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Old 09-16-2011, 01:32 AM   #16
MAGICFOR2
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I forgot you were leaving today!!!! Have a wonderful time! I'll bet the girls are stoked - can't wait to read all about it!
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Old 09-17-2011, 09:25 AM   #17
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Live report: at security gates by Harbor at 6:20, but no one was there but 1 CM. Then I walked over to the DTD side of the security tents and saw 3 people in line. I headed back to the Harbor side.

DDs were wiped out by WOC and weren't sleeping well the past 2 nights anyway (kept giggling late into the night). So we let them sleep in and I came to MM myself. I have to admit I considered skipping it. I'm exhausted too. I had to carry 28 pound DD2 from the esplanade to HoJo while pushing the double stroller with my other hand, as the fireworks started as we were coming out of DCA and woke her up. She was too upset to stay in the stroller. DH couldn't hold her either as he reluctantly agreed to rent the ECV so he couldn't hold her and drive.

Line is about 15 deep at 6:45 and security not open yet.

Last edited by smiles33; 09-19-2011 at 09:38 PM. Reason: Edited to clarify some typos due to typing on my iPhone.
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Old 09-17-2011, 09:53 AM   #18
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Security FINALLY opened 6:45. I am the first person at turnstile number 21 but most of the dozen or so people in line on the Harbor side made it to the front of a turnstile. The lines from the DTD side were huge and some New Zealanders RAN in at a sprint. They ended up in line near me and someone asked them where they are from.

Everyone is getting impatient as the gates are still not open with 7 min to MM! CM are wiping down turnstiles with disinfectant. The first family was chosen with just 5 minutes or so to go.

Last edited by smiles33; 09-19-2011 at 09:41 PM. Reason: clarified a few points I didn't fully explain since I was on my iPhone
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Old 09-19-2011, 09:53 PM   #19
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Okay, here we go: the official Trip report begins here!

I woke up out of the blue sometime around 5 am PST, Thursday, Sept. 15. I lay there for about 5 minutes when I realized I was just too excited to go back to sleep. Just as I was about to stealthily slip out of bed, DH said, "I know you're awake. Just get up already!" And so our adventure began...we both got out of bed and started getting ready and packing the car.

Sometime around 5:45, DD5 woke up. It's like she could feel the excitement and energy in the air! She usually doesn't get up until 6:30. I sat her down for breakfast and continued to pack. I also explained we had a surprise for her. But, as I posted above via my iPhone, I forgot to pack DD2's swimsuit so I had to grab it after DD2 woke up closer to 6:45. DD5 saw me, and immediately guessed we were going to a water park. We let her believe that up until we walked into Disneyland from the Harbor side and she saw the Mickey Mouse ears on the garbage cans by the shuttle bus stops and guessed we were at Disneyland!

Anyhow, we left the house around 7:30 am. Both girls were in good moods and we never even had to pull out the iPad to keep them entertained.

DD5 goofing around for me while I took photos of her in her new Cal hat:


DD2, too cool for me to snap a photo of her actually looking at me:


The drive itself was uneventful--we drove down the 5 and found that traffic near Bakersfield/Button Willow wasn't bad at all, definitely not worth taking the 99 detour. Yes, it's down to one lane in several portions, but I think it was about a 5-10 minute slow down (meaning under 65 mph). We took an hour rest stop for a brunch/early lunch at Harris Ranch. We landed there at 10 am and it was too early for a real lunch. We both ordered the coffee-sage crusted ribeye and ended up saving leftovers to make steak sandwiches for breakfast on Friday.

I took some photos near Pumpkin Center (exit 244 off the 5) around 12 noon as it made me think of Halloween at Disneyland (Friday was the first official day of Halloween decor at DLR!) but you can't quite see the sign in this photo. It was still down to one lane here:



Then as we neared the Grapevine, I got more and more excited and snapped this shot.



We rolled into the HoJo parking lot around 2:30 pm. I could barely contain my excitement as we made much better time than expected. I didn't take any photos. Instead, as we neared LA, I posted here via iPhone asking for advice on what to do first, since we decided to go straight to the parks instead of saving the 3rd day for Sunday morning.

We checked into our Kids' Suite (which was AWESOME, more on that later) and walked right over to the park.

Last edited by smiles33; 09-20-2011 at 11:51 PM.
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Old 09-19-2011, 11:57 PM   #20
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I always have to unpack, so even though we arrived around 2:30, I had to organize our room. With the very short walk from HoJo to the park (about 8 minutes?), we didn't get to the park until closer to 3:15 or so. Luckily, there were no lines at security. We did have to stop at the ticket booth as I bought our 3 day park hopper tickets from Last Minute Travel. It saved us quite a bit of money as I also bought the Premium Character Dining vouchers. It took the CM 5+ minutes of typing into the computer before she gave us our tickets and vouchers, but definitely fine on a lazy Thursday afternoon. I wouldn't have been happy if it had been a Magic Morning and I lost those precious minutes waiting for tickets!

We entered the park and decided to just head straight to Fantasyland. It was Thursday afternoon and Halloween decor was up even though Friday, Sept. 16 was the official opening day for Halloween at DLR. DH took the girls to FL and I headed right to Star Tours to grab Fast Passes (around 3:25 for a 5:55 return time). He was using his cane (still stubbornly refusing to get an ECV) so he was able to push the girls in their double stroller.

We knew DD5 would refuse to go on all the dark rides, so we started with the Mad Hatter's Tea Cups, as there was no line at all. DH sat this one out (as he did on most rides since he's not really an amusement park guy). I enjoyed it and thought it was a great first ride for a tentative DD--it's gentle enough when not spinning!



Then we decided we might as well try to do some character meet-n-greets and headed over to Pixie Hollow. Later during our trip, I saw on Mousewait that there were often 30-45 minute waits. Thursday afternoon we waited about 15-20 minutes and finally saw Iridessa at about 4 pm.



Then Vidia and Tinkerbell:



As we exit Pixie Hollow, what do we see but a face painting station! DD5 gets her face painted (for $17!?!). She was thrilled and only washed it off the next day after we went to the Bibbidi Boppidi Boutique and she saw that they would put on REAL makeup (lip gloss, blush, and eye shadow!).



After that I decided to go do the Tangled meet-n-greet, as I saw that those lines are consistently 60+ minutes on Mousewait. We waited a good 30 minutes or so for about 1 minute with Rapunzel (no Flynn Rider that afternoon). The funny part is that the nice Disney Jr. color encyclopedias I bought to use as autograph books didn't have Rapunzel. I searched vainly but then saw a photo of a blonde with long hair and a pretty pink dress in the intro spread (before the Table of Contents) and had Rapunzel sign next to that. I realized later it was GISELLE from Enchanted! Oops.



Then we wandered over to Dumbo (which had maybe 10 minute wait?) and took this photo at 4:47 pm (the wonders of iPhone technology makes it easy to recall when I took the photos without the ugly time stamp on the photo itself!):



After Dumbo, we hopped onto the Casey Jr. train. DH took DD5 in an open-air car (they let him on first as he was using his cane and didn't have to loop through the line). DD2 and I got stuck in one of the cage cars. I took this one by stretching out my arm:



At this point, we were starving (having not eaten since 10:45 am at Harris Ranch). We were going to head to Bengal BBQ to try some skewers, but it looked REALLY far on the map. We were in front of Big Thunder Ranch BBQ, which is all you can eat (and looked like fast service), so we just ducked right in.

Here is a shot of DDs outside Thunder Ranch by a cute Halloween display:



Frankly, the food was mediocre and downright disappointing considering how expensive it is. I think it was about $80 (including tax/tip) for 2 adults and one child (DD2 was free as she's only 2). I darted off to get FP from Indiana Jones while waiting for the food.

After dinner, I sent DH to Star Tours, as that was the only ride he was even remotely interested in trying. While we were waiting for him, we tried to go to Princess Fantasy Fair but it had closed. I bought the girls Mickey ear ice cream bars and watched a pre-show "drum-off" for the Soundsational Parade near It's a Small World.

When DH returned, he raved about ST. I went to do it via FP and he took the girls on the Carousel. Sadly, I was really disappointed. Luckily I went on it two more times during this trip. I hated the first time, loved the second time, and was ok with the 3rd variation.

I've seen all 6 Star Wars movies, but don't consider myself a huge fan. The first ride was disappointing as it was the stormtrooper (no rebel spy was chosen, just a generic alien photo) - Falcon opening - Princess Leia - Tatooine pod race - traffic on Coruscant series. It wasn't all that impressive or interesting, to be honest.

Second time I went (on Saturday) I got Darth (they chose a little kid to be the rebel) - Hoth AT-AT battle - Princess Leia - Naboo underwater chase and that was awesome! I loved this one as it was much more interesting to me.

My last ride was on Saturday afternoon and I got the same stormtroopers opening (they chose a little kid to be the rebel again) - Hoth AT-AT battle - Admiral Ackbar - traffic on Coruscant.

When I returned from ST, we met near the Hub and parked ourselves on a bench on the opposite side of the Hub (away from the parade route) to wait for the Soundsational Parade. All the spots along the parade route were packed. I bought the girls a box of popcorn to share while DH went to ride Indiana Jones (I picked up FP right before dinner). Note that they only had the R2D2 collectible popcorn container that night, but had the Mickey Halloween ghost popcorn container the next day.



DH hated IJ and described it as being blindfolded, hit with pillows (apparently teenage girls were sitting near him and kept slamming into him), with the Indy soundtrack playing in the background. With that kind of review, I skipped it and we just settled in for the parade.

I LOVED the Soundsational parade. I was too busy watching DD2's reactions to take any photos. DD5 and DH went to sit in the section for guests with disabilities as he couldn't stand very long with his cane. Mary Poppins on her carousel horse, Princess Tiana and Louis on their float, the princesses, etc. It was all really well-done and just so fun!

DD2 loved seeing Mickey Mouse and was a bit sad when his float moved on. Check out this video:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/98074671@N00/6170711741/


The parade ended around 7:30 and we just walked along with the crowds back to HoJo since the park closed at 8 anyway. Plus, since DH was using a cane and not in his ECV, I didn't want to push him to go see DCA, which I bet was pretty empty for a Thursday night.

Once back to the hotel, the girls stayed up until close to 10 I believe. They LOVED the Kids' Suite and kept bouncing around the room. DD5 enjoyed sleeping the top bunk and the two were giggling long after the lights were out. I'm still surprised we managed to get up and out the door by 7:20 am the next morning!

The good news is that DH agreed to allow me to rent an ECV for him a few hours into our Thursday afternoon visit. So it was waiting for us bright and early on Friday morning around 7 am!

Will have to post Friday and Saturday's reports later. Hope you find this TR helpful!

Last edited by smiles33; 09-22-2011 at 01:05 AM.
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Old 09-20-2011, 12:38 AM   #21
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I've written an extremely detailed review of our Kids' Suite at the Howard Johnson Anaheim (aka HoJo) on Epinions.com here. So read that for all the detail you could want. In short, here's a quick summary:

First, I must once again give MAD PROPS to Jory29, who made it all possible for my family to take her family's reservation for a Kid's Suite at the amazing $99 Entertainment book rate. I cannot believe how nice the hotel was and don't know if I can go back to a non-suite hotel room now....

This floorplan is from the HoJo website and I cut out just the Kids Suite layout:



I didn't get any good photos of the suite itself, as the few I took turned out too dark. We were in room 1102 on the first floor, right next to the elevators on the far right (the kids' bunk bed room shares a wall with the elevator). I absolutely loved having so much space and TWO full bathrooms for such a low price. Plus, the Kids Suite comes with a microwave and a refrigerator so you can buy supplies to eat breakfast in the room or store leftovers from your in-park meals.

2013 prices are now $186/night (with the DISBoards discount) but that's still a great deal. If you can snag an Entertainment Card rate (only available during certain dates), it goes down to only $129/night (an increase over the 2011 rate of $99/night).

While the Kids Suite is great, other local hotels also have suites in the same price range. But HoJo's location is one of its strong selling points: directly across Harbor Blvd. (so you can see the Matterhorn and even watch the fireworks show from some of the rooms). It's a very easy 5-8 min walk to the Esplanade so no need to park your car or wait for a shuttle. I counted and I did it 14 times (7 round trips) as I came home with DH and the girls every afternoon (he couldn't push the stroller while in his ECV) and then headed back out to single rider the E-ticket rides. Then he'd text me when they woke up and I'd head back to pick the up again.

I definitely had shin splits despite multiple shoe changes but I attribute that to all the walking back and forth to get Fast Passes and not just the 7 round trips to the hotel. As mentioned in an earlier post, I brought multiple pairs and rotated between my Dansko sandals, Born sandals, and Sanuk flip fops. I decided to stick to open toe shoes (instead of my Keens) so I could keep my feet well-ventilated and have extra room in case they swelled. Thankfully, I didn't have any blisters! DH was a sweetheart and bought all sorts of blister relief meds just in case but I can save them for another adventure.

All in all, I would definitely stay at the HoJo again in a Kids' Suite, even if it were full price at $186. We have a reservation for April 2013 already and I'm diligently checking for Entertainment Card dates to see if HoJo releases any for our dates. Nonetheless, we will still stay there at full price. I feel like I got a steal at only $99/night!

Last edited by smiles33; 07-08-2012 at 02:39 AM.
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Old 09-20-2011, 12:50 AM   #22
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So DH wrote his own version of a TR "Disney on Wheeeeeeeels" on his Cal fans' website. Note: it's not very politically correct so be prepared (e.g., he observes that almost everyone we saw in an ECV is morbidly obese).
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Old 09-20-2011, 08:03 AM   #23
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Sounds like all in all a fantastic time! You should've tried Indy - you said yourself DH isn't a themepark kind of guy.... aw well there's always next time right?? I can't see the fotos *I'm at work and sometimes posters pictures don't show up* so I'll check back later. I'm glad you enjoyed HoJo's *we've stayed there several times *most recently last Thanksgiving weekend *we even had the ent rate - $59 per night! I'd love to try a kids suite someday - this Thanksgiving we'll be at Stovall's *Best Western*
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Old 09-20-2011, 11:22 AM   #24
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Thanks for the trip report and great pics!



Your husbands TR had me rollin! (My kind of humor...is that wrong?)
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Old 09-20-2011, 03:02 PM   #25
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Love this trip report! Good work. I also love that you went back to the park alone to hammer out some rides. Impressive.

We have the HoJo kids suite booked (at the 20% AP discount) for later this year, the Tinkerbell Half Marathon next Jan, then Spring Break in April, and again the first weekend in June (right before our APs expire).

We have tried other suites at Desert Inn & Suites and PVI, which are a different setup (living room and/or kitchenette area on "outside") and 2Q in the "inside" BR, but I'm excited for HoJos as I think we'll really like the kids pool and slightly nicer setting. PVI was quite dumpy and DIS was also not nice IMHO.
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Old 09-20-2011, 03:04 PM   #26
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OMG- just read your DH's report, and its HILAROUS! He could be a comedy writer. Love it.
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Old 09-20-2011, 04:14 PM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smiles33 View Post
Live report: at security gates by Harbor at 6:20, but no one was there but 1 CM. Then I walked over to the DTD side of the security tents and saw 3 people in line. I headed back to the Harbor side.

DDs were wiped out by WOC and weren't sleeping well the past 2 nights anyway (kept giggling late into the night). So we let them sleep in and I came to MM myself. I have to admit I considered skipping it. I'm exhausted too. I had to carry 28 pound DD2 from the esplanade to HoJo while pushing the double stroller with my other hand, as the fireworks started as we were coming out of DCA and woke her up. She was too upset to stay in the stroller. DH couldn't hold her either as he reluctantly agreed to rent the ECV so he couldn't hold her and drive.

Line is about 15 deep at 6:45 and security not open yet.
wow- so impressed you got up so early for this. I have done the holding a child while pushing other child- not easy.

My girls are the same ages as yours- 5 & 2!
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Old 09-20-2011, 04:45 PM   #28
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I'm reliving my own trip through your TR since we went around the same time. Hope you don't mind :D
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Old 09-20-2011, 07:24 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DisneyMomma81 View Post
Sounds like all in all a fantastic time! You should've tried Indy - you said yourself DH isn't a themepark kind of guy.... aw well there's always next time right??
I did! I rode Indy later in the trip when I had some free time and did it as a single rider (walking up the exit so I missed all the fun stuff in the queue). Not as bad as DH made it sound, but definitely not worth the 45 minute wait in my mid

Quote:
Originally Posted by DisneyPhreak View Post
Your husbands TR had me rollin! (My kind of humor...is that wrong?)
DH is a clever funny guy, but it sometimes rubs people the wrong way (we're out in CA in a very politically-correct area). Thus, I thought I'd offer the warning in case any DISBoarders did want DH's perspective on our trip.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BayAreaMom View Post
Love this trip report! Good work. I also love that you went back to the park alone to hammer out some rides. Impressive.

We have the HoJo kids suite booked (at the 20% AP discount) for later this year, the Tinkerbell Half Marathon next Jan, then Spring Break in April, and again the first weekend in June (right before our APs expire).

We have tried other suites at Desert Inn & Suites and PVI, which are a different setup (living room and/or kitchenette area on "outside") and 2Q in the "inside" BR, but I'm excited for HoJos as I think we'll really like the kids pool and slightly nicer setting. PVI was quite dumpy and DIS was also not nice IMHO.
I had a reservation at DIS when jory29 gave us her HoJo res, so I'm even more grateful now to hear DIS isn't as nice and had 2 beds inside. The whole reason I was looking for a suite is because DD2 doesn't sleep well if we're in the same room. She just wants to stay up and play!

Quote:
Originally Posted by BayAreaMom View Post
OMG- just read your DH's report, and its HILAROUS! He could be a comedy writer. Love it.
LOL. He is a funny guy!

Quote:
Originally Posted by BayAreaMom View Post
wow- so impressed you got up so early for this. I have done the holding a child while pushing other child- not easy.

My girls are the same ages as yours- 5 & 2!
I didn't set an alarm as we were in pain from Friday night's WOC but my body just woke up and I'm glad I did. I got so much done during MM. Will post day 2 and day 3 summaries soon!

Isn't a 3 year spread a nice age range? My girls play together now and it's so cute to see them interacting more!

Quote:
Originally Posted by mysteriouspnai View Post
I'm reliving my own trip through your TR since we went around the same time. Hope you don't mind :D
Pipe in with your observations! What did you think of all the Halloween decorations? I didn't get enough photos of them, as I was too preoccupied with rides.
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Old 09-20-2011, 10:24 PM   #30
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DAY 2: Our first full day

Per HydroGuy's advice, my plan was to have the family at the security tents at 7:20 am for an 8 am opening on a non-MM day. DDs usually are up by 6:45 so I didn't think it would be an issue. DH had made us sandwiches from the leftover ribeye from Harris Ranch for breakfast (we brought wheat bread, mustard, and a plastic tupperware container). DDs had cereal and milk. We also packed some goldfish crackers for DD2 to snack on and our 3 reuseable Klean Kanteen bottles of water.

DD5 insisted on not washing her face paint off, so she still had most of it on her face. She also picked out her Belle dress, which I had secretly packed! DD2 wore one of the new Tiana "nightgown" dresses that I picked up from the Disney Store clearance sale for about $5.

I should note here at the outset that DD2 hates it when I pull her hair off her forehead in a pigtail or with a barrette. She literally rips it out immediately (if I manage to get it in). So most of these photos show her with hair in her face. I don't want to cut bangs but I need to figure out a way to get gel in there to keep the hair out of her eyes!

We picked up DH's ECV from HoJo's front desk at 7 am, we loaded up the girls, and headed out by 7:15 or so. Here we are just outside our room by the elevators and HoJo's market:



We got in line and I took this photo at 7:36 am, There was already a line ahead of us:



Then we entered and started strolling toward Fantasyland. I took some photos of the Halloween decor on Main Street but my iPhone doesn't capture the nice details. Check out all the great photos on the Halloween thread (SherryE got some fantastic ones!):



Waiting for the rope drop was painful. We weren't that slow, but with a double stroller and an ECV, we couldn't walk that fast so we got passed by almost everyone (including some folks with single strollers):



Everyone walking behind us:



Once the rope dropped, I pushed our double stroller to FL (taking the shortcut on the left side of the castle to bypass some of the crowds). I dropped them off at Dumbo while I walked briskly to Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy to get FP for me as this was opening day. Sadly, SM was down! ARGH! I was so frustrated. I had been disappointed by Star Tours the day before, so I opted to just grab FP for Autopia. I know, what a waste of a FP opportunity! I was paralyzed as I didn't want to leave DH and DDs sitting by Dumbo for too long so I just grabbed them rather than running elsewhere in the park.



You can see that I picked them up at 8:12 am. I then rushed back to find DH had taken the DDs on Teacups again. At this point, it was about 8:15 am and I asked DH to stand in line for PFF. I had heard others did this and were able to walk with the princesses back to the station. He went and parked at the PFF area (or so we thought!) around 8:20 and was the only person in line. More on this later. While he waited in line in his ECV, I took the girls on the carousel again (DD5 loves them). As we walked up to PFF around 8:35, we saw the Disneyland Railroad pull in at the Toontown station. At this point, there were 2 families behind him and rather than wait another 25 minutes, I told DH I was going to take the girls on it (since it's a 20 minute ride). Little did I know, there is a scary dinosaur scene in a dark tunnel and it really scared DD5. She buried her face in my lap and then insisted we get off the train. Of course, I tried to talk her out of it (Main Street is pretty far from PFF). But as we stopped at New Orleans Square station, we could see another tunnel up ahead so I opted to jump out. Little did I know that New Orleans is as far from PFF as it can possibly be. I literally RAN carrying my 28 pound DD2 and making DD5 run with me to make it back to PFF at 8:58 am. I saw the Railroad Train pull in as I came running up. Can you believe I actually made it? I still can't. I literally thought I was going to collapse. My lungs were burning, but I had assumed DH was first in line and I didn't want to lose our spot!

So while we were on the railroad train and then running through the park, DH was sitting in his ECV, near our double stroller, waiting in line for PFF. But at about 8:45 or so, he and the 3 families standing in line with him realized that they had lined up by the Royal Coronation Ceremony spot and that the meet-n-greet is actually in the BACK of the building. Instead of being first, he ended up third in line as the 2 families who lined up in the correct spot never said anything to him (despite seeing him and 2 other newbie families lined up at the PFF stage area).

The CM asked who was first when she came out, and the family behind DH (who had followed him over from the wrong spot) said that we were first, but DH graciously explained that he had lined up in the wrong spot so technically we were now third. The 3rd family had also called out that they were first, trying to cut DH off before he could claim he was first. I was ANNOYED to say the least.

*I* would have told the CM that I arrived at PFF at 8:20 and those 2 families came after me even if they had lined up in the correct spot. DH was kind enough to tell the CM that he understood she had a tough job and that it would have been nice if a CM had been there at 8 am to direct him to the correct spot. Suffice to say, we still saw the princesses but DH waiting in line for 40 minutes was pretty much wasted since we didn't get to have DDs walk back with the princesses.

Cinderella, Snow White and Aurora were there.








Last edited by smiles33; 09-20-2011 at 11:49 PM.
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