June 6 - June 19 (At WDW through June 14)
Greg - 38 - Engineer Debbie - 40 - Accountant Kate - 9 - Turning 10 July 22 & going into 4th grade Beth - 7 - Turning 8, Sept 18 & going into 2nd grade
HISTORY> Greg & I went in 1986 with only Epcot & Magic Kingdom. We loved it, went back to the offsite hotel exhausted every night. We also vowed to never do WDW with small children.
We planned our second trip for when the youngest was 5 (she misunderstood and thought we were going to have her 5th birthday party there & she'd be able to invite all her friends - another story). We went after school let out in Texas, the end of May in 1996. We stayed at Dixie and thoroughly enjoyed it, but still came back to the room exhausted everyday. Actually I started a trip report for that trip, however we never even left the airport on that one! We'll see how I do this time!
TIMING> My plan was to return before Kate turned 10, hence still a "child" in the eyes of Disney. We looked into going during spring break, but decided to wait until school let out. Our conflict this year is that the girls' dance recital is June 5th. Although school lets out on the 25th, we wanted to wait until after the recital. We had some friends that did the same thing last year, and said they never really had a problem with crowds.
TRAVEL> We drove for the first time on this trip. When we originally planned this, we figured we'd have more time than money. We also thought we'd try to hit a few side trips. We really wanted to see Universal this time around too - especially with Islands of Adventure opening.
One of the first things we did was get a TV for the minivan. After testing this out on a trip to Dallas, we discovered we'd need to get a headphone splitter. It was somewhat distracting to have a movie going on in the back seat that you couldn't watch. The headphone splitter worked really well, we could listen to "our" music in the front seat & the girls could watch movies or listen to their own CD's in the back. Although I had collected several games & books for the girls to do on the trip, they were happy just watching movies.
OUR PLAN: We planned to do a HARD day's drive from Austin to Gainesville the first day (Sunday). We packed breakfast, lunch & dinner. We also had reservations at the Fairfield Inn at a AAA rate of $39. We then planned to get up on Monday morning with only a couple hours drive to WDW. That way we'd have almost a full day on arrival.
We do plan out a rough schedule prior to our trip. I've done this on a spreadsheet and it seems to work well. Doing it likes this also enables me to estimate the time spent at each park & see if we're doing them all enough. It also helps us to see where the PS fit in and to make sure we get to do everything we want to (like the water parks & parades). When we started doing this, I began to feel like we needed a longer vacation to do everything I wanted to!
This was considered something of a loose guideline. Our basic touring plan is to hit early entry (you can't beat it for doing a lot of rides in a short period of time); afternoon break; back to the parks for the evening. We sometimes varied this routine and our schedule wasn't written in stone. It was just a basic guideline.
Time Mon Jun 7 Tue Jun 8 Wed Jun 9 Thu Jun 10 Fri Jun 11 7:00AM Leave Epcot MGM MK Hotel / AK 8:00AM Gainesville Epcot MGM MK Hotel / AK 9:00AM pcot MGM MK Hotel /AK 10:00AM Arrive at Hotel Epcot MGM MK Blizzard 11:00 AM MGM Garden Grill 11:30 MGM MK Castle 11:30 Blizzard 12:00 PM MGM Epcot MGM MK Blizzard 1:00 PM MGM Epcot MGM River Country Hotel 2:00 PM MGM AK MGM - Mulan River Country Epcot 3:00 PM Hotel AK Blizzard River Country Epcot Ice Cream 4:00 PM Hotel AK Blizzard River Country Epcot 5:00 PM MK AK Blizzard Hotel Epcot 6:00 PM MK AK Blizzard MGM Epcot 7:00 PM MK Hotel Hotel MGM Epcot 8:00 PM MK MGM Epcot 9:00 PM MK MGM Hotel 10:00 PM MK Hotel 11:00 PM Hotel
Time Sat Jun 12 Sun Jun 13 Mon Jun 14 Tue Jun 15 Wed Jun 16 7:00AM MK AK 8:00AM MK MK - Tour AK 9:00AM 1900 Park Fare MK - Tour AK IOA Universal 10:00AM MK MK - Tour Hotel Check Out 11:00 AM MK MK Lunch off site 12:00 PM MK MK Disney Village 1:00 PM Hotel Monorail Tour Resorts 2:00 PM Hotel Epcot Try check in at ComfortSuites 3:00 PM MGM Epcot MK 4:00 PM MGM Epcot MK 5:00 PM MGM Epcot MK 6:00 PM MGM Epcot MK 7:00 PM MGM MK MK 8:00 PM Hotel MK ComfortSuites 9:00 PM MK 10:00 PM MK 11:00 PM Hotel
SUNDAY, JUNE 7
OUR TRIP: We packed up the minivan with most of our stuff Saturday. We were able to borrow one of those Coleman refrigerator/coolers from my sister. We kept it plugged in all night at home & planned on keeping it as a backup cooler in the car. Then when we got to the resort we would use it as a refrigerator. We bagged breakfast foods & lunch foods in separate bags so they'd be easy to get to & everything would be together. We needed EVERYTHING together to attain our target departure of 4:00AM (do we sound like commandos or what?)
Bright & early Sunday morning we were up around 3:30, packed the remaining food into coolers & put the girls into the car. They had slept in their traveling clothes (t-shirts & bike shorts) so after a quick bathroom stop, we were ready to go. According to our plan we were out of the garage by 4am. The girls fell back to sleep and we were ready for our long day.
We had mapped out the trip on Map'n'Go, so I was keeping track of the estimated times on the print-out & comparing it to our actual time. We figured that with gas & potty breaks we'd lose about an hour. That ended up being pretty close to correct. We also had our AAA Trip-Tik. I liked this because you could see where the exits and rest stops were.
The day went pretty much as planned. We had breakfast east of Houston at about 6:30, lunch in Mississippi around noon, and dinner in Florida. We did stop at each of the state welcome centers - partially for the potty breaks and also just to do it. Since it was Sunday morning during the worst traffic areas of Texas & Louisiana we made pretty good time. I don't think we'd ever driven through Baton Rouge so easily before.
The only real traffic problem we had was just west of Mobile where they were putting in an overpass. Traffic was completely stopped & then they put us over on an access road. We didn't hit any rain until Florida. However, since Greg had Rain-X'd the windows prior to the trip, the rain wasn't really a problem. I personally enjoyed driving I-10 in Florida. There was limited access, and you completely by-passed any cities or towns. Considerably different from what you encounter driving I-35 through Texas!
We got into Gainesville at 8:30 and found the Fairfield. This was nice and great for the price.
MONDAY, JUNE 7
Although we didn't go out of our way to wake up early, Greg was still up around 6am. We carted all our stuff out to the car after enjoying the complementary breakfast and checked out by 8:15. By 9:00 we were at the Welcome Center in Ocala. We asked about any specials, and the best one they had was $149 at a villa in the Disney Institute. Although I realize this was a great price, I thought the girls would enjoy the theming of the All Star Movies. I really didn't know enough about this resort, so we decided to pass on it.
Also, as we were driving this morning, the thought crossed our mind (however briefly) that yes, we could have done it all in one long day. It would have only been 2 more hours of driving. Of course this was after a good night's sleep. I don't know if we'll ever really do it. Greg did most of the driving and after the trip has said he doesn't really want to drive again. The girls, on the other hand, really enjoyed the trip and said they want to drive the next time we go.
After encountering tons of traffic on 192 (I don't think I'd ever drive in that way again!) We arrived at the ASMv at 11:00am. There was a line for check-in (also a line for check out) Greg took the girls to the food court to get lunch. They went to the grill area and in addition to our mugs got a cheeseburger w/fries; chicken sandwich w/fries; chicken strips and a hot dog w/fries. This came to $56.63 (remember those mugs pay for themselves over the week!).
After about a 20 minute wait I got us checked in & joined them for lunch. Although I had requested Fantasia bldg 8, we were given Fantasia bldg 5. Apparently 8 is the designated "smoking" building. Since we requested non-smoking they didn't put us there. It would have been nice if CRO had known this, so I wouldn't have made conflicting requests! Our main reason for requesting 8 was that it looked closer to the parking lot, as it turned out the room we received was at the very corner of bldg 5 - close to a love bug section & fairly close to the parking lot. Our room was not ready, but they gave us the number to call later. We'd planned on this and had all our fanny packs & park stuff in a separate bag.
Even though we had our stuff in the car, I liked the idea of checking our bags so they could be delivered when our room was ready. We checked almost everything (13 things in all!). This included ice chests and a storage box that had our snacks in it. They labeled everything and it all ended up in our room.
We had decided our first park would be MGM. We didn't want to go to MK since it was early entry that day. We also knew we'd be going to Epcot tomorrow. We thought about AK, but figured we'd be getting there during a pretty crowded time and would have to leave before the park emptied out. (We'd planned on spending a few hours in a park, then going back to unpack around 4pm.)
We used Disney transportation to get to the parks even though we had a car. So our first wait of the day was for the MGM bus. It was only about a 5-minute wait and we were the only ones going to that park at around noon.
When we were dropped off at the park, we checked the time board and found that TOT had only a 10-minute wait. Kate really wanted this to be her first ride, and since the wait wasn't too long, we decided to go for it. Keep in mind that I never rode this before & am pretty much a ride wimp (I don't like drops!). Beth had also never ridden before, but she was game. We had told her about the chicken exit, but she didn't think she needed it.
Kate was actually a little freaked out about the library. She said she didn't remember that from before. I was a little freaked out once you go into the elevator... I realized there was no way out & I had to go through with it. Well, I closed my eyes & lived through it. I really couldn't tell when we were going up except for when the bright light from outdoors was coming up. I'd try to open my eyes when we got to the top... but then there were the drops. I think part of my being scared was not knowing what was coming up. However I didn't do it a second time to see if I liked it any more.
Beth came off of it saying she didn't like it and she didn't want to do it again. We really should have bought the picture, but didn't (since it was our first ride). We were on the front row and I actually looked like I was having fun, Beth had one hand over her eyes and the other arm wrapped through Greg's clutching it very tightly (personally I was holding on to the lap bar), Greg looked like he was enjoying it and Kate was kind of half hidden behind Greg's other arm.
Afterwards, Greg said he had fingernail marks on his arm from Beth clinging to him. He asked why I didn't scream if I didn't like it... I told him I didn't want to expend the energy to scream... I was using it to hang on! Since we had promised Beth a reward for riding, we bought both the girls TOT T-shirts.
I also noticed the gift shop did sell TOT iron-on patches. This past year for Christmas I had made the girls travel bags with the plan that we would buy souvenir patches to sew on it. This was a modification from an idea I found in Family Fun magazine. They had an item about a travel vest, but I decided to make a bag. We already had a few patches from San Antonio & Beth had a field trip to Corpus Christi where she bought a couple more. My quest this trip was to find patches to put on their bags. Since this was our first stop, I didn't buy them (I knew we'd be back, & I didn't know how many attractions would have patches... I'll keep you updated).
We checked on BATB show times, but we'd just missed one. So we went by the animation tour. Although we had a short wait until the next one started, we went ahead & did this. We'd missed it on our previous trip. It was interesting, but probably missable in the future. The girls really enjoyed it, especially Beth (but she's the one that loves all TV & movies).
As we walked out of this, we noticed Mermaid was letting people in & there was no wait. Although we missed the preshow & were sitting towards the back of the theater, it was great to have no wait. We all enjoyed this, especially the water effects. This is a do-it once per trip show.
We walked towards the rear of the park & noticed waits at the GMR & star tours The girls wanted to do the playscape, so we let them run around there for awhile before we went back across the park of BATB. We weren't there early enough to get good seats, but they weren't too bad, we were off to the side. The show was good as always.
It was getting close to 4:00 so we thought we'd check if our room was ready. Although we were given a number to call from a "house phone" I hadn't noticed one in the park. We stopped at the information kiosk in the front of the park & they placed the call for us. The room was ready, 5754. We took the bus back to the resort & find our room. After going all around the building, we find 5754 at the far corner. We try our keys & none of them work.
Greg found a house phone & they said they'd send someone by. Eventually (probably within 5 minutes, but you know how long it seems when you're waiting) someone came by and let us into the room. She seemed to think that since her key worked, it wasn't a maintenance problem with the door.
Our plan was for Greg to take the girls to the pool & I would stay back in the room & unpack. For those of you concerned about the size of the ASMv rooms, we were quite comfortable. The chest of drawers had six, fairly good sized drawers. Greg & I each took 2 for our clothes; the girls had 1 each. We had also called housekeeping to request 12 extra hangars & 10 extra towels. They brought these by fairly quickly. The extra hangars were really great, I hung up most of the non-Tshirt clothes. We used the extra towels throughout the week at the pool.
By the time the girls & Greg came back no one had come by about the keys. We called the front desk, indicating we felt kind-of captive in our room, and Greg went up there to see what he could do. Apparently the problem was that they had originally assigned us to room 5720 and the keys were coded to that. For some reason they changed us to 5754. This cleared up, we went to the food court for dinner.
The girls had individual sized pizzas, Greg had pasta w/meatball & I had pasta primavera. We also got breadsticks and a small salad. Our total for this meal was $25.26. We had also gone to Donald's Double Feature (the resort store) and bought 2 1/2-gallons of milk. (Greg & Kate are lactose intolerant, so we treat their milk with lactaid - Beth & I drink regular milk). Although this gallon worth of milk cost us $5.90, after driving in on 192 Greg really didn't want to venture back out into the "real world." It was also a little better than buying the little cartons all week long.
After this we headed out the MK, at about 7pm. We thought we'd be able to ride some rides while people were waiting for the parade. At 7, people were already lining Main St for the parade. We went through the castle to FantasyLand. There were still lines (over 30 minutes) for most of FL - except Small World. We walked onto this (I believe this was our first ride last time too).
Next we walked over to Haunted Mansion. This too was a walk-on. This was one of our first experiences with crying children. There was a child - probably about 3 - that was screaming that he didn't want to go on this ride. Luckily the dad walked off (I guess there's a chicken exit for this ride too!). I was really glad to see the father do this. I think sometimes it's an adjustment for parents to realize that although there may not be many "thrill" rides, some are just too intense for younger children.
After HM, we saw that Big Thunder had a 10-minute wait. So we got on this and the girls liked it a lot. I have always liked this (no drops!) but the first time thru it seemed faster than I remembered. I think I need to be gradually acclimated to rides! From here we went on PoC (2 times with minimal wait). We were trying to skirt Main St, so we went back through to FantasyLand for the Carousel & Snow White - both with no wait. The parade had started so this cleared things out a bit.
We went through the castle to go via the wishing well to Future World. I caught bits & pieces of the parade thru the crowds. I wished we'd gone thru FantasyLand - since we later found out Winnie the Pooh was opened.
We rode Buzz with about a 5-minute wait. It was hard for us to score - none of us are video game players. Kate was very frustrated because she didn't get any points. I think Beth ended up with 500, but Greg said he helped her with that. Greg said he was feeling pretty good about his 30K, then noticed the kid in front of him had over 400K! My technique was just to fire the trigger without worrying too much about my aim. I had a hard time telling where my beam was going! I ended up with 40K points.
We were kind of stuck in the park - blocked in by the parade - we hadn't planned on a late night. We got out of Tomorrow Land via the Plaza Pavillion. The people that weren't staying for fireworks were leaving with us. It was about 9:30. We had to wait about 10 minutes for a bus, and there were large crowds. We were back to our room & in bed ready for EE at Epcot tomorrow.
TUESDAY, June 8
We set our wake-up call for 5:30. Our plans for the trip included doing early entry almost every day, a mid-day break and back to the parks in the evening. I tried setting our wake-up call for 5:33 (instead of exactly 5:30) to see if it made a difference in our getting Mickey to wake us up. Well, every morning our phone rang at 5:30, at first there was music, then - as soon as I said anything - Mickey came on. I tried to get the girls to answer at least one time, but they always slept through it.
Our daily routine is that Greg would wake up first, get ready, and then head down to the food court. We brought breakfast bars, granola bars, a box of cereal and some single serving applesauce, mixed fruit & peaches - we also had the milk we'd bought on-site. This first morning, Greg just bought grapes & a banana for $2.77. He also brought all our mugs into the food court - most mornings filling mine with coffee and the rest with hot chocolate. The food court opened at 6am & Greg was normally down there pretty close to that time. He did say, that on some mornings, they didn't have everything out that early. However when this happened he'd find someone and ask for what he needed and they'd normally bring it right out. While Greg was in the food court, I'd attempt to rouse the girls.
**PACKING TIP: When we pack, we normally pick out complete outfits - for a trip this long a complete outfit included shorts, 2 tops and a pair of socks. (The 2nd top was a back up if we needed it after our mid-day break.) I stack the shirts, then shorts, and then socks. After doing this I roll them so there's a bundle with a complete outfit and it stays relatively wrinkle free.**
Now, when we're at home the girls always pick out their "school clothes" the day before. I also made sure they agreed to the outfits we take on vacation. As I learned this week, although I could just get a bundle out for Kate, Beth would always be pickier about which outfit she wore. I finally started consulting with them both during our afternoon break.
We also try to sunscreen in the morning. Living in Texas, and the girls are outside a lot at some of their summer camps, I routinely do this at home - completely sunscreen them at about 6:30am even though they may not be out in the sun until 11:00. I also get a very high SPF. I get BabyFaces SPF 50 & use it for our faces, ears & necks (and sometimes shoulders if they're exposed). Then I tend to use SPF 30 on legs & arms. I personally wouldn't dream of going out without at least SPF 30. I have heard people saying that they've heard SPF 15 is all you need (I think I've even read this somewhere); however we have never gotten a sunburn using the 45 or 30. (I'm off my soapbox now).
It was almost always a struggle to get the girls roused, but they're like this even at home. We've discovered it's worth it for early entry.
After our quick breakfast, we caught the bus to Epcot at 7:15. The gates were just opening as we got there. We headed straight for Test Track. Even arriving EE, we still had to go through most of the internal queuing area, but it was a pretty steady pace.
As we approached the building Beth heard the cars zooming above on the outside track. After yesterday's scare on ToT, she started getting very apprehensive about this ride. Since we'd never been on it, we didn't have anything to base a decision on as far as encouraging her to go, or allowing her to sit out. After the pre-test briefing, she was even more skittish. I decided that if she really didn't want to go, I'd sit out with her. Kate & Greg went and really enjoyed it. Maybe next time for Beth & me. Greg will fill in below about the ride:
We left the building by 8:30. At this point the line was out to Innoventions. As we walked over to Spaceship Earth, I'd notice people running from the entrance towards Test Track. I guess they didn't realize that they'd have about a 11/2 hour wait at this point. We all but walked onto Spaceship Earth. This is one of my favorite attractions, but we only did it this one time this entire trip.
After "the Great Ball of Epcot" - as Beth calls it - we walked into HISTA pre-pre-show are with about 15 minutes to go until the next preshow started. About 1/2 way through the preshow, the slide show stops, however the audio continued. Then someone came out & said due to technical difficulties they needed everyone to exit out the back of the preshow area. Then someone told us to stay in, then someone came back & told us to leave. Everyone mumbles & grumbles and disburses through the park.
We went over to the Land (mainly because we weren't terribly interested in the Living Seas... and the LS had a line out the door). We decided to try the Kitchen Cabaret. However, a CM there told us that was down and they didn't know how long it would be. We noticed an EXTREMELY long line for the boat ride, then noticed empty boats were cycling through and the line wasn't moving. We thought we'd try the Circle of Life show, but this too was down. As I took the girls on a potty break, Greg started talking to a CM and found out that ALL of Future World was down! Was anyone else here that day? I just wonder what really happened.
Just as we were trying to decide what to do next (it was around 9:30), a CM came out & said Circle of Life was up. We were led into the pre-show area & got to watch the entire things. Apparently these attractions must run on some kind of computerized cycle that includes the preshow.
We had never seen this attraction before and enjoyed it. After this we headed down to the Kitchen Cabaret. The CM here said they had to run one cycle of the show before they could let anyone in. This was another attraction we had missed last time. We all enjoyed this (again, not a "not to be missed", but good to see).
We had a priority seating for the Garden Grill at 11:30. We were nearing this time, but it was still to early to check in, but not enough time to do anything. We went over to guest relations and got our MKC passport stamped and asked for Epcot Discovery Guides for the girls. I'd read about these somewhere on the Internet (D.I.S. perhaps?) They're little booklets with information about Epcot and a page with a world map where people from the different World Showcase countries could identify their country & teach the girls how to say "Hello" in their native language. While we were stalling until lunch, we also let the girls do some of the interactive kiosks on recycling.
It was now about time that we could check into the Garden Grill. Our priority seating was for 11:30 (the earliest lunch seating). However, we probably weren't seated until 11:45, they said they were switching from breakfast to lunch & that took a little bit of set-up I guess.
I requested the lower level and was really glad I did. The tables are all booths that look out over portions of the Living with the Land boat ride. From the lower level it was very easy to see all of this. This was our FAVORITE meal and I would recommend it to anyone. To top it off it was our only meal that gave us a MK Club discount.
Our waiter first brought us the bread (sunflower?) and honey butter. Most of us liked the bread (Beth is NOT a bread & butter person). Next we were brought our skillets of food. The "adults" received a skillet with several pieces of fried fish (catfish?), roasted chicken and hickory smoked steak. Another skillet had some veggies (prepared crisp) including squash, onion and green beans. We also received a bowl of mashed potatoes.
The children's skillet included macaroni & cheese, chicken nuggets and french fries. Beth did not like the macaroni & cheese (basically if it's not out of the blue box & made with orange powdery cheese, she doesn't like it). However, she did really like the steak. Actually we all did (& I'm really not much of a beef eater).
Since this is family style, you can get more of anything. We did get more steak & mashed potatoes. THEN they bring dessert. The adults get an apple crisp w/ vanilla (cinnamon?) ice cream. The kids get little mugs of worms & dirt. (By the way, the kids' drinks come in those little plastic cups that can be kept as souvenirs).
Characters coming around & visiting accompanied all this food. Chip & Dale came by many times - usually singly, once together. Mickey and Pluto were also there. I thought Minnie was supposed to be there, however she wasn't.
We also had one time that Mickey came around, he almost completely ignored Kate. Sitting in booths, the girls sat on the outside edges. Mickey came up behind Kate, facing Beth. I guess your peripheral vision isn't that great in a mouse head, because he didn't sign her autograph book and didn't seem to notice her at all. She finally got up to be in a picture with him. I'd also planned for the girls to wear their overalls that day (the farmer theme). I was glad I did, because once when Chip & Dale came around they noticed the girls were in overalls & made a big deal about it.
After we waddled out of the restaurant, we went down to the Living with the Land ride. There was about a 5-minute wait. Our tour guide seemed to be just running through his spiel as quickly as he could. Kate even commented that she couldn't understand what he was saying because he was talking too fast.
It was close to 1 PM by now and we headed over to the World Showcase. We had a bit of a wait before the next movie in Canada, and the girls had their Discovery Guides signed (how do you say hello in Canada?). Although we asked in the shop, there were no Canada patches in the stores here.
I don't think I'd ever been in the shop in the back that had all the Anne of Green Gables stuff. Neat things, but nothing we needed. As you'll discover we don't buy much, we go through the shops almost as if it were a museum or display. The girls might indicate that they really like something and I validate that they have good taste, I like it too or that it's way-cool. This seems to be our basic strategy (they do buy a few things, this is vacation after all!)
After O Canada!, we wander over to the UK. We explore the shops (repeatedly telling the girls to look with their EYES not with their hands!) and once again, no patches. If we had been collecting lapel pins or flags we would have been set, but there were no patches that I could find in all of Epcot. Although there were Pooh characters out in the garden (& Mary Poppins trying to make an exit) the girls weren't that interested in getting autographs this time. If we stumbled upon someone with a short line, we might stop, but this was not a priority this trip.
We began to wander back to Future World to catch a bus to the Animal Kingdom. After a short detour to Ice Station Cool, we made it to the Animal Kingdom bus.
A short note about Ice Station Cool, yes, we tried most of them. I even tried Beverly (I had to see what was so bad about it). It tasted like an apritif. One lady came around, tasted it & said she loved it, one of her companions tasted it & said it tasted like gin. I guess it's not too bad if you go in knowing what to expect, however if you're expecting it to taste like Coca Cola, I could see why it would shock your tastebuds.
We arrived at AK at 2:45. Kind of felt like salmon swimming upstream as we walked against the throngs exiting. However, not enough people left, there was still a posted 30-minute wait for the safari. We went ahead, and really the wait didn't seem too bad. However I usually take it as a bad sign if there's concessionaires selling water & drinks (alongside souvenirs) in the queue.
We finally got in our truck & were seated in the last row of seats. I kind of liked this because you could turn around & have a clear view. We really enjoyed this, but about 1/2 way thru the ride Greg was taking a picture & I noticed the lens cover hadn't totally cleared the lens. We have a Canon camera that has an automatic lens cover. When I looked at it, the pieces seemed to be sliding around. We put the camera away (a bumpy ride is not the best place to inspect a camera) to look at later.
Well, after we finished our safari (with Little Red was safely in the back of truck & the poachers detained), we stopped to look at the camera. Barely touched it & springs & pieces came apart. We put everything back in the camera case (hoping to keep all the pieces together) and walked over to the kiosk that sold film.
I thought I'd read somewhere that at some of the camera centers there were people who could repair cameras. We asked at the kiosk, but they said there wasn't a camera center at AK - only at MK & Epcot. We kind of looked at the cameras available there, but decided not to buy any (we still had our video camera).
Since we hadn't been at AK very long, we wanted to continue our touring. We found the ITTBAB entry and joined the queue. We probably had a 20-30 minute wait (including under the tree) before the show started. However, a lot of the wait was walking around the tree & finding animals.
The girls did NOT like this movie. I was kind of wondering if they would, but they were used to 3-D movies (however this was the first one of this trip). Although Kate is almost 10 years old, she has NEVER tolerated bugs. She'll scream about a spider & I'll find a VERY small bug in the corner of the ceiling. SHE DID NOT LIKE THE MOVIE. She wasn't even sitting back in her seat to get stung or anything. She didn't like the bugs popping out of the ceiling, spitting stuff at her, etc.
Then, as we're walking out of the movie (you know - with several hundred people), she tells me she's pulled her tooth & she's bleeding. So here we are, walking along with the flow, she's using tissues to stop the blood, etc. I didn't even realize she had a tooth that was that loose!
Once we got her settled, swished out her mouth (an advantage of always having water bottles), and the tooth safely wrapped in a tissue for the tooth fairy, we wandered over to the FotLK.
There was about a 10-minute wait until the next show, so we did not get great seats. We found seats towards the back of the lion section. People still trickled in, and they still tried to squeeze more & more people in the bleachers.
We really enjoyed this show. The girls do gymnastics & dance, so they really enjoyed the monkeys & the birds. When this was over, we decided to go over to the camera center at Epcot to see if we couldn't do something about the camera. In retrospect, I should have gone back to the room with the girls. They were VERY tired (notice that we didn't have a break today?). However, we all took the bus to Epcot. Once we arrived at Epcot (6:30), I decided to go straight to the ASMv bus stop, while Greg went into the park to see about the camera.
The girls were very tired by now, Beth was complaining she wasn't feeling well. I had a feeling they were really just running out of gas. Although we had a big lunch, we really hadn't snacked at all in the afternoon (besides drinking water). I usually carry snacks in my fanny pack, but all I had were animal crackers. Of course Beth claimed she hated animal crackers, I needed to convince her she needed to get something in her body. She finally decided that once she ate a few animal crackers that she did feel better & animal crackers weren't so bad after all.
There was a very long wait for the bus. However about the time one pulled in, I noticed Greg coming back from the park. He said there is no in-park camera repair. He bought the generic WDW Kodak camera they sell for $70. He thought about going off-site for one, and decided it just wasn't worth the hassle.
We arrived back at ASMv at 7:10. Beth said she really wanted cracker sandwiches for dinner (her favorite: saltines, American cheese & bologna). We checked the gift shop at ASMv & sure enough, they had American cheese (2.95) & a lunch meat variety pack (3.75). We had brought a package of saltines with us since we knew it was one of Beth's favorite foods. They did have a package of bologna, but Greg thought he'd make a sandwich of the ham or other meat in the package.
I stopped in the food court & bought a bagel (for Greg's sandwich) and a turkey wrap for Kate & me to split. This came to $5.87. We also had some AirCrisps crackers in the room. This was a long day & we broke our rule of taking breaks. After eating, Greg took the girls to the pool for a 30-minute swim, it was bed time at 9pm. We were tired & ready for bed (remember early entry the next day!)
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 9
We left ASMv at 7:25 for MGM. We normally like to get to EE before this, but we just don't always move to fast in the morning. We didn't have any receipts for breakfast, so we must have eaten the breakfast food that we brought from home.
When we arrived at MGM it was already open, so we went straight to Star Tours. This is one of our favorites. The first time, there was a 5-minute wait. We went back for one more ride, this time with a 10-minute wait. From here, we went to the Great Movie Ride. We probably had a 15-minute wait (I think we went through the film clips 2x). We had the cowboy side, and I thought our "bad guy" was a little lame.
After this we headed over to Muppet Vision. Beth really wanted to see this. Kate was telling me that yesterday's experience with ITTBAB kind of "freaked" her about 3D movies. However, once the movie started, they loved it as always.
From here we went to Doug Live. We had about a 5-minute wait with the pre-show (that you couldn't hear too well). This was a very cute show. The girls are big fans of One Saturday Morning, they watch Doug almost every week. I hadn't realized it, but Greg's usually at the grocery store when Doug is on, so he didn't know much about it.
I thought Patty Mayonnaise & Skeeter sounded just like their TV counterparts. However, Doug just didn't sound like himself. The audience participation band was great. They looked just like the cartoon. When we walked out, Greg was asking me about Quail Man - he wanted to know if that was really in the show. The girls (well, all of us) really enjoyed this (the girls probably a little more since they wanted to re-do it later in the trip, I felt like once was enough).
When this show let out, I figured we might be able to get over to Hunchback for the next show. It was a very tight squeeze as far as timing went, but they were still letting people in. We actually ended up with fairly good seats at the second to top row of the bleachers. (Although I had to ask the boy on the top row to move his feet off the unoccupied bleacher in front of him so we could sit there - we were in the row, there were no other seats & he still had his feet propped up like he thought they could stay there).
It was a totally different perspective from here, last time we sat right by the runway in the middle of the stage. The show was great as always, but by the end Beth was REALLY having to use the rest room. Well, Greg agreed to hurry out with her when the show ended, however we didn't know which rest room they were going to. We lost them when we were climbing of the bleachers. When we exited the theater, I saw a sign indicating restrooms to the right. Well of course it turns out Greg went to the restrooms near the playground, so we were separated. We had kind of agreed that after the show we would go to the ABC Commissary for lunch, so we headed back there. This was one of those times that having 2-way radios would have come in handy. We did eventually meet up with them, but in the meantime, the line at the commissary got very long.
This is a very inefficiently run operation. For example, when they ran out of chicken tenders, instead of filling orders that didn't include chicken tenders, they stood around waiting until the chicken tenders were out so they could continue filling the orders in the order they received them. I joked that they should have had signs up indicating how long your wait would be in the food lines. We honestly waited at lease 30 minutes in a line where there were only a few people in front of us.
Once we FINALLY got our food (a chicken caesar wrap w/tomato salad, chicken strips w/fries, child's nuggets & child's grilled cheese including lemonades & a Doug lunchbox w/the child meals - $23.22) it was pretty good.
After lunch we went over to the Drew Carey sound show. This was actually one of the more entertaining preshows with its TV trivia on the TV screens. Mixed reviews here. You start out watching the "taping" of a TV show. You lose video & the rest of the show is in pitch-black darkness while you listen to it over your headphones. Greg thought it was a neat concept. I thought I'd done it once that's enough. I didn't especially like the bees - it got annoying more than anything to have this loud buzzing in your ears. Kate didn't like it (probably because of the bees) & Beth didn't really care too much for it.
This done, we headed back to room for a break & then to Blizzard Beach. We stopped off at the food court for the chocolate chip cookie sundae & a brownie sundae & 4 spoons! ($8.12). After this light snack, we rested a little, changed into our suits & drove to Blizzard Beach.
We arrived at the park at 3:40, got a locker and Beth & I camped out in the Ski Patrol Training Camp (SPTC). Kate & Greg went off to do some other slides & things. I will be the first to admit that I am a real wimp when it comes to the temperature of swimming water Give me a hot tub any day! Beth had just been recently taking swimming lessons & was finally getting more comfortable in the water (an early childhood with ear tubes & messing with ear plugs, then additional ear surgery had not been conductive to encouraging water play). She was happy to practice her swimming in the pool there. She decided the kiddy area was for babies, but wasn't ready to try any slides yet. I finally got her to go on the regular slide and she really liked it. She also did the small tube rides in the SPTC. Although she liked them, she preferred the slides. She didn't want to do the T-bar drop or the icebergs. We finally decided to walk around & explore a bit (and see if we could find Kate & Greg). We ended up at the wave pool & she played around in here some.
About now the sky was filling with dark clouds that definitely had rain in them. Before we knew it, there was a flash of lightening and a LOUD crack of thunder. Time to get out! We started making our way back to the chairs where we left our towels & stuff and it started to pour.
Beth was all concerned about getting struck by lightening. We sought shelter near the rest rooms, but never saw Greg & Kate. Once the rain started letting up we made our way over to the lockers, thinking Greg & Kate might be over there. They weren't but we were at least staying relatively dry. I wanted to go back to the SPTC, but wanted to leave Beth up near the lockers in case Greg & Kate came by there while I was looking in our designated meeting place. She was worried about me going out & getting struck by lightening.
I finally convinced her the lightening had stopped & went out to find them. I couldn't, so I returned to the locker. Eventually they showed up there. It turns out they were in the back part of the creek where there were no exits. The lifeguards told them to wait until they got to an exit to get out (there really isn't a whole lot of walking area in sections of it - just vegetation). When they finally got out they found cover under a locker area, only to have a CM tell them the lockers weren't grounded & it wasn't safe there. Luckily, although there was periodic lightning & thunder, the rain was lightening up. They finally made it to our locker, we got our stuff out, returned the locker key & exited the park.
The CMs were saying that since it was so close to closing time (it was 5:30 & they were supposed to close at 7pm) and there was still lightning in the area, they probably would just shut down for the day. Luckily, getting there late in the day, we had a VERY close parking spot. We ran to it just as another wave of heavy rain started.
On our way out we stopped at the McDonalds. Let me just reiterate what I have read in earlier reports of this McD: the service is V - E - R - Y S - L - O - W... also, CHECK YOUR ORDER (especially for carry out)! We ordered a nugget happy meal, a cheese burger happy meal, the chicken salad & 2 hamburgers. When we checked our bags, the salad did NOT have chicken and we only had 1 hamburger. I guess the service would be slower if they have to do everything TWICE.
Anyway, the girls were glad, they got beanies in their meal. The food itself is what you would expect. This ended up being an early evening in. We wrote some postcards and got to bed early. Radar was indicating some severe storms in the area and we decided to stay in. This was actually the beginning of a pattern of late afternoon showers for the remainder of our trip. However, we're used to severe storms in Texas being pretty severe, so we decided to stay in.
THURSDAY, JUNE 10
Today was EE at MK. We had originally planned on doing River Country today after our lunch at the castle (taking our stuff to MK & getting a locker). However the weather report indicated heavy showers starting at around 2pm this afternoon. After being caught in the storm at BB yesterday, we decided not to risk it today. TIP OF THE DAY: Don't believe the weather forecast. It ended up being hot & sunny almost all day!
We caught the bus by 7am, and when we arrived at MK I noticed that there was absolutely NO ONE in line. Our bus was apparently the first to arrive. I don't think this had EVER happened to us.
As we stood in line, we discussed our options for the morning. Kate really wanted to try Space Mountain, where as Beth wasn't quite ready for it yet. We decided to split up. Greg & Kate rushed over to Tomorrow Land and rode Space Mtn with out a wait. Beth & I headed over to FantasyLand. Our original plan was to ride Dumbo, but Beth decided she didn't want to ride it without Kate & Dad. So we walked on to Peter Pan, as we were exiting we asked if Winnie the Pooh was open (it wasn't on the slip of paper they had listed the EE attractions). The CM at Peter Pan said it was open, so we went over there with no wait.
**** SPOILER ALERT FOR WINNIE THE POOH*****
We really enjoyed this ride. You ride in giant hunny pots (designed similar to the vehicles on Snow White). The track is probably the same one that was used for Mr. Toad (just a guess). You first ride into the blustery day. In our opinion, the day could have been a bit blusterier, but it was still fun. The setting was similar to Snow White (statue type figures), however with more scenery all around you. After the blustery day, you go around a corner & meet Tigger. As soon as Tigger says "Come on, let's bounce!" Your car starts bouncing. The illustrations in this area was more the card board cut-out variety, but it was still fun. As we leave Tigger's area, (and our hunny pot stops bouncing) Tigger warns Pooh that something is out to steal his honey. Pooh tries to guard his honey, but the silly ole bear falls asleep. Next we are in his dream. Pooh's dream of Heffalumps is rather psychedelic and colorful with one-dimensional cut-outs that have a kind of fun house atmosphere. In fact, we were always looking in the mirror to see ourselves in Pooh's dream & almost missed that we were being shot at (a puff of smoke) through some creature's nose. As we leave Pooh's dream, the rain, rain, rain is coming down, down, down. In here, your hunny pot seems to be bobbing along, floating through the flood. In this area, we're back to the statue-type figures. Soon your ride is ending with a party.
*** SPOILER ALERT OFF ****
As I said, we all really enjoyed this ride. This is one that even the smallest child would enjoy. And you exit conveniently in the Pooh gift shop! After experiencing Pooh, we went on to Snow White, Peter Pan & then found Kate & Greg making their way back to Fantasy Land. All our rides in Fantasy Land this morning were with minimal wait. EE especially pays off here! You can do all of Fantasy Land (several times for some rides) within the first hour.
When we met back up with Kate & Greg, we all did Pooh, Snow White, Peter Pan, Carousel & Tea Cups. We didn't get to ride Dumbo this morning. The wait was already 40 minutes. We are really spoiled & will only do this when we go to it first thing in the park (a walk on!).
We were all kind of exited about trying Splash Mtn on this trip. So we headed over to the rope drop at about 8:30. We hung around Liberty Square, however after seeing how they do the rope drop, I don't think it would have mattered which gate you started at. They would let one group through, then when you meet up with another roped section they time it so both groups converge at the same time. I could see no advantage of being at one rope drop location over another.
Once we approached Splash Mtn, the CM's direct you behind some ropes. Although it seems like you're a long way back, the line is moving very quickly this early because everyone in just walking thru the queue to get to the ride.
Well, once we passed in front of the big drop, I started getting cold feet - but tried to keep quiet about it since I did want the girls to do it. Beth also started sounding apprehensive about the whole thing. So being the good parent I am, I offered to go thru the chicken exit with her if she decided not to do it. By the time we got to the loading area, she had really decided she didn't want to do it, so we bailed out. Kate & Greg loaded into their log and were off. As Beth & I went through the exit, none other than Brer Bear (?) was walking in & some lucky persons got to ride with him in their log!
We went to the bridge & tried to spy Kate & Greg in their log. We finally saw them & taped a little of them going under the bridge. Kate really loved this & Greg was glad he didn't get too wet.
We thought we might do BTMR, but the line was at 40 minutes. We knew we would have time to do it with a shorter wait later, so we passed at this time and went straight thru to the Haunted Mansion. During one of our HM rides, the ride was stuck for what seemed like a long time (it really probably wasn't more than 5 - 10 minutes). Beth & I were stuck where the spirity-looking things are flying around, before you go backwards down to the grave yard. Although Beth usually likes the HM, she did not like being stuck in that location for that long. She said it was "freaking" her.
Once our trip thru the HM was completed, we passed by the Hall of Presidents, but our timing was off to see the show. We went thru the path to Adventure Land to the Tree House. I know there's no excitement to this attraction, but I still like it. We went back thru the pathway to Liberty Square and caught the train (no wait!).
We rode the train 1 1/3 way around, because we wanted to go to Toon Town (or what ever it's called), but we also wanted to take the train all the way around. Once we made our way back to Toon Town, we rode the Barnstormer with about a 15-minute wait (mostly hot in the sun). We also walked thru Minnie's house, taking advantage of a few photo ops.
We had a priority seating at 11:30 for lunch at the Castle, but we still had a few minutes to spare. So we went over the TTA (where there's never a wait). The girls really like to do this. It's kind of nice just to sit & go for the ride.
We made it over to the castle where we got to sit & wait for them to start seating for lunch. We had a window table & had a great view of the carousel (& later Merlin & the Sword in the Stone). The food was great, & we really liked the Mickey shaped butter. Kinda felt bad cutting off his ears, feet, etc. I had the salmon sandwich, Greg had prime rib, Kate a cheese burger & Beth nuggets. The service was great and we took our time. We enjoyed this meal, but Greg thought the Garden Grill was better.
After our meal, we decided to stand in the 25-minute line for the Skyway to Tomorrow Land. I almost wished they have snaked the line a little more inside the building where you'd be out of the sun, but they didn't. We always enjoy this view of the MK, even though you almost always have to stand in line for it.
Once we got over to Tomorrow Land, we went to see the Carousel of Progress with no wait. I really enjoy this. Kate was moaning & groaning about not wanting to do this, but once it started she really enjoyed it too. A family favorite & we all come out singing "It's a great big beautiful tomorrow..."
From CoP, we headed over to the air-conditioned waiting area for Time Keeper. Buzz had 40-minute lines so we weren't going to wait for that. I like Time Keeper, but it's a once-a-trip attraction.
We left the MK at this point, stopping in a few shops to see if we could find any patches (nope). We headed to the monorail station to go to the TTC, then Epcot. We wanted to go on the resort monorail, to see how long it would take us to get around to the Grand Floridian for our brunch on Saturday. However, there was a delay on that line due to them taking a train out of operation. So we went down & crossed over to the express line. Of course the resort monorail ends up being up & running before the express train comes.
When we got to the TTC, we asked if we could have the front car. The CM indicated that someone had already requested it. However since there wasn't much of a wait for that monorail, we decided to see if we could wait & sit in the cab for the next one. That wasn't a problem. This was a really neat experience, even if we didn't have a very talkative pilot (& we did NOT get co-pilots licenses).
Once we walked in Epcot, the line was a little longer than we would have liked for Spaceship Earth, so we went over to the Universe of Energy. We missed about 1/2 the preshow, but that was fine with us. I know this is probably an old tip, but if you get in the front seats at the left side of the big theater, you'll be the first cars to go through the dinosaur section. We were in the very front this time.
Even though we'd had a kind of slow afternoon, we hadn't taken a real break today. We stopped & got ice cream bars, etc at one of the stands & went into the Pasta Piazza in Innoventions West. The tables here were deserted at this time of the afternoon, so we enjoyed our ice cream in air conditioned comfort. I got a real kick walking around here & noticing people stretched out on benches, etc. taking breaks.
Once we were invigorated by our snack, we headed over to HISTA. There was no wait for this and we missed about 1/2 the preshow. This was fun, but Beth didn't like the mice. She was probably too short last time & didn't realize they were there. However on our way out I showed her the plastic tubing that didn't fully retract under some seats and explained to her how they did the effects.
From Future World we crossed over to the other side of the World Showcase. We started out with Mexico. The girls got their discovery guides signed (Hola!) and we rode the boat ride. Yes it's dated, but it was better than I remembered. We never spend much time in the market area. We live fairly close to San Antonio and just about anything for sale in that pavilion can be found in San Antonio.
From there we ventured to Norway. There was about a 30-minute wait for the ride. While we waited outside, I made sure the girls saw where the boat almost falls out the building when you're going backwards. The girls really enjoyed the ride and even now talk about the ride where they went backwards. We had to wait once we exited our ship before they opened the doors for the next movie. Since we already waited once, we walked thru and missed the movie (we did watch it last time). We browsed the shop, then headed on to China.
The back of this area was closed for filming a commercial. We never really saw the filming, but since we were hungry we decided to see what they had to eat. We went to the counter service restaurant (with NO line at 6:50 pm) and ordered Stir Fried Beef, Lotus Blossum Chicken & fortune cookies ($15.16). As usual, we also got 4 cups of ice water. The meals came with rice & egg roll. We just got 4 forks & shared the meal. As we were sitting there, a veritable parade of nations came by. CM's dressed in every costume (plus a few whose countries aren't represented in Epcot - although I can't remember what they were now!) came right by our table as they went to where the commercial was being filmed.
Somehow, Greg & I managed to get separated again after this meal. We were supposed to be going over to the China movie, but somehow I lost him. We wandered around (China's not THAT big) and met up again. We had about a 20 minute wait until the next movie (we'd just missed the start of one). But we went through the exhibit that showed some native dress (Mongol?). I really like this movie, as did the girls. This past year the girls' school had a Worlds Fair & Beth's class was China. She thought it was really neat that all these things were from China.
The shop outside of the China movie is probably one of my favorites. But since I wasn't planning on buying anything we didn't spend much time here. (I didn't even look for patches - by this time I figured none of the countries had them). It was nearing 8 pm, we hadn't had a real break that day & it was starting to drizzle.
We headed back to the front of the park in the rain, there was lightning in the distance, and got back to ASMv at 8:30.
FRIDAY JUNE 11
We wanted to be at Animal Kingdom when it opened today. We were on the bus by 7:20 and when we arrived they were letting people thru the gates. There were a lot of people milling around the front where CM's had various small animals out. We didn't realize that there was a rope drop here. You were allowed past the Oasis, but that's as far as you got until the 8am opening.
We knew we wanted to do Countdown to Extinction first, so we went to the right. We were stopped just outside Disney Outfitters. I don't know where the rope was for the Safari was.
We stopped to shop, since we weren't going anywhere and learned a valuable hint. There is a back door to the Disney Outfitters. When one of the girls needed to go to the rest room (before rope drop) a CM in the store directed us to the ones inside the park, but told us we had to come right back & couldn't wander the park prior to opening. Well, there were some benches right outside the store there & I noticed another family just sitting on them & waiting. We hovered near the entrance of the shop & as soon as the rope dropped, we started towards CTX. By using the back door, we had quite a head start over the rest of the rope drop crowd.
Even with this head start, we were not the first group into the ride. We were the second group. We all really enjoyed this ride. After not buying our TOT picture, we decided to buy this picture. After we escaped the asteroid, we headed over to the River Cruise. We decided to do it now, because when we were here earlier we noticed how long the lines were. This was a nice relaxing cruise and set our pace for the day. I knew we'd probably do a lot of walking today, and I wanted to make sure we had a relaxing pace.
After the River Cruise, we headed back to Dino Land and let the girls run around the playground. We really didn't spend a whole lot of time here, but the girls enjoyed it. From here we went over to the Fossil Preparation Lab (I had just read an article in National Geographic about the fossil they are working on here). We went to the Dinosaur Jubilee, but it appeared to be closed (the doors were unlocked, but there was a trash can blocking the door). I had noticed people coming out of it while we were at the Fossil Lab, so I figured it might be okay to look around.
We asked a CM in the shop about it (Guess what! They had DINO INSTITUTE patches!) and just when we had a group of people ready to go in, a CM came by & "officially" moved the trash can.
The Dinosaur Jubilee contains casts of dinosaur skeletons. It was interesting, but we weren't there during one of the guided tours. About what you'd see at a natural history museum. We decided not to travel the trails around here, but headed over to Asia.
We had not planned to do the Kali River Rapids. As far as I could tell from trip & other reports, this ride was designed to get you VERY wet. I personally don't like walking around in soggy underwear all day. If there were just a few splashes, we probably would have done it, but every indication I had was that you get soaked on this ride.
Instead, we walked the Maharajah Jungle Trek. We all really enjoyed this and it really didn't seem like that much walking. The girls even thought the giant fruit bats were neat and we got to see a tiger up close. The CM's in this area were all very helpful and informative.
On our way out of Asia the girls found some tiger beanie wrists wraps that they loved. Even though they didn't say WDW on them, I knew Kate especially loves tigers so we got them.
From here we walked the back path between Asia & Harambe. Here we noticed a CM taking a picture of a family with the Tree of Life in the background. We asked him to take our picture too (invariably most of our vacation pictures are missing at least one of us.) He seemed to be getting a kick out of being asked to take all these pictures.
In Harambe, we boarded the train to the conservation station. The trail between the train and the conservation station was very hot. However the CS was air conditioned and nice & cool inside. This had some neat displays & photo ops (as well as hidden Mickeys in the paintings on the walls.) We enjoyed the rain forest stations where you go into a room, put on head phones, and listen to the rain forest. Kate had studied rain forests this year in school and found this very interesting.
We looked in the nursery area and watched some vets do surgery on a bird. They were removing foreign objects from his digestive system. The CS was interesting and educational. I guess you really need to go here with an open mind that it's not all just entertainment.
The girls were beginning to lose patience, we were all getting hot and we knew it was time to head back to the room. We arrived at ASMv at 11:30. I stayed in the food court with the girls & ordered a large pizza while Greg went back to our room to pick up our mugs. Our pizza ended up being a lot of food.
Tummies full, we went back to the room, changed into swimsuits & swam until 1:30. We also wanted the girls to have a little quiet time in the room before we headed back out to Epcot.
Prior to our trip, we had sent off for the "Magic Delivery" coupons thru the Disney Insider Magazine. One of these coupons was for a complimentary Ice Cream Social at the Garden Grill. When I called for priority seatings (as recommended) I was told that there were 2 seatings, one at 3pm & one at 3:30. We made our ps for 3pm. We arrived at Epcot at 2:40 (We normally tried to allow about an hour from the time we left our room until we had to be somewhere).
We arrived at the Garden Grill and had to wait a few minutes to be seated. There were several other people there for the ice cream, but they were also still serving lunch until 4pm. We were seated (lower level again) and the waiter started to automatically bring us bread. We explained we were just there for the ice cream social. In a few minutes, he brought the ice cream. The girls received upside down ice cream cones that sat on top of a chocolate chip cookie. The ice cream was decorated to look like a clown & there were a few strawberries & blackberries scattered on the plate. They also received a couple of gummy worms on the plate.
The adult ice cream was also a cone, mounted on a chocolate chip cookie (using chocolate as the cement). There was a triangular piece of chocolate as well as a wafer cookie stuck into the ice cream. The plate was drizzled with chocolate sauce and was garnished with berries.
We just ordered water to go with this, I think drinks may have been extra. This was a delicious treat. The characters (the same from our lunch at the Garden Grill) came around, so we took even more pictures.
According to our waiter, Victor, you do not need the coupon to receive the free ice cream social. He told us we could come back every day between 3 & 4 if we wanted to, and as long as we had our MK Club Card, we could get free ice cream. He did say it was better to have a reservation (ps), as it was space available. But that this was something they do for MKC members. We never had time to see if this is true, but we did question him and he seemed to be telling the truth. I'd be curious if anyone else had ever heard about this.
Anyway, after ice cream we went to the World Showcase to continue our tour. This was planned to be our last time at Epcot & we wanted to finish up the countries tonight. We took the boat across to Germany since we had left off our last tour at China. When we arrived we walked over to the KidCot Station. This was when I saw that Snow White & all seven Dwarfs were out! I stood in line there, while the girls waited to do the KidCot activity. A CM came through the line & told us Snow White & the Dwarfs would only be out for only 5 more minutes. They weren't doing autographs but we could get pictures. Luckily we were able to get our picture before they took their break.
We looked in the shops here. The girls loved the shop with all the dolls. They were going around picking out their favorites. This was where Greg picked out his souvenirs. The little plastic Mickeys dressed in the outfits of the different World Showcase countries. We ended up with 8 plastic Mickeys for a total of $25.44.
After exploring these shops we ventured into Italy. We watched a little of the music group, but it was very hot outside. We continued on to the American Adventure.
We noticed the long line forming to get in to see Lord of the Dance. Although I wanted to see this, I didn't really want to stand in line. We went in to wait for the American Adventure. Just as we were walking around here, Goofy, Pluto & Minnie came out. Since we'd missed seeing Minnie yet, the girls got her autograph.
Then we went over to wait for the American Adventure to start. You didn't enter into the normal hall, but the exit. I speculated that Lord of the Dance was using the hall to get ready or something. I noticed that they were letting people in to the seating for Lord of the Dance. Since there were still a few minutes before they opened the doors to AA, we decided to go across the street & see if there were decent seats left.
Although they were kind of in the sun, there were plenty of seats left. We were in the front row of the rear section, so there weren't people immediately in front of us. We really enjoyed this show. I had seen LotD in San Antonio, but neither Greg nor the girls had. I personally think that a lot of the tapping sounds were on the sound track - I just didn't see the movements to go along with some of the sounds we heard. But it was a great show anyway.
Just as the show was ending, it was starting to sprinkle. Although we had just missed the start of the AA, we went across the street & decided to wait inside for the next one. As we waited, it really started to rain outside. We probably had a 20 minute wait (the girls entertained themselves with thumb wars) but at least we weren't out getting wet.
The show was good as always, but we were getting hungry. As soon as we exited the show, we made a b-line for the rest rooms (and got ahead of most of the exiting throngs - it doesn't pay to be indecisive). The sun was just starting to peak thru the clouds again, but we could tell from the amount of water on the walkways that it must have rained pretty good while we were in AA.
Since we were there and it was almost 7pm, we decided to eat at the Liberty Inn. $20.08 worth of hot dogs, chicken tenders and chicken sandwich. Not exactly adventurous eating, but it hit the spot.
Apparently the rain cleared out a few people. The park didn't seem near as busy as it was before. We wandered the shops in Morocco and found the KidCot Station. Then we continued on to Japan. I like wandering around here and I really like the big store. The girls made little origami-type animals at the KidCot Station.
From here we were almost to our final destination, France. Although a few people were lining the railings for Illuminations, the park didn't really seem very crowded. We checked to see when the next movie would begin (of course we just missed it!), then went to the patisserie and bought a selection of pastries (3 pastries for $10.50). We asked for them to go, thinking we didn't have time before the movie, but a taste here & a taste there & before you knew it they were all gone! Just in time for the movie!
I like all the movies in Epcot, however this has to be one of my favorites because you get to sit down! When we left France, Illuminations was about to begin. However, we weren't planning on watching. Although I love fireworks, neither Kate nor Beth are big fans (too loud & too close). The early rain had really cleared out the crowd & there was prime seating (standing) all around the lagoon. However, we were tired so we walked out to get to the busses before the post-Illuminations crowds hit. However, I did manage to find the illuminated sidewalks. This is one of those little things that I love about WDW!
There was already a crowd at the bus stop. The bus from Epcot went to all 3 All Star Resorts. We finally ended up standing on the bus (however after the first stop at ASSports we were able to sit down.) They are doing some kind of renovations at AS Sports & the bus stops were relocated to a tent in one of the back parking lots. I don't know how long it's going to be like this or if it was really an inconvenience. Our bus finally arrived at ASMv and we were all in bed by 10:15.
SATURDAY, JUNE 11
Today was EE day at MK and our day to do Dumbo! We arrived at the MK at 7:25 and made our way directly to Fantasy Land & Dumbo. We were in the second group of riders to go up. This is the only way to do Dumbo (IMHO). From here we went to Peter Pan. This is one of the girls' favorite rides, but we've never waited longer than 5 minutes for it.
We went over to do Pooh, but that ride was broken. We checked back periodically throughout the morning, but it never opened. We did Snow White and indulged the girls' desire for beanie Dopeys. After doing all we wanted to do in Fantasy Land, we headed towards Tomorrow Land. As we passed the Speed Way, there was only a 5-minute wait. We've never done this before, mainly because it's so similar to rides at other parks & there always seems to be a line. We decided to go ahead & do it. Yes, it's slow loading, but now that we've done it we won't have to again. The girls got to drive & they really thought that was neat.
After Speed Way, we walked onto Buzz. I don't know how people rack up so many points on this thing! Maybe we just don't play video games enough. The girls were VERY frustrated (again) because they couldn't get any points. I finally told Beth just to enjoy Buzz as a ride and not worry about points.
After Buzz, Kate decided she wanted to do the Astro Orbiter. Beth was not interested, so while Kate & Greg joined the line for the Astro Orbiter (10 minute wait), Beth & I took a couple spins on Buzz. We did this twice while K&G rode AO.
It was getting close to 9 am & we had a 10am priority seating at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian. We wanted to allow a little extra time to explore a bit, so we headed for the Monorail station. This was the girls' first time to go thru the Contemporary (somehow we never did this last time!) and they thought that was cool & want to stay in that hotel now.
We did arrive at the GF fairly early, so we explored the shops and lobby area, then went out on the grounds. It was finally close enough to time to check in. However, shortly before our table was ready the Mad Hatter came out. The girls were either waiting or talking to him or we could have gotten seated a little earlier - however as soon as they finished we were able to be seated.
The brunch at the 1900 Park Fare is a buffet, and as Greg wrote in our notes: "ATE TOO MUCH." Our server came around with coffee & the wonderful orange juice. I believe the girls had milk to drink.
The buffet is set up in different sections. The child's section had chicken nuggets and pizza in addition to scrambled eggs, potatoes, pancakes & sausage. There were also chocolate chip cookies & rice krispie treats here.
There were two sides to the adult buffet and although I originally thought both sides had the same items, I later noticed that only one side had the famous strawberry soup (the other side had oatmeal (). There were so many good things, and since I'm writing the almost a month later, I can't remember them all - but it was all great. There was also a station for made to order omelets, but I never made it there - I was too stuffed trying the other things.
The characters that were at the meal were Mary Poppins, Snow White, Alice, and Dopey. The girls were thrilled Dopey was there, he's their new favorite!
After we waddled out of the GF, we took the monorail back to the MK. However instead of going in the park, we found the launch to Fort Wilderness. We were going to River Country! (Don't you love it when you stuff yourself silly - then get to go put on a bathing suit?)
We arrived at River Country at about 11:30. We'd never been here before, so we kind of explored a little bit. Kate went down all the slides - Greg almost did (he didn't do the one where you drop 5 ft into the water!) Beth wasn't interested in the slides at all & I stayed with her. We went to the lake area, but she didn't like the sandy bottom (she wanted to go to the "hard" pool). I tried to get her to go on some of the little slides, but she was more interested in just swimming around. She eventually tried one of the little slides, but didn't like it as much as swimming around.
After Kate & Greg finished with the slides, we just swam around in the cement pond. We realized that they'd done about all the slides they wanted to do & we could swim back at the hotel (and get our couple loads of laundry in!). So we left RC at about 1:15 (as we left, we heard they had closed the park to new arrivals). There was a boat waiting to MK, then our bus was waiting, so we made it back to our room by 2pm.
We planned on going to MGM later this afternoon. We thought the Mulan parade was at 4pm, and kind of kept it open as to whether or not we'd get to the park in time to see it. We needed to wait for the laundry to finish & it turns out that one of the dryers wasn't working very good. As it turns out, the parade is at 4:30. We got on the bus at 4pm, and arrived at MGM as the crowds were lining the streets.
We managed to stake out a spot on the corner (where the parade turns onto the main street). This really wasn't the best spot to take pictures from because we were so close to it & Mulan ended up being on the other side of her float, so we could only see the back of her. After we pretty much followed the parade down the street, we had decided that if the wait for TOT wasn't very long, Kate & Greg would do that while Beth & I shopped. The wait was only about 15 minutes, so Beth & I explored the Villains shop (I really liked the "Bad Girls" shirt, but didn't know if I'd wear it in the real world.) We also visited the TOT shop to buy the TOT patches I'd seen there the first day. Then we ventured into the area where they show the pictures & waited for Kate & Greg. They came out a few elevator loads later & we ended up buying the picture.
From here we did what Beth wanted - Muppet 3D. Then we went on the backlot tour. It's roughly the same as last year, but George of the Jungle's house is new. We'd been asking around & the CM's said to get good seats for Fantasmic to arrive 11/2 hours early. Since it was slated to start at 9, this would have been 7:30. We had already done most of this park, we had mainly come back this evening to see Fantasmic. So even though it was 6:30 when we finished the backlot tour and picked up dinner at Studio Catering.
Our dining selections this evening included a Bologna & Cheese sandwich kid's meal (with lunchbox), a turkey sandwich, Italian sandwich & a pretzel.. all for $23.77. I think there were some chips thrown in there to and a couple drinks. Even though we were across the park from Fantasmic, we went ahead & carried it over there. We were NOT the first people in line, but we did get prime wall-sitting & wall-leaning space on the side. It was about 7pm by the time we got in line.
They finally entered the gates at 7:45 and let us in. We got excellent seats in the center section, maybe 10 rows up. We took care of potty stops (this restroom seems very large!) and bought the girls each a beanie Sorcerer Mickey.
We watched to vendors go around... if you want one of those chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches get it when the vendor is in your area!! We saw her once & thought she'd be by again, but apparently there's only one person selling these & she only went around the arena once!
The pre-show was the bellhops from the TOT. They were really funny, Beth was all but rolling in the aisles at their antics! Now, I've heard comments that the pre-show seems to be geared only towards the people in the center section. I could see this, but I also figured we'd waited the longest and were entitled to some entertainment! After the bellhops, 4 for a $ (is that their name?) came out. By the way, by 8pm (1 hour before the show) the center sections were pretty full. Maybe if you had only 2 people you might be able to find a seat, but this show filled up!
At around 9pm you can see the fireworks from Illuminations. Then the show started (it must have been a few minutes late, because the fireworks stopped before the show started) It was going along great. Then ABRUPTLY during the Pocahontas section (as the Natives are scaling the rocks).. the music stops & the house lights come up. An announcement is made that due to lightning in the area, and for the safety of the performers, the show is being cancelled.
Needless to say, everyone is grumbling, looking towards the sky (we never did see lightning or get any rain at the park). Most of this show exited the park. However, we went in almost planning a late night, so we thought we'd stick around & see if they were going to do the 11pm show. Talking to CM's later in the evening, they said if there is any lightning within 10 miles of the park they will cancel the performance (I guess they don't want Sorcerer Mickey to get fried standing on top of the Mountain!)
From here we went to TGMR (it's a long ride, indoors & if inclement weather was on its way we'd be inside). We had the cowboy side again, however our CM this time was much better. There was only a 5 minute wait for this. Next we walked on to Star Tours. By the time we exited that ride, we decided to head back over to Fantasmic.
Although we got there only 15 minutes prior to the 11 pm show, there were still plenty of good seats. We weren't in the center section, but the one just past it. We were also on row 3.
From row 3, if there is any breeze at all coming towards you, you will get misted on from the water screens. Actually, during the shorter screen times, we wouldn't actually get misted until the screen was down - it was just slowly being blown on us. I was getting cold & finally asked Greg for a poncho. We spread it over us like a blanket & that worked for the remainder of the show. This was a great show. The girls were kind of scared with all the fire (in addition to getting wet, the fire was HOT). They'd learned so much about fire safety at school that we had to continue to reassure them that this was a controlled fire. It was real fire, but it was controlled (this became more of an issue at Universal - they seem to use fire & smoke more). The show was wonderful & we were glad we'd stayed. Although I couldn't help but find it weird that they exit you through back alleys to end up near the front of the park. I just couldn't help but think that Walt wouldn't approve.
Well, after this late night we were in the hotel by midnight. A very long day!
SUNDAY, June 13
We were able to sleep in a little today. We weren't doing EE, but we did have our Family Magic Tour at 9:30. Just a note about the usefulness of my spreadsheet above: When we received the coupons in our Magic Delivery package, we had a hard time figuring out a time to do this tour. We didn't want to miss EE & most of our PS were around 10:30 or 11:00. The tour ended at 11:30. We might have been able to move some things around, but I had made PS at 120 & 60 days out. We received the Magic Deliver package about 6 weeks before the trip. Sunday morning was really our only day to do this!
We arrived at the MK at 8:50 and for the first time ever, rode the horse drawn trolley up Main St. This was really a case of being in the right place at the right time. The trolley was just arriving at its stop & there weren't any people waiting to get on. Going up Main St is an experience. Our driver kept on ringing the bell & people would still stand in the middle of the tracks!
We exited at the Castle and decided to see if Pooh was working since we missed it yesterday. We actually got caught at the rope drop in the castle! Since we'd done most of Fantasy Land at EE yesterday, all we wanted to do was Pooh. At this time in the morning there was no wait. So we bounced & floated then headed back out through the castle - and there was the trolley again! Since we were supposed to be at City Hall at 9:15 to check in, we decided to go for another ride.
What was really neat this time was that since we were going against most of the traffic, the trolley was empty except for us. Then, the Dapper Dans (the barbershop quartet) hop on the back of the trolley and serenade us (and the throngs of people walking UP Main St!)
We check in for the Family Magic Tour & make a quick potty stop. There were about 4 families taking the tour with us. (I can't remember all these details!) I think the tours been written about in several trip reports, so I won't go into all the details. I don't think our adults were too much into acting a kids age. We also lost our first tour member when one lady bowed out because she didn't realize we'd be walking all over the park. Then we lost 2 more adults, when someone did a hop-skip-jump and didn't land right. She hurt her ankle & her husband went with her for help (their teen-age daughter did continue the tour with us). Needless to say, that kind-of put a damper on things and the exuberance of the group - that and the heat!
All in all, I'm glad we didn't pay for it. The girls thought the coolest part was that we got to cut in front of all those people at the Peter Pan ride (since that's how it ends, that's what they remember!) The clues were really easy to figure out and like I said above, the adults only marginally tried to act like children. Beth did get to ride the Peter Pan ride with Belle (she was there with Peter when we arrived at our last destination) but we weren't able to get a picture of that.
Anyway, after our tour we went to the Columbia Harbor House for lunch. It was just after 11:30 so it wasn't crowded at all yet. Beth had her favorite Bologna sandwich kids meal, Kate wanted the child's macaroni & cheese, but was disappointed in the portion size (she's slowly outgrowing kids meals). She ended up eating some of Greg's chicken strips & fries. I got the Garden Galley Salad that was very good. We found a secluded table by a window & watched the people go by outside. By the time we left, it had gotten considerably busier.
Since the park was getting crowded, we decided to do some non-prime attractions. We saw the Country Bear Jamboree for the first time. Although it was entertaining, I kinda doubt we'll sit through it again! The girls did enjoy it though. Next we livened things up with the Hall of Presidents. This we followed with a show at the Tikki Room (also a first for us). By now it was time to leave the park, since we were planning on going back to BB in the afternoon.
As we left the park, this was my attempt to get a Dole Whip. However, I don't think it was meant to be. When we passed the shop, there was only one person inside working & a line about 5 people long. None of the rest of my party wanted to wait for one.
We were back at the hotel at 2pm and I started packing up. Tonight was our last night at the resort, tomorrow we would check out & go to Comfort Suites. I had to figure out what would go where. Since we had done laundry, I had more clean clothes than we'd need for the rest of our trip. We had requested late check out, so we were planning on going EE at MK, then coming back to load everything up. I wouldn't have any time to pack expect for now!
Everyone else rested until we went to BB at 4:00. The late afternoon arrival seemed to work for us at BB. We all took the slow float around the park. I was worried about the freezing water dripping on you in the cave, but Greg assured me you could easily go around it (& you could!). This was nice, but I thought they needed more current in the river. (Of course, we've been to Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels TX several times & their tube rivers have much stronger currents!)
After our long float around, Beth & I returned to the Jr Ski patrol area & this time I even went down the tube slides (this is also where Schlitterbahn spoils you, their tube chutes have a soft sided material, BB's don't).
While we were doing this, Kate & Greg did the toboggan racers (2x) & the family raft ride (2x). Each of these had about a 5 minute wait. Then they came back & got us to take Beth on the toboggan slides. Beth ended up liking this & they went on it 3 times. By the end there was no wait since it was starting to sprinkle. The skies were looking threatening, so we decided to head out - it was about 6:15.
Back at ASMov, we bought dinner in the food court. Greg & Beth got pasta & bread sticks while Kate & I got in line for the grill. Let me start my rant now: As you get in line, a lady takes your order, calls it in on a radio & gives you a color coded card to pick up your order. Apparently that is all a charade, but once you get to where you pick up your food, the people working the grill get your card & then start cooking your food. For example, the people 2 in front of us ordered a steak. They get to the end of the line & then the man working the counter asks how they want it cooked. They hadn't even started it yet! This was AFTER they'd been in line for about 10 minutes. Then the lady just in front of us hand the guy her cards, he puts them down & putters around, then after about 2 or 3 minutes puts food on her tray that was sitting in the warming bin the whole time! I ordered the quesadilla & Kate got a cheeseburger. When I FINALLY got our food & sat down (after asking for the lettuce & tomato for the cheeseburger) I noticed that when they grilled my quesadilla the lettuce & tomato were already in it. Now I don't mind the tomato, but the lettuce was wilted (as you would expect after it had been grilled) YUCK!
Finished with our meal, we went BACK to the MK and got their around 8:30. I wanted to see the parade (which was supposed to start at 9pm), but we weren't going to line the streets. Also, it was raining at the time (with lightning in the area) so there was a chance it would be cancelled. Luckily, I remembered that the parade ENDS in Frontierland, so I figured we had a little time to do a couple rides, then if it went on, we'd watch it from their.
Unfortunately, the threat of lightning meant that all outdoor rides were closed. We'd kind of wanted to do JC in the dusk, but no go. So we went on our favorite old stand-by, POC. We only had about a 3 minute wait here. As we rounded the corner from Adventure Land to Frontier Land, they made the announcement that the 9pm parade was cancelled due to the weather.
Since the outside rides were closed, this limited our options, we rode Haunted Mansion (5 min wait), IASW (2 min wait). The line for Peter Pan was still 40 minutes (we didn't wait)! I thought maybe we could see the Lion King show, but the last one is at 9 or something, so we'd missed it.
Pooh & Snow White also had longer waits than we wanted, so we headed over to our other favorite - that never has a wait - TTA. I noticed that going thru Space Mountain it did seem lighter than it did when we were there during the day; however I think it may have been that my eyes were more acclimated to the dark then, so I was able to see more.
The wait for Buzz was more than we wanted & although I would've liked to have seen Carousel of Progress again, they'd already closed for the day. I kind of wanted to see the parade, but the girls were getting tired. We started heading out at 10:00 when they started the fireworks. We walked out kind'a looking over our shoulder to watch the fireworks.
MONDAY, JUNE 14
Our last day at Disney! We woke up for our last EE at MK. Kate & Greg went for Space Mountain while Beth & I went to Fantasy Land. Although Kate & Greg didn't have much of a wait, Beth & I were able to do Pooh, Snow White, PeterPan (2X), Snow White again, then while we were on Tea Cups we saw Greg & Kate making their way over.
Even though it was early the lines were getting very long. Kate wanted to do Pooh, which we did with a 30 minute wait! After Pooh we noticed that the Lion King was getting ready to start. Since we hadn't done that this trip yet, we went directly to the indoor "holding area". From there it was a minimal wait to the preshow. This was someplace where I noticed the preshow being very poorly designed. Granted, we were near the back of the room, but the little kids (& me) couldn't really see it all. There was one monitor that you could watch to see parts of it, but the monitor didn't include all of it. I guess last time the girls were small enough that we could pick them up, not now!
After Lion King was over, we noticed the lines in Fantasy Land were horrible. I think it got busier earlier in the day than it had even the week before! We decided to wait the 20 minutes or so for the sky-ride to open. Does anyone know why this doesn't open until 11? Since we were close to the front of the line of people waiting, once it got started we moved fairly quickly to the ride. It just would've been a lot nicer to have been waiting in the shade.
Once we got off the sky-ride in tomorrowland, we made our way to the front gates, saying good bye to the Magic Kingdom. IT was time to check-out then check in to our next hotel. We had express check -out, so we just loaded up our van. Late check-out allowed us to stay until 1pm. Remember to always check your charges! They did not apply all of our deposits to the bill correctly. I'm still not sure if they credited our credit card! It has taken several phone calls and really a disappointing lack of response on the part of the ASMv billing department. On our last trip, we also had a billing problem (as I said REVIEW YOUR CHARGES!) That was resolved fairly swiftly with written response. Come to think of it, I wrote a letter to resolve that one, maybe the written word works better than a phone call!
We had very little trouble finding our way outside of the "World" and into the real world. The Comfort Suites is on Turkey Lake Road, about 10 minutes away from Universal. The pictures in the brochures looked better than the real thing, but it was functional and we had a bit more space than the ASMv.
They had a problem with our reservations (apparently showing that we should have arrived the night before & charging us a no-show fee). However they quickly got that figured out & reversed the no-show charge. They also have a place to buy Universal Tickets in their lobby. The manager on duty did steer us clear of the discount ticket booth saying that was a time-share promo. Although I can't remember exactly, it seems our room was ready even though check in wasn't technically until 3pm. We unloaded all our stuff and ventured out for lunch.
We also asked the manager about dining options & she directed us to International Drive (just a couple minutes away). We had our first non-Disney food in a week at the Golden Corral. Okay, so it's not fine dining, but we know from experience that the girls (& Greg) will find something they like and there will even be some real vegetables that they'll eat! Our meal still cost us $20.65, so it really wasn't that much less than what we'd been paying, only we did eat a bigger meal.
After stopping at the Walgreens to buy more batteries (our VCR takes AA's when the rechargeable one dies), we headed back to the hotel. It was around 3pm by now. All I remember was that I was TIRED. Usually I can't nap during the day - well - I was worn out. I remember Greg asking me a question, but I was too tired to answer. I think I told him to do what ever he wanted to because I NEEDED to sleep.
We settled into our room & I crashed. I think the girls rested (although they probably were just playing with their stuffed animals). Greg went to the lobby & bought our Universal passes. $307.20 for 4 2-day flex tickets.
Around 4pm Greg tried to rouse me, because we'd planned on going back to AK this evening. I managed to wake up, because I really wanted to go to AK to "explore" this afternoon. It really didn't take us very long to get to AK from the hotel, we were there in 20 minutes. Also, since it was late in the afternoon, we found VERY close parking - we probably had a shorter walk than we did from the busses!
Once in AK, we walked along the trails within the Oasis. This is really a neat area, with waterfalls & trails. Usually we're so busy getting from attraction to attraction that we don't notice all the atmosphere in-between!
After the Oasis, we poked our way through all the trails around the ToL. Yes, the girls whined about being bored (& hot), but I didn't want to leave the park without doing this! We finally crossed the bridge into Harambe to go on Safari. There was no wait at all - one thing we noticed was that this late in the afternoon, with no line, if you finished your safari & wanted to do another you could cut through the stroller parking area to get back in the queuing area - that cuts down on a lot of walking! It was about 5:30 when we started this safari.
This was the best time we had for viewing animals (however we never did a morning safari). We got the back seat again! The animals were all out closer to the road than they were before - there was even a rhino & giraffe that crossed the road just behind us! The lion was even up walking around. We used the stroller parking shortcut to get back in line and this time around there weren't near as many animals. I think it was getting close to the last safari time - do they bring the animals in at night? That might explain why they were more mobile on the ride just before the last one.
After our last safari we went on the Pangani Forest Trails. This was a very neat area (but I like walking wooded trails). I guess it's not that much different than some of the zoos we've been to, however it does seem to have all the best features of several zoos. For example, Dallas has a great gorilla exhibit that is very similar to the one in AK, but we saw many more gorillas in AK (Dallas either has more area or it's more spread out). We saw the big male, a couple mature females with babies, and a few others that weren't pointed out.
We also really enjoyed the hippo viewing area and found the bats very interesting. They have fruit hanging around to keep the bats interested and awake during their normal sleeping time. Kate even picked up one of the bird sheets & started identifying birds. The only thing we really didn't spend much time around were the naked mole rats - the CM there didn't know anything about them.
After this, we meandered the trails a bit more, Greg bought a T-shirt he'd admired a couple of days earlier and we bid farewell to WDW. We left the park at close to 7pm, then stopped at the worlds biggest (or most famous or something?) McDonalds on I-Drive. They did not mess up our order. We took our food back to the hotel and got there by 7:30. The girls and Greg went swimming and we all got to bed fairly early.
TUESDAY, JUNE 15
Somehow, we decided to go to IOA first. The park opened at around 9am, so we were able to sleep a little later. We were also able to enjoy the FREE continental breakfast that our hotel had. The coffee was yucky, but the girls were happy with the donuts (I foresee an early lunch!)
It was VERY easy to get from the hotel to Universal, only about 5 or 10 minutes. I really liked the parking garages (COVERED PARKING!!!) and the moving sidewalks. It's been said before, but WDW could take a few lessons here!
As we entered the IOA, Greg & Kate decided they wanted to see if they could do Dr Doom and Spiderman first. After waiting in line for Dr Doom, Kate decided she did NOT want to do it, instead they had about a 5 minute wait for Spiderman (by-passing most of the indoor queuing area). They LOVED it. I'll tell about the ride later - when we all went on it.
Beth & I headed over to Seuss Landing. The theming here is great. We did One Fish Two Fish first. I've heard that if you to listen to the song you won't get wet. But that's only the first verse! After that the song no longer gives you instructions. I guess if you watched it enough you could figure out the pattern, but that's no fun! Luckily you don't get really soaked on this ride, just kind of spritzed here & there.
After the Fish, we went on Cat in the Hat. This ended up being Beth's favorite ride. The concept is similar to Pooh's ride, only your car doesn't do as many things - it mainly just spins you periodically. You follow the story of the Cat in the Hat in your own hard plastic sofa. There were spots in this ride that I wondered if they were still working on it. For example, some of the cars had net pouches for your belongings & others didn't. There was also one spot where it was kind of dark, but I could see mother's new dress hanging up between 2 walls. I couldn't help but think something else should have happened there. But all in all it is a very fun ride.
Although we never waited very long, the queuing area is ALL indoors (in air conditioning!). Also the themeing is great throughout. The metal bars that separate the queues are all curvey & Seussish.
I was really impressed with all the theming in this park. Port of Entry had a kind of quasi-Mediterranean-Eastern-Mythical-port town-feel. Seuss was just Seuss! Bright colors and fanciful animals. You really felt like you were walking thru Seuss illustrations.
Greg & Kate came back & the girls did Red Fish (and didn't get too wet, even though they tried). Then we all did Cat in the Hat. Greg had the video camera out, ready to tape it, but was told no video or pictures. I don't know if they were being secretive or if since it spins you around unexpectedly they didn't want anyone losing or breaking a camera. I know several times when we got off, there were people trying to retrieve sunglasses or a hat that spun off.
I don't want anyone to think that you're constantly spinning like tea cups, when you do it's about 1 or 2 spins around then you're off on a straight path. I guess there's also places where there's a 1/2 or 1/4 spin to redirect your attention to different scenes.
After we looked in the Cat in the Hat gift shop (I'll have to come back here!) and took pictures of the girls sitting on the Horton Hatches a Who egg, we headed over to the Caro-Seuss-el. This is just a regular carousel ride, but the animals are wonderful! From here, it was on to Marvel Super Hero Island.
This area probably had the least impressive themeing (or maybe I'm just not too aware of the Marvel Super Heros!). We got in the 20 minute line for the Spiderman ride. Greg & Kate said that they'd bypassed a lot of the queue the first time around. The queue takes you through the paper's office as you hear news reports of the villains out wreaking havoc on the town.
Even Beth & I really enjoyed this ride (& I'm a true ride wimp!). SPIDERMAN SPOILER ALERT
You're in a motion simulator type vehicle, that actually moves forward through different scenes. You're also wearing 3-D glasses. I'm really not too sure how they do it, if you're in several rooms with tall screens & if there are actual props in addition to the 3-D movie. Your transition into the different areas happens with smoke & your vehicle spinning. The falling sensation in the one part wasn't even too bad for me. In addition to the smoke, there's also a place where fire comes towards you (a place where Beth was concerned & questioned, yet again, if it was "fake fire"). No the fire is not fake & there's real heat! Anyway, Spiderman saves you so you can enjoy the rest of the park.
SPIDERMAN SPOILER OVER
After this ride, we walked through Toon Lagoon. There are photo ops all over here! We got a real cute picture of the girls "in" a Little Orphan Annie Sunday comics; also in a sinking boat with 2 Pogo characters. There are also speech & thought bubbles throughout that you can stand under for cute pictures.
We didn't do any rides here. The Pandemonium Cartoon Circus didn't start until 4pm; I really didn't want to do the Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls (the drop thing!) There is a play area on Me Ship, the Olive and also Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rate Barges (which were closed today, the entire track drained for cleaning, maintenance or something). We continued on to Jurassic Park. We went through the playscape area here - Camp Jurassic. Although the Pteranodon Flyers are here & we wanted to ride them, they had a 75 minute wait posted. We decided to explore the playscape area. In addition to slides & climbing (there were stairs in addition to the ropes), there was also a walk way that took you through caves where there was lava bubbling around. I thought it was extremely dark & had a hard time seeing my way around, then I realized I still had my sunglasses on!
We were able to go on the River Adventure with no wait. I knew this ride had a drop, but since it was enclosed in a building, I guess I didn't see enough of it to spook me. Beth also did not notice it had a drop. The boats were fairly large with lap bars, plus with the no-wait, I didn't have time to talk myself out of it.
RIVER ADVENTURE SPOILER WARNING
You enter the gates of Jurassic Park and go in your boat to observe a few peaceful dinosaurs grazing the area. Then, of course, your boat veers off course, and you end up in a restricted area. Surprise! The raptors are loose and running amok in the building. You go up the ramp almost as soon as you enter the building & don't see much. There is one fairly good size scene as you turn the corner at the top of the building, where you see the raptors causing trouble. You go down a short drop here. The you continue to go around the corner & T-Rex is right in front of you, ready to chomp on your boat. Luckily, there's a ramp right there where your boat goes down & you escape the T-Rex.
RIVER ADVENTURE SPOILER OFF
The ride is really fairly short, but I don't think there was ever a line for it. Beth didn't like it (I felt reassured that not encouraging her to go on Splash Mountain was probably the best move for this year). I didn't like it either (but I don't like drops). The picture was almost funny, in that Beth & I are ducked down & you can't hardly see us, but Greg & Kate are there having a good 'ole time.
We headed on to the Lost Continent. On our way out of Jurassic Park, we saw the Triceratops Encounter, but with a 40 minute wait, we planned to do it later.
The Lost Continent was probably one of my favorites for themeing. Kind of a fantasy, mythical feel to it. We stopped for lunch at the Enchanted Oak Tavern. I recommend this as some of the best counter service we had at any park. The atmosphere was very cool. The exterior looks like a knurly old oak stump. One side was actually a tavern, however we entered at the front where the counter service was.
We ordered 2 Chicken nugget kids meals, a ceasar-type salad with chicken and Greg got the chicken & rib combination plate. The girls' kids meals came in a very cool dragon carry-out box. They got REAL chicken nuggets - and a lot of them. They also got so many fries with the meal it was laughable. Greg commented that it looks like we got about 5 lbs of potatoes! The kids meal also came with an apple & a drink. My salad had different types of greens, & some kind of bread (my memory is fading). Greg's combo meal came with smoked chicken & ribs, raisin/carrot/pineapple salad (which I ate), roasted corn, fries and a corn muffin. I also got a iced cappucino (which ended up being a Starbucks fresh out of the bottle like I buy at Sams) and Greg got iced tea. The total for this meal was $36.43. I'm not even sure if I listed everything we got.
Anyway, the atmosphere in this place was very neat. There were booths set in the edges of the building, heavy wood-like table and the center of the ceiling was beautiful stained glass. There was a strolling Merlin-type character & also a strolling minstrel playing the violin.
After our meal, we went down to see when the next show for Poseidon's Fury would be. Although the guide indicated the shows were 20 minutes long, there was about a 60 minute wait. I had thought it was going to be a show where everyone goes in, but instead it is a show in 3 different areas that you walk through. So instead of the line moving once every 20 minutes it was actually less than that.
POSEIDON'S FURY SPOILER ALERT
You enter through some ruins that are the queue. Eventually you get to enter a large room & there is a podium in the middle. You get "locked" in the room with no means of exit, then an old man climbs down a ladder & starts telling you the story of the battle between Poseidon & Zeus and the lost continent of Atlantis.
He then leads you into a room (standing room only with lean bars) where there is a strange emblem on the wall. As he continues to tell the story & there is a laser show, the emblem works out to be a special combination lock. Once it turns into place the portal opens and you see the swirling vortex of water. I don't know how they do it, but you see a wall of water that makes a tunnel. You walk through the tunnel of water into the Lost Continent of Atlantis.
After this walk-way, you enter another standing room arena. We had stood in the very front row, when a kind man behind us said "You probably don't want to be standing there" We stepped up one row away from the very front. As we are now new citizens of Atlantis, Zeus arrives & Poseidon & Zeus are battling with fire balls, lasers & water splashes. I don't remember how the battle was resolved, but you do eventually escape Atlantis.
POSEIDON'S FURY SPOILER OFF
After this we had about 30 minutes to wait for the Sinbad stunt show, so we wandered around a bit, got some soft-serve ice cream (and took it into the Enchanted Oak to eat), and the girls found the talking fountain. This fountain is outside the Sinbad theater, she talks to the people & sings and sprays water at them or out of the top of her head. The girls really got a kick out of this.
The shops in this area were very neat too. There was a potter making pottery (has to be a hot job); and some craftsmen making jewelry. The shops also had different unique items in each of the themed lands. It was a welcome change after the sameness of the Disney shops.
Soon they let us in to the Sinbad theater. It had been getting hot waiting outside! We found seats fairly close to the 1/2 a ship in the audience section, so we had some of the action very close. This was mainly a stunt show with a story line - Sinbad & his comic sidekick arrive, they see a beautiful princess, there is an evil queen/witch person, they try to save the princess (who's also a pretty good fighter) and fight off demons & bad guys. There were some pretty good effects & it was a good show. I probably enjoyed it more than the Indy show at MGM.
We continued the circle around back to Seuss Landing. The girls played in the If I Ran the Zoo play area. This did not have the emphasis on climbing & sliding, but instead there were levers & wheels to turn & pull & have different Seuss creatures pop up or do things. There's one station where there're holes in a wall, you look in (like those photo things you stand behind to get silly pictures) & there is a mirror. The last one directs you to put your camera in it & snap. We did get a kind'a cute picture out of it! There is also something that plays tic-tac-toe with you on its belly. The girls' favorite was this thing that had you spinning these levers & this creature came up out the bathtub & you get wet when it spins it's hair dry.
After this Kate & Greg decided they were going over to do the Dudley Do-Right Ripsaw Falls. There was an hour wait for this, so Beth & I went to the Me Ship Olive playscape. This is basically a 3 level ship with different activities. Beth enjoyed it as there were different things to do on each level. We went back to do Cat in the Hat (this time with a 20-minute wait). The nice thing about this is that the queue is all inside (in air conditioning). We looked in a few shops on our way back to see if Kate & Greg finished their ride.
This was one of those times when having the 2-way radios would have come in handy. If you have kids with different interests (& tolerance levels) it would be worth while having for when you split up.
Their review of the ride was that it was okay, but not much too it besides the big drop. The spectators view of the drop was pretty impressive, it looks like you're blasted out of the top of the hill, then go down in a tunnel underneath the water, where there appears to be another "blast" and you come back up. To me it seemed to be going pretty fast thru there, but Greg said it was a pretty generic log ride.
It was around 4:30 by now, and we had not taken a break today. About this time, I was wishing we had. We went to the "Burger Digs" in Jurassic Park & got a few puddings for a break. The upstairs here is the restaurant & a gift shop, then downstairs is the Jurassic Park discovery center. It has a few displays that weren't very different that what you might find in a children's museum or hands-on natural history museum. I noticed a lot of people just crashed here on the floor around the dinosaurs.
After this we went over to see if we could get on the Pteranodon Flyers. The wait was still 1 hour, but we really wanted to do it (& had done most everything else we wanted to do). We had no plans to do the Hulk Coaster or Dueling Dragons. If you want to do the Flyers, it's probably better to go first thing. This is an 80-second ride over Camp Jurassic. There are 3 flyers, that each carry 2 people. This line moved extremely slow, but it was a fun ride, I just wish it had been longer (with more flyers going at a time).
Our next stop is the Triceratops Encounter. I didn't understand how there was a 20-minute wait, because it seemed like this was a walk through exhibit, but we had to wait for our guide. Actually I think the wait was until you got to the Triceratops itself. Your group walks to a couple of "camp/lab" set-ups where the scientists talk to you about the experiments they're doing at the park. You then get to the "tent" where the living-breathing triceratops is. Yes, it is an impressive bit of audio-animatronics, but only one kid in our group got to pet it (come-on, it's not going to bite!) even though the guide map indicated that "here's your chance to pet a moving, breathing dinosaur. This was neat to see once, but we'll definitely miss it if we ever go back!
Finished with Jurassic Park, we decided to take the Island Skipper Tour to the front of the park. I just liked the way this boat looked, a single-masted, vessel with sails that looked neat even though it was just basic transportation across the water.
We went back on the Cat in the Hat with virtually no wait at around 7:30 pm. The park stayed open until 10, but we had done all we really planned to & we knew we could come back here tomorrow after Universal (it closed at 8pm). There were also threatening skys & it had been a long day for us.
As we left the park at 8pm, we watched the sky grow darker. We stopped at the Publix & bought some frozen dinners for Greg & I, lunchables for the girls & yogurt to supplement the morning donuts. We got back before it started to rain, but I was very surprised at the number of people in the pool with lightning in the area.
Back in our room, we knew we weren't in Disney any more. The girls stuffed animals were piled in a heap on one of the beds, we didn't have an extra roll of toilet paper & they didn't give us enough towels. A call to housekeeping remedied this, but still we shouldn't have had to in the first place.
It was fairly early to bed (funny how before 10pm is now considered "early" to bed!)
WEDNESDAY JUNE 16
Today was Universal Studios day. Our parking pass indicates we arrived at 8:30, the park opened at 9, so we were there a few minutes early. Bear with me on this days report, we didn't take ANY notes, so this is strictly from memory!
Before we left, I'd read that when you first go to the park, most people will go to T2, so skip that & head to BTTF. Well, as we walk in, there are employees telling everyone to that the 1st T2 show isn't until 10 am, so EVERYONE goes on to other things.
We still went to BTTF. There was about a 10 minute wait, that wasn't too bad. This was a fun ride, but Greg & I thought it was way to jerky. I think I got bruises on my elbow from banging into the back of the seat. The girls, however, liked it.
Next we headed over to ET. There was already a 20 minute line here. There were a lot more people here than were at IOA the previous day! Even though there was a 20 minute wait, it didn't seem too long. I liked the way they break up the queue into several different sections - you're in the outdoor queue, then you watch the film preview, then you're in the "trees". I couldn't really figure out why they didn't have both sides of the queue open for loading. The bikes went on both sides, an empty one would go between every full one, but they didn't start loading that side until right as we were getting up to load on our bikes.
I liked some of the little touches I noticed here, like the wire bike baskets by each seat to put your belongings. Beth didn't seem to enjoy this, she didn't like the smoke when you arrived at the sick planet (however when we went on it again later she liked it).
After ET we headed over to the new Woody Woodpecker coaster. This must be pretty new. It's a fun little coaster, probably not as thrilling as the Barnstormer, but we were all able to do it 2x in a row. This coaster was right next to the new Curious George play area. I knew we had to come back here because Beth is a BIG Curious George fan!
We started circling the back of the park. Riding Jaws - Kate did NOT like her seat, as she was on the outside where Jaws almost chomped her! Earthquake - more a special effects show, the "ride" itself was only a small part of it - Beth was concerned about the fire & smoke again.
We continued our circle & rode Kong. We had a little bit of a wait for this (maybe 20 minutes). I really enjoyed this ride. It was fun, not too scary, not jerky at all (Kong's pretty gentle for a giant gorilla!).
After Kong we headed over to Twister. Everyone enjoyed this. I wasn't too sure where you should be to get the "best" show, since they cycle you through a couple areas. We ended up being on the top (back) row. Since there were risers, even the girls didn't have trouble seeing. I was kind of surprised by the rain blowing in behind us. I guess our whole group had just crowded under a small awning as protection from the rain (not much good for a tornado!) I thought it was a pretty impressive effect, but I'm sure it's nothing like a real tornado!
As we completed our way around, we debated leaving right then for lunch & our hotel, or do the Xena show. Kate really did NOT want to do Xena. She does not understand why her little sister likes Xena so much. She was not a happy camper as we waited for this to start. There really wasn't much of wait. Although they had let one group in & it's a 35 minute attraction, they bring a new group in every 10 minutes or so. This was one of those times when a man behind us decides that he needs to smoke while he's waiting in line, but then tries to "hide" his cigarette in his cupped hand. EXCUSE ME, but out of sight doesn't mean we can't smell & breathe it. I just politely pointed out to him that there was no smoking in line & he put it out. I wish the employees would do this, but I have no qualms about pointing it out to people.(Rant off)
Anyway, Kate even ended up enjoying this show. I think someone's written this before, but you go in a preshow, then you go to a succession of theaters (like carousel of progress, only the people move from section to section - not the seats). I was tempted to buy Beth a Xena t-shirt, but Greg vetoed it (didn't think it was appropriate for a 2nd grader to wear to school).
We went ahead & left the park for our lunch break & swimming at the hotel. We did most of what we'd planned & we promised the girls we'd swim. We stopped at Wendy's on our way back for lunch, swam, rested a little, then went back to the park around 4pm.
We arrived back at the park, and found a fairly decent parking spot -- that we later forgot where it was! We went left to the Funtastic World of Hanna Barbera. This was a very fun ride, but I kept on thinking that they should have made it 3D too!
Next we crossed over to the park to explore the Curious George play area and see if we had time for another ride on ET. Around this time, it started to rain. Since the play area has a few water elements, they were keeping people away from it (the same with the Woody Woodpecker Coaster) - I guess they're very serious about lightning threats! We did go into the giant ball room & the girls played around in here. They probably could have stayed here longer, but we thought we'd try ET again.
There was about a 45-minute wait for ET, but the rain was coming down harder & at least the wait was dry. Beth liked the ride a lot more this time! The timing was about right, as the Animal Actors show was about to start. This was a cute show to see once (or if you REALLY like animals) The girls liked it a lot.
This gave us just enough time to walk over to the WWWW Stunt Show. A hint on good seats here: facing the stage, on the left side there's a well. There are several rows of handicap seats here, then regular seating right behind them. Sit right behind the handicap seats. The employees warn the handicap people that they will probably get wet if they sit there (the well blows up), so they all went to the other side. This worked great for us. We were out of the splash zone (most of the water hit right across the aisle from us), and we had great up-front seats. This was a fun show with great stunts!
We wandered back thru Amity. The park had cleared out somewhat from the earlier showers - it was now about 6:45. I wandered in one of the shops (the girls & Greg were out watching some baby ducks in the area). When Greg came back in, guess what he found! USF patches! My purchase made, we continued around the park.
I liked the themeing in the back part of the park. You really had the illusion of being at the place (although we were a little disappointed there wasn't anything "real" behind the Ghiradelli sign!) I especially like the New York area, with it's cobbled streets & small alleys.
After a picture of Greg in front of the Richter's Burgers (and a glance inside to see if there were any Richter souvenirs - nope) we went back another ride on Kongfrontation. There was barely a 10 minute wait now!
We did not do the things that were rated PG-13 (T2, Horror Make-up or Hitchcock) nor did we go to the Lucy exhibit. We also never made it back to the Nickelodeon show - but since we don't get cable our kids don't know about it anyway. It was about 7:15 (& the park closed at 8), so we decided to use our flex pass & go back to IOA.
Our first order of business was dinner. At home it's dinner between 5-6 (depending on what's going on) & bedtime starts at 8pm. On vacation, here it was 7:30 & we were looking for dinner. After looking at our options, I thought Circus McGurkus Caf looked good. HOWEVER, it closed at 7pm! For a park that stays open until 10, I thought this was way too early! Looking at options (& wanting indoor dining, not counter service with outdoor seating) they were limited. We headed over to Super Hero Island, and although the sign said they closed at 7pm, they were still open. We were able to get 2 kids' pizza, a small caesar, veggie pizza slice & spaghetti w/sausage for $22.10. I think there may have been some drinks in with that.
Fortified, we continued our touring. We really didn't plan on riding rides that night, just walking around, getting pictures (however shortly into that foray we discovered we'd left all our 400 film back at the hotel & we ended up paying theme park prices for film!)
We really spent a lot of time in Toon Lagoon. Look for the Marmaduke photo set-up. (You hold onto a leash that is hanging down, take the picture side-ways, then when it's developed it looks like Marmaduke is dragging you off). Beth enjoyed the guy with his rain cloud (they were wearing their Tevas tonight so I didn't care too much about her getting wet).
Another great picture came at Wimpy's. One of the tables has a stack of hamburgers on it. We got a real cute picture here. However, when we got our pictures back we discovered that this new camera didn't really take the best pictures in poor lighting situations.
We ended our evening (and the theme park portion of our vacation) with a ride on the Cat in the Hat.
June 17, 18 & 19
Just a brief synopsis of our ride home. We left the Orlando area using the I-4 to Turnpike method (with considerably less traffic). We arrived at our overnight stay of Fort Walton Beach around 3pm (we gained our hour back). The beach was beautiful & we had a room that overlooked the gulf. We stayed at the Ramada Plaza & it was very nice for a beachy-family hotel. Our next leg of the trip was a stop at the Battleship Alabama & my grandparents' home in Destrehan Louisiana (just west of New Orleans). We had one more hotel night, then finally arrived home Saturday around 2pm.
Driving with the TV was great. The girls were quiet & didn't fight at all. They hardly looked at the other books & games I brought along.
Clothes pins. When Greg said we needed to bring some, I kind of wondered why. But since the WDW resorts all have the clothesline in the tub, it was great being able to actually pin the suits up instead of folding them over.
Tevas. We brought both tennis shoes & tevas for the girls. If there was a threat of rain (or if we thought we might get wet that day) I'd have the girls wear their tevas (I had a pair of hiking sandals that worked just as good). We didn't have to worry about sopping wet socks & shoes that needed to dry out. Plus it was nice being able to change out shoes.
Sunscreen. Please use SPF 45 or higher!
Hats. Try to get your kids to pick out hats they like. Also a hat with a brim works better than a ball cap. This time around we were able to find lots of cute hats that the girls would agree to wear.
Afternoon breaks. If you're going to early entry you NEED to do afternoon breaks. We suffered the days we didn't. Just going back to the hotel & swimming was enough of a break.
Water. My fanny pack has "holsters" for water bottles on it & I always filled them with ice & water before we left the room. At the parks I'd refill them from water fountains or cups from counter service. Kids usually don't notice that they need water. I'd "squirt" the girls often. In the past I'd notice myself getting headaches when we visited local amusement parks. However, once I started carrying water (& drinking it throughout the day) it really made a big difference. Your body gives you these subtle signals that it needs something (water, food, rest) - pay attention to them!
Trip Reports. If you plan on writing a trip report, take notes. We just carried around a small pad & while we were in line or resting we'd (well, Greg) would jot down notes. It takes a LOT of time to write one of these. Having a laptop would have been nice, but I needed my sleep when we finally got back to the room.
2-way radios. If you have kids with different preferences as far as rides go, this would be a great idea. There were a couple times I REALLY wished we'd thought to have these.
Crowds. We definitely noticed more crowds than we did during our last trip (end of May versus beginning of June). I think they picked up some that second week. It could also be that MK EE on Mondays are especially busy since most people begin their vacations on the weekend, and that's there first chance at EE. If you do EE, BE THERE WHEN THE PARK OPENS - other wise skip it & do another park.