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Old 02-13-2013, 07:20 AM   #31
magrudersmakes3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Conorama View Post
The (annoying) last 2 months before the vacation - part 1

We stop for a Starbucks refill in small town Ontario, and Conor asks for something - I check for his suitcase and... it's not there.

I have an instant vision of it sitting in the closet at home - we had to hide it to keep the 3 year old from repacking it. (Read - taking everything out that is ESSENTIAL for happy kid-ness on the plane.)

Profanity ensues, out of the earshot of the child.

We decided to drop me and Conor at a (sorry) rather awful little mall to while away the *2* hours that it would take for DH to turn around, drive home, get the bleeping bag, and come back and get us.
I have a checklist for all bags/items now as this happened to us a few years ago. My husband stuck things in the closet and I didn't know it so we were 2hours into our trip when we realized it. We didn't go back, but made a very expensive trip to the neaerest mall.

I'm loving your trip report and look forward to the rest of it!
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Old 02-13-2013, 07:50 AM   #32
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subbing We live in Rochester with a cottage "up north" (Clayton) so I feel like we're neighbors lol
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Old 02-13-2013, 11:40 AM   #33
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Thats awesome that you provide your own personal tips and tricks for preparing for a trip. I'm sure a lot of it will be useful to those who are 1st timers or don't travel alot.
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Old 02-13-2013, 12:02 PM   #34
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Sneaky pee . I will be using that with my now potty learning 2 yo.
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Old 02-13-2013, 06:22 PM   #35
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Joining in!
As a fellow canadian we always fly out of the US ( Buffalo in our case). I hate flying out on YYZ.
Yeah - we've considered Syracuse, but again, we're wimps, and we just didn't want to take on such adventures in January... maybe the next time we fly in a more hospitable month! I'm used to YYZ, so I know its secrets.

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I am really enjoying your report! And I love all your planning details and the story about the sneaky pee! Can't wait for you to finally get on that ship!
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Sneaky pee . I will be using that with my now potty learning 2 yo.
Ah, yes, the sneaky pee - a constant (and I mean constant) source of discussion at our house, with Mr. "I don't need to pee" ... EVER.

Glad the details are helpful (Packing details - probably not peeing details!)

Quote:
Originally Posted by magrudersmakes3 View Post
I have a checklist for all bags/items now as this happened to us a few years ago. My husband stuck things in the closet and I didn't know it so we were 2hours into our trip when we realized it. We didn't go back, but made a very expensive trip to the neaerest mall.

I'm loving your trip report and look forward to the rest of it!
ARGH!!! I could even handle buying stuff, but this was key stuff for the 3 year old - comfort items and all. Thank goodness we were "only" 1 hour away.

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subbing We live in Rochester with a cottage "up north" (Clayton) so I feel like we're neighbors lol
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Thats awesome that you provide your own personal tips and tricks for preparing for a trip. I'm sure a lot of it will be useful to those who are 1st timers or don't travel alot.
Thanks, all, neighbours and others.

I'll see if I can get us to Orlando tonight. Stay tuned!
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Old 02-13-2013, 08:49 PM   #36
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Flying and MCO

We left off at the fact we were finally eating lunch at 3:00 p.m. Everyone felt much better after this.

Flight

This was, I am delighted to report, almost completely uneventful. We boarded on time (we do take the early boarding when offered, since we use a CARES harness for our son). We did get delayed for about 20 minutes for de-icing, but that's just par for the course with flying in January, and heck - how can you object to the whole "let's get the ice off the plane before we fly you around" business?

So, nothing to report here. We used our usual strategy of non-electronic distractions first, and when those were used up (at about 1 hour), we switched to electronics. All good.

MCO and how they count down there

So, we got off the plane at about 8:00 p.m. (usual bedtime for the 4 year old - eek), and followed the signs to the shuttle, and then to the baggage claim area. All lovely and straightforward, even though we've not been to MCO before.

Down in baggage claim, though, we hit a snag. The lovely digital signs said our bags would be on carousel 6. Now, up here in Canada, we generally put 6 in between 5 and 7. Not at MCO though, it seems. After 5 minutes of confusion and trying to figure out who to ask, and ridiculous conversations between us like: "Hey - they look Canadian - maybe they were on our flight? Let's follow them..." DH figured out that there were 2 carousel 7's and so we parked ourselves between the two, and found our bags - all of them - yippee!

At this point, we headed off to the Hyatt. A tactical error was made (again) with respect to food - if I'd had my time back, I would have grabbed food at the food court, since it was already late... oh well, hindsight and all that.

Next: MCO Hyatt review
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Old 02-13-2013, 09:44 PM   #37
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Hyatt MCO

Hyatt Regency - MCO

Getting to our room

I'll preface this by saying that this part of things - the "get off the plane, find your bags, get a cart, get to where you're going" is, by far, the worst part of traveling with kids in our experience. In our case, we'd been traveling for more than 10 hours at this point, awake for 14, and we were exhausted. Your brain is telling you that you've arrived, but NO, you haven't really, as you still have a number of hoops to jump through, and usually the better part of an hour before you get to where you're going, if you're lucky.

I know this intellectually, so I try very hard to expect the worst of this part of things. (Wow - that sounds depressing, but it's not - that way, I'm just never disappointed!) So, anything that runs smoothly here is totally welcomed.

As noted above, we chose to stay at the MCO Hyatt Regency due to the time we were arriving, and not wanting to mess about with traveling to another hotel - either near the airport or near the port.

We nabbed a luggage cart and followed the signs to the Hyatt, and found, much to our relief, we could take the cart into the elevators up to floor 4 (or wherever it is that you check in - can't remember). This was key, since it took most of the attention of one parent to keep over-tired 4 year old boy from bouncing off the walls.

We did as the great big sign told us (we're obedient) and told the nice lady at check-in that we were taking a Disney cruise, and received our orders to have our bags packed and tagged before 8:30 a.m. if we wanted Mickey, or his peeps, to come and get the bags. Noted!

Happily, the nice porter brought a fancier luggage cart that was allowed above the 4th floor (or wherever we were), and he was happy to chat with Mr. "I have a thousand things to say" Conor.

The Room

We had asked for a room with King bed & rollaway cot, that was quiet, and we got all that. (Forgot to mention that I made DH call to confirm the cot about 3 times... or so it seemed!) We had a balcony overlooking the airport (exciting), and we were on the same floor as the place that does breakfast - 9th, I think?

So, here's the deal - you don't stay at airport hotels because you're looking for a fabulous room. You want a place to stay and sleep, and I give the Hyatt full points for that.

The room was nice, but definitely on the small side, especially with the cot out, which we had to have butt up right against my side of the bed (why is it always my side????) because there were no bedrails, and we have Mr. Squirm at night. (He has fallen out of bed onto hotel floors and not woken up - great way to give your parents a complete panic when they find you, seemingly unresponsive, having toppled out of a regular bed. We have mostly recovered... or not.) We then shoved the chair and ottoman up against the other side of the bed, and we had make-shift bedrails.

(Now, here, well meaning people usually jump in and suggest using pillows/towels/pool noodles/gizmos/gadgets/family pets/whatever, in lieu of bedrails. Been there, done that, and I own the t-shirt that says: your suggestion didn't work. He can overcome mountains. Thanks, though! Large furniture will work in a pinch, it turns out.)

We really noticed the squishy size when we started The Great Rearranging of stuff. We needed to move everything we would need for embarkation day into the carry-on stuff, and shift plane survival gear into the suitcases. Due to my (obsessive) packing strategies, all the stuff we needed was packed last, so was on the top of the suitcase (yeah to me!) but this still takes a while to organize.

(To be fair to the Hyatt, this would have probably been less squishy-seeming if the 4 year old hadn't been bouncing off the walls (now at almost 1 hour past bedtime) and "helping". NOTHING hinders like an overtired 4.5 year old who is helping. )

Anyhow - we wanted most of this done at night, as we didn't want to be rushing to finish for our 8:30 deadline in the morning.

Room Service

Main complaint? SLOW. It took well over 45 minutes. We were already into crazy-tired zone with Conor, so this was a LONG time. When it came, we learned they were quite short-staffed that night (nice guy who brought it was chatting up Conor) so maybe it was just that night.

It was, however, hot, and quite yummy for hotel room service. There is quite a good kids menu, which was good because 1+ hours past bedtime is not the time to experiment with foods.

The Meltdown

Now, you may chose to skip this part of our trip in your own trip, or in reading, but since I report on all major events, this must be mentioned. Conor had been super-good the whole day, but he really just hit the wall just before the food arrived. I believe he freaked out about our insistence on him peeing and had, for him, a spectacular meltdown. Really, though, we had the worst possible ratio of low blood sugar/high pee levels/overtiredness that we ever get (we stick to a schedule for a reason), so we couldn't blame him, and, hey, he waited until we were in the hotel room and not in public - good timing, bud.

Said meltdown ended with some quality quiet time, Sockie, and parental ignoring of the goings on.

Sleep - or, seriously, you're reporting on this?

Yes- because, as noted above, airports in hotels exist to promote sleep, in my opinion, so one needs to discuss this.

All 3 of us went to bed at about 9:30/10:00. (Crazy late in our world. Yep, we're the wild, partying type.) So...

King bed: Comfy - no complaints. Good bedding and plenty of pillows - key.
Quiet?: Definitely (good and quiet), so long as the balcony door was closed.
Temperature: Easy to control.

So... great night of sleep - right?

WRONG. Overtired boy = bad sleep. At somewhere around 3:00 a.m., he had a nightmare or something, and wasn't settling, so I heaved him into the bed with my husband, and I got in the cot. Now, before you feel bad for me, remember the squirmy nature of the kid (I have been known to end up with feet in my face when he sleeps with me) so I got the better end of the deal.

However, I can't really blame the Hyatt for this, of course.

Breakfast

As noted in other reviews, the Hyatt's breakfast buffet is really lovely. Service was good, and there were lots of healthy options (trying to get back on schedule). I think it was $8 for a kid? (We didn't do the buffet, for some reason that escapes me now... a vain attempt at being virtuous before the cruise, perhaps?

Check-out was smooth, I'm told, with no unexpected costs.

Overall Hyatt rating? 9/10 for an airport hotel. Happy to recommend it. Was very glad it was there to contain the meltdown.

Tomorrow... we might actually get on the ship! Good night.
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Old 02-13-2013, 11:16 PM   #38
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I'm joining in, this is a great TR, I'm really enjoying it. Looking for the next installment
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Old 02-14-2013, 07:11 AM   #39
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I'm joining!
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Old 02-14-2013, 06:10 PM   #40
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Having done our bit with planes, trains (shuttle), and automobiles, we clearly need a bus now

After yummy breakfast, we got back to our room just after 8:30 a.m., and the bags were still there. I was trying to not get anxious about this, and failing miserably, so DH suggested that I take Conor out to the airport while he got stuff together and made sure the bags left the building, so to speak.

Just as we were leaving the room ... voila! Our first Disney CM to come and get the bags. He was, as promised, super-nice, and very helpful. His accent (Southern US - Georgia, maybe?) had Conor speechless - for a minute - no small feat.

Contrary to Disboard advice (Shhhh), we did NOT rush down to the ME desk. Rushing on vacation = BAD in our world. I hung out in the airport with Conor for about 20 minutes while DH did whatever DH does when he's getting things together. We spotted important places (Starbucks), and obtained caffeine (for me - not for Conor!), before DH joined us (I gave him coffee too - important for happy marriages) heading to the ground transportation area.

This, I recall, as being a long-ish walk - Totally OK for Conor, but would have been nuisancy with a younger child - so heads up.

We arrived at about 9:45 - there was virtually no line up. We checked in (just for Ground transport - no more other checking in there, and we being foreigners wouldn't have been allowed anyway even before they changed the rules). Whoo hoo - our 2nd CM! Oh the thrills.

We left straight from checking in to join the line-up for the next bus, as instructed by Purple Stitch piece of paper, newly stapled to our cruise documents. ("Who is that monster, Mom?" "Is he a nice monster?" "Why is he purple?" I told you we don't do much Disney. ) We were barely there when the line starting moving.

Mouse Bus

Conor has long had an affinity for buses - it was one of his first words (it came before Mommy, but we won't talk about that...) and he has accumulated an extensive collection over the years, including a 3-pack of miniature Disney buses that our friend bought him.

So.... "Mom! I HAVE THAT BUS!" Yep. You might be excited about Mickey and all (and I'm not saying he wasn't) but really - this was one of HIS buses, AND he was going to ride on it.

Anyhow - inside, it's a nice bus, so far as buses go. Not much to report, except that we didn't realize there is no food allowed on the bus (or at least, you can't eat or drink on it). This wasn't a big problem for us as we had just eaten ... and it appeared it wasn't for others who just ignored the rule.

We left shortly after 10:00. The Disney propaganda - I mean "helpful videos" - started up after we got going. I will be fair - I suppose if you hadn't read (on Disboards) all about how things work on the ship, you might have learned something from the videos. However, since obsessive researching is what I do, it wasn't needed for us.

The videos did, however, keep Conor amused, which was not a bad thing at all. After the DCL video, there were some old Disney cartoons and Disney trivia (at which DH and I failed miserably).

After about 45-50 minutes, we could tell we were getting close to port, and we did see the Fantasy off in the distance. I will confess here to... no emotions whatsoever, except relief that the travel marathon was almost over. I kept this to myself, though, so as not to interfere with folks having their tearful moments or ecstatic moments... I mean, good for them!

OK - it appears we're almost there... see next post(s) for us actually getting on the ship - it was bound to happen eventually.
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Old 02-14-2013, 06:36 PM   #41
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Port Adventures... by which I mean, our experience at Port Canavral and boarding

Arrival at port

At just before 11:00 - we arrived at port (and, remember, we did NOT rush down to ground transportation - so, for us, 9:45 at ground transportation at MCO = 11:00 at Port. (I suspect this was due to the change where the American crowd were no longer allowed to check-in at MCO - just my guess, though.)

Up to and including check-in and an exciting discovery

Once off the bus, we basically just felt like obedient sheep - sheep who were being treated very nicely, but sheep nonetheless. Get off bus- go where that CM tells you. Stand in this line. Get ready to go through security, as directed by that CM. Go through security. Head up the escalator. Report your status to the next CM (can't remember what they needed to know- first time cruisers, maybe?) and go to the next line. Wait there for only about 10 minutes, I think, and get to Flip, the CM (who could forget a name like that? I liked Flip. He comes back later too.) Check-in was quick and painless, even the photo part of things.

We got number 6. (Maybe the one that was missing from the MCO baggage claim?) I knew from here that we were to be happy with this. I informed the men of this, but they didn't seem to care. Hmph.

We saw the kids club line up and quickly turned away, as it was ugly. Besides, there was ... no, not Captain Mickey (he was there) ... designs on the floor that Conor loved. Yep - Dude gave Mickey about 3 nanoseconds of his attention, rejected any suggestion of going to see him, and happily puttered about hopping from one thingy to the next on the floor (they seemed like things on a map, to him - I have no idea what they are). And yep, he's the kid that is happiest with the box that the toy came in.

We finally tore Conor away from the floor by showing him the model of the ship, which he quite enjoyed. Since we knew he would have to do a presentation to his class when we got back, DH experimented with the new camera, and got this photo.



I, meanwhile, was looking at things other than the floor or the model of the ship, and I noted that others had Navigators, and I figured we had missed ours at check-in. I sent DH off to find one, and he returned with just the insert. HONESTLY. I sent him off again, and finally we got one, so I could check out where/when the dining stuff was (we wanted to see if our request for our own table was accommodated).

Boarding

I think they started boarding at about 11:30. I also think we were called by about 11:45 - maybe before? It was quick.

We went through the Mickey head, which amused Conor. Stood in the next line (felt like sheep again) - they did whatever with our KTTW cards. Next line - family photo. Next line - to walk the plank or whatever it's called to get on the ship.

At this point, I grabbed Conor's "actual noise earmuffs" because I knew what was coming next.

So - first slightly anti-Disney moment here - what is up with that introduction thing? I was just glad we knew about it before, so I could have the headphones ready. Honestly, we viewed it as a (minor, I will grant you) ordeal to get through. Conor was thoroughly unimpressed at the noise level, the fact everyone was looking at him, and the fact that, in his world, it slowed him down. I just wanted to get on the ship and get to lunch.

But... yes, we were ON THE SHIP! (And before 12:00 too.) My biggest emotion? Relief that we were actually on the ship, and that this had happened without any major setbacks.
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Old 02-14-2013, 07:44 PM   #42
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Nice TR!

Can't wait to hear more, especially interested in what excursions you had in the ports!
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Old 02-14-2013, 07:45 PM   #43
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Day 1 Highs and (minor) Lows - part 1

Having survived the (for us) cringeworthy intro, I herded the men (not as bad as cats) to the elevator, to head to Deck 11. We had contemplated sit-down lunch, but having delayed eating far too often the last 2 days, we went for convenience, and headed to Cabanas.

I am a bad Canadian

I must pause here and apologize for not commenting on the weather. If you want me to hand in my passport, I will understand.

So, on Friday night, we did use the wired internet at the Hyatt to check the weather forecast. Once I found the button to switch to celcius, it seemed that it would be "cool" in the morning (12-14 degrees) going up to over 20 by noon-ish. Thus, I had my layers ready to go - still shorts, but with socks/shoes for Dude (yep, a good look - at least until we got on the ship), and hoodies over short sleeves.

In the end, this wasn't necessary, as you're really barely outside until you board, and only then if you go to Deck 11 or 12, etc. So, the first thing I had to do was find space to stash all this stuff.

Anyhow- on Deck 11 - it was gorgeous- sunny, warm (over 20 for sure), with a nice breeze. Can I have my passport back now, please?

Lunch at Cabanas

There were lots of tables at Cabanas and not too many people. The buffet is big with lots of choice, and most of it was decent to quite good, the 4 or so times we went during the whole week. (I don't do food details at buffets - too hard for my brain.) Overall, it met our requirements - quick, and reasonably yummy.

Dude enjoyed the view.



Mickey pools and Mickey slide

After lunch, we had the now famous "sneaky pee" conversation (again), and convinced Conor to try out the fancy "Mouser boat" (his words) bathrooms. In a moment of bad planning, we then had to convince Conor to go back into the bathroom with DH to get changed. Fortunately, he had glimpsed the Mickey pool, so he was finally persuaded. Sunscreen was slathered (belatedly) on pasty, Canadian skin.

And, this was one Mickey he was interested in. The pool wasn't bad at all at this point (1:00 p.m. or so).



Water boy.



Conor then shocked us completely by wanting to go on the Mickey slide, AND he declared his wish to go on the AquaDuck. The Mickey slide had no real line-up, so we steered him that way- fully expecting him, based on previous experience, to slide down and then refuse to go again.

Wrong!



Now, what is not apparently from the photo is how fast he was going... which was not at all. He came down at a snail's pace, with a big grin on his face. We quickly learned we could tell when he was going to be next to come down the slide (since you can't really see the top) because of the extra-long break in the stream of kids. It was quite useful, actually.

Booze, bookings, and other important matters

The friend who talked us into the cruise then had second thoughts about how DH would cope with all the Big Mouse stuff. Her advice to me was, basically, do not pass go - just have DH sign up for as many tastings as possible. (Apparently booze neutralizes the mouse effect? Kidding! ) This was scheduled at 1:00 p.m. at one of the bars, so I sent him off, while I stood watch over Mickey slides 10 and up.

In a moment of poor concentration, I agree to buy 2 drinks in those (sorry) silly plastic souvenir cups (not both for me!). I know .. I had read .. DON'T DO IT - and, in fact, at the end of the cruise, we ended up tossing them, since they weren't worth packing. Whatever the drink was, it was fruity and boozy (and I don't drink much) and it was good, but stupidly expensive. Oh well - one has to break in the KTTW sometime, right?

DH came back at about 1:30, happy to have secured 4 tastings... in the next 2 days. ($15 each.) He had confirmed that we were at a 4-top table (29) and that the rooms weren't ready yet, and it was very clogged in the halls. We elected to stay at the pool.

We finally extricated water boy in time to go to our FE meet, and then we headed to our room ... (more on that in a minute) - but, bad FE people, we, um, didn't go back for the photo at 2:15, because we underestimated how long it would take to get to our room and back in the midst of elevator fullness (we still had our carry-on stuff).

And, next up, and ode to cabin 9120, which may not happen until tomorrow ... we'll see!
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Old 02-14-2013, 07:48 PM   #44
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I'm joining in, this is a great TR, I'm really enjoying it. Looking for the next installment
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I'm joining!
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Can't wait to hear more, especially interested in what excursions you had in the ports!
Thanks to all joiners! More to come after some less interesting matters are attended to... laundry, banking, etc.
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Old 02-14-2013, 10:37 PM   #45
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Planning

So, I wasn't organized enough to post about our planning WHILE we were planning, but I'll put a few points here in case it helps others.

Flights:
For the first time in my life, ever, when I checked to see how ridiculous flights on points would be (usually, we are offered a 2-day layover or something), I nearly fell off my chair in July, when we found that we could do direct flights for all 3 of us, at reasonable times out of Toronto, to Orlando.

Once I got my breath back again, I got my husband to confirm that I wasn't hallucinating (I was in the throes of writing my thesis, so it was possible) , and we booked the things. YYZ to MCO - Air Canada (more on that), leaving on the Friday before at 16:20-ish; returning on the Saturday after, 14:20-ish. This feat deserves a dancing banana.

(We live 3 hours away from Toronto off the 401 - and we didn't want to muck things up with a short-hop flight from our local airport - not usually worth it for us.)

Booking DCL

We decided to go through a travel agent as we've never done Disney before, and because we really like our travel agent. I didn't even ask about any bonuses, but we got a bunch of Aeroplan points for booking with her - this works for us. (1923, in case you need to know that - do NOT ask me how they came up with that number!)

Our other reason? Said travel agent is a wonder, so I like having her on our side in case something goes wrong.

She gave us great advice about cabins, too - more on that in a later post. For now, I'll mention we were in 9120 (4A) and loved it.

Travel insurance

We are travel insurance people. I'm not going to try to sell you on this if you're not already convinced, but suffice it to say that our family has been through a lot in the last 10 years, so we buy insurance.

In the past, we were happy with RBC insurance, and it was competitive (and quite comprehensive) so we did that again.


Hotels pre- and post-cruise

To review for those who don't live in places with, um, "real" winter, one needs to have about 20 contingency plans if you're traveling in Ontario winters.

So... we pre-booked the following:
  • Sheraton Gateway at YYZ for Thursday night before the flight (hoped to not need this one - bad weather insurance booking.
  • Hyatt Regency at MCO for Friday night (desperately needed) - why? Because we were getting in past the magic hour of Conor's bedtime... which means that every minute counts in the "get him to bed" zone, to prevent a bad case of the 4.5 year old uglies... and we didn't want to be travelling about in the dark in a place we didn't know, regardless of who was driving. (Yes, we are wimps.) Plus, we wanted to use DCL transportation, and, hey, who can argue with the whole "we take your bags at 8:30 a.m. and you don't have to see them until they're in your stateroom" business?
  • Sheraton Gateway at YYZ for Saturday night upon our return- we could have driven home, but then we would have had the 4.5/41/44 year old uglies all at once.

Ground transportation

Since we are wimps, we didn't want to muck about with other transportation - so we booked DCL ground transportation. Yes, we knew it was more expensive. At that point in the planning, though, it was seriously just spitting in the ocean.
We were on the same flight down - and you were down the hall from us on the cruise.

We took the flight home before you though.
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