Ages: Tara- 27, Jillian-19
After honeymooning at WDW in June, I really didnt expect to go again until at least Christmas or (more realistically) in 1999. However, reading about the $84 rates at the moderate resorts finally got to me, so I thought, "Ill just call and see - they probably wont have any availability when I can go, anyway." So, I called the Central Reservations Office (CRO) on August 8th to see what I could get for the weekend of August 21. (My husband was leaving that weekend for UCLA to do some research using their ion probe, so I thought, "He gets to go on a trip, so why shouldnt I?") I got CRO on the phone and lo and behold - I could choose from Port Orleans or Dixie Landings and get the $84 rate! That in itself was a tough choice, but I finally decided on Dixie Landings.
Then I logged onto Travelocity to check out rates. I found one for $196 from Albany to Orlando, arriving at 11:40 am on Friday morning and departing at (eek) 7 am on Monday, since I really needed to be back to work. Since I was feeling generous, I checked rates from Hunstville, Alabama to Orlando and found one for $191 on Delta. So I called up Jillian, my 19-year-old sister who hadnt been to Disney since she was 7. "Wanna go to Disney?" I asked. She freaked!! (Am I a good sister or what?) What a great surprise - I felt like a million bucks!
We arrived at the airport on 8/21within 15 minutes of each other and made our way to baggage claim to meet our driver from Tiffany Towncar. There was Brian, holding a sign with my name. (I hadnt told my sister about this - she was extremely impressed and thought she was getting star treatment.) Brian was extremely courteous and had us at Dixie Landings in no time, safely I might add. I highly recommend this service!
We checked in and - YIPPEE - we able to buy E-tickets for that night!! I was on cloud nine! We walked to Parterre Place, although it took us about 15 minutes of wandering around the walkways trying to find our room! This resort is huge!! I was very pleased with the room. The decor was very nice and it was big and bright (not much smaller than my room at Wilderness Lodge in June, and much brighter). The amenities werent as nice (no pool towels available, only shampoo/conditioner combo instead of separate bottles, no enclosed closet). In all, though, the room was wonderful (and clean, contrary to a thread Id just read on rec.arts.disney.parks).
Dixie Landings in itself is fabulous. The landscaping is beautiful and the buildings are very authentic and stately looking in the Magnolia Bend section. The Alligator Bend section looked very secluded to me and the buildings werent nearly as rustic as I expected. We did most of our eating at the Colonels Cotton Mill food court. We both bought refillable mugs, but ended up using just one most of the time. This strategy worked well since the resort was very big and we didnt feel like carrying both mugs back to our room after meals and we were sharing duty carrying a backpack for our cameras, ponchos and the one refillable mug. We both are Coca-cola drinkers, so we didnt argue about what to drink, either! The food at the court was good - Jillian loved the pizza, I thought the blueberry muffins were great. Unlike the food court at Wilderness Lodge, this one is huge and the variety of food very good.
E-ticket night was very fun; however, it was still fairly crowded. We were only able to ride each ride once (and Splash Mountain twice), not because we had to wait in line, but because it seemed like the park was slow to clear out, so getting from Tomorrowland to Frontierland took some time. For $10 extra, it was well worth it, especially since our time was limited. We used our other time at MK to explore and visit the non-e-ride attractions.
The biggest thrill of all for Jillian was Tower of Terror. We went to MGM and she wanted to try it immediately, but was very scared. Once she rode it, she was hooked. She (like me!) wanted to ride it again and again. This time, however, the crowd was almost nonexistent, so we could go over and over with no more than a 5-minute wait. In three hours, we rode 9 times!! We eventually had to stop for lunch, but ended up riding 4 more times on another visit to the park to bring the total up to 13!! We also did the Great Movie Ride, but Jillian was more interested in just walking around and looking at the park & taking pictures, so we mainly did that. It was a nice break from going from one thing to the next.
Since Id had good luck touring Animal Kingdom during the late afternoon on my last trip, we decided to visit AK on Saturday. Jillian got a big kick out of Kilimanjaro Safaris in Animal Kingdom, which surprised me. We were lucky in that many animals, including the male lion, were out, even though there was a light rain falling. She was very surprised at Countdown to Extinction (CTX) and Its Tough to Be a Bug, probably because she was expecting a more Epcot-like experience, which bored her. (I think AK does a better job in presenting educational material in a more entertaining fashion than Epcot, but still love Epcot anyway.) She ranked CTX her second-favorite attraction, though.
What I realized based on a second trip:
Rooms arent all that important, especially on a short trip. We spent very little time in the room (95% of that time we were asleep) and felt adequately pampered in a moderate resort.
Deluxe resorts spoiled me for good transportation. The combination of only bus service from DxL and the large population of guests (they have 2000+ rooms) made bus travel slow and crowded. Plus, the buses had 4 stops to make at DxL and one at Port Orleans.
Jillians only complaints were:
MK and MGM werent open late enough.
Getting from Downtown Disney to Magic Kingdom was incredibly slow (1 hr, 15 minutes by bus to the Ticket & Transportation Center and then by monorail).
Not enough restaurants offered pizza (which I thought was ridiculous, but she ate pizza for virtually every meal).
There werent any pigs in Animal Kingdom (her favorite animal) - silly, but I had to throw this one in.
Our best tip - if you are going for a very short visit, investigate your ticket options carefully. We arrived at noon on Friday and left at 7 am on Monday - so we were really only there 3 nights and 2.5 days. A length-of-stay pass would have covered all day on Monday, allowed us to use the water parks and Pleasure Island and would have cost $191 before my MKC discount. However, a 5-day Park hopper that let us go from park to park whenever we wanted but didnt include PI or the water parks was just $189 and the unused days (2 in this case) NEVER expire. Since we were so limited on time, we knew PI and water parks were out of the question, so we opted for the Park Hopper. Those unused days can be used anytime and even traded in for credit towards an Annual Pass! Explore your options and make the best decision for you based on the length of your trip and what you really want to see and do.
In all, we had a very fun weekend, even if it was short. Just remember, you can have fun at WDW on a short trip if you:
Limit yourself, set priorities on what you want to do.
Be willing to get up early, especially if the parks arent open late.
Dont feel pressured into doing all the supposed "must-sees" if they dont interest you - use your time for what you truly want to see and do.
Try to experience e-ticket night if you can - it gives you more touring time when the parks arent open late and makes it easier to do the other attractions during regular park hours.
Eat at odd times to avoid lines and eat at counter service restaurants to save time.