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Old 09-02-2013, 12:28 PM   #1
Skywise
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48 hours in Disney (or the summer I became a Disney Pro)

Background:
Until this year I had been to DisneyWorld ONCE about 15 years ago when I was in Orlando for a wedding and a friend who worked at DW got me and some of the wedding party got us free all day tickets with park hopper passes for ONE day. Hit 3 parks in one day (MK, Epcot and MGM) and I had no idea what I was doing.

So my parents moved to Florida several years back and they're getting older and one hates to fly and about 90% of their "vacations", ever, have been visiting family and staying in their homes. Now, they'd been to the Magic Kingdom at Disneyworld once (when visiting family in Florida) about 20 years ago spending about half a day there (getting in at 11 and leaving just after dinner) on the way back home. Until this trip I had thought that they had hit all the major attractions... turns out they had missed practically everything because they had just wondered around the park not knowing what/where anything was. Me? I'm an engineer who's job required some travel and have been lucky to have had some good friends to take some cool trips with and I wanted to share that experience with my family.

As a kid I had always wanted to stay at the Contemporary Resort (coz I'm an engineer and monorails are cool...) but the same parent who has a fear of flying also has a fear of heights... so that meant the CR was out. I definitely wanted to stay at one of the monorail resorts to make transportation easier on them so we decided on the Grand Floridian at the end of August when the crowds were less (and the rates were cheaper). My sister and I would stay in a room at the main building and my parents would stay at an outer building (I kicked in to upgrade them to a Lagoon View).

And so it begins:
But I still wanted to stay at the Contemporary... So I justified it to myself that I needed to do some reconnaissance anyway and get an idea of how to plan out the trip for my parents and went out in early June for a 2 night stay. (one day at MK and one day at Universal Studios with some extended family that was in a nearby city visiting THEIR friends!). Now I needed transportation to get from the airport to the and thanks to this board I learned about the Disney express... ahh! perfect... But I had ordered the hotels through Expedia so I needed to register with the My Disney Experience website thingy to get the Magic Express reservations... Well... ok... So after my confirmation number failed and several customer service calls later I learned that a Disney confirmation number is different than a regular confirmation number and I had the right number and my reservations linked to my MDE and the magical express all setup... Whew... Lesse...Dining Reservations pthpht... don't need those how hard can it be to get into a restaurant at Disney.. Order Magic Band? Oh yeah... I had read they were switching to these... Ok guess I need to set those up too... Wait, no... I don't have a travelling companion... there's just me. Why can't I delete this? Ok, fine... I'll order a second magic band in a different color just for fun then... be that way... I can link my tickets? (I haven't even ordered tickets yet... guess I can just do that now...) *** is a fastpass+? *** was a fastpass?! Geez, is this why people sell books on how to setup a Disney vacation?!

Scouting Trip (Squeeeal, I'm in the Contemporary!!!!):
Got the magic bands in the mail (sweet, the whole packaging can really boost your pre-trip excitement by a factor of 10) and finally flew out at 6am (after getting up at 4 to get to the airport by 5 to get through TSA... oh I long for the days when I could run through the airport 10 minutes before my flight, throw my bag through the metal detector and then jump onto the plane just as the doors closed...). Got in line for the magical express with my papers in hand and the cast member says, "Ok two reservations - one for Skywise and ... unknown Skywise?". Uh...err... yeah... so I explain that the website wouldn't let me delete the other person and there's just the me and onto the bus I go! The plane was an hour early so I thought with a 30 minute bus ride I'd be doing good. The bus ride was great except the Contemporary was the last stop so I got to see the AKL, the Polynesian and then the Grand Floridian and ate up most of my spare time... oh well... So I check into the Contemporary - "Ok so there are two people in your room... Skywise and... Unknown Skywise?" (sigh) My room isn't ready yet but it's not a big deal as I only have my carry on so I check it with the bell hop and then head up to the monorail station (I'm AT THE CONTEMPORARY!!! IT'S THE MONORAIL IN THE RESORT!! WHEEEEEE!!! )
So as I'm walking around with a big stupid grin on my face and photographing everything in sight a cast member walks up and says "Hey, you're wearing you magic band! That's cool!"
"Uh... ok, thanks..." (?)
Then he points me out to some other cast members who also congratulate me for wearing a magic band. THEN they notice...
"HEY! He's got a BLUE BAND! ALRIGHT!"
"Uh... ok... thanks..." (I guess they're trying to inspire people to use their magic bands?)
So off to the MK I went. Magic Band worked fine and I had the FP+ setup to his It's a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain. Get to It's a Small World and find the fastpass line and get confronted by a CM who asks "Your papers citizen?" (ok not exactly that). I'm a little confused as I'm not sure what she's referring to and then realize the old system probably used paper tickets so I hold up my magic band and there's a sea change in her response (Oh wow, yeah cool just tap it here) and mickey glows green and I'm in. (sweet!). Get to the second guy who also demands my papers as well and I hold up the band and he's taken aback and then directs me to the golden sphere and I'm in... (man that's weird... why is everyone freaking out about these bands?) Ride a few other rides and then head over to Pirates of the Caribbean where I spend 10 minutes looking for the fastpass line but can't find it... Ask a cast member only to be told Pirates doesn't HAVE a fastpass line. (?!? Why'd the website let me request one then?!) At this point the storm clouds open up and I decide to head back to the resort and see if my room is ready.
The room's ready and I head up and tap my magic band to the door sensor and get... a red light. ?! Try it again... red light. I also had a room card so I take that out and try it... green light. Huh. So I check out the room and crash for a bit waiting for the rain to subside and then decide to head out for the evening in spite of the rain. Oh and I'll stop down and let the front desk know my band isn't working with my room door. So I stop at the front desk and the cast member is very nice and tries to reset the band but isn't having any luck with it and says "Let me get a guy who's a bit more up on this". Next thing I know I'm beset upon by about 5 guys in suits asking me questions about where the band was working what wasn't working how many FPs did I use or purchases and THAT'S when they point out to me that I'm in the beta test! Seems my band's sensor has a glitch that makes it work with everything BUT the room sensors. So they issue me a new band (grey, blech) but leave my blue one active. I headed back to the park, rode on Space Mountain and the rain finally let up to enjoy the projection show and fireworks. I wondered around a bit taking some more photos and then decided to head back to the room for dinner and got to main street at the island before the exit and did a 180 to try to get a nice shot of the castle plus main street (I was at the tip of the island looking straight down main street). While I'm waiting to get a decently clear shot a cast member walks by me with a rope and forces me up onto the island. Turns out the Main Street Electrical Parade was running again and I had lucked into a near perfect viewing spot for it got a decent video of it too! Headed back to the resort and slept.
My extended family met me at the Contemporary the next morning and we had breakfast at the Grand Floridian Cafe (I did make a reservation for that) and then drove to Universal Studios from there. Checked out the next day with a thank you letter from management for helping to test out the magic bands.
Very cool trip and experience, but that was just the warm up!
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Old 09-02-2013, 12:55 PM   #2
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What I learned on my summer vacation!

So I had learned from my quick trip that I was woefully unprepared. I had had alot of fun but I had missed out on some things and the I hadn't realized how bad the humidity would be (living in the midwest as I do). My aunt at breakfast at the Grand Floridian had even wondered what I was thinking setting up a trip in late August for my parents!

We were going to arrive just before lunchtime on Wednesday and then leave just after lunchtime on Friday (basically 3 days and 2 nights)
I had also learned that the resorts had some cool restaurant options and then learned that their reservations filled up pretty quickly. I was about 60 days out from the trip at this point so started doing the reservations and quickly learned that Ohana was booked solid. My parents would have been happy with quick service but with the humidity and walking around the parks and possibly rain and I didn't want them getting stuck in long lines and trying to fight for tables at random food places.
I also didn't want to overplan the trip so I selected key meals (first lunch, first dinner, last lunch) but as I did more research and discovered more restaurants I started scheduling just about every meail just to eat at cool places.)
I also wanted to get the Wishes Dessert Party so my parents wouldn't have to stand for an hour but that was also booked solid.
Thus began my 2 month regimen of checking Ohanas and Wishes reservations every spare chance I had to check out openings and, with a little luck and lost of persistence I got both!
Final Breakdown looked like:
First Day - DHS
Sci-Fi Diner - Lunch (first at 12:55 and then rescheduled to 1:35 several days before the trip. We arrived at 11 at the GF and I was afraid 2 hours wouldn't be enough time to get checked in and over to the park. I was wrong... but I was also right... as you'll see)
Ohana - Dinner 6:45
Second Day - MK
Cinderella's Royal Table - Breakfast 8:40 (EMH had the park open at 8)
Liberty Tree Tavern - Lunch 12:45 (thanks to the ooey gooey toffee cake thread) (I was a little concerned that the CRT breakfast would end around 10 giving us only 2.5 hours to see the park but this ended up being perfect timing)
Afternoon back at the resort and pool.
Tony's - Dinner 7:45 (My dad and sister are big into italian and while I knew the reviews were mixed I thought this would still be more appetizing to them then another burger joint or the more fancy places at the GF) This was a little later than my parents usual dinner time but also seemed to work out as they snacked at 5 while giving us enough time to enjoy the pool and the parents a quick nap for the "long" night ahead.
Wishes Dessert Party - 9
Third Day - MK
Crystal Palace - breakfast 8:50am (park opens at 9)
Grand Floridian Cafe - lunch 1pm

I had loose plans for how to get around the MK. I wanted to minimize backtracking to keep walking to a minimum so as to not exhaust the parents too soon!

I set everything up through the MDE website, purchased my tickets and florida vouchers for my parents and sister (as they're florida residents) and setup a few surprises them along the way... the stage was set the plans were ready...all that was left was to actually do it! Could I pull it off and would my parents really enjoy it?
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Old 09-02-2013, 01:40 PM   #3
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48 hours in Disney!

So I got packed and hopped onto the plane to head to my parents house where we'd all drive to Orlando together. Was all packed but couldn't shake the feeling that I was forgetting something but I had everything... clothes, camera, spare battery, battery charger, cell phone, cell phone charger... even had my magic band from the last trip...

Got onto the plane and just as the plane was gunning the engines to take off it hit me... I had left the tickets on my kitchen counter. (where I had placed them so I wouldn't forget them!)

Checked here (thanks guys) and the Disney website and found I could get the tickets reissued via my credit card number. (Some work issues had also required that I bring my laptop with me and that ended up being a good thing because the confirmation email for the ticket purchase was still there but had long been deleted on my smart phone!)

So the trip includes me, my sister and my parents, all adults.

Drove out to Disneyworld and got to the GF. Tried to explain to my dad that he needed to hit the baggage drop off but he missed the turn and we ended up parking and then carrying our baggage to the lobby. So I tried to regain control of the trip at the lobby and get some bell hops to take their luggage to their room in the outer building as soon as we checked in but DisneyMagic intervened... because I was in a club level room and my parents were in an outer building we were on 2 distinct reservations (even though I had made both) and they decided to "help" us by checking us in individually. So they're hitting me with the super fantabulous "Hey, welcome to Disney I'm going to take you to your room now!" and I'm trying to help my parents get checked in and my Dad's going "I got this" and proceeds to carry his and mom's luggage to the outer building. I've also got 2 hours to get to our dining reservations and I STILL have to resolve the ticket problem at DHS.

So we get to the special club level checkin where the cast member asks "Ok, I see you're here Skywise with... unknown Skywise"? I explain that my sister should be on the reservation and they get that corrected. I ask if my ticket is on my KTTK card and the cast member informs me that it's on my magic band. (?! I didn't bind it to my magic band) Check the room out and it looks great. Head down to my parents' room and they're all checked in at the Boca Chica and the lagoon view looks good too (obstructed view of the castle though... oh well at least we'll have a good view of the Electrical Water Parade...).
Grab the bus for DHS and get to the park at 12:30. The ticket counter can't help me so it's off to guest relations. In the guest relations line a helpful cast member informs me we can get the florida vouchers problem resolved in the ticket line, great! Then I tell her my ticket might be on my magic band and she says "Never mind, stay here."
So, turns out my ticket WAS put on my magic band... but NOT the blue one I bought with me but the grey one for unknown Skywise... I don't know why... But it takes the CM several minutes to get that cleared up. Then we get the vouchers reissued and the tickets setup and we're finally into the park and off to the Sci-Fi diner at just after 1 (good thing I rescheduled). The Sci-Fi diner was cool. I had the picnic burger (after mistaking it for a regular burger but it was still interesting) and fried pickles. The picnic burger was good but way too much food. The fried pickles were OK with the fried portion being very soft and squishy rather than crispy. They were still a hit as we were hungry and provided decent food while waiting for the burgers. DM and DS had the chocolate shakes as well which were good but unremarkable I though.
From there we hit Star Tours (my pick) along with DS and DH. DM thought she'd be up for it but I talked her out of it so she just walked along with us and then bailed out of the ride portion. Fortunately there was practically no waiting. Got the pod-racing sequence (oh... yay...) and my DS and DH ended up disliking being shaken around like that as well (oh well learn something new...).
MuppetVision was closed.
The next Indiana Jones show was at 4 so we wondered around the park (no way they were doing ToT or RnR) and went on the Great Movie Ride which was more their style and then just made the Indiana Jones show about 5 minutes late.
Headed back to the GF for some rest before dinner. I checked out the club level which was very convenient and nice. I'm not sure It's worth the expense, especially when you have as many dining reservations as I did. It's unlikely you're going to eat enough to justify it. But it's very VERY cool to be able to grab a can of coke (or beer) and some cookies and pastries on the way back to your room to sit on the balcony.
Met my parents down in the lobby and off to the Polynesian for Ohanas!
Now, my DD hadn't realized how much effort I had made to get these reservations...just that we're going to a nice restaurant. While on the monorail he strikes up a conversation with a cast member who was running an errand and she asked where we were going for dinner and he says "Ohana" and she says that's nice and that some people wait 6 months to get reservations to eat there. At that point he's turns to look at me and asks "You went to that much effort to eat here?"
Once at Ohanas I bought a round of Lapu-Lapu's for the family (virgin versions for my DM and DS) and we were seated within 10 minutes. The food was great. I found the bread a little dry but tasty and the salad good along with the various appetizers and meats. We were stuffed, needless to say. The entertainment for the kids wasn't so hot. I think the entertainment would've been fine but the entertainer was annoying. She sounded more like she was going through the motions rather than believeing what she was saying. I mean when someone says things in a style of "doeseveryoneknowthatalohameansloveandweallhavelov einourhearts" it loses some of its magic (kids seemed to love it though).
Headed back to the GF and watched the fireworks from our balcony in the main building and then headed to my parents room on the lagoon to watch the water parade. Alas, the water parade doesn't go PAST the boca chica building (which surprised me). It goes from Narcoosees to the Magic Kingdom bus stop to the Polynesian. So we just chatted for awhile on the balcony and then called it a night as I fretted about the big day I had planned for tomorrow...
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Old 09-02-2013, 02:23 PM   #4
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Day 2

My DM's birthday had been at the beginning of August. So I had decided to do a birthday celebration for her while at DisneyWorld. I had a Cinderella's Slipper Cake ordered for when we ate at CRT and I had also setup an in-room celebration to have her proclaimed as a princess. (So my DD didn't feel left out I got him the He Be a Pirate beer set and since I was already blowing so much money anyway went for broke and got my sister the Mickey's Welcome Celebration for our room.)

Met my parents down in the lobby again to head out for breakfast. They had had an OK night as their next door neighbors had been up all night talking. Not overly loud but the connecting door between the rooms had no sound proofing at all. I had noticed this in my room as well but the family next door had 2 kids so they were out by 11 anyway.

Headed out to Cinderella's Royal Table which was very much an experience of controlled chaos... the Cinderella photo experience was bizarre with Cinderella trying to talk to us in character while the photographers giving us orders about where to go and stand at the same time. Breakfast itself was OK and the food is definitely not worth the cost. I had the bacon, sausage and eggs along with the pastries. the eggs had a very... cafeteria style... taste to them. (To contrast this, my favorite "trip" breakfast is the Bouchon at the Venetian in Las Vegas... where $30 gets you nearly the same breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, etc) but far better quality and taste). This was also my first character breakfast and I was a bit unprepared for the experience. It was fun seeing the princess' in character but they're a bit unprepared when you have 4 adults not wanting to take pictures even though it's still "magical" to eat in the castle. Kudos to Jasmine for actually attempting to interact with us in character rather than give the typical greeting and leave. (And btw, the old Star Trek experience in Vegas did this far better... you've not lived until you've eaten at "Quark's Bar" and had a ferengi flirting with your girlfriend trying to "buy" her away from you). Even though I'm somewhat negative about it, it wasn't a BAD experience at all but I don't think I'll ever do it again. If you're a small girl it's a fantastic experience as the princesses all interacted with the children beautifully.
Now I had ordered the cake about a month previous and nobody had said anything about a cake up to this point. So I'm getting a little nervous and fake a trip to the bathroom to try to find our waitress. Finally find her and she says "Yeah, I've been waiting for you to "come back from the bathroom" to deliver it!") So I sat back down and she delivered it with an announcement and the surprise came off well.
Then off to Fantasyland with Cinderella's castle, Tea cup ride, Speedway, Dumbo and the Little Mermaid Ride. I made a quick stop at Gaston's to grab a cinnamon roll (excellent) and tried LaFrou's Brew which is good but served frozen which, makes it difficult to drink on a hot day unless you let it melt first. Then we hit Philharmagic and It's a Small World before heading over to lunch at Liberty Tree Tavern. This was about 9:30-12:30 on the thursday before labor day and lines were VERY light. Had the burger at Liberty Tree Tavern and, of course, the ooey gooey toffee cake. Both were very good. (I prefer the burger here to the one at the Sci-Fi diner).
We then walked down to the train station and rode it back to main street, did some shopping and headed back to the Grand Floridain via the Resort Launch to hit the pool and beat the heat!
I had setup the celebrations to be placed in the rooms between 7-9 (you have to call once you're there to confirm the room numbers if you have more than one room to confirm the right celebration goes to the right room) Not the time I wanted but my choices were 1-3, 4-6 and 7-9. To be on the safe side I had us head back to the park at 6:30.
Tony's was OK. I found the spaghetti sauce to be too sour for my liking but my DD loved it. From there we headed over to the Wishes Dessert party. This worked out perfectly as my parents could relax and enjoy the desserts while I was able to grab photos from the railing. The desserts here are good but, again, not necessarily worth the cost but here you're not paying for the dessert so much as you're paying for the space. I'd have gladly paid $10 a person not to be in the crowd so it all works out.
Headed back to the GF where I surprised my DM and DD with their celebrations in their room (I lied and said I had left something in their room) then surprised my sister with the celebration in our room.
A good day and a good evening... 3 months of planning executed nearly perfectly...
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Old 09-02-2013, 02:35 PM   #5
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Day 3

We had to be out of the GF by 11 and had breakfast reservations at the Crystal Palace at 8:50 so we decided to check out early and get our luggage into the car and then leave it parked at the GF for our half day in the park before heading back.

Again, I had planned on calling up the bellhop for my DD to get the luggage out but when I called them they had already packed up and were waiting for us in the lobby. >sigh<
We got the car and dragged the luggage out to the front and then I paid for a valet to park the car to avoid the long walk back to the parking lot and we headed out for breakfast.

Getting in to the park before opening was great. I got some great photos without the crowds and it was nice to be able to just stroll along main street as if it was your very own.
Crystal Palace breakfast buffet was nice with Mickey Waffles and eggs and some breakfast lasagne. Eeyore and Tigger stopped by the table but the character interaction here didn't feel as weird.
From there it was Haunted Mansion then Pirates of the Caribbean, Enchanted Tiki Room, DS wanted to go up the Swiss Family Robinson Tree which is great for parents with bad knees, lemme tell ya... and then headed over to tomorrow land for Carousel of Progress and the people mover.
We were a little ahead of schedule so we checked out the Contemporary Resort before catching up with our lunch reservations at the Grand Floridian Cafe where I had a Reuben sandwich (very good).
Then picked up our car at the valet and headed out.
Great trip!
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Old 09-02-2013, 04:17 PM   #6
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Wow! Great trip indeed Skywise!

Fantastic that you were able to do the "recognizance" trip and get a sneek peak first. It paid off later. And despite some bumps with the tickets and wristbands, glad to see you rolled with it and it all worked out.

It was sweet when your father realized what your planning entailed. Your sister cracked me up with the tree house suggestion.

Wonderful planning on your part. Sounds like everyone really enjoyed the trip!
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Old 09-03-2013, 08:38 AM   #7
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Following along!
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