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Kissimmee is the Way to Disney

Enjoying a budget-friendly family getaway

2014 was a busy year for us. In fact, for our family of four, life just seems to get busier and busier, year after year. Between Sophie's twice-a-week dance classes and Grace's gymnastics, it feels like something is always happening. A family vacation was just what we needed to relax and make some lasting memories together.

A quick family poll showed we all wanted sun and fun. Of course, the obvious destination choice was Kissimmee! Just a stone's throw from Walt Disney World and minutes from a slew of other attractions, Kissimmee is not only well-positioned for a week of family fun but it's affordable too.

We hopped in the car and drove down from Georgia with Dave at the wheel and the girls lost in their iPads.

Secretly, more than sun and fun, I craved connection. At 10 and 11, my daughters are starting to pursue their own interests more, and while I love watching them learn and develop, I miss all of our quality family time. My secret agenda on this trip was to turn that around.


People in costumes of different Disney characters posing for the camera on a sunny day in Kissimmee, Florida.


Let the fun begin! Upon arrival in Kissimmee, we checked into Celebration Suites, a hotel we booked because of its expansive rooms (650 square feet!), full in-room kitchens, sprawling outdoor pool and free shuttle to Disney, Universal and SeaWorld. In fact, people are always surprised when I tell them how many Kissimmee hotels offer free theme park shuttles. It makes it so easy to get back and forth and avoid hefty parking fees.

By 7am the next morning, we had breakfast on the table in our suite and a plan for the day ahead: Magic Kingdom! My girls may be past their Santa and Easter Bunny phase, but there is an enchantment to this theme park that always leaves them awestruck, no matter how old they get. As soon as we get far enough down Main Street USA, Cinderella's Castle comes into full view and we're all gushing and posing for the compulsory castle pic.

Magical adventure Being savvy Disney-goers, we have our fast passes pre-arranged and all set for the new Fantasyland. Our first stop is the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, minus the long line. Filled with dips and drops, the ride zooms through forests and mines filled with diamonds for an exhilarating journey into the story of Snow White's favorite little friends. We race through the exit giddy and beaming with excitement.

A person dressed as Dopey from Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs beside a stone wall on a sunny day.Then it's off to Under the Sea-Journey of Little Mermaid, Enchanted Tales with Belle, and It's a Small World. After a whirlwind of back-to-back Disney attractions, I reveal the surprise I've had hidden for weeks: lunch at Cinderella's Royal Table. We wander over to the iconic castle and I pose the question, "What shall we do for lunch?" They debate a few options before I finally declare..."We're eating inside Cinderella's castle!"

Sophie and Grace shriek with delight and can barely contain their excitement as we enter the castle and start to ascend the spiral staircase to the dining room. Drenched in dark wood and gold accents, the dining rooms glow with sunlight pouring in from the stained glass windows. Our meal is served in three courses with visits from Disney's famous princesses punctuating our feast.

The girls are overjoyed and I'm struck by their innocence and sense of wonder. And then they look at me and Dave, their heads still shaking in disbelief, and they tell us how grateful they are. "This is really awesome, guys," Grace says. "Not just this lunch but all of it. This is going to be our best trip EVER!" Sophie nods in agreement while I try to wipe away a tear without anyone noticing.

Making memories I know she's right. The best part is that it's only just begun, and we've already made some unforgettable family memories. We still have two more Disney days, a day at Universal and a few free days for water parks and mini putting ahead of us, but I've already gotten my wish... connection and closeness with my kids. Because isn't that what a vacation is all about anyway?

This is why we come back to Disney World and Kissimmee year after year. We get the most bang for our buck in a budget-friendly destination that's always evolving and offering something new. It's where we laugh, love and reconnect. It's our family RESET button, and the place where we make memories to last a lifetime.

Reconnect with your family in Kissimmee - request a guide today.


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