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Old 06-07-2013, 10:04 PM   #1
mecllap
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Oddball TR-- Solo Resort-hopping, Budget, non-foodie, DVCs/off-site month long

My trip planning started off as a fairly normal 12-day trip (May 7-18) to WDW to go to the Flower and Garden Festival, while suffering the cold winter doldrums and being anxious for Spring. Along the way, it grew like topsy and I had started making some significant life-style health changes, so the trip ended up being quite a bit different for me -- and absolutely wonderful. I think it was my best WDW trip ever, even tho I did miss having my small family along, of course.

Hopefully it's still okay to put it in this section of the boards, since at its heart it's a DVC trip: SSR, VWL, VBR, and 2 studios at BWV, bookended by off-site timeshares -- for a total of a month. I also looked at the outside areas of a few other resorts also -- part of what I wanted to do was compare a lot of different places. I've now stayed at least one night in every DVC (mostly studios) except Aulani (which is not likely to happen). I would NOT try to that with the family -- but traveling solo I can manage it and it's really fun to experience the different properties.

I'm not going to do a day by day account -- that would be deadly -- more topic by topic, and use a combination of scrapbook pages and single photos [eta: well, maybe not, have run into a snag again with photos]. Not sure who, if anyone, will be interested in this saga, since it was a solo, older woman (68), non-drinking, non-restaurant, budget trip. I assure you that it's possible to still have tons of fun in that part of Florida and at WDW with those constraints (and not drinking and watching so many other folks enjoying their libations was a major challenge for me, for sure).

I'll be happy to try to answer any questions as I go along, if I can.

So I left Asheville the morning of April 26 about 8 a.m. and got to St. Augustine, FL about 5 p.m. and got a room at a Super 8 near the Outlet Mall. I love to go the Character Outlet there -- usually find more there than at the ones near WDW (also stopped there on the way back and found different things). It is possible to make the drive in one day from home, but it's hard for me, and I like to arrive ready to go to a Park.



(Yes, I know the preprinted paper background is from Disneyland, but that's nostalgic for me -- my first trip was there, when I was 12).

So, the first extension to my trip was finally seeing the schedule for F&G -- Carter Oosterhouse from HGTV was going to be there the last weekend in April. Well, I may be 68, but he's one fine specimen of humankind -- beyond easy on the eyes -- just had to see that in person. So, having a "bonus-type" timeshare week to use that cost under $300 for a 1-bedroom I booked that up and added in 3 days at SSR for the gap. Hey, 12 days at WDW isn't really enough anyway, and I wanted to go a couple of museums in St. Petersburg, too.

Unfortunately, they didn't have Photopass photographers at the HGTV talks, so the pics I got with the designers aren't very good, but it was really fun to meet them. David Bromstad was there the last weekend. They were both just as personable as they are good-looking. Be still my heart! Oh right -- I just got healthy -- it gets to beat as much as it wants to!





The photo with Tink is from MK, but seemed to go on this page since her entourage was in and around the butterfly garden.

Last edited by mecllap; 07-20-2013 at 10:43 PM.
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Old 06-07-2013, 10:32 PM   #2
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The monorails passing through Epcot always make for fun photos. The Lady and the Tramp by Italy and the Dragon at China were spectacular displays for the festival. I love glass work, so especially enjoyed the poppies by the Oz playground. We still miss Dreamfinder and love Figment, so it was nice to see them recognized in the Passholder exchange area in the Odyssey building (and fun to get to go in that building, where people could trade in their paper passes for the new RFID cards).








Since I ended up staying longer, I was there after they had started taking out the Flower and Garden displays. They removed the Gang having a picnic from the entry, took away Tink, removed most of the monsters except Mike and Sulley, took out Hook, Croc, and Peter, the Pooh characters, and removed the Baum circus and Oz stuff -- they put up a long green fence and annoying tree planters along the walkway from Imagination to World Showcase toward Canada. From the wall by Captain EO, you could see the pads where the "circus" carnival stops were.





I like the new passes. I had ordered the Premium Annual Pass during the special DVC deal (probably another reason for the long trip), so I got the new kind when I did my exchange at the front of Epcot upon arrival my first day in time for Carter O's talk. I don't think they operate the getting-in process any faster, but it looks way cool with the way you hold the card in front of the ball and the lights go around and eventually turn green. It certainly doesn't require less staff since people have trouble realizing they can up to the front one when that person moves on. And of course, they don't always work! At least they do also work in the old machines, which I suppose will eventually go away. They had the new wristbands on display in the Odyssey. I am not looking forward to that; I don't like stuff on my wrist. I tried wearing a glitter bracelet for fun a couple of times, and it was not fun for me! A CM assured me they would be comfy and non-sweaty!!!
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Old 06-07-2013, 11:21 PM   #3
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My first two days were spent at Epcot, enjoying the Flower and Garden Festival and doing some rides and attractions. I did not stay late for Illuminations, which is one of my favorites, because I was staying off-site and driving at night is kind of difficult for me, and I knew I would get to see it during my stay at the Boardwalk. I am not fond of the new tram doors, altho they do make sense. Especially when I am carrying my seat-cane, it is hard to manipulate them. On my last WDW trip I had to use a walker part of the time -- that would be impossible for me with the doors. While my mobility has improved significantly with my weight loss and regular exercise, I do still have trouble standing for long periods so bring along my little folding seat-cane for long line and other difficult waits. My second little glitch of the trip -- probably the main one that I had -- was that all four of my rechargeable lithium camera batteries decided they had had enough and began to die very quickly.

First side trip was to St. Petersburg. Got a leisurely start to the day and made it to the new Salvador Dali Museum just after 10 a.m. It was $5.00 for parking and $19.00 for admission. The grounds are much better, but I kind of liked the layout of the previous museum better. He was an amazing artist; they have some excellent works -- worth the trip for a visit. I'd suggest looking at their site online, since photos aren't allowed inside. I'm also a big fan of the work in glass of Dale Chihuly and the Pilchuck Studio, so I next went to the Chihuly Collection not too far away from the Dali Museum. Street parking free around the corner, admission $13.95 senior. Large installations -- spectacular, also well worth the trip. On the way back, I went to Lakeland to Florida Southern College to see the buildings there that were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It was a wonderful day trip -- each a wonderful, imaginative talent, exhibiting the creativity that keeps bringing us back to WDW.





I finished off the day with a stop at Best Buy to look for a new battery for my cameras. It was $39.99. They had a little Canon with an actual viewfinder, which is very handy in the Florida sun, for $99.99 so I got that instead, and it is great! Does easy videos, takes good photos, has a self-timer, pretty good zoom, fits in my pocket, etc.

First resort: Pretty close to Downtown Disney:





I really liked the location on 535, and got my room requests: top floor in building with an elevator. The room was adequate for me, but really lacking in charm -- very basic. It was a compact one-bedroom (2346, bldg. 13), in that there was a door between the bed area and the living area, but it was straight through from the front door, small living space, kitchen/eating area, small bath, bedroom, patio. The resort is nice overall; several pools (no slides) and activities, places to eat, etc. It was handy having the full kitchen capability to prepare some meals ahead for my upcoming studio stays: salmon, broccoli, rice with a little orange/ginger sauce; pesto/tomato whole grain spaghetti. It was easy to get to Walmart and the Outlet Mall near there, and very easy to get back and forth to WDW. I could stay there again, but for a family, would recommend a larger unit, unless you're okay in a studio or not much more.
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Old 06-08-2013, 01:05 AM   #4
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Want you to know that you have a reader. I'm liking this long solo stay; sounds like fun!
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Old 06-08-2013, 01:34 PM   #5
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Hi -- thanks. I used the term "bumbershoot" in a conversation a couple of days ago -- then had to explain what it is! And we were talking about it raining. Lived in the Northwest for several years way back, OR and WA.

The trip was a really different one, and extremely fun for me. Other people would choose to use that amount of time differently, but I wish more folks had the opportunity -- it truly was a vacation in the best sense of the term. Came home rested and happy.
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Old 06-09-2013, 03:44 PM   #6
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Congrats on getting healthy and for sticking to it on vacation! I've recently lost 30 lbs. and I know how difficult vacation can be on sticking with lifestyle changes (I refuse to say diet! )

Looking forward to reading about your trip!
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Old 06-09-2013, 07:33 PM   #7
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Glaserjm: thanks; I was about at 30 when the vacay started and was really surprised when I got home to find 3 more gone. Guess all that walking and paying attention to my intake paid off. Being more fit certainly improved the amount of fun I was able to have on the trip. And congrats back to you. Now, to keep on with it!
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Old 06-11-2013, 09:00 PM   #8
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This thread may quietly die and go away. I will probably at least try to get the photos of the scrapbook pages up and can respond to questions. I've never had much luck with trip reports. Life intervenes, and in this case, also my crummy new computer and blankety-blank Windows 8. I've been having no end of trouble with photo issues. Very disappointing and I don't want to keep being frustrated about it after such a wonderful, happy trip. I do have a few helpful tips and observations I hope to pass along -- will try to get some of those out anyway. Sorry.
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Old 06-11-2013, 09:04 PM   #9
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Very sad that Eeyore has been taken away from AK (and is only going to be at Crystal Palace), but glad that DiVine is out on a regular schedule.
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Old 06-11-2013, 09:08 PM   #10
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Wish I had made a note of the time that the tigers were going in and out of the water. The giraffes were feeding on the Safari during my 10:40 FP tour, and saw the most animals on that one, including a glimpse of a zebra, and three lion heads among the rocks.
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Old 06-11-2013, 09:14 PM   #11
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I had kind of planned to see how many of the 310-330 animals I could find that are represented on the Tree of Life, so I took a lot of photos, and walked all the trails and in and out all the nooks and crannies. Didn't do the count while I was there, tho. A lot of them are "head shots," and I don't think I could get photos of all of them because of limited access. And do they count the ones on the sign? It is an amazing construction.
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Old 06-11-2013, 09:25 PM   #12
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I had a lot of fun doing character photos on this trip, since I had plenty of time. At least 98% of them were great about interacting with guests, and nearly all CM's were at the top of their game on this trip also. I had dyed a teal streak in each side of my hair, and that made "conversation" easy with both face and fur characters. I have rarely been "cute" in my life, but I got a lot of cute photos on this trip. I bought the Photopass CD in advance with the DVC discount (I think it was DVC), and I ended up with over 600, before editing and the bonus ones they add -- 2 CDs. Lots of duplicates, so I can choose which ones I like the best.

If there are character photos you really want, do those at/just after rope drop, just like favorite rides. The lines are much more manageable. In AK, the characters at Camp Minnie-Mickey are out while the Festival of the Lion King is playing, and you can have plenty of time with them, with little to no lines. And first thing in the day, everyone is more likely to be fresh, combed, etc. And do cute stuff, with hand gestures and poses. And various groups of your family/friends. They also will take photos with your phone/camera.
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Old 06-11-2013, 09:31 PM   #13
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First DVC stay was at Saratoga Springs in a Studio--6412. I had tried to do online check-in. No dice. Had asked for upper floor in Congress Park. Ended up in Paddock, at least with an upper floor with some view of DtD -- CIF balloon and top of La Nouba building. A building and a half walk away from Paddock Pool and bus stop -- so not too bad, and easy to drive in and out back gate.
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Old 06-11-2013, 09:53 PM   #14
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The Paddpock pool slide is pretty good, a nice addition. There were pool games going on while I was there on my check-in day; I came in third in trivia so got a small prize. The Angus Cheeseburger is $9.39, other sandwiches 8.99; kid's hamburger or turkey $5.99. The balcony had a better railing than I had had before at SSR -- could actually see through this one, so that was nice, and no hot sun in the afternoon.

On my moving/check-in day, I toured the rest of SSR that I hadn't seen before, so I'd know what to expect for the future, and also went over to see Port Orleans, FQ and R. They were lovely, but parking appeared to be a long way from the rooms. My daughter is getting to go there this week, so it will be interesting to hear more about it. I would like to stay in the Congress Park area, for sure, and Grandstand could be fun. And I guess Carousel would be okay, being close to the front gate. I don't go to the main building much anyway, altho I did go to the campfire twice and indulge in a couple of toasted marshmallows in the evening (s'mores on my check-in night).

I got to the bus stop just before 8 the next morning and a bus had already pulled away, but after awhile another MK bus came along and I made it to rope drop for 9 a.m. opening. After my usual restroom pause, I got in the Princess line at the Town Hall and was in the first group for them; their line gets much longer, much faster than Mickey's line. During a busier time, for the bus, I'd get to the stop by 7:45 to be sure to get on the first one.
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Old 06-11-2013, 10:43 PM   #15
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I'm reading too. It sounds like a wonderful time to refresh and rejuvenate. Congratulations on a healthier you! I'm so glad it made your trip easier on you.

Sorry for the computer issues, but I hope to read more!
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