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Old 01-26-2012, 11:42 PM   #1
ZehnJahren
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"Uno Más!" A "Gran" solo tour of WDW in January! - updated on 4/15/12

Bienvenidos! Welcome to my "Gran Fiesta Tour" of WDW over three solo nights and four days at Animal Kingdom Lodge - Jambo House! This trip was done on the fly; I booked the airfare and room a week before I left and ended up renting points for AKL about two hours after I booked my room - so I canceled my value-hotel room and stayed at AKL!

Though I've been home for just a few days, I'm ready to tell my story. Yes, my story is one you may have heard before - but it's a first for me, and I hope you'll at least listen to my tale, even if you never join in the fun!

First, a little background:

You can call me Zehn; I took the name after the german translation for "Ten Years" - because when I was planning my 2010 trip with DBF (his first time ever), it was my first time back to the world in 10 years and my first time at POFQ (at the recommendation of a Disneyfied co-worker!!). Here we are:



I was so happy to be back after so many years! DBF liked it, but he's not a crowd guy so he agreed to going every two years - and that just wasn't going to be enough for me. So in October 2011, I took my Mom to the World (she hadn't been since the last time I'D been, back in 2000!), and we did a split stay at Pop/CR and had a BALL! Here we are (yes, that IS the same shirt I was wearing on my trip with DBF!):



You would think I'd be content in the knowledge that DBF and I would be back in late September 2012. Right? Wrong. I ran across a great airfare rate, and with the AP I simply couldn't pass up a quick trip. This time, there was no one to come with me so I went solo!



I was booked to stay at Sports, but I went out on a very short limb and tried to rent points at OKW because I thought it would be most likely to have rooms left (don't know why I thought that). Unfortunately there was no availability. But what do you know - there WAS availability at AKL! I was lucky enough to rent points for AKL - a much-coveted spot here on the boards! I had a standard view - but there was nothing standard about it.

The next day, I went to the doctor. At that point I got word that my sinus infection was pretty bad and that I "probably shouldn't travel." I asked the doc how serious he really was, because I was going to WDW in a week. I guess he wasn't too serious, because he just said, "ok, well be careful" and gave me steroids and antibiotics. So everything was set to go!

*Note* I decided on this trip to leave my point-and-shoot camera at home and come to WDW armed solely with my new RAZR phone. This turned out to be a great decision; take note that all photos you see in this TR are from a phone. I also have several excellent high-quality videos, and all from this wonderful phone.

So please, "ven conmigo" to WDW on my solo trip! I hope you enjoy hearing about it as much as I enjoyed living it!

Now, vamanos!

Last edited by ZehnJahren; 04-15-2012 at 12:59 PM.
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Old 01-26-2012, 11:43 PM   #2
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Chapter Links

Below please find the chapter links for my Gran Fiesta Solo Tour!

Backstory: Yo Ho Yo Ho a Solo Trip's For Me

Tuesday, January 17th
- Arrival at AKL - Jambo!
Chapter 1: Hakuna Matata
Chapter 2: Be Our Guest

Wednesday, January 18th - EMH at MK, Epcot, HS, Epcot
Chapter 3: A Whole New World
Chapter 4: One Jump Ahead
Chapter 5: Once Upon a Dream
Chapter 6: Just Around the Riverbend
Chapter 7: Candle on the Water
Chapter 8: Jolly Holiday
Chapter 9: A Little Black Raincloud
Chapter 10: Can You Feel the Love Tonight

Thursday, January 19th - EMH at AK, HS, Epcot
Chapter 11: A Step in the Right Direction
Chapter 12: Best of Friends
Chapter 13: Go The Distance
Chapter 14: I'm Wishing

Friday, January 20th - MK, Departure Day
Chapter 15: A Girl Worth Fighting For
Chapter 16: The Bare Necessities

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Old 01-27-2012, 12:10 AM   #3
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Hakuna Matata!

Hakuna matata - what a wonderful phrase! This is the idea I tried to stand on as I made it to one of the busiest airports in America on the eve of what was "supposed to be" a major winter storm.

And since it means "no worries," I took it to heart and enjoyed my time at the airport. I had gotten up very, very early to put in almost 8 hours of work today - even though I was leaving Chicagoland at 3:40. I had some reports that had to be done - but once they were sent, I was free! My plane was scheduled to land around 8-ish; I hoped that would stand firm. I had big big plans for the next few days!



Seemed like we might have a full flight; I'd already paid my seating dues to pick a seat up front, in the aisle (that way, I didn't have to wake anyone up if I needed to use the restroom). So I waited patiently but excitedly for the flight that would take me to WDW, alone, for a whole trip, for the first time in my life!



I was looking forward to it being just me; the holidays had just gotten over with, and that's always stressful. DBF and I both value our alone time, so he was getting some much needed and much deserved alone time as well. But it was NOT as awesome as mine, because I was heading to the House of Mouse! The plane boarded on time, and before I knew it we were hurtling through the air towards one of the greatest entertainment capitals on earth!



I watched a bit of Tangled on the plane (like I did last trip), and before I knew it they were prepping us for landing! We touched down right on time, and I headed to the Dollar car rental booth to secure my compact car, which I'd gotten for free on credit card points.



But like any car-renters right-of-passage, I first had to listen to the very pushy spiel on how I should upgrade (cheaply, of course), and how much I NEEDED $30-a-day collision coverage, and how I should know that I'd be on the hook for THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS should anything happen. I politely let the nice, pushy man know that I was just fine with my regular car insurance, thank you very much, and was on my way - keep this in the back of your head, because it just might matter later on in the story.

And here she is, ladies and gents: my first rental car ever!



It was a Nissan Versa, and I truly fell in love with this car while in WDW. So much so that I started looking at used Versas when I made it back home. It made quite an impression on me!

So now my bags are in the car, I'm ready to go, it's time to engage my Android-based-Google-Maps-turn-by-turn-navigation-standard-on-your-android-phone, sorry-Mr.-Rental-Guy-but-Hakuna-Matata-I-already-have-a-GPS-kthanks... but wait! Hmmm. For some reason, the GPS ISN'T WORKING. You can't be serious. I tried everything I could think of to make that &#$^%$ GPS work, but it simply froze up on me and I was cursing my phone like a surly fishwife.

What's there to do then? I just got on a highway and started driving. Yes, hakuna matata, I'd find my way. And when I pulled up to my first toll, I begged the woman to tell me that I was possibly maybe heading in the right direction to make it to Walt Disney World.

"Of course!" she gushed. "Walt made it easy to find! Just keep on keepin' on!" Well thank you, kind lady, I think I will! Here's my dollar!

Sooner than I expected, I saw this very welcome sight:


I think I screamed very loudly when I saw it, because it really and truly meant that I was at Disney, and I was on vacation, and I was the happiest girl in the world!



I followed the very helpful purple signs, and before you could say "Scar's your uncle" I was at AKL! It seemed like it was all too fast - I thought I'd been told AKL was way off the beaten path but this seemed like it was right in the heart of the resort. Either way, I was welcomed home by a fellow Chicagoan, who saw my license, chatted for a moment about my city, then told me very seriously "I'll never go back." I understood the sentiment; it was gorgeous in Orlando and ice cold in Chicago, and I could jive.



Now that I was here, my "hakuna matata" motto ("what's the motto with you") had come to fruition. Time to check in, and get my first good look at the beautiful Animal Kingdom Lodge! Wow!

Last edited by ZehnJahren; 01-27-2012 at 12:23 AM.
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Old 01-27-2012, 12:11 AM   #4
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Yay! You started!

Well, quite literally with the trip report and the traveling and..
okay, it's late at night and I'm not sure where I'm going with this.

So yay!
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Old 01-27-2012, 12:25 AM   #5
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Yay! You started!

Well, quite literally with the trip report and the traveling and..
okay, it's late at night and I'm not sure where I'm going with this.

So yay!
Hi! Enjoying your TR as well; thanks for joining mine! I'm not sure where I'm going either, so we'll try to get there together!
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Old 01-27-2012, 12:42 AM   #6
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Be Our Guest

Be our guest, be our guest, put our service to the test... this I planned on doing, as AKL has quite the reputation.

I had just made it through the checkpoint, and was heading towards the promised land.

Marge welcomed me home at the front desk, and double-checked with me that it was "just one in the room"? I was very happy to tell her yes, and she said "good for you!" I noticed she was from Manilla in the Philippines; I told her my sister-in-law was Philippina, and made sure to say a hearty "salamat!" ("thank you!") when I left her. Be aware up front that I have a very odd hobby of learning languages, even partially - so you may notice me speaking random languages happily, especially when I'm SOLO.

Now, without my luggage, I was on my way to the room. I decided to go up with my flashlight for the prerequisite bedbug check first, then come back down for my luggage etc. After all, we want the company impressed.

When I walked in the room, I was already happy with what I saw. This:



It's me! Smiling! In the mirror at AKL! Is there a greater sight??

Tonight I'll prop my feet up, but for now... let's take pictures of the studio! The sink and fridge area:



Bathroom sink area:



Living area, a PERFECT size for me:



And complete with a nice Mickey head towel "animal". This was eventually disassembled to dry my bum after a shower, but for now, it was moved to the table:



I did my bedbug check, took the decorative pillows off the bed and piled them in the corner, then headed down to go to Target and get some essentials.

On my way, I saw a familiar, beloved sight. I couldn't stop myself from following it like a beacon. It was Chick-fil-a!



Oh boy! No beef ragout or cheese flambe, no pie or pudding 'en flambe' - but there WERE delicious chicken nuggets. I got 12 of 'em and devoured them before heading on to Target, where I bought a few Lean Cuisines, a banana, a 12-pack of water (it was around $4! and lasted me my whole trip!), and some other small assorted items. Then I realized how tired I was; it was time to get to bed, as I was going to be up VERY early making it to EMH at MK. Originally, it was an AK morning, but Obama was in town and they'd changed hours. I was fine with that; I'd wanted to start my trip with MK anyway, so it was perfect!

A bit of Stacey lulled me to sleep.



And I needed it. EMH started promptly at 8 a.m., and I was DETERMINED to see the opening show that Ma and I had just BARELY missed back in October because we were delayed checking into CR.... I'd worked a 7.25-hour-day, handled a 3 hour flight, driven to WDW, driven to Target; would I make it? Or would I hit snooze in the morning and wait on the magic? If you followed my last TR, you probably have a good idea exactly what I did the next morning....

Last edited by ZehnJahren; 01-27-2012 at 10:14 AM.
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Old 01-27-2012, 12:03 PM   #7
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Your off to a GREAT start Glad all went well and you made it on time despite the darn snow!!!!

Can't wait to see your first day! Our first day will be MK when we go
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Old 01-27-2012, 12:09 PM   #8
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I am here!

Loving the start of your TR. Lucky you for being in the warm florida weather, because it was darn right frigid over here by the windy city. Brrrrr!!

Can't wait to see what happens next
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Old 01-27-2012, 12:34 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by wakica View Post
Your off to a GREAT start Glad all went well and you made it on time despite the darn snow!!!!

Can't wait to see your first day! Our first day will be MK when we go
Hi! Thanks for coming over! You're planning on writing a TR too, right? I definitely want to hear about that Everest race!

I had an easy time heading out to Florida, but as expected it wasn't quite so easy getting back in at home!
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Old 01-27-2012, 12:48 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Corrine 1973 View Post
I am here!

Loving the start of your TR. Lucky you for being in the warm florida weather, because it was darn right frigid over here by the windy city. Brrrrr!!

Can't wait to see what happens next
Hi, welcome! I'll tell you, I was in HEAVEN while I was down there. Every time I talked to DBF, he told me that it was so cold he didn't even want to go outside - and he is NOT a cold-weather lightweight, as he's lived in the Chicago area for almost his entire life. When even HE'S complaining, it's COLD.

I, on the other hand, was in short sleeves, and debating "sandals or tennis shoes?" I did have some chilly early mornings and late nights, but my fleece jacket served me perfectly. Ah, to be there RIGHT NOW!
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Old 01-27-2012, 10:56 PM   #11
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A Whole New World

I can show you the World - this morning, I had 'let my heart decide' on MK and the EMH happily coincided. This was originally supposed to by EMH at AK, but the days had been changed around (I even got a little insert in my Welcome folder explaining all the unexpected EMHs this week, with no mention of the presidential visit).

I wasn't sure about getting up this morning, but that good old Disney adrenaline never fails me. I admit to slapping my alarm one time, but then I couldn't fall back asleep knowing where I was and NOT knowing how long it would take me to drive to MK from AKL. So I got up and started moving early. I check the weather by wandering out on my balcony, and this is what I saw:



Aw, good morning my little birdie friends! I know you can't see them well, but these were some BIG BIRDS. And they were quite lovely.

Ok OK OKAY! I'm GOING!



Hm, WDW is an hour earlier than Chicago, so it was 6 a.m. to my body when I walked out the door this fine morning.

Once I got to the car, I was READY TO GO! LET'S GO LET'S GO!



Time to navigate to MK! I gave myself 20 minutes to make it over to TTC, thinking possibly that it could take longer and hoping I'd make the show. Here's my first stoplight at 7:19 a.m.:



At 7:28 a.m., I was already in the TTC parking lot! Wow, so much for worrying that AKL was "far away" from the parks.



I parked and gathered my belongings and stepped out of the vehicle; I was in the FIRST ROW at TTC. I turned around to take this picture, just in case I forgot where I was parked:



Here's a little more perspective on how close I was to the monorail boarding area. I'm the second white car from the right, and the walkway I'm standing on is the one that goes underground before you come out right there at TTC.



It was now promptly 7:30 a.m., which gave me plenty of time to grab the ferry over to MK. Wow, no one here yet:



There were people set up asking for room key cards; I hesitated, because I'd forgotten that it was EMH and I'd need to keep my KTTW card where it could be seen! I got it out, showed it, and was on my way to the ferry! ... Hm, that's weird, the huge boat isn't moving. Wait, why?

A quick question to a nearby cast member gave me the answer: monorail only at this time of the morning. Hm, that was not good news for me; I have some stomach issues, and the monorail is notorious for breaking down. I thought at least with the ferry, I'd get to MK for sure; with the monorail, I felt some worry. But there was no one to argue with and no one to listen even if I FOUND someone to argue with, so I got in line for the monorail.

Now THIS guy, I liked. The cast member working the monorail gate was super-nice, noticing my phone and asking me all sorts of questions. There was a family of four in front of me and not many people behind me, so he and I chatted for awhile about the Razr, keeping my mind (and stomach) off the thought of being stranded on the monorail. Then I saw this:



Now I know I'm in a whole new world - a MONORAIL. I suddenly got excited, and may have squealed a little. Because any good girl knows that the monorail goes in a circle, and one of the stops is the MAGIC KINGDOM!

The ride went smoothly, and I remembered my love for that slick beast of a monorail. Before I could even register that I was travelling aboard the monorail, I was at MK. Here is one of my favorite photos at MK, ever, taken as soon as I saw that beautiful Contemporary Resort in front of me.



I put this as my phone background, because it seemed so very Disney to me.

I sped down the walkway, through the bag check, and into the plaza in front of the train station, ecstatic that I appeared to have perfectly timed the opening show!



It's 7:48 in this picture; am I good or what?



Now it's 7:50 a.m., I'm just minutes from opening show!



One last picture before the music came on. I videoed the entire thing, including the family of the day. If you know the FOTD for January 18th, I have a full video of the show and would be happy to send it to them.

Everybody else started scrambling as the park opened; I stayed put for a minute to finish watching the show. Very lovely, and worth waking up early for.

Alright, let's get in there.

A whole new world
That's where we'll be
A thrilling chase
A wondrous place
For you and me
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Old 01-27-2012, 11:13 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZehnJahren View Post
Hi! Thanks for coming over! You're planning on writing a TR too, right? I definitely want to hear about that Everest race!

I had an easy time heading out to Florida, but as expected it wasn't quite so easy getting back in at home!
WOO HOO!! We made it into the park I can't wait to see all you did

and yes, i'm the one doing the EE Challenge in May. You've been to see my pretrip for sure once maybe even twice. lol
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Old 01-27-2012, 11:17 PM   #13
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WOO HOO!! We made it into the park I can't wait to see all you did

and yes, i'm the one doing the EE Challenge in May. You've been to see my pretrip for sure once maybe even twice. lol
Oh, I knew you were doing the EE Challenge - I was just making sure you were going to write a TR so we could live vicariously through you!
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Old 01-28-2012, 09:05 PM   #14
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One Jump Ahead

I'm calling this chapter "one jump ahead" because that's what I seemed to do all morning - stay one jump ahead of the crowds and the lines.

I'd debated whether I'd get the GAC card first thing today or just ride around the low lines at MK - in the end, I decided to try the lines for awhile before defaulting to the GAC, so I headed in the park, passed up Guest Services, and made my way down Main Street.



Looking at this picture, it appears that I entered MK and was walking down Main Street at exactly 7:59 a.m. And where was I headed?



Peek-a-boo! Yep, still walking towards the castle, incredulous that I was here all by myself. I think I'll take a stroll around the block....



Alright, it's Haunted Mansion time! I headed left towards Adventureland and saw that it was all roped off - not looking good - and kept walking to make it to the Frontierland gate. I saw the same rope, and before I could start pouting I was greeted by a Cast Member saying that "this area is not yet open to the public." Say WHA? But I wanted HM!

Oh gosh, ok, I guess I'll change my plans. Hey, I'm at MK; there are worse let-downs than a rope across the path to HM, right? ... right? I can take a hint, gotta face the facts; gotta wait for HM until 9.

Ok, well, I'm right by the castle. No better place to go than Fantasyland, right? It was so odd seeing Dumbo all boarded up; it made me sad. So much construction going on; I can't wait until some of these walls are down.



Well it was time for my first ride in my first park on my first solo trip. And because I didn't think I'd ever see it again the last time I rode it, Snow White was first on my list.

I got put as a single rider with this couple. There was no one else in line; I wish I could have been in a car by myself!





Last time I'd been here, I was with Ma and we had quite a few laughs on this old favorite. I couldn't help but feel like she was with me in spirit this trip (instead of sitting at work back in the midwest!).

I paused to take this early-morning photo, then figured I'd better get on over to Peter Pan. In my excitement over the short line, I only took a video. When I got home, I showed it to DBF as the main reason to get up early on a Disney vacation - NO LINES ANYWHERE.



Then I headed to Weirdo-the-Pooh, where I figured I'd ride at least once. However, it was closed! I was already heading towards Tomorrowland, so I figured I'd go hit up Space Mountain - so far, so good!



I walked in the empty park, enjoying the sun and the low crowds. It was now about 8:15 a.m.



A leisurely stroll.



Rising to greet me like a steel tower of jerky fun.



Growing ever closer.



Heading through the line, I thought back to my last SM ride - oh boy, it was painful. As I walked the line, I thought more and more about how tight the ride was last time, and how jerky, and how unhappy I had been with how painful it had been. I made it through the entire line, and when I got to the end, I did regrettably decide to forgo it for now. I figured I'd ride in later in the day on my next MK day, just in case. So I took the "chicken exit" and rode that fabulous moving sidewalk back to Tomorrowland.





So close to getting a picture of myself. So close.



Ok, well, I'm not getting on SM, and as I said, I wanted to keep one jump ahead of the slowpokes (one skip ahead of my doom), so I thought "I'm in Tomorrowland, what is my favorite ride here?"



Of course!



I love the spiel on this ride, and I love the person voicing it. I could ride this over and over. As it was, I was pretty much the only person on it this morning. How can ANYONE pass the Peoplemover without a sense of regret in missing this jewel?







Never disappoints.

I looked over and saw Buzz Lightyear when I made it off the Wedway; I'm not a big fan of this ride, but I'm alone, so why not ride?



Another walk-on.



Poor Buzz. Doesn't even realize he's just talking to himself all morning.



Not bad, but not good. I liked being in this one with only a few other people playing - I could tell where my dang laser was pointing!



Total concentration.

Up next - it's 8:50 a.m., where's my Haunted Mansion???
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Old 01-28-2012, 11:44 PM   #15
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I love the DVC Animal Kingdom Lodge rooms. They're just so well done! I love the tiles in the kitchen. I am sad that Chik-fil-a changed from peanut oil to canola - the fries just aren't the same! Not that you can really tell when they're covered with Chik-fil-a sauce, but it's the principle!!

I feel like the monorails are usually pretty good in the early mornings. Because they've just been serviced maybe? I wouldn't necessarily count on them later on, but we had excellent monorail rides in the morning.

The tarps on Main Street don't look too bad. You can even see the Castle still! It's kind of sad about the rides, but at least new ones are coming. And it's not like there's a dearth of things to do in MK. I haven't been on Winnie the Pooh for years! Probably because Tomorrowland is way better and we spend tons more time there.

Ohh TTA. Such a brilliant ride but it was usually decently full when we went on it (.. MVMCP night, maybe?). Maybe the word's getting out!
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