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Old 09-04-2007, 10:28 AM   #1
marciemi
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Johnson Family Summer Vacation - COMPLETE -Days 1-16- PICS FIXED!!

Okay, first to provide some background! I've been on the DIS since 1999 officially, and I think even before that as the boards switched over. I'm more of a "lurker", but get more involved whenever we have a trip coming up (or finished in this case!). We've taken several trips with the kids, who on this trip were DS15 (Matt), DS14 (Stephen), and DS12 (Eric), along with DH (Royce) & myself (Marcie). We went to WDW previously in 1995, 97, 98, and then in 2000 spent a few days there in addition to a Disney Wonder Cruise. We were wearing lime green ribbons back then BEFORE it was cool!

We really weren't planning on going back but then DH had to go for business in early 2005. We only stayed 2.5 days and rushed through the highlights, but vowed then to come back, take our time, and enjoy Disney. The trip was originally planned for June of 2006; however, we found out in early 2006 that we were going to be moving from Michigan to Wisconsin at that same time, and ended up postponing the trip over a year. We finally went from July 27 - August 11, 2007.

We originally planned on driving, but with the additional distance to WDW from Green Bay vs. Detroit, the fact that our car now has well over 100,000 miles on it, and the low airfares we got on Air Tran ($195 pp), ended up switching over to flying. We got an excellent deal on a full sized SUV through Alamo ($417 for the entire 15 days), which we wanted since the seating is better for 3 kids than a minivan, and still provided room for 2 weeks worth of luggage and 3 sets of golf clubs!

We'd done a lot of research on our return in 2005 and decided for a stay of that long, staying onsite (as we'd done every time in the past) just wouldn't work for us. The kids are older now and need space, we'd rather prepare our own meals than pay for 5 "adults" at Disney dining locations, and a washer/dryer was a necessity! So we decided on a house in Emerald Island Resort. We'd actually already put a deposit down on it for 2006, but the owner allowed us to apply it to the dates we switched to in 2007.

Also, we'd decided we'd do the 10 day passes with the waterpark and hopper options and have time to truly enjoy Disney. But then Universal came out with its $85 deal for 7 day passes, and since the last time the kids had been to Universal was over a decade ago (and we focused primarily on Barney ), we really thought they might enjoy this as well. Decided because of the crowds at this time of year to spend one night at Royal Pacific in order to get the Express Passes, even though we were paying for the house for that night as well.

In the meantime, DS12 has become an avid golfer and couldn't imagine going to Disney and not playing at least some of the courses, despite the summer heat. We found out about Blue Man Group, and since DS is a drummer and friends of his had seen the show when it was in Green Bay, we decided this was a necessity as well for him. We saw a Travel Channel show on surfing and nearly everyone felt this would be fun to try, since we're all big skiers and snowboarders, but have never gotten to try the water side of it. Finally, my older two sons found out that for their marching band shows this fall they'd be performing all songs from Cirque du Soleil, so of course that became necessary as well.

I hope to take you through our days one at a time - explaining our likes and dislikes. I did post a live report over on the Universal thread while I was there, and will try to include some of my excerpts from those as well, and some pictures now that I've had a chance to get them all downloaded! We had a great trip - too hot, and too crowded - but what can you expect in late July?!
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Old 09-04-2007, 10:35 AM   #2
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Wow, am I the first to respond?!?! I can't wait to read about this awesome 2 WEEK trip- I am jealous. Oh, and that pic of the boys when they were little is great. I can't wait to see how they have grown up since then!

Anxiously awaiting more...
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Old 09-04-2007, 11:29 AM   #3
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Thumbs up Great Start

Hi Marciemi, From one "lurker" to another, GREAT start. I'm subscribing. Can't wait for your next update. Gregory.
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Old 09-04-2007, 12:04 PM   #4
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For Ashley!

Then (1998):



And now (2007) - kids in reverse order:



There'll be a lot of these kind of before/after pics so I hope you like them! Gregory - thanks for the kind words. I only had around 400 posts when I started back here about a year ago planning this trip. Got involved in some talkative threads in the Universal boards which has brought my post count up a lot, but probably averaged about 50 posts a year before that!
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Old 09-04-2007, 12:33 PM   #5
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PRETRIP - The Countdown!

I posted a thread about this WAY back, but of course in order to do a Disney trip countdown, you have to have a countdown calendar! Again, back in the old days, it wasn't as much of a production:



Grab a piece of posterboard, cut some pics out of the book you got from your travel agent (remember those days?!), and stick on some post-it notes!

Well, the advent of Home Depot Mickey Heads changed all that! You still get the posterboard (although a larger more durable size) and find pictures (mostly online) and cover them with post-its. But this time my Disney buddy (Stephen - DS13) and I decided to come up with a piece of information or trivia about each picture and stick it on the back of each of the Mickey heads we'd accumulated from Home Depot, and then put that on top.

The finished product with the boys in front:



Closer up to the final product:



A zoom in on a couple of the days after they'd been removed:



And a trivia example:



Then, once that was under control, it was time to use the templates I'd found on TGM and the DIS and create my pretty picture itinerary for the kids to have and DH to hang at his desk at work:



We also made Lime Green Mickey Head luggage tags for all our stuff, and I peeled the LGMH's from the Home Depot cards and put our names (marciemi, marciemi's DH, etc.!) on all of them and laminated them to wear around the parks. Also stocked up on my Lime Green Baggallini and made sure we all had DIS shirts to wear in both lime green and grey. Yep, people were going to know we were DIS'ers!
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Old 09-04-2007, 01:02 PM   #6
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DAY 1 - Green Bay to Orlando

This day isn't going to be all that exciting, which for a travel day, is probably actually a good thing!

We had originally booked our air on Midwest Airlines last September, but after a very bad experience with them back in February (in which they wanted to strand my 13 year old in Boston who was traveling by himself during a blizzard because his ticket HAD to include a Saturday night stay), followed in March by them cancelling all our flights and rescheduling them to much more inconvenient times, we just went ahead and had the money refunded and actually got the cheaper fare on Air Tran (and decided to add a day on to our trip while we had the chance! ).

This time, however, we booked a late afternoon flight on Friday since my oldest son had his soccer training camp at high school that week, and would just DIE if he had to miss a day of it. So you can imagine our dismay to find out on Wednesday that they weren't going to have camp on Friday anyways because his coach was going on vacation! Thanks for all the notice! I tried to see about switching flights, but the only option was a very early morning one and since we were flying out of Milwaukee would necessitate either an overnight stay or a 4am morning! We decided to just sleep in and start on a more leisturely day.

My youngest son (Eric) still had tuba and percussion lessons that morning at the middle school, so as soon as he was done at 10am, we were ready to roll (decided that it would be better to drop the tuba at home first!)

Then we drove down to Milwaukee, about 2 hours away. An uneventful drive, but after our last attempt going there when taking Eric to the ferry to go across Lake Michigan to camp and getting caught in incredible road closures, construction, and accidents, we weren't taking a chance today.

So we were there in plenty of time, had no problem getting through the line, and got some Pizza Hut for lunch. We got to our gate with a couple hours to spare, but had a good time just getting psyched about the trip!



An uneventful flight, with the most efficient "zone" loading we've seen before (and DH Royce travels about 50 percent of the time for work). First passenger walked on the plane, and 15 minutes later we were in the air. Arrived early, got our rental car from the kiosk at Alamo (never having to talk to a person), and finally claimed all of our luggage. I'm sorry, but I don't think I've ever traveled where our luggage came out the baggage claim that was posted on the first attempt. So after shuffling around a bit, waiting for the golf clubs to eventually appear, and then trying to solve the puzzle of fitting 4 wheeled duffle bags, 2 full size and one travel golf bags, 5 carryons, and two laptops, along with 5 people into a Toyota whatever SUV (okay, I'm not a car person - it was silver, does that help?). Finally got it in with no rear visibility, but hey - it fit!
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Old 09-04-2007, 01:30 PM   #7
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Enjoying your trip report. Keep them coming. ^_^
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Old 09-04-2007, 01:45 PM   #8
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Your itinerary calendar is just fantastic. It should win some kind of award.
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Old 09-04-2007, 01:49 PM   #9
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DAY 1 Continued - the house!

Got lost leaving the airport and ended up using the south exit instead of the north exit like our mapquest directions said. It was just approaching dusk, so we were hoping to find the house before it was too dark. Had to quickly pull out the map and do our best guess navigating there - we took the safer route, probably not the quickest route, but got there just as it was getting dark. Checked in at the clubhouse, got to the house, got the key out of the combination box, and got in!

We were really happy with the house in general. The distance was minimal and we didn't feel that commuting back and forth, even a couple times a day, was much of a hassle at all. Obviously from Emerald Island MK is the furthest and if you were spending all your time there with young kids who needed naps, it might not be the best thing. But we did go back and forth there at least once, as well as dropping the golfers back and returning to get them up in that area. I would never consider staying onsite again for anything longer than a 3-4 day trip with kids the ages of mine. Everyone really liked the privacy and relaxation that's necessary with a trip that long!

Some house pics to end the day:

The boys enjoyed the pool, especially after dark:



We didn't have the pool heated. The first week the weather wasn't scorchingly hot, and we had storms each afternoon, and it would almost seem cool out there in the late afternoon/evening. Fine for the kids who were active, but a bit cool to just sit. The second week we were there the temps seemed to be constantly in the mid 90's with heat indices nearer 105 and the pool was actually warm by the end of that week - even just sitting and relaxing. But it was a perfect size for a family of 5:



The house had 4 bedrooms and 3 baths. The first master suite had a king bed, and a bath that opened out to the pool, along with a walk in closet:



The second master suite had a queen bed and its own private bath, and was actually set quite a bit away from the rest of the bedrooms, nearer the garage. Our DS15 (Matt) had this room, which worked well since he liked to stay up much later than the rest of us talking to his girlfriend (since she was in a different time zone):



Then there were 2 other bedrooms, each with 2 twin beds in them. The rooms were small, but had large closets as well as a dresser in each, so there was more than enough space. Each of my other 2 boys got one of these rooms:





There was a very open floor plan with a living room area, which looked out on the pool and had a big-screen TV with an Xbox and a PS2, which were nice because we don't have either of those systems at home and the kids had fun relaxing and playing with them in the afternoons:



There was a dining room table for 6 near the entrance, and another smaller table for 4 next to the kitchen, which you can see in the rear of this pic:



The dining room area:



Finally, the garage had been made into a game room, and my kids loved playing pool and there was also a washer & dryer in there which we used daily! When it was really hot outdoors, it got a bit warm in the garage, but was still cool enough for them to play in.



The only problem we had with the house was in getting the wifi to work. We spoke with the management company and later the owners and they all agreed that entire area has problems with their service provider. I'd say it didn't work well over 1/2 of the time. However, we were able to use dialup on my husband's work computer, which worked okay for us for everything except for posting pictures and for Matt to be able to IM his girlfriend - he had to resort to actually calling her on the cell phone - how old fashioned!

For those of you wondering, we paid about $140 a night total (including taxes, etc.) for the house - about $50 a night cheaper than the cheapest we could have stayed onsite at POR with a trundle bed at that time of year. I'd do this in a heartbeat again instead!
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Old 09-04-2007, 01:56 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thptrek View Post
Your itinerary calendar is just fantastic. It should win some kind of award.

Someone on TGM sent it to me and I just made modifications, but I later saw a very similar template for it on these boards as well. I'm certainly not that computer-savvy!
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Old 09-04-2007, 02:56 PM   #11
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I am loving your countdown and especially loving your itinerary template! I am going to look around and see if I can find one on TGM, but if not I may need your help locating one. I was telling my mom about our plans for our upcoming trip (which I have totally planned out of course), and she siad, "Well type it up all nice so we can each have a copy" Ah, a woman after my own heart.
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Old 09-06-2007, 10:47 AM   #12
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Day 2 - Magic Kingdom

Well, after getting to the house late last night, letting the kids jump in the pool, and unpacking just enough to have clothes for today, we were ready to get up bright and early and head to the Magic Kingdom! I’d packed completely stocked fanny packs in everyone’s carryon backpack, so we’d just thrown the water bottles in the freezer the previous night and were ready to walk out the door.

We weren’t sure how long it would take to get from Emerald Island to MK, which was supposedly the furthest resort, so we decided to leave early. We also had the advantage of still internally being on Central Time. So we found ourselves waiting for the monorail (only the resort one was open) by around 7:40! Thus began our saga of being first in line at the turnstiles (note the DIS shirts!):



We’d get there bright and early, then spend the time taking turns running to the restroom, getting sunscreen on everyone, getting maps, discussing our plans so everyone knew exactly where we were heading, and most importantly, getting a chance to talk to (and trade pins and stories with) the various CM’s. Some days we had really great and social CM’s waiting; others, not so much. It was usually still fairly cool at this time of morning, and the kids weren’t awake enough yet to be fighting so we enjoyed this early morning time!

It didn’t seem to take very long at all until we were let through the turnstiles and up by the railroad to wait for the early morning show. Since we were near the front, we were handed a bunch of sequin-type Mickey heads to throw as they counted down to opening. Well, when we threw them up in the air, Matt (my 15 year old) didn’t realize he’d gotten one trapped in the waistband of his shorts (gotta love teens and their baggy shorts!).

Late that afternoon, when he changed into his swimsuit, he found the sequin there and peeled it off. Between the heat, the suntan lotion, and the sweat, all the color (a pretty pink!) had come off the sequin onto his skin! Yes, he had a cute pink Mickey tattoo that stayed there for the entire length of our trip! So, if your kids want the expensive tattoos in the parks – here’s a cheap alternative! Anyways, a really close up pic of the tattoo:



We then ran to the next rope – we seemed to be the only people not heading right for the Space Mountain race or straight ahead to the Dumbo one (we felt safe skipping this!). We decided to hit Fantasyland first and work our way to the left, saving Tomorrowland for a different morning. So we took the path between those 2, which took us right next to the Pooh ride. When the rope dropped, we were first in line on Pooh. We decided to then work our way across FL, rather than backtracking. We did Snow White next, which only took a couple minutes. Then we hit Peter Pan. Here’s a now and then shot from our last trip, 2 and a half years earlier. 2007:



And 2005:



We continued on to Small World, then had Royce run ahead to get FP’s for Splash Mountain, while we continued to Thunder Mountain. Met together there and rode it. Determined it was much more enjoyable this time in the warm weather rather than last time we rode it when it was in the 30’s, dark, and sleeting!



Last time:



Then we went onto Aladdin’s Magic Carpet for the first time – we never even saw this ride on our trip in 2005, so had to get it in this time. Surprisingly, there was still no line at this point, so I rode in the carpet ahead of everyone to get a pic:



We then rode Jungle Cruise with no line and not even a full boat! I think this is the first time I’ve ever not waited for this ride. We had an excellent skipper and a great time. We then went to POTC, and had our first encounter with the “infamous” Brazilian Tour Groups. Yes, they were all being pushy, yes, they were being loud, yes, they took a zillion flash photographs during the ride, but overall I’m guessing they weren’t as bad as they could be from all the threads I’ve read.

By now it was time to go back to Splash Mountain and use our FP’s. We ended up getting a boat to ourselves for some reason (there was a fairly long standby line):



The kids enjoy this ride. Royce didn’t enjoy it quite as much because I guess he didn’t realize that there’s a lot more water on the ride in July than in January. He had his brand new digital camera out near the beginning where you’re getting blasted by the water from the logs going a different way. Right as I said “you know you’re going to get wet here”, we got wet! He did a quick “turn the body and thrust the camera into his stomach to protect it” move, but was still cranky I hadn’t told him earlier (um, it’s Splash Mountain, you might get wet?!). But he managed to get a quick pic of the kids:



Now it was near 11am. The kids were of course staaarrvving! However, we were supposed to meet another DIS’er at 1pm at Pecos Bills. We made a quick decision to grab food there now, while there were no lines, and then we could just sit and socialize with them when they arrived. Meanwhile, Royce ran to get us FP’s (which we ended up not needing) for Philharmagic. Got an okay (but fairly steeply priced!) lunch of burgers, etc. First day so that still sounded good!

Now we’d pretty much completed everything on our list, so we decided to do some of the smaller stuff to avoid the hordes of masses that were now invading the parks. We went over to do Philharmagic, and noticed that the lines for the 4 rides we’d done that morning in Fantasyland (which took us a total of 20 minutes including ride time) were now nearer to 3 hours total (mostly 50 minute waits, shorter for IASW). Enjoyed Philharmagic, even though we ended up in the very last row, but didn’t want to spend the time waiting for the next show.

Then we went over and saw the Tiki birds. Okay, not the best show in the world, but you have to do it once while you’re there. We then did the Country Bear Jamboree since it was near Pecos Bills and we still had some time to wait. We hadn’t seen this show since probably 1997 and I guess we weren’t missing too much. The kids rolled their eyes at all the corny humor, but it was air conditioned and we were in out of the crowds sitting so they didn’t complain too much! Got to Pecos Bills right around 1 only to have a voice mail telling us that the folks we were meeting were tired and had already left the park. So we decided to head out too.

Got back to the house, let the kids have fun in the pool, and started some serious unpacking. Once we were done, the kids came in and we got the PS2 hooked up, and Royce and I headed out to Walmart to do our stock-up shopping for our meals for the two weeks. We’re working on our second cart of groceries, when someone comes up to me and asks, “Marcie?”

Yes, it was Kristy – the TGM’er we were meeting up with later in the week. We’d been corresponding for the previous 6 months since our trips had very similar dates and she knew to look for us in the lime green wherever we went (and we both had our DIS shirts and lime green Crocs on!).



Had a chance to compare notes for a few minutes (they’d arrived that afternoon), then headed out before our perishables, um, perished! Back to the house where we cooked up some dinner and assembled the $20 grill we’d purchased and got everyone into bed nice and early.
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Old 09-06-2007, 05:53 PM   #13
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marci - i believe you may be the most organized DISer I know - were you a quarter master?

great report, new pics

home depot may never recover did you gather all the mickey heads in one raid?
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Old 09-06-2007, 06:40 PM   #14
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I am lovin your trip report and can't wait to read more. I especially love the pictures of your boys then and now.
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Old 09-06-2007, 07:22 PM   #15
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Love The Trip Report!!!
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