I’ve been meaning to post a few times in the last few weeks but things have been so hectic in the lead up to my departure from the UK that I haven’t had time! I have time this evening so I thought I would post about my first weekend in the US of A before anything else. Warning: it’s going to be a long one!
Saturday 6th October
After an emotional night and not sleeping much, my alarm went off at 5am so we could get ready to get to the airport in good time. Did I get up at 5am? Of course not… we were only 15 minutes later than planned though! My dad drove me, Matt (boyfriend) and Matt (brother, I know, weird) to Gatwick where we met mum, Thomas (other brother) and his girlfriend. I was really nervous to get my cases weighed after rearranging and weighing them a million times during the week and nearly having a nervous breakdown over it! I was a couple of kilos over but fortunately the man was really nice and just let them go through. Thankfully, he didn’t weigh my hand luggage as I definitely would have had to pay extra for that! I then met up with Elin (a friend of mine from the first Disney interview) as we were flying together. She said goodbye to her parents then joined us for our family breakfast in the Wetherspoons in the South Terminal. My family gave me a beautiful Pandora locket with some mini Disney charms to go inside. I have wanted one for ages so I was really touched and put it on immediately!
It was then time for the goodbyes. Sorry, not goodbyes, the “see ya real soons”. It didn’t take long for mum to start crying! I don’t like to get upset in front of people so I just about managed to hold it together as I hugged and kissed my family for the last time. I didn’t want to let go when it was Matt’s turn. It was the hardest thing to walk away from them but as I got to security I had one last look back and smiled as they all waved me off. I then had my little cry going through security. Of course I made the machine go off (standard) so had to be scanned in a separate machine, then I was free to go. Still semi-crying, I treated myself to some new perfume and a supply of Cadbury’s chocolate from the Duty Free shop and headed to the gate to meet Elin. We boarded the plane straight away and I was sat next a lovely older couple who were really friendly. We chatted for ages and they were really interested in what I was going to be doing in Disney World!
The 8 hour 40 flight went pretty quickly. I slept for a couple of hours, watched ‘Love, Simon’ and a few episodes of ‘New Girl’, read my book and played Solitaire on my tablet. There was a mix up with my meal as I had requested the vegetarian option, however they had me down as normal. So I had to wait after everyone else had eaten for mine as they had to serve everyone in Premium first to see if there was any left over. I was salivating by this point and thankfully there was something left for me. Got a Kit-Kat too. Bonus.
When we landed there was that lovely rush of hot air as they opened the plane doors. I always love that bit. Then there was the standard ridiculous queue at border control and waiting for our luggage at the carousel. Thanks to my amazing suitcases I could spot mine from a mile off! Elin and I then had the task of hauling our 3 cases each plus extras through Orlando International airport. I hadn’t taken off my jumper yet and was dripping with sweat. This airport is so big you have to get a monorail to get to the main terminal and we had to explain to a few people why we had so many cases; “We’re here for a year to work in Walt Disney World, we’re not on holiday!!”
This is where the magic started. We had some pictures in front of the Disney wall in the airport; I started to feel emotional as I have such vivid memories of this from all of our family holidays from when I was little up to 2011. After a long wait for Disney’s Magical Express we were on our way to our first stop, The Art of Animation resort. Again, I felt so emotional going through the gates into Walt Disney World. I plan to explain in another post why Disney is so special to me but it is just iconic.
We arrived at the hotel (which is incredible by the way! It had three main themes: Finding Nemo, Cars and The Little Mermaid) and chatted to the Cast Member who checked us in. I just love how friendly and helpful everyone is here. We got our magic bands which I was excited about as they didn’t exist last time I was here (they are wristbands that you unlock your hotel door with, gain entry into the parks if you have tickets, load Fastpasses for rides and charge purchases to your card). The hotel is absolutely huge so we had another long way to haul our luggage to our room but it was worth it. We stayed in a Little Mermaid room and if you know me, you’ll know it’s one of my favourite Disney films. All the little touches are so magical… Disney do not leave anything out!
We ventured back down to the main part of the hotel where the biggest pool is. It’s Finding Nemo themed, there was music playing and the buzz of everyone having a great time. We got a (strong) cocktail and sat by the pool, soaking in the atmosphere and the evening heat. We were getting hungry so we went into the dining hall next. It was busy and a bit overwhelming at first trying to work out where to queue for which food you wanted.
The combination of the (strong) cocktail and dinner made me feel so sleepy. We headed back to the room and watched Frozen on TV to keep awake as late as we could to beat the jet lag. We made it until 10pm then crashed. I slept like an absolute log…
Sunday 7th October
I woke up at 6:20am, 11:20am UK time, so no wonder I felt so awake. I gave up trying to go back to sleep and got up. We met Chloe for breakfast, who was also staying in Art of Animation, then headed to the pool. We were also joined by Roma, another girl in our arrival group, and had a really chilled morning relaxing and chatting. It then got a bit cloudy so Elin and I went back to our room to shower then we met Aaron for lunch. It was so nice meeting everyone in stages, as it meant we could chat to everyone properly and it wasn’t too overwhelming.
We had made reservations at Trail’s End weeks ago for our entire arrival group to celebrate starting our program, so after getting ready, Elin, Chloe, Roma, Aaron and I had a mini photoshoot around our hotel, wearing the handmade ears by Roma and headed over to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. Chloe drove us (her and Roma had hired a car for the first couple of days… it turned out to be a minivan beast) and I managed to get my hand shut in the door before we’d even set off… we also ended up going into Epcot by mistake which was hilarious but exciting because we got to see the big ball for the first time! We finally arrived and this place is so huge on its own we had to park then take a bus through the ‘wilderness’ to get to the resort. It has a beach and everything, it’s so beautiful! As the name suggests, it’s all American frontier and you don’t even feel like you’re in Disney World there. We met the rest of our arrival group and went to Trail’s End for dinner. It was an all-you-can-eat buffet with so many options… and dessert! It was an amazing evening with lots of laughs and everyone is so so lovely.
After eating until we could hardly move, we headed back to Art of Animation. As Elin and I reached our room, we could see fireworks through the trees, possibly from Hollywood Studios. They didn’t last very long but it was magical all the same. I’ve managed to stay up much later tonight so hopefully won’t be up too early tomorrow. We have a big day ahead as we are checking in to our new homes for the year! I’m nervous but excited. More than that though, I just feel so lucky to be here. It has been an emotional, overwhelming weekend with lots of new faces and surroundings and I still feel like I’m dreaming. I miss everyone back home so much but I’m still in a Disney daze and making the most of every moment. I feel so happy and grateful that I’m here with amazing people.
Well done if you made it this far- I told you it was a long one! It’s been a busy couple of days. See you soon from my new home!