Mommy lesson #60: Taking a vacation from being a mommy makes you a better one (and if you can do it without feeling guilty, great!)

Exactly one week ago my hubby and I were celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary. At a water park. Inside a resort. On an island. In the Bahamas. We’ve been talking about this kind of getaway for years (practically the day we got back from our honeymoon) but we weren’t sure we’d be able to pull it off. Thank the Lord for wonderful grandparents who were willing to watch over our adorable but very two year old daughter day and night for five days. This wasn’t the first time we’d left her, but it was the longest stretch and definitely the farthest we’ve ever been away!
We flew out on a Wednesday afternoon to Orlando Florida. Our original plan was just to take a weekend cruise from Port Canaveral, but when we looked at flights we realized we’d have to stay an extra day in Orlando. So since we were already going to be there, why not add an extra day to spend at an amusement park? When we saw that the new Harry Potter land (Diagon Alley) was opening just a week before our planned trip, that clinched the deal. We are both huge fans (though I probably win the more fanatical spot) but I never dreamed we’d be able to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (located at Universal Studios) for years, at least until Charlotte was old enough to read the books. You can imagine the delight I felt and the speed at which I jumped on this opportunity. πŸ™‚

The view from our balcony over the resort. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the sunrise.

We booked rooms at the brand-new Universal resort, Cabana Bay, which was advertized as a “value resort.” My expectations for the hotel were pretty low, so I was blown away when we arrived.Β  It was an over-the-top caricature of a seventies beach motel, and it was fabulous. They even upgraded us to a suite in honor of our anniversary.

The retro theme was carried out in every detail, down to the complimentary soaps and shampoo

Unfortunately we weren’t able to spend much time at the resort. One of the perks of staying on property (much like Disney) was that we got to visit the Harry Potter world an hour before the rest of the park opened. Unfortunately that meant getting up at 6am (5am to our Central Time bodies). Thankfully there was a Starbucks located inside the lobby. πŸ™‚
We made it into Universal by 7:15 and hot-footed it straight back to Diagon Alley. We are apparently the most ordinary of muggles, because we walked right past the entrance! The front is disguised as a street in London, complete with row houses (including 12 Grimmauld Place), a fountain, a double-decker bus (the Knight Bus) and a railway station (King’s Cross).

In order to enter Diagon Alley itself you had to walk through one of the buildings. It was fantastic. I felt like I was stepping into the movie.

Of course the dragon perched on top of Gringotts was the most impressive feature, but it was all the little details that made it come alive.

12 Grimmauld Place. Do you see Kreacher peeking out of the window?

We headed straight for the bank and the newest ride, Escape from Gringotts, but our enthusiasm received a check when we were told the wait was 5 hours. Yes, 5 hours.

This was before the park was even officially open. We contemplated joining the line for about two seconds before we turned around and headed to the Hogwarts Express instead.

After greeting Hedwig in her cage on the platform, we found an empty compartment and rode over to the older (but no less impressive) Hogsmeade section. (The train ride was so fun…we watched the scenery out the window as we went from London to Hogsmeade, listened to Harry, Ron, and Hermione walk past our car, and had a close call with a dementor!)

The wait for The Forbidden Journey ride through Hogwarts was only twenty-five minutes, though I almost wished it were longer! The line took you right through Hogwarts castle, past talking portraits, the sorting hat, Dumbledore, the house crystals, and so much more!

The ride itself was incredible, though they weren’t kidding about its’ intensity! We both exited feeling rather queasy.
We spent the whole day at Universal, and rode almost all of the major rides.

I got to pet a baby triceratops at the Jurassic Park visitor center.

We skipped most of the roller coasters since we didn’t want to get sick and the lines were very long (we decided not to pay extra for the express pass since it was $40 each and didn’t include the Harry Potter rides). We had lunch at the Leaky Cauldron and sampled pumpkin juice and butterbeer (butterbeer is better).

We even got to ride Escape From Gringotts after all, since by six pm the wait had dropped to two hours. Still a long time, but worth it since that was what we had really come to do (and we didn’t have a whiny toddler to contend with).

We closed down the park at 10pm, footsore and exhausted, but definitely feeling like we’d gotten our money’s worth!
Our cruise left at 4:30pm the next day, so we dropped by Universal’s City Walk for lunch and a couple of souvenirs before driving to Port Canaveral. This was a bit of a mistake, since apparently the check-in time was 11am-3pm. We didn’t arrive until 3:10. Whoops. But hey, we didn’t have to wait in any lines! We dropped our luggage off at our stateroom just as they started the muster drill.

I won’t bore you with tons of details about the cruise since I’ve rambled on so much already. The room was small but comfortable, and (bonus!) we had a window, which my hubby had kept as a surprise. πŸ™‚ The food was delicious and plentiful,

and we found our happy place at the quiet, “adults only” pool and spa. It was an excellent refuge from the noise and mess that is normal life with a two-year-old. We wined and dined,

lounged and floated,

drank lots of fruity adult beverages, were serenaded by the waitstaff on our anniversary, slept in, and generally acted like two adults with no responsibilities. πŸ™‚

Our excursion to Atlantis on our actual anniversary was marred by the threat of lightning, which forced us to spend an hour not getting to ride any of the water slides. I was very disappointed and we had just about decided to go back (we’d already changed clothes and turned in our locker key) when they let everyone back in the water. We rushed back to change (the kind locker attendant gave us back our key no charge) and ran up the first tower slide we came to like giddy teenagers. In fact the whole trip I felt like a teenager again, riding water slides and sharing a tube with that cute boy I am crazy about, with the added bonus of not having to worry about whether he liked me back. πŸ™‚ We stayed so long we had to rush to get back in time to make it to our dinner seating (through the pouring rain no less) and didn’t get many pictures.
Our last day was spent at Coco Key, Royal Caribbean’s private island.

We got there early enough to float in the pristine water and lounge on the white sand beach before rain again drove us back to the boat.

It was a magical trip in so many ways (pun intended, or not) but by the time we boarded that last plane I was so ready to grab my baby girl and kiss her a million times. I am trying to hang on to that relaxed feeling, and the joy I felt when I hugged Charlotte again after so long. It is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and absence also makes it easier to return to the old chores and duties with a new perspective, fresh energy, and a smile. I thank the Lord for this getaway with my sweetheart. It was just what we needed.


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