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Old 08-16-2012, 03:20 PM   #1
Elleshoodat
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How many side trips can we fit in before our big trip? *NEW* 11/5 - Our trip to NYC

The Cast:

Tiffany - An überplanner who gets slightly anxious when there are no Disney trips in the foreseeable future. A loving mother and wife, content director and wannabe blogger.

Nick, my Disney Husband.

Andrew, my darling Disney Son.

Here we are on our last trip, when we sat for a mini portrait session at the Poly:



The Long-Term Plan:

We just got back from a trip to the World in early May (you can read about that trip here), but - being the type-A personality I am - I can't not plan our next visit. We hope to take a lengthy trip in either October 2013 for Food & Wine, or in the spring of 2014. A few factors will determine when we go, including our budget. I am bound and determined not to charge anything on our next trip, so we are saving, saving, saving.

And we have to save more than usual because we want to bring my parents along. We took lots of multigenerational/extended-family trips when my brother and I were growing up, and I remember them fondly. I want Andrew to grow up with similar memories. My parents live in Louisiana, so we don't get to see them nearly as often as we'd like, plus they are so generous and do so much for our family that we want to show our appreciation. Right now the plan is to cover the accommodations for all of us, and to pay for their tickets. They will pay for their transportation, meals and any souvenirs they want (or want to buy their grandson).

Side Trips:

Nick recently brought up the idea of taking short one- or two-day trips to the World until we can take our bigger trip next year. We won't go into the parks on any of our side trips - maybe go to Downtown Disney, SeaWorld or the outlet malls - but I *need* my Disney fix and can get it just by spending time in the resorts and restaurants.

We don't plan to let it affect our savings goal, but we do think it will help us both to have a little escape from "normal" life every few months.
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Thanksgiving 1988, Offsite * June 1991, Beach Club * Easter 1995, Dixie Landings * June 1999, All-Star Movies * Easter 2005, Offsite * September 2007, Caribbean Beach * October 2008, Lake Buena Vista Best Western * May 2009, Port Orleans Riverside * October 2009, Port Orleans Riverside * April 2010, Port Orleans French Quarter * May 2012, Port Orleans French Quarter (Read our trip report here!) * October 2013, Wilderness Lodge

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Old 08-16-2012, 03:24 PM   #2
Elleshoodat
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Chapters

Animal Kingdom Lodge overnight, August 2012:
Plans
Part I
Part II

New York (including Disney Store Times Square!), October 2012:
Part I

Wilderness Lodge overnight, December 2012:
Plans
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Thanksgiving 1988, Offsite * June 1991, Beach Club * Easter 1995, Dixie Landings * June 1999, All-Star Movies * Easter 2005, Offsite * September 2007, Caribbean Beach * October 2008, Lake Buena Vista Best Western * May 2009, Port Orleans Riverside * October 2009, Port Orleans Riverside * April 2010, Port Orleans French Quarter * May 2012, Port Orleans French Quarter (Read our trip report here!) * October 2013, Wilderness Lodge

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Old 08-16-2012, 03:31 PM   #3
Elleshoodat
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Plans for overnight at Animal Kingdom Lodge, mid-August 2012

We are taking our first quick trip this weekend, staying one night at Animal Kingdom Lodge thanks to the Florida resident late-summer room-only offer. We most likely won't be able to afford a deluxe for our big trip, so we're hoping to experience different ones on our smaller trips. (I'm pushing for Wilderness Lodge in December!)

Animal Kingdom Lodge won out this time because Andrew absolutely loves animals right now (especially giraffes), so he will get a kick out of the savanna. Plus the pool looks really nice, and we're looking forward to relaxing in and around it.

Besides swimming and animal-watching (and people-watching, of course ), we are planning to hit Downtown Disney and one of the outlet malls in Orlando.
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Thanksgiving 1988, Offsite * June 1991, Beach Club * Easter 1995, Dixie Landings * June 1999, All-Star Movies * Easter 2005, Offsite * September 2007, Caribbean Beach * October 2008, Lake Buena Vista Best Western * May 2009, Port Orleans Riverside * October 2009, Port Orleans Riverside * April 2010, Port Orleans French Quarter * May 2012, Port Orleans French Quarter (Read our trip report here!) * October 2013, Wilderness Lodge
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Old 08-20-2012, 10:25 AM   #4
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Good morning! We are back from our weekend getaway to Animal Kingdom Lodge. I'll be back later with a full report, but in short we had a wonderful time and it was just what we needed.

Have a magical day!
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Thanksgiving 1988, Offsite * June 1991, Beach Club * Easter 1995, Dixie Landings * June 1999, All-Star Movies * Easter 2005, Offsite * September 2007, Caribbean Beach * October 2008, Lake Buena Vista Best Western * May 2009, Port Orleans Riverside * October 2009, Port Orleans Riverside * April 2010, Port Orleans French Quarter * May 2012, Port Orleans French Quarter (Read our trip report here!) * October 2013, Wilderness Lodge
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Old 08-24-2012, 12:09 PM   #5
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Animal Kingdom Lodge getaway, Part I

Saturday, Aug. 18:

We left home a few minutes before 10 a.m., stopping to pick up my new glasses and for gas before heading north on I-75. Andrew fell asleep along the way, after "reading" the Elmo books my parents had sent him (we'd found them in the mailbox while loading up the car). He doesn't ask for "Momo" as much as he used to (lately he's been on a Barney kick, which Nick and I just love, haha), but he still likes watching "Elmo's World" and loves pretty much all books.



The rain started when we got close to Brandon, where we made a pit stop to return something I'd bought a few weeks earlier. I ran into the mall while Nick stayed in the car so Andrew could stay asleep, and I quickly made my return and headed out.

It was pouring by this time and rained our entire way to Orlando. Right at the exit we typically take onto WDW property (exit 62 off I-4), we ran into traffic -- and we were stuck until we reached the exit for the outlet mall at Vineland Avenue. I got a little turned around, and for a few miles we were heading in the wrong direction ... oops. Nick taught me how to see my location on Google Maps, and we made a U-turn so we could go the right way -- right into more traffic. Sigh. Finally we reached the outlet mall. The parking lot was packed, so Nick let me and Andrew out, then he went to look for a spot. (He ended up in the garage on the opposite side of the mall from where we started.)

Andrew and I went to a couple of stores but didn't have much luck. I was looking for a wristlet to replace the one I have now and went into Michael Kors, but I didn't find one I liked enough to pay $80 for. Nick called as we were finishing up in Michael Kors, and we met up outside the food court. We were all starving, so we went in. Oh my goodness, what a madhouse! Rude people everywhere, and lots of non-English speakers -- not that there's a correlation between the two; I am just noting what we saw and heard. It was also pretty dirty.

Andrew wanted pizza, so he and I got in line at Villa Pizza while Nick went to Subway for subs for the two of us. We waited ... and waited ... and waited until it was our turn to order. I got a value meal with a slice of cheese pizza, a side of "steamed" veggies and a Diet Pepsi (I'm actually a Diet Coke girl, but it wasn't available). After waiting ... and waiting ... and waiting some more, we got our pizza and paid, then went to check on Nick. He hadn't ordered yet, so Andrew and I left the zoo -- I mean, food court. There were lots of people without food sitting at tables out there (don't even get me started), but I was able to snag a couple of chairs, which I pulled into a shaded corner outside Disney's Character Warehouse.

I let Andrew out of his stroller so he could stretch his little legs. He had been so good the entire drive, and he didn't even complain when Mommy made him get into his stroller. We've got an easygoing little trooper who luckily goes along with our sometimes-crazy plans. I cut up some pizza for him, and he got to work on it. We both tried the veggies, but they were pretty awful -- cooked to within an inch of their life, and doused in oil and butter. Yuck. Nick met up with us, and he and I ate our sandwiches, sharing bites with Andrew. We all felt much better once we got some food in us.

We went into Character Warehouse, following Andrew's lead -- he saw "Gooshy" in the store and wandered in while Nick and I were cleaning up after lunch. It was pretty crazy in there, and I didn't see anything we had to have, so we didn't stay long. Our next stop was Banana Republic, where Nick found some jeans, khakis and a T-shirt, and I got a top. Adidas and J.Crew were disappointments, so we made our way to the garage and headed ... to Disney! Finally!

On the way there (or maybe it was earlier when we were taking our "tour" of Vineland and 535), we spotted Sheraton Vistana Resort and Caribe Royale. Those are two properties I was considering trying for our big trip next year, but they quickly moved to the bottom of my list once I saw the traffic and how un-Disney-like that whole area is. I'm still interested in Wyndham Bonnet Creek, though, and since it's on Disney property, it suddenly shot to the top of my list.

When we arrived at Animal Kingdom Lodge, we got a warm "jambo" from the security guard. He gave us our parking pass and directed us to Jambo House, then we got a "welcome home" (our first!) before we drove away.



Nick drove under the porte cochere and dropped me off so I could check in while he went to sit in the parking lot with Andrew, who had fallen asleep. The lobby was beautiful -- lots of dark wood, which I had known going in, but there was also a lot of natural light streaming in from the floor-to-ceiling windows at the back. It ... was ... awesome.



I went over to the check-in desk and was helped by Heather, a sweet CM who I think was on the college program (her nametag said she was from Eastern Kentucky University). We hadn't been assigned a room yet, so I asked if a king bed was available. She called the room assignor and was on hold for a while, so we made small talk. When she got off, she gave me the great news: We'd gotten a king!

We were in room 4216 on the Kudu Trail. Heather gave me a single red rose after printing out our keys (Andrew's wouldn't print, but I told her it was OK since he would be with one of us at all times), and I walked out to the parking lot to look for Nick's car. He had texted me their location while I was inside, but I got turned around and ended up wandering for a few. It was OK; I needed the exercise after being in the car for most of the day.

I eventually found them. Andrew was awake, but Nick was trying to get a catnap in. He was more awake than sleeping, so we all got out and loaded ourselves with luggage, then walked back to the resort. (It's amazing how much crap we travel with: a suitcase, a tote bag, a cooler, a couple of pillows from home and a mattress for the Pack 'n Play.) We walked to the back left of the lobby and onto Kudu Trail, taking the elevator to the fourth floor and the long hallway to our room.

I'd booked a standard view, so I was pleasantly surprised once we got inside and saw that we could see a bit of savanna from our balcony. We saw a few Roan antelope (Andrew called them goats) and some bunnies, which Andrew could spot from a mile away.



The room itself was OK -- a king bed, a sofa/day bed, table and chairs, flat-screen and fridge -- but it felt kind of small. That could be because it was a wheelchair-accessible room; the bathroom was really big, so maybe some of the room size was lost. Nick commented that the room itself wasn't any different from the moderate resort rooms. I know when you stay deluxe, you're paying mainly for the amenities (like having animals outside your window!), but I have to agree with Nick. There was nothing outstanding about the room itself.













After settling in and watching the "goats" for a while (we kept correcting him, but it didn't sink in; "goat" is far easier to say than "antelope"), we changed into our swimsuits and headed down to the pool. On the way, we passed several big windows that looked out over the savanna, and we had to stop at each one to ogle the animals. Predictably, Andrew's favorite were the giraffes.

When we got down to the pool, we found an empty chair on which to drop our stuff, fastened Andrew's Puddle Jumper around him and stepped in. The water wasn't warm (I imagine it would've been warmer had it been a sunny day), but it wasn't nearly as cold as it was on our May trip. Andrew had fun jumping to us from the ledge, and then watching people come down the slide.





At one point Nick got out to get towels and drinks for us, and there was a man nearby who started chatting with me. We'll just call him TMI Guy. He was telling me he was there with his 4-year-old sons and 1-year old daughter while his wife was at a conference in Celebration. He asked whether Andrew was our only child, and I replied with "So far." He then thought it appropriate to tell me to "look out," because he and his wife had conceived their 1-year-old while on a trip to the World. Umm, OK, I thought. We're going to get out now so I can have my drink (they aren't allowed near the pool). I needed it after that conversation!

Nick had a couple of beers, while I had a pina colada and then a Pina Colava. He hadn't heard me when I asked for that the first round, but that's OK -- when I did get it, it wasn't that great. I don't think the bartender put enough raspberry in it. We sat at a table near the bar for a while, then got back into the pool for a few but didn't stay long.

Once we were out for good, I spotted the flamingo viewing area and brought Andrew over while Nick went to get our second round of drinks and close our tab. We watched them for a while and took a few pictures, then decided to walk around and see what else we could see.





We went over to the playground to let Andrew run around and climb for a while. I changed his diaper and shorts so he wouldn't chafe, then we went up to the savanna viewing area, where we saw zebras, Tommies and I think some more bunnies. Andrew made friends with the CM standing nearby (he kept calling him "the man") who was answering our questions about the animals, and "the man" started calling him his little buddy.







We made our way up to our room so Nick and I could change out of our bathing suits, then we made our way back down to The Mara. Eventually. AKL is kinda confusing, what with the different levels (the lobby is actually on the third floor, the savanna viewing area on the second floor, and the pool and restaurants on the first floor). Plus, not all of the elevators go down to the first floor, so it felt like it took us forever to get to dinner. We were absolutely starving by this point.

We ordered Andrew the pepperoni flatbread because he was still asking for pizza (he didn't eat much at lunch), and we didn't realize until we'd sat down that there was a kid's pizza option. Nick and I both got the chicken pita, mine with couscous and his with fries. We also got some grapes and chocolate milk for Andrew, and Zebra Domes (!!!) and a couple of beers for me and Nick. The food court wasn't at all crowded when we got there, but by the time we sat down a line had started to form. We found a table near the window, grabbed a high chair and waited a few minutes for our buzzer to go off.

The food was so-so. Actually, the pepperoni flatbread was really good and the fries were OK, but the chicken pitas and couscous were just so-so. Not bad, just different. The couscous was cold, which I wasn't expecting; I thought it would be warm, but I rarely eat couscous so I don't know where I got that idea. I'm glad I got what I did, though -- I can have pizza and burgers anytime.

Then ... the Zebra Domes. My, oh my. This was my first time having them, and they ... were ... delicious. Usually I prefer my desserts to be chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate, but I loved how cold and creamy these were.



We each ate one, saving the rest for later. We packaged up most of the pizza and grapes, too, and headed out. Another note: There was nothing but plain brown napkins in the food court. Am I the only one upset about the demise of the napkins with Disney Parks designs on them?!



Up next was Zawadi Marketplace. I wanted to see what resort-specific merchandise there was, plus I needed to do some research. We headed up and to the front of the lobby, where the gift shop is. Andrew had a ball playing with the instruments on the front table, and he and another little boy about his age had a "drum-off" (like a dance-off, lol) with these toddler-sized drums near the entrance.







I wandered around, seeing what the shop had to offer. There was a big selection of Animal Kingdom Lodge merchandise, which I was happy to see, including some really nice hoodies (I heart hoodies). There was also some African art, including these giraffe figurines that were about a foot tall. I debated getting one because A) Andrew loves them, and B) we need some home decor, and I love to have things that remind me of Disney but aren't obviously Disney, but we decided against it.

There were H2O products for sale, too. We had H2O products in our room, but I don't get what all the fuss is about. I prefer Bliss bath and body stuff. We didn't end up buying anything, so we headed out and back up to our room. Down one of the long hallways, we saw some giraffes playing outside (one of them was running around and bucking up; usually we just see them eating leaves!), so we stopped to watch them for a while.



When we got back to our room, we did Andrew's bedtime routine, skipping his bath since we went swimming. We read a few books, then turned out the lights and put him in the Pack 'n Play next to our bed. We were able to put him down just fine on our trip in May, but this time he was not having it. He stood up and tried to get us to take him out, but we took turns kneeling next to him, rubbing his back and singing to him. When that didn't work, Nick took him out and sat in the chair with him, saying prayers (we'd missed that part of the routine ... oops) and basically holding him until he fell asleep. Once we were confident he was asleep, Nick and I crept out onto the balcony with a couple of beers and watched a couple of antelope settle in for the night. We weren't far behind them.
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Thanksgiving 1988, Offsite * June 1991, Beach Club * Easter 1995, Dixie Landings * June 1999, All-Star Movies * Easter 2005, Offsite * September 2007, Caribbean Beach * October 2008, Lake Buena Vista Best Western * May 2009, Port Orleans Riverside * October 2009, Port Orleans Riverside * April 2010, Port Orleans French Quarter * May 2012, Port Orleans French Quarter (Read our trip report here!) * October 2013, Wilderness Lodge
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Old 08-27-2012, 08:08 PM   #6
CandleontheWater
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Hi there!

I'm joining in, you guys have an adorable family!

We stayed at the AKL last Oct and really loved it! Your pictures are bringing back some good memories. Glad to see you also were having a great time.

We've had some rough spots with trying to get DS asleep in hotel rooms also, so I feel your pain, glad to see it all worked out!
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