On Saturday night we returned to our hotel room around 1:30 in the morning and looked with dismay at all of our stuff thrown all over the floor. Anyone who has traveled with us will tell you that Kyle and I share an unusual travel practice, which is that our luggage explodes whenever we stay somewhere for more than two days. Instead of using the drawers and closets provided, we prefer to just throw our things around so we can see everything at once. I don’t know why, but at least we do it together and it works for us right up until that moment when it’s time to go home and we suddenly have to figure out how to stuff the explosion back into the suitcases.
We were set to check out on Sunday morning but our bus didn’t leave for the airport until 5 PM, so I called down to the front desk to see about getting a late check out. I figured we had missed the boat since it we were within hours of check out time but they were able to extend our room until 1 PM which is just more amazing Disney magic. Satisfied that we could keep procrastinating our departure, I set my alarm for 5:15 AM (so early!!) and went to sleep.
The DisneySMMC Fun Run was completely optional and fell on the last day of the celebration, so I was a little worried that I was going to be the only person there. Everyone I talked to was waffling on whether or not they were going to show up (probably because most of us were closing the parks the night before) so there was a very real chance that it would be a solo run. As it was, the turn out was fantastic and I would say at least a fourth of the attendees participated, which just goes to show the spirit of friendship that took over this gathering.
We collected in the courtyard behind the Yacht Club lobby, which just happened to be right under the concierge level rooms. I wonder how many people called down to complain about the noisy women chattering excitedly before dawn right below their windows because our group was anything but quiet. Oh well…hopefully people were traveling with sleep sounds.
Many of the people who were at the conference were supposed to be running the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland that morning. One of the attendees had actually taken a red eye flight to leave the conference the night before in order to run (a level of commitment I didn’t have) but the rest of us were on Instagram and Twitter trying to see if people were up and headed to the race. The three hour time difference between the coasts meant most people were still getting their pre-race zzzzz’s, including my friend Kate, but the bit of buzz that we saw from the race online was infectious and gave us our own little boost as we prepared for our mini-run.
The fun run was sponsored by GoGo squeeZ, the makers of the pouches that my kids practically live on, and I was really impressed with how awake, energetic, and supportive all of the staff volunteers were for our race. They handed out capes, water, and applesauce and cheered us along as we ran. Some of them even walked with the participants who finished the race last, which is so great and made it a positive experience for everyone.
When the race started, I took off with the runners in the front initially because I was eager to get to Epcot to take pictures in the park before it opened. I captured most of the race on the GoPro, though, so my cell phone pictures are absolutely terrible and don’t at all convey how magical Epcot is during sunrise. Big fat blogger fail.
Once we got to Epcot, I slowed to a walk and joined up with friends as we all stopped every now and then to take pictures and enjoy the moment. The race was over too soon, ending in the butterfly garden, and we were happily surprised with treats, swag bags, and cute commemorative medals given out by the sponsor. I love that they gave us medals – such a thoughtful touch and a fun replacement for the Tink medal many of us were missing.
They let us wander out slowly and take photos as we went. I grabbed a couple of photos with Stacey in front of Spaceship Earth, but the cast member who took our picture didn’t believe me when I said that she needed to keep the flash set to “off” so the resulting photos made Stacey and I look like we were from another planet. Luckily, we happened to walk back to the resort chatting with a Yellow Shoes photographer and he caught a cute photo of us before we split up to make ourselves presentable for the Mother’s Day breakfast.
Kyle was still snoozing when I got back so I was obnoxious and made lots of noise to try to wake him up (I wanted to show him my medal) but he ignored me and kept sleeping. I guess years of living with small children will do that to you. I got him up eventually and we headed down to the conference center for the Mother’s Day breakfast, our last event for Disney Social Media Moms.
Honestly, even though people at the race had kept wishing me a happy Mother’s Day, I kept forgetting that the holiday was happening. Being away from both my mom and my kids made it sort of a non-thing, but when we were there and there was a big sign and everyone was taking family pictures, I started to think about how lucky I am that I have my mom, that I get to be a mom, and that the universe has found a funny way to turn being a mom into something that I occasionally get paid for. I also sent some happy thoughts out into the world for my fellow moms, including a few moms-to-be in my life, and took a second to send mental hugs to people who couldn’t be with their moms on that Sunday for many reasons.
We found Stacey’s family at the breakfast and made them sit with us. I was surprised at how well her kids were holding up so early in the morning, but they were perfectly happy to chat and be in this huge ballroom with a hundred other chattering families. We saw a lot of kids who were wiped out, though, and a bunch zonked out at the breakfast table during the meal. Walt Disney World definitely takes its toll when you’re little!
The end of the celebration was bittersweet, of course, but Leanne and Mark kept things light and surprised us with a cute video they had secretly made of the kids who attended the conference. This was followed by a concert from Voiceplay, another musical performance from Disney Imagicademy, and some sweet closing remarks.
I caught a few hugs on the way out, but there was a sea of people so I missed goodbyes with most everyone. I did make Vanessa of See Vanessa Craft stop to pose with her family because they were doing a family Disneybound of The Little Mermaid and it needed to be captured. I never manage to steal more than a few minutes of time with Vanessa, but she and I have a ton in common. We’re both bloggers who were Disney brides, we were pregnant at the same time (twice!) so our kids are the same age, and we both live out West (she’s in Arizona). One of these days, we really need to catch up!
We were back in the hotel room by 10 AM and we were walking distance to two different Disney parks, MagicBands in hand. What did we do? Naptime, baby. Naps were our ultimate attraction on this trip. Naps were the magical event to which we had exclusive Fastpasses with no wait. We are totally those old people we never thought we’d be. And it’s awesome.
We woke up around 12:30, rushed around to throw all of our stuff back into our suitcases, and rolled out of our amazing room with one minute to spare. I can’t say enough about our accommodations at the Yacht Club resort. You know that scene in Friends where they hug the wall and say goodbye to the hotel? That was totally me.
We checked our luggage with the valet and walked over to Epcot to spend some time in the park before we had to catch Magical Express to the airport. We walked slowly, but man alive was it hot. Just…hot. Hot hot hot. And humid. Sitting in a bathtub hot and humid. My desert lizard soul couldn’t handle it. By the time we made our lunch decision and found a table in the Germany pavilion to eat our bratwurst and potato salad, I was thoroughly steamed.
After lunch we wandered around the country pavilions and ended up in France with two creme brûlées because my husband is a doll. A little known random fact about me is that the act of cracking the top of a creme brûlée is one of my great joys in life and Kyle discovered this early in our relationship. Since then, he’s been ordering them whenever he can just because he likes to let me crack them open. So satisfying. And also, they’re magically delicious.
That kind of couple stuff came up over and over again on this trip and while I don’t think we felt disconnected before we left for Florida, there was definitely a bit of husband/wife bonding that happened. Kyle and I don’t spend a lot of time away from the kids by choice, since we worry less when we’re with them and honestly prefer their company most of the time, but being alone together without our parental responsibilities made room for a lot of little things that made us “us” before “us” became “we who have made these small humans and must keep them alive”.
We rode Spaceship Earth one more time and shopped a little to get souvenirs for the kids, but it was really quite hot and we were back at the Yacht Club with time to spare since that’s where they were keeping the air conditioning and the free water. At some point, I was able to talk for a minute with my kids and mom, which made me eager to get back home. I also finally caught up with Kate, who had finished the Tinker Bell Half Marathon in the top 10% (amazing for her first Disney race!) and who did make me wish that I was on the other coast in the other Disney hotel sharing a celebratory ice tea. There was a very real sense of wanting to be everywhere (WDW, Utah, Disneyland) at once because I just loved everyone and I felt very lucky to have the “problem” of having too many happy places and only one Carly to be in any one place.
Magical Express came, we were the first ones on, and we sailed to and through the airport with no problems, talking about how hectic our last departure from Orlando was and laughing about how Eva had to blindly push Calvin in the stroller at our direction because we were loaded down with car seats and luggage. I’ve flown out of Orlando in tears before, so sad that our vacation had ended, but this time I just felt whole and happy. Even though our flight home was longer than the flight out had been, it felt like it went by in a flash and before I knew it I was waking up in our bed and Kyle was carrying our laughing kids in to say good morning.
My first Disney Social Media Moms Celebration was so much more full than I thought it would be. It was full of experiences, full of gifts, full of friends, and full of that magic that recharges me. I thought it was going to be a work-heavy trip and I arrived armed with business cards and my little networking speech and the expectation that there would be a lot of sponsor business, but ultimately the whole experience was much more organic than I thought it would be and I think I might have given out 5 business cards in total and came back with only 3.
What I did come back with was a real appreciation for each of the sponsors, not only because they provided this amazing trip for us, but because I felt the effort and sincerity from each. These are companies who really believe that they can bring positives into your family and they weren’t relying on just throwing things at us and expecting us to “sell” them out of obligation. They were showing us the good stuff and letting us experience it, whether it was a Disney ride or an applesauce pouch, because they knew it would make us happy and we’d want to share that with everyone on our own terms. For a blogger event that is so sponsored, I think this was probably the softest sell I’ve ever experienced and maybe the most enthusiastic I’ve ever been about products a week after the fact.
A big fat thank you to Disney and the other sponsors for subsidizing part of our trip so we could share in this celebration. It was truly once in a lifetime.
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