The All Inclusive Niklewski Family Trip - Very Long Report!
The Georgia Niklewskis -
Sheri (me) - 49 - Accounting Assistant at a library supply company
Rich (husband) - 51 - Senior Buyer at a textile laundering company
We are extremely experienced Disney World visitors and will be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary during this trip although that is not the reason we are going.
The Ohio Niklewskis -
Chris (son) - 29 - wonderful stay at home dad
Chandra (daughter-in-law) - 35 - Full time masters degree student at BGSU (OH)
Marlie (granddaughter) - 13 - Typical teenage girl
Mitchell (grandson) - 5 - All American boy
Chris has been to Disney World seven times (all with us); Chandra and Marlie twice (both with us and Chris); Mitchell is a total rookie and the reason for the trip. We are all looking forward to his reactions to everything and comparing them to Marlies first time when she was the same age.
The Maryland Niklewskis -
Bobbie (mother-in-law) - 77 - Retired nurse and educator
Dave (brother-in-law) - 50 - Space engineer with the US Government
Bobbie has been to Disney World a few times with us and my beloved father-in-law who passed away earlier this year. Dave is not a Disney fan, dislikes crowds and proudly calls himself asocial. After months of back and forth with things, Bobbie and Dave will be at Disney World from Sunday, the 2nd until Friday, the 6th.
The Florida Sowas -
Spike (dad) - 82 - Retired truck driver and scuba instructor with Parkinsonism - he will be using a wheelchair in the parks.
Betty (stepmother) - 67 - Does just about everything and makes the most amazing flavored vinegars and assorted other products.
My dad and Betty live about 2-1/2 hours from Disney World and only go when other family members are there. They will be there from Monday, the 3rd until Thursday, the 5th.
The Beardslees -
Rich B - my brother-in-law (married to my sister, Sandy) - exterminator extraordinaire
Kelsey - my niece (21) - daughter of Rich B and Sandy - cashier with Walgreens for the moment until she can get a job in the medical profession (which she did just before this trip!)
The Beardslees live in Gainesville, FL and I had hoped they all would be able to be at Disney World with us but my sister had drill this weekend since shes part of our Air Force Reserve and my nephew Wesley didnt have his annual pass renewed because hes joining the Marine Corps in April. Rich B and Kelsey will only be there on Sunday for the day.
Introduction (LONG) -
This all started by a four year old boys innocent comment made in early November, 2010. Rich and I were enjoying our final night at the Food & Wine Festival at Epcot when Chris called us from Ohio. His best friend, John, happened to be at Epcot at that very moment so Rich and I tracked him down with the aid of cell phones and had a nice quick visit with John and his girlfriend. Back in Ohio, Chris was telling Chandra about the chance meeting and Mitchell announced that he wanted to go to Disney World. Hes the only one in the family that hasnt been so Chris and Chandra talked it over and decided if their income tax refund was large enough, they would plan a trip. Chris called me that night to let me know to keep some time open so this has been planned for quite awhile.
Chris and I casually discussed a lot of things until the pieces started falling into place. The first decision to be made was exactly when. Chandra doesnt like the heat or crowds and wanted some time close enough to Christmas to see the decorations but not during the high visitation days. I checked the typical date resort rates decrease after the holidays and found it was usually January 2nd. Chris thought about being there right on New Years Eve and dealing with crowds for that one day only to see decorations. That was doable but I warned him about having to pay the very high resort rate for that time. Prices would go down after that but it still would be high for that one night. After he and Chandra talked some more, the desire for low crowds and lower cost won out over Christmas decorations so the time frame became the first full week of January, 2012.
The second decision Chris made, with my help, was to get tickets. I advised him to get them whenever the tax refund came in and then store them somewhere safe. He wouldnt have to worry about price increases and the bulk of the cost of the trip would be done. At the end of February, Chris had the refund and called me to say he was going to get seven day expiring park hoppers passes. I had him stop for a minute and tell me exactly when he thought they would be arriving and when he thought they would be leaving. They would get there on Monday, January 2nd and leave either Sunday, January 8th or Monday, January 9th. I knew they wouldnt arrive in Orlando until the afternoon since they would probably have to go to Detroit to get a direct flight and they wouldnt want to do that early in the morning as the Ohio Niklewskis are not early risers. Detroit is an hour from their house so factor in the hours before the flight for security and I put them leaving up there no earlier than noon and getting into Orlando in the mid-afternoon. They may or may not do a park that day. Then when they left, they may not do a park either so a seven day pass might be one day too many and I didnt want him to waste money. I advised him to get six day expiring park hoppers and if they decided they wanted to do seven days, they could easily add to it once they were there.
Rich and I have annual passes that we renewed in September so we are covered for the entire time.
It took quite a while to get Bobbie and Dave squared away. Bobbie is a worrier so she didnt want to commit to a three day pass because it might storm and we would have to leave earlier. There were no discounts for a two day pass but through Undercover Tourist via MouseSavers, I could get a three day discounted pass (saved $9/ticket) with the fourth day free. I presented that plan to Bobbie in such a way that made it sound like the very best deal and she agreed. I ordered the tickets and had them sent to my house because Bobbie was afraid she would forget them and that led to an interesting issue with Undercover Tourist. I had ordered the tickets using Bobbies credit card that still has my father-in-laws name on it. But the shipping address didnt match the billing address so I received a phone call from Undercover Tourist to verify this wasnt fraudulent activity. It was all cleared up with one quick phone call and the tickets arrived within four days of my ordering.
My dad and Betty have Florida seasonal passes with blackout dates but everything works with when we are going. They just cant be in the parks on a weekend, holiday or summer.
Rich B and Kelsey have annual passes my sister bought through the military.
Getting There -
Chris family will be flying and he wanted to get the airfare right away but I advised him to wait. He knew he did not want to go through Atlanta because he says in January there is a high risk of the airport closing down for snow and/or ice. I cant blame him for that even though he does think we are a bunch of pansies since this area shuts down completely for even one inch of snow. Chris knew a direct flight would be great because Chandra gets extremely nervous when she flies thanks to her mother filling her with doom and gloom stories since Chandra was a baby. Chris kept looking for flights out of Detroit and called me one night in late May and asked if I thought $178 direct round trip on Delta was a good deal. I said hell yes, book that baby right now! They will leave from Detroit at 10:00 AM and get into Orlando around 1:00 PM. Then they will leave Orlando at 6:20 PM which will give them plenty of time to deal with Magical Express and maybe even visit a park that day. Arrival back into Detroit around 9:00 PM. I felt a big sense of relief at this point.
I set Chris up with Magical Express in mid-October. I waited so I could be sure nothing major was going to change with the flights. But change they did as over the Thanksgiving weekend, Chris received an email from Delta saying the flight number had changed - not the time, just the flight number. I called Disney and had that new information in the system.
Rich and I will be driving from Georgia; Bobbie and Dave from Maryland ; my dad and Betty from Ft. White, Florida; Rich B and Kelsey from Gainesville, FL. Rich and I will be arriving in Kissimmee on Sunday and staying offsite and after months of indecision, Bobbie decided she and Dave would do the same. So we will be able to check into three of the four rooms Monday morning.
The final decision, which really wasnt a decision at all, was the resort. Rich and I are devoted to Pop Century and since Chris has never stayed there, it was a very quick mutual choice as in Chris saying were looking at staying at Pop Century and me saying excellent. In mid-June, after the 2012 packages were announced, I called to make two rooms reservations for us and Chris. At this time, Bobbie had no idea when they would arrive or depart since Dave doesnt make plans more than a week in advance and then not really plans. Bobbie decided she would deal with a hotel later and I left it alone until after I made our Disney reservations so Chris and I would be set.
I called on a lunch break on a Monday in early June. I phoned instead of doing this online because I wanted to be able to get the two rooms at the same time so they would be linked together. I know you can do that after the fact but we knew wed be traveling together so why not just do everything at once with a real live person? The only thing I did differently than anyone else was to put Rich into the room with Chandra and the kids and Chris into the room with me. Since I booked so early, I had to do it at the rack rate and I was hoping for an annual pass discount to come out later. You can only make one room reservation per annual pass and that passholder has to be listed on the room roster, so I split up Rich and me and then Chris and Rich will simply switch resort keys. That will work in this case since our resort keys will only be for access to the room. We will not have the dining plan and if we do have charging privileges, we can work all that out amongst ourselves. Extra Magic Hours wont be a problem either since both Rich and Chris would have a room key and both are registered as a Disney guest and will be staying in a Disney room for the entire time.
And since I did the rooms this way, Rich could check in Chris room and I could check in our room early Monday morning. Once Chris and his family arrived, we all could just hit the parks with no stop at the front desk.
I emailed Bobbie and told her I made the resort reservations for Chris and us. She was a bit surprised as I had originally suggested I get everything done for her and Dave for the full time for them and then we could go back later and take off the nights they wouldnt be there. She said they would at least arrive on January 2nd and leave on Thursday, the 5th but if Dave wants to stay longer, we can. I love my mother-in-law and brother-in-law but Disney aint the motel down the street where you can simply say hey, we decided to stay longer and expect to have the room extended.
I called the next week on another lunch break to make Bobbies reservation and explained to the Cast Member that I already had two reservations and now we had two additional people so I wanted a room only reservation to be linked to the first two. The Cast Member had my original plans in front of her and saw there were already six people in the group so with the two additional ones, we now were a Grand Gathering. I didnt really want all that hoopla but was transferred over to that department where I was able to make Bobbies reservation and now register all of us as The Niklewski Family Reunion. That was not my choice of titles but the Cast Member wanted to make it cute. Were not cute people but this is Disney World and they want everyone to be happy. The good thing about the Grand Gathering designation is that I think we are much higher on the totem pole as far as getting all the rooms together. But if that doesnt happen, well be fine too. I dont anticipate making any resort requests although Chandra wants first floor because shes concerned Mitchell will be jumping off the beds and bothering anyone below us. I figure its Disney World, there are a million kids and people need to be a bit understanding. Plus, Chris doesnt let Mitchell get away with much so if he (Mitchell, not Chris) starts getting really wild, hell get put into a time out. Of course, if Chris starts getting really wild, well put him into a time out as well.
After I finally had all the resort reservations made, I emailed Bobbie with the information. She asked what the final cost would be for Chris and our room and when I told her, she replied that she would be happy to take care of that expense for our anniversary and Chris Christmas present! Wow! We hadnt really expected this so I was a bit overwhelmed by it.
The annual passholder discounts didnt come out but in early October, a general discount did. 25% off at Pop Century! I happened to be at home that afternoon since the brakes on my car decided to sound like an airplane taking off so I called and asked if the discount could be applied to all three existing reservations. It could and was so I ended up saving our group about $471! Our rate now is $70.50 for four of the seven nights and $85.50 for the marathon weekend. I emailed everyone and did a very happy dance at home. Honestly, $605.81 (without tax) for seven nights at Disney World is a true bargain when you get to spend the time with people you love.
Well, then the passholder rates did come out and I was able to get our rates down even further! And much to my surprise, I was able to get the rate applied to all three rooms, even though Bobbies room wouldnt have a passholder registered in it. I just have to be there when they check in so I am really going to push for them to make plans.
And then the last piece, I think. My dad and Betty came to Disney World while Rich and I were there at the end of October for the Food & Wine Festival. During that visit, Betty said they would be able to do the January trip and could I get them into Pop Century as well? I had told her the rate earlier and she thought that was a great deal. So I called when I returned home and told the Cast Member we had two full annual passholders in the group so I thought I could add another room. Im not sure if he totally understood what I said because after I hung up and did the math, I realized we didnt get the annual passholder rate. I called back again and it was corrected so we all have the same rate. The only bad thing is either Rich or myself will have to be there when the older folks check in. Although I am going to plead when we get there to check everyone in all together. I know the older folks will be clueless with how Disney does things.
I made only one room request and that was for my dad. Hes going to be in his own wheelchair for the parks so I called and requested a handicapped accessible room on the first floor as this will help out a lot for Betty. I also said the other three rooms just needed to be close by so well see what we get. The only thing I needed at this point is a room for my dad to be happy. After I made that call, I got a voice mail from Disney saying that the only room they would have available for my dad would be a standard view room (the other views are pool view) but the other rooms would be very close by. I called Disney back and asked if we could switch everyone over to standard view but because we had two rooms through the weekend, I could only move Bobbie to a standard view as they were leaving before the marathon crowds came. That will work as the older folk will be close together.
The Christmas Surprise
Chris and Chandra wanted to give this trip to their kids as a Christmas present. This was possibly the hardest thing of all because of Marlie. Once she turned 13, she was able to have a Facebook account so I could not post anything about this trip out there at all. I know kids younger than 13 have Facebook accounts but Chandra and Marlies dad decided she would have to wait until the official age limit and I gladly supported them on this. I also had to be careful with any IMs I sent Chris (we talk frequently) as I didnt know if little pitchers with big ears would be watching from behind so I sent lots of things via emails. Bobbie wouldnt know a Facebook if she tripped over it and while Rich now has a Facebook account, he doesnt post on there very much and is still confused with everything. And Dave, well, Dave, you can guess what he thought of all this. So I was the weakest link.
Marlie went to Cedar Point in early August and posted on Facebook that she loved the experience and loved going upside down. It was all I could do NOT to post just wait until you do Rock N Roller Coaster in January. I sent Chris and Chandra a very nasty email about the torture I was going through 800 miles away.
Chris bought us webcams and Rich installed ours and did a test run while Chandra and the kids were making Christmas cookies. We will be able to see Marlie and Mitchell opening their Christmas presents and getting the big surprise. I dont think technology has anyone growing apart because we would have never been able to participate in this special moment without Skype and webcams.
The Marathon -
We will be at Disney World during the Marathon weekend and I knew that going into everything and knew the resort prices would be higher on the weekend for that event but it still wasnt that big of a deal. On a lark, I sent the info to Chandra because Marlie is a runner for her school and much to my surprise, Chandra registered Mitchell for the kids 200 meter dash and Marlie for the Mickey Mile! The prices are ridiculously affordable - $10 for Mitchell and $25 for Marlie and they get swag as Chandra said. They also will be able to participate in a Disney event that most kids never even heard of so this will be a very unique experience for all of us. Rich and I have never been to the ESPN Wide World of Sports and I am looking forward to being on those grounds for the first time and really looking forward to cheering on my grandkids in the competition.
I went to the doctor a few weeks before the trip to get a complete physical which I hadnt had for quite some time. I had never met this particular doctor but he was our primary because our other one had died six years previous (goes to show you how often I get ill). Anyway, after going through everything, I asked about the broken neck, we talked, the doctor examined and determined that there was no reason for me to avoid roller coasters so Im busting some moves on this trip. I havent done a lot of the thrill rides at Disney World since 2005. I am so excited and a little nervous too. But life is a thrill ride so Ill enjoy it.
Chris and I talked extensively touring because we wanted it all up front that there was no way in heck the ten of us would be able to stick together all day long at one park or even decide jointly which park to start out in or which park to end up in. This is really Chris trip and were along for the ride. Rich and I have been to Disney World many times and plan to continue going long after this visit. This could be Chris once in a lifetime trip with his little family so we will adjust our plans to his as much as we can. Chris already knows Rich and I have a low tolerance for Magic Kingdom and he said he expects us to bail out during those days and head to Epcot when the kid factor becomes too much. Even though Chris has lived away from us for over 10 years, he still knows us extremely well! All of us will be very flexible with each other and let the ten of us do whatever we want whether it be all together, the Ohio Niklewskis on their own, the Georgia Niklewskis on their own, breaking down into different pairs, or if Rich and I just take one or two of the grandkids with us. Bobbie will get to choose what she wants to do as well (although she loves to say whatever you want to do is fine with me). Dave will do the same and if he just wants to sit on a bench and read, he can. My dad and Betty will be able to adjust to my dads schedule since he will be in a wheelchair for the touring part of the trip. There are absolutely no expectations of all of us doing everything together. If you are doing a large family gathering, I think that needs to be expressed up front and honestly. Chris and I had no problems doing this since we both know Disney World and we know each other quite well. The only bad thing will be doing this trip report with all the different groupings!
In mid-December I sent an email to all the parties involved and explained that the plan for Disney World was really no plan at all. That everyone should feel free to get up when they wanted, come back from the parks when they wanted, be with who they wanted or just go off on their own. Im not sure how this will go over with the older folk but well see. I also enforced the notion of being *gasp* honest with each other so no one felt pressured to do anything they wanted or, on the reverse, be denied doing something they wanted.
Mitchell, at the age of five and a half, will need to be monitored for his height level. At this point, we think he will be able to do anything with a 40 inch requirement but not anything over that. So that means the following attractions will not be ridden by Mitchell on this trip and he will know that before we go:
Animal Kingdom - Primeval Whirl and Expedition Everest
Epcot - Sum of all Thrills (if thats considered a ride) and Mission:Space
Studios - Rock and Roller Coaster
Magic Kingdom - Space Mountain
Thats really not a huge long list but we will get FastPasses for everyone and one person will sit out with Mitchell for the first go round and well make use of the other two FastPasses for another round. More than likely, Marlie will go twice with the adult who sat out. But there will be no making kids go on attractions they dont want to do. We did that with Marlie on her first trip and it was a disaster with Pirates of the Caribbean. We learned our lesson and we think Mitchell will be the total opposite and want to ride everything but well see. We did do a trial run at the World of Coke here in Atlanta during Christmas time. They have a 3D movie so we tried Mitchell out on that and he had no problems so I think well be fine with him.
Chris thought we would be doing table service dinners at Disney World and I kind of chuckled and told him to look at the menus. In fact, I was speechless for a while until I sputtered out that lunches would be a better choice because of the prices. It didnt take Chris very long to rule out Disney table service dinners too! So we will be doing counter service for all but two of the meals.
We thought a family friend would be joining us on Saturday and planned to do the Studios that day. Since we would be seven people at that point (just the Georgia and Ohio Niklewskis would be left), my first choice of Sci Fi Dine Inn wasnt an option as I dont think the experience would be all that special if we couldnt sit in a car so I made a reservation at 50s Prime Time. However, the friend bailed out so I was able to get a seating just a week in advance for the six of us at Sci Fi for January 7th.
The other reservation is only for Chris and Chandra to give them some alone time. They had thought about a resort lunch and then had to decide on a date. I suggested after the older folks left which meant Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Friday was out because of the marathon and we already had plans for Saturday so it became a Sunday lunch. Chris looked at the menus and decided on The Wave so I made a reservation for two. Rich and I will gladly spend some time alone with the grandkids.
We will have one big meal all together on the first night everyone is there at Pop Century. Richs and my 30th wedding anniversary is January 3rd so we will be celebrating that with the family on Monday. Rich and I are very simple people and thats how we wanted the celebration. So we will be gathering everyone together at the resort and ordering pizza. This will be our first day there and people will be tired from the traveling and everyone will just be getting settled in so it works out perfectly. Then we will really begin our touring on Tuesday.
Offsite Resort -
I made reservations for Sunday, January 1 at the Ramada Gateway on Highway 192 for us and Bobbie and Dave since we will all be driving in on that day. All we are planning to do is meet up and have dinner offsite so our accommodations dont have to be fancy. The rooms are about $45 and Rich and I have stayed here before and its fine for our needs since those are very simple.
Monday, December 26, 2011 -THE SECRET IS OUT!!!!!
Around 7:30 PM, Chris texted us Marlie was on her way home from her dads and we should get ready. About a half hour later, we were all logged into Skype and had the webcams going. The surprise is finally going to happen!
This was Richs and my Christmas. Rich had given me a video camera and I had given him an autographed Tony Gonzalez football helmet so we were all done. But this was Marlies day so we Skyped and saw her open all her presents from everyone (including Santa) and then Chris finally said Mom, you can record now. And I did.
Chandra had Marlie and Mitchell come towards her and told them since she knew they loved running and being fit, she entered them in a marathon (remember, the kids are in the marathon stuff). She gave them the information and between her and Chris asked Marlie to see where she was running. Well, you have to see the video for Marlies reaction but I can tell you my hands started to shake. I think ohmygod was audible. Well, it was because it was kind of yelled. Mitchell didnt really know what was going on (hes only five). Then Chris showed Marlie when she would be running and it was explained they would be leaving in a week. Marlie ran over and hugged Chris big time. My heart broke with that. I cannot express that moment in time.
To be 800 miles away and to see that moment. That one special moment that took a year to make and a few seconds to appreciate. But a lifetime of memories.
Mitchell still didnt get it but once Chris said Mitchell, you are going on an airplane! well, then things were going crazy with him.
It was an awesome time with the kids finding out. And I got it all on video. A video of the computer feed but we were there and I will never forget that moment. Ever.
Day Zero Saturday, December 31, 2011 - Goodbye 2011, Hello Disney World!!!!
I'm including this day since it shows what we did to get ready to leave tomorrow. Rich was up and at his weekly racquetball sessions while I was doing all the laundry. This is a normal thing in our house so nothing unusual. During the past month, anything I wanted to take to Disney World (except clothes) went onto the kitchen table and that way I knew we hadn't forgotten anything as long as the table was cleared off. Once Rich got home with the last of the laundry (I did not want smelling gym clothes sitting in the hamper for over a week!), I finished that task and then we each packed our own suitcase plus one small bag just for Sunday night. After that was accomplished, we loaded up my car, Maxx, and then had the rest of the evening to relax. We were all done by 5:30 PM and did not work steadily so it was a very stress-free way to get ready for the long trip.
I hadnt mention it yet but we were taking our mini-fridge with us for this long vacation. We used it for the October Food and Wine Festival and loved the convenience of not having to bother with getting ice twice a day for a cooler. Its a bit of a problem with fitting everything into Maxx but we dont have anyone in the back seat so our suitcases go there.
Rich called Bobbie after we figured she and Dave were settled in for the night. They had left Maryland yesterday morning so we thought they would be at least close to Florida by tonight. Well, we had a good laugh and reminded ourselves this is why we can't travel with Bobbie and Dave. They hadn't even made it out of Virginia Friday night, stopping in Virginia Beach. Tonight, they were in Myrtle Beach, SC so tomorrow they had just as long of a drive as we did. But that's how they travel and I guess if you have the time and want to take it, you should do it.
We did not stay up until midnight, preferring to get a good night's sleep so I was snoozing by 10:30 and Rich wasn't that far behind.
Day One - Sunday, January 1, 2012 - The New Year and the Journey Begins
The alarm went off at 7:00 and I was up first to Rich's surprise. We are going to Disney World, of course I'm up first!! Since we were only taking one bag for tonight, we were able to take our time and didn't leave the house until our emails were done and the cats were properly fed, watered and loved until the sitter comes tomorrow. We had a stop at Wal Mart and were on the road around 8:45. There's not much to say about the drive since traffic was non existent. We had a lunch break for take out McDonald's and one stop for gas plus a few rest area breaks and were pulling into the Ramada Gateway parking lot around 4:30.
The security guard quickly found our name on the list which was an improvement over last time we stayed here. I thought it went too quickly as there would have been two Niklewskis on the list but it was easy, at least for us. There was only one other person waiting to be checked in but both the desk clerks were occupied with other guests and that seemed to take forever. When I was helped, I had a bit of a scare when the woman asked me when I made the reservation. I thought she couldn't find it but she had the information so I didn't quite understand. But all was good and she asked if we wanted both rooms now but since I wasn't paying for Bobbie's room, I said just ours. Then the woman asked if we wanted to be close together and I replied in the affirmative so she blocked out Bobbie's room next to us. Rich was standing right beside me this entire time but it was only after we got back to the car that he said "we probably could have paid for my mother's room." I wanted to go back and do that but he said "it's too late now." A very annoying thing about my husband he doesn't want to know travel details but then has some good ideas I could have used while planning.
We were able to unpack quickly as we had minimal things to take in since we were leaving everything else but essentials in Maxx for the night. Then we turned the TV on for the most important information of the day the Atlanta Falcons were playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the afternoon football game that just started. Since this was a regional game and Tampa Bay is nearby, we knew we would be able to see it. We were extremely happy as the Falcons ended up killing the Bucs and getting the #5 seed in the NFL playoffs. We don't expect the Falcons to go very far but you never know.
Rich called Bobbie and they were on I4 very close to Disney World so waited about a half hour until they arrived. They had a problem with the gate guard as I guess she had crossed off Niklewski from her list without realizing there were two. But Bobbie's check in was easier as everything was ready for her. Once they were in their room (with about ten bags), we visited in our room and saw more of the blowout football game. I showed Bobbie and Dave the video of Marlie and Mitchell finding out about going to Disney World which amazed Bobbie that it was on the PC. Actually, it amazed me as I had no idea what I was doing when I was downloading everything yesterday!
Dinner had kind of already been decided by Rich and me as being Denny's but we had to do the Niklewski Restaurant Dance anyway since Dave mentioned IHOP and Rich said something about Bob Evans but after some back and forth, we went to Denny's. Glad I don't have to worry about that for the next week.
The meal was good and cheap especially after Rich used his AARP 20% discount for which Bobbie felt guilty about because she said Denny's is cheap enough to begin with. But hey 20% is 20%! Then we had to stop at Target for the obligatory milk and orange juice for the Maryland gang and I had been tasked to get some sunblock for the Ohio folks. We had first stopped at a Walgreens because Bobbie also needed dental floss but quickly left there as the two lines were each about 20 people deep. Target wasn't really any better and we wondered just where the heck all these people came from. Rich said he hadn't even seen a place this crowded even in the Atlanta area on Christmas Eve. We made it back to the Ramada and then said good night as Bobbie said she was exhausted from the three days of driving. It should be interesting in the next few days as Bobbie goes to bed around 9:30 but that's why each group has their own room at Pop Century.
Rich and I went to our room where he watched the Sunday night football game, mainly to see what was happening with the playoffs, and I finished reading Stephen King's new book, 11/22/63, that Rich had gotten me for Christmas. Rich kind of laughed when I was done because I read the entire tome in one week. It was that good. Then lights out around 11:00 or so.
Day Two Monday, January 2, 2012 - Our Family is not Dysfunctional, its Disorganized!
We didn't set an alarm for today but I've gotten to the point in my life where getting more than eight hours of sleep (if that) just isn't going to happen so I was awake by 7:00 but stayed in bed until 7:45 so I didn't disturb Rich. But then I had to get up and since there was nothing to do, I set up the laptop to work on the report. Rich snoozed for a bit more but then was finally up about a half hour later.
I worked on the report while Rich got caught up on sports news and both of us got ready for the day. Once that was accomplished and we had heard nothing from the Maryland folks next door, I made Rich go over there to find out their status and I followed a few minutes later. Dave was still in bed and Bobbie hadn't even finished her breakfast yet! I had told Bobbie last night I wanted to be at Pop Century and checking by 10:00 but now she said that Rich told her it was a noon check out here and that's what Dave was depending on. WTF? I was not very happy at all and showed it by glaring at my husband of 29 years and 364 days (would be make it to an even 30 years?) and silently going over to our room. Rich returned and said Dave was getting up and Bobbie would be finishing her breakfast very soon. Sometimes I have to play the evil witch to get anything done in our family.
I had vowed not to over plan this trip and to let everyone do their own thing. However, coordinating the schedules of today would be my sole responsibility mainly because I was the planner and knew everyone's schedules. Bobbie kept asking when Chris would be arriving, Rich had no idea of when my dad and Betty would be getting here, and Dave was totally clueless on everything. Getting to Pop Century before their checkout time of 11:00 was sort of critical to my plans since I didn't do online check in because of having four rooms. But the plan was going to be blown to hell since it was now 9:30. I had my few moments of pouting alone but then decided not to start the trip in a bad mood and got over it as soon as I could.
While all this was going on, Chris texted to say they were boarding the plane in Detroit so all was good there. He had posted on Facebook, "goodbye snow, we are on the way to Disney World!" so I hoped there hadn't been a snow storm up north that would cause problems for them. Once it was 10:00 (when we should have been checking into Pop Century, grumble, grumble), I got my phone logged into delta.com and started tracking the flight.
The four of us in Florida (well, my dad and Betty were in Florida but not part of the group yet) were finally packed up and checking out of the Ramada around 10:30 and I had just received a voice mail from Betty saying they were at Best Friends checking in my fur sister, Kaycee. She (Betty, not Kaycee) would call again once the humans were Pop Century bound. Chris' plane still had not left Detroit and had been in the "awaiting takeoff" mode for the past half hour. That had me slightly worried but there was nothing I could do about it. Finally, shortly after we left the Ramada, the status was changed to "in flight". Chris later told me they sat for deicing all that time and I had a flashback to Richs and my honeymoon journey back in 1982 when the Air Florida flight crashed into the Potomac River because of improper deicing procedures. We were on our way back from Disney World and heard the tragic news. I am so very glad Delta took their time with my familys flight today.
We were at the security gate at Pop Century in just a few minutes and the guard caused Rich to start complaining. He drove us and his wallet with his ID is always in his back pocket so I had my driver's license out and ready. However, the guard needed to see Rich's license since he was the driver. Rich muttered that had never happened before and the guard kind of snidely replied, "they change the rules on us every day, sir". But the fallacy in this logic is that nothing was ever checked to see if we actually had a reservation at Pop Century. Just the driver's photo ID. We could have been the ringleaders of a group of thieves coming onto property as long as we had a photo ID for the driver of the getaway car. Bobbie and Dave were treated the same so it was a consistently stupid rule at least.
All four of us went into the lobby area and my thinking about timing was so very correct. The check in line was beyond the queue ropes! We had no choice but to stand in the line. Dave bailed very quickly since (1) he didnt have to be there and (2) he does not like lots of people around and the lobby was mobbed. He wandered around the food court and store and looked out at the pool area while Bobbie, Rich and I kept shuffling forward.
Betty called and asked if we were in the "mess in the lobby" so I directed her down to where we were. Fortunately, we were at a point in the line where she could stand on the outside of the queue rope and keep moving up with us. I didn't feel this was cutting in line since it was going to take just the same amount of time with or without her there. My dad stayed in the van because it was too much of a hassle to get the wheelchair out. Walking in was not an option as he attempted it but fell almost immediately.
We were finally helped and I did most of the talking saying we were part of a grand gathering and had four rooms to check in. The Cast Member was very nice but the look on his face for a moment was pretty funny. He just said "it's going to take a while" but it really wasn't that bad at all. Basically, the normal time to check in four rooms. All I had to do was hand over my driver's license (good enough here, not good enough for the gate guard) and the Cast Member went to work. He did Betty's room first which was great so she could get back to my dad. I saw the room number of 1153 so knew that not only did she get the first floor handicapped room I requested but it was ready now. She took her information and after a few instructions from Rich on where to park and how to use the room key, she left to get my dad situated.
Bobbie's room was next and she was in 1152 which was next door to Betty so that was very good. Things are looking up. Then Rich's room (actually Chris' room) was 1154. I was sort of disappointed with that because I thought we had pool view rooms and I was certain this was on the other side of Betty's room which meant standard view. But the price was pool view. I didn't say anything though, since I wasn't sure of the exact location. Then finally my room which was 11--. Crap. The one room I wanted to be ready wasn't. The Cast Member said to put my things into the other room but he didn't know this was really mine and Rich's and we had the refrigerator we wanted to get set up. Oh well, we will make do. I would get texted with the room number later.
During this process, the couple next to us had mentioned it was their first trip so they were given buttons for the occasion. That prompted Bobbie to say something about our anniversary and Rich to roll his eyes. The Cast Member passed over two Happy Anniversary pins and my husband groaned. He is not big on celebrations but hes at Disney World and will have to adapt!
Bobbie, Rich and I made out way back to the cars where Dave was supposed to be waiting for us, having finished his inspection of the lobby and pool area. He wasn't there but we quickly saw him approaching so we drove over to the 50s parking and located building one and began the unloading process. Rich and I left some of our things in Maxx but took a lot of it into Chris' room. I saw this room was connecting to 1155 on the one side and had a feeling that was our room and mentioned it. Rich kept insisting the Cast Member had circled a room on the other side of the building since we had a pool view as well. I said I doubted it and things broke down quickly.
Rich was concerned with paying for a pool view when Chris' room was a standard view. He wanted to know the difference in price. I said I didn't know (it was something like $5/night and I did know that but I wasn't going to discuss it at this point). So Rich got a little upset with my reply. Then Bobbie said if the other room was a pool view room, we should switch with Chris so the kids could be right at the pool. I said we should wait until we got the room number and then we'd go from there but it would be difficult since Chris' room had four keys, ours had two. Rich said Mitchell wouldn't need his key at all and Marlie would not be alone so Chris could make do with just two keys. I reiterated that we should wait until we had the location of that fourth room. The discussion between Rich and Bobbie didn't stop although my participation did. I wish these people would simply trust me.
Betty came over and asked if we knew directions to a liquor store. My dad likes to have his 7&7's at night and he was out of the alcoholic 7 and their counties don't sell the hard stuff on Sundays so they couldnt get it yesterday. We knew there was a hard liquor option at the Wal Mart and once Dave heard the magical Mart word, he wanted to go since he thought it was too hot in the room and needed a fan. Now, the thermostat in the room was set at 74 which is normal for Disney to do when no one in present. Dave turned it down to 68 (the lowest temp) right away but it didn't cool down fast enough for him. I will admit that Dave has always had a problem with heat and will usually have a fan going even in the Maryland winters so he was uncomfortable. Betty still hadn't gotten my dad out of the car so she took off to go to Wal Mart while Rich and Dave took Maxx to the same place. I warned Rich to be back quickly as I wanted him there when Chris arrived. At this point, I felt so overwhelmed with everything and it was just after noon on the first day! How was I going to survive four more people and another seven days?!
While the guys were out, I visited with Bobbie and Chris texted that they had landed safely in Orlando! Yay! Chandra has anxiety about flying and had a prescription to help out with that. Chris compared her to Kristen Wiig in the Bridesmaid airplane scene but he said she had at least stopped giggling now. I let Rich know Chris was on the ground and he replied that Wal Mart had no fans as they consider them seasonal items and it wasn't the season for them. Dave wasn't that happy but the room felt more comfortable to me (Dave never got nor needed a fan for the trip). Chris was to text when the Magical Express bus pulled out.
Rich and Dave made it back as did Betty with my dad's 7. Chris texted the bus was leaving so I let Betty know but she and my dad were eating lunch so they would meet us at the Magical Express drop off while Bobbie, Dave, Rich and I went down there right away. I took Bobbie and Dave through the shadowbox area of the lobby since neither one had seen it and once done with that, we went outside to wait for Magical Express. My dad and Betty joined us after a short time and within about ten minutes, the bus was pulling up! The entire group will finally be together!
I videoed everyone getting off the bus, including all the hugs and handshakes. Chandra was feeling much better now and I told her I had a pina colada waiting in the room for her as she thought she would need it after the flight. Of course, that was before she got the prescription for the anxiety!
All ten of us straggled back to our respective rooms with Bobbie asking again if I got a text about our room number yet. Sigh, no, damn it. Once in the rooms, the discussion was centered on what we were going to do with the rest of the day. Chris informs me that now he's thinking about not going to a park because he only has a six day pass. Grr. I think my mouth dropped open a bit but after a short conversation, it was decided that they would get at least one more day on their pass so the kids could do something today. That was good as I thought everyone else wanted to do Epcot like was talked about for months.
Marlie saw our gifts to her and Mitchell and it was a bit funny. We decided to give each child $100 gift card and I put them in nice boxes (on sale after Christmas which was nice). Marlie said thats a lot of zeroes but I like it. Not sure Mitchell understood the whole thing. I told both kids the money was for things they wanted, not for things they needed. It was fun money for them.
We all headed to the buses and I showed Betty where to stand with the wheelchair while the other eight of us went to the regular queue line which consisted of about four other people. Bobbie eventually joined Betty and my dad and the Epcot bus pulled up quickly. Our first Disney adventure! And then the "fun" began.
I had thought about this day for months and had it planned out in my mind although I never spoke of it. I envisioned our group slowly making our way around World Showcase in the bright Florida sun, Mitchell starting his Duffy mask, all of us enjoying the wonderful entertainment, laughing and having such a magical first half day. I guess the lesson is to never ever think any Disney World trip is going to go along with what is in your mind.
The reality was only eight of us made it through the turnstile. My dad and Betty have seasonal Florida passes not good on the weekends, holidays or during the summer. Today was Monday so not a problem and it definitely wasn't the summer. But it was a holiday and all of us had forgotten about that. So those two had to turn around and go back to Pop Century.
The kids encountered Stitch after we went past the Leave a Legacy tiles so we paused for some photo ops there. The Leave a Legacy thing was kind of funny as most of my group (including Rich) were confused on why someone would want to have their almost non-recognizable photo on a piece of marble or granite or whatever that is at the entrance to Epcot. But, our outdated brick is over by Magic Kingdom where people were stepping on it for years. I say were because its now in the exit area and very difficult to find these days.
The reality was all Mitchell wanted to do were "rides" and the first thing up was Spaceship Earth with a long line but a five year old can't be denied so we joined the queue since it was continuously moving. Everyone enjoyed the trip to the future so it was a hit. Although Mitchell wanted to do just about everything in the post show. We finally were able to get him out of there with Chris and Chandra promising he could do more rides. The problem was the Maryland and Georgia adults wanted to do a walk around a Walk Showcase and get a German beer. So the reality was the Ohio group went to The Living Seas with Nemo while the other four went to World Showcase.
As we were exiting Spaceship Earth, my phone buzzed with the news of the last room number. As I suspected, we were in 1155, connecting with Chris in 1154 and not a pool view. Which led Bobbie and Rich to start insisting I do something about paying for a view we didn't get. Since I couldn't do anything from Spaceship Earth, no matter what Judy Densch tells us about communication, I said I would take care of it later. At this point, I wanted my husband and his mother to shut the hell up unless they wanted to do the Disney planning in the future.
Rich and I picked up beers at the Promenade Refreshment stand, now back from the hostile takeover of the Food and Wine Festival. Then we traveled to the United Kingdom and heard the British Revolution so went back there for a quick look. Dave seemed to enjoy and I think Bobbie did as well. When we continued, we came upon Alice and were surprised to see Dave stop to get her picture. We thought, being a single 50 year old male, he wanted to get all the Disney female characters. But we were wrong. Turns out Alice in Wonderland is his favorite book. Not the Disney movie but the original book. We learned something about my brother-in-law today.
The four of us just walked around the Showcase, stopping in Germany for the German beer Dave had been wanting all day. It was quite funny as while we were standing in the line, Dave asked Bobbie if she wanted a wine. She refused since she doesn't believe in paying for something she has back in the room. I told Dave his mistake was asking her he should have just gotten it and so he did. It was amusing as when he gave it to her, she didn't protest at all, just took it and drank it. The other three of us had German beers.
The sun had gone down and it was turning colder fairly fast. We all were wearing light jackets so had a chilly rest of the walk around the Showcase and only made one stop in China for me to look at necklaces. I had bought one on the last trip and wanted to see if there were any others that interested me. There were some possibilities so I filed it away mentally.
The Ohio kids went to the Living Seas, walking right onto the clamshells (remember that) and then doing some of the exhibits and Turtle Talk with Crush which was a big hit with Mitchell. Chris proclaimed Crush "awesome" and marveled at the technology.
We all met up at the entrance to World Showcase and walked out together but then split up again as the Ohio kids wanted to take the monorail in case they didn't have a chance later (and it would be a "ride") and then they would get the Magic Kingdom bus back to Pop Century. The rest of us took the Epcot bus back so Rich and I could get unpacked which was going to take a while. Our original plan was to have our anniversary pizza party tonight but that was not going to happen with all the disorganized mess of ten different people with four different groups for most of the day. I called Betty and let her know of the plan so she and my dad went to the food court while we made our way back.
The four of us went through the food court just to see what was there and Rich mentioned to me that we had some Hickory Farms sausages and cheeses in our room (or would soon). That sounded good to me for my dinner. I was a bit fried from trying to get everything coordinated today and all I wanted was a spiked lemonade and peace and quiet.
The Ohio folks returned so most everyone ventured to the food court while I stayed in the room to get settled. I asked for a fruit cup to go along with the sausages and then had some quiet time. Actually, more than I thought I would. It turned out some of the people got food that needed to be eaten in the court (not very easily transported back to the room) and once that happened, others started to eat as well. I ended up enjoying my simple dinner on my own until everyone else returned. I think Bobbie had some cereal in her room.
Chris and his family and Rich and I visited for a while and the older folk, since it was well after 9:00 by this time, got ready to retire for the evening. I was very glad we did four rooms as Bobbie and Dave have their own familiar routine and my dad and Betty have theirs. Since Chris and we had connecting rooms, it was very easy for us to coordinate our doings but once Rich and I were ready to go to bed, it was simple just to shut the door in between and have our privacy. I could not imagine having this happen if all ten of us shared accommodations either in a Disney suite or an offsite house.
Day Three Tuesday, January 3, 2012 - Happy Very Cold Anniversary!
Happy Anniversary to us! This would be our coldest day of the trip and, thanks to Bobbie's constant watching of the Weather Channel plus Rich's newspaper addiction, we knew it in advance and were well prepared. Well, all of us except one. Chandra really didn't have any cold weather gear (an Ohio person didn't bring heavier outerwear, go figure).
As I would do every morning of the trip, I was up first and went down to Everything Pop for a newspaper for Rich. The line for the front desk wasn't that busy so I checked into the drama of the pool view versus standard room situation. It turns out we were all changed to a standard view and charged appropriately. The balances I had looked at were after the change so everything was good. See - my mother-in-law and husband should trust Disney but at least I could let everyone know we werent getting ripped off.
When I was back in the room, Chris texted and asked if Chandra was with us since she and Mitchell were missing. Turns out the little guy woke up early so the two of them went for a walk around the grounds. The younger folk were ready to go much earlier than our elders so we left for the buses to the Studios and then would meet up once we were all in the same place.
Chris made sure Rich wore his Happy Anniversary button today and even though Rich protested, I dont think he minded all that much. We did get some greetings which always managed to catch us off guard. We dont normally celebrate events like this since its just the two of us now.
The Ohio and Georgia Niklewskis headed for what turned out to be a completely packed Studios bus. The older folk didn't have much luck later on and we chalked it up to everyone having the same idea as us. Much of the Studios is inside and that's what was needed for such a cold day. The temperatures would not get above 45 degrees today no matter what the forecasters predicted.
A note about the packed bus. I don't understand why perfectly normal human beings cannot understand the concept of boarding a bus and moving all the way to the back so others behind them can board. Why do people feel the need to stop halfway down? It's not like we all aren't going to the same darn place. No one has to jockey for position to exit the vehicle. At times like these, I really wish the bus driver could have a cattle prod to get some of these idiots to move. The only thing this driver could do was keep repeating there should be two rows of standees down the middle of the bus. At least we didn't have to concern ourselves with falling on the bus since we were packed in there so tightly. Mitchell did a great job at standing but then again, he was surrounded by lots of legs so he couldn't sway very much.
Rich and I were trying to let the kids decide on the plans of the day so after a brief look at the entrance gift shop for sunglasses for Mitchell (to be bought on the way out), we headed for Pixar Place just to have a look around since we had already warned of Toy Story Mania FastPasses going very quickly and it was now about 10:30 AM.
The Pooh friends (minus Pooh) were just getting set up for their meet and greets near the BAH so Marlie and Mitchell were able to have some time with Piglet (my favorite), Tigger and Eeyore. The kids were not seeking out character but like with Stitch last night, if it happened, it happened and they took advantage of it.
Once at Pixar Place, we were extremely shocked to see Toy Story Mania FastPasses available for 6:45-7:45 PM! Whoo hoo! The kids were going to be able to enjoy the premiere Disney World attraction on their very first full day without any hassles!!! Great way to start the vacation even though we would be freezing by the time. At least Toy Story Mania is inside.
Mitchell enjoyed Pixar Place although he might have been a bit overwhelmed with everything. There really is so much to look at I think one could spend at least a half hour in just these couple of "blocks" and still not see everything.
We came upon the Back Lot Tour, or, as I call it, the Basically Lame Tour and was talked into going on it. I told myself I would enjoy just to see Marlie's and Mitchell's reaction to Catastrophe Canyon plus it was a walk on so in all six of us went. It was so cold that there were no guest volunteers to get wet in the preshow. It was interesting to see the change in script just for the cold weather. I was very pleased to see, well, hear the recorded narration for this tour has changed from the horrible female we had last time we did this and I dubbed it the Basically Lame Tour. It's not that lame anymore. I videotaped the entire Catastrophe Canyon scene, especially my grandkids' faces since they had no idea of what was going to happen.
While we were getting educated on how movies were made, Bobbie called. It was funny as her ring tone on my phone is birds chirping and I was blissfully filming away while Chandra recognized the tone and loudly said "birds! It's Bobbie!" I couldn't do anything about answering since it was too late. Then Chris' phone rang and he ignored since we were on an attraction. After that, we put the phones on silent on any ride. I'm not used to anyone calling which at Disney World and Chris didn't think about it.
After we made our way through the AFI exhibits, actually looking at them since Chris is very much into films, Rich called his mother to find out what they were doing. The older folk were heading into the Beauty and the Beast show since it was so cold out. That didn't make sense as this show is in an outdoor theatre but I don't think anyone in that party knew that. I would be proved correct later when we did meet up with them.
My party knew we had some time and Mitchell had just seen The Muppets Take Manhattan (Chris loves Netflix) so a visit to Kermit and friends was in order. Chandra was very cold by this time since she didn't even have a jacket so we looked in Youse Guys Merchandise on New York Street (or Streets of America or whatever it's called now) but there wasn't anything there for Chandra. The Cast Member here told Chris there was warm weather clothing at the store across from Pizza Planet so we decided to check that out after the Muppets.
Our timing for today was great as we were able to walk directly into the theatre for the show. This was a big hit with Mitchell and after the recent success with the newest Muppet movie, I was very glad to be sharing this with my grandson. I always say there would never have been a Chris without the Muppets since Rich endeared himself to me when we were dating by picking out the Muppet Movie soundtrack to listen to while he was once waiting for me to get ready. So I feel like I'm handing this wonderful franchise down the generations. I really hope the Muppets are still around for Mitchell's grandkids.
After the show, Chandra found a nice 2012 Disney World hooded sweatshirt in the Muppet store (which was across from Pizza Planet). The price was steep at $45 but it was good quality and definitely needed if my daughter-in-law was going to survive today.
By now we all needed something food. The Backlot Canteen was the closest and it was inside but everyone else in the park had the same idea with no tables available so we left and went to the back of the park again and sucked it up at the Studio Catering Company and ate outside. We tried for a table as much in the sun as possible and didn't quite succeed. Mitchell had the chicken nuggets, I did the Pressed Tucson Grill which is a favorite of mine while the other four had the buffalo chicken sandwich. Rich used a gift card for this meal. Rich was surprised with how much he liked his sandwich so hopefully this will be a future stop for our Studio days. We used to dread eating counter service at the Studios but it's improved quite a bit in the past couple of years.
Mitchell and Chris were done with lunch so the two of them went next door to the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids playground while Rich called Bobbie to see what that group was doing. They had been on the Great Movie Ride and now wanted to meet up with the rest of us. We were going to switch Ohio Niklewski parents so Mitchell could continue to play while the rest of us got Star Tours FastPasses. Rich attempted to direct Bobbie over the Star Tours. This was some of Rich's one way conversation
"You are at Hollywood Studios"
"Ship? What ship?"
Now I realized she was talking about Min and Bill's and told Rich.
"Go towards Indiana Jones"
"You can't see Indiana Jones?" (you can it right across the Echo Lake)
"Are you at a fast food place?" (Bobbie's response was "well, there are picnic tables here")
"OK, go to the right"
We traded off Chris for Chandra and left Marlie with her mother and brother so Rich, Chris and I went to Star Tours for FastPasses for all our group and to meet with the older folk. Once there, we saw no one we knew. Rich called Bobbie again and they were hopelessly lost. Rich finally told them to stay put (they were back at Bill and Min's after having gone completely around the lake) and he went over there to lead them to Star Tours. While he was gone, Chris received a call from Chandra that Mitchell was lost in the playground so he had to go back there to help out. Talk about a fubar! After a good ten or fifteen minutes, we were all together.
I will inject this now because this was the worst it was all week long with getting everyone together. It's impossible to tour with ten people combined. I will say that again. It's impossible to tour with ten people all together. Once more it's impossible to tour with ten people all together. We knew that, the kids knew it, the older folk did not get it and that was a big problem today and would lead to some problems later.
It was decided for all ten of us to get Star Tours FastPasses just in case the older folk would want to do it. If they decided to opt out, the kids or we would be able to use the passes. Rich and I found out the older folk were not having very much fun. I guess Betty hasn't been at this park all that much because it's not that great for pushing my dad in his wheelchair so she's unfamiliar with the layout. Bobbie attempted the map but couldn't really decipher it. Not sure why Dave wasn't much of a help but the four of them were basically shell shocked from the place. They were wandering around looking for something, anything inside and warm to do. Bobbie said she was confused on what was a shop, a restaurant, or an attraction.
Another interjection. One of the main problems with most of the members of my entire group was the lack of anyone wanting to make a decision. On previous Disney trips, I would take control and lead everyone around. I vowed not to do that this time because I wanted everyone, with our diverse interests, to do what they wanted. Everyone said they understood that but it quickly broke down with the smaller groups because of the lack of a decision maker. The worst was with Bobbie, Dave, my dad and Betty. Dave never makes a decision when it affects anyone but himself, my dad really can't communicate very well (actually, he rarely speaks these days except to Betty) and neither Bobbie nor Betty wanted to commit to being a leader. I thought this wouldn't be that big of a deal because Betty has been to Disney World but I didn't realize the Studios was a foreign land.
My group wanted to go on the Great Movie Ride as Chris and Chandra thought Mitchell would enjoy that (and I think Chris wanted to see the classic movies as well) but the older folk had already done that attraction so they opted for Indiana Jones (another outside attraction) and we split up yet again. We would either hook up for Star Tours or earlier, depending on what each party was doing.
I think my grandson is a chip off the old block (and Chris is a chip off the old me) as he loved the Great Movie Ride. Chris was glad to see some new clips in the finale. I only wish the static scenes could be changed. I know the Busby Berkely musicals were great but those are almost a century old now. And I'd like to see that really weak quick segment on the horror genre of the 30s to be replaced. Alien is pretty dated as well to be honest. But then again, I don't think there are any modern day actors who just do one type of character. We don't have a John Wayne who specializes in only westerns. Even Clint Eastwood doesn't fit into the western genre today. How could you categorize Tom Hanks or Denzel Washington? These days, Disney would have to focus on multiple films and multiple actors for a certain theme. The only thing close would be the franchises like Die Hard or Mission Impossible or now Sherlock Holmes. Take notice I left out that thing with Robert Pattison and Kristen Stewart? We kid Marlie about that trilogy all the time.
During this ride, Chandra had a magical moment with Mitchell. He asked how the cars were moving and she said "I don't know, it must be magic". Mitchell, at the wise old age of five replied, "Well, Disney World is magical." My grandson is like his father and his Grumpy Grandpa. He's very stoic with his emotions but when he says things like this, you know he gets it. He might not say it, but he gets it.
The last time Marlie was at Disney World (at the age of 6-1/2), she did Twilight Zone but this trip, she said she was not going to do it. Mitchell, on the other hand, was willing to give it a try but we wanted him to look at it first. Our mission now was to have him look at the tower and let him decide but he needed a bit of a time out so we stopped along Sunset Boulevard to get that all out. This was the only time my grandson needed this break, I am very proud to say.
My quest was for a bathroom but the lines were actually long at all the places nearby so I passed each time. I think these wimpy women were looking for a heated place. After his break, Mitchell still said he wanted to do Twilight Zone and Marlie still said no. Marlie, Rich and Chris wanted to do the single riders' line for Rock N Roller Coaster so they went to do that while I was doing the Great Uncrowded Womens Bathroom Hunt of 2012 and Chandra took Mitchell to see the parade. Chandra and Mitchell were successful. Even though the standby line at Rock N Roller Coaster was over 60 minutes, the single riders line was closed and all FastPasses were gone. I met up with those three and we were trapped on Sunset Boulevard by the parade so we stopped and watched from a distance. Little did we know Chandra and Mitchell were very close by. We had a miscommunication after the parade when we misunderstood Chandra and directed her towards the hat. The problem was, she was closer to the hat than we were. But all was straightened out and we united only to see the older folk heading down the street towards the exit.
We regrouped and talked for a while. Rich got a lot of info from his mother. Bobbie found it was difficult to tour with a person in a wheelchair and I agree 100%, having done it a couple of times. Bobbie is kind of a commando tourist so when she has to slow down, it's frustrating. Plus, Bobbie was a caregiver to both her mother and mother-in-law in their later stages in life and while she empathizes with Betty, Betty has her own routine with my dad so it's different for Bobbie to see that. Bobbie just wants to assist but my dad doesn't want anyone else but Betty to help him. I'm sure the entire day with the cold, the unfamiliar park, and the lack of having the kids around really frustrated the older folk. I wish we could have changed things but I think we would have had a different four people not thrilled with the day. I hate it was the parental units but looking back on what we all did, I'm not sure anything could have been improved.
The older folk headed out and back to Pop Century after giving us their four Star Tours FastPasses. We still had a bit of a wait for the passes to be good so we got a popcorn for the kids to share and Rich had his bad moment here. Some teenage kids were goofing around, play kicking each other but really being active and close to the people in the popcorn line where Rich was standing with Chris. Rich told Chris that if one of the kids bumped into Rich, he was going to say something. The parent of the kids was also in line and encouraging the kids to be obnoxious. The inevitable happened and Rich was jostled quite hard so that provoked a loud and angry comment from my normally docile husband. Marlie had gone up to ask Chris a question (the line was moving quite slowly) and came back to say Rich was ticked off. The parent still did nothing to control the boys which made Rich even madder. Come on people kids should not be doing things to bother anyone else. Sure, some things happen but either have the kids apologize or do it yourself and then tell your kids to keep it under control. But the dad did absolutely nothing. Sorry buddy but if it was that bad to have Rich saying something, your kids were way out of line.
We enjoyed the popcorn until the window for the additional Star Tours FastPasses opened up. All six of us went for our adventure and then the four kids took the extra FastPasses for another go round. Rich and I headed back to the Studio Catering Company for some beers. It took the kids a long time for their second ride and I correctly predicted they would be coming to meet us with a couple of build your own light sabers. We all met up on New York Street as Rich and I needed some place in the sun which was fading fast. If we thought it was cold during the day, it was going to be frigid tonight.
We discussed our options for before the Toy Story Mania FastPass time of 6:45 and decided on some place warm One Man's Dream. Or, as Rich likes to call it, A Dream Of A Man And A Mouse. We knew Mitchell would be bored with the displays but he solved that problem by announcing he needed to go to the bathroom so Chris took him out while the rest of us did the walk through until those two were back. Then we all watched the warm movie (although Mitchell took the opportunity to snooze for a while) until we were forced back out into the elements. Marlie wanted a Sorcerer's hat and had seen one at the shop near Sounds Dangerous which was on the way to the Osborne Lights that were now on and a diversion before 6:45. However, we never saw the lights as the purchase of the hat took way longer than it should have. I wanted to have it sent back to Pop Century but the printer wasn't working and after at least fifteen minutes of the Cast Member trying everything she could, I just canceled the delivery. The rest of the group had already decided to bag the lights since it was extremely cold by this time and our window had opened up.
Even with the cold night, Toy Story Mania still had 100 minute stand by wait time! That's unbelievable. I don't like the way the FastPassers are handled here as it appears we are cutting in line and we heard a guy loudly complaining to the Cast Member that the guy was waiting in line for over an hour and now all these people were going in front of him. Chandra kind of laughed and Chris said we were in a virtual line since 10:30 that morning. We just were able to do a lot more while we were in that "line". I think that's the best explanation of what a FastPass is designed to do.
Toy Story Mania was a big hit with everyone, like I knew it would be. Even though the day didn't go as anyone really planned with the cold and the older folk getting frustrated, my little group had a good time. We exited and boarded another very full bus. Again, we were packed in there and had to stand with no chance of falling. While we were waiting for the bus, Rich called his mother and said we were on the way back and would pizza this late be OK with everyone? It was our delayed anniversary pizza party and we hoped it would finally happen tonight but if it didn't, it didn't. I called Betty and asked her the same question and once we had both OKs, the party was on. Quite later than expected but what the heck.
Back at Pop Century, I almost lost my husband to the frenzy that is having multiple people with multiple ideas of how to order pizza and what pizzas to order. While the six of us were waiting at the Studios for the bus, we had all agreed to get two pepperoni pies and then another meat choice and let Dave and Bobbie, the non meat eaters in the family, decide on something for themselves. So, four pizzas all together and Rich and Dave would drive out to Flippers to get them. That did happened but only after some people insisted Rich try to order online. Dave was convinced the $10 charge for internet was only if we took the cords with us. Bobbie wanted Rich to try and order on his phone and he attempted it but trying to do that with all the choices and only having a small screen was a little too much especially with several people all talking at once. In the end, I practically shoved Rich, Dave and Marlie out the door to get the pizzas and to get my husband away from the madness.
I retreated to our room since I had all the ancillary items like plates, utensils, and paper towels. Plus, it was much quieter there. Bobbie stayed in her room with Mitchell and Chris and Chandra took a break in their room although the door was open to ours. I had two bottles of champagne and had to collect up some classy plastic cups for that. My dad and Betty made their way to our room and we visited for a while. Everyone else would join us when the food arrived.
The pizzas were finally back (as were the humans) and it was a nice night with everyone freely talking, the kids having fun and the delayed party was a success. Rich and I usually downplay any celebration so it was different having everyone together for our 30th anniversary. Bobbie gave us a very nice Snow White snow globe/music box, my dad and Betty gave us a basket of Betty's homemade items like tea and lotions which I will definitely use, and Dave paid for the pizzas. But Chris outdid everyone, in my humble opinion. I was given a multiple CD collection of every single Disney song ever used in any Disney film. Chris painstakingly found all these songs from various places and put them all together for me. I usually don't listen to anything on my commutes to and from work because I can't stand the normal radio so this will be nice. But his topper was for Rich. A nice display of hockey cards of all the Washington Capitals captains. Rich was amazed Chris could find some of the cards (thank you ebay!). Very thoughtful gifts from our son and very personalized. Tonight was the night for feeling blessed with a great family. We had four generations all together and it was as close to perfect as anyone could ever get. Now, here's to the next 30 years.
I think this was the latest night anyone stayed up but we were all in our respective rooms by 10:30 or 11. It was a very cold day but then again, we had some cold days on our honeymoon back in 1982 and you know where we spent that. Right here in Kissimmee. Lights out with the promise of temperatures at least 15 degrees warmer tomorrow.
Day Four Wednesday, January 4, 2012 - Everyone Goes Their Own Way
I was awake at 6:30, still kind of keyed up from everything but stayed in bed until about 8 or so. Rich slept until 9. The kids were going to do Magic Kingdom today and after yesterday's miserable experience with the older folk, Rich was determined to spend all day with them at Epcot. Who would have the better day?
Chandra did this section since Rich and I never ventured near the original park during the entire trip. The kids were there for about 12 hours today. This is Chandras notes from the day (and I will add some stuff from her Facebook photo album).
They took the bus to Epcot, then the monorail to the TTC and then the ferry to the Magic Kingdom. They looked for our brick but had no luck (Sheris note - Chris probably didnt realize its at the exit now with the whole security thing). They saw the Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It Street Party and then made their way logically around all the lands. In Adventureland, they did The Swiss Family Treehouse and the Jungle Cruise. Then Chris and Chandra wanted to shop so they sent Marlie and Mitchell to Aladdins Magic Carpets but the kids were denied because Marlie correctly told the Cast Member she was 13 and you cant take another child on an attraction unless you are 14. They all met up and did the revised Enchanted Tiki Room (Sheris note - I know Chris told me later he liked the Under New Management version better since Iago and Zazu added some pizzazz to this). Then Chris and Marlie went to get FastPasses for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad while Chandra and Mitchell did the Magic Carpets. After that, they all did Pirates of the Caribbean.
In Frontierland, they ate hot dogs from a small cart (Sheris note - wish Rich and I could have found that in October when we were looking for a snack!). Then they all did Splash Mountain and bought the picture after. (Sheris note - Mitchell did NOT like this attraction and I was very bummed when Chris texted they bought the photo. I wanted all six of us in one ride photo and since I love this attraction, I thought it would be perfect. But it was not meant to be and another reminder not to overimagine your Disney World trip.) The Ohio Niklewskis then saw Woody and Jesse but only got pictures with Jesse. Next up was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. (Sheris note - Mitchell did not like this one either and was concerned about Chandra flying out of the car even though hes smaller than her.) In Liberty Square, they all did the Haunted Mansion and liked the new endings. (Sheris note - I believe Chris and Marlies head were switched or something.)
Fantasyland was up next and Chandra and Mitchell went on its a small world while Chris and Marlie got four FastPasses for Space Mountain and then Chris and the two kids went on the Mad Tea Party.
They ate at Cosmic Rays and watched the Main Street Electrical Parade from inside. Then went to the castle to see Wishes and liked the Magic, Memories, and You screenings on the castle. However, they were in the wrong spot for the fireworks (although they did see Tinkerbell fly) so went back to Cosmic Rays for Wishes. (Sheris note - in Chandras photo album she wrote, Once the fireworks started, Marlie grabbed Mitchell and headed off to get a good look. She wasn't about to relinquish him for this magic moment so Chris and I stayed back for a bit. One of my fave memories of the trip.)
After all this (Sheris note - I would have needed an ambulance by this time for pure fatigue!), they did Stitchs Great Escape (Sheris note - Chris is a Stitch fan and I think he said he didnt think it was as bad as everyone made it out to be) and then Chandra and Mitchell went a second time while Chris and Marlie shopped. Then it was Buzz Lightyear with about a ten minute wait. After that, Chris and Marlie did Space Mountain twice in a row with the FastPasses while Chandra and Mitchell did the People Mover and Carousel of Progress.
Chandra also noted they did the Photopass for a family castle shot after leaving Cosmic Rays and before Magic, Memories & You.
As for the over 40 crowd, Dave wanted to visit a rock shop in Orlando since he is very much into fossils and the like so he headed out on his own. The other five of us (Bobbie, Dad, Betty, Rich and me) went to Epcot.
Rich quickly realized spending the day with the parental units would not work. At least after the first agonizing hour. We were into Epcot with no problems but once we got to the fountain area and asked the parents to tell us what they wanted to do, things broke down quickly. No one wanted to make a decision! That aggravates me to no end. I did not want to be Tour Guide Barbie so I remained silent while Betty said they usually will do The Living Seas and the Land. However, no one really knew where those two were (Rich was overwhelmed at this point) so I directed us over to the Seas.
And this is where I thought the past 30 years would just melt into nothing. I tried, I really tried but I couldnt remain quiet. I griped, I witched (or other word that rhymes with that), I complained. The line for the Nemo ride was out the freaking door! There is no way in a normal Disney World trip I would ever stand for that but I did. And not only was the line out the door but every single available queue space was taken up. I actually waited for a half hour to do this attraction. I grumbled, I rolled my eyes, I sighed. I even told Rich that if he ever put me though this again, I would divorce him. Unfortunately, Betty heard the last comment and said we didnt have to stay with them. Rich then said we normally would not be waiting this long but we were here so we were stuck.
I know the older folk were not Disney savvy and suggested we simply go to World Showcase and do that and come back but no one was listening. I was irked beyond belief. This is where splitting up is essential or at least being honest. I didnt feel like I could be honest with the others (except Rich and he got an earful). The other three were our elders and even though I stressed honesty, I just couldnt do it here. Betty did not raise me but shes been with my dad for twenty years and my dad and Bobbie are our parents. How can you tell folks like this they should listen to one of their children? They wanted to do the Seas and by gum, thats what we were going to do!
And in the middle of all this we had line jumpers! Four adults had to push their way through everyone saying their kids were just up ahead. Since my mood was lousy, I loudly said the kids could come back to where their parents were and asked why they let their kids, who now couldnt board the ride without the adults, were sent into an attraction alone. Come on, its the freaking Living Seas, not Toy Story Mania. The adults managed to get a few more parties ahead and then others started to question them so the adults just waited for the kids to come back. Not sure that ever happened and at this point, I didnt care. MAKE SURE YOUR PARTY IS TOGETHER WHEN YOU ENTER ANY QUEUE LINE!!!! OK - that felt good.
After the long and agonizing wait, my dad and Betty were led off to board via the wheelchair option while Bobbie and Rich went into one clamshell and me into one by myself. At that point, I was so aggravated by the situation I just wanted time on my own. I enjoyed Nemo and got over my bad mood and once we were off the ride portion, Rich said we would do our own thing and meet up with the parents later. Sometimes I do love my husband!
I wasnt that thrilled with my son and his family going off on their own today but after this episode, I realized that we all needed this time. This was really Chris trip and we were tagging along and there were things he and Chandra wanted to do with their kids without us. And Rich and I are so used to Disney World without anyone else that we wanted our time. I did not want to lead the older folk around so they could now do things at their pace. If you go to Disney World with a group, please do not think you can do everything together. I cannot emphasize that enough.
Rich and I left the Seas after seeing some of the baby fish in the exhibits. I knew the older folk would not want to do Mission:Space so we went over there for FastPasses. We wanted to do Test Track single riders line but that was too long so we did a very slow walk around World Showcase. I checked the China gift shop again for the necklaces and decided the one I was looking at wasnt worth the price so we move on. At America, I was dismayed to see again there was no trivia posted. No chalkboard with a question. That would continue for the rest of the trip and I am very disappointed. Why was this removed? If I didnt know the answer to the trivia, I at least wanted to research it later.
We exited to a performance of the Fife and Drum Corp and saw a version for the first time (I think). The Corps took all the kids in the audience and indoctrinated them into the Sons (and Daughters) of Liberty. That gave me pause (again) to realize our nation is not that old compared to many as the Sons of Liberty were really only formed less than 250 years ago.
Our walk continued for a second time and we picked up a beer in Africa. Chris had texted I hate MK so we chuckled at that and were glad we werent there. Although we wanted to do things with the grandkids, we knew our patience wouldnt be that strong today. Meanwhile, the older folks had done Living With the Land which was enjoyed and Dave had joined them for the rest of the day. They then attempted Ellens Energy Adventure but that attraction shut down because some idiot decided to stand up and leave right after the vehicles started to move.
There was a thread on the boards a few months ago by a woman who felt the need for her child to leave this attraction and was upset when the Cast Members yelled at her for doing so. Now my family was being inconvenienced by the same action. You should not ever attempt to leave an attraction AFTER the vehicles are moving. No exceptions. You are given ample warning before so why wait until its too late? The older folk really didnt understand what was going on but I explained later about the complicated ride system. We all wondered if the clueless family was escorted out of the park later. I hope this was a simple misunderstanding but still. DO NOT GET UP FROM A RIDE WHEN ITS MOVING! Grr.
The older folk did Journey Into Your Imagination With Figment as it was one of the few things they could find on the map without a long wait. I know Bobbie is the trip planner but I really dont think she has been the trip facilitator. I think that was always left to my father-in-law and now Bobbie really does get lost without Ed. She had mentioned she really didnt know how to check into a hotel since Ed always did that. She would find places to stay but not make the reservations and not check in. Life lesson that I never wanted to learn - spouses should trade off doing things like this.
Rich and I continued with another walk around World Showcase with me getting a popcorn and Rich a hot dog from the Promenade Refreshments (and a beer each). We sat on the edge of a nearby planter to eat and I noticed a woman and her family across from us. The woman had an IPad and was intently looking at it. I guess thats the new thing now - download everything onto something the size of a paper notebook and bring it to the parks. But then she really unnerved me by picking up the IPad and aiming it towards us! Oh - she had positioned her family in such a way to take a photo of them with the IPad, I guess. Either way, it was strange to have this huge notebook thing being pointed at us.
I thought I had put a zipper bag in my backpack but I must have lost it during the bag search so I would either have to eat the entire box of popcorn or waste it. Rich surprised me by eating the rest of the box! Hes not a popcorn person at all but he said he really liked the Disney stuff as it had a butter flavor on each kernel. Yes! Maybe I can get this stuff more often! Whoo hoo!
Off Kilter was up next and we reconnected with the older folk who had done Journey Into Your Imagination and then were successful on another trip to Ellen. They were going to meet us at Canada for the session so we all enjoyed (well, Rich and I did) and a plan was made to go offsite to Dennys for dinner. Betty said they had the Pop Century food court a couple of times and were not going to do it again and Dave is a Dennys fan. We all went back on the bus but once back in the room, I opted out of the Dennys thing and so did Rich. We just wanted to stay in the room and relax.
Since a trip to Publix was also needed, we directed the others to the one at Xentury City and the Dennys right next to it. I guess not all Dennys are created equal as the dinner wasnt all the great in Bettys opinion (I found that out the next morning). Im glad Rich and I stayed behind and had some more of the Hickory Farms sausage and cheeses from the vendors gift box. Sometimes it pays to be in the purchasing department!
My dad and Betty stopped in for their goodbyes and my dad was having a very good day so we were able to talk. Thats been the most difficult part of everything - my dad is one of the funniest men I have ever known and its been so hard not being able to understand him. At least with whatever technologies we currently have available, we were all able to have my dad with us during this very special trip. I only wish we could have been together more. Getting older sucks but each and everyone one of us does it every day so enjoy each other while you can.
By this time, we knew the kids were staying in Magic Kingdom until the very end of the day so other than a brief visit this morning, we never saw them. And sometimes that is what is needed.
Day Five Thursday, January 5, 2012 - Unca Dave Plays Uncle
My dad and Betty were leaving this morning and we had said goodbye last night but I was up in enough time to slip on some sweatpants and a sweatshirt over my PJs and go over to their room as they were finishing packing up. I said goodbye again and hoped cures could be found for everything but we are humans after all. We have limits. Sigh.
Everyone else was up and ready to go fairly quickly although I think the kids were a little slow with their late evening at Magic Kingdom. Today was Animal Kingdom with the remaining eight and we headed out there at some point. I was not keeping track of specific times at this point. Being time driven was not a priority with anyone else so I didnt bother with it either. Tour Guide Barbie from a few years ago has been either totally killed or at least knocked unconscious for this trip.
When we all made it to the bus stop, we had two ECV people waiting for the next Animal Kingdom bus and Chris dubbed them the Axiom Passengers. That was mean but they really did look like the people from Wall-E, even in the shapes. It took a long while to load the two as we had an older style bus and the lifts were not all that great for the combined weight of the ECV and the person in it. I do have to commend this group, though. Only the two ECV people went through the back door, the rest of the large part went though the regular queue. We had done that with my dad and Betty where Betty accompanied my dad and everyone else boarded normally. There really was no reason for anyone but Betty to be with my dad and if we hadnt made the same bus for whatever reason, the other two would have just waited for us to arrive at whatever park we were going to.
Anyway, on with the day at Animal Kingdom. The only thing I wanted to do and I REALLY wanted to do was Expedition Everest. I had gotten the medical clearance to finally do roller coasters and thrill rides again and this attraction was the smoothest one I could think of. I wanted it to be my first scream ride since 2005. I didnt really care about anything else. Once at the second Kingdom, we all headed back to the Yeti region with an important stop. Every time weve been here with Chris, weve seen the anteater. When its just Rich and me, no walking carpet. I was primed for the beast, who didnt make his presence known the entire time. Sigh. Weve seen this creature on previous visits with Chris, Chandra and Marlie so Chris said it was Mitchells fault. And my grandson had no idea what his crazy father was talking about. A tradition now gone after this trip. But onto Asia and my adventure!!
We were able to get eight FastPasses for Expedition Everest so my day was complete, anteater or no anteater. While we were doing this, Chandra took Mitchell to the Boneyard but couldnt find it so diverted over to Triceratops Spin instead. Chris connected with her via cell phone and the rest of us met up with them as they were boarding. I videotaped the entire short ride. Then we regrouped and Chandra was going to take Mitchell to the now discovered Boneyard but Dave surprised us by volunteering so the other six of us could do Primeval Whirl. This would be my first thrill ride so off I went with a 20 or so minute wait. Marlie opted to sit with me since she thought I would scream during it.
However, I was slightly disappointed as the ride vehicles have changed since the last time any of us rode it (Rich and I have avoided Dinoland because of my previous limitations). I dont think they spin as much anymore and Im not sure that has to do with the Cast Member accident several years ago or what but its not something Im going to be standing in line for again. We didnt know of the change or the effects before we boarded but it was not that great in my opinion. Maybe its just me getting older (again with the older stuff).
After our less than thrilling spin, we took a while to hook up with Dave and Mitchell in the Boneyard. Marlie was sent in to do the retrieval but I think she took some time to play as well. Either Chris or Chandra went in and after about ten minutes, everyone was finally out. Dave dubbed Mitchell an eel since he was so slippery. I had to laugh because its been quite a while since Dave has had to deal with a small child as rambunctious as Mitchell. My grandson is the anti-aging one in the family!
We diverted to Cretaceous Trail so Mitchell could see some dinosaurs. Still makes me laugh that Chris went through the entire dinosaur phase when he was a kid and can easily name all these creatures. Next up was Dinosaur so we did that with the stand by line of about 20 minutes. I think Dave could request this entire queue be cleared out of all guests just so he can read everything in the area. He loves fossils and rocks and things like that so even though the line moved steadily, I have a feeling Dave wanted some delays along the way. At least we only got to hear Bill Nye, the Science Guy once. For some reason, that man annoys me.
Its been a while for Rich and me to be on this attraction and I didnt really know what to expect so just held on for the ride. Mitchell did fine but the photo of the eight of us is funny. Chandra is leaning over trying to soothe Mitchell, Marlie is hiding her face, and the rest of us look calm. Bobbie (or Dave) ended up buying four 5x7 photos that I had sent back to the room and Ill send on to everyone once we get home.
When we had entered Animal Kingdom, we checked out the times board for the Flights of Wonder show that Rich and I see every single time we are here. We knew Mitchell would love it and Marlies appreciation on past trips was a factor as well. But now it became a mission for Bobbie (who loves birds so much its her ringtone on my phone) so we HAD to get back there for the next show. Its not that easy to go from Dinosaur to Flights of Wonder but I managed to not only get everyone over to Discovery Island but also have stops for beers (Rich and me), and pretzels and lemonade (Bobbie and Dave). Then I ushered everyone back in enough time to see a lot of the owl preshow. Marlie was funny as she simply took Mitchell squirmed their way up to the front so the little guy could see everything. Marlie may be 8 years older than Mitchell but she calls him her little baby and theres enough hugs between the two of them to know they will always be close.
I wanted to videotape the entire show so Rich and I decided to go immediately up to the bleachers on the right hand side as we know you can get a good view from there. Provided idiots dont sit in front of you five minutes after the show starts. Well, you can guess what happened. I made a comment and the guy did move his family down and out of my range but it still ticked me off. I will say this again and quite loudly. This show should shut the curtains BEFORE the host comes on stage!!!!
The only disappointment with the show (besides the idiot guy) was this was not the same Guano Joe we are used to. Maybe the other guy retired but it was just different. But the kids didnt mind and were impressed with everything. After the performances, Marlie and Mitchell were able to go down and see the birds up close next to the stage.
So far, this was turning out to be a good day but things broke down after the show. Someone needed a time out (not a child) so some of the group took that at the counter service seating area across from the theatre while the rest of us went back to the Safari for FastPasses. I was with the group that went to the Safari but those were all gone for the day. I wanted to get back to the other group as I knew the time out wouldnt last very long but Rich, Bobbie, Dave and Marlie wanted to do the Pangani Trail so they left me and I went back to Chris, Chandra and Mitchell where everything was fine. I think the people who didnt have food needed it now but there was nothing we could do until everyone else came back. I tried for egg rolls for myself and Chandra but the line was too long. In the end, we all regrouped, got egg rolls, more pretzels and then Chris had to go all around to find apple slices and Fritos for Mitchell. Not a great Niklewski moment but we survived.
By this time, we were getting trapped in by the hoards for the afternoon parade and our FastPasses for Everest were opening up so we grabbed the remnants of our food and made it beyond the parade zone and then finished up as we were walking towards the attraction. We had eight FastPasses but Mitchell couldnt ride so he and Chandra headed back over to Dinoland where they did Triceratops Spin again and then went to the Boneyard.
The other six of us did Expedition Everest with Marlie riding with me. I surprised myself by not screaming at all and actually whoo hooing through this ride! The high climb did not bother me and I felt no apprehension even with the drop. I loved it and after told Rich his days of doing Everest single riders was done. He wasnt all that happy but we could do the single riders together even if we arent in the same car. This is simply one of the best attractions Disney has to offer. And I can ride it again!!!!
After all six of us searched out the Yeti (hes still MIA but it didnt detract from my ride), Marlie and Chris rode with the additional two FastPasses and then we went to meet with Chandra and Mitchell outside the Boneyard. It didnt take that much time but man, those kids inside the barriers were going crazy. Most of them reminded me of Sid from Toy Story instead of Russell from Up. Yeah, Im getting older too.
Its a Bigs Life was a must so we hit that on the way out of the park. Chandra knew the effects so made sure Mitchell didnt get stung in the back and we kind of laughed when joking with Marlie on her first reaction to this attraction back when she was Mitchells age. On the way out, Unca Dave asked if he could get ice cream for the kids which was very nice for him to do. He rarely gets to see this set of great-niece and great-nephew so today was his day to be Great Unca Dave (the Unca comes from Chris and the Unca Donald stuff).
We had entered this morning using the Rainforest Caf for a look around and Dave wanted to stop back there for another look on the way out. The kids still had their ice cream so the three of them sat at a table outside the Caf back entrance and finished up. Such a nice moment of the three of them in their own little world enjoying each other. Bobbie, Rich, and I sat over on a bench and let the younger ones (I know, Dave is older than me but he was a kid with my grandkids) have their time. Disney doesnt get any better than this.
Dave did a purchase in the shop and then we were heading back to Pop Century. It was still before dinner and I knew what would happen since the food court at the resort was not an option. Others may love it but we find it lacking for choices, quality and price. So, offsite we go. IHOP was suggested as Dennys was way overdone on this trip so we took two vehicles out there with Dave following us.
The restaurant was almost empty and our server was practically bored so we received excellent service on everything. If you are ever stuck on offsite dining choices, Id recommend the Dennys and IHOP to the west side of I4. No disappointments ever. Not fancy but good food, reasonable prices and servers who know how to serve. Bobbie picked up the tab for this with Rich leaving the very well deserved tip.
Rich and I needed an offsite run and I thought Dave did too so we split up with Dave, Marlie and me going in Daves vehicle to the Target just up the highway while Rich drove Bobbie, Chris, Chandra and Mitchell back to Pop Century. How I wish I had gone with Rich.
After Expedition Everest, my throat was a little sore which I chalked up to laughing throughout the entire thing. But during the dinner, I started to feel not that great. But I had decided earlier in the trip not to do laundry and to simply buy new underwear as the price would be the same but the time would be minimal. Ha! I forgot how my brother-in-law and granddaughter shop. I said I needed three things and thats all I wanted. Over an hour later (which would have taken me fifteen minutes), we finally emerged with my three items, plus Daves three Blue Rays and Marlies Body Glide stuff she needed which took about twenty minutes to find. By this time, all I wanted was a bed since I felt like crap. I have not had a cold or anything remotely similar in well over ten years so I was unprepared for the rest of the trip.
We finally made it back and Chris and Chandra had a dilemma. Tomorrow was the marathon kids races but Chandra thought they needed to have the email confirmations printed out but Chris hadnt done that since his printer had problems before they left. Now they were worried about not being able to check in the kids. I advised them to go down to the Concierge (values even have one of those although you have to stand in a line to get there) and see what they could do. They did that with being led into a side room with computers and being able to log into Chris email account and printing out the necessary info. All this was for free and gave everyone peace of mind for the next day.
Bobbie and Dave were packing for their departure tomorrow so we all settled in for the evening. Chris and I set a wake up time for 8:00 so we could be on the bus to ESPNs Wide World of Sports no later than 9:30.
Day Six Friday, January 6, 2012 - My Grandkids Run and I Dont See Them but the Camera Does
Our alarm went off at 8:00 so I was up and ready, showered with Rich following after. Well, he grumbled a bit but this was one day we had a schedule to meet. The two of us were over at Bobbies door helping her out with packing up the car and then me wondering just why Chris hadnt opened up the connecting door. I texted Chris and that had them going. Oops - their alarm didnt go off so they had to make do with what time we had. The kids were up first and over in our room shortly after.
This prompted the following exchange with Mitchell and me -
Mitchell - Grandma, how does it feel to be old?
Me - (knowing Ill be 50 next month, feeling like Im about 25 and seeing what my dad had to go through in the last couple of days) - I dont know, Ill let know when Im old
Little did I know Mitchell and I would bond today.
I had an instance while Bobbie and Dave were packing up that caused me to turn to Rich and say you people really need to trust me when it comes to Disney. Bobbie was extremely worried because she had no itemized bill on her doorknob this morning. When my dad and Betty left yesterday, they didnt either. I realized it was because none of the rooms had a credit card attached to it for charging purposes and thats what we wanted. I had forgotten about the express check out but figured it wasnt that big of a deal since none of us had any extra charges. I told Bobbie all this and she was somehow under the impression she could check out via the TV. I have no idea where she got that idea but explained the situation and said if she wanted a bill, she could go down to the lobby and get one. She remembered the scene of check in and wanted no part of that so I said she could just leave. She had to call the front desk instead to make sure there were no additional charges on anyones bill. I wish I would have known this would be such a big issue with her and I would have had her do all this last night. But thats sort of a problem with Bobbie and me - we both are the trip planners and organizers so she has her way of doing things, I have mine and we dont always agree on things.
We were actually ready by 9:00 and after saying goodbye to Bobbie and Dave, we headed for the bus to the sports complex. One was sitting there waiting so right into it we went. And got stuck in traffic. Wow. About four or five lights to get through Osceola Parkway from Victory Way. And we are the closest resort to the place? I dont think we were off the bus until 9:30 or so and then had the long walk to the back of the complex for the Kids Races. Chris and Chandra quickly went in line to register the kids but they were immediately sent back with long faces! Oh no! Dont tell me something happened! But it was because they didnt have waivers which they now had to go to another desk to sign. Disney - make this obvious for the Kids Races, please. No where did any sign say a waiver was needed. Maybe it was in the fine print but if a waiver wasnt included in the prerace stuff, how would you know easily? But, that was quickly settled and then back into the other line which took about fifteen minutes. Rich and I spent the time looking around and I videotaped some of the very loud prerace dance stuff going on. The kids were finally through and we trouped out to the race fields.
I know all this prerace stuff was supposed to get the participants and the parents geared up but it was loud and annoying. I think if we had been given better instructions as to what would happen, I would have enjoyed more but I had to listen crappy dance music for the next hour which irritated me to no end. The kids however, loved it and I have a nice video of Marlie dancing with Mitchell so all that was good. I also had to really laugh at the moms who were far more into the dancing than their kids. Really, I dont need to see a bleached blond mom in her 40s trying to act like shes Rhianna.
Bleachers were set up along the finish line and we quickly established where Mitchell would be starting his 200 Meter Dash and where Marlie would be doing her Mickey Mile (which was about a mile away). So we established a post where we would remain until after Marlies race as it seemed the thing to do. If you do the Kids Races, thats the best advice I can give you. Oh - and get the packets on Thursday, not Friday or Saturday. The wait wasnt too bad when we got there but horrible after 10:30 - worse than Toy Story Mania on a bad day.
All the small kids races (with the exception of the Mickey Mile) started at 11:00 with the 100 Meter Dash first, the 200 Meter second, the 400 Meter third and then the Diaper Dash. Everything was fine except things were delayed for the late comers because Disney doesnt want to disappoint anyone so those who arrived and stood in that huge long line around 10:30 had to all be processed. And the one thing I did not like and wish it could be improved but Ill be the first to admit Im not sure how - there were several heats of each of the runs. So it was about 5 100 Meter Dash, about 4 200 Meters, and about 3 400 Meters. That was fine but you had no way of knowing which heat your person was going to be in. I had to videotape each one and never did see Mitchell. Chandra and Rich were shouting - there he goes! As of now, I still dont see him on video. Chris had taken Mitchell to the starting point so all he could do was text hes in the next one. Its very difficult to see the runners. Marlie ran with Mitchell but on the grass next to him. I guess most parents run with their kids and we didnt know you could do that.
The scene after the race was a cluster as we had sent Mitchell in there basically alone. Chris found him but Marlie was also in there and it took a while for things to be sorted out. I honestly dont think you can do any of this with less than three or four people. We had problems with two people trying to find one of runners while three others stayed in the stands. Thank goodness for cell phones but two of the three at the finish line didn't have them (Marlie and Mitchell, who ran to help out her brother and was too young, respectively), and we got everyone back to the bleachers. But Mitchell was very happy with his medal so that was good. All kids are given a medal, none of the smaller kids races are timed (only the Mickey Mile but thats not posted) so everyone wins. Also, the kids were given a T shirt each and what surprised me was they both fit perfectly.
Marlie had stretched herself out and headed out to the Mickey Mile starting post which we could kind of see in the distance. We hoped this wouldnt have multiple heats and it didnt but the start wasnt announced back at the bleachers. That was a down point but we could at least see the hoard moving beyond the soccer fields. I did not like the announcing of any of these races as it seemed the dance party was loud enough to rock the entire Orlando area and probably all the way to the Gulf and the ocean but the actual Go for the races was not all that loud and non existent for the one race we could not see the start from the finish line. I really question Disney not able to have a full PA system going for the entire field so everyone can hear.
I videotaped the entire Mikey Mile finish and Chandra only saw Marlie as she was right in front of us. If you ever do this, get your child a bright one of a kind shirt so you can identify them. I missed both grandkids running right by me and even without the videocamera I wouldnt have been able to see them. Hell, have them carry a streamer or something.
So that was my grandma moment. The kids had fun, they got their medals but Marlie was not happy because she thought she could have done better. Heck, I was proud she managed to get through everyone. Her medal was red where Mitchells was blue because the Mile was an actual timed one. I have never experienced any race so it was all new to me.
Side note - Marlie later said that Mickey himself was at the start of the Mickey Mile so that was nice for the kids.
After all the race stuff, we started to head out. I thought we would get hot dogs at the one stand there but it was mobbed so we moved on. Disney - more eating places closer to the actual track, please.
Note here - I think I complained too much about the races. It was a nice time but it was very crowded and not what I expected. It was as organized as it could have been for the level of involvement. There were two blaring things I found to be lacking and that was food close to the kids events and restrooms. Who really wants to go leave the immediate area to find either one of those? As I said, it was difficult for us with four adults to handle this with two kids in two separate events so having more food and restrooms closer would have been wonderful. Just sayin.
I thought the transportation back to the resort would be awful with just about everyone leaving at the same time but we stood in a short line for the Pop Century bus and waited about two minutes for one to pull up. Disney was using every single available bus for this weekend and this one was a Mears motor couch with nice upholstery seats. Mitchell surprised me by insisting I sit with him on the bus so this started us being bus buddies. Every other time we were together, I had to sit with him. But after this first trip, I thought he would hate me.
Traffic was still not that great getting out of the ESPN Wide World of Sports but it was awful getting in. On the way out, Mitchell was up on his knees looking out of the windows (five year olds are not that tall) and we kept talking about our favorite colors - his of green and mine of orange - and trying to find things on the bus with those colors. And then the bus driver had to put on a hard break and I dont know what happened. Well, I do. Mitchell simply slipped right off the seat and down to the floor. Where the seat foot rest from the chair in front was up. Poor guy hit his ear on that and then bounced up and hit the other one on the seat underside. I watched whole damn thing in slow motion as my hand tried in vain to stop it all. I grabbed at nothing but air.
I managed to get Mitchell back in the seat all the while looking around because I know kids are going to start screaming their heads off with that kind of shock. But Mitchell did one of those silent tears things once back on the seat. I asked him if he was OK and he pointed to his ears so I rubbed them and thought about how horrible a grandmother I was. The end result was a single tear going down Mitchell face, me wiping it off and then asking him if he wanted to kick the chair in front of him (this was after we parked and the people in front were off). He did a couple of times and after off the bus, I thought about having him kick the bus tire but decided against that. I told Chandra what happened (oh, I had such guilt) but by this time, things were fine with Mitchell. I guess memories are fleeting because I was the bus buddy from now on.
Back at Pop Century, we had some snacks in the room since we failed to get anything to eat at Wide World of Sports. It was about mid-afternoon by now and our destination was Epcot since the kids really hadnt been there too much yet. So back to the buses where Mitchell grabbed my head in the queue line to begin our new routine. He would then lead me on the bus and pick up the closest seats to the front. And only two seats together so the other four had to sit somewhere else. During those rides, he really didnt care about his parents at all! And I think with all the later bus rides, we found every single green and orange thing on the Disney buses. These little moments were the most special of the entire trip to me.
On the walk out of the bus queue line area, I spotted a very fat yellow squishy looking caterpillar like thing on the sidewalk. He was moving quite slowly so I stopped and directed Richs attention to it. Rich, the animal lover, will stop to help turtles across the road so he needed to get this caterpillar thing to a safe place since it would easily get stomped on by the people on their way to Epcot. So he and Marlie spent some time coaxing and finally moving the thing over to the grass on the side. They used sticks for the moving, not their hands. Chandra had a good laugh with this but I knew if Rich didnt help out the bug, he (Rich, not the bug) would feel guilty all day. Well, the bug would have been dead so wouldnt have felt anything at all.
We checked the wait board and saw there were still FastPasses available for Soarin even though they were not until 8:00-9:00 PM which would probably set a record for us being out late at a Disney park. Rich and I just are not the night owls anymore - damn jobs and all. Mitchell wanted to ride Spaceship Earth again so Chandra took him there while the rest of us went for the FastPasses. Chris started to get out all the Ohio tickets as we were walking and Rich said dont bother, we have about five miles to go after we enter the building. This is one FastPass distribution place I wish was outside and more easily accessible.
All six of us joined up and the kids decided they wanted to do some things in Innoventions which Rich and I have no interest in so we split up with us going for some entertainment around World Showcase and the others doing fun things at Innoventions. I know they did the piggy bank game, the fire drill thing, and designed their roller coaster at Sum of all Thrills. Then Chris and Marlie went to Mission:Space while Chandra took Mitchell to - guess where - Spaceship Earth. I think there was another trip with Judy Densch in there somewhere too, probably when Chris and Marlie were riding their roller coaster.
Meanwhile, Rich and I picked up beers and went for an Off Kilter session but didnt stay very long since the bagpiper wasnt there today. I dunno, seems like a Celtic Band loses something without a bagpiper. Rich picked up a kaki gori in Japan and we continued our walk and made and received some texts from the kids on what they were doing. We had made it all around the World and were heading to see about doing Test Track single riders line when Chris texted they were heading to Mexico to see about food. This was our predetermined meeting place since Chris had to have the nachos here but we didnt know exactly when we all would be done with our big doings of the day. So we turned around and went back to Mexico where Chris, Chandra and Marlie had the nachos and Rich and I went to the Refreshment Outpost for beers and hot dogs. Mitchell finally got the dog he was denied at the marathon events.
The kids didnt have the much left to do in Future World but they hadnt touched the Imagination pavilion yet so we all went over there. The Ohio gang and my husband were interested in Captain EO and I went begrudgingly. Yes, I like Michael Jacksons talent but I only like it. Im not over the top like some of the fans out there. And the presentation of this film is so 80s its very laughable to me. I might offend some but if Michael Jackson hadnt died, I dont think this film would have ever seen the light of day again. Disney fans start complaining about outdated films fairly quickly and this one seems very old to me. But those are my opinions - the other five thought it was a fine presentation. My eyes just hurt from rolling them throughout the performance.
We did Journey Into Your Imagination with Figment which Im sure had everyone else rolling their eyes but at least I got to see the purple guy. Mitchell had a good time playing in the abbreviated Image Works after since it was relatively uncrowded as the park was starting to empty out. We still had time before our FastPasses for Soarin so four of us went to the single riders line for Test Track while Chandra took Mitchell to - guess where - Spaceship Earth yet again. Chandra said she rode this four times today with her son. Ill bet Mitchell will be the only kid in kindergarten who will know the Phoenicians invented the alphabet.
The six of us met up again for Soarin and made our way all the way down for the kids first flight. Mitchell was measured here and made it with about an inch to spare. We were sure he would like this a lot and Rich and I were happy when we got the first row so everyone would get the full effects. Mitchell was strapped in with the extra protection and off we went! Well, four of us liked it. I think Chandra would have if Mitchell didnt have her in a death grip for the entire ride. Our little guy was pretty shaken up by the experience and I think wanted to run back to the nice safe and sound Spaceship Earth! At least he did try the attraction.
We didnt want to stay for Illuminations tonight so headed back to the bus for Pop Century. Our walk to the stop was highlighted by Chandra doing exact quotes from Spaceship Earth and telling us all kinds of trivia about it from her four rides of today. It was really funny because she will never forget Jesse Owens was in the 1936 Berlin Olympic games or we landed on the moon in 1969. I think today was the day she finally was able to get all of Mitchells head on the ending scenes since he is so short and usually had just a half head. We made numerous comments about Canadians and South Park when we saw his half headed photo.
Then back to Pop Century (with me sitting with Mitchell) and our respective rooms with the door open for a just a short time before bed. We talked about our plans for tomorrow and it was the Sci Fi seating and the Studios to finish up the shows there. We had a times guide and since the Lights, Motors, Action show was a priority for five of us, we looked at those times first. A show would start at 11 so we planned to get up at 8:00 again to make sure we were there in time for that. Chris also wanted to sign up Mitchell for the Jedi training so that had to be done earlier than our normal park arriving time as well. Marlie was still saying she did not want to do Twilight Zone and after Mitchells experience with Soarin he wasnt going to go near the place now. I wanted to do both Twilight Zone and Rock N Roller Coaster so that was my priority. Ive been thrill ride starved for over five years and Ill be darned if Im going to miss my chances on this trip. We looked at the Indiana Jones Stunt Show and determined that the lunch plan really interfered with things so I attempted to go online to get it changed but I wasnt successful. We would just have to deal with things tomorrow.
Day Seven Saturday, January 7, 2012 - We All Get What We Want
We had agreed on getting up around 8:00 for the day so I was up, showered and dressed fairly quickly. My sore throat was now turning into a cold so I made sure I had enough tissues for the day or at least would use a lot of Disney napkins. Rich got up (grumbling a bit about needing a vacation from the vacation) and we were ready to go without a word from next door. I finally texted Chris and I think they were feeling the effects of alarm waking up which we almost never do on trips. While we were waiting for the Ohio group to get ready, I tried for a different Sci Fi seating and was successful with the phone and the internet this time. Although trying to do internet things on a phone screen is challenging to say the least. I became an expert on enlarging things so I could not only see them but click on the correct links. How people with bigger fingers can do this and do it quickly is beyond me. But I moved our seating up and then went down to the front desk on my newspaper run to cancel the other one. I was not going to attempt that on the phone. We were still going for a flexible schedule so if the shows took priority over the lunch, that was fine with all of us.
We did the bus over to the Studios with our now assigned seating. Still brings a smile to my face. Chris went to Guest Relations to add an extra day to their passes since they had decided to only do the parks one more day and then go to Downtown Disney on Monday. I am glad Disney doesnt screw people who decide on extra days as Chris just had to add the additional cost between a six day pass and a seven day pass to the tickets. This was done in about five minutes and then into the park.
I had everyone stop for a second to discuss final early plans. Chris wanted to get Mitchell signed up for the Jedi training so those four went that way while Rich and I took the six admission media to the thrills rides. We got four Rock N Roller Coaster Fastpasses (for Chris, Marlie, Rich and me) and then two Twilight Zone Fastpasses (for Rich and me). Then we went back and met up at the Studio Catering Company where I handed Rich off for the stunt show and I went back to Bill and Mins since I saw they were open already and I could get a beer to wait for the others.
I had never planned on doing the Lights, Motors, Action show. Ive seen it once and was bored by it. Not even watching my grandson seeing it for the first time could sway me. Im not a car person at all. To me, a car serves it purpose by getting me from point A to point B and thats about it. It costs way too much to maintain and I dont understand anything about them. I love Maxx and I mourned the passing of my previous car but I quickly moved on. And I guess I dont like too much to see how the magic of films is done. Id rather just enjoy the movie itself and not analyze how they did things. The only time I was really blown away by any kind of special effects was how Danny Boyle did the deserted London street scenes in 28 Days Later. And that wasnt even special effects; that was doing things efficiently. But I digress.
I enjoyed my beverage and a very spirited performance by the Disney Channel Rock gang until our windows had opened up for the thrill rides. Then I was able to take all six passes to Star Tours and get FastPass for later in the day. Now Rich and I had three FastPasses all at the same time. I felt pretty good about our chances of seeing everything we wanted at the Studios with no problems including having a nice lunch.
The others were going to call me when they were out of the show but I went back to the Studio Catering Company and texted Chris and Rich as to where I was. This was turning out to be a great place to meet up as there is plenty of seating room. I watched the 100,000 people (or so it seemed) stream out of the stadium and the other five found me without problems. I hadnt told Chris about the addition of Lightening McQueen to the stunt show (I thought I did but glad I didnt) and Rich didnt know either so all three males were very happy with that. Mitchell is a Cars fan extraordinaire (and Toy Story and Wall-E). Since our windows for the thrill stuff opened, Chandra took Mitchell to the Muppets (another Mitchell favorite but not as good as Spaceship Earth) and then to the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids playground while the other four went down to Sunset Boulevard.
I was pretty excited about being able to actually go into the G-Force Studios this time instead of waiting for Rich and the single riders line. Marlie made us old timers laugh when she saw one of the posters inside and didnt know who The Kinks were. Im only 37 years older than her so the generation gaps are really becoming wider, arent they? Marlie chose to sit with me and I loved that so I could experience her first time just like I did with Expedition Everest. I am really getting some very nice grandmother times with them and I love it since they live so far away. I surprised myself again by just enjoying the ride and not screaming like I did before the accident. I did make sure my head was back against the headrest as much as possible during the ride, though. Im not that stupid.
After our journey with Aerosmith (actually, we dont ride with Aerosmith, we just ride to their concert, they are in another limo somewhere), Rich attempted to get Marlie interested in Twilight Zone saying she could go with me but she refused again but she waffled a lot more this time. She and Chris left to meet with Chandra and Mitchell since they had to be at the Jedi training check in by 1:00 so I went to the fifth dimension with my husband.
Once we were positioned to enter our elevator, Rich wanted to make sure I was comfortable with where I was sitting. Before the accident, this attraction usually had me shaking for quite a while after and it was my favorite experience even though it scared the crap out of me. I was fine but when the elevator doors opened, he pointed out I would only have one hand hold so we quickly switched places. If Im going to be 13 stories high, I am holding on with both hands!
I really cant tell you the sequence we got because every time I thought we were going to have the last drop, those damn imaginers sent up right back up to the freaking top! I loved the ride and, again, didnt scream. I think Im going to love future trips to Disney World even more since I think I appreciate these thrills a lot better.
On the way out, I mentioned that we could get two more FastPasses for Twilight Zone just in case Marlie changed her mind later. And if she didnt, maybe Chris would want to go on it so we did that. I like the way Disney does FastPasses as its fair to everyone and you can do a lot if you just think about it. We didnt even think about Toy Story Mania today and that was fine as we had done it once before. Other than Mitchell doing his multiple Spaceship Earth and a couple of Muppet shows, we really didnt repeat too much (Star Tours is another one but that changes each time so its not really a repeater to me).
We texted the kids who said they were inside with Mitchell getting oriented for the Jedi training so we headed there, picking up a couple of beers along the way (if we had to watch the Jedi training, we were going to be prepared!). The others were inside a small area next to Sound Dangerous and the Cast Member allowed us to peek in there as I didnt want to go in with a full beer. We noticed it was kind of instructional for the parents and Marlie looked bored so we texted she could come out with us and wed meet over by the Star Tours area for the actual training. We then would be insured good front row spots.
While we were waiting for Chris and Chandra to join us, we told Marlie about the Twilight Zone FastPasses and she didnt believe us. I showed them to her and she said she would really think about it. We assured her if she didnt want to do it, she didnt have so it was her choice entirely. We were not going to pressure her anymore. Chris and Chandra joined us and I had to fend off a bit of a pushy mom who was trying to get her large group together in the space for about one more person. She was quite loud too. Fortunately, it was decided the woman would stay in front for the photos and her group went over to another area where they could see just fine. All this was happening just as the kids were brought out for the training and others had been waiting for a while. Its just a like a parade mentality with some of these people, sigh.
I videotaped the entire training and will have to go back and see and listen to everything again. Little Mitchell was the smallest one in the Academy and his robe went way over his hands. He did quite well for only being five. The Jedi Master or whoever he was (I wasnt paying attention, I was filming which is the downfall of being the photographer) said something about Mitchell being a Hobbit which was really funny. He was a little slow at first but caught on after that. He was in the group who fought Darth Vader and it was only after the first five or ten minutes that I noticed Darth Maul was fighting another set of kids on the ground (Vader and that group were on the platform). I kept wondering why Darth Maul kept walking in front of my camera! At the end and everyone is saved, the trainees are told to turn around and wave to everyone. To see that little smile on Mitchells face is priceless. He really had a good time with doing this today and Im glad we got to experience it with him. Well, watching him experience it.
Our seating for Sci Fi wasnt up yet so we used the Star Tours FastPasses which was a very nice segway from the training. This was my second time this trip on the attraction and I wasnt thrilled with either one as I like the Jar Jar Binks and the underwater final scene the best. But theres always next time.
Next was lunch and I really hoped the grandkids would like the atmosphere at Sci Fi. I know the food gets knocks but we werent there so much for the food and our likes are simple anyway when it comes to sustenance. I wanted my grandkids to know what drive in movies were like. Chris knows because there was (is?) one in Council Bluffs, IA and we used to cross the bridge from the Omaha, NE side of the Missouri River to go there for double or even triple features. Wed take our Isuzu Trooper, open the back doors, dive under some sleeping bags and watch a movie or two. We even took our dog at times. Sigh, thats what we need in America these days. But then again, the direction weve gone, wed probably be in fear of our lives with idiots terrorizing the parking lot. Off the soapbox now, we return to the 50s and simpler times.
Marlie and Mitchell sat in the first seat, Rich and me in the second, and Chris and Chandra wanted the backseat for whatever reason (wink, wink). I watched the interaction between my grandkids and loved Marlie even more if thats possible. She told Mitchell all his kids meals choices and helped him color his placemat. Mitchell will order his own meals and he did this time (pizza) but Marlie had to help him with his two sides and they settled on fruit and fries. Marlie did a burger and so did I as well as Chandra. The regular burgers. Then the two Niklewski male pigs stepped up. Rich did the All-American Picnic Burger which has a flipping hot dog on top of the half pound burger patty! This was after he asked the server if the Double Bacon Cheeseburger was two half pound patties or two quarter pound patties so it was really a half pound. When the server replied it was two half pound patties, Rich wisely declined. But Chris didnt! Oh my, my, my. Sorry to all the vegetarians out there but our car started to moo when the meal was brought out. I thought wed come home and find the Chick Fil A cows had set fire to our house or PETA had toilet papered our front lawn.
Our server was absolutely awesome, taking photos of all six of us (we still didnt have one of all of us) and then a couple of Marlie sitting on the car hood. The server also was so helpful with Mitchell and was talking to Chandra about things too. She brought out refills, took notice when Rich wanted another beer, and was pleasant with everything. The tip was automatically included in the bill which I hadnt even thought about as its been so long since weve had a party of six or more. Rich thought the total was kind of high so I got my flashlight and looked at it, otherwise I would have accidentally tipped on top of the auto one. Glad my husband is a cheapskate sometimes! I had gotten a nice Christmas gift card from work and thought I could use it to take the grandkids on Sea Raycers tomorrow but it didnt look like that was going to work out so I picked up the check here. A very lovely time with my family. Although Rich and I were so into everyone else, we didnt get a chance to see the film clips that I adore so well be back over Memorial Day weekend. It also helps that Rich absolutely loved his burger and kept raving about how fresh it was. Hes a burger fiend and does not like the prefabbed crap some restaurants do so Im willing to come back in a few months and do this again.
I dont know how we all managed to get out of the car seats but we did and were close to the next Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular Show so made our way over there. So far, we were getting lots of things done and even a few things we didnt think about. We took seats all the way on the right side of the stage which were fine and we were down fairly close. Once we were settled, the picking of the volunteers started so we were entertained. Im not a fan of this show either but I went anyway. Mitchell was very serious during this show and at one point said dont try this at home which had me cracking up. I watched Mitchell during the presentation and he seemed a bit bored at the technical stuff so when the excitement happened, he might have been unprepared. I dont know - what goes through a five year olds mind?
My cold was starting to sap me but the others wanted to do a few more things at the Studios and then go to Epcot for Illuminations. I love Illuminations but with how I felt and then having to deal with the crowds and the buses after, I did not want any part of it. I just wanted to go back to the room for some quiet time on my own. By this time, Marlie decided she did want to try Twilight Zone so Chris was offered the chance to do that and he declined so Rich would be Marlies ride partner. However, the Ohio folks had a Photo Pass and had been getting their pictures done in front of the four park icons (I really didnt know about this until much later) so they wanted to go to the Hat and have that done. Then Chris said he needed to go back to the room so he, Chandra, Mitchell, and I stopped at the Photo Place to have Mitchells Jedi Training pictures put on the PhotoPass. That took a very long time as the place was mobbed so I would advise you to do this before you want to leave the park. Chris later said it was because they had to look through all the pictures of the training and then pick out the ones of just Mitchell.
Rich and Marlie went to Twilight Zone and then were going to Epcot after where they would meet up with Chris, Chandra and Mitchell for Illuminations. Those three and I would go back to Pop Century and then I would stay behind. And as Ive said numerous times, never think you can go to Disney World with a group and expect to tour all together. Never.
Once back at Pop Century, I kind of vegged out and found something on TV to watch until the kids were done in their room with changing and Chandra taking the blanket Bobbie had given me for our anniversary. We knew the night would be chilly and Chandra wanted something to sit on for Illuminations. Her plan was to just go to our favorite spot with Mitchell and wait for the show. Vacation overload was coming, I think. I know it was there with me and we still have one more day to go. I ended up watching football (NFL playoffs), Bones (on some channel), and then Up on ABC Family (I think) and working on the trip report. I also was texting my niece, Kelsey, about meeting with her and her dad, Rich B, tomorrow. I knew we would be at Animal Kingdom in the morning but that was a much as I knew. I love my family but this time alone was appreciated.
Meanwhile, Rich and Marlie had a good time on Twilight Zone and then went to take the boat to Epcot but realized it would take at least three boats for them to get on so they walked. Once at Epcot, they walked all around World Showcase with a few highlights. Each got a kaki gori and while at that stand, Rich had an amusing encounter. A group of people were drinking their way around the Showcase (it was Saturday night) and a guy approached Rich and said they had gotten three sakis but two were enough so would Rich want the third one? Rich, not being stupid, asked the kiosk person if she had just served the guest and when he received an affirmative reply, Rich, not being that paranoid, took the saki. I swear, only my husband will get approached by total strangers like this. Next up for Marlie and Rich was the Mexico pavilion where Rich said he couldnt get Marlie out of there with all the shopping options. He also said Marlie didnt shut up from the time they left the Studios until Chris met up with them later. We met Marlie when she was four years old and Rich (or Ricardo as she now calls him) and her have had a special relationship ever since. It was nice for those two to have this time together just like Mitchell and I had our bus time.
The other three (Chris, Chandra and Mitchell in case you need a scorecard now) got to Epcot and guess what Mitchell wanted to do? Yep, so he and Chandra went to Spaceship Earth while Chris met up with Rich and Marlie. BTW - thats five total visits for both Mitchell and Chandra on Spaceship Earth. Then they all met back at our favorite place to watch Illuminations. I asked later how the buses were and I think Chandra said it took three buses for them to board but it wasnt bad, no angry people and I know they were all back by at least 10:30 if not sooner. I wish I could have been there but I think I would have brought everyone down (and I proved myself right the next night) since I felt not so great.
Once the others were back, we quickly were in our respective rooms to get ready for our last day at Disney World.
Day Eight Sunday, January 8, 2012 - The End of the Road
Our last day. And the real Marathon Day. I was up before 8:00 for some reason and even though we had plans we really didnt have plans. I knew the kids wanted to finish up Animal Kingdom as they needed a photo in front of the Tree of Life and they hadnt done the Safari yet so that was first. They also had a reservation for only Chris and Chandra at The Wave so Rich and I might have the grandkids for some time on our own. But that wasnt decided on yet. There still were some things for the kids to do a Magic Kingdom and that had to be taken into consideration. Plus, we were meeting with Kelsey and Rich B so that went into the mix. We still hadnt done Kim Possible either. What would today hold?
Im not sure when we actually got up and ready but we were on the bus to Animal Kingdom when the marathon was still being run on Osceola Parkway so the bus had to take the round about way to the park. Im not sure of the exact route but it took a while. Meanwhile, Kelsey and Rich B had arrived and wanted to park at Epcot since they knew they would end up in that park but were diverted somehow to there. It wasnt that bad as the roads were OK but half of each road was closed for the runners. The mechanical vehicles had half the normal lanes which slowed everything down. I dont know the route of the runners but at least I knew what was going on. I thought it would all be over with by the time we got going but dont expect that if you go during the weekend. It wont be over until early afternoon. We didnt experience any disappointments but we did experience some inconvenience. Ill report on what our feelings were.
Rich B and Kelsey made it to Animal Kingdom before us and did Expedition Everest single riders line and then met us back at the Safari which we all could do with a ten minute wait. Rich B and Kelsey had never met Chandra, Marlie or Mitchell and the last time they saw Chris was ten years ago so we did brief introductions before the Safari. Then all eight of us enjoyed the African trip. We had kidded Marlie about having animals on the road and Mitchell was worried about crocodiles which had Rich B saying things about all the Gators that live near them. Get it - Rich B lives in Gainesville, FL, home of the University of Florida Gators. Mitchell didnt get it. But we did see the crocs and we did have animals on the road - this time White Rhinoceroses. The driver wasnt all that great (more like a worker being bored at a job and having to get through the day) but she got through it. I dont think Marlie and Mitchell minded.
The kids wanted to check out some more stuff at Animal Kingdom, including getting their photo in front of the Tree of Life so Rich B, Kelsey, Rich, and I went to the buses for Epcot which is where we were going to spend the rest of the day. The kids would go over to Magic Kingdom after they were done with Animal Kingdom.
At the bus area, we told Rich B that we would normally take an Epcot resort bus over for that park and he wondered why. We figure its a different way to get into the park and the turnstiles are not that crowded. Yes, its a walk but thats fine with us. Rich B and Kelsey had never done this before so we led them over to the Swan/Dolphin/Yacht Club/Beach Club/Boardwalk bus where we had a short wait. It actually turned into an agonizing time for this Atlanta Falcon fan. We boarded and then left for the resort area only to run (no pun intended) into the marathon. As we crept along, this really loud New York Giant fan (the Falcons were playing that stupid team today in the first round of the playoffs) who was going to the ESPN Club to watch the game and kept yakking loudly. Did I say this person was loud? Did I say she was a New York fan? She was there with a couple of other people and kept talking about them not being able to do anything about the traffic and how they would get there when they did. The problem was no one on the bus really cared. She was texting the entire time and I guess she felt like she needed to vocalize what she was texting. It was annoying as heck since she was so loud the entire bus could hear her. Did I say she was loud? Did I say she was a New York fan? A woman clearly not in touch with her surroundings but, and I can say this because the Giants stomped the Falcons, I think shes used to that from where she lives. Ah - a sports zinger! (And yeah, Im not that thrilled with the results of the game.)
We knew Chris and his family would have the same difficult time (without the damn Giants fan!) getting to Magic Kingdom so we would await word on what their day would hold. At this point, we were all going with the flow.
My Rich was telling Rich B (its so confusing with our family - and Richs sister used to be married to a Rich C) that it was better for us to get off at the first stop, the Swan, than to drive all the way around to the Boardwalk and another guy heard that advice and asked if they could get to the ESPN Club faster that way. Rich and I both agreed so the guy and his party got off with us and the party included the loud lady. Im surprised she listened to anyone else besides herself. Yeah, still mad about the Falcons losing.
Anyway, Rich B had never been back in the Epcot resort area and made the same comment Ive heard a lot - he didnt realize it was all back here. He was also surprised anyone could access it. We also had the marathoners running through here so half the walkways along the Yacht and Beach Club side were either closed or reduced. After we crossed the bridge from the Boardwalk, we had to walk to the left and then under the bridge so as to not interfere with the runners. A bit of a pain since it was now after noon and these were not the most serious athletes at this point.
Once inside the International Gateway, we showed the other two our favorite beer stand at the Promenade Refreshments where all four of us got beers with Kelsey, being adventurous at the age of 21, doing the Sam Adams seasonal while the rest of us did Bud Lites. Rich B needed food and suggested Mexico so we went there with one more encounter with the marathoners. We were on one side of the World Showcase walkway but had to cross over to the other side to go over the bridge in Mexico only to have to cross back over to get to the counter service place. Another bit of a pain but the Cast Members were at least nice about it.
My Rich wasnt sure what he wanted but I knew this Mexican was not for me. I dont like anything but meat, cheese, some veggies and my kind of sauce in anything Mexican so I was looking at something else down the road (well, down World Showcase). But Kelsey did the nachos, Rich B the chicken tacos and then my Rich decided on the nachos too which I ended up sharing by eating any nacho that didnt have something green or rhymed with green (like bean) on it. The outside seating area of the Cantina was crowded but I pointed out the inside seating of the place was open and there were plenty of tables in there. We had a very nice lunch and it was great to visit with my sisters husband and their child. I wish we could have all been together but with Sandy being in the reserves and Wesley joining the Marines, I will take what I can get.
After lunch (the marathoners were now gone or at least the walkways werent segregated anymore), the four of us did a walk around the World Showcase and then Rich and I opted for an Off Kilter set. Kelsey made me laugh when she said Ill listen to anything but not that group you had at your last wedding anniversary. Well, Off Kilter played right after that so, um, I dont think you like them! That was fine as Off Kilter is not for everyone so we parted ways. After this set (all five original guys - it was Sunday), I was hungry so Rich and I went to Lotus Blossom Caf in China for pot stickers which I love here.
Our kids were enjoying Magic Kingdom during this time. Im not sure of anything they did here but it was to basically fill in what they missed the other day.
By this time, Rich and I were about ready to head back to Pop Century but Chris texted and said they were done and were almost at Boardwalk for pizza. I had forgotten this was mentioned as a possibility for food today so we went out there to meet up with our wayward children. Not really - they werent wayward; they were having a great time. The kids had taken the Boardwalk bus which I didnt even know existed from the Magic Kingdom until I was writing this report and asked Chris how they got there. We met up with the kids ordering a large pepperoni pizza which proved interesting as each person only got two slices with Chris saying something like darn kids! The adults were almost shut out of the pizza! Quite funny.
During this time, Kelsey texted me to ask if Chris had shown up yet at Epcot. When I replied we were having some food outside at the Boardwalk, she responded she and her dad were tired and heading back to Gainesville. I wish we could have spent more time with my sisters family but the hours we did have were great. We will see them again Im sure although its just so sporadic these days with multiple lives, people, jobs, and locations. Plus, our entire family lives practically all up and down the East Coast so its difficult to get everyone together in one place at the same time. This is as close as we will get except for something drastic.
After the kids dinner, we entered Epcot for what would be our last park for this trip. Sad to say it but the vacation was almost over. I think it was Chris who said we promised the grandkids a Kim Possible mission so that was, well, our mission. We stopped right inside the International Gateway and were given our FastPasses for about an hour so we paused to get ice cream for the kids. Rich and I did the obvious and got beers. We had to stop in at Norway to get the Kimmunicator for Japan so we let Chris, the father, do all that.
I liked the Kim Possible mission except for one thing and it might have been our fault. We didnt rush back to Norway or Japan so there were three or four other Kim parties doing the same mission as us at the same time. We saw the other ones and that was fine but we went to one place and had this family who were taking a break tell Mitchell exactly where and what to look for before he even pressed the button on the Kimmunicator. Mitchell was confused so I told the family not to spoil things. The parents ignored, the kids said the same things, I said not to spoil things. This effect was totally ruined for Mitchell as he was not surprised at all. In fact, everyone at this particular location (not going to spoil it) was looking exactly where the special effects were going to happen.
This was my first time with the Kim Possible thing but if its that easy for everyone around to be in on the effect before it happens, whats the point? Its like having a Flash Mob happen at noon but at 11:58 AM, someone goes through the location and tells everyone to be ready in two minutes. I guess I was a little disappointed and getting tired as the kids didnt really seem to mind.
Chandra hadnt had any fish and chips yet and, like Chris with his Mexican nachos, thats something she had been looking forward to so after Kim Possible, we stopped at the Yorkshire County Fish Shop for her to get her favorite. At this point, I probably should have just gone back to the resort. I think I was tired, I know my cold was bothering me, I was dreading packing, it was getting late, I wanted to leave before Illuminations, and my mood turned bad quickly. I dont know why but it did.
We found a table in the small seating area next to the counter service and I suggested to Rich that he take Marlie over to the African area because she had expressed an interest in getting something from the bead kiosk there. She had run out of money on her gift card so this was going to be a special present from us to her for being such a great granddaughter on the trip. Mitchell had been able to get additional things but she hadnt even asked for anything and we wanted to do something special for her. And thats where I went really into a funk and I regret it to this day.
We were in the United Kingdom, Africa was sort of on the other side of the lagoon but if Rich had taken Marlie towards Mexico, it would have been faster. Instead, he took her towards France and they were gone for a very long time. Very long. Mitchell started getting antsy so Chandra took him towards - you guessed it - Spaceship Earth. I wanted to get going and out of Epcot before Illuminations as we still had all the packing to do. Chris stayed with me and I got more and more impatient with each passing minute. To top it off, Rich hadnt taken his phone with him and Marlie wasnt carrying hers today so we had no way to communicate with them to find out exactly where they were and how much longer it was going to take them. Chris was growing impatient with my impatience and finally said he would walk over to Africa but look for the other two on the way. He at least had his phone.
He called a few minutes later saying he had found them at the entrance to World Showcase so I grabbed everything and headed to meet them. At this point, I should have taken a break because when I finally saw Rich, I unloaded on him right in front of Marlie. I admit, I was a witch. Chris brought me to my senses by saying it wasnt the right way to end the trip and he was absolutely correct. I tried to adjust myself and smooth things over but I was wrong in what I did. Because I was bickering with Rich and Chris wanted to get Marlie out of the way of my wrath and since Chandra and Mitchell were on their way to Spaceship Earth, all six of us were now separated but in three groups of two. I hurried up to Chris and Marlie who then called out to Chandra and Mitchell to wait up and all six would take a final ride on Mitchells favorite. It was the least I could do for being such a horrible person on our last night and last time together.
I should have taken an adult time out here. Five minutes in the bathroom or something would have been plenty to stave off this stupid behavior. I am not proud of what I did but include the good, the bad and the ugly in my reports and this was definitely ugly. And its a warning for anyone else going to Disney World - your trip is not going to be perfect and sometimes its you who causes it to be that way.
We did our final ride the right way - Mitchells favorite. He and Chandra paired up since that was a given just like riding with me on the bus and Chris went with Marlie (probably because he didnt want her near me) so Rich was forced to ride with me. It wasnt perfect but it healed a bit.
But we made up for it on the bus ride back as one of the songs playing as we got closer to Pop Century was Bohemian Rhapsody. I was sitting with Mitchell (five year olds are blessingly clueless when it comes to family squabbles) with Rich and Marlie right behind us while Chris and Chandra were somewhere else on the bus. Rich and I sang almost the entire song and Chris later said just about the entire bus was singing too.
After we got to our rooms, we started the horrible packing thing. We began having the connecting door open but closed it so we could each concentrate on what needed to be done. Rich and I decided on a reverse thing of just a week before and packed only what we needed for tomorrow in one bag and then got everything else into the two suitcases and assorted other bags. Then we hauled the gear, including the refrigerator, down to Maxx so all we had to do the next day was a couple of small things. We take so many short trips to Disney World that it was a bit difficult doing this for a full week.
We said our goodbyes to Chris, Chandra, Mitchell and Marlie tonight since we thought wed just get up and be gone before they were ready tomorrow. It was a great trip and one Ill remember for quite a long time.
Day Nine Monday, January 9, 2012 - Going Home, Sigh
We set the alarm for 8:00 (again) since we knew we wouldnt have that much to pack up this morning. I was up first and got ready and then Rich followed. I texted Chris and they were kind of up so we went to say goodbye again and then were pulling out of Pop Century close to 9:00. Not much to say about the trip home except we were just about traffic free until we hit Atlanta and then it wasnt too bad there either. Just normal things. We had breakfast at our now traditional stop at McDonalds on 429 where we also make a Target run (where I got a big box of tissues for my cold) and get gas for Maxx. Then we stopped at our local Subway for dinner and home to the cats who were glad to see us, I think. The crappy part is work tomorrow. Ugh.
The Ohio folks did Downtown Disney and I can report that Chris said Earl of Sandwich is one of the best bargains at Disney World. They absolutely loved it so that was a highlight for them. They had no problems with Magical Express on the way home and their flight was on time with a friend picking them up at the airport. We texted each other with our arrivals.
I have no idea when we can go back to Disney World with Chris. Maybe we can work together and made 2014 (their 10th anniversary) a reality. But who knows where we will be in our lives? We had a great vacation so for right now, we live in those moments.
Final Thoughts -
Congratulations on making it this far. It was a mega-trip with many people, ages, experiences and expectations but I think we managed fairly well.
The timing of the trip worked out even though it was very cold on Tuesday. After that one day, the weather was really nice with Rich and Chris opting for shorts towards the end of the week. For one of the few Disney trips, we had not one ounce of rain at all and most of the days were sunny (even that one cold one). The best part of the weather was it was cold early and then turned beautiful so our last days were nicer. Ive been at Disney World the same week in previous years and the weather was opposite so weve had the cold stuff on our last days. This was much better.
My only gripe about the timing was the Christmas decorations still being up even when we left. I think a full week after New Years is way too long for that. Also, Christmas music was still playing in the parks and that really bothered me. If I heard that Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer instrumental one more time, I think I would have thrown Rich into World Showcase Lagoon. It seemed to be the only song he ever noticed. I am a firm believer in Christmas starting the day after Thanksgiving and ending on New Years Eve but thats just me.
Chris getting his park admission early worked very well for them as they avoided the price increase and then were able to add on the extra day when needed. The Undercover Tourist tickets worked great for Bobbie and Dave. There was the one problem with us not realizing Monday was a legal holiday so my dad and Betty couldnt use their pass that day but it was dealt with out too many issues.
Magical Express was a hit with Chris and Delta came through for the kids and the only change they had was a flight number. That was pretty darn good for the $178 price and buying those in late May. The direct flight helped with Chandras fears (and the prescription she was given a few days before probably didnt hurt, nor did the pina colada I had waiting for her!).
No one had any troubles with Pop Century and I have to give a huge thumbs up for the placement of the rooms that met all of our needs exactly. All four rooms were right in a row with Bobbie and Dave first, then my dad and Betty but with non connecting rooms. Then Chris and our rooms were next but had the connecting door which worked out perfectly for us. We were able to use the Annual Passholder on all four rooms even though we only had two Annual Passes. I knew enough to put Rich in one room and myself in another but I warn others about doing this. We did not have the meal plan and we did not charge anything back to the rooms and that really was the easiest way to do things since Chris and Rich just switched room keys. If we had a meal plan, that wouldnt have worked because of the inclusion of the plan on the room keys. Same with charging back to the room - Chris purchases would have been on Richs charge and vice versa. The only thing we really lost was the charging and it was well worth the excellent discount we were able to get on the rooms.
The marathon for the kids was really nice and Im very glad they were able to do it. Its not something every kid can say they have done and Ill bet they are the only ones in their town that have medals from the weekend. Id like to see a bit more organization from Disney in regards to the announcing of things and having different heats but thats the nature of the event being so popular so I shouldnt complain. We had some run ins (pun intended) on Sunday with the true marathoners with the traffic and the reduced walking areas around Epcot but it wasnt major. Just something to think about. The one big issue I had was with everyone wearing their medals all the time. Why? Yes, its wonderful you ran in the 5K or half marathon or whatever but honestly, do you really need to wear that medal for the next three days? Chris said there were people at Downtown Disney on Monday still with three or four medals on. Its like business people who are at Disney World for a conference and have to wear their nametags all the time.
Touring with so many people and so many different groups was quite a challenge but I think we managed OK. However, I dont think the older folk were all that thrilled. I havent really addressed the issue with them but dealing with an age gap of over 50 years was eye opening. I know Bobbie, Betty and my dad wanted to spend more time with the great-grandkids but I honestly dont see how that could have happened. Heck, Rich and I didnt spend at least one full day with the Ohio Niklewskis. Thats something every family with multiple generations has to realize before they leave on a Disney trip. Rich and I were fine but I think the expectations for others were different. And I dont like to say it but Im glad the others were there just for the first part of the trip. After everyone else left, it became much easier to tour with Chris and his family. We just meshed.
Our lunch at Sci Fi was outstanding and everyone loved the food. The reactions to the food court at Pop Century were very underwhelming so thats not going to be an option in the future. Our counter service experiences were positive and Im glad Rich got to try the nachos in Mexico because I think I see them as a future option. Studio Catering Company at the Studios gets yet another thumbs up from us. And I learned that no two Dennys are alike so take the one on the west side of I4 (according to those who experienced both).
And Im not going to forget about my stepsisterdog, Kaycee. She was fine after her Best Friends visit. She had her own room and Betty upgraded her to having an ice cream every day. Quite seriously, if you want to take your pet to Disney World, you can have the moon and the stars for them. They just cant be in your room which I totally understand. If I had to compare what Kaycee had and what my four cats had back at home? Kaycee was the winner. I know people want Disney to have pet friendly hotel but if my stepmother and my dad liked the accommodations for Kaycee, it is the next best thing to staying home with your furbaby. If it werent for Kaycee and her companionship, I dont think my dad would be around today and he was willing to let her go for a few days, so thank you Disney World for that.
Bringing the small refrigerator for our room was a good idea for us, especially since Mitchell was on the downside of a health issue and needed to have his meds cool. I had requested a refrigerator for Chris room but that didnt happen and no one wanted to push the issue so no big deal. It was a nice thing in that every morning Mitchell announced he needed his medicine and his vitamin and one morning didnt believe us when we said he already had both! And it gave him a chance to come over to our room every day.
With the refrigerator, my laptop (for the trip report), our two cell phones, my video camera, and my digital camera, we had a lot of electronic equipment. I didnt listen to Rich saying we would be fine without anything so took along a power strip which turned out to be one of the best things I could have done. We left that plugged in under the small table and then just used the other plugs for when we needed to charge units. I left the laptop on the table for the entire trip and just put the daily newspaper on top of it while we were out.
Speaking of cell phones, those were invaluable for having so many different people doing so many different things at so many different times. I highly recommend people use the texting function, though, instead of voice messaging. You dont have to listen to a text message which was great for being in a crowded or noisy situation. Bobbie was the weakest link here as she only has a regular phone and I doubt she would be able to use the small keyboards anyway. But, for everyone else, it was fantastic. We were able to hook up during the day with everyone without disturbing others around us. However, we did make sure we were stopped and on the side of a walkway before we starting replying to anyone. Thats a huge pet peeve of mine and Chris and his family saw it almost immediately. People walking along texting and not paying attention to where they were going.
There were a lot of things we were going to do but never did, like the pool at Pop Century (it was warmer at the end of the trip and Im sure the kids would have survived) and Kidcot stations but I dont think anyone even cared by the end rolled around. Getting the cold and sore throat was not great for me and it showed a few times with me being very tired in the evenings. The only thing I took for the symptoms were cough drops but I should have sucked it up and taken some Nyquil at least once to get some rest. I guess its because I havent had a cold in over ten years, I didnt quite know how to deal with it.
We never did a rope drop and but the kids stayed out late at Magic Kingdom and then the others stayed out past Illuminations. I know there are some that advocate arrive early, arrive early, arrive early but the opposite can be said as well. You can very easily do lots of things at night once everyone else has gone home. Just decide for your own family and go with it. There is no way in heck anyone of us would have been able to make rope drop but we all managed to do the things we wanted.
The times with our grandkids were so, so special for us. Since they live 800 miles away, we treasure every minute with them. And we had so many this trip, both together and separately. Rich being able to go off with Marlie was great and my bus moments with Mitchell will always live in my mind. But the most special part was seeing how wonderful these two kids are with each other. The hugs and seeing Marlie helping Mitchell with things were way too precious to even describe. These two really love each other and thats rare these days. Im very proud to be their grandmother.
There are no plans for a repeat visit to Disney World for everyone. Rich and I will do our normal three day weekends in 2012 and thats about it. Ive run out of vacation time from work so itll be at least until 2013 that I think about another week long trip. But thats OK because we have tons of memories from this one - enough to last for ten years. I can live with that.