My First Real Trip, a July 2012 PTR: **CHANGES UPDATE 6/18**
I have always dreamed of a Disney vacation. As a child, I used to go to the local video store and rent every Disney-themed VHS I could find. I remember watching one that did a tour of the park (I’m not sure now if it was Walt Disney World, or Disneyland – it didn’t matter at the time). I came from a family that struggled just to make ends meet. When I was a junior in high school, my dream came true. Sort of. My high school marching band was taking a trip to Orlando to be in a bowl parade (again, not sure which parade) and the Christmas parade in the Magic Kingdom. The drawbacks: We stayed off-site, half a day in the Magic Kingdom, a whole day in EPCOT, and half a day in MGM (as it was then). No Animal Kingdom. It was dreary and rainy the whole time we were in Florida. I can count the number of rides I rode on my fingers. While it was still an awesome experience, I left feeling somewhat disappointed. Fast forward seven years. When my husband and I discussed honeymoon possibilities, we brought up Disney and quickly tossed it aside. We were on a strict budget and didn’t think it would be possible. Looking back, we could have spent less going to Disney World than the beach trip that we ended up taking. But hindsight is 20/20. Our honeymoon wasn’t the greatest experience. We did what we could but everything cost twice as much as we had planned. Fast forward another four years (our 4th anniversary). We decided to make our 5th anniversary special, and finally take a trip to Disney. A second chance at the honeymoon we feel we missed out on.
Cast of CharactersMe: 28 years old, a teacher. For me, summer is the only option for a vacation. My goal is to lose 30 lbs before we go. My emotions regarding our upcoming trip go between absolute excitement and being incredibly sad to leave our 3 fur-babies behind while we’re on our trip. We have three cats, and I’m very protective over them – we don’t have kids, so they are my babies. I will probably cry when we leave.
J: 32 years old, works in the food/beverage industry. He can go on vacation any time. His goal is also to lose 30 lbs before we go. I think he’s excited, but he really won’t show it. J has been to Disney World twice before, but it has been almost 20 years since his last trip.
Deciding on a DateDeciding on a general time of year wasn’t hard. After all, I have no choice but to go in the summer. I had wanted to plan our vacation for the first week of June – right when school let out. J wanted to go in the beginning of July – he wanted our first day to be on our anniversary. I couldn’t persuade him otherwise, so July it was. We booked our trip almost a year in advance, as soon as we decided on the dates. When the free dining dates came out, we briefly discussed changing our trip to the last week of August – my school does not start until after Labor Day. However, I would miss two orientation days. We quickly decided to stay with our initial plan, and arrive on July 7th. We will be leaving Disney World on July 14th, going to Universal Studios for three days, and finally heading home on July 18th.
Deciding on a ResortWe had discussed resorts many times, even before we decided to go. J and I had always assumed that our only option would be the value resorts, and had decided on Pop Century. While we were both fine with staying at the Pop Century, we just didn’t know if it was what we wanted for our anniversary. We started pricing different resorts, and contemplated staying off-site. I mentioned to J that we might want to look at the Moderate resorts – we had priced a Deluxe resort and knew it was way out of our budget. The problem was deciding on a resort. My picks were Coronado Springs and Caribbean Beach Resort. J’s picks were Port Orleans – French Quarter and Port Orleans – Riverside. After doing some research on resort specifics, ratings and reviews, and pricing different packages, we decided on Port Orleans – French Quarter for a variety of reasons, with our main reasons being its small size and romantic atmosphere.
Chapter Links1. Weight Loss and Dining/Park Overview
2. Part 2: Switch to Universal
3. Off the Beaten Path: Fun Activities
4. Things We'll Miss, Some Changes, and Decisions
6. Arrival and Day 1
7. Day 2
8. Day 3
9. Day 4
10. Day 5
11. Day 6
12. Day 7 and Day 8 (Last day at Disney)
13. Weight Loss Update
14. Days 9 - 12 (Universal Plans)
15. Some Changes
Weight Loss Journey and Deciding on a Dining PlanBefore I begin with our dining plans, I want to give some background on my weight loss journey. I started this past August at the heaviest I’ve ever been. With a personal trainer and some changes in habits (mostly portion control), I’ve managed to lose roughly 35 lbs. This may not sound like much, but it’s been steady, which is major progress for me. I’ve always had weight issues and I’m used to having my weight yo-yo up and down. I’m still working and hoping to lose another 30 lbs before we go, as is my husband J. That being said, we didn’t really feel that the quick service dining plan would be the best choice for us. My husband was still concerned about the amount of quick service on the regular dining plan, so we decided to go for the Deluxe Dining Plan. The rationale was that we would have access to better choices than we would with either the quick service or regular dining plans. We will be eating three sit-down meals for most of the days. I know that some people say not to do this, but this will most likely be our first and only trip without children, and we wanted to do it our own way. Breakfast buffets work great for us because while J is a breakfast lover, I’m picky about breakfast foods and I can try a variety of different foods.
Our Dining Plans/Itinerary
This is our actual arrival date, and we will be staying off-site for the night. I wanted to be there as early as possible to maximize our time in the parks, especially since we have the Water Park & More option. Right now, we are planning to possibly visit Downtown Disney. I’m open to suggestions for quick/counter service for (a possibly late) dinner in Downtown Disney.
This is our anniversary. Yes, we were married on 07-07-07. We had thought about spending our first day in the Magic Kingdom, but decided to use one of our water park credits since we wanted to have a romantic evening and didn’t want to feel like we were wasting a day at the park. We will be arriving at the resort first thing in the morning and having our luggage stored until our room is ready.
Park: either Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach (not sure yet, but open to suggestions)
Breakfast: Sassagoula Floatworks
Lunch: Turf Club Bar & Grill
Dinner: Fulton’s Crab House (my husband has his heart set on this, but I’ve heard some mixed reviews)
We also have a carriage ride scheduled at Port Orleans Riverside. J wants to attempt a game of mini-golf between lunch and dinner. I think we’ll be exploring Downtown Disney after dinner, and probably Disney Quest.
Park: Magic Kingdom
Breakfast: Crystal Palace
Lunch: Liberty Tree Tavern
Dinner: Quick/Counter Service (open to suggestions). We originally had Tony’s Town Square scheduled, but decided to cancel it since we are hoping to do the Tomorrowland Terrace Dessert Party.
Breakfast: ‘Ohana – I am truly excited for ‘Ohana. This was the first restaurant that I decided on for our trip.
Lunch: Biergarten (per J’s request). J is of German descent and is a lover of German food. This was no question for him.
Dinner: Akershus – I’m also very excited for this, since it’s an opportunity to broaden my tastes.
Park: ??? (we may park hop since all ADRs are out of the parks)
Breakfast: Kona Café (originally had Trail’s End Restaurant scheduled here, but decided to swap in favor of Tonga Toast, and also after reading of lengthy transportation and vehicle restrictions - we were planning on driving our own car until we read of the restrictions)
Lunch: Raglan Road (another of J’s picks)
Dinner: Kouzzina by Cat Cora (if I remember right, I’ve also read mixed reviews on this restaurant)
Park: Hollywood Studios
Breakfast: Boma (my pick)
Lunch: Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater (J’s pick)
Dinner: Mama Melrose (Fantasmic! Dining package) - We initially had Hollywood & Vine scheduled, but after hearing that the food wasn't great, we decided to change to Mama Melrose. It took me two weeks to find an opening for dinner time, but persistence paid off.
Park: ??? (possibly a water park for part of the day)
Breakfast: Chef Mickey’s
Lunch: Captain’s Grille
Dinner: Kona Café – we’re hoping to see the Electrical Water Pageant after dinner. Any suggestions on how to go about this?
Park: Animal Kingdom
Breakfast: Tusker House
Lunch: Yak & Yeti (originally had Rainforest Café scheduled here, but decided to change it)
Dinner: Boatwright’s Dining Hall
Park: Magic Kingdom
Breakfast: 1900 Park Fare
Lunch: Quick/Counter Service (once again, suggestions welcome)
Dinner: Might be in park, but it depends on when we decide to leave
Any suggestions/opinions are welcome. :) Next up, Round 2: Universal Studios
Also, any suggestions for a better font/size/color? I think the current choice is hard to read...
I'm in for your ptr :)
Congrats on your weight loss! :cheer2:
I think losing 2 lbs is hard, so 30 is awesome!
I know what you mean by always wanting to go to Disney while growing up, that's how I was.
All of your food choices sound great!
Joining in!:goodvibes I followed you over from my PTR.:)
Congratulations on the weight loss! I think that's a huge accomplishment. I am also trying to lose weight for our trip and it's not easy.
How exciting to be able to do the Deluxe Dining Plan! It sounds like you have a lot of great places picked out to eat.:thumbsup2
Can't wait to read more.popcorn::
Congrats on your upcoming trip AND your weight loss! 35 pounds is a lot ~ and makes you feel so much different doesn't it?
I can't wait to follow along on your adventures with you!
Cant wait to hear all about your trip since we have the same resort and Dining plan!!
CONGRATS on loosing 35 lbs! That is really something to be proud of...
I am interested in how you like Boatwights. We were also thinking of doing that one at some point.?
Just curious of your plan to get from BOMA to Animal Kingdom. I wanted to try that place too, but I have heard it is hard to get too.
(grab a bus to a park, switch to AKL bus, EAT, then bus to park)
Well? once I wrote it out it wasn't too bad sounding. Hmm - now you have me thinking I can do it!!!
I like all you other ADR choices. The only one that I might change is Hollywood and Vine F! package. The food isn't that great.. BUT - it wasn't terrible either. I have heard good things about Mama Melrose F!
We loved Askershaus!!!
We love Wolfgang Pucks Express in Downtown Disney. Great options for a counter service. We stayed at SSR last year and went to Wolfgang Puck Express several times. Everything I tried awesome.
Congrats on your weight loss. I too am trying to make it to a goal prior to my Disney trip.
POFQ is an awesome resort. It is so relaxing and we loved the size of the resort. Please have a beignet for me.
Joining in! :)
Congrats on your weight loss! I'm also in the process of losing weight... DH and I are on week 10 of a 12 week program. So far I've lost 25 lbs, and hope to lose at least 5 more while on the program. After that, I'm hoping to lose another 20 lbs (at least) by the time we go on our anniversary trip in October!
We've never been to any of the water parks, so I don't have any personal recommendations on those... but my BFF has been to Typhoon Lagoon and loved it.
As for quick service meals at DTD, I can suggest Earl of Sandwich... I ate there twice on my trip last year! Very yummy. I've also heard nothing but good things about Wolfgang Puck Express, but haven't been there myself. I think I also read somewhere that it's the best quick service value in all of WDW.
If you can book the Dessert Party, I say go for it! Especially if you love sweets, LOL. I went last year and had a great time. There's a ton of desserts (and variety) and it was so nice to have somewhere to sit and enjoy Wishes.
I've already made one change to our dining plans since I posted the itinerary above. We decided to switch our Trail's End reservation to Kona Cafe. I've read great things about Tonga Toast, and we both really want to try it. I didn't see anything special about Trail's End, other than run of the mill breakfast buffet foods. And I think I'm going to look into Mama Melrose's in place of Hollywood & Vine. Thank you all for your support and suggestions! :love:
Vacation Part 2: Switch to Universal
After budgeting our money for Disney, we wanted to do our Universal portion as cheaply as possible. The three Universal partner hotels were way out of our price range. Hotels, plus park tickets…I didn’t think we’d be able to do Universal. I started racking my brain, messing with package options. I wanted an affordable hotel, but something clean, comfortable, and reputable. I completely forgot about having AAA. J suggested searching for AAA discounts. I was able to book a package through AAA for four nights at the Holiday Inn at the Entrance to Universal, with three days of park tickets and a breakfast reservation at Three Broomsticks for roughly $740. Considering that the tickets are almost $300 of that total, I didn’t think that was bad. I did see a few cheaper packages, but according to my research, this hotel is walking distance. Included in the package is also early entry into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – our main reason for going. Aside from our Three Broomsticks breakfast reservation, we have no dining plans. I welcome any suggestions. Also, we may get the Express Passes for one of our Islands of Adventure days – does anyone have any experience with this? Is it worth the money?
Park: Islands of Adventure
Breakfast: Three Broomsticks
Park: Universal Studios
J wants to see a wrestling taping, if they are happening at that time. He has put up with my mania in planning this trip, so I’m willing to grant him that wish.
Park: Islands of Adventure
Depart for home :(
Count me in!! Were going in July also we will be there July 8 thru July 15..
To update on the Hollywood & Vine/Mama Melrose debate, Mama Melrose doesn't have any openings for dinner on the day we're planning on going, so we're probably going to stick with Hollywood & Vine. With such mixed reviews, it does concern me, but as J said, if we eat there and don't like it, we don't go there again. I know I shouldn't stress out about one meal; it won't ruin our trip if it isn't great, but I might ruin our trip if I stress out about every little thing (which I am prone to do).
Off the Beaten Path
J is very interested in doing some things that are “hidden gems.” On our list so far:
Carriage ride at POR
Characters in Flight
Pick an oyster in EPCOT (Japan)
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom (for J)
Swim in the Shark Reef at Typhoon Lagoon
Electrical Water Pageant (after dinner at Kona Cafe)
I'd love to add some interesting things to this list, so if you know of anything interesting, let me know.
We're getting closer... :cloud9:
I have a couple of additions/details/changes to my schedule, but this week is going to be extremely hectic at work, so I'm not sure when I'll get to it. More to come!
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