A Family of Four First Timers, Four Full Days in Feb. >>ETA Photos!<<
Chapter One: Pre-Trip Report
Cast of Characters:
Me: Age 37 (I visited Disney Land with my mom and Disney World with my grandparents both when I was four and have very few memories)
DH: Age 34 (has never been to Disney)
DS: Age 9 (has never been to Disney)
DD: Age 6 (has never been to Disney)
Dad: 61 (has never been to Disney)
Stepmom: 53 (has never been to Disney)
Half-Brother: 18-19 (has never been to Disney and celebrated his birthday while we were there!)
Where & When: Caribbean from 2/22-2/27/07
We had so many family and friends who had taken trips to Disney World over the years that I felt kind of bad that we could not afford to give our own children such a wonderful gift. It is the iconic American family vacation after all. But I didn’t want to go into major credit card debt to do it. So I decided that if I could save up our tax returns for three years, I should be able to take our family of four on a Disney adventure sometime in the winter of 2006-2007. I decided the least active time of the kids’ school year was late February and I used that as the basis for my decision about the trip’s time frame as I was not at all saturated with information about Disney.
Fate worked for us and the three years worth of returns were safely stashed in our account in August of 2006. I consulted a friend whose daughter goes to school with mine. She has only one child and they go to Disney about once every 18 months. She told me to start at MouseSavers.com. It was there that I found a Disney travel agent who booked our trip for Feb. 22-27, 2007. I was not aware of the existence of the Disboard at that time (gasp!) and so basically picked the Carribbean because it was in the “moderate” price range…might as well have thrown a dart at a board with all the moderate resort names on it.
I bit the bullet and booked a direct flight because the thought of transferring planes was not one I relished. If we missed a connecting flight we could potentially lose an entire day which could translate into skipping one entire park; best to just increase our chances of making it there by eliminating airport dashes between gates.
Actually booking the trip was very psychologically daunting for me. My kids are not very well-behaved. How would they fly? Would our family have a meltdown in a park? Also, I cannot sleep in hotels. It’s not my bed and my family members are all very noisy sleepers – they talk, they snore, they grind teeth. The littlest noise awakens me. Would I be Disney’ing on 90 minutes of sleep every night? Finally, it occurred to me that I had to organize our movements while at Disney and I knew next to nothing about the place. What if my ignorance caused us to have a mediocre time? Think of the wasted money!
So I purchased the Unofficial Guide and started to form opinions about what attractions we could skip. (Mainly those geared towards pre-schoolers.) I continued to consult with my daughter’s friend’s mother who turned me onto character meals. She mentioned they book up 6 months out, so I better make the call asap. DD is pretty into the princesses and the thought of princesses mingling with us as we ate was too much to pass up. At 6, I figured she was at the perfect age for it. And so this is where it feels to me that it all really started – with the booking of the meal at Cinderella’s table. I decided to see if we could do it the first full day we were in Disney just so that we could start the trip off with a bang. I called 1-800-WDW-DINE having no concept at all of the difficulty of the task at hand. (I didn’t have the Unofficial Guide in hand yet.) So I was not at all relieved when I had choices – which meal did I want? I figured a breakfast might be easy to miss if we were late. And dinner was a little more expensive. So picked lunch, wrote down my confirmation number, and hung up thinking of how much fun we would have. I had no idea what a gift it was to get that table so easily!
So then my stepmom says that she is still on board (as she had been since I’d mentioned years earlier that I was going to do this one day) to go, too. She said she’d have to talk my dad into it. But I hooked her up with my travel agent and she booked a trip at the same time, but departing a day earlier. (The flight was cheaper and she has relatives in Florida that she figured she could visit on the day she was there when we hadn’t arrived yet.) The youngest of my half siblings would be going also.
Now I have this Cinderella meal booked for only 2. I don’t want to hurt her feelings, so I call back and book the Storybook Dining meal for 3 for breakfast on the Sunday morning we would be at Disney. I once again had no problem getting my first choice. I feared 2 princess meals might be overkill. But didn’t want her to feel excluded and I figured this was a good way to include her.
Next, I get an e-mail from DD’s friend’s mom detailing their visit to BBB. She sent me a link to the pictures. Oh, yes – this is a must-do item. How cute if I could get her in before lunch with Cinderella? I’d already ordered a brand new Belle dress for the lunch. The hair-do seemed the perfect precursor. So I called and booked that, too, without any problem.
So now it seems that my trip plan will be dictated by these appointments. And I was fine with that because having no idea when we should go where, I at least had some direction. I decided it would MK on Friday (for lunch with Cinderella), MGM on Saturday, Epcot on Sunday (for breakfast with Belle), and AK on Monday. I thought AK might not be our cup of tea and we could leave midday and return to MK for the afternoon before we left. I figured if we weren’t to pooped the Thursday afternoon we arrived, we could go to AK to make up for the half-day on the last day. I made no ADRs because I figured this might be our only trip to Disney and we weren’t there for the food. We were there for the shows and rides. We’d be happy with quick CS to get in as much of those as we could.
How exciting a new trip report by a first timer! :) Subscribing to read more of your adventures! Great start :thumbsup2
Making me want to go back really bad. Waiting for more. popcorn::
Great start - looking forwad to hearing about your first trip!
Thanks for anyone who read this and to all who replied. I kind of feared no one would be interested in our trip. And I want to share my newfound love of Disney with those who would understand.
On with the show:
Chapter 2: Departure
3 am on Thursday, Feb. 22nd and I am awakened by the howling wind. I worry it will be strong enough to cancel our flight! I listen to it until a little after 4 and then I get up to start getting ready. The whole family gets up and is well-rested. Maybe it’s because we’ve not been before so we don’t know how excited we should be, but we all got a great night’s sleep. So we’re chipper and getting along. What do you know?
We drive to the airport and park in the close lot. With the kids I just want to keep it easy. We check-in and board with no problems. The kids are excited about being on an airplane for the first time ever.
The day is overcast and we are excited to show the kids that we are going to fly up through the clouds and then travel above them. DD looks down at the clouds. “It looks like a fluffy world.” She has a knack for spewing out these little poetic lines. I tell her to put that down in her journal that her teacher asked her to keep on the trip.
We land, board Magical Express, and get to the Caribbean around noon. The room isn’t ready yet and I know check-in is at three. The front desk clerk tells us to grab lunch and check out the arcade at the food court. She suggests calling before 3 in case the room is ready early.
We did not do the dining plan and let me say that I’m glad we didn’t. There is so much about WDW that I understand now that I have been there. I still do not understand how to make that thing work to my advantage financially. I had a delicious Oriental Salad from the deli there – it had noodles and a yummy Oriental dressing and big chunks of fresh mushrooms and chicken.
After lunch, DD and I are not interested in the arcade so we go check out the pool while the boys check out the video games. We have shorts and short sleeved shirts and the weather is perfect. I let her wade in the pool and regret not tossing a swimsuit into one of our carry-ons.
It’s getting closer to 3 so we all walk over to the pool by our room and DS really wants to swim. I figure our room has to be ready soon and our luggage should arrive at the same time so I let him take off his shirt and swim in his shorts.
Needless to say the room is ready before 3 but we don’t have luggage yet! Now we’re stuck waiting for it because of my ill-fated decision to let DS swim in the only pair of shorts he’s got until the luggage comes. I’m kicking myself because I know that if I had kept him out of the water we could be on a bus to MK already. We are wasting precious hours!
The luggage comes between 4:30 and 5:00. We change DS and we head out. I’m excited…really excited. They are, too. But I think vague, residual psychological impressions from my childhood that aren’t even clear enough to qualify as memories are making me subconsciously aware of the fact that lots of incredibly great things are right around the corner.
We walk into MK around 5:30. It’s pretty full. But that doesn’t matter to me at all. Remember, I have nothing to compare it to. I expected there to be lots of people and there are. Besides, I am finally here! I am a Wisconsinite enjoying a 70 degree day in February. That alone means someone would have to actually cut off both of my legs to make this a bad day. Add to that the fact that I am at MK with my family; this means that a crowd would have to actually be trampling us to death to ruin this for us.
I can’t see the castle. I imagined I would see it right away. I recognize Main Street and know that castle will be in full view when we come around that corner. I know that it will take my breath away. I tell my family that we are about to see it. They are a little overwhelmed, I think, and worried that mom is getting too smarmy for them to handle.
We turn that corner and there it is. I have never done intravenous drugs. I imagine the rush I felt upon seeing the castle is very much like the needle in the arm. I haven’t done a thing in MK yet. I haven’t left WDW yet. And still I know that I will have to come back one day. This trip will not be enough, no matter what it is. I got tingly and my eyes watered. My daughter and I would be inside there the next day eating with a princess! Aah…the magic…now I get it!!!
I thought that since the next morning would be taken up with my daughter and I splitting off for BBB and lunch at the castle, we should take in lots of stuff all four of us would enjoy together. So we make for HM. There was a wait. (Thirty minutes, I think? I can’t remember now!) But we were all kind of numb. We saw lots of people all around and were uncertain if we would find a shorter wait anywhere else. And we wanted to do something…not just walk around. So we get in the line.
I will not blaspheme HM. It has been there so long that is part of the heart of MK. And I know that. But let me tell you my most memorable moment on it. At the end when the ghost is in the car with you I had a flashback. (Sorry for all the drug metaphors!) Something I’m not sure I would ever have remembered again if I hadn’t returned to HM. I could remember clearly looking in that mirror and seeing myself as a 4 year old in that car with my grandparents flanking me on either side and the ghost squished in with us. I remember thinking in the way a 4 year old thinks how cool that was. I almost had to shake my head to clear the image and see my present-day family in the mirror. I can barely recall it even now! I can only remember the time with my grandparents. The magic again. (My grandfather passed away in 1986. My grandmother is 91 now.) My family liked HM. But it won’t be the same for them until they return 33 years from now and have an experience like mine. And now they can…all because I planned this trip. I can’t tell you how happy I am that I gave them all this gift.
Off to Thunder Mountain. The wait is long so we get our FP and decide against Splash Mountain because it is cool and tomorrow we’ll be back and it’ll be warm. So we do POTC. Long line. It’s fine. We’re on vacation. It’s family time. We love spotting the Jacks on the ride and DH and I debate whether they’re animatronic or actors. (Newbie here is still not sure – I think only the Jack at the end in the rocker is animatronic. DH thought none of them were actors. Little help?)
It’s getting dark by now. We head back to get cheeseburgers and ride Thunder Mountain. DD drops her burger on the ground. She will drop more food on the ground on this trip than entire families in China eat in a year. Not because she doesn’t want to eat it either. She’s just all thumbs.
We use our FP for Thunder Mountain and the CM manning the line says that someone working ahead of her mucked it all up so there is actually a wait. It’s not bad, though. I ride with DD. She smiles and screams her way happily through this ride. I thought it was great fun. Fonzy said it’s great at night. I’ve never gone on it in daylight, so I don’t know if the experience is better at night than in the day. I think it was super for me to see my daughter love the speeds and the turns. It was her first roller coaster ride ever.
Next we head over to Tomorrowland for Space Mountain and BL. We grab BL FP and do standby for Space Mountain. Another 30 minute wait, but DS gets the front seat and I was so excited for him. I personally that TM was more fun. But this ride is fun in its own right. DH loved that Gary Sinise was “there.”
I’m ready for the whole family to love BL. I am shocked that only DD thinks it’s better than average. I am awful at video games. DH and DS are addicts so I think it’s below them. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t wasted time. It just wasn’t the hands down winner with my family that I anticipated it would be.
Next we ride Winnie the Pooh. DS is grousing about it because he’s 9 and feels too old for such a ride. I expected it to have all the charm of Peter Pan which I could remember just a little bit. I was not disappointed. DD likes Pooh. I think it was even a little to babyish for her at age 6 ½. But it was Pooh so it was not a total loss for her. I think it’s a great Disney attraction.
We caught some of the fireworks while waiting in line for Pooh. But we were all beat by now. So we headed out knowing we’d be back in the morning. I was glad we had tried so many things once because I wanted DH to be able to re-do favorite things while DD and I did BBB and lunch with Cinderella. Now he would have a working knowledge of the park layout and the types of things they liked and didn’t like to keep them busy while we did princess-y schtuff.
Next installment: You mean BBB is in DTD and not at MK?!?!??
I'm on board for the adventure!!!
Wow, I'm hooked. Your story about your Haunted Mansion experience brought tears to my eyes, very touching story. Thanks for sharing.
Great start! I am glad you had some help in planning...and eventually found the DIS! I am sure now you know way more of what to expect...expect the unexpected.
I loved that you basically 'threw a dart' at a dart board to pick your resort! Sometimes, I think it would be great to go without any plan...land where you land...go where you want!
I would've been thrilled if one person said they wanted to hear my story. Thanks to every single one of you for replying!
I could add lots (& lots & lots) of pictures if I could figure out how to post them in the gallery? I know how to post the link here within the thread. I just don't see an option when I go into the gallery to post. Can someone help the pathetic newbie?
I don't get the picture thing either. You need to load them onto your computer frst and then load them up on the DIS. You have to sign in with your DIS name and the same pass word. Set it up so it goes to "your favorites"
Enjoying your TR, where in the midwest are you from?
What a great start! And I LOVE a TR from a first-timer. We were there last month,too, but I think earlier in the month than you were. It was COLD (at least by my South Carolina standards...:) )
Your cliff-hanger has me worried. Your daughter's friend's mother never told you BBB was in DTD??? That's just not right!
Can't wait for more.
Love this. :)
What a wonderful TR! Tell your DS that I am 32 and still love Winnie the Pooh ride. I might just be me but I love all the "kiddie" rides at MK.
We are not far from you, OhMari. We are in Wisconsin, too. South Milwaukee, to be exact. Both DH and I were raised here and now we're raising our kids here, too. I am a UW-Madison alum, so I know approximately where Lomira is.
I frequent scrapbooking message boards a lot and have done tons of image posting there. I'm familiar with galleries and uploading. But when I go into the DIS gallery, I don't see the option to upload images. Really this is not off-topic as it pertains to me adding photos to this TR.
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