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Old 09-09-2006, 08:12 AM   #1
chach
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Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Rindge, NH.
Posts: 344

Trip Report 8/4-8/27/06 (long)

Trip Report (8/4-8/27/06)

Intro- Since the kids couldn’t take time off from school we decided to take an August vacation for the 2nd time (1st time was during Hurricane Charley in 2004) . It took quite a while to book 2 weeks at the same timeshare resort. I was able to get 3 weeks off at work so we decided to spend the 1st week doing something different. We thought a week in the Winter Haven which would include 2 days at Cypress Gardens would be fun.

Travelers:
Amber (14 year old daughter)
Johnny (11 year old son)
Nancy (40’s, wife of report writer)
John (40’s, report writer)
Chris Mara (11 year old nephew)
Katie Mara (turning 14 this trip, niece)
Billy Mara (15 year old nephew)
Jean Mara (40’s, sister)
Bill Mara (40’s, brother-inlaw)

This trip had the most changes for a starting date of any trip we have ever taken. We started out with a 2 week vacation plan but my work was very flexible and by the time the plans were finalized we had planned a trip from Friday August 4th to Sunday August 27th (this includes all drive time). This ended up being a reunion of sorts. Because of medical reasons my Sisters family had to cancel their trip to Mexico. They decided to overlap our trip to Disney World.

Friday August 4th – We finally settled on a departure time. The house was secured and we left Rindge, NH. at 9pm. The kids slept through the night and we ate cold cut sandwiches and snacks throughout the trip.

Saturday August 5th – We continued our journey with many stops during the night
at rest areas for power naps. For some reason we traveled the long drive through North Carolina during the day which made the trip seem shorter. We stopped at Wendy’s for dinner in South Carolina.

Sunday August 6th - We arrived at our destination (Quality Inn) in Dundee, FL. at 10am. The ride took 37 hours including all the stops. After having the hotel’s Continental Breakfast we went to a flea market in Auburndale. We then explored the area and bought a few groceries before returning to the hotel. The kids took a swim and then we headed to bed around 9pm.

Monday August 7th – We ate our Continental Breakfast and then headed for our first day at Cypress Gardens. This is a great park. It’s still rebuilding from almost 2 years of being
closed. They have added a Water Park and an Amusement Park. This park has stuff for
everyone. You buy a one-day pass and you get a second day for free. We got to Cypress Gardens at 10am. The park was empty. Even the most popular rides/activities were 90%
empty. We did a few rides and then saw the 11:30am Water ski show which we enjoyed. We then did the Butterfly pavilion, the Nature area which had several varieties of animals and watched an animal training show. We then did the Botanical Gardens and some more amusement rides. At 2:30pm we did the ice skating show which was very good. We finished the day on the Amusement Rides until the park closed at 6pm.

Tuesday August 8th – We started the day with our “breakfast”. We then spent the rest of the day in the pool and at a few souvenir shops.

Wednesday August 9th – We started the day with our “breakfast”. Today was our 2nd day at Cypress Gardens. We started out the day by looking at the Butterfly Pavilion and the animals in “Natures Way”. The rest of the day was spent in the Water Park and on the amusement rides.

Thursday August 10th – We started the day with our “breakfast”. Today was my son Johnny’s 11th Birthday. We decided to go to the Disney area to celebrate. We started out at 10am and went to the Disney Store at Prime Outlets. While waiting for my wife a reporter for the “Orlando Sentinel” interviewed me about the attempted terrorist attack that was thwarted this morning. After leaving the stores we went over to the “Oriental Seafood Buffet” on 192. After lunch we headed over to the Polynesian Resort to walk around. After walking around the resort we took the monorail to the Magic Kingdom stop. After exiting the monorail we walked to our “brick” where we gave Johnny his birthday presents (2 PS2 games/complete “Dash” outfit including hat,shirt,shorts). We then took a boat to the Grand Floridian and the monorail around it’s complete loop back to the Polynesian. It was getting late so we headed back to our hotel room for the night.

Friday August 11th – We decided to spend our last day just lying around the pool. We had the pool to ourselves all week and this was no exception. After getting a full day of sun we called it a day. The temperatures were about 100 degrees all week with no rain.

Saturday August 12th – We finished loading the car at 10am and headed to our Condo. We stopped a couple of times to get advice and medicine for my son’s cough. We arrived at the condo at Noon and did an early registration. After registering we went to the “Ace One Chinese Buffet” for lunch. After eating we went to “Downtown Disney” to walk around. We bought a candy apple and a couple of slushes at “Goofy’s Candy Store” and then were back at our Condo by 4:30pm. Our condo is very nice. It had 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a full kitchen, 2 TVs including a big screen TV in the living room, a huge living area with washer/dryer, a hot tub, huge shower plus more. The clover-shaped pool was a decent size with a water volleyball area and a side that was zero-entry. One surprise was that the clubhouse had free wireless internet. Our room was within walking distance of the clubhouse and pool.

Sunday August 13th – Woke up at 7am, had a quick bowl of cereal and headed out to Animal Kingdom. We were at the “rope-drop” by 8:30am. They let the crowds in at 8:50am. We walked over to the “Kilamajaro Safari” and got on with no wait. We saw the least amount of animals than any previous safari. Next we walked through the “Pangani Forest Exploration Trails”. We spent the next hour posing with the characters and looking at the animals. For some reason there were many characters out today with very short lines. We went to the “Festival of the Lion King” (no wait), a show we hadn’t seen in years. We then went to one of our favorite attractions “A Bug’s Life” (no wait) and then went to Dinoland. “Dinosaur” had a 50 minute line so we skipped it and went on “TriceraTop Spin” (no wait) and “Primeval Whirl (20 minute wait). My son was not sure if he wanted to try “Everest” so we walked over to check it out. The wait was 75 minutes so we decided to call it a day and headed out for lunch at 1pm. We went to “Wendy’s” and filled ourselves up. After eating we headed over to Epcot. Our main reason for going to Epcot today was to see the “Transit Authority” a band that did all “Chicago” music. Our 1st stop was in Innovations where we had our “free VISA picture” taken. We lucked out and had Pluto, Mickey and Goofy for our photo session. We then went to the “Land” and got a “fastpass” for “Soarin” which wasn’t until 6:30pm. We did “Imagination” (no wait) and “Honey I Shrank the Audience”. Next we spent some time in the “Living Seas”. We had an hour before our “fastpass” was due so we decided to get our VISA picture and ride “Spaceship Earth” (no wait). After getting off “Spaceship Earth” we took our flight on “Soarin”. This was our first time on “Soarin” and we enjoyed it, although we thought it was short considering the long waits. After “Soarin” we headed over to “World Showcase” to try and catch the “Transit Authority”. We walked halfway around the World Showcase and arrived at the concert at 7:40pm, just in time to catch the last set at 8pm. Most of the seats that were under the roof were filled for the concert. The concert lasted 40 minutes and was excellent, sounded just like the band “Chicago”. Walked through the drizzle after the concert and got to our car at 9pm. Headed back to the Condo, watched TV and then to bed.

Monday August 14th – We started the morning by going to the Clubhouse. My son and wife swam while I took my daughter to get a hair wrap. At the same time I signed my family up for the Pizza Party/Bingo event (free) that was scheduled for 5:30pm. After the hair wrap was done we joined the rest of the family in the pool. At lunchtime we went back to the Condo to have a roast beef lunch. After lunch we went over to “Disney’s Wide World of Sports” to watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneer training camp for the first time. We walked around the whole complex starting with a tour of the Atlanta Braves Spring Training Facility. We walked around some of the other fields and visited the “Milk House” (where the indoor sports are played). We watched the “football practice” for about an hour. They handed out souvenir schedules, rosters and foam sticks as we entered the complex. We had a good time and are hoping to go back again before they break camp. It was getting close to 4:30pm so we headed back to the Condo for our Pizza/Bingo party. There were about 60 people who attended and it was a lot of fun. We played a few games of Bingo and then they took a Pizza break. They had several varieties of drinks and Pizza and plenty of everything. The highlight of the evening was when my son won the best Bingo prize, a $25 restaurant gift certificate. He was so excited all night about winning. After Bingo we went in search of the Walmart that we had called a prescription in to. We picked up the prescription and did some food shopping. It was around 11pm before we went to bed.

Tuesday August 15th – We woke and had breakfast in the Condo. I went to the clubhouse to check my email (wireless hot zone was located there) and then joined the rest of the family in the pool (son won a prize at the pool party). We left the pool at 11am and went to the “Prime Outlets” which were previously the Belt Outlets and got a few souvenirs. It was about 1pm so we went back to the Condo for lunch. After lunch we decided to go back to the “Tampa Bay” training camp. We walked through the “All-Star Café” and then watched the practice. Once the practice was over we were able to see a couple of the players (Galloway & Wheatley) and my son was able to get autographs, a bonus for this visit. We left the practice and went back to the Poly (My daughter wanted to take a monorail ride to Epcot). We walked around the Poly and then took a walk along the beach to the Ticket and Transportation Center. After taking our trip to Epcot we transferred monorails and got off at the Poly. We headed back to the Condo, had dinner, watched TV and went to bed.

Wednesday August 16th – We woke at 8am, had breakfast and headed to “Typhoon Lagoon”. This was our first day that we would spend with my sister and her family. We met with the Mara’s around 9:30am and headed over to the “Water Coasters”. We all loved this new attraction and rode them at least 6 times during the day. We did all the slides at least once and floated in the “Lazy River” twice. We took breaks throughout the day to swim in the “Wave Pool”. We closed the water park at 6:30pm and headed back to the condo.

Thursday August 17th – This was going to be our 2nd Disney park day and 1st park day with the Mara’s. Our plan was to meet at Disney Studios at 10am. We got to the park at opening so we decided to ride “Rock’N Rollercoaster”. My son and I rode the coaster with a short wait. For some reason when I got off the ride the “cast member” doing the unloading sent me through a side door to the first seat in the next ride and we got a 2nd ride without any wait. We still had a little time before meeting the Mara’s so we watched the “Little Mermaid Show” (no wait). We met with the Mara’s at 10:30am and headed to the 10:50am stunt show “Lights, Motor, Action”. This was the first time any of us saw this show and we thought it was great. Our timing was great. We passed by the “Millionaire Show” just as they were closing the doors and got to see our last “Millionaire Show” (no wait) before it closes in a couple of days. After the “Millionaire Show” we got in line for the “Great Movie Ride” (40 minute wait). After the ride we headed toward the “Backlot Tour”. My wife and I were trailing the group and passed just as they were raising the door for a photo op with the Monster Inc. characters. We got a great shot of the 2 of us with the characters. We then did the “Backlot Tour” (no wait) which has changed since we last saw it. The special affects, wardrobe, graveyard and Catastrophe Canyon were now all part of the same attraction. We then headed to “Star Tours” (10 minute wait). At this point we separated from the Mara’s. They were staying in the park while we were going to go for a late lunch and then finish the day at Magic Kingdom. The last pleasant surprise was seeing “Mater” and “Lightning McQueen” from “Cars”. They drove down the street in front of us as we left the park. We went to Wendy’s for a very filling lunch and then got into Magic Kingdom by 5pm. We all wanted to see the changes in “Pirates of the Caribbean” (30 minute wait), so that was our first stop. Next we did “Haunted Mansion” (10 minute wait), “Small World” (10 minute wait) and “Mickey’s Philamagic” (no wait). We got several pictures of the “decorated” Castle, which looked great and headed to Tomorrow Land. We got a fastpass for “Buzz Lightyear” and then went to “Stitches Escape” (no wait) which was a huge letdown. We used the fastpass for “Buzz” and then rode a family favorite “Transit Authority”. Since Space Mountain had a 70 minute wait we headed back to Fantasy Land. We did “Peter Pan” (15 minute wait) and “Pooh” (20 minute wait) before heading to our spot to watch “Wishes”. “Wishes” was a great show as usual. We left the park with the masses and got back to the condo at midnight.

Friday August 18th – This was to be a down day. We slept later than usual (9am) and tried to go to the Ponderosa for breakfast. The line was out the door so we decided to go to a couple of souvenir shops and a grocery store (Publix) before going back to the Condo. We had lunch and took a dip in the pool. At 3pm there was an Ice Cream social, we each had a sundae and then went back to the condo to change. After showers we walked along “Disney’s Boardwalk” and explored the “Animal Lodge” before going back to the condo for the night.

Saturday August 19th - We got up at 9am, had breakfast and went out shopping. We headed to the character outlet at Premium outlets first and then went to Downtown Disney. After walking around we went to Goofy’s Candy store and bought 2 marshmallows dipped in chocolate, 2 caramel apples and a rice crispy square. Our plan was to go back to the condo, have lunch and meet the Maras at the Polynesian resort (where they were staying for 4 nights). We got within 50 yards of our condo entrance and were stopped by the police. We could see a major car accident right in front of our condo entrance. One of the people died in the accident and they had the road closed for 4 hours so that helicopters could land. We went to Wendy’s for supper and then headed over to the Polynesian Resort. We were going to spend time with the Mara’s kids while my sister and brother-inlaw went to the California Grill to celebrate their 20th Anniversary. While they were at dinner I ran a “Scavenger Hunt” around the “7 Seas Lagoon”. We met my sister and Brother-inlaw back at their hotel room at 9pm. We headed back to our condo and went to bed.

Sunday August 20th – We let the kids sleep a little late. We got up, ate breakfast and headed to Magic Kingdom by 9am. The park was busy today. We took a ride on “Thunder Mountain” (30 minute wait). We met the Mara’s at “Pirates of the Caribbean”
(30 minute wait). After Pirates we did the “Haunted Mansion” (no wait) and the “Tomorrowland Transit Authority” (no wait). All the major rides had over an hour wait so we decided to leave the park at 1pm. We headed back to our condo for lunch and a break. After lunch we went to Epcot and arrived at the park by 3pm. I headed over to “Test Track” to get a “fastpass” followed by some soda at “Club Cool”. We then went to “Innovations West” to have 2 free pictures taken at the “VISA” booth. We did “Mission Space” (10 minute wait) and then we went over to “Universe of Energy”. We met the Maras and rode this attraction together. On the way over we bumped into “Spaceman Mickey” and took a picture. After “Energy” we trekked over to the “Land” to take a ride on “Living with the Land” but found it closed for refurbishment. At this point we separated. The Maras finished the front of Epcot while we did a few countries in “World Showcase”, including a ride on the Mexico boat ride (no wait). At 6:15pm we met in China to watch the Chinese Acrobats. This troupe is absolutely incredible. Again we separated so we could use our “Test Track” (30 minute wait) “fastpass”. So we would be able to compare the 2 versions we rode the “easy” side of “Mission Space” (5 minute wait). I thought this was very well done. It was now 8:30pm. Instead of fighting the crowds we decided to call it a night. Back to the condo for the night.

Monday August 21st – We woke at 8am, had breakfast and went to the clubhouse to check our email. At Noon we had a big lunch. After lunch we went over to the Polynesian Resort to spend a few hours with the Mara’s. We stayed in the pool until 4pm and then headed back to our condo. After taking showers we went to the Bingo/Pizza Party at the condo clubhouse. This time none of us won anything. After the Bingo/Pizza Party we checked our email and played basketball until 8:30pm. We watched TV and went to bed.

Tuesday August 22nd – We got up at 7am, ate breakfast and headed to the Magic Kingdom. My daughter has been looking forward for months to have her hair done in the Magic kingdom. We got to the Barber Shop by 9am and were the second ones in line (2 barbers). The barber (her name was Penny) has been doing hair in Magic Kingdom for 29 years. She did a great job on my daughters hair and even covered it in “Pixie Dust” when she was done. After the haircut we went on “Space Mountain” (10 minute wait) and then on “Splash Mountain” (10 minute wait). My wife was looking forward to seeing the show “Cinderellabration” so we watched the 10:40am show. After the show we got a “fastpass” for “Buzz Lightyear”. While waiting for the fastpass time we all went on the “Tomorrowland Transit Authority” (no wait). Next my wife and daughter went on the “Tomorrowland Raceway” (10 minute wait) and my son and I went on the “Carousel of Progress” (10 minute wait). We met back at “Buzz Lightyear” for our “fastpass” ride. It was now 1:30pm so we left Magic Kingdom and went back to the condo for lunch. After lunch we drove over to Disney Studios and were at the park by 3pm. We went over to “Rock’N Rollercoaster” to get a fastpass. We then headed to the “Narnia” attraction. This was very impressive when it began but quickly became a huge disappointment. We spent the next few minutes looking at the street sets and then lined up for the 5pm parade which we all enjoyed. After the parade we went to “Muppets 3D” (no wait) and then went to “Rock’N Rollercoaster” to use our fastpass. My son had been trying all vacation to muster up enough courage to do “Tower of Terror” (10 minute wait). He decided to give it a shot and we took a ride on it, which we enjoyed. We noticed the flood of people entering the theater for “Fantasmic”. We entered the stadium at 7:45pm for the 8:30pm show. The stadium was full by 8pm. We exited the park after the show and were home by 10pm.

Wednesday August 23rd – We got up at 8am and went to the clubhouse. This was the day the Mara’s were flying home. At 11am we drove to the Polynesian Resort to see them off. We talked for a while, helped carry their bags to the front of the resort and waited for their bus. Their bus arrived just before noon. Some quick/sad goodbyes and they were gone. We headed out to Walmart for a few items and then to Downtown Disney to finish our souvenir shopping. After shopping we went back to the condo and took a swim. We finished swimming at 9:30pm, showered and went to bed.

Thursday August 24th – This was our final day at the parks. We woke at 7am and were on the rode by 7:50am. We decided to let everyone choose a couple of rides. My son wanted to complete his list of “scary” rides so our first attraction was to do “Everest” at Animal Kingdom. My son and I rode “Everest” (no wait), which we both enjoyed. Since we got on the ride so quickly we decided to do “Dinosaur” (20 minute wait) which we had missed earlier. We then walked the “Maharajah Jungle Trek” and posed with several characters. We headed out of the Animal Kingdom at 11am and went to Disney Studios. My son and I went on the “Rock’N Rollercoaster” (10 minute wait) and then the family went on “Star Tours” (5 minute wait). My wife and son did “Rock’N Rollercoaster” (40 minute wait) while my daughter and I went on “Star Tours” (no wait) again. We left the park at 1:30pm for lunch. We went to Wendy’s for a quick lunch and were in Epcot at 3:30pm. Our plan was to get another VISA picture and then do the countries. First we got some drinks from “Club Cool”. We then posed with numerous characters and went to get our free photo. We headed over to the “World Showcase”. We worked our way all around the showcase stopping for a few snacks along the way. After watching the “American Adventure” and “Illuminations” we headed back to the condo. Tomorrow will be a long day. We’ll be packing and preparing for our long ride back to New Hampshire.

Friday August 25th - We woke at 8am for our last day in Florida. We went down to the clubhouse and read our email. We then went to the pool for a couple of hours and then went out to the “Golden Corral” (this has always been one of our favorite restaurants in Florida) for lunch. After lunch we went to a few souvenir shops and then back to the condo to start packing. Our plan was to finish packing by 6pm, I would sleep until midnight and the family would enjoy the resort. I tried sleeping but couldn’t, so I got up at 8pm. We decided it made more sense to finish packing and leave before everyone got tired. We left at 10:30pm and headed North.

Saturday August 26th to Sunday August 27th – I drove throughout the night with a few “power naps” in rest areas. I drove all day Saturday and Saturday night (again with a few power naps). We arrived in Rindge, NH. at 11:30am. The trip again took 37 hours.

Summary:

Weather- This was a very unusual trip for us weather-wise. We had heard that Florida was experiencing a drought. We didn’t have any rain (more than a drizzle) during the 3 weeks we were there. The temperature ranged between 90-100 degrees during our vacation. We got plenty of sun.

Quality Inn (Winter Haven) – We were pleasantly surprised with the hotel. We liked it very much. The hotel was very clean. It had a large pool that we had mostly to ourselves. There was a club/restaurant onsite that was sport themed and named for Ted Williams (a local legend from Boston). The rooms were a typical hotel room with the bonus of a small fridge and microwave that we used quite a bit. We were about 10 minutes from Cypress Gardens which was our main objective. They had a good Continental Breakfast. The cost was $69 a night.

Celebration World Resort (Kissimmee) – We spent 2 weeks at this resort (as an RCI exchange) and liked it very much. It was located about 10 minutes from Disney property. The 2-bedroom resort was huge with a hot tub in the unit, a large screen TV plus 2 other TVs, full kitchen, washer/dryer and screened in balcony. We were close to the clubhouse which had wireless internet, ping-pong, basketball, a moonwalk and the pool. There were several activities that we got involved in (bingo, hair wrap, pizza party, ect.).

Despite the fact that my son was under the weather for some of the trip we had another wonderful time. The weather was hot for the entire trip but we didn’t have any problems dealing with it. We carried water bottles to the park and just kept refilling them at the water fountains. If it got too hot there were plenty of places to get out of the heat or get air conditioning. The crowds weren’t as low as the same time in 2004 but were still very manageable. We will continue to go in the Summer until the kids graduate high school. It is such an added bonus when we are able to travel with other members of our family. We have now overlapped with my sister’s family twice and had a great time on both trips. We used our cell phones to keep in touch which enabled us to hook up more easily. We drive down and take a lot of food and drink with us which saves us a ton of money. Every trip we try to do several things that are new or different for us.
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Old 09-11-2006, 10:56 AM   #2
bbump
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Thanks for posting your report!
Sounds like your family had a wonderful time!
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