Okay, so maybe God didn't bring us the beauty and culture of these vacations, but He did give us the genius that was Walt Disney. Some people are not fans of Walt Disney, but to me, how can you not be a fan of someone who developed a formula for making people happy? And to think, it all began with a mouse.

I was a little slow to jump on the Disney bandwagon in our house, although I loved The Wonderful World of Disney when I was a kid, as well as Winnie the Pooh and the Muppets which are now owned by Disney. Madeline worked at The Disney Store many years ago, so she became a big fan of the characters and the company.

So when we were finally ready and able to begin our series of family vacations, we naturally started with a trip to Walt Disney World. Neither Madeline nor I had ever been there, and we figured the girls were about right for the place when they were 6 and 8 years old. We went there with three other families, so it was a wonderful way to start our adventures.

Since then we have been there as a family a number of times, and I've been a few additional times as part of conventions that I attended regularly. We also went to Disneyland once in 1998, so you can check that out under "California" on the Home page.

We have most of the Disney movies, a good amount of Disney Christmas ornaments, a den full of Disney figurines and artwork, and even our own copy of Destino. In addition, we bought into the Disney Vacation Club (during our 2008 trip and again in early 2009), which is a timeshare that goes beyond, so we visited frequently because of that. We’ve done Disney cruises and Adventures by Disney tours.

Finally, the girls got an internship and then permanent employment with Disney in 2012, and we bought a house in 2013. That led us to moving to Davenport in 2015 and Madeline getting a job at Walt Disney World. Needless to say, Disney has changed our lives dramatically.

Walt Disney World/Orlando/Tampa


Although this was not the first time for me to be in Walt Disney World and not go into the parks (I did several times while at conventions), it was the first time for the girls. We were only there one full day and two partial days, so we decided to just relax and hang out at our DVC home, Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa. Of course, I did throw in a surprise Segway tour for Dana and Alicia.

Text Box: Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa

This is not the time of year that we would purposely be in WDW if we wanted to spend some time in the parks, but we wanted to get to Orlando a couple of days before our Disney Cruise. The place was insanely crowded, and both Epcot and the Magic Kingdom closed their doors on New Year's Eve. There were wait times on some of the most popular attractions of 4-5 hours long. For someone trying to ride the rides for the very first time, it would have been a very long, disappointing day. But for us seasoned veterans, we enjoyed watching the crowds and doing other things that we wouldn't normally do.

Text Box: Bay Lake Tower

Since we now belong to the Disney Vacation Club, we intend to visit Walt Disney World rather frequently, so I have decided to only show pictures that I feel are either outstandingly beautiful, or that show something different than past trips. Of course, I often like our pictures so I end up not being such a good editor. This trip included a side trip to West Palm Springs. Dana's Spring Break was one week and Alicia's the next, so we did two different trips in one.

Text Box: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Our third trip was taken over a very long weekend off of school. The weather was perfect and it just happened to coincide with Soap Opera weekend for ABC. Alicia was 17 and Dana was 16, and Alicia brought a friend from school.

Text Box: With JR from All My Children

At the time of our first trip to WDW, Alicia was 8 and Dana was 6, which I think are the perfect ages for Disney. Anything younger than that and you spend too much time messing with the kids and not enjoying the parks. We went with three other families who all had kids of similar age, and although we planned a couple of things together, we each pretty much did our own thing. This was truly the start of the Dan Navarra vacation bug.

Text Box: Our very first time in front of the castle

This was the first time we went to Walt Disney World without the kids. Because we were on site for so long, we got to enjoy the place more than when we are running around trying to hit all of our favorite rides in a short period of time. We found new places to explore, new tours to take, and we enjoyed our home resort. The week was hot... in the low to mid-90's every day, so relaxing was probably the best thing to do. The pictures I show here are of either of new stuff that we have never done, or are just what I feel are beautiful pictures.

Text Box: Segway Tour at Epcot

At the time of this trip to WDW, Alicia was 19/20 and Dana was 18. We planned the trip because Ana Paula, our Brazilian exchange student, was an avid Disney fan and we thought it would be a great experience for her. It worked out well, as her birthday and Alicia's fell over the vacation, and Dana and her friend, Amanda, both just graduated. So lots to celebrate.

Text Box: Alicia and Sorcerer Mickey

This second trip to Walt Disney World was created because of my brother's second wedding. He got married at the Swan and Dolphin, and I was his best man for a second time. We made a long weekend out of it and went with my parent's, too. The weather was a little cooler, but it was still perfect. Alicia was 11 and Dana was 10.

Text Box: Noelle, Alicia, and Dana with Rafiki

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Three trips to Disney this year and a visit to St. Pete. The first was a short extended work trip to St. Pete over our anniversary, and then to WDW in late July when Madeline and friends went to see our girls working. The second was in September after our Member cruise. The last was a short trip to celebrate my birthday and Christmas with the girls as they were ending their College Program and about to begin their permanent jobs with Disney.

Text Box: Holidays at the Grand Floridian

In March, Madeline went down to try to find us a house for the girls at the same time Angela was visiting for a day. I returned with Madeline in April to move into the house that we bought. In August, Madeline went down for a week and met up with Angela again. In December, we spent another several days to celebrate my birthday and Christmas.

Text Box: Wild Africa Trek

Only one trip planned for this year for both Madeline and me, because we spent two cruise vacations out of Miami with the girls. That trip was after Memorial Day to see my brother and family who were visiting the Orlando area. Madeline, on the other hand, got really sick of Chicago’s horrible winter, and so she went down in February as well.

Text Box: In the Princess Suite

This time, despite the fact that we had just come from Costa Rica, we both went down in March to get out of the cold Chicago winter. I worked while I was there, which was the start of us eventually moving to Davenport. I also got the tour of the Cinderella Suite that they all got the year before. Once we moved, we really only visited Epcot a few times for the Food and Wine celebration, including a concert from a former Styx member.

Text Box: In the Princess Suite

Now that we live in Orlando, we spend lots of time at WDW for various reasons: date days, 10k runs, MLB Spring Training, dinners, or just really anything. We did vacation a week in a Marriott Vacation Club resort in Orlando for our 30th Anniversary, though, in which we spent a lot of time at Disney with our friends. Orlando has a number of other entertainment venues that can be fun, so we intend to try out many of them. Tampa is just a stone’s throw away, too, and there are lots of things to do there.

Text Box: Peter and Paula at The Magic Kingdom

Certainly the highlight of the year was the wedding of Alicia & Mel in April. Although it was not a Disney wedding, there were Disney elements to it, but I still gave it its own page. Return to the Home page and look for the link towards the right center.

Other than that, we did do a few other things in the immediate area this year.

Text Box: The Wedding

As part of our 25th Anniversary Year, I surprised Madeline by booking a trip for the first of December and not telling her. It wasn’t until a couple days before that I told her we were going out of town and what she should pack. It wasn’t until we got to the airport that she knew we were going to Tampa. It was part of a business trip, but we also went to Orlando and Harry Potter World.

Text Box: Harry Potter World

Lots of visitors to the area early in the year. One of our favorite visits was when Amanda & Jacob came just a few months before their baby was due. Jacob had not been here since he was a little kid, so everything was pretty much new to him. Some or all of us spent time in every park with them.

Dana also gave Madeline and I her longest tour: Backstage Magic, which involved many behind-the-scenes areas.

Text Box: Jacob & Amanda at Animal Kingdom