Time of Year: Fall
Travel Method: Plane, Rental Car
Ages Represented in Group: Elementary, Adult
WDW Experience Represented in Group: Infrequent
Comments: Debbie and her four and a half year old daughter Raquel visited WDW for a wonderful trip. In addition to scouring the Magic Kingdom, the twosome enjoyed several of the character meals, visited a few of the themed resorts, and spent some time at Downtown Disney, Fort Wilderness, Discovery Island, and Typhoon Lagoon for good measure!
This is the beginning of my trip report. I've summarized a few general things about the trip and after that is a list of "do's" and "don'ts".
The crowds weren't very light for off season. Judging by the number of trip reports on the news group, looks like we were all there! I went from Weds 9/30 to Sat 10/10 and the first week was noticiably less crowded then the second week. But the crowds were still mangeable none the less, and the longest wait we had was 30 minutes for Splash Mountain and Dumbo.
When I was planning our trip, I had been told that there are a lot of europeans that come in October and that the crowds aren't so light. We'll after reading the news group and the books, I decided that October is, in fact, off season. I do have to say that I did encounter tons of Englanders. Almost every other person in the parks had an English accent. (I found it to be interesting to listen to the accents - and I'm sure they found my Joisey accent interesting too). I encountered one Venezualian group at HISTA. I made sure to steer clear of where they were sitting, although they seemed very friendly, not loud and they weren't jumping lines as I saw.
The weather was unusually hot for October, and of course, as I hear, it cooled down after we left. We never had to use our rain ponchos once (I guess I'll just have to save them for the next trip... :-) It rained once or twice in the evening, that's about it.
The water fountains were very plentiful around the park and there really was cold water coming out of them which I thought was great! Did I mention the weather was sooooo hot?
Next time we go back, I would go in off season in November or early December.
Renting a house is an excellent deal and saves a lot of money - but DO NOT USE CHATHAM PARK (more to follow on that inside my trip report)!
If you get the kids to bed early almost everyday, you'll have a pleasant full day at the parks. I know a lot of people recommend taking a break in the middle of the day, but the parks can be done w/o leaving for a break, but make sure you *always* take at least a 1/2 hour break mid-day. I always went to lunch in an air-conditioned place and ate leisurely and sat for about 30-45 minutes to escape the heat and relax. The spray bottle did wonders, although my daughter sequestered it for the whole trip! She used it to suck on it and get water.
Be prepared to switch days of your itinerary in order to accomodate tiredness and/or rainy days. Going in off season was great, because I switched around the PS to accomodate our changing schedule a lot.
Bring a cooler with drinks to the parks to save a little money on drinks. I brought one everyday and put it in the bottom of my stroller. No one searched us, but I didn't advertise it either.
I was very happy I made little fact sheets (from books I've read and notes from the news group) that I brought to the parks everyday so I could take a look and see which ride was where (it's been 9 yrs since I've been to the world) and what land had what kind of food, etc. If anyone wants these little fact sheets I made up, I'd be happy to email them to you. Just give me a holler!
At least one character dining experience, if not 2-3 or more (even for adults w/o kids).
Ask the kiddies before you get into the preshows if they have to go to the bathroom :-O
Use nice clean and shiny pennies for the pressed penny machines.
Tell a stranger that they are a good mom/dad (only if you think so), it makes us feel so good.
Bring a little cooler or a bag with some frozen drinks so you don't spend a fortune on drinks at the park.
Make a little fact sheet and take it to the parks with you to remember what rides are where and what restaurants serve what kind of food.
Use Chatham Park to rent a house.
Take the luggage cart at the airport on the escalator :-O
Run over the traffic cones at Disney.
Departed Newark and arrived in Orlando fine, no problems! Weds is a great day to travel because the flight wasn't full and there were absolutely no lines at any of the in airport car rental places.
I picked up one of the luggage carriers (which were plentiful) for $2 at baggage claim and went across the street to the garage and picked up my rental car, no problems! (hint - if it doesn't matter to you, always reserve a compact car. ' because about 9 times out of 10, you get a mid-sized car - because that's what the rental cars keep their stock mostly of. I rented a compact car and got a Grand Am for the same price! - but there always is the time that you'll get stuck with a compact, so be prepared to accept it).
Oh, one word to the wise - don't attempt to take a luggage cart on the escalator! (d'oh) I thought there were no elevators, so I took the luggage cart on the escalator! I almost fell down with all the luggage 1/2 way up! I got up to the top and realized the elevators were on the other side of the escalators, d'oh!
On the drive to the rental house, we hit McD's real quick for a late lunch since they didn't give a meal on the plane. Drove to the house w/ the directions the management company gave me with no problems. The lady at check in wasn't too helpful at all. Just a quick welcome and then she sent me off on my way to the house (more on the problems I had with her later!). The house was real nice, very clean, quiet and real pretty. It was a 10-15 minute drive max to WDW! The deal itself was very worth it, for only $79/nite. I got a 2 bedroom house (2 twins in the one room, and a queen in the other, pull out sofa couch, 2 full baths, living room/dining room combo and full kitchen, very large 2 bedroom house). It even had some amenties I don't have in my own home like a dishwasher and a waste disposal (I've never had one of these, I guess you aren't supposed to put nectarine pits in them? ;-) I think the house rental deal is excellent if you are a self starter, go get em type and don't need much assistance from hotel personnel. But if you are the type who likes to have someone there to answer questions for you, and give you directions, then this isn't for you. For me, I had a map from the car rental agency, and I got a little rinky dink map the house rental lady gave me, and that's all I needed. I was mostly going back and forth to Disney everyday, so exploring other areas didn't matter to me this trip. The house was very convenient to have mainly for eating breakfast in the morning before heading out to the parks, keep ice packs frozen, and drinks cold and some snacks. I didn't do any major cooking there. I'm sure we could have gotten away with this type of thing in a suite hotel. But for $79/nite, the house was a great deal. You could have easily have slept 6 people in that house (2 per bedroom and 2 on the couch). Next time I go, I want to definitely hook up with another couple/family and it would be dirt cheap! I was disappointed with the phone. Local calls were supposed to be free, but I was 10 minutes away from Disney and had to use my credit card to call them, geez! (I found out from someone else in a house that this is pretty standard with all the rental houses around there). I was going to rent a VCR, but after the 2nd day I realized we didn't need it, since the house had full cable with Nickleodeon and the Cartoon Network. Plus we weren't home all that often to watch TV anyway.
After getting to the house and unpacking a bit, we headed to the local Publix which was only 2 minutes away and got some groceries (mainly breakfast items and snacks and drinks) and then hit the pool for a little bit before our PS at Chef Mickeys. On the way to Chef Mickey's of course, silly me, I went the wrong way! I went thru the gates to MK (BTW, they were waving people thru w/o paying, this was around 6pm when the park closed at 7pm). I stopped to ask a security guy how I get to Contemporary and he said go down any of these aisles. So I went down that isle. BOING! I ran into one of the orange cones and it got stuck under my wheel! Geez, not even in the gates of Disney more than 5 minutes and already I'm ruining the property! So the Disney security guy tells me to keep driving and eventually it will wear out and come out! Great... So I'm driving along (meanwhile Raquel was sleeping in the car up until this point when the horrendous noise of the cone woke her) and 2 guys coming out of the parks kept pointing and pointing at me and I said I know, I know, the guy told me to keep driving. So they stopped me and made me turn my wheel and they pulled it out for me! Ah, thank you guys!
Finally got to Contemporary, I just told the gate people I'm going to Chef Mickey's and they waved me thru (no asking for PS nbrs or anything). Chef Mickey's was really fun, Raquel woke up and really got into the spirit when she saw the characters walking around. She was just amazed. I thought the food was okay, but nothing great. She didn't eat too much because she was so excited about all the characters. Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and Chip and Dale were there. It was a fun place to be. But don't forget to buy an autograph book at the little stand/shop right there after you get off the elevator (we didn't buy ours until *after* we got out of the restaurant, d'oh).
Rode the monorail for the evening. When Raquel saw the castle all lit up, she was just estatic. There's nothing more enjoyable for a parent then to see their little one so excited to be at Disney World and see the castle. We walked around the Poly for a bit, and checked out the Neverland Club. Raquel didn't seem to pleased with it. It looked a little too much like a daycare to her (that's when I realized that I would be cancelling those PS's I had for NL Club during the week). (I know I've heard lots of good things about NL Club on the news group, but after we were there I kind felt bad putting her in daycare for several days/nights). We were supposed to hang out until the Electrical Water Parade, but since we had gotten up at 6am that day, it was a long day, I was tired, she was tired, so we left. I should have just hung out in retrospect, since we left at 8:30pm and by the time we walked up to the main lobby and caught the monorail, it was about 8:45 (only 15 more minutes...). But I didn't want to push ourselves since we would have to get up very early the next morning to be at Universal at 7:45am for our CB there.
Thursday 10/1 - Universal Studios
Up at 6am for CB at Universal. The CB was fun but not very special compared to Disney. They sat us with another couple at the table and the tables were a little cramped. That's one thing at Disney, I never felt rushed or cramped at any of the character meals, and we always got our own table at Disney. We met George Jetson, Scooby Doo, Feivel, a "girl Feivel" (don't know who she was) and Woody the Woodpecker. The restaurant food was okay, but just cafeteria type food.
After breakfast, we headed over to the ET ride (they give you a hand stamp to get in front of the line up to one hour after the CB, Although we didn't need it because the park was practically empty!) Everything was a walk on. The ET ride, the biggest event that Raquel was waiting for on our trip and she cried on the ride! She got scared of the darkness and the scariness of the cars coming out at us. I was surprised, because she's usually not a scaredy cat type kid (this is the same child who rode ToT later in the vacation). But oh well, what are you gonna do... In the ET gift shop, I just *had* to get her picture ($4.95) sitting on the bicycle riding with ET in the basket (in retrospect, I should have gotten the other picture too, the one with ET in the closet with all the toys).
We took in Earthquake (Raquel cried, I thought it was lame), Terminator II (she closed her eyes the whole time, I enjoyed the show, it was good), Animal Actors Stage Show (fun and cute/corney jokes, and Babe was there!), Funtastic world of Hanna-Barbara (Raquel's fav ride - a really cute cartoon flight simulator), Feivels Playland was fun for the kiddies since there's really not too much at Universal for the little ones, Barneys Day in the Park show and play area was great for the little ones, Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue was good. We got our 2nd day free passses and were out of the park at 5pm. Back to house, showered and had a quick dinner at Bob Evans. Back home to rest and relax!
Friday 10/2 - Typhoon Lagoon
Didn't wake up early, lounged a bit and got to Typhoon Lagoon at 11am. I was pleasantly surprised to see that you didn't have to pay to park at TL. I'm glad I chose not to go to BB, because the thought of white shining all over us w/o much shade didn't sound to appealing to me. We both loved TL. I'd almost venture to say it was our favorite park! (that's because of the heat, but MK is still the best) There were lots of nice shady places to sit and relax at TL and let Raquel play in the sand. And the wave pool, kowabunga baby!!! Those waves are huge! I've been to wave pools before, but none like that. It was great. The whole place was just really cool and fun. We spent most of our day in the wave pool. Castaway Creek, the lazy river, was real fun. We waited in line 20 minutes for Gangplank Falls, the family raft ride. It was fun while it lasted, but the ride is too short for the line. After seeing Shark Reef, I wasn't so disappointed that I wouldn't get to do it. It was pretty small and didn't seem all too interesting. When you've snorkeled in some of the carribean islands, Shark Reef isn't all that impressive. Although it seemed like a great taste for newcomers to snorkeling. Going underneath the water in that little boat thing to see the fish swim by was just as fun. Ketchakiddee Creek was real cute for the kiddies. We had to be out of TL by 5pm to meet my godmom (Reggie) who was coming over to stay for the weekend (she lives in Tampa).
We bathed and just ate in that evening. I got Fairy Godmothers to babysit for the night so Reggie and I could meet some radp'rs at PI that evening. Word to the wise, if you know for sure you are going out on a particular evening, get a babysitter right away! I just "assumed" that I'd get Fairy Godmothers, so I didn't make it a priority to call until the day before, and then the lady said they might not be able to accomodate me. ACK! So she said to call another service (find it in the phone book she said - I said no thanks because I'd been recommended so highly by the news group). Luckily it worked out, she was so nice, and even said if she couldn't get me a babysitter that she would do it herself! But they did get someone, Betty, to do it for me.
Betty came right on time and Reggie and I met Ronnie, Alison and the gang at the Adventurers Club that eve. I want to personally thank Alison for helping us out that evening, she's a cool gal! It was fun meeting the faces behind the names. It was a good but short time with the radp'rs. Since I had never been to PI, I figured we'd walk around a little bit and then head over to the Comedy Club to meet the radp'rs there to continue the good time. But it was too full and we couldn't get in :-( Word to the wise, PI is very crowded on weekends, if you want a night out, go during the week. I think I would have enjoyed it more. In the mean time, we walked around and looked in each of the different clubs. I was looking forward to some of my 70's music at Soundtrax, but the club was so smoky, it was disgusting! I noticed some of the clubs either allowed smoking, or they didn't have good ventilation systems. Anyway, we kinda hung outside the comedy club for a bit waiting to see if any rapd'rs were coming out. No one came out, but we watched the outdoor show there with Frankie and the Weekend boys. Wow, does that band rock! They were great and Frankie sure does sing those tunes pretty good. (Altho Reggie and I commented how it did look like his day job was in accounting or something). Got home that evening and there was Betty, ready to greet us at the door. I felt very secure the whole evening knowing I had the Fairy Godmothers just because what I've heard from the news group.
Saturday 10/3 - Universal Studios
Universal Studios with Raquel and Reggie. Reggie got in free because she's a travel agent. (Universal lets travel agents in for free all the time). Raquel and I used our 2nd day free passes. (If it weren't for the 2nd day free, we wouldn't have gone back).
We did the babyswap for rides I didn't want to take Raquel on like Jaws, Twister, King Kong, Back to the Future (which I thought was the best ride there!). Raquel played in Feivel's playland and got soaking wet and enjoyed herself immensely. Hint - Bring a change of clothes for the kids and a ziploc bag to put the wet clothes in, so the kids can play in places like this in the parks. I noticed that most places had water areas to get wet in. It was hard telling Raquel all the time that she couldn't get wet. Universal was just a little more crowded then the previous Thursday we went. The longest wait was only like 15 minutes though. Although the rides were fun, I really wouldn't do Universal again when we go back, because the attractions were nothing special. I enjoyed Universal Studios in Hollywood more than USF because I think the rides alone (like Kong, Earthquake and Jaws) were a little bit lame (sorry Larax!). I like how Universal in Hollywood has them all on the same tram ride.
The new Islands of Adventure they are building looks pretty darn big and spectacular.
We left about 5pm, home to shower and out to dinner at Jungle Jims. They told us it would be a 30 minutes wait, we got a pager and went shopping at the Disney store, but it really only was 10-15 minutes.We all enjoyed JJ's very much!! The pina coladas were excellent and my skinny minny chicken (for a not so skinny minny gal) was good. The menu is great there, we really enjoyed it and I knew we'd go back before we left FL. We had scheduled to head over to the Poly to see the MK fireworks that eve. But as we were ready to leave it downpoured like crazy. We didn't think they would have the fireworks so we left (I hope they didn't, let me know guys!) to go home.
Sunday 10/4 - MK
I forgot to use my AAA Diamond parking pass, d'oh! I asked the guy in the parking lot, he said you passed it. He said you'll have to drive all the way around, park there and then walk to the TTC. He said this way you can park right here and pick up the tram and take it right to TTC. So I said ok, fine... Wow, heading down main street after 9 years since my last trip here was very nostalgic for me. Just seeing the castle in front of me, I just had to stop and take it in. You see, the last time I saw that castle was on my honeymoon. This brought out a bunch of memories of faded hopes and dreams. But being here with the best thing that ever came out of that marriage, my beautiful daughter Raquel, made this trip even more special for me. It's so beautiful and I almost cried. But I was too busy thinking of heading right... right into Tomorrowland that is! Since I had Reggie with us, I took advantage of it and we went right into Tomorrowland so I could ride Alien Encounter first thing! I was so psyched for this attraction. I wouldn't say I came out disappointed, but I certainly wasn't frightened. Maybe because I had heard some spoilers on the news group, or what. But I wasn't scared, that's for sure. It was extremely entertaining though. I would never take Raquel in that until she's about 10 at least!
Did the babyswap on Space Mountain. That ride is still as cool as ever, and only a 5 minutes wait. PoC was closed when we went thru Adventureland. Did the Tiki birds. I like the old show better (sorry Iago!!!) We skipped Swiss Family Treehouse, since the thought of climbing all those steps on a hot day didn't sound too appealing. Then we headed onto Frontierland and rode Splash Mountain. Wow wee, excellent ride! One of my favs!! I purposely pushed the stroller past the big drop area very fast to avoid Raquel seeing the final drop because I wanted her to try it at least once. She *loved* it! (So much so that throughout our stay we rode it 6x) This was the longest wait we ever had, 30 minutes.
After Splash Mountain I realized it was 12:35 and we had PS for lunch at Cindy's Royal Table for 12:30 (that's when I realized I missed the radp meet and felt like a heel! - We were so busy taking in the parks that I lost track of time). We ran to our PS, got seated within 10 minutes. I loved CRT. Our waiter, Sir Pete nudged Raquel to finish her chicken strips and he told her that if she didn't, Cinderella would know... About 5 minutes later when Cinderella was heading to the lobby, I saw him pointing to Raquel telling Cindy to ask her about her chicken, which I thought was really cute of him (although Cindy didn't remember her in the lobby). The atmosphere there is really nice, I really enjoyed our lunch, although not exactly an inexpensive lunch... I got the Major Domo pie which was a puff pastry with prime rib on top with a nice wine sauce, very yummy. We got to meet Cinderella on the way out in the lobby. Raquel thought she was way cool. (BTW, got my pics back yesterday and I have my Christmas pic! Her and Cinderella came out really great!)
We headed to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, just a 10 minutes wait. Good ride, but I don't like all the stops and the trucking you back up to the top again. It didn't seem to flow very well. I like the runaway train much more at Six Flags Great Adventure in NJ. Then onto Fantasyland, waited about 30 minutes for Dumbo. Never again! It's such a waste of time IMHO (but then again I'm not a kid). The line is very deceiving. I knew the lines were long, since I had read the books. But when I saw the line I thought to myself, oh that's not really bad. But it takes a long time to load and unload that ride. It was an extremely hot day (as if all the days weren't, argh), and after I got through that line and into the beating sun onto Dumbo, I felt a bit sick and very hot. Reggie said to me after we got off, I think you need to sit down and I said yeah, let's find some AC and get a cool drink. We sat down for a good 20 minutes, had a cold lemonade and I was fine.
We did Snow Whites Scary Adventures (is it just me, but is this attraction a little lame? Compared to most of the other attractions at Disney, these wooden/cardboard cutouts seem a bit too outdated. IMHO, they could have kept Toad and took out Snow White, at the very least, SW needs updating).
Reggie rode the teacups with Raquel since I knew that ride would make me barf. We then headed to Mickey's Toontown Fair and saw Pooh, Piglet and Tigger in the Toontown Hall of Fame. Did Goofy's Barstormer. Very cute ride, but just way too short. But there never was a line, so I suppose you could keep doing it over and over.
Went thru Minnie and Mickey's house. Reggie noticed something about Mickey's house. There's not one pic of Minnie there! Minnie has pics of Mickey all over her house, but Mickey has none. The line in Judges Tent was too long and I told Raquel we'd see Mickey another day. Donald's boat was closed and the Toon Park had nothing in it. By then it was almost park closing so we went home.
An aside note - those strollers at MK and Epcot are really getting a little dated. They have some really nice rental ones at MGM. But I still don't understand how strollers get taken "by mistake" since they have a big sign hanging on the stroller saying "this stroller is being used by the 'Smith Family' today. I found it very convenient to have my own stroller. I used it at the airport, to and from the car to the tram, everywhere. Also, I had brought a lock for the stroller, but I never used it once anywhere. I felt very safe there at Disney, and besides, it would have taken up a good portion of the day locking it and unlocking it at every stop.
Monday 10/5 - Epcot
I had originally scheduled today to be at Epcot during the day and have lunch at the Teppanaki Room. But since we had such a busy past couple days, I didn't want the little one to burn out, so I decided to take it slow, wake up late and have a leisurely morning, and hit Epcot in the afternoon and stay until IllumiNations. So I changed my PS to dinner ressies.
Did some laundry that morning (having a rental house is great for this sort of thing) since I had only brought 5 days worth of clothes for myself since I didn't want to carry too many pieces of luggage, being it was just me and the little one. We rested and watched some TV, ate lunch in, and then got to Epcot about 1pm. Parked in the AAA Diamond lot. It was great! Got right in the first row and walked right up to Spaceship Earth. Did SSE first since there was no line. It was okay, but a tad boring for me. On the way out, we caught the Digit and QT1 show in the front of SSE. That was real cute, and Raquel is still talking about that "robot show".
Then we headed to The Land and did Food Rocks, Living with the Land and Circle of Life. All pretty good shows, we enjoyed them. Sunshine Food Court is very good. I really like how there are a bunch of different kinds of foods. That way everyone in your party can have the kind of food they feel like eating, w/o anyone having to compromise.
Went to JII after that and rode the JII ride. That was real neat ride, I'm so bummed they are taking it out. Raquel fell in love with Figment. We did HISTA. Cool! Raquel even liked it (although she took off the 3D glasses). But she got a kick out of the mice and the dog at the end (and this is the same little girl who was scared on the ET ride? Doesn't make sense to me).
I would have loved to explore Future World a lot more, but there wasn't too much for Raquel. She wasn't too into the exhibits in Innoventions. So we skipped the rest of Future World and headed into World Showcase to make our 6pm dinner PS. Caught a glimpse of the Fountain Water Ballet, very neat. Saw a living statue, that was really cool and they are so funny with the kids. The kid zones in each land are a very good addition. It gives the kids something to look forward to since the countries are really more for older kids and adults.
Dinner at the Teppanaki was real good. Although Raquel didn't like the food too much (it was a great deal for her though, $5 for a kids meal with dessert - that would have been way plenty for me!). We sat with a family of 5 who took our picture for us. Word to the wise, if you see just a mom (or dad) and a child, don't assume that daddy (or mommy) couldn't come. Kinda makes for awkward conversation.
I was bummed there were no characters in American Adventure (they are all apparently at the beginning of the park from 6-9pm). We barely had time to do El Rio de Tempo and the Maelstrom before getting a spot for IllumiNations. An aside note, it's not very well lit in the countries at night. I passed right through Norway w/o realizing it! About 7 minutes into IllumiNations Raquel decides she's too scared (she loves fireworks, it was probably more a case of the tireds and the noise was bugging her). So I saw it as an opportunity to get out of the park before the hoards of people left. IllumiNations looked great from what I could see on my way out. I can't believe they put on that big and nice of a display every single night, it's amazing!
Got to the front of the park just as IllumiNations was ending and by the time we got to the car, the hoards were seizing upon us. In retrospect, I wouldn't park in the very first row of the diamond lot anymore, because it took us 10 minutes to get out of the row, because at the end of the first row there, there are cabs and vans to pick up their parties. And we couldn't get around them, so we had to wait until everyone loaded in the cabs/vans.
Got home about 10pm, Raquel fell asleep in the car on the way home. I decided that evening that doing MGM the next day would be way too much for us to have another full day in a park. I thought Raquel might be bored at MGM since she was more into the "rides" then the shows. So I made an executive decision to pass on our scheduled MGM day and take advantage of the world hoppers and do TL again the next day.
Next time I go to Epcot, I will definitely either put her in NL Club so I can explore Epcot more, or get a sitter so she can stay home and sleep while I take in Epcot. I love Epcot, but didn't get to see too much of it because it was just me and Raquel. Next time I want to spend a lot more time there. I can easily see myself spending a few days there all by myself.
Tuesday 10/6 - Typhoon Lagoon
Decided that since we passed on MGM that we would take advantage of the world hoppers and go to TL again. Got up and had a leisurely morning and got to TL abt 11:15am. I immediately noticed the park was much more crowded then the previous Friday. (The 2nd week we were there was noticiable more crowded then the first week). But the crowds were still very manageable. Altho we did have to wait about 7-10 minutes to get a raft on Castaway Creek, something that was just a walk on the previous Friday. Since we had been there the week before, I knew exactly where I wanted to set up camp, in this really cute sandy, shady area with sand to the right of the park by shark reef. The lounge chairs and beach chairs are very plentiful there, which I really liked. I've been to other water parks where you are lucky to get one seat at 9am in the morning. You are allowed to bring coolers into TL, so I made sure I loaded up our cooler with drinks, so we wouldn't have to spend too much money on drinks. Prices for drinks all throughout the parks are atrocious.
I got us 2 pizzas at the Leaning Palms for lunch which were so good! I stored Raquel's leftovers in the cooler for a midnite snack later in the week. In the afternoon I went to the little snack bar that sold bags of chips to get Raquel cheese doodles and it was closed! She was so disappointed, so I asked around and the lady said they might sell them at the bar. So I went there and they had them, so I said ok great, we'll be right back I need to get my money!! He threw us a bag and said here, no problem! I thought that was so nice! We got home, showered and went out to eat at Jungle Jims again. No wait this time. I got the pasta and chicken dish which came with a salad (their caesars salad is delish) and their coconut bread (which was even more delish!). Of course I got another pina colada... Got to bed early that night since I knew we'd have another full day at MK the following day.
Wednesday 10/7 - MK
I switched our "day off" to Thursday, since we didn't do MGM the day before. We had PS at Minnie's Menehune CB at 7:50am. The food was soooo good here! This was an excellent meal. Although I felt guilty because they brought out a whole pan full of food for just me and Raquel. A lot was wasted. Minnie looked so cute in her hula skirt. Too bad Mickey isn't at this CB. But we got to see Pluto and Goofy. Raquel and I did the conga line, that was fun. The only thing that sometimes frustrated me with the character dining was when the characters took "breaks". Then when they came out again, they "forgot" where they left off, and sometimes our table would get missed and we would have to wait until that character went around the whole restaurant to see him/her again. This happened to us here and also at Chef Mickey's. Although in each of our character dining experiences, it took at the most one hour to see all of the characters.
Since I was already parked at the Poly, we just rode the monorail to MK. Did MK the whole day from 9am to 7pm that day. Went right to Ariels Grotto first thing, but the line was still so long in the morn, so we bagged it. Did some of the Fantasyland attractions like Peter Pan's Flight (good ride, but all other days in the park it was a 25 minutes wait). Legend of the Lion King was really cute. The puppetry is neat, but personally I like the AA figures better.
Got to see Mickey in Judges tent. I asked the camera guy to take a pic of me and Raquel and he said with your camera? I didn't realize they would do this. I just assumed it would be with his camera. So he took a pic with both my camera and his. Although we didn't buy the pic, $13.95 is pretty steep! We also saw Donald Duck, Chip and Dale in the Toontown Hall of Fame. Minnie, Pluto and Goofy we in the longest line. Since we had seen them at the character dining, we passed.
We did Splash Mountain two times, first wait was 30 minutes, then we went again just as the parade started and it was no more than a 10 minutes wait! Parade time is definitely a perfect time to get onto the attractions. I was bummed we never got to see the parade, but we were so busy exploring the parks each day. And the thought of sitting out in the sun and heat for 30 minutes waiting for the parade to start didn't sound too appealing to me. Next time we go I'll definitely set aside time for the parades.
Took a mid morning break in the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon Revue. Raquel enjoyed some pudding I brought in our cooler while I rested and got an iced tea. That show was a blast, I really enjoyed it. Raquel even got a kick out of some of the jokes. Gotta get there before the show starts though, because we just about secured seats upstairs. Downstairs is always full.
Did Big Thunder Mountain Railroad two times that day, PoC was open and we walked right on. Did the Tiki bird show again. Although I warmed up to the show a little bit more this 2nd time, I still like the original show better. We ate lunch at Columbia Harbour House, pretty good. We went upstairs because I had written down that there's always available chairs up there, but it was too hot (AC doesn't get up there too well), so I came back downstairs and found us a table. It was a good long break in the AC. Headed into Fantasyland for a few rides there. Raquel was a "big girl" and rode the teacups all by herself. She said mommy, I'm a big girl, I can ride it myself, you don't have to throw up (thank you Lord for giving me such a smart little girl :-)
She also wanted to ride the carousel by herself, so I told her right where I'd be standing when it stopped. Well I realized there was more than one exit, so I ran into the carousel to get her, so she would get out the wrong exit, and we somehow missed each other and she went right to where she was supposed to go and I wasn't there. I couldn't find her for about 5 seconds (the longest 5 seconds of my life). Finally I saw her by the Sword and the Stone and she got mad at me and said mommy, you said to meet you *right here*! I apologized and realized that we never had the "if we get separated talk". I made it a point to have that talk right then and there. Word to the wise parents, have that talk *before* you get into the parks!
It was getting late, so we started heading out of the park into Tomorrowland. Did the Speedway, Raquel got a kick out of steering the car. Last ride of the day was Astro Orbiter, which has a mild barf factor for me. It was 7pm and I couldn't believe that we had spent 2 whole days at MK and still didn't get to see everything. I decided we would skip our second Epcot day at the end of the week and use it for another MK day, since there wasn't too much that Raquel enjoyed at Epcot anyway. (This is the part where mommy sacrifices for child, because mommy loves Epcot).
Thursday 10/8 - FW/Discovery Island/Ohana
This was our "day off". We left the house about 12:30 and went to Fort Wilderness Petting Zoo and Raquel did 2 pony rides. The lady gave us a second ride for free, how nice! Then we took the launch over to Discovery Island. This was another hot day, and I was sorry we went out. We should have just hung around the pool on our "day off" since I didn't really enjoy DI too much. We took in the reptile show and the bird show, but all in all, unless you have some time to waste, I didn't think DI was worth the time. I would have enjoyed hanging around the pool more since the weather was so atrociously hot the whole time we were in FL.
I saw the cabins at FW and they looked really nice, but I'm not sure if I'd like to stay there. Everything is very spread out on the property and you almost need a car to get around the resort (unless you feel like waiting around and wasting valuable vacation time for the Chip or Dale buses).
Since we had some time before our 5:30 PS at Ohana's, I decided to ride the boats a little and we went to WL to look around. The word I would use to describe WL is "majestic". It's very beautiful, but I don't think I would ever stay there because it's not my style (I love the Poly). Then we rode the boat back to FW (Clay the boat driver was a bit of a stick in the mud and the only CM that we encountered who was anything less than nice).
We got our car and were right on time for our PS at Ohana. Dinner was tres excellent at Ohana. I would highly recommend it for a good, totally filling meal. Word to the wise, cousin Albert didn't necessarily let us know that dessert isn't included... so I ordered the coconut snowball for me and the chocolate cake for Raquel ($4.50 each, ack!). She didn't even eat 1/2 of the small cake. But I have to admit, the coconut snowball (coconut ice cream with toasted coconut and fudge sauce on top) was to die for. In fact, I'm dreaming about it right now. I'd have to say that was the best meal we had on vacation. Raquel got a kick out of them calling her cousin. She kept telling him that he wasn't her cousin, that Nicole and Marisa were her cousins! He said, ok, no problem cousin! She also got into the "Aaaaaaaloha" thing. Everytime she heard someone day, aloha, she gave an aloha right back at them. I thought she would be bored at this dinner since there were no characters, but she wasn't. They did coconut races for the kids, and hula hoops which she got a big kick out of. I took her picture with cousin Albert and then the people at the next table took a picture of all 3 of us which was real nice.
Got home early that eve and then I had to start thinking of packing up a bit since I knew we would have another full day at the parks (I decided to do 1/2 day at MGM and the rest at MK on our last full day in FL) the following day. I did a couple loads of laundry (this was very helpful, since I took home mostly all clean clothes). Another word to the wise - pack more than 5 days of clothes. I figured I'd pack light to avoid a lot of luggage, but you can easily go thru 2 days worth of clothes in one (because of the heat and sweating so much).
I called up the lady to find out when check out was (she didn't tell me anything upon check in, she wasn't very helpful at all) and to find out what I do with our garbage. This is when the house deal didn't turn out to be so good... She said 10am check out. So I said fine and then I get my $100 security deposit back? She says, oh no, you'll get that back in 1-2 weeks. So I said ???? I don't understand? Why do I have to wait 2 weeks to get my deposit back, I should be able to get it back at check out? (Forgive me if this is something standard in FL, but of all the places I've rented, I've always got my deposit back the day I checked out). So she got real defensive (even though I was still friendly and polite to her, but I was inquisitive as to why it would take me so long to get a security deposit back) and said to me, well I have to clean the house first, and then you will get it back. I say ok fine, how long does it take you to get to clean the house? Three hours she tells me. So then I said, well then I don't understand why it's going to take 1-2 weeks to get my deposit back when it's only going to take you 3 hours to find out if everything is okay? I was a little offended at this point (even though I kept my cool and never once raised my voice or said anything nasty) since I knew I had taken good care of the house and we didn't do any damage, nor did we steal anything. She says to me, well it takes 2 weeks because that's when I "get around to it". I said, well I really don't think this is quite fair. So she says, well then you can come back to pick up your deposit after I clean the house. So I said why can't you come and do a visual inspection of the house when I'm checking out to decide if there's any "damage" that I've caused? She said she couldn't do a "full visual inspection until she cleans the house to check for further damage". This is when I got a little annoyed because I felt like she was treating me as if I was guilty before proven innocent. So I said, well then I guess I will come back then after you clean the house for my deposit on Saturday (since our flight didn't leave until 5:30pm). This really put a damper on our last days there. I didn't get to sleep until midnight that night just thinking about the way she talked to me and treated me. Her and her husband weren't exactly the friendliest people from the start, but they were always curteous. And then all of a sudden after I questioned the deposit thing, she turned to be very defensive and very rude to me (there's more to this story on my last day).
Friday 10/9 - MGM and MK
I remembered to ask about AAA Diamond parking at MGM. The ticket guy told me they didn't have an AAA lot there anymore, but show my AAA Diamond lot card to the guy up ahead in the parking area and he would let me park right at the end of the row. When I got there, I realized I didn't need to because I was getting to park right at the end of the row anyway. Got into MGM at 8:45am.
The ropes were still up, I don't understand the point of getting into the parks 1/2 hour before the official opening time because you can't do anything anyway? Maybe someone can shed some light on this for me???
We hit Star Tours first. Raquel loved it (she really liked the flight similators). I thought it was okay, but after doing Back to the Future at Universal, ST's was a little calm. I had read that it's a bumpy ride, but it's *nothing* like BTTF! Still, ST's was entertaining. Then we hit Muppet Vision 3D. Very cute show, Raquel liked it, but I personally wouldn't do it again if it were just me. Raquel kept her glasses on and she kept reaching out with her hands to try to touch the things. I thought the film was a little fuzzy, but I think sometimes it depends on your glasses. because at the Terminator II film, I used Raquel's glasses and they did a better job for em.
Kermit and Miss Piggy were outside of the theater. We didn't have our autograph book (word to the wise - always keep your autograph books with u, never know when you'll need them). But I did get a photo of Raquel with them. Went to see the Goosebumps Horror Show. But after 10 minutes, we were both bored and it was scorching hot and the show was right in the sun, so we ditched it and headed right into Voyage of the Little Mermaid. That was a very nice show, best at MGM I thought. Although we didn't see everything, so I can't fully make that statement.
We got to see Woody and Buzz by the big Coke bottle. Then I decided to take a little look see at ToT. I noticed the height requirement was only 40" (I originally thought it was 44"). So I was going to take Raquel on it, but it was a 45 minutes wait, and I said hey, let's go sit down and eat. Ate at Backlot Express. Good place to eat with kids since they had more "fare" for little ones (burgers, fries, chicken nuggets) then say the ABC Commissary. Although our lunch was cut short because Raquel had to go to the bathroom. (Which turned out to be a mistake to just make it a quick lunch, because by mid afternoon I was getting very cranky and tired from running around in the heat - I really needed those 30-45 minutes breaks in the AC to keep going - she was fine since she had the spray bottle and was being pushed by mommy all day in the stroller).
After lunch I decided to check out the wait at ToT and much to my surprise it was only a 15 minutes wait! They must have only had one tower open earlier. So I figured, hey let's do it! I didn't exactly tell Raquel what she was in for (bad, bad mommy). But I figured, heck, I don't know when I'll get to go back to Disney and I really wanted to do ToT! So I put myself first for a change in the whole trip and thought to myself, she'll forgive me some day... Holy cow, what a ride! Raquel got to realizing when we were stepping into the elevators that this ain't gonna be too fun. (When I explained to her what it was, I liked it to the little frog hopper thing down the Jersey shore that pops you up and down... bad, bad mommy!) We got 3 drops! But to tell you the truth, I don't know what was more scary, going up real fast like that, or going down! We got sat in the very back of the elevator, so when we got to the very top, and the door opened, all I saw was sky! Before I could yell out "God Help Me!" we were at the bottom. Raquel started crying when it got pitch dark (she didn't like the dark rides). I don't think the drop scared her as much as the dark did. She cried, but stopped in less than 5 minutes. To celebrate the occasion we got matching purple ToT t-shirts (the ones with Mickey and Minnie and the gang on ToT).
After that, we left MGM and headed over to MK. When Raquel found out we were heading to MK after ToT she forgave me... (evil mommy). I originally wanted to hang out for the 1pm parade, but they weren't having it until 3pm. I remembered to ask about the AAA Diamond lot at MK and the guy pointed me in the right direction. When I got to the AAA lot, I would have had to park at the very end of the row and walk all the way to the TTC. I turned around and went back and parked with the rest of the people coming in (at least I could take a tram to the TTC!).
We spent the rest of the day at MK and did Splash Mountain another two times. To our dismay though, Splash Mountain was a 45 minutes wait. (which actually turned out to be only 30 minutes). Did Lion King again (although this wasn't as enjoyable as the first time, since Raquel decided she had to go to the bathroom in the preshow and she fidgeted the whole show). Did a few more of our favs before going to Splash Mountain for our final ride at Disney. This time it was a posted 30 minutes wait (which only turned out to be 20 minutes). We arrived 15 minutes early for our 7:15pm PS at Crystal Palace. We were seated exactly at 7:15pm. We both enjoyed the dinner immensely and it was a bit sentimental for both of us since this was our last day at Disney. Since we were one of the last ones there, Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and Eyeore left for the evening about 8-8:15pm. We got to see Piglet 4 times and Raquel told him the first time that mommy loves pigs and she wants to give him a kiss. So Piglet came over to me and gave me a big kiss. The 2nd time we saw him she told him how much mommy loves pigs and see look at her Piglet earrings and necklace she told him! - he hammed it up with me for a bit (no pun intended ;-) I forgot to use my MKC discount, d'oh!
After the characters left for the eve, Raquel started to bawl her eyes out. I asked what the problem was (even though I knew whatever it was, it was mostly a case of the tireds). She told me that they left before she had a chance to let them know she was leaving tomorrow and she wouldn't be back. I told her that they knew she was leaving. I also told her that how did she think they were here at dinner in the first place?! They *specifically* knew she would be there for dinner on her last night at the parks and they made sure they were here for her! That made her feel a bit better, although it was hard to keep the tears from flowing (and I'm not talking about Raquel here). I really enjoyed the food at Crystal Palace (moreso then Chef Mickey's) and it was a lovely way to end our stay at Disney.
Saturday 10/10 - Last Day
Our very last day, sniff, sniff. Reality started to hit me today. I started thinking about all the things I needed to do when we got home. I heard someone mention Columbus day on Monday and realized that Raquel had off preschool on Columbia day, ack! And I told my boss I would be back in work on Monday! Double ack! Oh well, we checked out of the house exactly at 10am (I didn't want any trouble with my security deposit with this lady). When I gave her the keys, she barely opened the door, as if I was going to bust through the door or something (I mean geez, I'm a single mom with a 4 1/2 year old, I certainly don't look like the type to start a fist fight or something - I thought her behavior to be very strange...must have been something from her childhood... ;-) When I returned the key she said to me very matter of factly and slightly rude, "so you'll be coming back for your deposit?". And I said yes I will. So she said, fine, 4pm and started to close the door. So I said, well I can't do 4pm since I have to be at the airport at 4pm. So I said, can't I come a little bit earlier like 3:30 (after all, she told me it would only take 3 hrs to clean the house, that is 1pm). She said "we won't be home" very rudely. So then I just said flustered (not rude, just a bit upset) "well then I guess you will have to mail it to me because I can't be here at exactly 4pm." So she just closed the door in my face! I couldn't believe it! When I came to drop the keys off, I was very nice to her. I never once did anything to make her be so rude to me or so defensive! I was truely appalled at the way she handled the whole thing and how she just closed the door right on me!
I took Raquel by the hand and as we were walking away, Raquel said to me, mommy that lady wasn't talking very nice to you (I felt very validated at this point). I said I know Raquel, I don't understand it either. My godmom is a travel agent in FL and I'm going to let everyone I know never to use this company! I won't lie, the house was very clean and very nice, but I know there are a ton of other rental house agencies in the area that I'm sure deal with their customers a lot nicer! They weren't helpful at all to me from the start. Not even giving me any directions or any information about the area or house at all. I barely got a little map from her on how to get to Disney from the house when I checked in. I'm going to write a letter to the Kissimmee Visitors Bureau (since they advertise through them and they are on their web site) and after I get my deposit back (which I'm hoping they aren't dishonest and they do give it back to me - I'll keep you guys updated on that), I'm going to write them a letter telling them how rudely I was treated by them and inform them of all the people I have *notified* about their rudeness. I think she'll be a bit sorry she treated me the way she did. It's too bad we had to leave off our vacation like that, but I didn't let it get to me. I just said to myself, live and learn. (I haven't been soured by rental houses totally because I met a nice lady on the flight home who stayed at a house in Indian Wells and they had no problems at all).
Since we were out of the house at 10am and our flight didn't leave until 5:30pm, I decided to take in a little shopping on 192. First we hit Shell World since Raquel gawked at it everyday we passed it to head to Disney. We scored big here, because we got the "bag of rocks" (that they sell in a few of the stores at Disney for $6.00/bag) for only $2.50! She wanted them so bad, but I refused to pay $6 for a bag of rocks!
Then we hit a couple of those touristy shops that advertise Disney merchandise. Well it does have the Disney logo on it, but the stuff looks like it's the rejects. In one store, Mickey looked demented with a twisted nose. Those places don't really offer any good deals (although their windows might say otherwise).
I got tired of these places and decided it was time for lunch. I had PS for RFC in Downtown Disney Marketplace for 12:30 but it was only 11:30 and I didn't feel like waiting (since I figured it would be a decent wait on a Saturday afternoon), so where did we wind up??? You got it, Jungle Jims once again! I can't help it, I really liked the place! (Although after seeing RFC at the Marketplace later that afternoon I was bummed we didn't go there afterall!)
After JJ's, we headed over to the Marketplace and did some shopping. I felt bad for Raquel because she really wanted to play in those fountains where all the kids were playing and getting wet, but I didn't want her getting soaking wet for the flight home. In retrospect, I would get an earlier flight home. My original thinking was that taking a 5:30pm flight would give us more time to stay in FL, but really it doesn't help. Because you can't get too involved with anything too much, and you don't want to get too sweaty for the flight home (since you have no place to shower), so you wind up trying to figure out what to do with the few hours you have left (and you have to pay for a whole 'nother day for the car rental too).
We did have a good time at the marketplace (I felt as if I had just another little taste of Disney one last time). World of Disney was huge and had anything and everything imaginable that you could buy that you missed at the parks. The Lego place was so cool, Raquel enjoyed that a lot. Although I really think they should put up a top or a canvas over the whole area. The sun was just scorching hot and I was dripping wet in the matter of a half hour that she played there. The sea serpent and the other lego creations were just out of this world.
We headed over to RFC to shop and look around. That place is just amazing. Never saw anything like it. Next time we are at Disney, I'm making sure we are there! The gourmet pantry looked good with all the delectable desserts. We both got ice cream at Giradelli's (I'm sorry, I think the place it highly overrated) and then it was time to leave for home :-( This is the part where you want to turn around, because you don't want to see a grown woman cry! Another word to the wise, fill up your gas tank *before* the weekend! The gas prices go up 20 cents on the weekends there, no lie! I got gas for $0.99/gallon during the week and when I had to fill up the car before heading to the airport, it was $1.19/gallon! When we got to the airport, I had intended on going to departures and dropped off our luggage (but I soon realized this airport isn't like Newark, there is no "departure" area where the skycaps are outside to take your luggage). So I just went to the car rental return and dropped off the car. Everything went very smoothly though and I went to get a luggage cart and the Avis lady said, hey go grab that one right between those 2 cars, it's free! So I did, lucky me.
Another word to the wise. Get to the airport very early. By the time I got to the airport it was about 4:20pm and we had to wait 15 minutes just to get the elevator to the main floor because we were on the 2nd floor and people were coming from the 3rd and 4th floors and filling up the elevators by the time it came down to us. So I got smart and pushed the up button and got on the elevator going up (to come down in essence). Then the people on the 3rd and 4th floors couldn't get on, because I was already on there, ha! Then we had to wait in line for flight check in and baggage check in. I barely had time to grab us a snack at the Burger King (which had a long line) and we got on the airplane in no less than 10 minutes to spare before it took off! Whew, I was sweating it out, but I knew I needed to fill Raquel's belly, else it wouldn't be until 8pm when we landed in Newark that I would have something for her for dinner. The cheapo airlines don't give you any meals anymore on the flights.
The flight home was uneventful and my little piglet took a good hour nap on the way home while I chatted with the lady sitting next to me. (Can you say "want a breath mint Miss"?)(I'm so terrible! She was really a nice lady though). My sister picked us up at the airport in my car and then her husband took her home in his car. This was very helpful since we didn't get home til after 9pm as it was.
Well now we are home and reality has set in. So much is happening for us in the next months. I'm buying a new house that is closing on October 20th. I'm currently in legal battles with my ex-husband over custody issues with my beloved Raquel (here's some unsolicted advice my friends - never get married! Or if you currently are, never get divorced!!! - ah, who am I to tell you guys what to do! Hell if I met a man who would sweep me off my feet, and take me to the Poly, I'd be a happy Piggie!)
Also, we will be moving the 2nd week of November, then Thanksgiving and Christmas. Wow wee, the trip is just beginning, ha! All in all, it was a wonderful, wonderful trip. I can't believe we did so much! I can't believe I didn't lose 20 pounds walking around those parks from 9am to 7pm everyday pushing that stroller! I realized we didn't even look for one hidden Mickey, nor did we run into any talking trash cans. Hopefully I'll have some pics up on my friend's web site real soon, look out for them. I'll send a msg to the news group w/ the url.
In summary, here's a few tidbits I'll always remember from this trip...
Two separate people telling me I was a really good mother. First my godmom Reggie told Raquel that she's really lucky to have such a good mother like me - I thanked her and she said I mean it, I see the way you are with her and it's wonderful. Then the lady on the plane next to me. When we were getting off the plane, she said, you are so good with your daughter, she's lucky to have a mom like you.
The castle with it's changing colors in the evening.
Walking around at the Poly in the evening with the torches lit.
Raquel's face the first time she saw Mickey Mouse at Chef Mickey's. I really had her believing Mickey and the gang were real. She kept saying, mom but they aren't real, right? And I said, yes they are my dear. This is DISNEY WORLD, everything is magic here!