also required an unplanned C-section due to a particular birth complication, which I had not been anticipating nor factoring into our travel timeline. It turns out that recovery from a C-section is quite an intense ordeal, and it was in the weeks following the baby’s birth that I began questioning our intentions to continue with our vacation that would happen only mere weeks down the line. I also worried that maybe we were taking our son to such a crowd-heavy destination too young, perhaps exposing him to too much at one time.

I have an amazingly supportive husband, Curtis, who I credit a great deal with helping me to recover from my surgery and start regaining my strength. He also kept insisting that we would be able to keep our Disney/Universal plans, though he acknowledged that we might not be able to do and see as much as we have in our past trips to Orlando. Curtis encouraged me that our breastfeeding son would do great, that he was protected by the antibodies I was passing him via breast milk, and that we would be taking reasonable precautions to minimize his exposure to germs. By November, I was regaining much of my strength and going on mile long walks. I watched our son grow and thrive with each passing week. By December, I felt confident that I would be able to walk through the parks, and confident that he would be safe as well. The one lingering concern I had was my ability to go on any of the good rides. I would overcome this fear on Animal Kingdom’s Expedition Everest roller coaster, with a boost of confidence given to me by a kind stranger with whom I related based on our shared C-section experiences.

Overall, our trip spanned fourteen days: eight nights at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, three nights at Universal Studios’ Portofino Bay Hotel, and two overnight road trips between Orlando and Maryland. Our little one did so well at just two and a half months old. We asked a lot of him: spent seven full days total walking through the parks, had to do a lot of rider switch/child swap, and endured some unique breastfeeding situations, but what a family vacation it was. As for myself, this trip allowed me the opportunity to learn a lot about having confidence as a new and recovering mother, and overcoming multiple (irrational) fears that would have otherwise had me keeping the baby in a tiny, tiny bubble at home. I also got to see a couple of old friends, one intentionally and one not, which was also a major highlight of my trip. Finally, my younger sister Danielle also joined us for the Universal Studios portion of our trip, and being able to hang out with her newest nephew made the trip that much more worth it.

My husband and I really value the benefits of travel and cultural exposure for our son. Here's to many more adventures with our little Darius in the future!

Day One: Check in

For the Disney World portion of our trip, we stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. We enjoyed a room with a safari view, and got to wake up to the animals outside of our terrace every morning. That night, we met up with a friend of mine from college, Stephanie, and her boyfriend, and spent many hours discussing life and politics and the Marvel Universe at one of the resort bars. Baby slept in his stroller while we gabbed away. I think our conversations also upset a couple of old grey-haired boomers who were sitting at a table next to us…oh well, I guess.

Day Two: Magic Kingdom

Our first day in the parks proved a bit of an adjustment for me. In the past, we would get to the parks by 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning. With our new baby, we definitely would be getting to the parks much later than we had in years past. On our first day, this caused us to miss a couple of our FastPass+ that I had planned months earlier.

For lunch we dined at Tony’s Restaurant near Town Square, and dinner brought us to the Beast’s Castle for a three-course affair at Be Our Guest Restaurant. At night, the park transitioned to its special ticketed holiday event, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, the highlight of which was an amazing Christmas parade that included a particularly impressive Toy Soldier march.

Day Three: Animal Kingdom

It was on this day that I lost my fear of being able to go on roller coasters post-surgery. After rider-swapping with my husband, I made it all the way to the ride gates before I turned around suddenly and said out loud to no one in particular, “I don’t think I can do this.” The woman who was standing behind me (also a single rider), asked me why, and I suddenly just began pouring my guts to her. I explained that I had just had a C-section only ten weeks before, and I was afraid that I couldn’t do something as intense as a roller coaster. She asked me if I had fully healed, and I told her I had. She then told me that she herself had two C-sections many years prior, and that her surgeries left her feeling sore for almost a year. She assured me that as long as I was healed and my doctor had not put me on any restrictions, that there was no reason why I couldn’t enjoy myself on the coaster. This all happened in the one minute before the ride gate opened. I made a quick decision and allowed myself the opportunity to get on a roller coaster that I had otherwise very much been looking forward to. I didn’t want to let my fear prevent me from riding. I got on, no turning back, and was totally safe and pain-free. I had a great time and overcame a major post-surgery fear. I just wish that her face wasn’t blocked out in our ride photo, so that I could remember the face of the woman who helped me so much that day.

Day Four: Epcot

Epcot is by far my favorite park. As someone who has done a lot of world traveling, particularly within the last several years, I just love the Epcot World Showcase. The Morocco Pavilion is my little niche…it reminds me so much of the real thing (we traveled there in January 2018).

Day Five: Chill Day at the Hotel

Day Six: Hollywood Studios

We arrived at the park’s entrance by about 06:45, and there was already an immense crowd of people lining up to get in. Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge had just opened up a few months before, and the newest ride, Rise of the Resistance, had opened only days prior to our arrival. I had been reading that it is not possible to get onto Rise of the Resistance the traditional way—that is, show up to the ride, wait on a queue for a couple hours, then you’re on. Due to the ride’s crazy popularity, you have to get a “boarding pass” online via the MyDisneyExperience app once you get into parks. Needless to say, everyone shows up early and the boarding passes get fully distributed twenty minutes into the park’s opening time. Luckily, our hard work and patience paid off…we got our boarding passes and successfully did a rider switch for Rise. We finished this night with out-of-this-world drink concoctions and snacks at Oga’s Cantina. I opted for the Blue Milk…I still don’t really know what it was exactly that I drank though.

As for the little one, well, we dressed him up as Baby Yoda, of course. He got a lot of attention and compliments that day.