Saturday 10 November Julie (38) - demented planner Brian (40) - planning, whats that? Michael (11) - quiet, clone of his Dad, hormones just starting to kick in, auditioning for Snow Whites 8th dwarf, Grouchy Andrew (5½) - not quiet, mummys boy, very fussy eater, favourite saying of the holiday Excuse me, is this ride scary? Day 14 - Last day and final thoughts Well, the day we were dreading had finally arrived and it was the day we were going home. You may remember if you read yesterdays trip report that the plan was to get up early, pack and spend the morning in MGM before heading to the airport. Well, how many of you guessed that that wouldnt happen. It took us a long time to get going this morning, then it took us a lot longer to pack everything than I had anticipated so by the time we were ready to go anywhere it was about 10.30 which we decided was too late for MGM. Instead, we left our cases in storage at the hotel, with going home clothes, ie long trousers in a sports bag I had packed flat in the suitcase on the way out for just that reason. I was really glad we had done this as the weather was far too warm for long trousers and fleeces today - low 80s and very sunny. Why couldnt it be raining - maybe we wouldnt feel quite as bad about leaving if the weather wasnt so gorgeous !!!! Now the choices were either Fantasia mini golf or Downtown Disney. As there was a major golf tournament that weekend and it seemed to be based at Downtown Disney, plus some sort of arts festival, we headed over to Fantasia mini golf. It was a good decision as the traffic getting into the DTD car parks was horrendous. Fantasia mini golf was good and there were a surprising number of people here although it wasnt busy. It didnt seem as good as Winter Summerland though and looked a bit tired in places, but maybe that was because it was the first mini golf we had played in daylight. The courses are so nice lit up at night and maybe you dont notice the little imperfections and tatty bits as much. After this we still had about an hour before we had to pick up our cases from the hotel and head to the airport so we decided to head over to the Boardwalk for a little look round as we never did get back there after our Illuminations Cruise last weekend. It was a beautiful day for strolling round the Boardwalk and very quiet. We all got cookies from the Boardwalk Bakery and coffee and just generally soaked up the sunshine. All of us were in a reflective mood for some reason. It was during one of these reflections that we decided that when we came back to WDW (definitely when now, not if) we would love to stay at the Swan, Dolphin or Y & B Club - funds permitting - if not for all of our stay, at least for some of it. The location of these hotels for us was perfect, as MGM and Epcot were definitely our favourite parks and we would have loved to hit the Boardwalk at night, but just never had the time. Dragged ourselves away very reluctantly and from this point on I dont want to finish the trip report. How many people describe the outward journey in great detail but then just say - the return journey was OK, nothing much to report Well that is how it was for us. Just have to say one thing about the airport, though. The shops at Orlando International are great. We did a lot of last minute present buying from the shops here - Disney, Sea World and Universal shops - and the Electronics Boutique shop swallowed up all of the boys last dollors on a couple of GBA games which kept them quiet while waiting to board the plane - an hour late due to a lot of passengers who needed special assistance, although we still managed to land at Manchester just 10 minutes late. We also encountered a really nice lady at the newsagent/sweet shop at the airport - cant remember what it is called - as we were stocking up on munchies and drinks for the plane. She noticed that we had a huge (and I mean huge) bag of change and she spent ages converting it into notes for us so we could change it into English money when we got home. She also gave the boys some sweets and Im only sorry that we didnt get her name. Whoever you are, you are a star. I think we had 10 cents in change by the time she had finished and definitely a much lighter handbag (me, not Brian). Definitely above and beyond the call of duty (maybe the cynics amongst you will say maybe the shop was short of change, but I dont think so) and typical of the attitude of almost every American we met on our holiday. This was an absolutely fantastic holiday, made even more enjoyable because of the serious doubts we had before going - security and safety worries after September 11th, what seemed like daily announcements of Disney cutbacks, worries about Jersey Week etc, etc the list goes on, and on, and on .., plus worries we would have had anyway such as Is the hotel OK, Is this the right type of holiday for us, Will the Disney thing be just too much and overpowering, Why am I going when I dont like theme parks (I hate Alton Towers with a passion !!!) BUT The reality was that the minute we stepped into the hotel Courtyard by Marriott we knew we would love it here. The hotel was basic but good, but its main advantage was the location. A five minute walk to Downtown Disney and maybe 10 minutes to Crossroads and no more than 10 minutes to even the furthest of the parks. We had a 10 day world ticket and used 9 of those days in the Disney parks. It still wasnt enough and I was really disappointed that we didnt get back to MGM on our last day. We never once thought in all that time Right, weve had enough of theme parks now, what else can we do Disney theme parks cannot be compared to UK theme parks. They are all so unique and there is far more to them than just rides. The detailing everywhere is superb, the CMs everywhere were excellent and the thing that struck us most was the cleanliness. Everywhere was spotless. Another thing we liked was the no smoking policy in the Disney parks apart from designated areas and the CMs seemed to go out of their way to stop people who were smoking somewhere not designated and point them in the right direction. We definitely noticed a difference when we went to Sea World and Busch Gardens where people were allowed to smoke anywhere and even in the open air if you are walking behind someone puffing away it can be really unpleasant - also smokers seem to have a habit of sticking their ciggies out at childrens eye level and Andrew had several close shaves in this respect. Do they not think !!!! (sorry rant over). Parks in order of favouriteness - MGM first, Animal Kingdom and Epcot equal second, MK definitely last place for Disney parks, but also thoroughly enjoyed Sea World and Busch, especially as they were really quiet when we went. The boys and Brian also loved Blizzard Beach, I wasnt fussed but it was OK (not a water park lover and it was very crowded) Favourite rides: Andrew - Splash Mountain Michael - Rock n Roller Coaster Brian - all of them Julie - Rock n Roller Coaster - Suprisingly !!!! Favourite Parade: Tapestry of Dreams at Epcot followed closely by Mickeys Jungle Parade at Animal Kingdom Favourite Show: How can you choose, they are all excellent and not to be missed but highlights were definitely the Illuminations cruise with Mike and family and Cirque du Soleil Regrets: Not going for three weeks, not having more time at MGM, not going on Tower of Terror (me), not seeing Spectromagic, not seeing Electrical Water Pageant, coming home. Crowds: Were very light the first week, but got noticeably busier towards the end of the second week (Jersey Week) apart from Busch Gardens which was empty, and there were definitely more New Jersey number plates around. MK was very, very busy on our last day (Friday) but didnt affect us too badly in the end. Would try to avoid Jersey Week in future. Weather was great - a couple of dull days but mostly warm and not humid (low 70s) and sunny. Definitely shorts and t-shirts weather all week, getting hot at the end of the second week (low 80s). Rained for two afternoons but soon cleared. A great time to go for the weather. We are definitely going back, wish it could be 2002 but will probably be October 2003 and I cant wait. It was everything I thought it would be and much more besides. The magic is hard to describe to people who have not experienced it themselves. If we cant stay at the Swan/Dolphin or Y & B Club (who am I trying to kid !!!) then we would return to the Courtyard by Marriott without hesitation. One final observation - I thought before we went that we would have eaten a lot more upmarket meals, ie restaurants in the parks, and spent a lot of time looking at menus, making PSs etc. The only park meal we ended up having was the character breakfast at MGM and that was only because it was included with our tickets. The truth was we were enjoying ourselves too much to waste time eating and ate most of our meals in chains like Ponderosa, Perkins, Golden Corrall and yes, even good old McDonalds (shock horror !!!) BUT I dont feel that we missed out on anything by doing this. Maybe people who have been to WDW numerous times can spare the time for long fancy meals but we didnt feel that we could (or wanted to) and what we did eat was fine (but then again, we dont have particularly expensive tastes either). Hope you have all enjoyed reading these reports as much as I have enjoyed writing them. I was quite nervous about starting them but it was never a chore and they will definitely make a great reminder of our holiday as it is amazing how many details you forget even such a short time after the holiday. Heres to the next set of trip reports in 2003. Thank you and good night.