Typically for me, I was up until 2 am finalizing packing, tidying up the house (so we could come home to a clean house) and doing online check-in. The taxi van I had arranged arrived early, so we were up by 5:30 am. We skipped breakfast and after installing the car and booster seats, loaded the sleepy kids and we were off! DD1 was admiring the colours in the sky just as we arrived at the airport - I hadn't realized that she'd not seen a sunrise before.
Westjet's online check-in is not useful at all - each passenger requires a unique email address, so whilst I was able to check-in everyone, I could only email boarding passes for myself and DH, but not the kids.
At the check-in booths, a Westjet employee assisted us in printing boarding passes for the girls and attaching our luggage tags. (She even mentioned that it's better to just print everyone's boarding passes at the booth, and not to bother doing it at home/ via email). We sent off our luggage and then went through security.
By the time we got to the gate, we still had over an hour to kill. I went off to get breakfast whilst DH entertained the kids on the travelator. Gosh, I had forgotten how ridiculously overpriced airport stores are. I think I paid $40 for a muffin, Starbucks brewed coffee, a sandwich, an apple, a banana, two bottles of Minute Maid juices and a carton of milk! Belatedly I found out there was a Tim Horton's farther back from our gate.
Traveling with kids and car seats means you get to board first/ early, yay. The plane was a small one, with three seats on either side of a narrow aisle. The car seat did not fit through the aisle, so I had to carry it over my head to our seats, which were just behind the wing. DH took the kids ahead and loaded our carry-on bags in the overhead compartments whilst I installed the carseat at the window seat and the CARES harness on the aisle seat.
Note for parents travelling with carseats on planes: the installation is really easy - simply use the plane seatbelt as you would the car seatbelt, but tuck away and secure the top tether since you don't use that. Also note that you will not be able to use the tray table, since it cannot come all the way down.
We had a little issue when seating the kids - DD2 did not want to get in, crying, "I want to go on the airplane!" She thought that she was in a car because of the car seat. Once we pointed out the wing outside the window, she was fine. With the kids settled and DH between them, I sat in the seat across the aisle. There was no napping, at least not by the kids... I managed to get about an hour of sleep, the kids played in the iPads and used the onboard entertainment.
We had brought our kid-safe headphones, but the volume limiting also made it too soft to hear above the plane noise. Luckily the kids didn't seem to mind and were content to just watch.
Our transfer to the port was seamless. DD1 and I met the Disney staff holding signs with our names on them at the bottom of the escalators to the baggage area (DH had taken DD2 in the car-seat-stroller via the elevator) and we arranged to meet up after we had retrieved our luggage.
Side rant: Vancouver Airport is NOT baby-friendly at all! DH could not find a washroom with a change table, and DD2 had fallen asleep whilst wheeling her around looking for one. Lo and behold, there was no change table in the ladies' washroom either. I ended up having to change DD2 in her car seat while it was propped up against the wall of the bathroom stall. Amazingly DD2 slept through all of this!
The crew helped us attach our Disney luggage tags and took our luggage cart while we walked to the bus. We were the last passengers for the Disney bus and got to sit right at the back. We met another family (with a five year old daughter and three year old son) that had just flown in from San Francisco and chatted to them for a bit (more about this family later!)
The drive to the port, Canada Place, was about 40 minutes, though the running commentary from the driver kept us entertained along the way.
A down side to the bus was that we did not spot our ship once we arrived - the entrance to the parking was on the other side of the dock, so we could only see the (I think, Norwegian cruise line) ship that was docked there.
The major up side was that we did not have to worry about our luggage at all. Once handing it over to the crew at the airport, we didn't see it again until they arrived at our stateroom. We simply got off the bus with our carry-on luggage and followed the signs for passengers to clear security and US Customs. The line was pretty long but was moving - the Disney cruisers were easy to spot, all holding their blue cruise info books with Mickey on the cover. The excitement in the air was palpable - everyone eager to start their vacation!
Next - Embarkation of the Disney Wonder.