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Colleen27 10-23-2012 01:54 PM

A Year of Disney Magic - New ToC, March TR updates, Dec ADR countdown
I think the best place to start this PTR is with a quick lesson on the importance of precise language for effective communication. This is especially important when dealing with a Disney addict and seasoned planner.

Why, you ask?

Because when my husband and I planned our January '12 trip, we agreed that it would be our last family vacation to Disney World for a few years. The kids are getting older, my husband's options for vacation time recently got much more flexible, and there are many other places we'd like to go. So reluctantly I agreed. Our next big Disney adventure will be southern California with a few days at Disneyland in 2014, and we wont go back to WDW as a family until 2016 at the earliest.

But that stipulation was about our big, annual, whole family vacation. No one said anything about weekend getaways or winter escapes, right? ;)

We have a long standing precedent of mini-trips with just part of the family. My mother & I took the kids to the Beach Club for a birthday while DH stayed home to work, I took my girls to Flower & Garden in 2011 and then back again for a Girl Scout event over Memorial Day weekend this year, DH takes DS hunting every fall and canoeing in the summer, DH & I go away for a night or two every year around our anniversary. So I got to thinking... :idea: What if this year we make Disney World the theme of those short trips?

Brilliant, right?!? :rolleyes1

I wasn't so sure DH would appreciate my genius and I prepared myself to do some serious persuasion. It was a bit of a letdown really... I approached him with budgets and dates, geared up to plead my case, and he actually liked the idea. He didn't raise a single objection! It totally took the wind out of my sails! :faint:

But with that hurdle cleared a plan began to take shape.

Ive taken my girls before but always as a unit. Between sports, school, and DS's generally less enthusiastic view of Disney Ive never had a chance to do a mother-son Disney trip. And DH and I have been talking about a child-free trip since our very first Disney vacation back in '05 when we got just a taste of the Food & Wine Festival and decided we had to try it again without little ones in tow.

So the planning is on, and boy is there a lot of it!

Right now, there are 3 fairly well defined trips in the making:

1) April 12 to 15. Just me. Solo, during the Flower & Garden Festival. Truly a dream come true. :hyper: This one started as a what-if conversation with a group of ladies I connected with on another Disney travel forum years and years ago. We've long since taken our conversation to a private e-mail loop and Disney is only a small part of what we talk about these days, but we've never met in person. So were planning an April meet. Because of the meet, these dates are more or less carved in stone.

Solo in the Garden:
The Itinerary
The Trip Report:

Cancelled - 2) May 24 to 27. My son and I. Hes 14 and way too cool for Disney, of course, but while I was planning the Girl Scout trip with my girls he caught sight of some of the Star Wars Weekend info and expressed an interest. That in itself is such an unusual thing that I wanted to make a mother-son trip happen. These dates are pretty well set too, since Memorial Day is the closest thing we have to a school break during SWW and we prefer to minimize missed days. A nice bonus is that my birthday is also that weekend and as I learned this year, there's no better place to celebrate.

3) Sept 26 to 30? A romantic weekend for DH & I at the start of the Food & Wine Festival. :love: Our anniversary is in early September, a date chosen for beautiful weather without giving much thought to how hard it is to fit a celebration into the back-to-school madness, and we're used to celebrating late. The dates of this one might shift a bit, but for right now I chose them to line up with the Tower of Terror 10 miler because I've been wanting to run a Disney race.

And 2 more that are a little fuzzier:

4) We have dates! Nov 30 to Dec 4!. This could be the kick off to my Disney year or the finale, but I would like to take my youngest to see the holiday festivities at Disney World. Her very first trip was just before Christmas in 09 and we had a blast, and I know she'd love it even more now. And because the girls have more or less been a unit all their lives I'd like to plan a trip just for her, to take it all in at 4yo pace rather than fitting in our special moments around the older kids' commando habits.

5) Sometime in August... March 1 to 9 This is the long shot of the bunch because it hinges on factors outside my control. I'd actually hoped to do this for my older daughter's 13th birthday, but since I'll have an annual pass when she turns 12 it makes more sense to push it up a year. I would like to take DD11 and her BFF, who is basically part of the family and has been since they were in preschool together, to WDW together.

Maybe August becomes Early March:
The Itinerary
The Trip Report:
Day 1 & 2 - Miles & Miles
Day 3 - From Manatees to Mammoths
Day 4 - Hollywood Thrills and <brrr> Chills

So that's the outline for my year of Disney.

I have no idea how I'm going to keep the planning straight with several trips in the works at the same time. I've never done that before! I didn't even start thinking about our May trip until we were home in January. And that's where this PTR comes in - as a rolling planning journal for what promises to be a very magical year of adventures, to help me keep it all straight if not in my mind than in black-and-white to look back on when I just know I'm forgetting something vital. :surfweb:

rebeccaariel 10-23-2012 02:20 PM

You really are a genius! What an amazing year you're going to have! I'm really excited to follow along and hear how your planning progresses!

Colleen27 10-23-2012 07:00 PM

So, I go to start work on an introduction and I discover something unfortunate... My usual photo host, Webshots, is changing over to a new paid service and they seem to have disabled the resizing feature already. :(

Usually my trip reports are more picture than text so right now I'm migrating some of the pictures I know I'll use.

In the meantime, I may as well start with the intro that will have the least photos attached... Mine.

Not only am I the master planner and Disney nut of the family, I'm also the keeper of the camera. As such there aren't many photos of me from our adventures and truth be told I kind of like it that way. The camera adds 10 lbs that I just can't afford, if you know what I mean. :rolleyes: I'm working to remedy that, though. I'm down 24lbs since our May trip :yay: and hoping to make that a nice round 50 by my solo trip in April. :goodvibes

Still, I'm sure I can find one or two to dust off, just to put a face to the name.

This is an oldie, my now 14yo son and I on the Magic Behind Our Steam Trains tour on his 10th birthday in January of 2008.

This one is more recent, the whole family together at Animal Kingdom in January 2012.

I'm a stay at home mom to three great kids, ages 14, 11, and 4, and I plan to stay that way forever. Someone needs to hold down the fort and with the crazy, unpredictable hours DH works it sure isn't going to be him. :confused3 I work as a freelance writer from time to time and do a couple of craft shows each fall to pad the holiday budget, and that along with the kids' activities and volunteering keeps me busy enough.

My hobbies tend to the creative, and you'll see one showcased as the trips with the girls get rolling because I make them custom outfits for all our trips. I learned to sew when my youngest came along because it is all but impossible to buy matching clothes with the size/age difference between the girls, and it kind of snowballed from there.

Photography is a bit of a fascination too, and one of the things I'm most looking forward to about traveling solo is no one rushing me when I wander off after a shot that I just have to get. I have a tendency to take pictures of random details, because to me it is the details that really set Disney apart from anywhere else I've ever been. Like this:

Or this:

Because of that tendency, Epcot is my favorite park but Animal Kingdom is a very close second. The themeing at AK is top notch and there are so many wonderful little details to discover.

While we're talking favorites, it seems like a good time to share a few of mine...

Favorite Disney restaurant: California Grill. Great sushi, great view. What more could I ask?

Favorite Attraction: Tower of Terror. Perhaps the single most impressive testament to Disney's attention to detail, the ride is so much more than the mechanics alone.

Favorite Resort: The Beach Club. A beautiful resort with a fabulous pool, I look forward to getting back there soon but can't justify the expense for winter or commando trips.

So there you have it... The entire cast of my April Disney adventure. ;) I'll have intros to the rest of the crew once I get the photo situation settled. In the meantime, apologies for the massive photos... Photobucket doesn't seem to offer the resizing options that Webshots did. I'm off to check out Flikr next. :headache:

Colleen27 10-23-2012 07:12 PM


Originally Posted by rebeccaariel (Post 46526703)
You really are a genius! What an amazing year you're going to have! I'm really excited to follow along and hear how your planning progresses!


Colleen27 11-11-2012 10:15 PM

Sorry to go MIA just as I was getting rolling but things have been pretty busy around here. Halloween, the end of football season, and the start of cheerleading all sort of piled on this year! This week is actually looking a bit calmer, even though I'm a single mom for the week while DH is away on business, and I'm sure I'll have plenty of late-night planning and updates because I always have a hard time sleeping when he's gone.

I've been doing some resort homework and have started narrowing down my options. It is really fun to pick just the right resort for each trip, and I suspect it'll end up being 5 different resorts for 5 different trips.

April :
I'll be solo and won't spend much time in the room. I'm a rope drop to EMH close park commando and don't plan on slowing down enough to enjoy resort amenities. So for my solo trip, price is the main consideration. I'm still playing the AP rate waiting game but my top choice is...

Pop Century!

Actually, I'd prefer Art of Animation but so far the Little Mermaid rooms have been excluded from all discount offers and were so overbooked for next month that they're offering free upgrades to lure people into switching to a suite or to another resort. And I'm not willing to pay rack rate to stay there by myself. But Pop is the next best thing. We've stayed there twice and enjoyed it, and I can take a stroll across the bridge to look around and grab a bite at the AoA food court.

May :
This one is probably a long shot because cost will be a factor and I'm not quite ready to book yet even though that would give me the best shot at a price I'm willing to pay. But DS has a clear favorite Disney resort that is in the perfect location for a Star Wars Weekend trip so I'm going to do what I can to get....

The Beach Club. Ideally I'll rent points for a studio at the Beach Club Villas, but a room-only booking is possible too if a discount is offered and there's no DVC availability. It is a holiday weekend so the rates are higher than I'd like but we're only going for 3 nights so I think I can swing it.

A trip that is looking more and more possible by the day. This is the most exciting of all the trips I have in the works for my AP year because we all want so much to take DD's BFF to our "happy place", but we do need to keep the budget in mind. To that end, we're actually considering our very first off-site stay at... (photo from Wyndham's site)

Wyndham Bonnet Creek. I haven't stayed here yet but hear very good things about it, and where else could we get a 1 bedroom suite for around $100/night? We really want a suite for this trip so the girls can have their space and DH & I can have ours. Free dining is the wild card for this plan, though, because if it is offered a suite at All Star Music or Art of Animation becomes cost-competitive.


Now this is the trip that is up in the air, because taking DD's BFF is something DH really wants to be in on and he might not be able to get away from work twice in such a short time. But that'll likely mean pushing back to the end of Food & Wine rather than the beginning, not cancelling altogether. But whenever it happens resort choice is a no-brainer. (photo from Allears)

DH and I both loved the quiet, romantic atmosphere of Port Orleans on our first trip, so what better place to spend our anniversary getaway?


Another easy choice, because there's one resort I think my 4yo would love more than any other and with her a value resort is just perfect. (photo from Allears)

I'm hoping by December the standard rooms will be available with discounts, but if not I'm willing to pay rack rate or, if my mother ends up joining us, bump up to a suite. I'm that sure that DD4 will love it. She absolutely adores Pop Century but generally prefers zero-entry pools and loves splash pads so Art of Animation is perfect for her - all the colorful, lively theme of a value resort with a more fully featured pool area and better variety at the food court.

So that's the resort wrap up as it stands right now. Be warned, I tend to change vacation plans like I change clothes so any and all are subject to change based on availability, discounts, my mood, and the phase of the moon, but at this precise moment these are the resorts I have in mind. :hyper:

akayek31 12-05-2012 12:00 AM

I asked a CM on the phone when LM rooms would be available for discounts and she said June 2013. But you never know it could be sooner. I would love to stay there in Feb but my kids voted me down :rotfl:

Colleen27 01-27-2013 07:50 PM

Boy have I been neglecting this pre-trippie. In my defense, I started college full time this term and seriously underestimated the workload, and life has gone topsy-turvy again which has had me a bit down on my Disney planning.

But I'm back because I'm working the lemons-to-lemonade angle for all it is worth! DH's company is in some trouble, and he's looking at what should be a temporary layoff while they renegotiate the contract that they hired him to work on. The dark cloud - unemployment is less than half his working take home, and he might very well end up job hunting in the near future. Silver lining - we've got enough savings that the financial hit isn't a big deal, and we've decided to make the most of his time off.

So, DD11's BFF trip is no longer an August "maybe". It is a March reality! Time to introduce the cast...
DSC05044 by Cam5279, on Flickr

Shanna and Kaylee. Shanna, in blue, is my actual daughter but Kaylee is my "bonus" daughter and is practically part of the family. They've been best friends since preschool and Shanna has been bugging me for years to take Kaylee with us to Disney. Kaylee and her mom recently moved in with her grandmother, after her grandmother had a stroke, and she's had a hard time adjusting so DH & I got to talking and decided this would be the perfect time to do something extra-special with the girls.
DSC02802 by Cam5279, on Flickr

Also coming along on this trip is DH, Ken. He's a big kid himself and both girls (actually all four girls - DD4 and her BFF too) are total "daddy's girls" so leaving him behind on this trip was out of the question. That's the biggest reason behind the change of dates; if he does end up changing jobs he likely won't have much if any vacation time to take in August, and even though we've traveled without him before Shanna was adamant that for this trip he had to come.

There was some epic waffling about dates, as first academic olympiad and then science fair and finally a milestone birthday party got in the way, but at long last we found a week that works for both of our super-busy middle schoolers and the real planning is underway.

Colleen27 01-27-2013 10:09 PM

So, I've discovered something about myself in the planning of this last-minute adventure. Even with every possible obstacle to staying off-site removed, I just can't seem to bring myself to do it. I had every intention of booking Bonnet Creek for our trip with Kaylee, so that we'd have a little more privacy and room to spread out. After all, we'll have a car so transportation to the parks won't be an issue. I'll have an annual pass so paying for parking won't factor in either. But somehow I still found a reason to price out some on-site options, and the next thing I know I'm booking the AP rate at...
Disney's Coronado Springs Resort by X40985, on Flickr

Coronado Springs.

And we decided to splurge on their new business class/club level too. Between the perfect room location - building 9B, close to both the feature pool and the main building - and the continental breakfast and evening snacks in the lounge I figure it is worth the price. With the AP discount it cost $30-something/night more than a standard room.

I think the girls are going to love the pool and slide, and the lounge gives us a place to relax without sitting around in bed.

I've also started putting together a rough draft itinerary, and I am very excited about it.

The plan is to leave home on Friday, March 1 right after school. We'll have to deal with some traffic in the Detroit area but after that we'll have night and weekend on our side through the other cities on our route. It is I-75 all the way, about 18 hours total, and we're planning on driving straight through.

That will get us to Crystal Springs, FL in the early afternoon. We'll take a couple hours to look around the state park and enjoy the wildlife, then check into a hotel in the area for a good night's rest before the highlight of the stop - an early morning snorkeling tour with the manatees.

Shanna absolutely loves manatees and has wanted to go swimming with them ever since she saw her 2nd grade teacher's pictures of it. But more than that, she wants to see some of the "real" Florida - as far as my kids have seen, all there is is Orlando International Airport and WDW. So I think it'll be a really fun couple of days and a great way to start the trip.

The manatee excursion is super early in the morning, so even with a little time to relax afterwards we should make it to Disney by 2 or 3 in the afternoon.

I never plan anything for arrival days except rest and pool time, and this trip is no exception. If the weather doesn't cooperate for swimming we might pop over to catch a movie at Downtown Disney. We don't have fork-and-screen theatres in our area and Oz the Great and Powerful opens that weekend, so it is our "plan B" for a cool or rainy evening.
DSC08900 by Cam5279, on Flickr

Our first park day will be March 4, a Monday, and we're going to start at Studios. I'm bucking the "best park" guides here because Shanna loves evening EMH, and because it just works better for our schedule. And despite the generally poorly reviewed dining options here, this is the one day when I have two ADRs - Sci-Fi Dine In for lunch and 50s Prime Time for dinner.
DSC03069 by Cam5279, on Flickr

On the 5th, we'll head over to Animal Kingdom with an early dinner at Tusker House. After park closing we'll hang out around the resort if it is warm or head over to Downtown Disney for some shopping, bowling, or a movie if we didn't do that on arrival day.
DSC01284 by Cam5279, on Flickr

The 6th will be spent at Magic Kingdom, all day. I don't have any ADRs booked yet, but when it opens up I'll be booking the Tomorrowland Terrace Dessert Party. It'll be a first for all of us; since we've had the dining plan for most of our trips we've never managed to fit it in before.
DSC03678 by Cam5279, on Flickr

And our park time will wrap up with Epcot on the 7th. I left it for last so that we can be there after Flower & Garden Festival opens. We've been for the Festival once before and Shanna thought it would be nice to see again, plus she liked the sound of the new-for-this-year food booths.

Our departure day plan is still up for discussion. My first thought was to sleep in, swim, and then load up the car to head north. But then the Tigers announced their spring training schedule and I saw that they'll be at home that day. So now I'm tempted to leave Disney a little earlier and head down to Lakeland for their 1pm game before getting on the road back towards home. Shanna and I caught a spring training game when the Tigers were playing the Braves at Wide World of Sports in '11 but Ken is a huge baseball fan so it would be nice to squeeze in a game on this trip too.

Either way we'll drive as far as we can on Friday night, then get a room for the night and make the rest of the drive on Saturday so the girls have Sunday to recover before they have to go back to school.

Colleen27 02-26-2013 03:03 PM

With just 3 days left to go, my planning mojo seems to have vanished. I haven't even starting packing, and I'm still waffling on hotel choice for the Crystal River part of the trip!

The weather forecast has me a bit down. We decided to cancel the manatee swim in favor of a kayaking trip because the forecast high is only 60 for the day we have available there, and I was really looking forward to nice, warm FL not 40 degree lows! But we'll make the best of it, we always do.

I think the biggest thing is that there's just so much to do! Between packing and prepping the house for my mom to come stay with the other kids I'm a bit overwhelmed, and the fact that I have a full time courseload to manage this term isn't helping matters any.

However, I did add the dessert party as intended and after pre-ordering Photopass+, which includes the restaurant and attraction photos as well as the usual PP shots, decided to add a character meal or two as well. So we've got Akershus at 8am on our Epcot day... Talk about a score, less than 2 weeks out and a pre-opening time popped up! And we haven't booked a breakfast for our departure day but are considering either Ohana or Cape May, both of which have enough times available that we'll leave it to the last minute to decide.

And on the April planning front, I scored a great deal on airfare - $178 r/t - so my dates are now carved in stone: Thursday, April 11 to Monday, April 15. :cheer2: Next step is to call and find out if the Gardens of the World tour is being offered on a day that works for me.

CluelessDisFan 02-26-2013 03:43 PM

[QUOTE=And on the April planning front, I scored a great deal on airfare - $178 r/t - so my dates are now carved in stone: Thursday, April 11 to Monday, April 15. :cheer2: Next step is to call and find out if the Gardens of the World tour is being offered on a day that works for me.[/QUOTE]

So I just read your entire PTR! Sounds kind of similar to myself honestly minus the crafty part. I'm also a SAHM with an overworked Husband! Also I'm from MI! Now we live in Toledo, but are moving back to MI this year. So we still fly out of DTW.

How did you manage $178? That's amazing! We just paid $330 to fly Delta it wasn't the best deal, but even the best I found was still like $300 on Spirit. Our dates are April 15-20th close to your solo trip.

I talked my DH into letting me do a girls trip, it'll be my first trip to Disney without him, and he's pretty jealous. We're doing a family vacation to DLR in September though, that he's super excited for.

Colleen27 02-26-2013 09:18 PM


Originally Posted by CluelessDisFan (Post 47636402)
So I just read your entire PTR! Sounds kind of similar to myself honestly minus the crafty part. I'm also a SAHM with an overworked Husband! Also I'm from MI! Now we live in Toledo, but are moving back to MI this year. So we still fly out of DTW.

How did you manage $178? That's amazing! We just paid $330 to fly Delta it wasn't the best deal, but even the best I found was still like $300 on Spirit. Our dates are April 15-20th close to your solo trip.

I talked my DH into letting me do a girls trip, it'll be my first trip to Disney without him, and he's pretty jealous. We're doing a family vacation to DLR in September though, that he's super excited for.


I've sort of been neglecting this PTR... Normally I'm more chatty and post a ton more pictures. This school year is kicking my butt, though! My girls are new to private school and the parent time commitment involved is 10x what I was putting in in elem, plus I'm back to school myself.

I lucked into catching a great Airtran sale... Delta was running $300 even for those dates but A/T had $89 each way. I can't wait until Southwest takes over A/T's routes from DTW. Free bags would be awesome but I'm not willing to change planes in Chicago to fly SW now.

Ken has let me do a few trips without him and it has always been a lot of fun. This will be the first time I'm solo, though; usually I take my Disney-loving girls and leave DH and DS home. They're once-a-year types and my girls and I can't get enough so it works well to go without them every now and then. And since my mom is divorced, doesn't like traveling solo, and loves Disney I usually have a second adult along too.

I need to get busy with my camera and post some creation pics before I pack... We made Mickey head tie-dyes a couple weekends ago when Shanna had her BFF over for a planning session, and I made Key to the World holders for both girls to attach to their lanyards. I also made myself a Mickey wallet, then got sidetracked with school clothes for my youngest who just had to have special dresses for both Valentines Day and Sesame Street Live. Hopefully I will still get the matching purse done, but right now I have a Cat in the Hat dress to finish first because Dr Seuss's birthday is Friday and Katie's preschool class will be celebrating. :lmao: I figure I should enjoy this while I can because she'll be in uniforms next year.

CluelessDisFan 03-05-2013 03:51 PM

That's right enjoy it while you can! My DS wears uniform, I guess for a boy it's just not as big of deal. My ODD is a Disney lover, and we have the baby on the right track.

At what age did your DS fall off the Disney wagon? I'm worried it's already starting with my DS who's about to turn 8. He no longer likes Micky Mouse, because his little sister watches MM Club House he says it's for little kids. But he does still love our Disney trips.

Colleen27 03-23-2013 05:46 PM


Originally Posted by CluelessDisFan (Post 47709533)
That's right enjoy it while you can! My DS wears uniform, I guess for a boy it's just not as big of deal. My ODD is a Disney lover, and we have the baby on the right track.

At what age did your DS fall off the Disney wagon? I'm worried it's already starting with my DS who's about to turn 8. He no longer likes Micky Mouse, because his little sister watches MM Club House he says it's for little kids. But he does still love our Disney trips.

Sebastian never really got on the Disney wagon. He was 7 on our first trip and enjoyed it, but never felt the "magic" the way the girls do. But he was also the sort of kid who saw through Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy by 5 years old so I think it is mostly a matter of personality. He's not interested in magic unless it is in the Arthur C Clarke sense ("Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"). He's actually more into Disney now that he's thinking about the behind the scenes, how to make magic technology than he was when he was younger and unaware of that complexity but old enough to doubt the "Its magic" explanations and doubt the reality of costumed characters.

We did the steam trains tour when Sebastian was 10 and that really caught his attention. He's looking forward to being 16 and taking some of the "real" behind the scenes tours because he's just dying to see the utilidors, but he's never been one to get excited over Mickey.

Colleen27 03-24-2013 11:07 AM

So I'm home, have been for a while, and finally getting around to starting the trip report for our March adventure. And an adventure it was!

Day 1 & 2 - March 1-2

Our trip got off to a very rough start. The plan was to leave as soon as Shanna got home from school, pick Kaylee up, and get on the road. Driving straight through we'd make our destination on the Gulf Coast early in the afternoon.

About a hour before we were scheduled to leave my mother called. My brother was in an accident in her car and without a car she didn't feel comfortable coming over to stay with the kids. I tried to sway her; a neighbor and good friend offered the use of his mother's car, since she's almost 90 and doesn't drive anymore. Another friend offered to handle getting Katie to and from school because her DD is in the same class. But my mom just wasn't having any of it. She doesn't respond well to stress and I think she was afraid to leave my brother alone, even though he wasn't hurt, because he has a history of concussions and back issues. And my MIL was out of town so we couldn't ask her. So there we were, an hour from our scheduled departure, without anyone to keep the two kids that weren't coming along for the trip.

Disappointing the girls was clearly not an option, so Ken put his foot down - he didn't feel like he could manage the trip without me so it had to be me to take them while he stayed home. :sad: After rearranging so much about this trip just for him to be able to join us, I really didn't want to agree. But after an hour of phone tag and moments of wanting to throttle both my mother and my brother, I came around to seeing things his way. There was no way we could both go, and he never travels without me so I was clearly the better choice to manage the two girls solo at WDW. I did invite Kaylee's mom to come in Ken's place, but she's the only daycare arrangement her oldest son has so she couldn't get away at the last minute like that. I was going to be on my own.

All of the drama resulted in only a very brief delay. By the time we picked Shanna up from school things were settled, the car was loaded, and we were ready to head out. We picked Kaylee up around 4, just a half hour behind schedule, and got on the road around 4:30.

The first leg of the drive was tough. We were all disappointed Ken wasn't there and it put a damper on the usual on-our-way excitement. But by dinner time the girls were pretty much over it, completely distracted by the idea of posting live updates to Facebook from every state's welcome center. Well, every state except Ohio. They don't really have a welcome center like the other states on the I75 route do, and besides, the girls have been there so many times it isn't exciting in the least.

Kentucky, in a terrible late-night cell phone pic:
KY Welcome by Cam5279, on Flickr

We stopped for the night around 10:30pm near Berea when we hit a patch of really icky driving weather. Not heavy stuff, but enough snow/rain mix to make the roads too slick for driving so late.

In the morning we were up by 7 and on our way shortly thereafter. The snow was still hanging around but it wasn't so bad in the daylight on a decent night's rest.

On the road in Kentucky:
Somewhere in Kentucky by Cam5279, on Flickr

Tennessee Welcome Center:
Tennessee welcome center by Cam5279, on Flickr

Once we were going down more than up, the snow changed to rain and then fizzled out, though the grey skies remained. The drive was completely uneventful with only a couple of quick stops for meals along the way.

In the mountains of southern Tennessee:
North of Chattanooga by Cam5279, on Flickr

Georgia Welcome Center:
Georgia welcome center by Cam5279, on Flickr

And finally, Florida:
Florida welcome center and the first bit of sunshine of the trip by Cam5279, on Flickr

Crossing into Florida was like something out of a cartoon. After two days of clouds, the sun burst forth and the skies cleared as though the sun itself was vacationing there. :rotfl: The rest of the drive was gorgeous.

My GPS routed me some stupid crazy way down to Homosassa, but it took us through some very pretty country. I've never really traveled in Florida outside of the Orlando metro area and it was love at first sight.

The only minor hiccup was the deer. Just after sunset on the Suncoast Parkway there were deer all over the place! It was a little nerve wracking, doing 65mph down completely unlit road with small herds of deer grazing on the shoulder. But at last we reached our hotel, safe and sound, around 7:30pm.

I agonized over our hotel options for this night. The selection in the area we wanted to be in isn't exactly plentiful and it is mostly Econo Lodge quality. But I came across an independent bed-and-breakfast that got almost universally good reviews so I decided that was the way to go. It was a great choice. The Chassahowitza Hotel was perfect! It is off the beaten path in a residential neighborhood, as B&Bs often are, and so very peaceful. Just the thing for relaxing after a very long day in the car.

The hotel has about a half dozen units but ours was the only one occupied that night so it was very quiet. Our room was very large, with a double bed and two twins along with dual dressers, perfect for a family. The common areas of the hotel included an upstairs lounge with a television and overstuffed seating group, and a downstairs living room with a bigger flat-screen TV and ample seating. The whole place feels very homey and Florida, with ocean-themed touches to the decor and country-warm colors.

Downstairs living room:

Our room:

Upstairs lounge:

The bathroom:

I got us checked in and settled, asked the manager for a restaurant recommendation, and headed out again. It was later in the evening but I'd promised the girls a chance to try some Florida food - gator and seafood - so I was willing to drive up to Crystal River to find the place that both Jeff at the hotel and several travel sites suggested as the best in the area.

Getting to dinner was quite the adventure - the restaurant, Peck's Old Port Cove, sits at the end of a very long, very dark, very winding road that borders Crystal River State Park. Have you ever seen In The Mouth Of Madness, where he's driving into the creepy town that he just can't leave and all the scenery on either side of the road melts away into the darkness? That scene was playing through my mind the whole time! I kept expecting to see the creepy kid on the bike around every curve. :lmao:

Finally we did get to the restaurant, which was just the sort of place I was expecting - a nautical themed bar/restaurant that was far more hole in the wall than fine dining. There were some people sitting in the waterfront parking lot fishing, even though it was probably 9pm at this point.

This girls had to take this picture for my FIL, who is a fishing charter captain:
Peck's Old Port Cove by Cam5279, on Flickr

The food was good. Not knock-your-socks-off great, but the kind of good you'd expect of a restaurant that gets rave reviews from locals. We ordered an impressive selection of fried seafood, starting with gator tail nuggets (which really do taste like chicken) as an appetizer and continuing with fried shrimp, scallops, clams, fish, oysters, deviled crab, and hush puppies.I love the rock shrimp and Gulf scallops that are served down there, and the hush puppies were perfect. It is very hard to find good hush puppies in Michigan. Shanna's favorite was the gator and she pretty much filled up on those. Kaylee ordered chicken strips because everything else sounded "weird". :rolleyes:

After dinner, we made the creepy drive back to the hotel though it seemed shorter and far less creepy on the return. When we go back down there, a trip we're already planning for Feb '14, I want to make that drive in the daytime. It must be really beautiful with nothing but swamp, river, and bay on both sides of the road for so much of the way. We had the hotel to ourselves when we got back because they don't staff overnight. That led to a few jokes about The Shining but was actually really nice. The girls watched TV in one sitting area while I caught the local news in the other. I took a long shower and headed to bed, with the girls following suit not long after. We had an early morning ahead of us and a very cold weather forecast for our kayaking trip.

Colleen27 04-02-2013 10:22 PM

Down to single digits on my April trip and I still haven't even scratched the surface of the March report! Shame on me. :guilty:

But before I head on to day 3 and our long-anticipated arrival at Disney, I thought I'd share the rough itinerary I've thrown together for my solo trip.

I've never been to Disney solo so this is a huge deal and I didn't want to overplan. I'm planning a lot of going where the mood strikes. But it isn't in my nature not to have a "rough draft" of sorts so this is what I have so far.

April 11 - Land at MCO around 5, check in at Pop around 6. Dinner at Territory Lounge where I might meet up with a friend, then on to the Magic Kingdom to meet several friends for Wishes and MSEP.

April 12 - Gardens of the World tour at Epcot. I figure lunch will be snacking at the Flower & Garden booths, and I'd like to take the Behind the Seeds tour at some point as well. Dinner solo at Bluezoo.

April 13 - Sleeping in a bit. Late breakfast at Kona then monorail over to Epcot. Meeting friends for late lunch/early dinner at Via Napoli followed by drinks at the Bellvue Lounge. Play the evening entirely by ear, maybe Illuminations, maybe a swim.

April 14 - My crazy park hopping day. Studios for rope drop, Animal Kingdom during the day, Magic Kingdom for evening EMH after dinner. No idea on meals, maybe lunch at Studios if I'm there when Brown Derby opens or maybe at Epcot - I've been wanting to try Tokyo Dining. For dinner, maybe Yak & Yeti or maybe the Kona sushi bar. I'm sort of debating the merits of a four park challenge a friend at the girls' school mentioned, basically hitting the headliners in all four parks in a single day - he did it on a kid-free trip with his wife and said it was a lot of fun, so if I'm feeling up for it I might give it a try.

April 15 - Get up at the crack of dawn to hop a ME bus to the airport and fly home to my family.

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