We started planning our family reunion to Disney World 15 months in advance. //Our Disney resort rooms were booked 9 months in advance. We woke up at 6 am EST to make dining reservations at 2 popular Disney World restaurants 6 months in advance. We bought our park passes and made our first FastPass reservations 60 days in advance.
This was all with constant texting, e-mailing, and researching between my mom and siblings.
We were excited.
Did I mention this vacation was planned for the beginning of January?
My brother is a triathlete with a goal of doing a major race in every state. This year he was training for the Dopey Challenge, a collection of races over 3 days in Disney World. My sister, a runner, decided to join him for the half marathon. The rest of us are sane enough not to put our bodies through rigorous exercise, but we were excited to use their race as an excuse to get together and cheer them on.
The Disney Marathon is held in early January, which seemed like the perfect time of year to be in central Florida. We all grew up in the Southeast and know personally how grueling the hot, humid summer months can be! Winter is usually the sweet spot for visiting Florida: the temperatures get between 70-80 degrees, there’s a breeze, and no flash floods.
That’s what the years, and years, and years of living in the south had prepared us for.
Not 30-degree weather.
We arrived on a Wednesday, as did a record-shattering cold front. Cities along the east coast were reporting record low temps and snowfall. Florida, one of the consistently hottest states in the country, was not immune. We were greeted by 36-degree weather off of the plane, and absolutely no need for the shorts and bathing suits we’d packed.
Temperatures barely changed for the entire 4 days of our trip. The outdoor pools and splash pads at our resort, The Art of Animation, were closed. Most other outdoor activities at other Disney World resorts (which we were supposed to have full access to) were closed, as well. We wore the only sweatshirts and jackets we’d packed Every. Single. Day. We felt closer to Elsa and Anna than ever before while standing in waiting lines (Maybe Elsa wasn’t mad. Maybe she was just cold.) We had to break-up who would wait in lines for the group while others kept the kids in warm spots. My brother and sister, who’d been outside running every morning since 4 or 5 am, were icicles by the time we met back up at 8 am.
To be honest, I feel kind of robbed.
We’d spent over a year planning and paying for this magical vacation, which was supposed to include time outside. We’ve recently moved to Utah, legendary for great snow, but generally don’t like cold weather. This trip was an eagerly anticipated break from bad weather we’d bring up on any cold Utah day. And let’s get real: Disney World vacations are not cheap. Those resort room fees are supposed to include extras, like a pool, to help offset the crazy cost of sleeping on-site. When it was so cold that my sister, staying down the street in the Mermaid rooms, had to drive to come visit us at the Cars rooms, we have a problem! And, for an added twist of irony, it was actually warmer in Utah on certain days!
Yes, we still visited the parks and were able to enjoy Disney. But it came at a huge price. We hesitated (and mostly chose not to) to ride any water or open-air rides because we knew it would freeze our faces. Every time I pulled out my phone or camera for pictures my fingers ached. Waiting for the monorail to get between parks was awful. Waiting 30 minutes in the dark for the shuttle bus to take us back to the resort was the worst. We left parks much earlier than anticipated because we couldn’t feel our toes anymore. My nieces had to wear sweatsuits under their adorable princess dresses to stay warm. And the park was just as busy as ever!
I know I sound like a spoiled brat. Believe me, I know. But we’d just been So. Darn. Excited. for this vacation!
Our small family has visited Disney World 5 times in the last 4 years, but always off-site. We’ve always tried to be cheap in Orlando, since the parks are so expensive. Getting a room cluster with our extended family was the best excuse we could have to splurge for the full Disney World treatment- even though it also meant the added expense of flying in since we’ve just moved across the country. Whit is 5 and-a-half years old, the perfect age to appreciate the magic of wandering through Radiator Springs, but every time we tried to get him outside the Cars resort he freaked out.
The weather turned the day we left. The day we left.
I sat on our plane, already missing my family, sitting beside a husband who’d developed a bad cold, and just cursed our bad luck of arriving on January 3 instead of January 7.
Are you planning a Walt Disney World resort vacation? Check out our list of the top 5 things Disney World cast members did for us during our stay!