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Old 12-21-2008, 05:40 PM   #1
Vexorg
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Fleeing From a Winter Wonderland - A First-Timer's Disney Christmas-Completed 12/9/09

The final installment has now been posted, bringing this TR to a seriously belated close: Post 107, page 8: Part 17: And Now It's Time to Say Goodbye

Newest Blog post added 5/13/09 - See below for link

Index of Trip Report posts:
======
Pre-trip, Getting There and Arrival
Part 1: The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men (Planning, goals)
Part 2: Slip-Slidin' Away (Where the drive to the airport almost turns into a thrill ride)
Part 3: Who Have I Gotta' Bribe to Get Outa' This Town? (Notes from the flight and from a three-hour layover in Chicago)
Part 4: Nice Room, Just Don't Ask About the View... (Seriously, just dont.)

Day 1
Part 5: A Slight Change of Plans (Yes, there IS actually some Disney stuff in this part finally. I knew I shoulda' turned left at Osceola...)
Part 6: Can't I Get Just a Little Bit of Pixie Dust Here? (Day 1 in the Magic Kingdom continued, with a not-so-fastpass and a parade in there somewhere.)
Part 7: Going Out to Socialize with Grim Grinning Ghosts (Wrapping up day 1 in the Magic Kingdom with evening EMH, gratuitous fireworks shots, and finding out if things turn into pumpkins after Midnight...)

Day 2
Part 8: It's the FUTURE... Sort of. (Day 2 begins in Epcot, and I try to figure out why I'm trying to find Nemo in the first place.)
Part 9: Merry Enough For You?
(Back to MK for MVMCP, and a futile quest for non nugget-based foodstuffs.)
Part 10: How to Get Into the Christmas Spirit Without the Need for Ghostly Visitors (How NOT to find a spot for the parade, and the MVMCP Fireworks close out day 2.)

Day 3
Part 11: Aw man, You Mean I Have to Go to Disney World Again? (Photos for this part) : (A Walk on the not-so-wild West Side, a Wandering Bag, Folly on the Ferry and the Backside of Not Water. )
Part 12: Well, I THINK It's Still the Future Anyway...: More Future World Adventure and Culinary Misadventure.)
Part 13: Park Hopping For Dummies: More Plans Thrown Out the Window, and a Symphony of Blur-o-Magic

Day 4
Part 14: If You Can't Make it Here, You Can't Make it Anywhere (Nope, not going to be in the movies anytime soon, it would seem.)
Part 15: Just Like Mom Used to Nag You About (Extreme! Stunts! and lunch! at 50s! Prime! Time!)
Part 16: The End is Near... (Putting the "Fast" in Fastpasses, and nearing the end of the trip.)
Part 17: And Now It's Time to Say Goodbye... (The trip comes to an end, but not without a few surprises along the way.)

======

I am also posting an alternate version of this trip report over on my Blog. Basically, what I have been doing there is taking a couple of parts of the trip report at a time as written here and combining them into a Blog post. I'm also going back and making a few modifications and extra notes here and there, and trying to cut out some of the DIS jargon (yeah, there seems to be plenty of that to go around) to make it a bit more accessible to general readers. You can find the Blog posts here, and the corresponding parts of the trip report as posted here:

Part 1: Getting There is Half the Fun, Right? (Parts 1, 2 and 3)
Part 2: Now with Actual Disney in it! (Parts 4 and 5)
Part 3: Just Another Day in Never Never Land (Parts 6 and 7)
Part 4: It's the Future! (Sort of.) (Part 8)
Part 5: The Disney Version of Christmas (Parts 9 and 10)
Part 6: Park Hopping for Dummies (Parts 11, 12 and 13)

The newest installments of the TR will always be posted here first though.

------
I have just returned from four days spent at Disney World from December 15-18, and I am starting a new thread for my trip report (you can find the pre-trip report here. I've got plenty to write about, and since I was apparently unable to get away from the big snowstorm I was trying to avoid it looks like I might have a bit of time on my hands here.. A few things to note before I begin:

-I will probably be cross-posting much of this to my Blog (link in my Sig,) so I will try to keep this as jargon-free as possible.

-I tend to have a bit of a different perspective to the whole Disney experience than some people, as explained in this post. In short, I've never really been a big fan of the stories themselves (aside from being a fan of old-school animation, especially the WB and MGM stuff.) When I go to a place like Disney World, I find myself spending more time wondering how a certain effect was created or what type of mechanisms are found inside an animatronic figure than I do actually following the story that they're trying to tell.

-When I'm in shops, I also have a tendency to be looking mostly for the kitschiest souvenirs imaginable, since I frequently write about such things on my Blog (for example, here is a post I wrote back around last Valentine's Day showing some of the odd merchandise found in the stores in celebration of that particular holiday.) There will probably be a post with the results of said kitsch hunting somewhere in here.

-Although I've been to Disneyland twice now, this trip is my first time to Disney World, and as such, I'm pretty sure I made a few mistakes in planning and execution along the way, and at some point. Some of these were a matter of planning on short notice (or lack thereof), and others were just a matter of making a snap decision. At some point I'll also put together a post outlining some of these, and explaining what could have been done better. I'll probably also have a few comments on the whole Disney experience here and there.

-To be honest, I didn't really have a set itinerary for much of the time I was there, I just happened to go wherever I felt like going. On the first day, I intended to head to Epcot first, but took the wrong bus and ended up at the Magic Kingdom (Well, TTC) instead, and just went with it. Similarly, I found that the combination of a night-owl schedule and three hours of jet lag made it difficult for me to get to bed at a reasonable time or be up too early in the morning, so I didn't make a single rope drop while I was there. Nonetheless, I think I managed to do just fine (for the most part.) On one hand, it's nice having the flexibility to do whatever you want and adjust your schedule on a whim as a solo traveler, but on the other hand, it might have been nice to have someone else to go with as well.

-I've got more than 1,100 photos from the four days (and change) I was there, so there will be no shortage of those.

It seems that based on reading some of the other trip reports here, people tend to take their sweet time with these things. I'll try to keep this moving though, since I'd like to get it done sometime before my next trip (whenever that might end up being.)

Coming up: Part 1 - The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men...
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Old 12-24-2008, 02:02 AM   #2
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I suppose I should probably at least get this started before too long...

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men: The Planning (or lack thereof) of the trip

To be honest, I have no idea exactly how I ended up at Disney World in December, aside from having some vague idea that it would be nice to take a vacation. My job has me working as a contract software engineer, which is something that I've enjoyed doing, but it comes with a couple of things that make it hard to do much traveling: Not-so-great benefits (basically, I get a week of paid time off per year, and that's it) and a mandatory 100-day break after I have spent a year at the company I've been working for (you've probably heard of them, they make this little product called Windows a few people might use.)

My parents, on the other hand, are frequent travelers (My mom works in the travel industry,) and are particular fans of cruising, and most years they manage to go on at least one Caribbean cruise (always on Princess.) This year, they managed to go on several different trips, including spending a week in Cancun and going on a 7-day cruise. I am frequently invited to go, but there always seems to be a problem with either not enough money or no time off (more often the latter than the former,) and I find myself unable to get away for the amount of time that would be required for such a trip. As a result, whenever they go on vacation, I usually end up dogsitting these two:



These two are Imola and Minardi, my parents' Beagles (yeah, we've got some Formula 1 fans in the family, in case anyone's wondering.) They're both very friendly but can be very high maintenance (believe me, you do NOT want to see the mayhem that a pair of bored beagles can wreak on an unsuspecting house...) This means they get to go to the off-leash dog park a couple of times a day to work off some of the extra energy that might otherwise be available for chewing on things. And it seems like every time my parents go somewhere, I end up being the one who is over there dogsitting. I just claim that I timeshare on the dogs.

Anyway, with my parents (and my brother and his wife) going off on these vacations while I'm stuck here dogsitting, I started looking for a trip to go on when my last contract at work ended, something to get away from the house for a few days. Based on looking at cheap airfares available along the West coast, I initially started looking at possibly heading down to Disneyland for a few days. I discussed this with my Mom, and she was actually the one to suggest that if I'm going to go through the effort to make the trip that I should just go all out and go to Disney World instead. After all, I had been to Disneyland just a couple of years earlier (and besides, if the airfares stay cheap enough I could probably justify heading down for a weekend at some point later on.)

Initially, I started looking at the possibility of going during the second week of December, which would have been a week after my contract at work ended. On looking at Expedia, I determined that this week would have cheap airfares, but pretty much every Disney resort was booked for that week (presumably, as I would find out later, because of Pop Warner.) I then started looking at the week after that and found the opposite situation: Cheap hotels, but not so great airfare. I initially considered going to Pop Century based on reading here, but when I found a $99 a night rate at the Downtown Disney Hilton, I decided to go for that instead (since the reviews I've read online are fairly positive, saying it was a bit quieter than the Disney hotels, and still has the Extra Magic Hours. When all was said and done, I booked a fairly early flight out on Sunday, December 14th on American Airlines, connecting through Chicago. The return flight would be leaving early on Friday, December 19th, connecting through Dallas. At the time I booked, I didn't give much thought to the type of weather that I might run into while trying to fly in the middle of December, but after I booked the flights it occurred to me that there might be snow somewhere along the line. I was most concerned about the possibility of running into weather delays in Chicago, but as it would turn out, Chicago was the least of my worries as far as weather went on this trip. Although it was nice to finally have a chance to get away for a few days, this stopped being a cheap trip pretty quickly (not the most expensive trip I've ever been on, but definitely not the cheapest either.)

With the flight and hotel booked, I then needed tickets and ground transportation. For the park ticket, I ended up getting a 4-day park hopper pass from the local Disney store in one of the malls (there used to be a lot more of these in the area, but the one at Alderwood seems to be the only one left in the Seattle area these days,) and arranged shuttle transportation from Mears to get to the hotel from the airport.

By the time I booked the flight and hotel, I had less than a month to plan things out beyond the basics. Based on reading here and seeing people plan their ADRs months in advance, I guessed that I probably wasn't going to be able to get into most of the places I'd be interested in, so I decided I was probably going to be eating mostly counter service on the trip. I also didn't really plan out any sort of schedule for what park I would be in on which day, aside from the evening EMH in Magic Kingdom on Monday and the MVMCP on Tuesday. During the time I was there, the parks generally had fairly early closing times, and since I'm something of a night owl (I rarely get to bed much earlier than 1AM when I'm at home, and I suspect three hours of jet lag weren't going to be helping me any there) I figured I would probably be getting a later start than most people and just staying out until the parks closed. Ultimately, this meant that I really didn't have much of a plan most days, and while it was nice to have the flexibility in the schedule, it also meant that I ultimately didn't make wise use of Fastpasses, and missed out on some things that I would have liked to have seen (including missing an entire park since I just had no time to get there.)

As for ending up here at DISBoards, I actually found this place back in late 2005 when I was planning my last Disneyland trip (and first one as an adult,) and found the place to be friendly and helpful. Once I figured out that I was in fact going to be at least seriously considering making a Disney World trip, I decided it would be a good time to dust off my old login and come back for some more advice. Somehow I ended up sticking around a bit...

Coming up next: Slip-Slidin' Away (in which Old Man Winter rears his ugly head right when I'm scheduled to fly out...)
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Old 12-24-2008, 04:21 AM   #3
All7OfUs
We too are so very NOT into traipsing through the dark when a bucket will do just great
What a fun way to meet new folks and say howdy
 
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Nice to be along for the ride with a fellow Northwesterner! We're from Portland, OR when not overseas

Looking forward to hearing more~
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Old 12-26-2008, 07:23 PM   #4
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Moving on... Oh yeah, and don't miss the little challenge inside this post.

Part 2: Slip-Slidin' Away (in which the vacation very nearly gets put on ice...)

It wasn't until sometime after I finished booking everything that it occurred to me that I I had just set myself up to travel through Chicago in the middle of December, and that there was a very real possibility that I might find myself dealing with some snow along the way. Since Seattle winters tend to generally be mild, I didn't figure on having any trouble getting out of here, and worried more about potential conditions at Chicago than here. As it would turn out, getting in and out of Chicago was fine... Seattle not so much.

As it came down to the last couple of days before the trip, the weather forecasts here began to get rather ominous, and eventually a major snowstorm and deep freeze was forecast for the evening just before I was supposed to take an 8am flight out of Seattle. Rather than make my parents have to drive me down to the airport at 6AM on a Sunday with an inch of solid ice on the roads, I looked into the possibility of booking an airport hotel for the evening, and eventually my Mom was able find a coupon to get into the airport Fairfield Inn for a relatively cheap rate. This allowed them to drop me off in the evening, before the snow arrived, and not have to drive down again under bad road conditions.



The hotel room would turn out to be clean and comfortable, but also a bit of a dull place to spend a Saturday night, impending Disney vacation or otherwise (but at least it had free Internet, which is the last time I would see it anywhere on this trip until I reached the Orlando airport for my return flight.) It was also some distance away from any convenient place to grab dinner, and since I had no car I was pretty much at the mercy of whatever delivery places happened to be nearby. Ultimately, I found a place that didn't have an excessive minimum order for delivery (I was pretty sure I wasn't going to be eating $18 worth of food on my own that evening) and ended up with something vaguely resembling lasagna:



It actually turned out that the lasagna was OK (nothing special,) but the utensils provided to eat it with proved to be woefully inadequate for the task at hand. Fortunately, I had my SwissCard with me (in my checked bag, of course) to deal with the stubborn foodstuffs:



I probably should have checked to make sure that packing tape adhesive residue isn't too horrendously toxic before using that thing, but since I don't seem to be dead right now, I'm guessing I'll probably be OK.



On the other hand, this bottle of lemonade (added primarily for the purpose of getting the total up above the minimum order for delivery) proved to be a bit trickier to deal with. This bottle had an old-fashioned non-twist pop top on it, and I didn't have anything even remotely close to a bottle opener with which to open it. Searching the Internet revealed a number of different tricks developed by untold generations of drunken frat boys for opening bottles, but as a teetotaler I lacked the practical experience to effectively employ such means. Ultimately I was able to improvise something to get the bottle open with, but I'll definitely have to say that the stuff definitely wasn't worth $2.49 and a broken fingernail.

(For those of you reading, your challenge is this: Given this bottle of lemonade with a non-twist bottle cap on it, no proper bottle opener at your disposal, and the contents of a standard no-frills hotel room, How would you get this bottle open? I will explain how I did manage to open it in my next post. In the meantime, feel free to offer to offer your suggestions.)

After I finished dinner, the snow began falling, and it didn't take long for it to begin sticking to the roads. Fortunately, the hotel had an indoor pool so I was able to go for a bit of swimming (I had the pool to myself the entire time I was there) but unfortunately, the hot tub was out of order. After swimming for a bit, I returned to my room, set up my alarm for 6am, and settled down for a not-so-long Winter's nap I didn't actually manage to sleep much, overnight, and by the time 6am rolled around, I had already been basically awake for some time already. I made a quick trip down to the hotel's continental breakfast for a waffle and some cereal, gathered my stuff, and checked out to grab the airport shuttle. Here is what the roads looked like on the way to the airport:



Thankfully there was only a mile or so of this to deal with rather than the 25 miles that it would have taken to get there from home, and we had a reasonably non-maniac shuttle driver who got us there safely. After getting my bag checked and getting through security with little waiting, I arrived at the gate to see the plane looking like this:



The plane did ultimately end up boarding on time, but after the plane boarded, we ended up spending a whole hour sitting at the gate waiting for the plane to be deiced. Since I had a fairly tight connection in Chicago, this was going to be a problem, and it was at about this time that they began handing out slips with AA's rebooking hotline. Fortunately, I got rebooked to the next Orlando flight from Chicago without hassle, but it also meant that I would end up with a three-hour layover there instead of the one hour layover on the flight that I ended up missing due to the delay. Eventually we made it off the ground roughly an hour late. Once we got off the ground, the flight actually wasn't too bad.


Coming up: Who have I gotta' bribe to get out of this town? (in which WAY too much stuff gets put on a hot dog in Chicago, and I finally make it to Orlando)
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Old 12-29-2008, 01:28 AM   #5
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Doh! I just about finished putting together the next post in this trip report, then accidentally hit the wrong button and wiped it all out. I'll redo it in the morning. :P
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Old 12-29-2008, 11:12 AM   #6
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We too are so very NOT into traipsing through the dark when a bucket will do just great
What a fun way to meet new folks and say howdy
 
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We'll be waiting!
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Old 12-29-2008, 01:01 PM   #7
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I don't know if I would have gotten on that plane.
I can't believe you don't get more vacation, but I suppose with the downsizing, blah.
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Old 12-29-2008, 03:45 PM   #8
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OK, time for another shot at this. By the time I finish this part I won't have even made it to Disney World yet, but they say that getting there is half the fun, right? Not sure I really agree with that (especially after this trip,) but it's all part of the adventure...

Part 3 - Who have I gotta' bribe to get outa' this town? (in which way too much stuff gets put on a hot dog, and I finally manage to make it to Orlando.)

----

By the time the plane got off the ground in Seattle, we were about an hour behind schedule. The delay itself wasn't really a problem for me (since I already rebooked to the next flight, and had some wiggle room in the schedule anyway.) It was the extra hour of sitting on the plane at the gate that was the annoying part of the delay. After the plane was deiced (and after a delay when the deicing truck ran out of fluid,) We did eventually get underway for the 4+ hour flight to Chicago, and once we actually got off the ground the flight itself was fairly uneventful. I did have a window seat, and my camera with me on the plane, so I took a few pictures along the way.



Once we got past the backside of the Cascades, pretty much everything from there on out was covered in snow.



Here was a somewhat interesting cloud formation I saw on top of some hills in (I think) Montana.



For some reason, I thought this bit of farmland somewhere over the Plains looked interesting, especially with the snow on it.

Eventually it got to a point where there were clouds covering the ground, so I made my usual token futile effort to get some sleep for a bit (as a bit of an insomniac, I find it basically impossible to sleep on any moving vehicle smaller than a cruise ship) and put on my instrumental songs playlist on my Zune. Since I hadn't eaten much for breakfast, when the drink cart came around I ended up grabbing some potato chips. For $3 I ended up with this:



Getting that much meant that it very nearly wasn't a total ripoff, but eventually I found that there was no good way to finish all of those or store them, so I ended up getting rid of the unused portion when we landed. Finally, the plane made it into O'Hare about fifteen minutes too late to catch my connecting flight, so when I got in, I had about three hours to kill before the next flight to Orlando went out. I first went to find the gate for my flight, then set off to find something to eat.

This is only the second time I've been through Chicago (the other time was a few years ago en route to Fort Lauderdale to board a cruise ship with a much shorter wait for the connecting flight) so I went wandering around a bit to take a look around.



Yeah, I'm "glad" to be "here" too.



This was an ad on the wall in one of the concourses. I'm not sure exactly how this would work out though. Would the additional global warming caused by having a big engine have been enough to avert the snowstorm in Seattle so my flight wouldn't have been delayed? Would a the torquey rear wheel drive have actually got me to the airport faster somehow on all the ice rather than depositing itself neatly into the first ditch to come along? Somehow I'm not buying it.

Eventually I realized that it was getting to be late afternoon, and at that point I was pretty much running on a hotel continental breakfast at 6am (well, 8am local time) and a few potato chips, so I went off in search of one of those "dragged through the garden" Chicago-style hot dogs I keep hearing about. I've always thought it seemed like way too much stuff to put on a hot dog all at once, but when in Rome...



Eventually I found a place that had them (and grape soda in the fountain too!) and ordered one. Trying to actually eat the thing wasn't pretty. I'm sure that there's supposed to be some trick to this, but I don't think that I ever actually found it. Pretty tasty though, once you manage to find some way to actually eat it. I still have no idea why exactly the relish is supposed to be so artifically green though...

After a bit more wandering through the airport, I decided that I probably shouldn't be doing so much walking around since there would be plenty of time for that when I reached the parks, so I settled down near the gate for a while. With about a half hour before boarding, I realized that I would be getting into Orlando fairly late, and my options for dinner would probably be quite limited by that time. I decided to try out the Chicago style pizza as well for "dinner," and got one shortly before boarding.



This one didn't seem to be anything all that special, although reading some reviews later on seemed to suggest that this particular place wasn't a particularly good example of Chicago style pizza.

Finally, the time came to board the plane to Orlando, and this one actually left on time. I was rebooked with access to the priority line for boarding, and on this flight I was in an aisle seat in the exit row. Now at this point if I never have to ride on another MD-80 in my life it'll be too soon, but I'l gladly trade the responsibility for evacuating my fellow passengers from burning wreckage for a few extra inches of legroom. Fortunately, there wasn't any burning wreckage to deal with, and aside from some crosswinds on takeoff, the (much shorter) flight down to Orlando was pretty smooth and uneventful.



By the time I arrived in Orlando, it was 10:30pm. Somehow my baggage actually made it there at the same time I did, and as I departed the terminal, I found the outside temperature to be quite pleasant (especially in comparison to the stuff I left behind back in Seattle.) I put away my jacket (which from this point wouldn't need to be used again until I got back to Seattle) and waited for the Mears shuttle to my hotel. It arrived roughly ten minutes later, and I boarded. The driver was a British ex-pat who said he moved down here mostly to get away from England's lousy weather (gee, I wonder who would get that idea?) and we had a nice little conversation en route to the hotel. There were several other riders, and the DTD Hilton was the second stop along the way. I made it to the Hilton at roughly Midnight local time, and proceeded to check into my room, which is where I will pick up in the next installment...

Coming up: Part 4 - Nice room, just don't ask about the view... (For 99 bucks a night, how can you go wrong? Also, I might actually get to some Disney stuff at some point...)
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Old 12-29-2008, 03:50 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OhMari View Post
I don't know if I would have gotten on that plane.
I can't believe you don't get more vacation, but I suppose with the downsizing, blah.
I work for a contract agency, so the benefits aren't all that great. I suppose I can't complain too much though, since I have been getting pretty reasonably pay. I'm hoping to get into something more permanent with more vacation time, although in these economic conditions I'll take what I can get. One way or another, things seem to always work out though.
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Old 12-29-2008, 04:19 PM   #10
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Interesting
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Old 12-29-2008, 04:57 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vexorg View Post
It seems that based on reading some of the other trip reports here, people tend to take their sweet time with these things. I'll try to keep this moving though, since I'd like to get it done sometime before my next trip (whenever that might end up being.)
For wanting to keep things moving, there sure is a lot of detail here!
I thought I'd be the same way with my trip reports (last year was my first trip in 12 years and as such my first trip report), and then I wanted to talk at length about stuff most people probably don't care about. My latest report, as such, will take its sweet time, with no pretense to the contrary!
One note about airport food and regional authenticity..... well, you pretty much know what that note is.....
Should be fun! I'll come back for more snark (though I'm with you in principle, I'm pretty sure the airplane would be more efficient as a global warming mobilizer than a beamer)....
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Old 12-30-2008, 11:28 AM   #12
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We too are so very NOT into traipsing through the dark when a bucket will do just great
What a fun way to meet new folks and say howdy
 
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Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Salem, OR; formerly from Crapistan- Really!!
Posts: 13,089

I for one am so very glad you are going into such great detail! My next WDW vacation is a long, oh so very long way off, and I must use these wonderful TRs as mini- getaways until then. I think most of who read them search around for the style they like and pass on the others. Also, I think to some degree those who are writing them, are writing them for - themselves! To relive the magic and have a place to get those thoughts down on "paper". So by all means, take all the time and detail you want, and those of us who want to be here with you- will be
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Old 12-30-2008, 11:57 AM   #13
gr8leg8
the big 3
Not sure I would have seen, if I wasn't looking for tags...
 
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Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: 380 miles north of Disneyland
Posts: 573

bottle opening

two ideas

1. use a key to pry the sides up
but since you may not have had keys with you

2. ask the front desk

I worked at the Hyatt in Bellevue after college,
I miss it sometimes
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Old 12-30-2008, 02:50 PM   #14
All7OfUs
We too are so very NOT into traipsing through the dark when a bucket will do just great
What a fun way to meet new folks and say howdy
 
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Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Salem, OR; formerly from Crapistan- Really!!
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Oh yeah, I forgot about the bottle opening challenge! But I've sat here and racked my tired little brain for too long, and the only thing I could come up with involved the bathtub spout. Haven't totally worked out how it might be useful, but I'll wait until you tell us all...
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Old 12-30-2008, 04:13 PM   #15
sfacowgirl87
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Location: TEXAS
Posts: 116

Well I have some flip-flops that have a bottle opener on the bottom... and one of my friends has a belt buckle with one on it. You don't happen to have either of those do you? LOL I'm anxious to see what you devised...
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