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stephielela 12-27-2010 08:18 PM

The Do's and Don'ts of my Disney Deluxe December!
Welcome to my TR! For those of you who followed me over from my PTR, you know how long I had been planning this trip, and all of the thought and effort I put into every day. Thanks for putting up with me and my back and forth decision making. Now you get to see if it paid off!

The title is based on how I felt the overall experience went. I definitely feel that this trip had both ups and downs, and I plan on sharing both with you so that hopefully lessons can be learned. I know I learned a lot about myself and how I want future trips to go. Thatís why I am calling it the Doís and Doníts, to emphasize the things that were great, and the things that could have been done better.

For those of you just joining me, our trip dates were Dec 16th-22nd. We stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort in 2 standard rooms, and we upgraded our free dining to the Deluxe plan. We had 5 people total, my mom, dad, sister, son (Jack), and myself, but Jack is only 2 so we didnít pay for him! Here we all are on our first big day!

So here are the first set of Doís and DonítísÖ

If you like Christmas, even a little bit, DO go in December. The decorations are magical and special and will make even the grinchiest heart grow a few sizes. However, DONíT go in the last half of the month, the crowds were worse than I remembered.
If you want to spend a little more money DO stay at CBR. DONíT expect it to be incrementally better than a value resort, for example POP. Especially during peak seasons, the rooms are at least $100 more per night, and they are not worth and additional $100. If I had more money I would probably always stay at the moderate level, but because I am a single mother not making big bucks, we stay at value resorts because they are a VALUE. The moderate resorts have nicer amenities but the rooms at CBR just werenít that nice or much bigger. I would prefer to save the money and stay cheap, since we donít spend much time in our rooms. I will say the soundproofing did seem a bit better at CBR, but it also possible that is based on the fact we were in a more interior location with less foot traffic.

DO go with your family, (the holidays are a time for family and itís especially nice when they are footing the bill). DONíT try to do everything together. If you do, donít expect to be feeling much family love by the end of your trip! As it turns out, my ďtouring styleĒ has morphed into something the rest of my family doesnít relate to. We have always been rope drop people, getting there early and hitting hard, and going strong till weíre done. In September, when Jack and I took our solo trip, we were much more relaxed. Jack sleeps late in the morning and so we got to the parks a but later and were a bit more leisurely in what we did. Of course, Jack is only 2 so he canít do as much, but I really got used to the idea that we donít have to see everything since we know we will be back. This did not mesh well with my parents touring style. I wish I had realized this earlier and done something about it, like stayed at the hotel for part of the morning and caught up with them later, but I didnít and consequently Jack was tired and cranky a good chunk of the time and we had to go back and take naps almost everyday.

As for the Deluxe DiningÖ It was amazing. We ate and ate and ate at a bunch of great places we have always wanted to try, but would never have felt comfortable paying for. I do believe that since we only paid for our upgrade we definitely got our moneyís worth. I would do it again, but only under different circumstances. Kids are not made to sit at 2 hour long meals once or twice each day, so if I did it again, it would be an adults only experience. Even then I think it would need to be a special occasion, to justify it, or I would have to have won the lottery or married a very rich man so that I didnít have to worry about whether I wasted the credits. So itís a DO if you want to eat a lot, and arenít worried about kids ruining the experience or missing out on park time. Itís a DONíT if you are wanting to tour the park commando style and visit every ride and attraction and see every parade etc.

jenseib 12-27-2010 08:34 PM

I'm here!!!:cool1: and 1st, wow! Great start. Like the title

stephielela 12-27-2010 09:29 PM


Originally Posted by jenseib (Post 39321797)
I'm here!!!:cool1: and 1st, wow! Great start. Like the title

Yay Jen! Welcome!!! I'm glad you like the title, it took me a while, otherwise I would have started this TR earlier! :lmao:

DisneyFirefly 12-27-2010 10:00 PM

I'm here! :yay:

luckylady 12-27-2010 10:03 PM

I'm in. You can always learn something on one trip for another one.

stephielela 12-27-2010 10:14 PM


Originally Posted by DisneyFirefly (Post 39322747)
I'm here! :yay:

Hi Dana!!! Welcome!!!


Originally Posted by luckylady (Post 39322771)
I'm in. You can always learn something on one trip for another one.

Welcome! I think it's the best reason to read about other peoples trips, so you can learn new things to try (or not to!)

stephielela 12-27-2010 10:19 PM

Day 1
December 16th Arrival Day

This day was always going to be complicated. We were flying out at 10:30 am, we had to kennel my dog, get our luggage to the airport, get it checked under only 3 of our names since only 3 of us were taking the Magical Express, and then there is the 3 hour flight itself, with a 2 year old and my mom who dislikes flying. We had our plan and it worked pretty smoothly, we got to the airport right on schedule. :cool2: Then we checked the departures board. :rolleyes1 That's when the plans began to crumble. All the planning in the world doesn't help when things are out of your control, like our plane being delayed. :headache: We got to the airport at about 8:30 am. At that point the flight was delayed until 12:20. Well, there goes our plan to have my parents swing by DTD and pick up Earl of Sandwich for us for lunch! WE decide rather than waiting at the airport which has very little to entertain anyone, we would get back inthe car and go to breakfast. We ended up at IHOP, and had a pretty enjoyable meal. I had the stuffed french toast platter, my sister had the belgian waffle, dad had the breakfast platter, and my mom had the double blueberry pancake platter. The bill came to about $40. We all shared with Jack and he ate quite a bit. After breakfast we stopped by Babies R Us to pick up the Maclaren stroller organizer for the stroller($20).

Then we went to Borders so I could use their free internet to see if I could find out anything else about flights, since our flight had been delayed even further to 12:55 pm. Of course by the time we got to the airport it was delayed AGAIn until 1:20 pm. By this point my nerves were shot. It was 11:30 am. I called ME to make sure it wasn't a problem that our flight was delayed, they said they get the flight updates anyways so no problem. I also called the dining people to find out what would happen if we didn't make it to our 7:45 pm ADR at CAlifornia Grill. They require a credit card to make the reservation and they have a cancellation policy, but the CM said if we had to cancel due to travel delays it wouldn't be an issue. After these phone calls, and the thought that my perfectly planned trip was already falling apart and we hadn't even left yet, I decided I needed a drink. We headed to the Jose Cuervo Tequileria ( I was not the only one who felt this was a good idea) and ordered 4 margaritas and an OJ (for Jack). We also got some chips and salsa because we figured it would be a while before we ate again. Naturally since we were at an airport the drinks were overpriced, and I think it ran us about $60 after tip. After this we decided to go ahead and go through security. We made it through with only a minimum of hassle, which is to be expected when toting a 2 year old around, and then we found our gate.

We almost exclusively fly Southwest, and we checked in at 24 hours prior on the dot. Even so, we ended up with A60, B2, 3, 4, and 29. My dad had A60, so he boarded first with the carseat. Then Jack and I boarded with family boarding. By the time we got on the plane, the attendant was telling my dad the carseat wasn't ariline approved. The only reason we were bringing it was because we needed it for the rental car, so it wasn't a big deal. I was surprised since we had used it once before, but they gate checked it for us. My mom and sister boarded shortly after and got in the row in front of us. Unfortunately it was a full flight so they had to have a stranger sitting at the window seat, so she was in front of Jack. I try really hard to make sure he doesn't kick seats or play with the tray table too much, but it is really hard keeping a confined 2 year old boy calm. Eventually everyone was buckled in and we were ready for take off. Our flight took off at 1:28 pm and we were heading towards freedom... Now would we make it to our ADR on time? :confused3

From this day I learned these things...
DO go with the flow. There is nothing you can do about flight delays, least of all in the winter and it's no good stressing about it. DO have a drink at the airport bar if it helps.

DON'T plan any must do's on your arrival day. You just never know.

DO fly Southwest. I love that airline!

DLB 12-28-2010 01:51 AM

Cant wait to here more! I normally do not follow TR but your title really grabbed my attention....

jenseib 12-28-2010 08:20 AM

Sounds like you made the best of the day. I have been involved in delays in the past too. Both times I was going on a cruise, and got panicky, but they all worked out.

How did you like the Maclaren organizer? I am thinking of getting one (not sure which brand) before the trip as well.

I agree about being careful waht you plan on arrival day as well. Anything can go wrong when it comes to flights. Most trips we have just planned for CS that day since I am always over worried about time. Last trip we did do CRT that day, but I had it planned for really late, and luckily it worked out.

stephielela 12-28-2010 05:09 PM


Originally Posted by DLB (Post 39324136)
Cant wait to here more! I normally do not follow TR but your title really grabbed my attention....

Welcome!! Now that I have grabbed your attention, I hope I can keep it!


Originally Posted by jenseib (Post 39324799)
Sounds like you made the best of the day. I have been involved in delays in the past too. Both times I was going on a cruise, and got panicky, but they all worked out.

How did you like the Maclaren organizer? I am thinking of getting one (not sure which brand) before the trip as well.

I agree about being careful waht you plan on arrival day as well. Anything can go wrong when it comes to flights. Most trips we have just planned for CS that day since I am always over worried about time. Last trip we did do CRT that day, but I had it planned for really late, and luckily it worked out.

As far as the Maclaren organizer, while it came in handy, the cupholders are to small (or the fabric needs to be stretched) it was kind of a chore to get anything in there, even standard sized drinks. I know other companies make them, so I would test them out first, especially since that was the main reason I bought it. It was nice to have his pullups, wipes, and autograph book handy in the big pocket.

stephielela 12-28-2010 07:35 PM

Here's a few pictures from the airport.

Jack and I wearing our matching tshirts

A shot of our carryons (just remember there were 5 of us, so 5 carryon bags and 5 personal items allowed!)

And here's Jack, just waiting for our turn...

Up next, the rest of the Day 1 Drama!

stephielela 12-28-2010 07:46 PM

Day 1 Continued, CBR and Dinner!
When I left off, we were on our plane that had FINALLY taken off and we were headed at last to out vacation destination! I was still stressing about our dinner reservation. Our flight took off at 1:30 and we are on CST so that's 2:30 Orlando time. It's roughly a 3 hour flight, which has us landing at 5:30 pm. Our California Grill reservation was for 7:45 pm. The plan was for my parents to get the rental car and my sister, Jack and I to take the ME (so we could check all our luggage and not have to deal with picking it up at MCO) and we would rendezvous at CBR in our (presumably connecting) rooms. We had all packed our dinner clothes in our carryons (Thank goodness!) and so we could just change quickly and blast out of there and head to the Contemporary. Not at all the leisurely resort day I had planned, but it still looked like we would make it!

Jack spent a lot of the flight watching Toy Story 3 which I had deliberately waited to give him until this trip. He is a restless flier though, andhas a hard time sitting still, so it only worked for part of the flight.

Caught him here in mid-sneeze!

Our luck did in fact turn around on our flight, we arrived at MCO at 4:40 pm. we all stopped at the potty and then got on the "train" which Jack LOVES! (even though here he looks a bit sad)

Then we split up and the 3 of us headed right to ME as planned. It is a FAR walk. It was far in September, and it is still far. Especially when you are hurrying. We got there and got right onto a bus, but it was a boring yellow Mears bus, not the experience I wanted my sister to have, but oh well, they still played the movie.

The bus pulled out at 5:18 pm and it was PACKED! The driver said it was going to 5 resorts. The movie started, and I will admit, the new opening with the "Memories" ad campaign almost caused me to tear up. Almost. We enjoyed our ride and got to WDW property as it was getting dark. The first stop was Pop Century which we got to at 5:49. I find it ironic that in September when we were staying there, the bus went to CBR first and then Pop. Now that we were staying at CBR, the bus went to Pop first, and CBR was the second stop. I swear it's a conspiracy! Or bad luck.

We got to the custom's house in one piece. At this point I no longer had the ability to keep track of time, but oh well. My mom wanted my sister to switch to a different credit card so I had her check in while I took pictures of the lobby.

We had done online check in and I had also faxed in room requests. I never got around to calling to verify they got those requests, and someone on the CBR thread said they didn't think CBR did faxes anymore. I sincerely hope they are right, since I sent in a very pleasant fax asking for some locations and when we checked in we didn't get any of them.

Side note: I work in a hotel, at a hotel front desk as a matter of fact, so I check people in and out all day long. I also take reservations and room requests, and we do our best to meet those requests. However working in this industry has taught me that sometimes, they just can't meet your request, and so I was totally ok with not getting what I asked for location wise. I was disappointed, but I am not that person who pitches a fit because I feel jipped. I will say our CM didn't seem overly enthusiastic or friendly and didn't bother to tell us whether our parents (who had already checked in) were in rooms connecting or not. No biggie, everyone has off days.

After about 10 minutes of waiting and 2 of checking in, we were on our way! We were in Barbados bldg 16 so we just walked over there from Custom's house. In fact a ride was not offered, and my bag was heavy, but we preffered to walk anyways. It was dark so we got a bit turned around once we were in Barbados, but we found it pretty quickly, and my parents (who were in a connecting room) heard us coming and opened the door to help us! We were in 1627 and 1628, facing an interior courtyard on the first level. So basically 3 of my requests were met, connecting, first floor, and interior courtyard (I didn't want to dace a parking lot in case Jack managed to open the door while we weren't looking and run out), so after I got to our room I was much happier. I had requested Aruba or Jamaica 51 or 45, but I know a lot of people request those, and I got everything else I wanted so YAY!

stephielela 12-28-2010 07:54 PM

The rest of Day 1
We quickly changed into our dinner clothes and hopped in the car and headed to the Contemporary. I wanted to get there early to look around and maybe shop, and I think we parked around 7:10. We went in and found the check in desk and glanced in the stores, but we were all hungry so we didn't shop much.

I loved the giant Mickey wreath on the building!

We checked in a bit early and they took us up in the special elevator. Jack was tired and cranky and I could tell it was going to be a struggle to keep him happy. I had brought a play pack I had bought from Target for him with crayons ans stickers etc just in case. We ended up getting seated early and at a nice big round table. Gary was our server and he did a great job and was helpful in tryign to make Jack happy. He also made several great dinner suggestions. We weren't at a window table, but we were close to the door that led outside to the viewing area. We took turns taking Jack out between courses. Here I am super exhausted and excited to be here. I still don't know why I look so wierd, but whatever!

We all ordered drinks, I had the Sangria $12 (the best I have EVER had), my sister had the Simply Nutty Martini $12 (she liked it enough to drink it all) and my parents had wine. My dad did the half bottle of the Rutherford Merlot $30 and my mom had a glass of the Montelena CHardonnay which she thought was great and was $18. For appetizers, my mom had the cheeseboard which she was thrilled with (I think this prompted her and my sister to order a cheeseboard at other restaurants as well). I had the Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli, which was delicious, but not large, and my sister and dad had flatbreads (dad had the pork apple one and my sister had the 4 cheese). Gary also brought a bowl full of goldfish for Jack.

For the main course, my mom, sister and I all ordered the Filet. We were all very happy with it, and Jack got a big helping of steak from each of us. My dad got the veal, which no one but him eats. He enjoyed it as well. After dinner we had a pretty large break so that we could go watch Holiday Wishes! It was very cold out, but so worth it. The view was great and we got out ther a few minutes early so that we could get a front row spot. It was a great new way to see the show. My only complaint is that you are off to the side, so you aren't seeing the centered view, but it was still awsome!!

Once we got back inside we ordered dessert. My dad got the banana dessert, and the rest of us go the Valrhona chocolate cake. I guess because it was the holiday version, it came with peppermint bark and the ice cream was egg nog. I didn't care for the ice cream, but it didn't matter since I barely had room for a few bites of cake. We were all very happy and full when we left. Our meal came to around $350 before tip. We NEVER would have enjoyed eating here if wehadn't been on the dining plan because we would have been trying to eat cheaper, so I'm really glad we changed our original plan and added the dining plan for this night as well. Also Gary informed us that Thomas Gibson (our narrator the next night for the processional) had just come into the restaurant. He said all the celebrities eat there when they come to visit!

Here are a bunch of pictures to demonstrate the view, none of them are that good, but they serve a purpose.

The electrical water pageant!

Holiday Wishes!

We left the Contemporary around 10:30 and went back to our room. Our luggage all made it and we spent some time unpacking and watching Stacy on the Disney Must Do's channel. Jack is now in LOVE with Stacy.

Our original plan for the next day was to get up and do rope drop at MK. After the looooooong day anf the lack or rest time in the afternoon, I decided I would prefer to stay at the resort and sleep in a bit before our lunch and dinner at Epcot. I also wanted Jack to get a good nights sleep, and my mom agreed. My dad and sister are die hard commando style touring people, so they decided they were going to go to MK without us, and set their alarms accordingly. I believe we finally turned off the lights shortly after midnight.

So without further aDO (ahahaha pun totally intended) here are the Do's and Don't's from our first evening of magic!

DO call in your room requests for CBR.

DON'T fax them in and DON'T get too caught in the "perfect" room, make the best of what you get!

DO pack anything you might need for your first day/night in your carryon!!

DO try California Grill at least once in your life. The food was great, service was spectacular, and the view for Wishes is awesome.

DON'T take small children if you can help it. It would have been more enjoyable without his restlessness.

weswife 12-28-2010 08:11 PM

I am enjoying your trip report!!!! We will have our 1st Christmas trip in 2011!:)

DisneyFirefly 12-28-2010 08:24 PM

I really can't wait to try California Grill. We're doing it on our October trip next year :teeth:

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