Geeks on a boat, now with more geeks! Literally. Alaska 2013 planning starts now!

Discussion in 'Disney Cruise Line Pre-Trip Reports' started by zweihund, Sep 12, 2012.

  1. zweihund

    zweihund I tagged myself. I'm it.

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    *wipes the dust off the monitor*

    Hola! It’s been awhile. Like…..a WHILE. If you’re old like me, you may remember a few TR’s from several years ago detailing much drinking of cocktails amidst playing of nerd games. You know, like Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne and Agricola and – oh, wait, maybe you don’t know. Better left unsaid, I guess. Since 2008 or so, however, I’ve been mostly absent. Why? Because of THIS:

    [​IMG]

    Oh sure, she’s cute and all. But she sucks up free time as if it were a pack of fruit snacks. Berry flavored.

    So I’ll back up just a moment. I am Erica. 37-year-old self-professed geek. Occupational therapist by day. Occasionally employed (and sometimes even paid) freelance writer. Mom. Which feels strange to say even now, nearly three years in. My hubby is Lionel, a 40-year-old technology teacher who sucked me into his world of geek about 12 years ago. We were set up by mutual friends, and have pretty much been inseparable since. I used to be a nice, mostly normal girl. And then he introduced me to board games, sarcasm and the art of the cocktail. We’ve been married for 8 years.

    [​IMG]

    About three years ago, we were blessed with our little geek-in-training. Isabelle, known to most as Izzy. Like Daddy she is tall and loves to talk. Like Mommy, she is detail oriented (she lines up her magnets on the fridge, and likes to organize her crayons by size….she’ll graduate to color-coded excel spreadsheets before her 4th birthday). We’ve been exposing her to Disney since before she was born. In fact, her “first trip” to the Magic Kingdom took place about two months before she was born. She doesn’t play favorites – she has equal love for princesses, fairies, Pixar and Mickey and pals.

    The three of us at Magic Kingdom last month:

    [​IMG]

    Our first cruise was in 2005, and we’ve been cruising yearly ever since. Izzy’s first cruise was in 2010, when she was just 10 months old. This trip to Alaska will be number 9 for Lionel, 8 for me (I was too pregnant to attend a friend’s wedding on the Wonder in 2009, Lionel subbed for me as a bridesmaid. True story) and 4 for Izzy.

    A word about me: like many on the DIS, I am a crazy over-planner. At the same time, however, I am not a person who books up the entire vacation or follows a strict “fun schedule.” I describe it like this: if I’m spending money on the vacation of a lifetime, I want to do so with no regrets. Therefore, I will research every potential excursion, complete recon on all of the ports and leave no stone unturned when it comes to making the most of our time in Vancouver and Alaska. I try not to go too crazy when plans change at the last minute. Which, let’s face it, ALWAYS seems to happen.

    If you’ve made it this far, be warned: you are about to embark upon 10 months of crazy. During this time, I will post color-coded spreadsheets, bargain bin finds, packing lists (and possibly diagrams – more on that later) and probably a few “crises” which will be in no way TRUE crises, and more like decisions over formalwear and possibly my daughter outgrowing “the perfect shoes.” We cruise June 17, 2013.

    Supporting cast:

    1. Mom and Dad. My parents are coming! Dad turns 60 in 2013, and Alaska is on his bucket list. After seeing our pics from 2011 he thrilled us by choosing the Wonder as his means of transportation. They have been on the Wonder once before, in 2010, for Isabelle’s first cruise.
    2. Karissa, Brian and Liam. We’ve known Karissa and Brian since we went through puppy class with our practice children together back in 2005. We’ve since discovered that disciplining human children is shockingly similar. Liam will be almost two when we sail. We cruised together on our mini Dream vacation earlier this year (their first Disney cruise) and they enjoyed it so much, they joined us at the Alaska booking desk.
    3. Stefanie, Jason and Paige. Paige is Izzy’s little buddy from preschool, and we are fortunate to not only like her parents, but to also have similar senses of humor and interests. We regularly hit the Disney parks together as a family (and sometimes sans kids), and after some minor coercion tactics they agreed to join us as well. This will be their first Disney cruise.

    So now we get to celebrate my Dad’s milestone birthday in style, hang with some of our best buddies, and my parents get to see what life would be like if they had two extra grandkids. Because they’re not getting more from us anytime soon.

    Next up: 50 pound limit my hiney! You try taking a 3-year old to Alaska for a week!
     
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  3. Tink rules

    Tink rules <font color=teal>The kids in my family sometimes t

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    HERE!!! :yay::yay::yay:
     
  4. zweihund

    zweihund I tagged myself. I'm it.

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    So I just realized my husband turned 41 this year, not 40.

    WIFE FAIL.

    It'll be our little secret, 'k? :thumbsup2
     
  5. Tink rules

    Tink rules <font color=teal>The kids in my family sometimes t

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    that's not a fail.. you're just making him feel younger!! :thumbsup2
     
  6. oybolshoi

    oybolshoi <marquee><font color=green>You say vacation addict

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    viva le mochaccino!! :thumbsup2
     
  7. zweihund

    zweihund I tagged myself. I'm it.

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    Sing it, sister!
     
  8. zweihund

    zweihund I tagged myself. I'm it.

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    New update: let the crazy begin!

    We booked this cruise back in May of 2012, 13 months out. I'm certain you will all be shocked to know I started researching immediately afterward, despite the fact that this is our second cruise. How have I been spending the past 6 months?

    • Reading EVERY SINGLE TRIP REPORT I CAN FIND for Alaska. Yes, we’ve already been. Yes, I pretty much know what we are doing. But now, I am looking for all of the “little things” – like the local breweries and chocolate shops and most importantly where to get the best Alaska coffee mug. I’m also interested in the local eateries for my food-truck-loving husband. I figure if he’s willing to be dragged around looking for the best dark chocolate salted caramel, the least I can do is find him a nice bowl of chowder along the way.
    • Communicating all of these details to said travelling companions, who have thus far been either very appreciative or incredibly tolerant. Every few weeks, I send a little two-line message that somehow morphs into eight paragraphs detailing the local Alaskan wildlife and where I think we might go for coffee in Ketchikan. I haven’t even started bombarding them about Vancouver yet. With luck they won’t all relocate their cabins. Like, to another sailing altogether.
    • Shopping for deals on cold weather gear. The thing about toddlers? They grow. FAST. I’ve been stocking up on jeans and layers every time Target or Old Navy has a sale. And I’m stalking a few jackets and boots at Children’s Place, because $60 for a 3T ski coat? I can SO do better. As for us, what we brought last year worked pretty well so with a few minimal new additions I think we’ll be golden. (before anyone says something like “well, it’s June, it can’t really be THAT cold, just remember we are from FLORIDA. 65 is cold. Also, for the record, 80 is not hot.)
    • Studying packing charts. Yes. You read that right. Remember when I said “more on that later?” I wasn’t trying to be funny, for once.

    You see, Real Simple published an article about art of packing several months ago, and since then I’ve been trying to commit it to memory. We actually did well last year (two regular-sized suitcases and a garment bag, plus our carry-ons), but it took several trial packs and a few re-packs to get the luggage scale into the green zone. And I know we brought too much stuff.

    Here’s the thing: with a toddler, there is no way you can avoid laundry for two weeks, vacation or no vacation. If I would have embraced this fact last year instead of desperately trying to avoid the inevitable, I could have packed about 30-40 percent less stuff. While I think next year we’ll still bring the same amount of luggage, I’m hoping it will be more manageable (read: lighter). More room for packing chocolate and coffee mugs for the trip home that way, AMIRIGHT?

    The brief version of the RS packing game – and forgive me, because with me there is rarely a brief version, only one that is slightly shorter – goes something like this:

    Don’t just re-wear clothing, re-purpose it. For example, you could wear a t-shirt under a long-sleeved shirt one day, sleep in it the next, and on a third day wear it when you work out. That shirt then takes the place of two other shirts. Then you can wash it and start all over! Is it sad that concepts like that excite me? I’m all, yes, I can totally wear a shirt three times! RIGHT ON!!! Except you’ll never catch me in the gym during vacation week. I’m more likely to be at the bar, spilling some fruity cocktail on my 3-day old shirt.

    RS also suggests packing staples that you like and feel comfortable in, and wearing them for two days in a row. Don’t pack a pair of jeans you don’t like just to have another pair of jeans – freshen and re-wear the ones you have, changing up the top layer or accessory.

    Using the word “accessory” makes me feel so less like the “fashion don’t” that I am. But I digress.

    They recommend 3 tops to each bottom, because tops are smaller and lighter. RS also suggests keeping your color palate fairly neutral so everything pretty much matches. While these tips are generally geared toward the business traveler or the fashionista (choose bright, chunky jewelry! Plan your wardrobe around one pair of shoes!) I think they can totally apply to any trip, Alaska included.

    Plus? They have diagrams.

    [​IMG]

    I mean, LOOK AT THESE! I love me some diagrams.

    [​IMG]

    Real Simple isn’t my only guideline for packing. I have a few tips of my own based on last year’s experience. Let’s see if I can actually FOLLOW them this time.

    1. Laundry is a fact of life. Dear self, you have a three year old. You’ll be gone for nearly two weeks. Rather than hide from the laundry, pack a collapsible hamper and drag that sucker down the hall! 2-3 loads of laundry means less clothing in the suitcase. Last year I packed something like 7 sets of PJ’s for Izzy. SEVEN. I also brought my work khakis, just in case I needed an extra pair of pants. 2011 noob-packer, I scoff in your general direction.
    2. Don’t forget the lightweight stuff. Last year I packed for Alaska, and only Alaska. But we spent three days in Vancouver too. In pants. In mid-70 degree heat with minimal air conditioning. Oops. While I was ok (I’m a Florida girl through and through, after all) my poor husband was sweating his you-know-whats off. Note to self: 1 pair of shorts = happy husband. Happy husband = more vacation spending with fewer questions asked. Enough said.
    3. Parents of toddlers: toys are pretty much unnecessary. Ok, not TOTALLY true. I will bring a few little things for downtime in the room. A scattering of thin books, some coloring books/crayons and a few small toys at the most (in addition to her “lovey” – a gangly cow she’s had since she was born). Last year? I brought all kinds of stuff. Enough to fill a reusable Publix shopping bag. I spent most of the cruise moving it around the room, because it got in the way and went mostly unused. When you’re out and about with a toddler, there’s no chance you’ll make it back to your cabin without a present. Plus, I hear the Disney Wonder is fairly entertaining.
    4. Bring fewer snacks. Never underestimate the power of snacks when travelling with a toddler. I used to make fun of these parents, but I swear I won’t even go to Publix without a stash of goldfish or one of those squeezy applesauce pouches. That said, I overdid it last year and packed enough for Izzy to snack freely, all day, every day. Most of it came back home with us. Not only can you get plenty of stuff on the boat to bring with you, there’s this whole city called Vancouver? And they sell food in these novel places called grocery stores? Plus, even with the best healthy-eating intentions a suitcase-crushed granola bar is only so appealing.

    I’ll have a chance to practice some of these packing tips next month, when we head to Connecticut for a wedding-slash-family-reunion with the peanut in tow. We’ll have to be extra light, because over 10 days we will be staying in FOUR DIFFERENT PLACES. Need to be able to pack and throw those cases into the rental car efficiently, toddler toys and all. I’ll let y’all know how it goes.

    Next up: plans to see whales, glaciers and totems. Not necessarily in that order.
     
  9. podsnel

    podsnel <font color=blue>just skippin' around, amusing mys

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    You're back! You're back! Oh....I am SO excited to read one of your TRs again- :yay::yay::yay::yay:

    Congrats on the little one....:cutie:
     
  10. racingfandj

    racingfandj Mouseketeer

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    Found your post and thought I'd share...I'm a plan-aholic too. My 5 y/o DD makes lists and asks me what's on my list.

    Helpful tip-- save some space on the laundry and use your suitcase for a hamper. Easy to pull to laundry room too. Also, Purex 3-in-1 Laundry Sheets are awesome and easy to pack. I'm sensitive to detergents (allergic to Tide) and these work great for me on vacations.

    Final thing and I'll shut-up...we wanted bottled water on our cruise. I packed DDs small roller suitcase inside a bigger, but still carry-on roller case. When we got to Florida, I had an extra suitcase to put the water and snacks in so I didn't have to carry them.
     
  11. zweihund

    zweihund I tagged myself. I'm it.

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    Thanks! :thumbsup2

    :rotfl: love it.

    Great advice!

    Hmmm....now I'm contemplating buying bottled water in Vancouver. I'll add that to MY ever-growing list.
     
  12. zweihund

    zweihund I tagged myself. I'm it.

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    Operation: OMG the balance is due on 5 months, how are we going to pay for this trip has officially begun! Cue the extra weekend work, the scrounging for writing jobs and the squirreling away of cash for the bar tab....

    On another note, we leave for CT in two and a half weeks. I'm almost ashamed to admit how much I am looking forward to trying out this new packing strategy. I say almost, because I totally just admitted it. :confused3 ah well, no secrets amongst friends, right?

    Post CT, I'll be posting a breakdown of excursions and other events I am planning. Still working on it. We're also still trying to decide whether to fly into Seattle and take the train in, or just to head straight to Vancouver. Thoughts?
     
  13. Tink rules

    Tink rules <font color=teal>The kids in my family sometimes t

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    CT will be a good packing practice for you. Bring mittens!!! (well.. it gets chilly up here at night...)
     
  14. Linda67

    Linda67 Has a Masters in Margaritas

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    Well hello there :wave:

    I just ran a forum search on Alaska and up popped your PTR

    I'm going to be on the 17th June cruise with my DH so will be following your planning process closely (and stealing good ideas :rotfl:)

    Let the spreadsheet creation commence :thumbsup2
     
  15. zweihund

    zweihund I tagged myself. I'm it.

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    Hooray!
    We may have to start a thread soon, so far there isn't one for our cruise. I'd make one myself, but I can't decide on a catchy name. :rotfl:
     
  16. Linda67

    Linda67 Has a Masters in Margaritas

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    Someone has started one now :goodvibes
    It's great to have people to countdown with - it seems like ages away :upsidedow
    I'm spending all my spare time reading guidebooks at the moment :thumbsup2
     
  17. zweihund

    zweihund I tagged myself. I'm it.

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    Sweet, I subbed to the meet thread. Hopefully I didn't scare anyone away. lol

    I am working on a packing-planning report based on my experience earlier this month...taking a toddler and a husband north to an ever-changing climate for 10 days was good practice! I should be posting that here this week. :thumbsup2
     
  18. LindaBabe

    LindaBabe <br><img src="http://www.wdwinfo.com/dis-sponsor/i

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    Subbing to your awesome trip report! (Yes! She has diagrams and spreadsheets = AWESOME even though she hasn't taken the trip yet!) We're on the last Alaska of the season next year - I'm anxious to learn at your feet oh wise Zweihund!
     
  19. zweihund

    zweihund I tagged myself. I'm it.

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    Don’t even act like you aren’t all dying to hear my packing report from the recent CT trip.

    As an aside, we made it out of the state about 24 hours before Sandy started wreaking havoc. All of the family is safe, some even have power again. Some of the areas we visited, however, are still underwater. As a Floridian, I understand the power of a hurricane from firsthand experience….but every now and then a real doozy comes along and reminds us of the awesome forces Mother Nature can churn up.

    *shakes off the serious face*

    Commence packing report!

    In retrospect, my packing experience from CT will mirror that of future Alaska. How so, you may ask? Both trips span about a week and a half. Both trips involved fluctuating temperatures. And both trips required formalwear. For CT, I packed both a large and medium-sized suitcase, and because we were renting a car (and I am too cheap to pay a $100 to Hertz for their crappy model) we hauled along Isabelle’s carseat. The biggest challenges were:

    1. Weight. It’s hard to keep a large suitcase under 50 pounds, even when you put all of the heavy stuff in the medium-sized. This is partially because it’s hard not to just fill it up, but also because I opted to use the built-in garment pouch over an extra garment bag, since we only needed one dressy outfit each. So picture a large suitcase at 75% capacity (or 25% empty, depending on how you look at things) and add to it a suit and a formal dress. And shoes. 49.5 pounds, baby. Can I get an amen, sistah? Because I totally deserved one.
    2. Keeping everything straight. We made four stops along the way. FOUR. One hotel and three different family homes. Between the constant packing and repacking and the three loads of laundry I did along the way, I lost track of what was in the bottom of the suitcase. A fact which was reinforced when I discovered our niece’s wedding present as I unpacked. Oops. Thankfully for this trip we’ll only be living out of the suitcases for a few days in Vancouver, and can unpack everything once we’re tucked away in our cabin.
    3. Wet shoes. I brought a spare pair of sneakers for Izzy (a lifesaver after an unfortunate encounter with some rogue dog poo mere moments before we had to pile into the car and head to the next stop) but did not do the same for us. Unless you count the wedding shoes. And let’s face it, three inch Steve Madden pumps are not the most practical when chasing your daughter around a muddy playground. But they sure are cute! We have waterproof hikers for Alaska, but I’ll likely throw in the Chucks (and Lionel’s Sketchers) too just to have an alternative. And also for any warmer weather days.
    4. The carseat. I am grateful that we packed it, because I just didn’t trust the Hertz model. Plus Isabelle is comfortable in hers, which increased the likelihood of car naps as we travelled from point A to points B, C, D and E. I think we might have even made it to H. But Britax carseats are not exactly famous for their compact size, nor their ease of stacking atop a rolling suitcase. Fortunately we won’t need one in Vancouver, because we’ll do what we did last year and hire a car to bring us to and from the airport. The rest is walking, and public transportation.

    Based on the CT trip, I plan to ROCK this packing thing in June. I’m planning to bring the same two suitcases, packed similarly, and the garment bag in place of the carseat. I tried my hand at light (and removable) layers over bulkier clothing, which worked beautifully. I also re-purposed clothing for all three of us, though it’s definitely harder to make this happen for your toddler. Luckily her clothing is small and light, so a few extra bottoms don’t add up to much. I didn’t use everything I packed, but I also did one more laundry load than I had planned for due to another unfortunate incident involving a recently potty-trained child whose name rhymes with Frisabelle. I’ll spare you the details.

    Here’s what I brought. The short version. As if there were such a thing with me.

    Me: two pairs of jeans, a pair of lightweight pants, two camis, a pair of pj shorts, a pair of yoga pants, two short-sleeved shirts, three long-sleeved shirts, a cocktail dress, and a lightweight corded blazer. I left the underwear behind, because it took up too much room. Kidding! That might have led to baby number two, which would have forced the cancellation of this Alaska trip. Which ain’t gonna happen, folks! I did also pack three scarves, which were super light. Oh, and I wore a pair of capris, a t-shirt, a lightweight sweater and my pink Chuck Taylors on the plane.

    I packed similarly for Lionel (minus the camis and yoga pants). For Isabelle, I packed an even number of shirts to pants because, well, she’s two. What food doesn’t end up on her face usually ends up on every garment, including her socks. I did, however, pack fewer outfits. I will admit, this totally stressed me out at first but it actually ended up being the perfect amount. I did still bring 1-2 too many toys, and I put too much stuff in her carry-on backpack. It was such a pain to lug around, and we only used it on the plane. For Alaska I think I’ll get her an Izzy-sized backpack to limit what I can stuff into it.

    So there you go. I’d say this trip saved me the hassle of doing a practice pack come June, but y’all know I’m going to do that anyway so why not drop the façade? Honesty. We’re all crazy here, right?

    Up next: I finally start talking about the excursions I’ve had planned pretty much since we booked.
     
  20. Linda67

    Linda67 Has a Masters in Margaritas

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    So here is the deal
    I bring all of our stuff from the UK in garbage bags and you meet us at Vancouver airport and pack it corectly for us :rotfl:
     
  21. zweihund

    zweihund I tagged myself. I'm it.

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    :lmao:
     

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