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Old 09-23-2007, 02:57 PM   #1
kokotg
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Pirates of the Quesadilla: 9/14-9/22 POP trip with 3 boys and pix! COMPLETE 1/14 p. 3

We just got back last night from our second September trip. We were there September 14-22 and stayed in two rooms at Pop Century. I had big plans to keep up a "pre-trip diary" but I didn't get very far with it. So I'll stick the only installments that got written on here and then get on with the trip report tonight as soon as I get pictures uploaded.

The cast

Here we are a few months ago on our trip to Cape Cod:



Me, Gretchen, 32: I stay home with our three boys, and we’re homeschooling, so that’s the plan for the foreseeable future. Speaking of plans, I make them, when it comes to all things Disney. And most other things having to do with home and family, really. DH is very open to suggestion. So that works out well most of the time.

DH, Dave, 31: a high school math teacher and father of three boys (the same boys, oddly enough, that I am the mother to). Was surprised last year by just how much fun he had at WDW, making my job of convincing him to go again this year much easier than I feared.

DS, Ari, 6: brings a healthy sense of cynicism with him to Disney World. Ari is hilarious, grumpy, shy, and a follower of rules. Last year he dove under the table whenever characters came near. Since then we've learned that he has a hearing loss in his right ear and gotten a hearing aid for him and this has done a lot to help with his extreme shyness. He's still very reserved with people he doesn't know, but much better than he used to be. Excited about being tall enough for Primeval Whirl this year.

DS, Milo, 4: very easygoing and laid back...except when he's not. Loves Test Track more than anything. Easy to delight. The opposite of Ari in that there's no one he can't become fast friends with in five minutes. Does not like "scary things."

DS, Gus, 21 months: never stops moving. Last year he wasn't walking yet and was therefore easy to keep track of. This year will be...interesting. Generally in a good mood, used to being sat upon and otherwise abused by older brothers so he's not easily intimidated. Fears nothing. Developed an obsession with Mickey in the weeks leading up to our trip.



Pre-trip Diary: March 17, 2007

According to Tour Guide Mike, it is exactly 181 days until my Disney vacation begins on September 14, 2007. I have been in full on planning mode for several weeks now. I have a room booked (with a teacher’s discount, thanks to my husband the math teacher) at the Swan. I have added up how much it might cost us to buy food out of pocket and come up with the rather unsettling total of $666. I have resolved to add it up again soon, forgoing my previous method of rounding to the nearest dollar so that I might come up with a less ominous figure. I have researched various ticket brokers in search of the best price. And I have read the rumors suggesting that free dining might just be coming back and rendering all of this planning useless. The idea of staying at an Epcot resort and strolling over to the World Showcase or MGM or the Boardwalk whenever we please appeals to me greatly. The idea appeals to me more than almost anything except for the idea of saving $700 on our trip while ordering far more appetizers and desserts than we would ever think of otherwise.

So now it is St. Patrick’s Day. My husband is over at a friend’s house brewing beer. My children are asleep. My neighbors seem to be having some sort of party. And I am reading trip reports on the Disboards and trying to decide on which backup plan to use if and when Free Dining is announced. I was leaning toward either an All Star Family Suite or two connecting rooms at Pop, but then dreams of the Animal Kingdom Lodge started creeping into my brain, and now I just don’t know.

This will be our second trip to WDW. Well, it will be my fourth trip, actually, if one counts a visit to the MK when I was 4 or 5 and one that added on Epcot when I was perhaps 9 or 10. And Dave’s third trip, if one counts a one day visit to the MK with his grandparents when he was a kid (his grandparents lived in Florida the whole time he was growing up (in Georgia!), and he spent a grand total of one day at Disney World. I shake my head in disgust. My children will not be deprived that way!) But our first family trip was last September. Dave would probably be more worried about the frenzied, obsessed planning mode I’m currently in were I not able to remind him of how things went down last year: “remember, honey? I just do this for a few weeks before we hit the 180 day mark; then once we have all the ADRs squared away I can chill out and only spend a few hours a week talking about Disney until maybe a month before the trip.” I worry that I’m damaging the children by encouraging them to spend half of every year thinking about Disney World several times a day. Ari confirms that I am, in fact, damaging him by responding grumpily to my cheerful assertion that “it’s FUN to talk about Disney World” with “yeah. Except it just makes you miss it EVEN MORE!” But I continue to whip out the planning DVD periodically to keep them occupied while I get the baby down for a nap.

Last year at this time, as I took on WDW planning as a full time job, I had a gnawing little fear in the back of my head: what if we don’t LIKE Disney World?! A guy at church had just returned from a trip, and I asked him how it went. “It’s really crazy,” he said, “it’s all so carefully designed; it’s like everything’s an illusion. Like they even do all this stuff to create the illusion that you’re actually having fun.” I found this observation interesting and perceptive. Why, it sounded like something I might say. What if it WAS something I would be saying in six months?! He went on to talk about the attraction they’d enjoyed the most: “it was really cool…I think it was called, uhh…Mickey’s Symphony or something?” I bit my tongue to keep from saying, “you must mean Mickey’s Philharmagic” and revealing the depth of my obsession to someone outside immediate family. I was encouraged by his clear lack of Disney savvy. They probably hadn’t gotten to the park before opening. They might not have known about Fastpasses. Why, I’ll bet they didn’t even schedule an afternoon break at the hotel! With enough careful planning, anyone could love WDW! Right? Still, I worried. My five year old is a glass half empty kind of kid: “I’m not going to have any fun at all at YUCKY World,” he told me. My three year old wondered if Dis-a-ney World was inside or outside. The baby kept his feelings on the matter to himself and said nothing.

The trip drew nearer, and I continued to worry. I had wanted to go to Disney World for years. I’d come very close to planning a trip pre-kids with Dave and some friends from grad school, but it never quite came together. I’d been looking forward to this trip for forever, but what if I was all wrong? What if I was setting myself up for the biggest, most expensive disappointment of my life? The Disboards gave me hope: thousands of people who had been to WDW and liked it enough to spend time on message boards posting about it. But my real life connections were less encouraging. My stepmother told me enthusiastically about the trip she and my teenaged half sister had just taken, but stopped short when she heard about my plans: “you’re going to take little kids to Disney World?!” My aunt, when questioned about the trip she took my young cousins on years earlier said, “I mostly just remember that Alix kept saying she was bored.” (although Alix grew up to actually work at Disney World, so perhaps she was having more fun than she let on). My mother-in-law planned to come along with us, but got cold feet as the trip date approached. Dave called to cancel her reservation. “Bless her heart,” said the CM, “is she ILL?” That was a good sign, right? The CM could not imagine any reason other than debilitating illness for missing a trip to WDW.

Finally it was time. I held my breath and took my family to Disney World

…….and we had a great time! My skeptical husband was a convert! The three year old was thrilled to discover just how inside AND outside Disney was! Mr. Yucky World himself put aside his characteristic cynicism and actually smiled a good portion of the time! The baby appeared interested in most things and didn’t cry much. Phew!

So here we are, planning trip number two. Two days until we make ADRs!

March 20, 2007

A funny thing has happened in the last two days. I put together a list of ADRs to make in anticipation of free dining. My plan was that we would go ahead and make them all, then cancel about half if free dining didn’t happen and we were going to be paying out of pocket. Last night, 180 days out, I presented the list to Dave and sent him off to call WDW-DINE (I do not like the phone; our arrangement is that I tell Dave what to say, and he makes the calls). I had read conflicting information on the boards as to whether they’d let us make our 180 + 10 ADRs with reservations at the Swan. Dave made our Coral Reef ADR for night #1 and tried to move on to night #2. The CM put him on hold and went to ask someone about this. She came back. No go. Suddenly, the thought of waiting another week to make all our reservations and then possibly having to give a bunch of them up later seemed unbearable. My list of restaurants was perfect: a thoughtful blend of some new, some we’d tried before; a couple of carefully selected character meals; much thought given to our theme park plans and transportation issues for each day. How could I cut any of them? Plus, with two rooms at Pop we could actually watch TV and, like, move around the room after the kids went to sleep at night. Hmm…

A few minutes later I was decided; free or not, food won out over location this year. The Swan, with its attractive teacher discounts, would be there next year, right? I called Disney (yes, I did it myself; I didn’t even make Dave call). It was all settled: two rooms at Pop, a king connecting to 2 doubles if it could be arranged. Dave called Westin to cancel at the Swan. It was after 10 and too late to call for ADRs by the time all this was done, but Dave called tonight. So, there you have it. I am nearly finished with obsessive planning mode. I just have to wait for the free dining rumor to become official (fingers crossed) and call and add it to our package.

Last edited by kokotg; 01-14-2008 at 04:34 PM.
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Old 09-23-2007, 07:52 PM   #2
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Friday: The drive down

The days leading up to our trip were filled with bad omens. A week and a half before we left, I fell and sprained my ankle racing Ari through the obstacle course at the Bounce House. I was on crutches for two days. By trip time, my ankle was still disconcertingly swollen, but I could walk on it for a good while without anything worse than mild soreness resulting. Could I walk on it as much as I needed to for Disney, though? Time would tell. Two days before we left, I developed a nasty cold. My nose was stuffed up, I could barely talk, and I was chain sucking cough drops. I packed some Tylenol and Afrin and hoped for the best.

We planned to leave (we live about an hour north of Atlanta) as soon as Dave got home from work (around 4) on Friday. That morning, I dropped off the dog at the kennel and ran a few last minute errands. We had packed up the car the night before, so we were on the road by a quarter after 4. Things went along smoothly until we got close to Atlanta and then…traffic. Huh. Traffic. At rush hour? Who would have thought? Not me. Or if I did, I put it completely out of my mind months before the trip. But no matter! We moved slowly onward. We stopped for dinner, thinking maybe we’d eat somewhere like Longhorn. Then we remembered it was Friday night. Hmm….restaurants are crowded. Who would have thought? No matter! We went to Cici’s and then got back on the road. We were still just a bit south of Atlanta and this whole driving all the way down on Friday night thing was starting to seem like a somewhat foolish idea. We finally made it to Pop at 2:30 in the morning. We had reservations for two rooms for the rest of the week, but I’d just booked one room for the first night since I knew we’d just get in late and crash. Dave asked the check in guy if we’d be able to keep our room the next day and just add on the one next to it (it was two separate reservations, so we were going to have to check out and check back in). He was very confident that we wouldn’t have to move. Our room was in the ‘70’s and, of course, on the 4th floor. I’d thought about requesting a 1st floor room because of my ankle, but decided against it. Which worked out fine mostly, except the kids were very fixated on taking the stairs every.single.time. The kids had been asleep for hours in the car, but had woken up when we stopped, and it was nightmarish getting them back to sleep. The less said about that the better. Our first night in a hotel is always a mess; the kids get completely wired and can’t settle down. But eventually everyone settled in for 4 hours or so of sleep before hitting the parks.

next up: MGM
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Old 09-23-2007, 08:14 PM   #3
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Saturday Part 1: MGM, Playhouse Disney, and Misting Fans

Gus was up first at 8. Dave took him to Classic Hall to do the check out/check back in thing. He had a couple of goals. One: see if he could get our request for a room with a king bed fulfilled. Two: cancel our park hoppers. A week or so before we left I’d looked over our itinerary and realized we were really only planning to park hop to get to dining reservations. It seemed to make more sense to cancel the park hopper and try to shift some reservations around. But I wasn’t sure if we could cancel park hoppers. Dave called to ask. The woman assured him that we could cancel no problem. Anytime! Cool. So we spent some time on the phone with dining and made a couple of changes. Then, a couple of days before the trip, Dave called again to cancel the park hoppers. This time, the woman on the phone told him there would be a $50 fee to change the tickets. Hmm…the last person he talked to hadn’t said that, Dave told her. She talked to a manager and came back to tell him we could get around the $50 fee by making the change at Pop when we checked in. Great! Only at 2:30 in the morning, they said they couldn’t do it just then; we’d have to do it in the morning. The other kids woke up while Dave was gone. He came back looking defeated. “They can’t cancel the park hoppers,” he told me. “Do we get to stay in this room?” I asked. He shook his head. “Basically—we don’t get anything we want,” he said. No king size bed either. I was bummed about that, especially; the king size bed was the only thing we’d requested about the rooms. Dave called the reservation number again about the park hopper thing. Now they were telling us they couldn’t change it at all, $50 fee or not. “But we would have canceled it the other day if we’d known that,” Dave protested. They told him to check with guest relations when we got to the park and that they should be able to help us. I hoped so. Things were feeling decidedly unmagical right then.

Saturday was our MGM day. Last year we took the bus or the boat (from the Wilderness Lodge) nearly everywhere, but we decided to do more driving this time to avoid so much time at bus stops and on buses with wiggly children. Any hopes of getting to the park for rope drop had gone out the window sometime around 1 AM the night before. We had a quick breakfast in the room then drove over to MGM. Driving is easy! And fast! We made it inside the park at a quarter past 10. I went to rent a length of stay double stroller while Dave went to talk to guest relations. We met back up a few minutes later. Finally—magic! Or at least it felt that way—guest relations came through for us! So, newly park hopperless and $200 richer, we turned our attention to the main business of the day—securing tickets for the Playhouse Disney Live concert that was going on that weekend. Dave went to get fastpasses for Tower of Terror while I picked up the tickets. And then we weren’t quite sure what to do. All my careful planning was ruined by our late arrival. We had reservations at the Sci Fi Dine In at 11:25, so we only had about an hour before that. Finally we decided to go on Star Tours, despite the 25 minute wait. This is probably the time to mention that Milo was scared of pretty much everything except, mysteriously, Test Track last year. Stuff you’d expect like the Haunted Mansion and stuff you wouldn’t expect like Winnie the Pooh. So we had no idea how he’d do this year. He leaves the room during at least one scene from any Disney movie he watches because he doesn’t like the scary parts. But he’d been psyching himself up for the Haunted Mansion for months, telling us that he was going to try it. Star Tours seemed like a rather ambitious test for his courage, but we figured it was worth a try. The way the parent swap works on Star Tours is that everyone in your group goes through the line together and then they send the little kid(s) and extra grown-up off to the side to wait for you when you get to the ride. So we spent our 25 minutes in line talking to Milo about the ride and trying to gauge whether we were likely to ruin the rest of our vacation by putting him on it or not. As soon as we got in line, things looked rather iffy. “It’s dark! It’s too scary!” he screeched. We managed to calm him down, and after a couple of minutes he was very into the whole line experience. He decided he wanted to give the ride a try. When we got to the front of the line, Dave took Gus off to the side while I went on with Ari and Milo. We sat down and got buckled in and then in walked a Dream Team guy. Whoo hoo! First ride! Magic! Everyone won Dream Fastpasses. This was very exciting but not actually very useful since we’d already gotten Tower of Terror fastpasses and waited in line for the only other Fastpass attraction we were planning to see. But still! We won! The kids had no clue what was going on and were not at all excited. But on to the ride. I hadn’t been on it before and couldn’t really pay that much attention because I was worried about Milo. I kept looking over at him and he looked…fine. Happy, even! The ride ended. We stayed put until the doors opened and Dave came in. Neither of the kids wanted to go on it again with him, though. “Do you want to ride again?” I asked Milo. “No,” he said calmly, “it was too scary.” Well, okay then. So me and all three kids went out to wait for him. He came out a few minutes later with his own fastpass.



Here's Ari looking very excited about his Dream Fastpass.

By now it was time for lunch, so we went over to the Sci Fi and checked in. We barely had time to snap a few pictures of the kids sitting in the car out front before they called us to our table. This was a first for us; I knew not to expect much from the food, but booked it because I figured the kids would like the eating in cars thing. It’s a really cool restaurant to look at. And the movie clips on the big screen kept the kids well occupied—always a good thing. Dave ordered the Reuben, and I ordered a burger. I ordered a milkshake for my drink and the kids did, too (I asked the server if we could get the kids milkshakes instead of desserts, and he said we could. The general rule is grown-ups can get milkshakes but not kids. We found this strange custom of denying desserts to kids while piling the sugar on the adults a running theme on our trip). My shake was yummy and my burger was fine. Dave wasn’t at all pleased with his Reuben, though; he described it as very bland. Full of shake, we skipped dessert and headed back out into the park.



At first I planned to take pictures of the food everywhere, but it just got to be too complicated with the three kids demanding attention all the time. But I got pics here before I gave up. This is Dave's appetizer, the 7 Bean Beef Chili, which he said was good.



My burger (with chedder cheese and bacon). It was passably good, but a little on the dry and flavorless side.



And Dave's much disliked reuben.



And Milo sitting in the car, mostly just because I don't have any other pictures to post of him for today, and I don't want him to read this someday and think I didn't love him.

Our Playhouse Disney tickets were for 1:45. It was still too early to go there, but too late to do much else. We checked the Great Movie Ride, but the line was a little too long for us to chance it. We decided to watch the Magic of Disney Animation. Ari’s very into drawing lately, so I thought he at least would find it interesting. The show is a live cast member interacting with a video of Mushu from Mulan. Milo thought the whole thing was absolutely hilarious. All of us enjoyed it except Gus. The whole show is maybe 8 minutes long, but this was much too long for Gus to sit still. This is where we discovered that the only way to see shows at Disneyworld with Gus is to let him nurse through all of them. Any other benefits aside, I present this as a strong case for extended nursing. After the show, you’re dumped out in an area where there are some exhibits about animation, an "Animation Academy" where they do a little class and show you how to draw Mickey or Minnie or whoever, and a line to meet the Incredibles. Milo had, before our trip, expressed some interest in meeting Mr. Incredible. As soon as he saw him here, however, he disappeared. Like, really—I said, “hey Milo, do you want to meet Mr. Incredible?” and then looked down and he was gone. It took us 3 or 4 minutes of rapidly growing panic to find him. Hiding behind a wall around the corner. Okay, so no meeting Mr. Incredible! I wanted to do the animation academy with Ari, but there wasn’t time before Playhouse Disney, so we left and made our way over there.



Here's Dave retrieving Gus after one of the many, many times he ran off--this time while we were waiting in line for the animation show. Poor Dave did the lion's share of the Gus wrangling on this trip, since holding the extra 30 pounds that is Gus for any length of time wreaked havoc on my ankle.

We had bought some of those spray fan things at Wal Mart before the trip. I was proud of myself for buying the $5 fans to avoid the temptation of the $17 ones at WDW, but I had forgotten to bring batteries for them. The kids had been bugging us about getting batteries all day (it was very, very hot), so we stopped on the way to Playhouse Disney to buy The Most Expensive Batteries in the World. $16 for 4 AA batteries. There was some talk on the battery packaging about how they’re super special and last for a million years or something, but, really, for that kind of money I expect batteries that can vacuum my house for me. But the kids could now spray themselves with water whenever they wanted, so they were happy.



I had read the concerts were in a “tent” near Rock n’ Roller Coaster (which was closed for refurbishment), so I pictured it as a kind of outside thing with just an awning over it for shade. I was relieved to find out it was the sort of tent with walls and air conditioning. We got there just a few minutes before showtime, so we were seated pretty far back. The show started and Mickey appeared. Gus was enthralled. “MICKEY!” he shouted. Milo was entranced for the Little Einsteins part and mildly interested in the rest. Ari was bored. I was a little creeped out by how the actors moved their lips as if they were talking, but then it was actually a recording of all the dialogue. Unless they really did all have weird animated voices, which would be even creepier. All in all I thought it was…well done, I guess, but a little ridiculous that it was this big thing that you have to get special tickets to and wait in line for when there are other live shows at WDW every day that are much more impressive. Heck, I thought the mime at Epcot was better than the Playhouse Disney show. Maybe I’m just bitter that we weren’t there for Dan Zanes, though. I kind of have a big crush on Dan Zanes.
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Old 09-23-2007, 09:13 PM   #4
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Old 09-23-2007, 09:16 PM   #5
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Saturday Part 2

First, here's a guy selling balloons:



I went on Tower of Terror next while Dave waited with the kids. Ari went on it last year, but it kind of freaked him out, I think. He went back and forth about whether or not he was going to ride this year, but finally decided not to. But I love Tower of Terror. I used my Dream Fastpass instead of the fastpasses Dave had picked up earlier because, well, it was cooler.

Afterwards, the kids wanted a snack, so we got a couple of frozen drinks as we walked over to the Great Movie Ride. We waited in line 20 or so minutes for this. Gus fell asleep in the Ergo on Dave’s back while we waited and stayed asleep through the whole ride. Another test of Milo’s courage and again he rose to the occasion. Both of the awake kids liked this ride a lot, surprisingly. They kept talking about it for the rest of the trip. I thought it was entertaining enough. At the end of the ride they show a montage of movie clips and this woman sitting directly behind us kept yelling out the names of all the movies she recognized. It was incredibly annoying. If you are the sort of person who does this on the Great Movie Ride, let me take this opportunity to beg you to stop.

Last year we had originally not even planned to come to MGM but wound up hitting it for just a couple of hours one day, so we’d missed a lot. I was looking forward to seeing some new stuff, including One Man’s Dream. One Man’s Dream is basically a small museum about Walt Disney. We noticed as we were parking our stroller that there was only one other stroller parked outside. Hmm…bad sign? Yes. Our kids were not the least bit interested in learning all about the man behind the magic. As far as I could tell, the exhibit was very interesting and well done, but I can’t really be sure because I was mostly chasing around three hyped up little boys. We got out of there fast. We decided to give the Animation Academy another try. There was a 10 minute wait, and Dave still wanted to ride Tower of Terror, so he left me to wait with the kids while he ran over to do that. I put Gus in the backpack, which he was not at all happy about. There’s a small roped off area to wait in, and you kind of have to stay there because there’s very limited seating for the class, so you lose your spot if you wander off to look at exhibits. They have a TV screen in there that shows Disney characters being drawn and you’re supposed to see how fast you can guess who it is. That entertained Ari and Milo for a few minutes, but they were wrestling on the floor by the time the doors finally opened to let us in. Three boys! Never a dull moment! Dave—thank God—showed back up just as we were getting settled in our seats, so he held onto Gus while I helped Ari and Milo. We (Ari and I at least) really enjoyed the Animation Academy. It’s very low key for Disney. There are maybe 40 or 50 seats with a desk, sheet of paper, and pencil in front of each one. A guy stands in the front with a big overhead projector and leads everyone, step by step, through drawing a character. We got Minnie Mouse (he asked who had been there before and what they had drawn to try to find a new one for everyone). It goes fairly fast. Milo got restless quickly, so Dave took him and Gus out. Ari could keep up, but just barely. I wouldn’t try to do it with a kid much younger than him. I was worried he’d get frustrated (he’s an easily frustrated boy), but he didn’t. He loved it, and wound up with a cool souvenir to take home. In fact, a few days later, he spent some of his spending money on a book about how to draw Disney characters. Here he is with his masterpiece:



By now it was getting late and my ankle was rebelling (for most of the trip, it was fine in the morning, but got very sore by late in the day. I iced it every night, and it worked out okay), so we decided to head back to the hotel. Last year we were slavishly devoted to the universally recommended afternoon break. But the result was a lot of afternoons spent trying unsuccessfully to get Ari to nap, followed by evenings with two well rested kids and one super grumpy kid. At home the kids go to bed by 7 or 7:30, and on this trip we found it was better to stick to that schedule as closely as we could. So we mostly spent long days in the parks (well, right around opening to late afternoon or early evening anyway), and then got the kids to bed early so they’d be ready to go again the next morning. This meant we couldn’t do a lot of evening stuff, but I think it worked out well for us given our kids ages and personalities. We’ll see fireworks when they’re older.

So anyway, we drove back to Pop, and Dave called on the way to get our new room assignments. This time we were in the ‘80’s. This was kind of too bad, since we were so much farther away from Classic Hall, but Dave was pretty excited about the Pac Man figures adorning our building. He loves Ms. Pac Man. The kids were excited about the “cube steps” (as in Rubic’s). And I was absolutely thrilled to discover that…we DID have a king size bed after all! And I guess a mini-fridge is a standard feature of accessible rooms? Anyway, we had one—bonus! So all in all I was very pleased with our first day, despite the rather worrisome start it had. My ankle was killing me, so Dave took the kids over to the food court for dinner, while I elevated and iced. Then Gus, who was quite dirty, had a sponge bath, and we got kids to bed early and watched some TV in our big ol’ bed before going to sleep ourselves.



Next: Magic Kingdom and Liberty Tree Tavern
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Old 09-23-2007, 11:33 PM   #6
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Great TR so far! Your kids are adorable, and your comments very witty. Looking forward to reading more!
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Old 09-24-2007, 12:25 AM   #7
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Great trip report so far!
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Old 09-24-2007, 09:33 AM   #8
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yay! I have readers! thanks everyone....I'm going to try to get one installment up every night post bedtime (the kids' bedtime, that is, not mine)
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Old 09-24-2007, 10:09 AM   #9
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Old 09-24-2007, 10:25 AM   #10
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Old 09-24-2007, 11:34 AM   #11
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Old 09-24-2007, 03:58 PM   #12
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Old 09-24-2007, 04:12 PM   #13
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Sunday Part 1: Magic Kingdom

In my original draft of our itinerary, we were going to be at Epcot for most of the day, then head over to the Magic Kingdom for dinner and the evening EMH. But then we canceled our park hoppers and had to shift things around, so Sunday became an all day at MK day. Every single day we had planned at the Magic Kingdom had a Little One’s Extra Magic hour. Those things are hard to avoid. We went to one last year and had a great time, though, so I figured it would be okay. I thought we should leave the room by around 7 to make it to the bus and then to the park before 8. We were planning to drive everywhere except MK, but I thought the bus would be best for that because of the Transportation and Ticket Center extra stop if we drove. We made it out of the room just a few minutes after 7, but got a little turned around and took a rather circuitous route to the bus stop. So we got there just as a Magic Kingdom bus was pulling away.

waiting for the bus


But a new bus came a few minutes later and we were the first ones on. Well, except for a scooter that they loaded on before us. No problem—we had our seats right in the front and we were ready to go! Then they loaded up another scooter. Or maybe about 10 of them…I don’t know what the issue was, but it took FOREVER. Another Magic Kingdom bus pulled up next to us while we waited. It loaded up all the people who had been in line behind us at the bus stop and then pulled away. Still we waited. Finally we left, and pulled up to the Magic Kingdom a few minutes after 8. Oh well.

First look at the castle


LOEMH was well under way by the time we got to Fantasyland. And crowded! We went to one LOEMH last September, and it was just about empty. Of course that was a weekday and it had been raining all night/early morning, but still. I was feeling nostalgic for last September and all the walk-ons and hoping things would calm down after the weekend. Crowds weren’t terrible, I guess (I have little to compare them to); the longest waits we saw were around 30-40 minutes, but there were a ton of people walking around and there wasn’t really much of anything that was a walk-on after 10 or 10:30. Last September spoiled me and made me whiny. Actually, though, it turned out I was surprised how well all of held up with the crowds. None of us do well with them generally (except maybe Gus; it’s too soon to be sure); I get very anxious and short tempered in crowds. But it was fine, and the kids did amazingly well in the lines we waited in. Maybe we’ll try going 4th of July weekend next year! (just kidding).

Once we got in, Dave went to pick up a stroller and then we all met up at Peter Pan. I realized that this was actually Gus’ first ride, as far as he was concerned, since he had been asleep on the Great Movie Ride. There was a short wait, during which Gus got increasingly nervous. “No!” he said, as we tried to reassure him. He wasn’t all out crying, but he was still protesting as we got on the ride. But he calmed down quickly and enjoyed himself once we got started. I think he had just been a little startled about being thrust onto a weird ride vehicle and then plunged into the dark. We decided to go over to Small World next, and get Gus accustomed to the ride thing with something completely non-threatening. He got very into that one, saying, “guys!” and pointing at all the dolls, then waving to them. Ari and Milo kept up a commentary for him the whole time, telling him what to expect while we waited in line and then pointing out all the stuff he should look at as we rode.

Now that Gus had conquered his fears, it was Milo’s turn. Milo rode Winnie the Pooh once last year and refused to go on it again, because the storm made it “too scary.” But his confidence was at a high after his successes with Star Tours and the Great Movie Ride, so he was ready to give it another try. Another five minute wait or so and we were on. The transition from three to four made all the difference in the world; Milo was not the least bit scared. “This is COOL!” he said over and over again (a common refrain on the trip). The storm didn’t rattle him in the least.

There were lots of characters out playing games with the kids. “Peter Pan just cut me off,” said Dave as Peter Pan skipped by with a line of kids. Mickey himself was out and involved in a rousing if somewhat confused game of duck duck goose. This was Gus’ first up close glimpse of Mickey, and he was interested but a bit intimidated. My kids won’t do the games with characters thing, so we watched duck duck goose for a bit then headed over to the tea cups. We walked right onto this; there were several unoccupied tea cups when the ride started. For some reason, we all crammed into one teacup. By this time, it was just about 9, so Dave and Ari headed over to Tomorrowland to get Space Mountain fastpasses while Milo, Gus, and I rode the teacups one more time (Dave has a one teacup ride limit).



We all met up again at Buzz Lightyear. Buzz is right up there with Test Track for the ride the kids talked the most about over the past year. Last year Ari declared it his favorite ride “because you get to do stuff.” It was just a couple of minutes past nine, so we walked right on. Gus’ diaper was really wet by now, so Dave went to change him while I took Ari and Milo on one more time. They sat together, while I sat by myself. Given some freedom from young children, I got my highest score ever (105,000), but there was trouble in Ari and Milo’s spaceship. Milo had gotten a hundred points more than Ari, and Ari was angrily insisting that he had “cheated” and that he was never going to ride with Milo again. Milo seemed not to be bothered by this.

The kids are all imprisoned with Zurg


We met up with Dave outside. It was too early for our Space Mountain fastpasses, but the machine had spit out “bonus” Carousel of Progress fastpasses with a 9:05 return time, so Dave wanted to check that out. We’d never been in there before, and I had only a vague idea of what to expect. As we walked up the CM ushered us in, saying it was about to close and we needed to hurry. “You don’t need those tickets,” she said, indicating our fastpasses, “believe me.” The theater had maybe 3 or 4 other groups of people in it. For anyone else who has only a vague idea of what to expect, the idea is that the seating area circles around a big stage, stopping to check in with a family and their home in various decades of the 20th century and marvel over all the newfangled technology each time period has produced. The final “modern” scene is very dated, with the up to minute technology mentioned including things like “car phones.” The kids (besides Gus, who nursed through the whole thing) were far more fascinated than I expected them to be—not by the plot, I don’t think, but by the animatronics (they both asked if the people were real or not). Milo sang the “great big beautiful tomorrow” song periodically for hours.

It was almost ten now, and my plan was to get to Toontown right around when it opened. But I’m not sure it actually did open at ten that day, since there were already plenty of people there when we showed up at a couple minutes til. But there was no line for Goofy’s Barnstormer, so it didn’t make any difference. We were hoping Gus would be tall enough for this because we thought he’d really love it, but he still had an inch or so to go. Dave took the kids on it last year, so it was my turn. Last year they both thought it was too bumpy or too fast or too something, but they liked it this time. Not enough to go on it twice, though, so we went over to Minnie’s house and caught up with Dave and Gus. Then to Mickey’s house and, finally, to the Judge’s Tent so that Gus could finally have a private audience with his beloved Mickey. We hadn’t done this last year, and the line for it was a little confusing. You just go into this room where they have cartoons playing and no Mickey or CMs in sight. I didn’t realize Mickey was actually in a separate room; I thought we were all waiting for him to come back from a break or something. The line was short, so we just waited a few minutes before we were allowed in. The older kids hung back and wanted nothing to do with Mickey. Dave took Gus up to see him. Gus was pretty shy; he didn’t want a hug or any other actual physical contact with Mickey, but he didn’t start crying, so we counted it a success.



By now we were inside our fastpass window for Space Mountain, so we went back to Tomorrowland. Last year Ari rode Space Mountain once, but had no desire to do it a second time. I rode with him, and when I asked him if he was okay at one point during the ride he said, “yes. But I’m NOT riding this again!” But a year later he was ready to give it another try. And he loved it this time! He quickly declared it his favorite ride in Tomorrowland. Next we all went on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. This was another ride that the kids had been talking about all year. Milo kept saying he wanted to go on “those little cars.” He meant the TTA, but I had a moment of panic every time he said it because I kept thinking someone had clued him in to the existence of the Tomorrowland Speedway, and I really didn’t want to go on that. Of course, they saw it plenty of times—walking by and from the TTA itself—but they never asked about it. I had a don’t offer, don’t refuse policy about it, and it all worked out. The TTA is just so very pleasant. We could stay on it for an hour. This time it was actually slightly less pleasant, because I got a little paranoid when it went through the dark parts about how I couldn’t see Gus at all and needed to hold on to him every second or he could climb over the edge and be lost without me even noticing. But that didn’t actually happen. Gus was, incidentally, very resistant to sitting in our laps on this trip. If we tried to hold him he would scream as loudly as he could and struggle desperately to get into his own seat. But then, of course, he didn’t want to actually sit in his seat. He wanted to climb on it, and kneel on it, and roll around in the floor in front of it. Sigh.

It was after 11 now and we wanted to get to lunch before the crowds, so we walked over to Cosmic Ray’s. It wasn’t very crowded at all (mysteriously, it seemed like the parks overall were much more crowded this year, but the restaurants were actually LESS crowded. But probably we just got lucky). Dave and I split the rotisserie chicken and ribs meal while the kids had chicken nuggets. Yummy. A note about the new kid menus: I had mixed feelings about them. For the most part it worked out fine; I liked the alternative side choices—the kids almost never asked for French fries (unless we grown ups had them, in which case we just shared a few), but happily stuffed themselves full of grapes, carrots, and applesauce for most of the trip (although they were pretty sick of grapes by the end). But the choices started to seem very limited when we chanced to hit a few restaurants in a row with the same basic menu. And Columbia Harbor House was the only counter service that offered dessert to the kids (I guess in most places we could have gotten sugar free gelatin instead of one of the two sides?). They had chocolate chip cookies there. This wasn’t really a problem—two desserts (from the adult meals) are plenty for all of us to share—but I did think it was kind of weird. I mean, what parents are going to sit there and chow down on chocolate cake and NOT share with the kids? In the end, I was glad that several of our table services were buffets and family style so that the kids weren’t stuck with the kids menu too often.
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Old 09-24-2007, 07:30 PM   #14
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Sunday Part 2: More Magic Kingdom with Liberty Tree Tavern action!

After lunch it was Dave’s turn to ride Space Mountain with Ari (we still had 2 fastpasses left since only Ari and I had gone on it the first time). We planned to stay in the park for the afternoon, but confine our more ambitious touring to the morning. We had most of Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and Toontown finished now and were going to hit the headliners in the rest of the park on Wednesday. I’d been putting off getting Gus’ and Milo’s hair cut so that we could do it at the barber shop on Main St., so we walked over there to take a look. On the way, we ran into one of Dave’s students and her family. Our county has a weird September break that almost no one else has. I suspect the school superintendent is getting kick backs from Disney because half the county heads down en masse during that week. We got to the barber shop and there was a line of half a dozen people out the door. One of the people in line was another teacher who works at Dave’s school. We decided to come back another time.

One of the things we wanted to do on this trip was spend more time appreciating non-ride stuff that we’d had to pass through quickly or skip altogether last year. We’d visited Tom Sawyer’s Island last trip, but dragged the kids away while there was still lots more to explore, so this year we wanted to let them have as much time as they wanted. We took the train to Frontierland, then took the raft over to the island. I noticed two things about the raft ride this year as compared to last year: for one, it was a LOT more crowded. I think there were only a couple of other people on the raft with us last year, but this year it was full. And two—there were no love bugs! They were all over the place last year (we were there the same week), and I remember Dave asking the guy running the raft about them. We didn’t see more than a dozen our whole trip this year. I kept expecting them to show up, but they never did.

We were all very hot and tired when we got off the raft, so we walked over to Aunt Polly’s with grand plans of sitting on the porch and having a snack. But it was closed! There were just a couple of coke machines there, and we didn’t have any change or dollar bills with us. So we had to settle for water and some mini-bagels from our backpack instead.



Then we turned the kids loose to explore. We took the bridge over to Fort Langhorn, and they spent a long time running around there. Milo was too scared to go through any caves or tunnels, but Ari loved them all.

Ari emerges from the tunnel triumphantly


Then back across to check out the rest of the island. More caves for Ari, and the windmill for Milo. And finally a stop at the little wooden ship to climb and jump and go through tunnels.



Then it was back to the mainland with some very tired kids and a disconcertingly long time before our dinner reservations.

Okay, so how about the Hall of Presidents? That had been closed last year, so it was our first time seeing it. Hmm…they really could do something to spice this up it seems like. I mean, it's like they go out of their way to make it as boring as possible. The animatronics are pretty cool—the way the presidents are always moving around even when they’re not talking—but the lengthy speeches full of platitudes…there ARE interesting things about the presidents that they could focus on. Ah well…when they let ME run Disney World, I’ll get it right! By the time we got out of there, the 3 o’clock parade was just about to start, and we were right on its route. We found a spot and hung out for a little while, but the kids were not at all interested in seeing the parade, so we decided to go to the Haunted Mansion instead.

View of the Haunted Mansion from Tom Sawyer's Island


The Haunted Mansion! Would Milo make it through the pre-show this time? Would Gus be old enough to be scared by it this year? The sign posted a 20 minute wait, which turned out to be pretty accurate. I knew Milo would be fine if he made it onto the actual ride; it was getting through the creepy stuff before that that would be the challenge. But we gave him the “it’s just pretend” pep talk and he did fine! He loved the Haunted Mansion! Hooray!

It was STILL too early for dinner, and I was wishing our dinner reservations were a little earlier (I think they were at 5:20, though, so they couldn’t have been much earlier). We went back to Fantasyland and went on IASM one more time. Then we saw Mickey’s Philharmagic. The kids were much more interested in this this year than last. Last year Milo mostly complained that it was too loud, but he giggled with delight the whole time this year. Ari kept trying to touch all the stuff coming out of the screen and claiming, “I almost got it!” Gus nursed, of course. Then we rode Snow White. By now Milo had proven himself so many times that I wasn’t even worried about him freaking out. And he didn’t. Everyone enjoyed it.

It was still a little before 5, but the sky was looking very ominous by now, so we went ahead and walked over to Liberty Tree Tavern to check in. It started pouring almost as soon as we got inside and continued to rain throughout our dinner. The lobby was getting crowded, but we found an empty bench and settled in for the wait.

Restless kids wait for dinner


It was awhile before they called us (maybe 25 minutes?) but not much past our actual reservation time. We hadn’t been to LTT before, but the kids ADORE Stouffer’s mac and cheese, so I knew it would be a hit with them food-wise (they call it “Gigi’s macaroni and cheese, because my mom always buys it for them). I was a little hesitant to book any character meals, since the kids’ reaction to characters ranges from terror to utter disinterest. But I figured, “it’s Disney—we have to do at least one or two!” Plus they’re sort of hard to avoid when you have seven ADRs to make.

We really enjoyed LTT and would definitely go back. The food was perfect for the kids—they liked nearly everything. I thought the rolls with honey butter were yummy, and the mashed potatoes were really good. The macaroni and cheese was…well, it was Stouffer’s. The meat was not impressive—the turkey and steak were kind of dried out and overcooked and ridiculously thinly sliced, but edible. Neither of the grown-ups tried the pork. So the food was just so-so overall, but the character interaction was great. The restaurant was quieter and not so overwhelming as other character meals we’ve done. Chip, Dale, Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto were all there, and each one came to the table. The kids were very shy at first (Milo was our table diver this year), but by then end of the meal they had come around and were actually interacting with the characters like children who enjoy such things! It was Dale who brought them all out of their shells. Near the end of the meal, Milo announced, “I’m going to hug ALL of the charcters” and got a little sad when he realized he’d missed his chance with some of them.

Goofy is BIG and makes Gus nervous


"I'm just going to pretend this isn't really happening"


"But we LOVE Dale"


"And Minnie can have a hug anytime"


I'm too lazy to get out of my seat to take these pictures


It was just sprinkling a little by the time we left LTT, and we headed out of the park and to the bus stop. You can really feel the difference between the values and the more expensive resorts when you’re leaving MK; the Pop bus stop is literally the farthest one away from the gates. It was an EMH evening at MK, so people leaving were far, far outnumbered by people arriving. It was just us and one other couple at the bus stop. Dave chatted with them a little; they were a retired couple from Detroit and they really, really disliked the Whispering Canyon Café. “And then they just throw the straws on the table,” the husband said in disgust. He shook his head and lamented the values the WCC is teaching young people. They really liked ‘Ohana, though.

Back to Pop. Here’s what our building looked like at dusk when we got back:



Our rooms were on the third floor overlooking the pool. And this is as good a time as any to give my deluxe vs. value review. Last year we stayed at the Wilderness Lodge. I was a little worried that I’d made a big mistake staying at a deluxe for our first trip and that everything afterward would be a disappointment. But I needn’t have worried. The Wilderness Lodge is beautiful, of course; the lobby is breathtaking when you first walk in. But beyond that, it’s still just a hotel room. The boat to the Magic Kingdom was nice, but really not much more convenient than bus transportation from other resorts (and the bus took forever from WL; it stopped all over the place). I can see how it would be very cool to stay on the monorail, but that’s not going to be in our budget until we win the lottery (which won’t happen until we start buying lottery tickets), so no use spending time thinking about that. Our two rooms at Pop were $40 less a night than one room at the WL. Value-wise, there was no comparison. It was great having the two rooms. And we really liked Pop. It was fairly noisy, since we were right above the pool, but we slept fine anyway. We had a better experience with Mousekeeping at Pop. At WL, there were never any towel animals or other special stuff, and one time they forgot to put the sides back up on the bunkbed (the rails fold down, and you need a key to lock them back into place) and it took three phone calls and several hours to get them to come fix it. At Pop, we only got towel animals one day, but all the kids’ stuffed animals were doing something new and exciting most days when we got back. Sometimes watching TV, sometimes all grouped together reading a book—the kids were delighted by it. It was kind of pain being so far from Classic Hall, but we could have paid for two preferred rooms and still come out cheaper than WL. As far as location, it was a very quick drive to everywhere, especially MGM and Animal Kingdom. We didn’t find it inconvenient at all. It helped a lot that we had a car, of course. The food court was never too crowded and offered a lot more choices than the Roaring Fork at WL. Overall, we were very pleased and will definitely stay there again.

So ended our first MK day. We got the kids to bed again, and Dave went off to Classic Hall for snacks for us. He came back with a refillable mug. I was shocked. I would have expected him to completely balk at the price. “I thought you wanted a refillable mug,” he said. “I did. But I didn’t think you’d actually buy one!” So that’s the story of how we came to own a refillable mug. I still can’t quite believe it.
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Old 09-24-2007, 08:05 PM   #15
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I am getting my disney fix as we WERE suppose to be there that week with FREE DDP @ POR, we also had that fall break off of school, until we went and moved to another county that doesn't have it off and my DH was a no go for letting them miss school

So am enjoying what I missed so to speak.... sounds like you are having a great time!
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Feb 20-22 2005 Asmov (left little one behind)
June 8-16 2008~POR (first whole family trip)
Sep 18-20 2009~POP~ mommy and DD6 bday trip
June 6-8 2010~POR~ GAD trip with Ds,YDd ,sister and nephew
May 2014 for the twins first trip.. first offsite WBC
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