Help Me Smithers! A trip with Barista, Swimming Babies, Unseasonably Cool Weather, But Still Lots of Magic. (updated 8/29/20)


Haunted Mansion or Bust.
Jul 24, 2012
Hello Everyone! I'm REALLY late to this trip report game, but since we finally have another trip on the horizon, I thought I'd write a report to keep me sane until then.

This trip happened over a year ago. March of 2018. Yes, you read that right, 2018. It was March 3-13 to be exact, with March 4-9 spent at Disney. Why did I wait so long to write this you ask? I really don't know. I haven't even totally finished my last report from August of 2015. I was almost there, but I never quite got there. I really hope to be better with this one though!

But enough about that, who are we? We're a crazy family of 4 from Wisconsin. We always road trip to Florida because we're cheap and also I hate flying. HATE IT!

This is me. Clare. I'm 44. I was 43 when this trip happened, but I tend to not act my age, as is evidenced by this picture.

I work for a professional children's theater company in the box office. I'm also a personal chef, chauffer, maid, dog walker, litter box cleaner, hamster cage cleaner, and basically exhausted all the time. But I love my job and my family. I love roller coasters, the Cubs, animals, musicals, and The Golden Girls, and Halloween. My favorite ride is The Haunted Mansion, favorite park is Magic Kingdom, and favorite character is Donald Duck.

This is my husband Jason. He's 39 (almost 40!), but was 38 when the trip happened. He actually thought he was turning 40 last year.:rotfl2:He also tends to not act his age.

He works for a software company that makes data bases for health insurance companies. I have no idea how any of it works. He's also the family diswasher, bathroom cleaner, and a professional snorer. He also loves roller coasters, electronic devices, our pets (and most animals), theater, super hero movies, sci-fi tv shows, and Halloween. I believe his favorite ride is Space Mountain (it was the last time I asked), favorite park is Magic Kingdom, and I don't know who his favorite character is.

Here he is with his true love, our fat cat Tinka.

You can tell by the look on her face that she wishes I wasn't there. She wants him all to herself.

And just to show you the kind of relationship we have, here are 2 pictures of us at our weirdest, but one is from Halloween.

If you can't read my shirt in this one, it says "Why is the carpet all wet, Todd?" 3 points if you know what movie that and Jason's are from.

Next is our oldest daughter, Lucy. She was 11 on the trip, but is now almost 13!!!!

This was right before we left on the trip last year. She had just gotten her hair cut. She's an actress, gymnast, softball player, and animal lover. She's a straight A student who loves school and makes friends wherever she goes. She was just in her first professional show this spring! Of course it was Tinkerbell! She was a Lost Boy. She hopes to be on the stage some day. She recently found out about the Disney College Program, and now has big plans for that and hopes it's in her future! She loves roller coasters too (are you sensing a theme with us here?) and has yet to meet one she didn't conquer. She is obsessed with The Simpsons. OBSESSED! She watches like 6 episodes a day after recording them on the DVR. And then doesn't delete them. And then our DVR gets full. She is also obsessed with Hamilton. We haven't seen it yet, we're going in October, but she already has the whole thing memorized. I've warned her she's not aloud to sing along during the show. People didn't pay as much as $500/ticket to hear her sing. Her favorite ride is Splash Mountain, park is Magic Kingdom, and character is Stitch.

Now here's the baby of the family. Maura. She was 8 on the trip and just turned 10 yesterday.

She is tiny but mighty. At 10, she looks more like a 7 year old, but she makes up for her lack of size in every other way possible. She talks non stop. NON STOP! She was also in her first show this season and played a sheep/ensemble in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, The Musical. She's also an actress, gymnast, softball player, and animal lover. She also likes to play the drums and clarinet, and also loves to argue. I really hope she takes up debate in high school. I think she alone could carry her team to victory. She LOVES Freddie Mercury and laments every day how sad she is that he died before she could see him live. She dressed up like him for Halloween last year. She also loves roller coasters and last summer rode the 312 foot Millenium Force at Cedar Point in Ohio. She wants to be a zookeeper when she grows up.

Her favorite ride is Splash Mountain, park is Magic Kingdom, and character is Stitch.

We do have some furry family members as well. They didn't come on the trip with us, obviously, but we love them lots. Here is Maura with our pug, Bowser. He'll be 16 on August 8th! He's old, but still likes to play and get crazy once in a while.


You saw Tinka, our fat cat. She's also known as Stinkerbell or Fatniss Everdeen. If you met her, she'd lead you to believe that she is starved to death and never eats. She looks thin, doesn't she?:rotfl2:Here she is with Nellie, our House Panther. They don't really like each other at all, so I'm amazed they're sitting so close to each other in this picture. There was probably a hissing war right after it was taken.

And here is Nellie being read a bedtime story by Maura. Maura thinks Nellie is her cat. Nellie thinks she's Jason's cat. She'll run over anyone to get to him.

Last but not least is this tiny little ball of fur. Mochi the hamster. We rescued him from the Humane Society back in January, and we just adore him. He's so sweet and cute and gets excited to see us when we open his house.

He's a dwarf hamster and he's so tiny! He gets manhandled all the time, and is so tolerant!

We hope to add a hedgehog to our family in the near future. I lost a very dear friend to cancer last spring. I actually found out while we were at Disney that her cancer had spread and her time was limited. Her name was Erica and she loved hedgehogs. She always wanted one, and so I want to get one and name it after her. We're still doing the research, and my kids have to keep their room clean in order to get one, but it's going to happen sometime in the future.

So that's who we are. We all love Disney. Jason has family in Florida, and had been to Disney many times as a kid, mostly for just day trips. I had been to Disneyland when I was 7 when we went to LA to visit family, but my parents were never interested in going to Disney World. They always said there were "too many other places to see." I went the first time at age 25, shortly after we started dating. I was hooked the instant I set foot on Main Street USA and promised then and there they my kids would experience Disney as kids! My parents still think we're nuts for going all the time (really it's about ever 2 years, we do go on other vacations). They just don't get it!

Here's a picture from my very first trip. How about that character meet? You don't see him anymore!

Thanks for reading and I hope to make this fun for everyone. I look forward to re-living our trip!
  • Clarf

    Haunted Mansion or Bust.
    Jul 24, 2012
    So now that the introductions are done, we can get down to business. I don't really do pre-trip reports, but here's what transpired in the day or 2 before we left. In 2015, before our trip, I took the girls to get vacation manicures. I knew a lot of people who did that and thought they might enjoy it. I didn't get one, as I'm terrible about keeping nail polish on, but they enjoyed it. Of course they wanted one this time too and reminded me that they should have one. My girls are very much creatures of habit and like things to be consistent. So, I made them appointments for the Thursday before we left.

    Here's Maura getting her nails dried. She thought that dryer was hilarious.

    Here are their finished nails. Lucy's were pink with Mickey heads on them, and Maura's were orange with "Lilo Flowers" as she called them.

    Our friend Lisa (Disboards very own mickeystoontown) helped us book our trip through her travel agent business. She sent the girls this thank you present for booking. There were a whole bunch of Disney goodies in those bags.

    Our magic bands had arrived a few weeks before. We were ready to go!

    The night before the trip, we took the dog to our friends who would be watching him while we were gone. We packed up the car and got into bed hoping for a few hours sleep anyway. We planned to leave bright and early so we could get around Chicago before the morning rush hour started.

    Before we knew it, our alarm was going off. No one seems to have a problem getting up before the sun on the day you leave for vacation. We were up, dressed, teeth brushed, and a few last minute things packed in the car. We hugged our kitties and hamster goodbye and set off. I took this picture when we got in the car so we'd remember what time we left.

    4:26am. A balmy 36 degrees. Yay for March in Wisconsin! We were off! And pretty close to on time! I believe we were shooting for 4am, but 4:26 wasn't too bad. We'd be around Chicago in plenty of time. I took the first driving shift and I have no doubt that Jason was snoring away next to me pretty much as soon as we left our driveway. The girls? Not so much. They were way too excited to go back to sleep. The tablets were out and movie watching had begun.

    We entered Illinois at 5:11am. I guess we didn't get any pictures of downtown Chicago. I'm sure it's because Jason was sleeping. Usually I punch him awake, but either he ignored me or I decided to let him sleep. We did get through downtown fairly quickly and not got stopped at our usual spot near Comisky Park. I did get this picture going over the Skyway Toll Bridge. The sun is just starting to come up.

    Sorry for the poor quality of those pictures. The kids took them. But, you can see the sun creeping up over the horizon. At 6:11 we crossed the Indiana state line. I yelled hello to Chicago Mo as we went over the bridge as I know she lives just beyond it.

    We stopped for gas and a potty break just after getting onto I-65 and heading south. We'd be on this stretch for a while.

    I have a little notebook I always take on our road trips so I can write down the times we enter states, where we stop for gas and food and such and I also write down things I see or hear. I guess at 7:32am, we passed into Jasper County, Indiana and there was a sign that said "The sloppy manure capitol of Indiana." That's something to be known for right there.

    I took some pictures while Jason was driving. We always pass by this enormous windmill farm. There are thousands of wind turbines in every direction for what looks like miles. I always think it's so neat looking, though I know some people don't like them.

    After that excitement we came upon Indianapolis. I did get a few pictures of their skyline.

    We passed this bridge too. For whatever reason, I always remember this bridge. I know. Real fun stuff!

    We did stop for gas and lunch. We found a gas station that had not only a Sonic in it, but ALSO a Subway! Good times. We filled our tanks on the car and our bellies and were back on the road. At exactly 11:00am, we entered Kentucky. Here's a few pics of the Louisville skyline.

    Churchill Downs would be fun to see some day! But today wasn't that day. We're on a mission to see a mouse.

    Louisville is about the only cool thing to look at in Kentucky. Thankfully, we don't spend too much time in that state. There IS however an exit that has signs for a really cool looking dinosaur statue museum. I've looked it up before and it sounds cool. The kids always want to stop, but being the horrible parents we are, we keep right on driving.

    At 1:12, we passed into Tennessee. We'd already been in the car 9 hours and it was barely past lunch. We were making great time! Our goal on our first day is to make it to at least Atlanta, or just south if it to stay for the night. We were ahead of schedule. Not that we had a reservation, but we were thrilled with how quickly we were going.

    Tennessee starts to get prettier with cool rock formations, waterfalls shooting out of the rocks, and rolling hills. We were approaching Nashville and were ready to head onto I-24 towards Chattanooga. Here's the Nashville skyline now.

    We drive through a ton of bigger cities on our drive. It's always interesting to see the different buildings they all have in their downtown areas. Once we got closer to Chattanooga, the roads got really hilly. We always go up Lookout Mountain. The drive down is a steep grade and kind of daunting. Whichever one of us is driving doesn't even have to hit the accelerator for the entire 4 miles down. There are these scary runaway truck ramps off to the side of the road. I"ve never seen a semi use one and :I hope I never do!

    (continued in next post)


    Haunted Mansion or Bust.
    Jul 24, 2012
    After getting through that semi scary yet kind of cool experience, we were almost in Georgia. At 3;45pm, we crossed the Georgia State Line. Of course the time changed over to Eastern Time then, so we lost an hour and it was suddenly 4:45pm. We drove through the mountains of northern Georgia for a little over an hour and came to a stand still around 6:00. About 3 cars in front of us, a pretty bad accident happened. We didn't see it happen, but we were literally just a few cars behind it. We were stopped dead for 45 minutes. The Life Flight helicopter came and landed on the freeway and took at least 1 person away. There were ambulances and police cars and fire trucks. Once the helicopter left, we were able to move along. They still had a couple of lanes blocked, but traffic was allowed to keep moving. We drove by the accident and saw a jeep wrangler with it's front all smashed in. I don't know what happened to the driver and/or passengers in the car, but I hope they were just injured and LIfe Flight got them to where the needed to be so they could get help. You never want to see something like that.

    The sun was starting to set. We had now been up long enough to see the sunrise and sunset.

    It was dark by the time we got to Atlanta. I took a few blurry pics of their downtown area. I didn't get a good skyline picture, becuse unlike the other cities that we drove around, we went right through Atlanta. If you can hit it at night, after rush hour, it's pretty smooth sailing!

    Everything in Atlanta is peach this and peachtree that. I sent these pictures to my mother via text. She worries about us when we're on the road (as any mom would) and said to send her pictures along the way. So, I sent her pictures of Atlanta saying "look how far we've made it." Her response? "I wanted pictures of people. You've only sent me pictures of cities and scenery." Um, you wanted pictures to see our progress. You want me to send you 20 pictures of the kids with headphones on and tablets up to their faces? Sheesh! Aren't you happy we're safe? My mom is a nut I tell you.

    Once past Atlanta, we usually start chatting about where we want to stay for the night. It was around 7:30 at this point. We decided we COULD stop somewhere early and get an early start in the morning, OR, we could be very commando in out travels and see if we could make it to the Georgia/Florida border. We'd never done that before. Macon, Georgia was the farthest we'd ever gone. Macon is about 90 minutes southeast of Atlanta.

    After just a few minutes of discussion, we decided to go for the border! We stopped for gas and some dinner. We ate in the car and kept on driving! We were excited about only having to drive a few hours in the morning.

    Why didn't we go over the Florida border you ask? Because of the orange juice.

    The Florida welcome center, just over the border, has delicious free orange and grapefruit juice samples, but they aren't open all night. It's tradition to stop there, so we figured we'd go on to Valdosta and cross the border in the morning.

    We kept on truckin' and made it to the Super 8 in Valdosta at 10:32pm, which would have been 9:32 our time, so 17 hours and 6 minutes since we left home. That's really good time! We didn't make a lot of stops. Just gas, lunch, and dinner. Potty breaks are done at gas stations. We usually don't hve to stop again.

    Maura was thrilled to be at the Super 8 and made me take this picture.

    And while it was late, it wasn't TOO late. We brought in our car bags with just clothes and toiletries for the next day and hit the sack. We were only a few hours from Disney!

    Sorry this installment was so boring. It will get more exciting, I promise!

    And I'll be back tomorrow. Work is REALLY slow right now, so I should have time to post!


    DIS Veteran
    Oct 2, 2006
    I forgot to get my points for knowing the movie that your sweaters are quoting: Christmas Vacation! Love it and can't tell you how many times we have watched it. Like at least a gillion or two.

    I remember getting the picture of the girls with their goody bags and I so loved seeing their smiling faces. That's part of what makes my job so much fun.

    Y'all were hotfooting it across those states like mad men, women and children headed to the most magical place on Earth.
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  • Stasieki

    DIS Veteran
    Aug 13, 2007
    Following along. I live in Nashville and can't believe you made it through without traffic! There's always traffic right there now.


    Haunted Mansion or Bust.
    Jul 24, 2012
    I forgot to get my points for knowing the movie that your sweaters are quoting: Christmas Vacation! Love it and can't tell you how many times we have watched it. Like at least a gillion or two.

    I remember getting the picture of the girls with their goody bags and I so loved seeing their smiling faces. That's part of what makes my job so much fun.

    Y'all were hotfooting it across those states like mad men, women and children headed to the most magical place on Earth.
    Ding Ding Ding! You are correct! It's Christmas Vacation. One of our favorites!

    They LOVED the goody bags!

    We were driving fools!

    Following along. I live in Nashville and can't believe you made it through without traffic! There's always traffic right there now.
    Welcome!:cheer2: I guess there isn't the welcome smiley anymore.

    We've always had great luck in Nashville with traffic! I don't know if we hit it the right time of day? We usually get held up in Chicago and Atlanta!

    I'll be back with another update in a bit!


    Haunted Mansion or Bust.
    Jul 24, 2012
    Day 2

    We were up bright and early the next morning. No messing around for this family. We were determined to get to the Mouse ASAP. We did need to have some breakfast though. Our girls had been intrigued by the Waffle House for some time. The Waffle House hasn't quite made it up north to us yet. Close. I think Illinois may have a few, but not have breached the boundaries of Wisconsin as of yet. So, into the Waffle House we went. It was actually fairly crowded, but we found a seat at the counter pretty quickly. The service was fast and the food was what you'd expect. The kids enjoyed it. This was at 8am. At 9:04, we were in Florida. Remember, we were right at the border so it didn't take long once we were in the car!

    It felt unseasonably cool for Florida in March. We'd been to visit Jason's parents in March before and it was always in the upper 70's/low 80's. On this day it was in the mid 50's. I know it was early, but still unseasonably cool. I didn't leave the frozen tundra of Wisconsin for 50's. I mean, yes, it was warmer than home, but I wanted shorts weather. I was still wearing my jeans and a fleece.

    But I digress. Even though we'd only been in the car for about 7 minutes, we made our first (and hopefully only) stop of the day. Because we HAD to visit the Florida Welcome Center. They have delicious free orange juice (and grapefruit if that's your thing, it's not our thing.) And they have a ton of stuff to look at. We think the Wisconsin welcome center should serve cheese, but they don't. Florida wins this one!

    While walking into the building, I jumped back. I thought I saw a snake! But here's what it really was.

    Someone lost their braid, but you can see where my confusion was.

    We took some silly pictures too. But see, Jason is wearing his winter pea coat. In Florida. In March.

    Now one in front of a palm tree.

    With the sculpture of Winter the dolphin

    Finally inside with the OJ. It's good OJ.

    Even though it was only about 9:30am, my children decided they needed the ice cream bars with the character of the moment on them. The machine at this rest stop always says it's sponge bob, but they've only gotten sponge bob once. I think this time it was Batman. It's hard to tell in the picture.

    And of course we let them. Why? Because there are no rules on vacation. Thankfully Jason either opted not to get the atomic fireballs or they macing was out of them. I'm thinking the latter because he loves them. Had he made said purchase, I would have had to listen to his annoying crunching of them for the next 3 hours.

    We were back on the road in about 25 minutes or so. We had filled the gas tank at a station near the Waffle House, so we had no more stops planned. NONE! Until Disney.

    We did have a fairly uneventful drive. And we opted to not take the Florida Turnpike this time, but instead take Hwy 27 for the last leg. You do pass some fun stuff. It looks like Jason only got pictures of 1 thing this time. The Citrus Tower in Cleremont. We weren't sure what it was, but he looked it up and it's just an observation tower you can go up in. Might be fun to do sometime but not today, people. Not today. But here's what it looks like.

    Not too long after that we were seeing one of the greatest sights of all time!

    We had missed this last time. We had stayed at Port Orleans Riverside, and Linda, the lady on our GPS, took us some back woods way to get there that didn't involve this sign. We were most disappointed. We made sure that wouldn't happen again.

    By 12:31, we were pulling into our home for the next 5 nights.

    If you look closely, you can see that Lucy's tongue is still blue from her Batman treat.

    So where were we? Caribbean Beach! It's our favorite resort and we were glad to be home. We had planned on staying at POR again, as we had enjoyed that one too, but about 6 weeks before the trip, our friend and travel agent Lisa saved us about $400 by switching. We were warned about the refurb, but we decided we were okay with that and saving the money was better, so off to CBR we were! Jason was thrilled. He loves CBR. He enjoyed POR, but CBR is his favorite.

    We went in to check in. We didn't do online check in this time and made no room requests. We figured we'd be happy with what we got! I get that online check in is fast and easy. We just enjoy the interaction with the cast members and were excited to get right to it! Lo and behold, even though it was only about 12:45 by this point, our room was ready!!!! We were assigned Aruba 5551. A second floor room. We'd never stayed in Aruba before and immediately the girls started saying "Aaaaaarrrrrrrruba." And rolling their "r's." This continued the entire trip. Actually, it still continues. It never ends. Ever.

    Here they are waiting for us to check in.

    We did pick up our resort mugs that came with the dining plan right away too. They had some in the hotel lobby which was new. But we don't waste anytime getting our "free" drinks.

    We drove over to Aruba 55 and started unloading. I always go in first to do a bedbug check. Always. You can't be too careful. Thankfully, none were found. Our room was clean and ready! Here's Jason walking to our building.

    And one with him not in the way.

    We were up on the second floor behind that big tree in the middle of the picture.

    I took a few pics of the room before we moved in and made a disaster of it. No matter how hard Jason and I try to keep it orderly, it only takes about 4.5 seconds to look like a tornado hit it.

    Maura claiming stake to her bed.

    The girls just HAD to go see the Aruba beach.

    Once we had everything in and settled, the kids of course wanted to hit the pool. It had gotten a bit warmer by this time so we said go for it! They wanted to hit the Aruba quite pool first, so that's where we headed. We were finally at Disney once again!

    I took this picture and posted it to Facebook so everyone in Wisconsin could be jealous of us.

    I'm going to stop here for now, but I'll be back soon with tales of swimming, construction at CBR, and Disney Springs!
  • Clarf

    Haunted Mansion or Bust.
    Jul 24, 2012
    Joining in!

    We don't have Waffle House near us either so it's a road trip staple for us.
    Yay! Welcome!

    :welcome:(I found the welcome smile. I guess I missed it before)

    And yes, Waffle House will now be a staple for us. Our girls will demand it!


    Haunted Mansion or Bust.
    Jul 24, 2012
    Work is S L O W right now. So, I figured I'd get in an update.

    We were at the quiet pool in Aruba at Caribbean Beach I believe. We were waiting for Jason to join us so we could head over to the Fuentes Del Moro pool. There was more swimming to be had while we waited.

    All during swimming, the girls were singing this song from a horrible commercial. They'd been singing it the entire trip so far. It was about swimming babies. "They're swimming to you, they're swimming to me..." Over and over. It was a running theme for the trip. An annoying one at that. Any one of the 4 of us would just start blurting it out at any time. Still, 16 months later, it still pops up now and then. Don't google it. You'll regret it.

    Our other running theme of the trip was "Help me, Smithers." We all love the Simpsons. Jason has watched it pretty much from the beginning. I was a convert in about 2004 and the kids have been hooked for the last 2 years. Some days it's all Lucy watches. Needless to say, it gets quoted a ton in our house. At this particular time, we had recently watched the episode where a balloon hits Mr. Burns and he falls over yelling "Help me, Smithers!" This was also quoted several times a day, and these days is used almost daily. It's a favorite for sure.

    But I digress. Jason had finally joined us after doing who knows what. We started heading over to the Fuentes Del Moro pool. The construction of The Riviera was under way and I was able to get a picture on our walk over.

    I know at this point it's almost done, but this was the beginning. I also grabbed a picture of the refurb going on at CBR to Old Port Royal. This was one thing we were super disappointed about not seeing. It was always so pretty in there. But I've seen pictures now that it's finished and it looks really nice.

    We finally made it over to the pool. Jason got in with the girls, but I'm a wimp and hate being cold, so I stood on the sidelines and took pictures. If it's not at least 75 degrees, I'm not swimming outside. We both had cases for our phones so we could take them under water, and Jason tried his out and got this fun video of the kids. If you click on the picture it SHOULD take you to the video.

    He also took this one because it was underwater.

    I know, real exciting. A pool light. This is what you came here for folks, I know it!

    More pool pics.

    Here's Maura coming down the small slide. She wasn't quite ready to try the big one yet.

    After swimming for a bit, the kids decided they were starving. Jason probably did too. He likes to eat. We knew the food court was in a tent since OPR was basically in ruins at this point. They had a decent menu though, and a couple of food trucks too. I'm normally really good about getting pictures of food, but for some reason, on this day, I wasn't. I don't remember what anyone had except for Maura. She had "the best hot dog I've ever eaten." She devoured it and loved it. She compares all hot dogs to it. If we're out somewhere, she'll say "This isn't as good as the CBR hot dog. We have to go there again next time and get one." I guess it was a good hot dog.

    I did get one picture inside the tent. Disney did a great job of making the tent not feel so "tenty" and more like a tropical island.

    You can see there is no hot dog on Maura's plate. It must have been good and she must have been really hungry because while she eats, and isn't super picky, she rarely eats her whole meal.

    About this time, we decided to head over to Disney Springs. Our ADR for T-Rex wasn't until around 7:30pm. We didn't anticipate arriving so early, as our decision to make it to the Florida border in 1 day was last minute. We had made a later ADR just in case. It was okay though. We usually didn't have a ton of time to look around Disney Springs, so having extra time was good. We also had a treat we wanted to try that was recommended by a friend a few weeks prior.

    (continued in next post)


    Haunted Mansion or Bust.
    Jul 24, 2012
    Dressed and ready, we headed for Disney Springs. We usually drive, and parking isn't typically an issue, but on our previous trip, in 2015, we had stayed at POR and really wanted to take the boat to DS. Well, of course weather prevented that, so we promised the girls a re-do this trip. We drove over to POR and hopped on the boats. We really enjoyed the ride over! You get to see the Treehouse Villas and pass Saratoga Springs. It's really a pretty trip. I thought Maura took these pictures on the boat, but clearly I'm wrong because she's in the second one. I guess this was my handiwork.

    They're almost the same picture, but Jason goes from surprised to happy and Maura miraculously pops up. She tends to do that.

    We also got a scenic shot of the mansions at POR.

    My notes say we arrived at DS at about 4:30, so we really had some time to kill until our T-Rex ressie. We considered checking out Characters in Flight, but it wasn't running due to wind, so that was out. We just decided to look around and do some shopping. Mickey had left each of the girls a Disney gift card. He somehow got into our room when we were swimming and left them a letter on their bed! So nice of him to do that. So they each had that plus some money they'd saved burning holes in their pockets.

    Let me tell you right now, my kids, especially Maura, are stuffed animal-aholics. They have hundreds. Maura can barely sleep in her bed, but we aren't allowed to pass any of them on. They all have names and are very loved. I tell you this because I'm fairly certain all of Maura's purchases were stuffed animals. Because we needed some more.

    We headed into Basin first. We wanted a new Mickey head soap and some bath bombs. Each girl got to pick 2 bath bombs and we agreed on the soap as a family. I took nary a picture in here. I apologize.

    We hit up Art of Disney next. We didn't buy anything, but I did have my eye on a really cool Haunted Mansion print that I had to think about. I may or may not have ended up with it later in the week. We shall see!

    Goofy's Candy Company was right there, so in we went. Maura got a hold of the camera at this point and she takes wonderful pictures. She really takes the time to focus on her subjects.

    Okay, that one turned out fairly well.

    Even a selfie.

    Remember the stuffed animal thing? See? I'm holding Oswald and Mickey from our last trip. They aren't mine, but somehow I'm holding them. This was our first trip with no stroller too, so that makes me mom the pack rat. I'm so lucky.

    Amazing photographic skills, that one.

    Jason with the caramel corn we ended up with. We always have to try the caramel corn wherever we go. We have a little, local place about 1/2 a mile from us that has the BEST caramel cheese corn. I call it crack. It's that good. It gives Garrett's in Chicago a run for their money. We always have to compare.

    No idea. But I needed you to see how skilled my child is.

    Again, not a clue. Eight year old with a camera.

    World if Disney was next. It was partially closed for refurb, but that store is so huge, we didn't even notice. Lucy made her first purchase of a t-shirt that said "Stitch Wus Here" with Stitch clawing down the front. He's a favorite in our house. Lucy also bought a Minnie ears headband in the traditional black/red/white colors. It is covered in sequins. She thought she wanted the rose gold ones, but then saw the classic and decided that was the one for her.

    Keeping on our trek, we saw the carousel. Promptly followed by "can we ride it?" No. No you can't ride it. I'm not paying extra for a carousel when we've paid thousands of dollars for this trip and you can ride the carousel for "free" tomorrow.

    We did stop in here where Maura made some droids and Lucy came up with this. She didn't buy it this day, but did have regrets and purchase one just like it later in the week.

    You can see Maura in the background with her creations and me, as usual, transporting Oswald and Mickey.

    We headed into Amorette's Patisserie. Our friend back home had recently been to Disney and told us we had to try this. It didn't disappoint.

    Before the carnage.

    Wow. It was delish! And so cute to boot! We all just shared 1 because we had our dinner ressie coming up soon.

    Back outside and this nonsense was going on.

    She was fun. You can see she's trying to take Maura's ears. She's stand super still for a while, and then while people were getting a picture with her, she'd suddenly move. Good times.

    We were all starting to get hungry and didn't know where else to go, so we thought we'd head over to T-Rex to see if we could get in early, but that's a story for another day.


    Haunted Mansion or Bust.
    Jul 24, 2012
    On to dinner! It was getting later, but we still had a while until our ADR at T-Rex, but we were getting hungry and didn't know what else to do, so we headed over there to see if we could get in early. Here's Jason and Maura on the walk over.

    Here's the traditional picture out in front.

    We went to check in and see if we could get seated early. Good news! We could! So in we went. We waited in the short line to be seated and in just a few minutes we were at our table. We were seated just outside the ice cave. Maura wanted me to take her picture.

    Let's try one with no flash.

    She's nuts I tell you. NUTS!

    I know we ordered pretty quickly, but I don't remember what we ordered. Why? Because I didn't take a picture.
    I know, I know, I suck. Just stop reading now. Even if no one is reading, and I'm just writing this for myself, which is totally fine, I still suck. I'd like to remember what I had. But with our orders taken, the girls wanted to explore. They love this restaurant. It's our first-night-in-Disney tradition. Here's some pictures of their adventures.

    Sometimes it's hard to get pictures in here. Some turn out better with a flash and some without.

    Pretty sure Jason took this one with his phone. His phone takes amazing photos. Even better than our DSLR.

    Blue ice cave

    Red ice cave

    Every 15 minutes or so there's a meteor shower in the restaurant and the dinosaurs start making noise, and the ice cave changes from blue to red and other such fun nonsense. That's why the ice cave is 2 different colors.

    Someone got a hold of the camera then. Bet you can't guess who it was.

    If you said Maura, ding ding ding, you win!

    I know at least Maura ordered desert, even though, as you can see, she got a blue slushy drink in their souvenir bottle (so did Lucy), but this is vacation. Eating rules don't apply. Two desserts? Why not! So Maura got the tar pit I think it's called? Chocolate pudding with Oreos and gummy dinosaurs in it.

    And that was that. We paid out of pocket for this meal. However, we did sign up to be Landry's Select Members before the trip. It cost I believe $20 to join, but you get a $25 credit for your first meal as members on the card. You also get points for every dollar you spend, and $25 credit during your birthday month. So, we got $25 off our meal and they treat you like royalty with this card. That's not an exaggeration. The manager came up to our table to see how we were and to welcome us to the restaurant and thanked us for being part of the Landry's family. You also get preferential seating and don't need a reservation at their restaurants! We've used it at home at Rainforest Cafe and there are TONS of other restaurants owned by them. Well worth the $20 we spent!

    But I'll get off that high horse now. After dinner, we went back to the boats, back to CBR, and got ready for bed. We packed up our two 50lb backpacks for tomorrow. This was our first trip with no stroller, so we wouldn't have the extra storage space so Jason and I were both donning a backpack this trip. We showered, watched TV for a bit and were in bed by 10pm. The next day we'd finally set foot in a park!

    Sorry this was such a short, lame update, but they'll be more exciting soon! Have a great weekend!


    DIS Veteran
    Oct 2, 2006
    I am so bad on the Dis right now! I'm reading and then forgetting to post. Then I go back and forget what I wanted to say. You thought you were lame......I'm the head of the lame department. LOL

    So, let's just say that I'm all caught up. The girls are killing me with their funny face pictures. Love 'em!


    Haunted Mansion or Bust.
    Jul 24, 2012
    Day 3 3/5/18

    Well well well. I know you have forgotten about this TR. For Pete's sake, I had forgotten about this TR. But now that we're in 2020, I can actually start thinking about our September trip and thought I should probably get working on this, because Jason likes to read about our past trips on the way down to Florida for the current trip.

    So no funny business, I'll just get right to the reporting. Bright and early on this chilly March day, we had a reservation at O'hana for 8am. O'hana at breakfast is a must do for us. We all love Lilo and Stitch, and the fact that they just keep bringing you food makes Jason especially happy. The service on this day was particularly fast! The longest we waited was to check in. We waited about 10 minutes for our buzzer, and it went off about 2 minutes later. I barely had time to get any pictures in the Polynesian lobby, but between Jason and I, we did get a couple.

    This is not a great picture, but the skylight is cool. Maura probably took this one.

    Looking out at the Poly. Someday we'll stay here. Jason and I will. When the kids are in college. They'll probably stop speaking to us, but that's okay.

    You think my kids like Stitch?

    And now we were called back to our table. We were seated in sort of that side area off of the main area. We'd never sat there before, so it was nice to have a change. I love the art on the walls.

    In no time at all, our server came and brought out the juice. It's the most delicious juice any of us have ever had and we were fighting over who got to pour the first glass. Maura won as you can see. And I'm not kidding. I don't know what flavor the juice is, papaya? Guava? Mango? Passion fruit? All of the above? It's so yummy. We all dream about it. And believe it or not, Baker's Square of all places has juice that's pretty darn close to the O'hana juice. Sometimes we go to Baker's Square just for the juice.

    Then the food started coming. First these sweet rolls and fruit. Then platters of eggs, bacon, sausage, and Mickey and Stitch waffles.

    Oh yeah, and biscuits! I forgot about those. Jason likes to make biscuit sandwiches with them.

    As we were digging in, the characters started coming around, and who showed up first? None other than the main man himself!

    Stitch was up next. He was funny as always and made a big deal about the many Stitches the girls had with them.

    And last but not least was Lilo. She is always fun and the girls love seeing her. She also was happy to see all the Stitches they had.

    We finished up and headed out! That was the quickest breakfast ever, but it was delicious and we had good character interaction. This ADR is always a must have for us. Even though Lucy will turn 14 on our next trip, she still insists on this one and hasn't grown tired of the characters yet!

    We caught the monorail at the Poly and were at the Magic Kingdom by 9:15! Here'e everyone riding the monorail.

    Jason may or may not be pretending he has no idea who we are.

    Maura has this thing where she thinks the monorail is stinky. We have at least 1 picture of her from every trip holding her nose on it, and this trip was no exception.

    We headed into the front gates and my kids declared a hidden Mickey. These don't count, but they insisted we document it.

    Well, we were in the door, so now on to something fun!


    DIS Veteran
    Oct 2, 2006
    I told you that I was coming over to read! Those girls! Love 'em and their obsession over Stitch. John can't stand Stitch so the only way we get to do Ohana is for dinner when he's not around. But breakfast looks really good! Looking forward to the next chapter. Bring is ooooooonnnnnnn!


    Haunted Mansion or Bust.
    Jul 24, 2012
    I told you that I was coming over to read! Those girls! Love 'em and their obsession over Stitch. John can't stand Stitch so the only way we get to do Ohana is for dinner when he's not around. But breakfast looks really good! Looking forward to the next chapter. Bring is ooooooonnnnnnn!

    I'm so glad you're here! Even if you're the only one! Yeah, we all love Stitch. You should just make John go for breakfast some time. He can go to the bathroom when Stitch comes to your table.:rotfl2:I have another chapter coming now!


    Haunted Mansion or Bust.
    Jul 24, 2012
    Well here we were. FINALLY in a park. We made it in by 9:15. Pretty good considering our breakfast ADR was at 8. We had gone through security at the Poly monorail stop too, so that saved us some time getting in.

    Our first stop was the Firehouse for Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom cards. We had brought our cards from our 2015 trip. We hadn't played a ton then, and we wanted to rectify that this trip. We all got our packs and were sent to Adventureland for our first mission. We headed that way, but first had to stop for some photopass pictures by the castle. It was a might sunny that day, friends.

    Look, the girls can't even keep their eyes open.

    Jason was the smart one. He remembered his sunglasses.

    They add these fun little videos too on Photopass.

    And I think these actually were taken first. A little further up Main Street USA. The sun wasn't so brutal here.

    And here's one I took walking down Main Street USA. The crowds were big that day!

    We headed over to Adventureland and of course there was another Photopass photographer, so we stopped for more pictures. I'm fairly certain the rest of my family sometimes gets sick of stopping for Photopass, but I'm getting my money's worth, darn it!

    The sun was again causing problems.

    Here's one I took because it's tradition to get a picture under the Adventureland sign.

    We headed into Adventureland and worked on our Sorcerers mission. It was fun and we were all fighting over who got to hold the cards and cast the spells. We kept doing the missions over the whole trip, so we all got turns at some point.

    Since we were in Adventureland, we decided to make our first attraction the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. The kids had never been in it, and Jason and I hadn't done that since 2001, so it was time. Lucy scours the vacation planning videos, and had seen a clip about the SFRT and really wanted to check it out. So, off we went.

    The girls enjoyed it and said they want to do it again next time. I couldn't find the Hidden Mickey in the fruit bowl. I think maybe it got moved.

    We kept on heading through Adventureland and stopped for pictures outside POTC. This was our second trip in a row that Pirates was down for refurbing. We were all very sad, but we got some pictures anyway.

    Lucy has said that if Pirates is closed again when we go in September, she's losing all her faith in Disney. She said "Mom, we haven't ridden Pirates in 6 years!" Oh the horrors. Some people have never ridden it kiddo. But, I feel her pain. It's a favorite. It doesn't look like it's slated to be closed when we're there, but we'll see, friends. We'll see.

    After the pictures, we found this little alcove near POTC that we'd never seen before. It looked like a little store, but you didn't actually buy stuff. It was filled with pirate treasure. The girls wanted to check it out, and never ones to miss a chance for dramatics, they posed for this picture.

    continued in next post


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