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Old 09-25-2011, 04:39 PM   #1
kokotg
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Is there Gluten in Whiskey? Sept trip: 9 days, 3 boys, 1 urgent care visit NEWx2 11/7

Hi everyone! I'm home from our trip with a notebook full o' notes and 1500 photos, so there's nothing left to do except (unpack, do laundry, go grocery shopping, mentally prepare myself to dive back into real life tomorrow, and) write my trip report!

For all the gritty details of the planning process, you can refer to my pre-trip report:

Our COMPLETELY New and TOTALLY Different 6th September Disney trip: A pre-trip report

For the quick and dirty synopsis, you can stay right here.

Here is my family:



There's me, Gretchen; my husband, Dave; and our three boys: Ari is 10, Milo is 8, and Gus is 5 ½.

The trip, in a nutshell: we stayed at Pop, in two connecting room, for 8 nights (September 16-24). Free dining, upgraded to the plus plan. We were all gluten-free for the first time for this trip, which made things more interesting (more on that when I get to the restaurant reviews. Also, an answer to the question posed in my title).

A bit of background: This was our 6th September Disney trip in a row (although 2 years ago we went to Disneyland instead of WDW). Our kids are homeschooled, but Dave is a high school teacher, so we're still tied to the school calendar. Fortunately, our county has a funky September break every year that falls conveniently during free dining and when crowds are low (not so perfectly timed as far as weather, but you can't have everything). So that's when we go. Along with most of the rest of our county. Dave pretty much always spots at least one or two co-workers or students while we're there, and we make a game out of how many license plates from our county we can spot in a single row in the parking lots (usually at least 5 or 6).

Dave likes Disney World a lot, but he's not quite as passionate about it as I am. In fact, he would be perfectly content to (gasp!) skip a year from time to time. In the months leading up to this year's trip, he grumbled a lot about how he was afraid it was going to be the same old thing as every other year.

Of course, we all know that there's always something new to do at Disney World, but my task was to convince my husband of this. Hence the title of my pre-trip report and hence....my gimmick for this trip report. Every trip report needs a gimmick, right?

At the end of every day, I'll list at least one thing we did that was COMPLETELY new and TOTALLY different from any of our previous trips. Even I don't know yet what these things are (well, I have an idea what some of them are); we'll all be surprised together!

So there you have it: all the essential information. And now I must begin sifting through pictures and trip report notes before I can proceed. Here is my little notebook for trip report notes:



Isn't it cute? I guess that's the Tower of London. There were three, in a set, from Target. Ari snatched the Eiffel Tower one right away. ETA: oops. I guess it's actually Big Ben

Next up: the drive down (and then gets more exciting from there, I promise)

Last edited by kokotg; 11-07-2011 at 11:26 PM.
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Old 09-25-2011, 07:22 PM   #2
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Chapter 1: Thursday, 9/15: Travel day
Chapter 2: Friday, 9/16: Arrival
Chapter 3: Friday 9/16 Part 2: Magic Kingdom
Chapter 4: Gluten-free intro and Columbia Harbor House
Chapter 5: Friday, 9/16 Part 4: More Magic Kingdom and Pop
Chapter 6: Wolfgang Puck Express
Chapter 7: Babycakes
Chapter 9: Saturday 9/17 Part 1: Animal Kingdom
Chapter 10: Saturday, 9/16, Part 3: more Animal Kingdom
Chapter 11: Sunday, 9/17 Part 1: Epcot
Chapter 12: Sunday, 9/17 part 2: Sunshine Seasons
Chapter 13: Sunday, 9/17 part 3: more Epcot
Chapter 14: Sunday 9/17 part 4: even MORE Epcot
Chapter 15: Le Cellier
Chapter 17: Monday 9/18 part 1: Animal Kingdom
Chapter 18: Flame Tree Barbecue
Chapter 19: Monday 9/18: More Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney
Chapter 20: Boma
Chapter 21: Monday wrap-up and new things
Chapter 22: Tuesday, 9/20: Hollywood Studios
Chapter 23: Pizza Planet
Chapter 24: Tuesday, 9/20: More Hollywood Studios
Chapter 24 continued
Chapter 25: Mama Melrose
Chapter 26: Still Tuesday, still Hollywood Studios!
Chapter 27: Intermission
Chapter 29: Wednesday 9/21: Magic Kingdom
Chapter 30: Crystal Palace
Chapter 31: More Magic Kingdom
Chapter 32: Still at the Magic Kingdom!
Chapter 32: A little more MK
Chapter 33: 'Ohana
Chapter 34: Wednesday's New Things
Chapter 35: Thursday 9/22: Epcot
Chapter 36: Epcot some more
Chapter 37: Garden Grill
Chapter 38: Epcot evening
Chapter 39: Friday, 9/23: Checking out Port Orleans
Chapter 40: Planet Hollywood
Chapter 41: Downtown Disney
Chapter 42: MNSSHP, part 1
Chapter 43: MNSSHP part 2
Chapter 44: MNSSHP, part 3

Last edited by kokotg; 11-07-2011 at 11:28 PM.
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Old 09-25-2011, 07:30 PM   #3
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Chapter 1: Thursday, 9/15: Travel day

Originally, we'd planned to leave on Friday after Dave got home from work, but he checked with his principal to see if he could take a personal day on Friday so that we could leave early and got the go-ahead. So...extra day! Dave was very pleased because this meant we could drive most of the way down on Thursday night, stay at a hotel, and drive the rest of the way Friday morning. Our last couple of trips we've driven the whole way Friday night and gotten there VERY late with VERY tired (read: OVERtired and therefore completely insane) kids.

We had packed up the car the night before, so we were pretty much ready to go as soon as Dave got home, and we were on the road around 4:45:



We hit surprisingly little traffic, given that we were driving through Atlanta right at rush hour. The kids entertained themselves with their itouches for much of the trip, and we all listened to an audiobook of 100 Cupboards, which I'd borrowed from the library online and downloaded to my iphone before we left.




That's Mickey, on our dashboard. I had big plans to pull Mickey out and take pictures of him everywhere (so whimsical!), but mostly he just sat in the bottom of our backpack, forgotten. Sorry Mickey.

In Macon, around an hour south of Atlanta, we stopped for dinner at an Outback, because we know they have a good gluten-free menu. The Outback near us is famous for being especially great and doing not-on-the-menu things like gluten-free chicken fingers and bloomin' onions. But the regular gluten-free menu is good, too. Dave ordered a pork chop with asparagus and mashed potatoes. I had a strip steak with mashed potatoes. Ari ordered the half rack of ribs, and Milo and Gus both had grilled chicken.

Then we got back on the road and drove uneventfully (kids slept much of the way) to our hotel: the Comfort Suites in Lake City, FL. We picked it because it's the NEWEST!



Not really, I didn't even know it was so NEW when I made the reservation. I picked it because it had 2 queens plus a sleeper sofa and was pretty cheap and looked nice on the website.

Even with our grand plan to drive only partway the first night, it was still around midnight by the time we got to the hotel. We were very glad that we weren't driving any further that night.

The room was very nice; everything did indeed look brand new. Of course, we crashed as soon as we got there and left first thing the next morning, so we didn't get to spend much time enjoying it.



(okay, so again, as with my pre-trip, I'm having this problem with photobucket where I resize the pictures to make them smaller...only they don't really resize. But then I think later they do. There seems to be a mysterious lag. So if my pictures are too huge, and you hate it, come back later and try again please!)

Up next: a little more driving and then our first day!
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Old 09-25-2011, 07:31 PM   #4
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I'm here! Can't wait to read more
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Old 09-25-2011, 07:40 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by BerrysGirl View Post
I'm here! Can't wait to read more
Yay! My first transfer from my pre-trip ...and I need to go get caught up on your pre-trip now; see what you've been up to while I was away!
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Old 09-25-2011, 10:29 PM   #6
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Oops...very first day, and I already forgot to list the completely new and totally different things we did. So: new things for Thursday:

1. left on a Thursday
2. stayed in Lake City, FL
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Old 09-26-2011, 07:56 AM   #7
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WOW that looks like a really nice Comfort Inn, yay for leaving early! Can't wait to hear more!
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Old 09-26-2011, 11:40 AM   #8
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WOW that looks like a really nice Comfort Inn, yay for leaving early! Can't wait to hear more!


Doesn't it look nice? I was surprised when I saw the pictures on the website, and then even more surprised that it looked as good in person as on the website . It was kind of a shame we were just passing through and didn't spend more time there.
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Old 09-26-2011, 01:28 PM   #9
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Ahh Whiskey, that got my attention!
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Old 09-26-2011, 01:45 PM   #10
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Ahh Whiskey, that got my attention!


Stick around; there'll be wine and hard cider later, too!
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Old 09-26-2011, 02:40 PM   #11
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Chapter 2: Friday, 9/16: Arrival

Up until about 11:30 Thursday night, I was all, “we should leave the hotel at SEVEN Friday morning!” Really, we left at 8:45.

We had some issues with the whole gluten-free thing and breakfasts on this trip. I had packed applesauce, peanut butter, and string cheese, and was hoping the kids would be happy snacking on those to hold them over until early lunch. Protein, you see! But they weren't, for the most part. I'll have to work on my breakfast plan before next year. Although next year, as you'll see, we'll likely have a refrigerator, so it won't be as big of an issue. Cinnamon chex and milk make the kids very happy.

Anyway, the hotel had free breakfast, but there wasn't a lot for us. Dave picked up some yogurt for Milo and Gus, but Ari doesn't like yogurt. I can't remember what everyone wound up eating, but it was...something.

And then we got in the car. Backing up: Milo had had a bad cold about two weeks before we left...snotty, coughing, fever, misery...it dragged on for a good 5 days, but was long gone by the time we left.

Except for the coughing. Oh, the coughing. So much coughing. I really try to avoid giving the kids cough medicine, but he sounded so bad that I broke down. I was worried not just about the cough bothering Milo, but about it keeping him and his brothers awake when they were all sleeping in one hotel room and really needed their rest. As you'll see, medicating the kids far more than we normally would became something of a theme for the trip. So we stopped at Target:



….where there was a tiny palm tree:



And picked up a few things, including cough medicine.

And then there was nothing standing between us and:


Well, there was a dirty windshield standing between us and Disney World

The plan was to check in at Pop and pick up our Key to the World cards then head over to the Magic Kingdom. There was a Halloween party that night, so it was closing at 7, but we figured that would give us a few good hours there.


The side window was dirty, too. Sorry.


We're here; we're here! And the sun is really bright! And did I mention this was Mickey themed matching t-shirt day?



I had, after considerable fretting, decided not to do online check-in this year, hoping that would give us a better chance of getting at least one of our room requests. Our main request, of course, and the one that was guaranteed, was the connecting rooms. We'd also requested a king bed in one of the rooms and the '70's (in that order).

This was our third year at Pop. The first year we'd only requested the king bed and had gotten it. The second time (last year), we'd requested the king bed again and been given rooms in the '50's with all double beds. BUT! One of the rooms smelled really bad, and the second night there we finally discovered an ashtray with cigarette butts in it hidden up on the shelf in the closet. Yuck! Who does that? So we called and asked to be moved to non-stinky rooms and reiterated that if a king was available, that'd be great. We wound up in the 70's, in refurbed rooms (this was back when they were in the middle of redoing the rooms; our first ones had not been done), with our king bed, overlooking the courtyard with the foosball guys. I LOVED those rooms. The location was great, and it made me happy every time I opened the door and saw the courtyard with the foosball guys and the big Mickey across the way. Our king room was a handicapped accessible room, too, so we had a refrigerator as a nice bonus. I was really hoping to get a similar location this year.

I'm guessing a Magical Express bus had gotten there just before us or something, because there was a pretty long line when we got to Classic Hall:



….which had all but disappeared by the time we got to the front of it.

Dave got in line while the kids and I checked out Classic Hall.


First I checked out the bathroom, and lucky I had my camera with me, because look! A broken lock! At Disney! They're letting the place crumble to the ground!

All the kids, but especially Ari, were very into finding hidden Mickeys this year. Ari has an app on his Itouch (that, miraculously, doesn't require an internet connection) that gives hints on finding them and then lets you check off the ones you find and get points. It's by the same guy who writes the Hidden Mickeys book, and Ari is now on a first name basis with him: “Steve says a classic hidden Mickey always looks like this.” “Garden Grill has one of Steve's FAVORITE hidden Mickeys.” He had the app last year, but was much more interested in it this trip.




Is it really bad form to post pictures of the hidden Mickeys? I won't do it very often. This one wasn't very hard to find.

Another new fixation (that was in its infancy last year) for the kids was pin collecting—along with a little bit of pin trading. So we went to Everything Pop to do some shopping.



Each kid had $30 in spending money (Ari and Milo also had non-Disney money saved that they could dip into if they wanted to), and Gus wasted no time making his first purchase: a pin with the MK castle on it. Dave had all the souvenir money, so I left Ari and Milo looking at pins, while Gus and I went over to check on Dave and hit him up for some cash.

He was up at the counter now, but things were going very slowly. For some reason, throughout the whole process of making reservations and all the way up through check-in, the fact that we had two rooms was terribly confusing for everyone. Every time we called reservations to check on or change something, it took forever to figure things out, and it was always blamed on the second room. Same thing was happening now.

We left Dave to sort all that out and headed back over to buy the pin. We looked around a little more, found another Mickey or two, and then went back to see how things were progressing with check-in.

Dave was STILL talking to the CM. Rooms were ready for us, she said, but not with a king bed, so she got on the phone to talk to someone and see if any would be opening up later. Dave told her we were heading for the Magic Kingdom and didn't mind waiting for the rooms. But after a very long time, she told us that there would be no king rooms later, either, but that we could check the next day. I suspect that checking in on a Friday might be worse for room requests than Saturday or Sunday, as I'm guessing more people leave on those days.

So now suddenly, I guess because Dave told her we were in no rush for the rooms, there weren't any rooms ready for us after all. She told us we'd be in the 80's and that they'd text us when the rooms were ready. So no king bed and no foosball guys . Oh well.

There was also some kind of problem with our cards...I think the only cards there were the ones for one of the rooms so they had to print up the ones that went with the other room. I'm nearly certain that last year all of our cards listed everyone on the reservation....i.e. said “2 adult, 3 child.” So I don't know if it's because they had to print up the cards for one room at the last minute or what, but each card only listed the people for THAT room. One card listed 1 adult, 1 child, and the other listed the rest of us. But the actual dining credits were still pooled...they were all on all the cards. This caused no end of confusion at many of the table service restaurants; we would assure the server that the credits were all together, but a few times they insisted on running two different cards, one from each room.

We're constantly amused by how archaic Disney's computer systems can seem sometimes. For all the crazy, cutting-edge technology they have in the theme parks, they're totally flummoxed by something as seemingly simple as connecting rooms at one of their resorts. Or, as we'd find out, canceling dining reservations over the phone.

But! Finally! We were all checked in and ready to go!

Up next: Magic Kingdom! And my first restaurant review.

Last edited by kokotg; 09-26-2011 at 04:52 PM.
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Old 09-26-2011, 04:58 PM   #12
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You're completely forgiven for a dirty windshield. Driving to Disney in LoveBug season? I'd be concerned if it wasn't a little soiled

I LOVE that Hidden Mickey App... I hope they have it for the Droid!

Hope all your room drama got sorted out... it's starting to make me happy Pop was full... hopefully we'll have a less eventful check-in at CBR!
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Old 09-26-2011, 09:22 PM   #13
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You're completely forgiven for a dirty windshield. Driving to Disney in LoveBug season? I'd be concerned if it wasn't a little soiled

I LOVE that Hidden Mickey App... I hope they have it for the Droid!

Hope all your room drama got sorted out... it's starting to make me happy Pop was full... hopefully we'll have a less eventful check-in at CBR!
I'm sure you won't have any trouble! I think it really was all about the two rooms...everyone else who was in that long line was all checked in and long gone by the time we were done. I'm guessing that maybe it was hard to find two connecting rooms at all, since the resort was so full?

Now how long can I be forgiven for STILL having lovebugs all over the car now that the trip is over? I really need to get to a car wash!
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Old 09-26-2011, 10:10 PM   #14
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Joining In, cant wait to hear all about your trip.
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Old 09-26-2011, 10:19 PM   #15
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Chapter 3: Friday 9/16 Part 2: Magic Kingdom

One of the big reasons I wanted to add this Friday onto our trip is that, in my original schedule, we wouldn't make it to the Magic Kingdom until Wednesday—the fifth day of our trip. This seemed way too late. Starting off the trip with the Magic Kingdom was a much better plan.

We drove over to the Magic Kingdom and took the monorail from the TTC:





I spent a lot of time on this trip forcing all three boys to pose together, and they were very good sports about it. Often, they even smiled for me:



First view of the castle!



This is what Main Street looked like at, according to that clock in the picture, 1:15.

Every single year I read threads saying that this September is way more crowded than last year AND threads about how totally empty the parks are this September...I'll say that our experience was that things seemed a little less crowded this year than the past few years. That may be luck—or because I obsessed a bit more about picking the right park for each day—but that was how it seemed to us. Pretty much everything was a walk-on the first couple hours the parks were open, and we did fine using fastpasses aside from that. I don't remember waiting for anything longer than 10 or 15 minutes, though I may be forgetting something. And when we did wait even that long it was always something that we could have avoided if we'd put much effort into it. The parks also just felt less crowded this year—more room on the walkways and that sort of thing.

We'd spent a lot of time in the days leading up to the trip discussing which ride we should do first. There had been some votes for Space Mountain and some for Small World (which was closed last year). We ended up doing Space Mountain first, with plans to follow it up immediately with Small World.



The sign at Space Mountain claimed the wait would be 10 minutes, but we actually walked right on. When we got off, I commented, “the older I get, the bumpier Space Mountain gets.” But then later in the trip when we went on it, I loved it. The first couple of times—when there was all the bumpy—we went to the left side. The last few times, we went to the right. I actually googled when we were in line at one point, and it seems like the consensus is that the left side is smoother, but I swear it was the opposite for us. I would have sworn the track layout was completely different, in fact, but google insists that I'm wrong about that. And google never lies.

There actually WAS a wait for “it's a small world” (it kind of cracks me up that the name of the ride includes quotation marks. Haven't they ever read the blog of unnecessary quotation marks?) The sign said 10 minutes, and I think that was pretty accurate.






I think Ari was excited

Two rides under our belts and now it was getting to be pretty late...past time for lunch!

So I think, after much internal debate, that I'm going to separate out my dining reviews. I'll put them in here, but as separate entries, so that I can also post them on the dining review board. I spent many, many hours pouring over gluten-free dining reviews before my trip, so I want to make sure my own gluten-free reviews are easy to find for anyone else who's looking for them. So:

Up next: Columbia Harbor House and some rambling about gluten

Last edited by kokotg; 09-26-2011 at 10:35 PM.
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