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Old 06-12-2008, 03:09 PM   #1
Sarilas
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Sarilas' O-fficial Pre-Trip Report (a.k.a. Vacation, Take TWO!) - Jan. 30-Feb. 8, '09

Greetings! Welcome to our family vacation I-can't-wait-any-longer-I-have-to-start-writing pre-trip report! Starring...

Myself, and my husband, Jose...


...and our children Tatiana and Kyle...


...Stasia and Lexi!


Okay, let's get right into the good stuff.

I'm DYING to get to WDW. Like I can think of nothing else. Here's how it all got started.

On May 11 of last year, 5 weeks after the birth of my fourth child, my mother (my best friend) passed away from pancreatic cancer. It took me a solid year to stop crying when I saw her picture, heard her name or to just be able to breathe when a memory of her flooded back. I'm still a teary-eyed basket case, but at least now I can BREATHE. I'd moved her and my Dad here to our house in Tennessee from northern CA during Christmas, right after she'd gotten her diagnosis. Everything in my world was in a tail spin and I still had to function as a wife and mother. And that year went by so quickly...

But we all pulled through, and are getting stronger every day. But we are tired. Emotionally and physically exhausted, and the poor kids - well I can't begin to tell you all they've been through but suffice it to say they deserved some FUN.

Earlier this year ('08) we decided to take our economic stimulus (yeah!) and go on a mini-vacation. Something nearby (Nashville), something moderately priced, something we'd all love. I WANTED to do Disney, but it just wasn't in the budget we'd established. So we settled on Dollywood, booked a cabin in the mountains and prepared for a nice, relaxing long weekend over Memorial Day.

Only it wasn't meant to be.

I'll keep this short and sweet: Cabin was beautiful, but the night we arrived the transmission on our minivan went out. (We've renamed her The Million Dollar Robo-Van.) Dollywood was okay, but it was NO Disney! I kept commenting to my husband that Disney would NEVER have trash, or even leaves on the streets and pathways. That Disney Cast Members are SO much nicer and more helpful than these other employees. There was just no comparison.

So, once we'd returned home, gotten Robo-Van back and talked about our not-quite-vacation, we began discussing the need for a REAL trip.

Now, when I first mentioned Disney World to my husband, he was okay with it but under-whelmed. None of us have ever been to WDW, but it took me a while to realize why he was so hesitant: He's never been to ANY Disney park, EVER. Growing up in Puerto Rico and in Texas as an Army brat, his parents took trips to national monuments, not national treasures like Disney! Not as a child or an adult has he experienced what it's like to walk down Main Street, USA, or hear the echo of "yo, ho, yo ho". If I greeted him with "Welcome, foolish mortal!" he'd think I'd lost my mind! But the fact is, growing up in Orange County, California means I practically LIVED at Disneyland. My mom attended the opening of the park - it was in my blood!

That night I rushed out and bought the Birnbaum guides (for the parks, the dining and the one for kids). Everyone started to catch the fever and before I knew it, they were ALMOST as excited as I was at the prospect of a REAL Disney World vacation!

We knew we had to wait till at least January of 2009, when Jose would have the vacation time AND we'd have his Christmas bonus money. The first thing he said when we really started planning was that if we were going to do this (oh, and we WERE!) that we were going to indulge as much as possible whenever we could. So what's the first thing we needed to decide?

Where to stay!

With a family of 6, accommodations are a major selling point. The first thing I did was call Disney reservations and spoke to the NICEST woman in the world (but I say that about all Disney Cast Members!) who told me exactly which hotels on-site could accommodate us. We thought about a Deluxe hotel, but did we all really want to be in ONE room? And at that price a second room was out of the question. Then she told us about All-Star Music and their Family Suites - it sounded perfect! I spent the next few days researching pictures and trip reports from others who have stayed there, and it quickly became clear that this was THE place for us to stay. But that begged the question...

When are we going?!

We knew it would be January, and we knew we didn't want to wait too long. So we balanced the idea of waiting till the end of the month for the slowest possible crowds with going the first week, when schools (at least here!) are back in session. We knew we'd run into SOME crowds, but at least it wouldn't be like peak season. So Jose put in his vacation request and I called Disney reservations... and it's official!

We're booked at All-Star Music Family Suites from January 5-9, checking out on the 10th!

So much planning to do and only 6 months to do it! Dining plan, or deluxe dining? Regular tickets or park hoppers? ADR's on July 9th!


So yeah, changes have been made, as usually happens!

We're booked at ASMusic still, one glorious family suite but now our dates are January 10-18!

Now we're booked for February 20 through March 1 at Port Orleans Riverside

OKAY, THIS IS THE LAST CHANGE I SWEAR!

Our travel dates are now January 30-February 8 at Port Orleans Riverside!


Sarilas' O-fficial Pre Trip Report "take me to your chapters" shortcuts!

Chapter 1: Meet and Greet (you are here!)

Chapter 2: To print, or not to print...

Chapter 3: A PIN code? For ME?!

Chapter 4: The dates, they are a changin'...

Chapter 5: More days!

Chapter 6: The inception of the coloring calendar!

Chapter 7: First trip project completed!

Chapter 8: Date changes and shopping and vacation planners, oh my!

Chapter 9: Must have planning tools.

Chapter 10: Talk me into a room change, PLEASE!

Chapter 11: Room change #1!

Chapter 12: Presenting... our vacation binder!

Chapter 13: ADR's are the devil!

Chapter 14: January calendar UP! ...but EMPTY!

Chapter 15: Even the Mom's Panel doesn't know.

Chapter 16: Make your ADR list already, would ya?!

Chapter 17: ADR list #1 and addendum

Chapter 18: EMH's o r no EMH's, I'm starting an itinerary!

Chapter 19: Have I mentioned that they STILL haven't released January's hours?!

Chapter 20: You just can't DO THAT!

Chapter 21: Settle the ADR's NOW!

Chapter 22: ADR itinerary, anyone?

Chapter 23: O-fficial ADR's!

Chapter 24: Where to eat your final meal?

Chapter 25: First ADR changes!

Chapter 26: First shopping pics!

Chapter 27: Why is it you never leave the store with what you intended to purchase?

Chapter 28: Day 180!

Chapter 29: FINALLY, the January hours, people!

Chapter 30: Unexpected trip to the island

Chapter 31: More ADR changes...

Chapter 32: Oh look! An itinerary-ish thingy!

Chapter 33: 2009 Package Price Release Day!

Chapter 34: Vacation package booking is O-fficial!

Chapter 35: AP discounts are the BOMB DIGGITY!

Chapter 36: Liberating Mickey heads and making ADR changes. Again!

Chapter 37: Always something to do.

Chapter 38: Split stay?...

Chapter 39: Junior High School vs. room drama

Chapter 40: Disney Mail and purchases!

Chapter 41: Mickey head countdown calendar and pics

Chapter 42: The mall, the vault and ice!

Chapter 43: Resort room square footage?

Chapter 44: 'Ohana means... bread pudding!

Chapter 45: The mascots arrive!

Chapter 46: Chocolate food porn recipe

Chapter 47: Disney On Ice!

Chapter 48: Chaos and cash

Chapter 49: Poison ivy. 'nuff said.

Chapter 50: Decorating the TV

Chapter 51: A near miss!

Chapter 52: Paid in full!

Chapter 53: Trivia books and ADR changes

Chapter 54: Cannot. Resist. Disneystore.com

Chapter 55: RIP Paul Newman...

Chapter 56: 99 Day Celebration, revisited!

Chapter 57: Cinderella's Castle immortalized in pumpkin!

Chapter 58: Dinner without a movie, and the cheesecake...

Chapter 59: Presenting ADR and Itinerary Changes!

Chapter 60: 80 Days till Disney!

Chapter 61: Birthday wishes and pre party planning.

Chapter 62: Post Party Cool Down... and another trip in '09?!

Chapter 63: 75 days and ADD rears its ugly head!

Chapter 64: First pics of the party

Chapter 65: Disney Surveys

Chapter 66: January AP discounts are out!

Chapter 67: Update, UPGRADE... and a RESORT CHANGE!

Chapter 68: Happy Election Day!

Chapter 69: MORE changes afloat and belated Halloween pics!

Chapter 70: January becomes... ?

Chapter 71: My box o' Disney goodness

Chapter 72: OH my aching back!

Chapter 73: MORE Disney dollar store goodness!

Chapter 74: Christmas has sprung... EARLY!

Chapter 75: Change dates AGAIN?

Chapter 76: Oh yes, I TOTALLY DID IT!

Chapter 76: 70 days till Disney!

Chapter 77: I shopped... this time for ME, too!

Chapter 78: Happy Anniversary, ME!

Chapter 79: My first Disneyland pics

Chapter 80: Black Friday shopping spree

Last edited by Sarilas; 11-28-2008 at 05:49 PM.
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Old 06-13-2008, 10:08 AM   #2
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Hi!

Popping over from the Lapuette thread.

I'm so sorry to hear about your mom. It definitely does sound like your family deserves a real vacation.

I've never been to Dollywood, but I'm quite sure your assessment that it can't compare to Disney is accurate. Cleanliness (and safety) are high on Disney's priorities.

Here's to planning!
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Old 06-13-2008, 10:25 AM   #3
Sarilas
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Thanks for coming over! (The Lapuette thread is fantastic and anybody just browsing this now should RUN, not walk and make some new friends.)

The other park couldn't hold a candle to Disney. Dollywood had their employees walking throughout all areas of the park, as opposed to the way Disney CM disappear as if by MAGIC. (You know the way you'd be hard pressed to see a Frontierland CM in Fantasyland? Yeah, that kind of cross-contamination for lack of a better word happened all over D-Wood.)

It just wasn't the same.

So I'm THRILLED at the anticipation of Disney again!
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Old 06-14-2008, 11:12 AM   #4
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Hi! I am joining in. I can't wait to hear more about your planning.

I have heard that January is a great time to go. My brother went in 2006 and he has pictures of him and fiancee in an empty main street. They said they didn't wait more than 10 minutes for ANY ride. Someday I will get there in January.

Here's to Magical Planning!
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Old 06-15-2008, 08:57 PM   #5
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I have a feeling that the week we're going (first week of January) will still yield a crowd held over from winter break, but I'm willing to risk it! (Though I DREAM of an empty Main Street!)
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Old 06-15-2008, 08:59 PM   #6
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So I'm currently in the 'must print everything out' phase of planning. All my e-books and worksheets are begging to be printed, but I'm going to have to hand this one off to my husband - and I REALLY don't like to hand over control of anything! But our printer died a noble death at the hands of our two year old not long ago. Here's a tip for you: Printers don't like to be fed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They're just finicky that way!

So yeah, I'm trying to decide whether to buy an inkjet or laser printer (like I really know the difference but I keep hearing there is one). Luckily for me, my husband is a graphic designer who has a bajillion styles of printers and paper at his disposal! Tonight I'm burning the eBooks and necessarry papers on a disk for him, and tomorrow he'll format them for to the correct sized paper, front and back - free book binding, you can't beat it!

I'm definitely a tactile person; I like the information available on the net but I NEED to have a book in my hand to highlight and underline. I've already gone through the Birnbaum guides, and am waiting on the 2009 PassPorter for later this fall. The eBooks and worksheets will help get me through!

So the papers will soon be printed. Next step: gather clip art and inspirational designs for t-shirts, journals, etc!
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Old 06-15-2008, 09:01 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lady Lallie View Post
Hi! I am joining in. I can't wait to hear more about your planning.

I have heard that January is a great time to go. My brother went in 2006 and he has pictures of him and fiancee in an empty main street. They said they didn't wait more than 10 minutes for ANY ride. Someday I will get there in January.

Here's to Magical Planning!
When my brother went, he left the 6th of January, so you may be in luck with the low crowds!
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Old 06-16-2008, 07:37 AM   #8
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Popping on over to support a fellow Lapuette!

So sorry to hear about your mom. Sounds like your family could really use some r&r.

January is a wonderful time to go to the World! I used to do that all the time on my college break, and even a "busy" day was so slooooow compared to the rest of the year. Read...walk on everything!
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Old 06-16-2008, 09:30 AM   #9
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I am here!!! Sorry about your mom .

I know what you mean about the difference in theme parks -- there is just no comparision between Disney and "the others."

Hurray for WDW in January!!!

The next six months will fly by I am sure!!!
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Old 06-16-2008, 03:59 PM   #10
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Oooh... look at me with the multi-quotes! I learned that one on TK's PTR!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charleston Princess View Post
I am here!!! Sorry about your mom .

I know what you mean about the difference in theme parks -- there is just no comparision between Disney and "the others."

Hurray for WDW in January!!!

The next six months will fly by I am sure!!!
Thank you; and I am sure you're right about the time flying by! Is it bad that I'm stressing over not having enough time in the 6 months I DO have?!

Quote:
Originally Posted by TarzansKat View Post
Popping on over to support a fellow Lapuette!

So sorry to hear about your mom. Sounds like your family could really use some r&r.

January is a wonderful time to go to the World! I used to do that all the time on my college break, and even a "busy" day was so slooooow compared to the rest of the year. Read...walk on everything!
Thank you; and yeah, R&R is definitely the order of the day. I'm PRAYING that January will be a good introductory month for our family, though in my heart I know any month will hook 'em!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lady Lallie View Post
When my brother went, he left the 6th of January, so you may be in luck with the low crowds!
We're talking about leaving on the 5th so I have my fingers crossed and to the crowd gods that you may be right!
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Old 06-16-2008, 04:07 PM   #11
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O. M. G

I'm giddy as a schoolgirl right now, and I know it's the silliest and possibly the lamest thing to be giddy over (and if not, I know I have truly found my people, LOL) but I just got my FIRST EVER PIN CODE IN THE MAIL!

To see our family's name emblazoned across the opening of the folding postcard like that, and better yet to see a deal that I WISH we could take advantage of (sadly we cannot... THIS TIME) has me doing the happy dance!

The much coveted PIN code has become MINE!
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Old 06-16-2008, 04:08 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarilas View Post
O. M. G

I'm giddy as a schoolgirl right now, and I know it's the silliest and possibly the lamest thing to be giddy over (and if not, I know I have truly found my people, LOL) but I just got my FIRST EVER PIN CODE IN THE MAIL!

To see our family's name emblazoned across the opening of the folding postcard like that, and better yet to see a deal that I WISH we could take advantage of (sadly we cannot... THIS TIME) has me doing the happy dance!

The much coveted PIN code has become MINE!
Do tell deary! How much is it for? Does it match your dates? Inquiring minds what to know!!!
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Old 06-16-2008, 06:30 PM   #13
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Do tell deary! How much is it for? Does it match your dates? Inquiring minds what to know!!!
WELL! It apparently does NOT match our dates. (insert heavy hearted sigh here)

I called Disney Res. and the PIN says "be sure to book by 9/27/08" so I figured it would be for after that time, right? But Love Lindsey at the Res. office says no, it's for August through that date. Which would be GREAT for free dining, but not so much for January (she assures me they don't send PIN's out this far ahead for January, though I'm hoping that since she couldn't tell me how I got a PIN to begin with she may be wrong about that too?!)

But I digress - it's for a value resort (which we are staying in anyway) for $59 per night. What a deal that would have been WITH free dining!
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Old 06-16-2008, 06:38 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarilas View Post
WELL! It apparently does NOT match our dates. (insert heavy hearted sigh here)

I called Disney Res. and the PIN says "be sure to book by 9/27/08" so I figured it would be for after that time, right? But Love Lindsey at the Res. office says no, it's for August through that date. Which would be GREAT for free dining, but not so much for January (she assures me they don't send PIN's out this far ahead for January, though I'm hoping that since she couldn't tell me how I got a PIN to begin with she may be wrong about that too?!)

But I digress - it's for a value resort (which we are staying in anyway) for $59 per night. What a deal that would have been WITH free dining!
Bummer! But if it makes you feel any better, you can't combine offers. As in pin code, and free dining. When you get free dining, you have to pay rack rate for your hotel.

Which is why I swallow really hard when I think about our Wilderness Lodge room.

Then I remember we deserve it.

Just like your beautiful family deserves to go in January, which was the time you wanted to anyway! And don't worry, maybe if you've gotten this pin code, there'll be another one coming your way!
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Old 06-16-2008, 06:40 PM   #15
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Oh the stress! The self imposed drama that is setting a firm date for Disney!

With my unused PIN code burning a hole through the top of my computer desk, I'm left to star at the calendar and wonder... all along I've wanted to go to WDW the week of January 12. I have read in numerous places that the second week of January is even lesser for crowds than the first week (the first week still be winter break for many kids). But hubby's work schedule didn't seem to allow for it. HOWEVER, after bitterly calling my husband to bemoan the details of the PIN code love that was not meant to be, I mentioned it to him again, he double checked and low and behold... he COULD get away the week of the 12! So what would any self respecting DIS addict do?

I called and changed my dates of course!

We're now arriving Monday the 12, checking out Saturday the 16. Here's what I'm realizing: The weekend of the 10 is the marathon weekend... I wonder if that'll impact crowds the following week or will everyone be too exhausted to par-tay? Also, the weekend of the 16 is the cheerleading nationals... probably not much crowd difference but definitely an impact in our value resort... wonder if I can talk my husband into one night at a Deluxe!

But this question remains: Do I add Sunday night on to our plan? I keep seeing that the package deals are pretty cheap to add to once you get past 5 days - you're essentially just paying for the room for another night...

What to do, what to do...
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