I've lamented the fact that Justin and I never took a honeymoon. That it took us 11 years to finally take a road-trip getaway as a couple. That we had never been on an airplane together, let alone a proper vacation. And while I've been lucky enough to take Noah on some incredible trips, it's always been without the third leg of our Family Tripod.
Justin has missed out on every vacation we've taken.
And then we got to thinking: Noah will be in school soon. (Like, really soon.) Before we know it, we'll be slaves to the public school calendar, resorting to high-traffic times to take family vacations (like summer vacation, Christmas vacation, and Spring Break — all of which = $$$ and chaos). Now might be our last chance to take an off-season vacation without the thought of missed homework or school days.
And how long do we have until he thinks it's totally lame to take a family vacation alone with his parents?
So when Visit Orlando contacted me about sending us on a quick four-day getaway, we said YES YES YES. It was an opportunity to bang out all of the "must see" amusement parks in one-day bursts, rather than spend an entire week at one park. After all, he had been "waiting his whole life" to visit Orlando (his words, not mine).
It was an opportunity to take one last vacation in the pre-school phase of life.
We hit them all, and we hit them hard. And yet the best part of our entire trip was staying at the JW Marriott Orlando at Grande Lakes — where we could float and laugh down a lazy river, lounge under a private cabana, and bond as our lovely three-person family.
I mean, look at this...
I didn't even know places like this existed in Orlando — luxurious in a family friendly, accessible kind of a luxury.
A beautiful, calming haven to balance out the frenetic energy at the amusement parks.
A beautiful, calming haven to bond as a young family.
So here are a few pro tips, for when you end up in Orlando (because most parents will, at some point, end up in Orlando):
1. Don't go in the summer.
I mean, it's perfectly fine if that's what you choose, but Florida in the summer is hooooooot. Sticky, hard-to-breathe hot that doesn't lend well to 60-minute waits for rides. I'm just saying — if you have a choice, the off-season is much more bearable. In fact, Orlando nailed down "May" as the optimal time to bring the younger pre-school-aged kids to the big O.
2. Don't stress about seeing all there is to see.
It's impossible to fit all Orlando has to offer in one trip. Heck, it's impossible to fit all Disney World has in a full week. Be flexible. And know that some of the coolest memories happen away from the rides and lines.
3. Stay in a nice hotel.
Orlando is fun, for sure, but it's not exactly the most relaxing vacation out there. Which is why staying at a gorgeous hotel like the JW Marriott at Grande Lakes is the perfect balance for everyone in the family. And unlike the typical "luxury" hotel, this one is incredibly kid-friendly and kept Noah just as happy as we were.
4. Get the FastPass.
I can't do lines. And standing with a 5-year-old on a 90-minute line (in the heat) just isn't even worth it. Splurge for the line-skipping passes, trust me.
5. Bring quarters for tolls.
If you're staying at an off-site location and driving to the various theme parks (which worked out really well for us!), pack some quarters for the tolls. There's quite a few, many "exact coin only." And this is coming from a New Yorker!
All in all, I'm so grateful to have had one big family vacation before the hectic school years begin. Thank you for a lovely time, Visit Orlando. We'll certainly be back (looking at you, JW Marriott).
If you're thinking about taking a trip, or you live in the Orlando area, check out the deals they have for May.
And see more of our trip on my Instagram account.