We were not Disney people. Far from it, in fact. When Dh and I started dating in highschool 14 years ago, we considered ourselves a bit individualistic. We watched foreign films, ate ethnic food, listened to music youd never hear on a radio and so on. With all our might, we ducked and weaved away from the flow of mainstream. When we became parents, we considered homebirth (although we didnt actually do it!). I nursed my babies, we used clothed diapers. Heck, I made their baby food, sewed their dresses (okay, only some of them) and we made their toys! Notice a crunchy anti mainstream trend here? So how did we end up in Disneyworld? When did the first addictive bite begin? Upon much reflection, I am almost certain we can blame Mother in Law. Before I go further, let me introduce Mother in Law (from here on, MIL). Now, MIL was an at home mom who keeps a nice house and makes wonderful meals. Before we brought her two grand daughters, I am not sure what her hobbies were, but I do know for certain that after that first little Bean was born, she had a new and life long hobby. Showering those two girls with gifts! And if there is one gift MIL likes to give the girls, its a Disney movie. It started innocently enough with Winnie the Pooh. Then there was the Tigger movie (had to have that). Soon, Piglet came out with a movie, and then there was a holiday movie, and Roo, and Christopher Robin and on and on! We were soft as butter to the idea of Disney by the time our girls were old enough for a family vacation, but still were not Disney people yet. As our girls reached the ages of 3 and 6, I began talking to Dh about a family vacation. A BIG one. One that didnt involve us sleeping upstairs from my parents or his. Hmm this was going to take some planning. I began researching places and we had two BIG criteria to meet. 1) It had to be a place we could drive or fly to affordably. We are smack dab in the center of the country, and I was not about to spend $2000 to get to our destination! So affordability cut down the choices. Chicago and St Louis were both in driving distance, but boy wouldnt it be nice to go to a beach? I started looking and wouldnt you know that flights to Orlando, Fl were cheap. Very cheap! Were talking a fraction of the cost of flying anywhere else in the country! Hmm maybe the airline was trying to tell us something? I have family in Orlando. Double bonus. Hey isnt DISNEYWORLD in Orlando??? Dh protests quickly and loudly. We are NOT going to Disney World when Bella is only 3. No way no how. Keep looking cause it aint happening. I am the man, I bring the bread that pays for this vacation, and I say we are not taking the 3 year old to Disney. She would be overwhelmed, overtired, over cranky over it. No. 2) Okay, but I did say there were TWO big criteria to meet. While cost of travel is big, it doesnt hold a candle to number two. Bean (our first born dd) cant eat gluten or dairy. If you dont know what that means, let me tell you this it means she cant eat what everyone else is eating ever. She ALWAYS has to have her own special homemade foods because everything under the sun has gluten or dairy in it. And to add to that, mama cant eat it either. If we went to a vacation and got gluten or dairy in our food, we may as well just toss our vacation money into the toilet, because that is the place well be focusing on as we spend hours in the bathroom, sick. Nope, we cant eat that stuff, and that means we are limited on where we CAN eat. Very limited. As any dedicated organizing mom would do, I started searching where oh where can a gluten free dairy free family go for vacation? I found two places. A ranch in Wyoming and what is this? DISNEY WORLD! Apparently Disney knows our laungauge when it comes to food. I began to find report after report of others who enjoyed gluten free dairy free meals all over the World. I nearly fainted when I read that not only could they deal with the meals, but they also had GF/CF breads and desserts around every corner! SOLD!!!!! Hot dog! I was going to be free of cooking for 5 whole days! No homemade rice flour, nut flour pancake making, no gluten free bread making, no sautéing or baking. I was going to step away from the kitchen and not look back. It was as if something had just gifted me with the dream vacation of a lifetime but wait I could remember hearing the voice of Dh in the back of my joy. What was it he was saying? No Disney? Not Disney? Now Disney? Yes, that was it! He must have said NOW! Book that Disney vacation pronto! Of course that is what he meant. So, off I went to find a resort. In my giddy excitement, I started looking at resorts. It was December and wouldnt you know it, there was a SALE for January travel! I love a sale. It is part of my genetic code that I will buy something at a sale, even if I dont want or need it. It is part of some weird gene that my mother passed on. It also requires that I save stuff I dont need (like hundreds of empty glass jars in the event I ever want to make enough Jam to feed an army). Dh has been gently breaking my habit. I no longer buy junk I dont need at the grocery store, but when I saw that resort sale, it was ON! Free parker and swimming! Great! Room discount? GREAT! Where do I sign?! I researched the MouseSavers and Allears.net sites, licking up every drop of information I could gather and I came to the conclusion that the Animal Kingdom Lodge was the place for us. Our first trip to Disney and we were starting off right. Of course, I had no idea at this point that once you go to Disney World, it is the beginning of a life long commitment of repeat travel. Had I known this, maybe I wouldnt have started us at a Deluxe, but I digress .Animal Kingdom Lodge. Animals, cool theme, lots of gluten free dairy free food available, and remember those Orlando relatives? They love that place! Cant get enough of it! So now the only thing to do is talk to Dh. Hmmm .. I approached dh in the evening when the girls were in bed. I came armed with my information on where to stay and when. I told him in my sweetest voice that while I respected his decision to wait until Bella was 5 years old to go to Disney World, my hands were tied. It was the only place we could go with any appeal where I didnt need to bring a kitchen along with me. And furthermore, Bella would be turning four that same month so she would be ALMOST 5, and that is when he said we could go, so it really is about, almost, exactly what he wanted! He started to protest a bit, I recall, and he repeated his concerns about the Bella being too young but I started showing him pictures of the resort and details of the food and a recap of the SALES! And to cinch it, I talked up the whole less crowds value season to emphasize how important it was that we went immediately before the spring break season was upon us! My joy was just beaming from within, and while dh can talk a tough talk, he can rarely walk it. Not in a house of women, anyway. As they say in My Big Fat Greek Wedding Dh may be the head of the family, but its Mama who is the neck (turning that big ol head in the proper direction as needed). Plus the man does not like crowds, he loves his family of women, and he thought that Animal Kingdom Lodge was looking pretty cool. (so there was that too, but still Im the neck!) Booking the tickets was supposed to be a breeze. I just logged online, brought up my saved deal and went to order, but that crazy computer system wouldnt let me order my super deal! I gave up and called the CMs for help. Boy were they helpful. Have you ever noticed how fun and kind and joyful those CMs are on the phone? Sometimes when I am feeling down, I just want to call them up cause the stories they tell! Man, they brighten my day! The CM matched my online deal and upgraded us to Savannah room view and we were booked. Next stop ADR! Getting food figured out was as EASY as a gluten free pudding pie! I just emailed Brenda at the Magic Kingdom and she sent me an email attachment that I treasure as a piece of Disney Magic right in my very own inbox. It was a listing of where and what we could eat that was gluten free and dairy free in the World. Wow. It listed restaurants that could easily accommodate us and spots for finding snacks. Oh Brenda, how I love you and your happy email attachment. Life was looking fine! Now all we had to do was wait a few weeks and we would be on our way. In preparation for our departure, I decided to do some pre shopping to make sure we had all the necessities (Pepto, earplugs, Imodium, pain killers you know the important stuff) and I also bought some Disney shirts. I figured it would be just my luck that the girls would want to buy Disney T-Shirts for $25 a piece in the world. Now, you have to remember we were not Disney people yet and I was not about to buy $25 shirts that turned my children into walking advertisements for the latest new release DVD. I would, however, buy them for $5 shirts that turned them into walking advertisements without hesitation (you may recall, I love me a sale)! And that is just what I did. Okay, the list was printed and everything checked out. I began my packing about 3 weeks early. I am an organizer. I want things like that done. I am one of those people who is always there 10 minutes early. And suitcases get packed even earlier, still. Unlike certain overdue overpackers (cough lala family) we do NOT overpack. I am the most minimalist packer on the planet, and so far it works for us. I managed to get all we needed into two bags, plus we each had a small backpack for carry on. Not too bad. We were on our way to the World! Look out mice, here we come! Up next: what is this magical place???