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Old 02-21-2007, 06:52 AM   #1
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Planning 201 vs Reality 101 Our Jan/Feb 07 trip - lots of photos, FINAL 3/31

Why Planning 201 vs Reality 101? I guess mostly because I am not super creative and it really sums things up. I feel I did more than enough planning for it to be upgraded from planning 101 to level 201 .And, of course, reality hardly ever turns out as planned. I thought it would be fun to show what I planned for each day vs what actually happened for that day.

I will start with the pretrip. Next up I will start with the whole planning vs reality part.

Me (full time working mom with 2 awesome girls, have a hard time making decisions and spending money $$ - good combo for a Disney trip, huh?)
DH (works from home, awesome dad, takes care of the awesome girls, loves a good time, goes with the flow)
Amanda (7 ½ year old DD. Loves all things Ariel)
Amy (4 yr old DD, changes her mind every other month on her favorite character)

Package with park hoppers and Dining Plan and onsite resort

It all started when ....... well, I guess Amanda was about 3 ½ or 4 (now 7 ½) and fell in love with Ariel and the Power Puff Girls. Most kids bounce around between favorite characters but to this current day, Amanda is still stuck on Ariel and the Power Puff Girls. We alternated birthday party themes between the 2 characters for the last 4 years worth of parties. This year is currently a toss up between the 2.

In August, we had a picnic with an out of town friend of mine and her daughter who brought along her Disney Autograph book. It had a picture of her 7 year old with Ariel. Amanda couldn't believe you could actually meet Ariel! She was her biggest fan and here, another 7 year old had meet her! That planted the seed. I HAD to get Amanda to Disney while she still believed in Ariel. How magical would that?!

I started researching. My friend (from the picnic) gave me lots of awesome links and I ended up on www.allears.net, www.wdwinfo.com and www.disboards.com. I knew September would be the best time for our family ..... we are a family that LOVES water attractions and low crowds. DH and I went in September for our honeymoon – 15 years ago this year and remember fondly the low crowds, nice weather, pool hopping (I hated to find out it isn't allowed anymore!), nice weather, etc. The down side? It was currently September and there was no way I could wait one YEAR to go to Disney now that I knew we were going. Plus, Amanda would be 8 by then. I didn't want to risk her still not believing in Ariel (½ of the reason for the trip, seriously!).

I looked into a value resort ($$ issues, remember?). DH looked over the links I sent him and baulked at all stars. He wanted a better pool for our water loving family, couldn't argue with that! We stayed at Caribbean Beach for our honeymoon and wanted to try something new. We loved the pool and theming of Coronado Springs. Hotel selected! Now, when to go?? As I mentioned, we don't like crowds and I am tight with the $$. Value Season of course and I wasn't waiting a year. OK that leaves January and February. I had to pull up nfl.com and check out the post season action. No way we could risk being at Disney with the Panthers in the playoffs or Super Bowl (hey, it was September, I don't have a glass ball but a Panther fan can hope!)

I contacted my friend's TA and we were booked!

Next decision, when to tell the girls? I didn't want to hear “how much longer” for months but wanted them to have the fun of the anticipation of the trip. CHRISTMAS! I planned for the next 2 months on how to tell them and of course planning the trip itself. It was SO hard not to tell them but worth it in the end.. I ended up with a surprise box.

It had Mickey Heads on the outside

(I got those early on in my planning because I read about them but then didn't know what to do with them LOL, this was perfect), wrapped in Disney paper and Disney themed items inside ... Disney pens, pencils, paper and countdown chain ... crickets chirruping.

Next up - Disney Dollars. Amanda asked if the money was real. Amy just wanted to play with the money and stopped opening.

I told Amanda it was real “Disney” money. Crickets chirruping.

Finally, maps of the park.

Lightbulb goes off in Amanda's head and she shouts “YOU went to Disneyworld??” Nope kiddo. I finally said “all of these items are a clue". Yep, the crickets kept chirruping. I hit play on the DVD player. I had queued it up the night before to just the right spot on the Disney Planning DVD. Within 10 seconds, Amanda guessed it. It was awesome - both DH and I teared up.

Next up, off we go!

Last edited by pantherlj; 03-21-2009 at 07:50 PM. Reason: title change
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Old 02-21-2007, 08:42 AM   #2
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Great start! I can't wait to hear the details about the resort and what you thought of it... we'll be staying at CSR later this year

PS: the girls are adorable!
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Old 02-21-2007, 10:01 AM   #3
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Looking forward to hearing the rest of your trip.
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Old 02-21-2007, 10:38 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by pantherlj View Post
Lightbulb goes off in Amanda's head and she shouts “YOU went to Disneyworld??”

That's priceless! Great start, can't wait to hear more!
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Old 02-21-2007, 07:13 PM   #5
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Thanks for reading so far! One thing I wanted to add before I start on the "leaving town for Disney" ......... not that it matters much

I didn't tell the girls about any specific plans I had each day in case plans had to change. I didn't tell them about any of the character meals I had planned (except one), fireworks, parades, etc. They did see the planning DVD so knew they happened and saw the kids got to meet characters and saw all the rides.

They each got a letter from Cinderella about a week before we left. It invited them to her castle for breakfast on Monday morning at 8:20 AM. I did it in Word in that fancy/cursive looking font and did a clip art of Cinderella at the top. They loved it!

Day 1 coming soon.
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Old 02-21-2007, 07:33 PM   #6
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Can't wait for day 1 Please hurry!!
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Old 02-21-2007, 08:06 PM   #7
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Here is where the Planning 201 (hey, I earned 2nd level, I did TONS of research and planning) vs, well, what actually kicks in AKA Reality 101. Going into this, I knew I had to do planning. I am a firm believer now that detailed planning is a must! Even with all my planning, there were times I found myself in the middle of a park saying “uh, now what should we do” while staring at a map. I can't imagine how it would have been with no planning! Having said that, I still would never plan out my day too much (ie I wouldn't list the order of the rides for the entire day but would know the key rides everyone wants to get on)

Day 1, Saturday January 27th

Planning 201: Leave Raleigh/Durham, NC at 8. Get to within one hour of Disney and spend the night in a average hotel (ie Holiday Inn Express, nothing pricey but a clean place to sleep).

Reality 101: Leave Raleigh/Durham, NC at 9:15. As we drive down I95 we noticed signs for Cracker Barrel every few miles. That sounds like a good lunch stop. We haven't eaten there in a long time. Of course, when lunch time rolls around, there are NO Cracker Barrels to be found! We ended up at a similar type restaurant and it was fine. The girls wanted dessert but we decided to use that as an excuse to stop a bit down the road. Man, they nagged us for miles about dessert! We finally caved and went to a McDonald's for McFlurries.

We end up making really good time and around 7:30, we discovered we are only 30 minutes or so from Disney! We debated (well, I internally stressed about money and deciding) about our nights stay and ended up splurging on an Embassy Suites so we could go to an indoor pool for our first night of vacation. The girls love, love, love to swim. The pool was great. We enjoyed a beer while the girls swam. Our room was terrible though. The shower was broken and our room was literally right above a wedding reception. I hate to be a party pooper but at 10:30 I called the front desk and asked them to turn down the music. I can't believe they didn't have better sound barriers. We could hear EVERYTHING. We did end up with a good night's sleep.

Conclusion for Day 1? Reality turned out better than the planning - DH hardly ever steers me wrong The indoor pool was awesome, a great way to start off vacation and we ended up closer to Disney than we though we would. And, the girls did great for the long car ride

Up next: How did our first park visit reality compare to my planning?

Last edited by pantherlj; 03-21-2009 at 06:28 PM.
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Old 02-21-2007, 10:19 PM   #8
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Hi there! Great start to your trip report. I also have a surprise trip in store for my kids in June, so I particulary like the "crickets chirping" I hope my kids will get it right away, but who knows...thats the fun part I think!

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Old 02-22-2007, 09:13 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by swillis View Post
Hi there! Great start to your trip report. I also have a surprise trip in store for my kids in June, so I particulary like the "crickets chirping" I hope my kids will get it right away, but who knows...thats the fun part I think!
Fun! How do you plan on surprising them? How old are they?
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Old 02-22-2007, 09:13 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Marion View Post
Great start! I can't wait to hear the details about the resort and what you thought of it... we'll be staying at CSR later this year

PS: the girls are adorable!

Thanks for the compliments on the girls We loved CSR!
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Old 02-22-2007, 09:36 PM   #11
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Day 2, Sunday January 28th (nice weather)

Planning 201: Finish last hour of drive to Disney, check in to hotel, explore resort, head to MGM (must do attractions: Voyage of Little Mermaid a must for Amanda, Little Einstein character meet and greet for Amy, Rock N Roller and Tower of Tower for me and DH), get luggage into room, early night.

Reality 101: Not to far off of Planning 201, a few perks thrown in. A stay at the Embassy Suites gets you a yummy cooked to order breakfast with your room (made me feel better about the $$ we spent on the room!). We enjoyed that and knew we were much closer to Disney than we had planned. We headed out and got to the Coronado Springs around 9:30.

Amy looking for the Welcome to DisneyWorld signs

Check in was fast and our room was ready, YEA!! It was slow so while one CM checked us, 2 others entertained the girls. They ended up with balloons (pink for Amy, Green for Amanda, their favorite colors), "My first 1st trip to Disney" buttons, Pirates/Princess party hats, and lots of Mickey stickers. We got to our room and while it was a parking lot view, we were very pleased to find it was as close to the bus stop as possible. This sure was nice a couple of times when we were all very tired. We were in Cabanas 8A. It was a quick walk to the pool and not too far to the main building with the gift shop and food court. We unloaded the car and put a few things away and then explored the playground and pool area a bit.

We then headed to MGM. One of the things the girls were most looking forward to on this trip? Riding buses

We got there and I bought the weeks worth of double stroller rentals (well worth the money, even from my $$ point of view! I can't believe how much time the 7 yr old spent in it). The first thing I see .... Photopass. Remember my $$/tightwad issues? If I am going to buy this darn CD for $124.95, you can bet I am going to get my money's worth. Family photo #1 (of 125 taken) I would insert photopass picture here if I had bought it yet!

With Ariel being ½ of the reason we were there, an Ariel attraction was of course the first must do! Here is a shot of Amanda seeing the sign

The park was a tad crowded by the time we got there so we got fast passes for Voyage of the Little Mermaid and then wandered around the park. While wandering around, we ended up seeing Mike and Sulley. Sulley was really funny. He started chasing Amy who didn't think he was funny at all. She ran behind me and wouldn't go near him. He sulked back to the queue line area (really funny!) I was worried she wouldn't go near a character the rest of the trip! She did fine however when we next went to see Minnie, Goofy and Pluto. I am not sure how or why it started but a beautiful friendship between Pluto and Amy began that day.

Voyage of the Little Mermaid was a huge hit with the girls. Dh and I enjoyed it too. What was most amazing was watching Amanda's joy during the show. She was in awe, I teared up more than once watching her.

Next was Star Tours for DH and Amanda. Amanda said she didn't want to go back on it until they got a better driver. I didn't ride but those of you have might understand. We had a pizza lunch at Toy Story Planet Pizza ($35, 3 CS – I knew the girls wouldn't eat a whole pizza so I just planned on eating ½ of theirs and that is exactly what happened). Next was Muppets 3D movie. Amy laughed and laughed at that show! We watched the parade and the highlight was when Ariel turned at waved right at the girls! Amanda was in heaven.

After the parade was Rock N Roller Coaster. Amy was too short so we did the parent swap with Amanda. Awesome ride! Despite the pure terror in Amanda's face on the photo from the ride, she wanted to go again. DH just had to buy the photo... very funny – wish my scanner was working. I had fun teasing her that I was too scared and tried to duck out at the exits when she rode it a second time with me. Neither of the girls were up for Tower of Terror so after DH went on it, we headed back to the hotel for dinner and bed. We ate dinner at the Pepper Market (food court at Coronado Springs, $36, 3CS) DH's rib-eye and potatoes were really good! The girls hot-dogs were awful. I wasn't hungry so just picked at what they didn't eat.

Conclusion: Again, Reality beat out Planning! We did everything on our check list. Wait..... were you paying attention?? We never made it to see Little Einsteins for Amy, one of our must dos for the day. Remember my pre trip? Amy changes her feelings monthly. Turns out to be daily. She loves Little Einsteins but insisted she didn't want to go see them and doesn't really care to watch them on TV much now either.

OH! I was bummed that the big Cheerios wasn't in the Honey I Shrunk playground. That was one of the few things I had told the girls about - we had a picture of us on it during our honeymoon and I thought it would be neat to get a new picture but they removed it years ago.

Could our luck continue? It has been a perfect trip so far. Amazingly, our luck was about to go through the roof! Stay tuned.

Last edited by pantherlj; 03-21-2009 at 06:33 PM.
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Old 02-22-2007, 09:45 PM   #12
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Your girls are adorable!! I like how you told the girls. Sorry they didn't get it right away. Too funny your oldest thought you had gone!! DH and I planned a surprise trip for our kids, too. Except we planned just a week and a half before leaving!! We drove, too, but from Chicago. (OT - we used to live in Mayodan, NC - just north of Greensboro.) Our trip was from 1/26 - 2/6. And our Bears were in the Super Bowl!! DH planned the trip the day before the Bears won the NFC Championship.

I look forward to reading more!!
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Old 02-22-2007, 10:21 PM   #13
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Loving your TR. Cant wait for more.
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Old 02-23-2007, 07:53 PM   #14
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Do you like photos? Lots of them today!!

Day 3, Monday January 29th (chilly morning, 32, but warmed up as the day went on)

Planning 201: 8:20 Cinderella Royal Table Breakfast (changed from 8:50at the last minute to get a jump start on rides), counter service lunch somewhere in MK and ride rides until we got tired. Must do rides for this day –Indy Speedway since I knew it would be in rehab the rest of our trip, Goofy Barnstormer early in the day to test out Amy's thrill riding levels, Pirates for DH and anything with short lines since I knew we would be back.

Reality 101: Wow, where to begin with Day 3....... While it is Day 3, it is our first full day of vacation. I had reservations for 8:50 at Cinderella's Castle. A friend (the one from the picnic) really pushed me to make our reservations as early as possible. She told me it is so magical to be at the Magic Kingdom when nobody is there. Calling to change our reservation was the best decision of our vacation! Amazingly, just about 2-3 weeks before vacation, I was able to get an 8:20 reservation. Another friend laughed at me when I shared my stress about the timing. 8:20 is early ... will DH and the girls handle it? 8:50 isn't too late, the lines will still be short. She teased me for stressing about it since it was only 30 minutes and really wouldn't make a big difference in the day one way or the other. Boy, was she wrong! The girls were having a hard time getting up but we got out the door and caught a bus quickly (bus service was great ALL week).

I told you it was a cold morning! Amy (pink hat) wouldn't let me put her hat any higher than that all morning. Drove me crazy to see her like that

We got to MK around 8. After going through the backpack check, a man and lady approached us and asked us if we were there for breakfast. I said yes and got a bit worried because I forgot to bring my reservation number. I had almost gone back to the room to get it, but it turns out it was a good thing I didn't waste the time. I could just imagine the kids disappointment if we didn't get to go have breakfast in the castle because I forgot the reservation number though!! He asked if we were really hungry or if we could wait just a little bit longer to eat. I had a feeling something really good was coming because of all the reading I had done on the boards . I told him we could wait and he said we were picked to help open Magic Kingdom today! We were the Magic Kingdom Family of the Day.

We went over to guest relations. He offered the girls autograph books but we already had some. Then, we got whisked away to Toon Town in one of the old fashion cars.

wish the color was brighter but the only shot we have

We were then handed over to a different Cast Member (Dennis, very friendly and helpful CM!). Dennis told us to get our camera ready, something fun was going to happen ... his boss was on the way. Just then, Amy has to go to the bathroom - We had to run from the train station up past Minnie's house.

We got back just as 12 characters were coming around the corner! It was so amazing to see that many characters together at one time and no people. It was just the 4 of us and Dennis. The girls got to play around with the characters, get autographs and pictures for about 15 minutes.

It was fun to see the characters interact with each other. Stitch, Chip and Dale and Alice in Wonderland were really entertaining ... even when they thought nobody was looking. They just enjoyed goofing off with each other. After we got an amazing group picture we boarded the train.

Amanda was pleased that Dennis agreed to let us enter through the “exit”

The characters all spread out into different cars of the train. We were in the middle with Mickey and Dennis. By this time, Amy had fallen in love with Pluto so she decided she wanted Pluto to sit with us. Dennis asked Mickey if he thought that would be OK just this one time and Mickey agreed. Pluto joined our train but was a couple of rows back so Amy still wasn't pleased!! She got it worked out so Pluto was sitting right up front with us. Pluto interacted so well with Amy. They were really cute together.

It was a chilly morning so they were warming each other's hands and noses up at one point.

We played with Pluto and Mickey while waiting on the train for about 10 more minutes and then we were off.

Amanda hanging out with Mickey

We rounded the corner to the main entrance and there were hundreds of people waiting below to get into the park! We hopped off the train and got some confetti. We waved to the crowds while the song and dance went on. We then did a countdown from 10 and "bang" went the streamers and confetti.

After we were done, the girls walked away from the train hand in hand with Mickey.

The main song/dance cast member went up to Amy and told her since she was the little sister, he wanted her to have something to help her remember this day. He gave her a set of two special Tinker Bell pins that can not be purchased anywhere. He said one was for her to keep and the other was for her to share with her big sister. We got lots of neat pictures on our photopass card from this experience (need to buy it within the next 10 days!!). We walked down the ramp and got some pictures with Mickey and they sent us on our way to Cinderella's Castle for breakfast. We got a picture of the girls before we went in

OMG! It is only 9:15 AM and this is our first full day?! No way the rest of the vacation can live up to this. Will the girls expect the royal treatment every where they go? Will they tolerate waiting in line to see a character?

More soon, thanks for sharing my trip with me! It sure is fun to relive it

Last edited by pantherlj; 03-21-2009 at 06:42 PM.
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Old 02-23-2007, 08:07 PM   #15
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OMG!!!! How exciting! The pictures of your girls
with the characters are just great. What wonderful
memories to treasure for a lifetime! I have been to
wdw many many times and never knew about the
special park opening ceremony until I came to these
boards! Can't wait to hear more!
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