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Thread: Sue (Holland) Rayford, Saratoga Springs Resort, Dec 3-6 2020

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    Sue (Holland) Rayford, Saratoga Springs Resort, Dec 3-6 2020


    Who: Sue (62), DVC Member
    SB (63), my husband
    Chris (34), my son
    Amanda (32), daughter-in-law
    Ari (4), grandson
    Dates: December 3 7, 2020
    Resort: Disneys Saratoga Springs Resort
    Experience: Very Experienced 17th stay at SSR

    I should have been cruising on HALs Nieuw Statendam now, but that got canceled thanks to friggin covid (specifically our seeming inability to get it under control by now). Tired of NOT using my vacation time, I decided to book a long weekend at WDW where SB & I could spend time with Chris, Amanda & Ari. Also, it saves me from having to ship their Christmas presents, or finish my shopping & wrapping by mid-October when we saw them for the Food & Wine trip <g>. Since things rarely go entirely as planned, this time we forgot to put in for the time off for SB, and when we thought of it his department was already short. At this point the plan is for him to spend Thursday/Friday and then return home sometime Saturday to be at work at 5am Sunday. Chris & Amanda got Friday off from work, so theyll arrive Thursday evening.

    Im not a big fan of Saratoga Springs, but since this was an added trip I booked Saratoga since the points were less than the more popular places. We did Old Key West a couple times this summer, so I wasnt interested in repeating that. Both Saratoga and Old Key West really suck in terms of location, and getting to the parks is a real pain in the butt. We do have the option of driving, of course. But, it seems the parks open earlier than scheduled but the parking lots may not. So, if we want to be at a park for opening the bus is probably best when coming from here.

    After months of trips where it was either too hot to be bearable, or hotter than normal, this trip is the polar opposite. A cold front came through, and it will be quite chilly by Florida standards! I dont enjoy morning temps in the 40s or low 50s, but thats better than feels like 95 or 100! Hopefully Ill remember to pack the gloves!

    My favorite park is Epcot (least favorite Hollywood Studios), and this time of year I really like the Festival of the Holidays. I never cared about Candlelight Processional so that was no loss to me this year. Id much rather enjoy the entertainment in the venue between UK and Canada. I do still miss Lights of Winter, if anyone remembers what that was! I miss Osborne Lights too while I understand Disneys decision in turning the area into Star Wars stuff, I prefer the lights.

    At the Studios I always enjoy the projections (synchronized to music) on the Tower of Terror, with the snow that would follow. I think this year theyre only doing some of the projections, with no snow and possibly no music due to covid. At Magic Kingdom the photos of the castle projections are gorgeous, so we may see that. I just really dread the big crowd that will be there and exiting the park with many of them to wait for the limited-capacity bus back to Saratoga. Id be much more inclined to see it if this was a Bay Lake Tower trip where I could walk.

    We have Animal Kingdom booked for Sunday, which is also the day Chris family is going home. Since hopping is not allowed yet, I may opt out of that park reservation and go to Epcot instead for more Festival of the Holidays.

    The plans so far are:
    Thursday 12/3: Drive to WDW, Epcot
    Friday 12/4: Hollywood Studios
    Saturday 12/5: Magic Kingdom
    Sunday 12/6: Animal Kingdom (or Epcot)
    Monday 12/7: Drive to Gainesville

    DAY 1 Thursday 12/3/20
    Who: Sue (62), DVC Member
    SB (63), my husband
    Chris (34), my son
    Amanda (32), daughter-in-law
    Ari (4), grandson

    Plan: Drive to WDW, Epcot

    Actual: I left work just before 1, and SB was all ready when I came home (he was off today). I only had to pack the coolers, put them in my car, and we were off. We drove separately, as SB wont be staying for the whole trip. He said hed follow me, but most of the drive he was up ahead of me not sure what follow means to him, lol! We were on the road before 1:10. Normally I leave at noon, which gets me there at 2. However, wed discussed it and agreed we wanted to increase the odds the room would be ready when we arrived, so we delayed until 1. As it turned out, I had the room is ready notification before 2pm!

    We pulled into Saratoga Springs shortly after 3 and drove straight to our building in the Paddock. I was expecting the buildings to be numbered, but they are not. It was confusing at first, but then I just focused on the room numbers and we knew we were in the right place. Were on the second floor, with a view of a lake & fountain. Were the 2nd room from the elevator, so limited walking for SB to grumble about.

    My magic band didnt work, but SBs did. None of my others worked either, but his other one did. Ill take care of that later. Upon opening the door, I immediately saw the pretty floor tile (looks like wood) and knew it was a renovated villa it still smelled new too! It is beautiful, and such an improvement over what they used to look like. The kitchen has pretty white cabinets, white backsplash, and of course stainless steel appliances. The living room has a settee sofa, with the murphy bed that folds down from the wall (the new style). The surprising thing was seeing the kiddie bed in the living room rather than the 2nd bedroom like it used to be. But, they have 2 queen beds in their bedroom so Ari can use one of those. To me it makes no sense to put a kiddie bed in the living room dont little kids go to bed earlier than adults for the most part?? When the kid goes to bed, then adults have to go sit in their bedrooms?? Makes no sense.

    The dining area has the bench at an oval table, but 2 pretty chairs on the other side. There are Disney golfing statues (Mickey and Minnie), and ceiling fans in every room! So many of the resorts removed the fans, so this was nice to see. The master bedroom has the usual king bed looks kind of barren now since covid has been the excuse for removing any throw pillows or other splashes of color. Theres a chair & ottoman, large tv, and really pretty dresser with 6 drawers. Above the bed are nice Disney horse racing themed photos. In the master bath the jacuzzi tub has been replaced by a big soaking tub, and everything looks great. The big tub and double sinks are in one room, the shower stall and a single sink in another room, and the toilet is in a small room by itself. Theres also a stack washer/dryer in a room off the hall. The second bedroom and full bath is also nice overall I am pleasantly surprised and impressed.

    SB unpacked his stuff and I put the kitchen stuff away and took pictures of the villa. We walked over to the bus stop (between our building and the one next door) and were on a bus to Epcot at 4pm. Happily, the Saratoga Springs bus stop is the second closest one, as its a long walk to World Showcase when coming in this way! Were spoiled coming in from Beach Club, or making the longer trek from Boardwalk. SB commented on it a number of times, lol! He also commented on how strange it was to see hardly any other people around, but once we got out to World Showcase we found them <g>.

    Attractions were not a priority, although the wait times were not terribly long except for Test Track & Frozen. We started on the Mexico side and made one loop around the countries. In China we stopped for the red stewed beef rice bowl, and managed to snag the only table in this immediate area. SB loved this I thought it was ok, but not something Id get again. I ate a few bites and left most of it to him. Next time I hope to try the chicken curry rice bowl, which has gotten good reviews.

    We continued around, arriving in America around 4:40. The next Voices of Liberty show was 5:15 so we decided to get some food here and wait for the show. The queue for food was pretty long, but it moved steadily. SB got the turkey dinner and I got the chocolate crinkle cookie. We were fortunate to find an empty picnic table, too. The turkey dinner was very good, and a pretty hefty portion in my opinion. The stuffing was excellent! I only tried a bite or 2, since I had the cookie. Sadly, the cookie did not live up to the rave review Id read. It wasnt bad, but nothing special and certainly not worth the calories! I cant stand wasting food though, and SB refused to eat any of it, so I ate the whole thing just wish I loved it. But, not everything can be a winner.

    We took seats in the America Gardens Theater while the Mariachi group was performing, and I liked them a lot more than expected great show! Many rows are blocked off completely, and benches that are open have sections closed off, so people are really spread out. This is nice, because no big heads (or mouse ears) in front of us! It would be nice if the concerts I love could be like this, but itll never happen.

    Once Mariachi ended SB went out and came back with a popcorn and hot dog, which he said was actually very good. He didnt even complain about the price Im assuming it was the typical $9 since were at Disney. But it did come with a free $.50 bag of chips <g>. He was back just before the Voices of Liberty took the stage, and they did a great job singing holiday songs. Such talent! Im so glad Disney brought them back for the holiday season, and perhaps they can keep them working even after the holidays since theyre a favorite of the guests.

    With the smaller number of people in the theater, after the concert it was a breeze getting out and then walking around World Showcase no gridlock like in the past! This was really nice. Part of me really likes some of this covid crap <g>. We stopped at LChaim!, where the line was long but moved so quickly I couldnt believe how little time it took. I think I ordered within a couple minutes of entering the queue.

    I got the pastrami sandwich, and met SB at a bench. Hed been standing there while the occupants were getting up and leaving, then we sat down on one end. A big mean-looking lady on a scooter came to the other end and was glaring at us. I know SB was there first, because this hulk was not in sight when I came over with my sandwich. I told her she was welcome to use the other end, and wed stay down here, but she just glared some more and then turned her back to us. Ok suit yourself. Pretty soon people on the next bench left, so she scootered down there and sat parked with her hand on the bench until her friends joined her.

    The sandwich was pretty good, but for me it had too much mustard. It was difficult to eat without making a mess. Also, the pastrami was rolled up in a ball, then put in the middle of 2 pieces of oval-shaped bread. That made no sense. I opened it up and used my fingers to unroll it and fold it so I didnt have half a sandwich of just bread and half with a mountain of meat. That wouldnt be so bad if it hadnt been doused with so much mustard. Its a one and done for me this year. SB ate part of it and liked it, although it certainly doesnt compare to the behemoth pastrami sandwiches you get in NYC.

    We continued walking, stopping next at the World Showplace (finally I know the name of the old Millenium Village). They have a couple photo op things set up, some holiday lighting, the merchandise area, 4 food kiosks, and a relocated stage where they alternate between the piano player and Joyful. We werent hungry for any food, but we did join the queue to check out the gingerbread display of the Washington DC landmarks very well done! Again, with the covid crap it was a nice orderly line that kept moving, so no fighting your way up to see things. That was really nice.

    Carol Stein was playing the piano so we listened to a couple songs but didnt wait for her set to end. On the way out SB waited while I looked at the merchandise. I was surprised to see lots of cologne being sold I expected Disney merchandise. Back outside, we took a few pictures of the big Christmas tree since it was all lit up pretty. It was a beautiful evening!

    Our final stop was at the Land, where we waited about 10 minutes to ride Living with the Land. Theyve decorated the greenhouses with holiday lights, and it was very festive. I saw this once before, and I think they may have done more this year than they did that year. From here we headed to the exit and a short wait for the bus back to Saratoga Springs.

    We got off at the Paddock bus stop and I sent SB to our building while I walked over to the Springs to get my magic bands fixed at the front desk. That took a little while, but once it was done I browsed through the gift shop, bought a Disney mask, and walked back to the villa. I finally unpacked, then sat down to update the trip report. As of 9pm Chris & Amanda are not here, but they shouldnt be too far away. Most likely theyll need to charge the car a bit before getting here, but hopefully it wont be too late. Us old folks who are used to getting up early dont stay awake late at night, lol!

    Today was a great day great weather, cast members were all friendly & welcoming, we got to do all we wanted without any issues, and it felt very festive. It also felt great to be back, and especially to finally be here without sweating!

    Tomorrow we have park reservations for Hollywood Studios, so once the others arrive we can figure out when well be heading over there. Ill finish up tonight in tomorrows report.

    DAY 2 Friday 12/4/20
    Who: Sue (62), DVC Member
    SB (63), my husband
    Chris (34), my son
    Amanda (32), daughter-in-law
    Ari (4), grandson

    Plan: Hollywood Studios

    Actual: Last night Chris & Amanda got to the charger by 9:30. SB was hungry again, so he & I drove over to the Carriage House to look for cold cuts to make him a sandwich. They were all out, so SB ordered the Italian sub and got a bag of chips. The sub was ready in no time, and we drove back to the villa. He said the sub was good he was happy with it.

    Chris & Amanda were on their way before 10 and arrived just after 10. They missed the turn for the Paddock and ended up circling the resort, but found their way since the road is basically a circle. They moved their stuff into the other bedroom, but Ari put his suitcase in the master and started unpacking, thinking this room looked good for him I guess <g>. Amanda had made personalized hot and cold beverage cups and gave me a hot one that said Grandma on the back. She knew I brought hot chocolate for the trip. Ari gave SB a gingerbread man hed colored, saying it was SB. The head, body, each arm and each leg were a different color, so it was pretty colorful!

    We hung out together for a while, and were all in bed a little after 11. I was up at 5 and SB was up by 5:30. I made my cappuccino and got online while watching the local news. Today they say it may hit 80 degrees, which will be nice. I went in to take my shower around 6:45 and the others were out in the living room by the time I came out. Amanda had gotten a boarding group for Rise of the Resistance, but couldnt include SB since hes not on her account. She sent him an invite and we showed him how to accept it so going forward she could book stuff for all of us. Were boarding number 50 and I could care less about the attraction, so Ill give SB my magic band to ride with them. None of us have done it before and Im not sure the timing will even work for us.

    Ari ate one of the hard-boiled eggs Id brought for him, along with some toast and cantaloupe. Everyone else had some combination of eggs, bacon, sausage, grits and toast. SB also had some hot chocolate. We puttered around the villa, and headed out around 8:45 to drive to Hollywood Studios.

    We were held up at the parking booths until a little after 9. Once they started letting people in, we were able to get a charging station and Chris plugged in the car. The rest of us continued ahead to get into the park. Temperature check, security and entry were very quick. Once in the park we thought about doing the railway attraction but the line was already very long. It would get a lot worse, but we didnt feel like risking 40 minutes now when we knew other stuff would be a walk-on right now.

    We headed to Toy Story Land and Slinky Dog had a relatively short line, but Ari didnt want to ride so we went across to Toy Story Midway Mania and walked right onto that with hardly anyone else in the queue. I rode with SB and beat him again hes yet to beat me at this. Amanda & Ari rode together, and Ari got 56,400 points today. Chris hit the high score for the car, at over 261,000.

    Now Ari was wanting to ride Slinky Dog, but when we got outside the line was up to 40 minutes. Its not worth waiting that long for a 2-minute ride so we passed. Instead, we did Alien Encounter Saucer Spin, which had no wait.

    Next we walked into Galaxys Edge and did Smugglers Run Millenium Falcon with a 10-minute wait. Chris and Ari were the pilots, and Ari actually did a really good job. I was a gunner again, and SB & Amanda chose to be engineers. Im not a big fan of this attraction, but Ill ride it for Ari. When Im here by myself, Ill pass it by.

    We wandered around a bit, and since it was after 10 the park was officially open we were able to see which boarding groups were being called at Rise of the Resistance. The app told us our expected wait time to be called was around 160 minutes. But, the attraction went down at some point, so for a while the time didnt change much. By a couple hours later our wait time was still over 100 minutes.

    To kill time, we walked down Sunset Blvd and did the Lightning McQueen attraction. I was on my work phone the whole time, clearing out some payroll actions. From there we went to Baseline Tap House, where we had to settle on a stand-up table across the street. Chris got a beer and one of the charcuterie plates, and we stood around munching on that. While he & Amanda were ordering, Ari got my work phone and somehow in the blink of an eye managed to reset the phone and wipe out all my mail, contacts, calls, etc. I figured since the phone was locked he couldnt do anything, but I was wrong and he only had it in his hands for less than 30 seconds. Eventually I was able to restart it, and re-sign in to the work network. At first everything was still gone, but an hour or so later I suddenly had my emails and contacts back thank goodness!

    We decided to get some lunch and went over to Backlot Express. Amanda ordered their food via mobile order but that doesnt work for me. Chris checked my phone and showed me that its obsolete for some things, and told me that at some point its not going to work at all. So, looks like its time to bite the bullet and move forward with a new phone after we get home or after the next trip, as I dont want to be dealing with it with a trip coming up.

    I explained to the cast member that I wasnt able to do mobile ordering on my phone, so he called ahead and then sent us inside to register 7. We decided to share the chicken strips meal, and SB got an unsweetened iced tea. I had my cold water already. The chicken was good, and there was plenty for the 2 of us. He really liked the iced tea, and went back for seconds. Chris & Amanda shared a burger, Ari had mac & cheese, and they all shared a Christmas tree dessert with chocolate mousse & other stuff.

    After eating we left the park, noting we still had over 100 minutes to wait for our boarding group. Since you have an hour to report, we really have 2.5 hours. Ari was tired and fell asleep in the car, so Amanda carried him up to the villa and they all took a nap in their bedroom. I did a COVID conference call with work while updating the report, and SB watched tv and got online.

    Around 2:30 I walked over to the Carriage House and confirmed where we need to park our second car when were at the Treehouses next month, then went to the food court to get something sweet. SB wanted ice cream, so I got a pint of Drumstick ice cream. I also got a sugar cookie and chocolate chip cookie from the bakery. My DVC discount was good on the ice cream, so Im glad I asked.

    I walked back to the room and put the ice cream in the freezer and tried a bite of the sugar cookie not bad. SB liked the unsweetened iced tea so much I rigged the 2 green tea teabags in the coffee maker and ran hot water through it to make him a big pot of tea. Its now in the refrigerator chilling.

    The others were up from their naps around 3, and Rise of the Resistance was still only up to boarding groups in the upper 30s (we are 50). Ari crept out into the living room carrying his Grinch hat. He got closer to SB (laying on the couch) then shouted TORPEDO and threw it at SB. They played torpedo for a while, and when the boarding groups jumped up to 43 we decided to head on back to the park. I changed into long pants, as it never warmed up like they said it would today. We headed out just before 4:30.

    The Hollywood Studios bus was at the bus stop so Amanda and Ari ran up ahead so theyd wait for us. Soon we were at the Studios, and once again the entry process was very quick. Not many people were arriving at this point. While we were on the bus our boarding group was called, so we headed right to Rise of the Resistance.

    The line was huge, and initially I was not impressed at all in fact I was dreading spending all this time here. We had fairly long periods where we just stood still and didnt move at all it wouldnt have been so bad if we were continuously moving. The queue was so long we thought we might be entering another park, lol! After finally getting to the building we snaked through rooms in there, then were exited out to a backstage area for more snaking around behind Muppet Vision. Finally we re-entered the building and made our way to the start of the attraction.

    The beginning part is standing around, watching something that I have no clue about. Once we got on the ride vehicle it was much better. It was amazing how the cars move around so easily, in all directions. The sets were impressive too. We were walking off just over 1 hour & 15 minutes after getting in line. Would I do it again? Not with that long of a wait. Even when fastpass returns, Im more likely to just book Slinky Dog. But, Im glad I got to try it and appreciate Amanda getting the boarding group for us. At the park this morning a cast member added SB to the group, so I didnt have to give him my magic band.

    By now it was starting to get dark, so we walked over through Toy Story Land. SB gave Ari the light-up holiday necklace hed bought in Epcot yesterday, and he loved it. It looks much cuter lit up than unlit. We didnt stop to ride anything in Toy Story Land, and continued to Sunset Boulevard to wait for the Tower of Terror projections. We found a bench along the street and sat there, and in a few minutes we saw a projection appear. This was very lackluster. I knew they didnt have the snow machines any more (they were moved to Disney Springs) and thought Id read there was no more music to synchronize to the images, so overall this was a big bust. We could have just left after Rise of the Resistance and been done with it.

    We headed out of the park and once again our bus was waiting so Amanda & Ari ran ahead to make sure it waited for us. Wed talked about dinner, and there werent many options. We didnt want to tie up a long amount of time, or go driving around hunting for a meal. In the end we decided on Artist Palette at the resort. Id noticed SB limping a bit so I suggested he just go to the villa and Id go get his dinner. Amanda ordered their food, but my phone wouldnt work for me to do the same. When we got back to the Paddock bus stop SB & I got off he went to the villa and I walked quickly over to the Carriage House. Chris family stayed on the bus and got off at the Springs and I saw them come in just after I ordered SBs pepperoni flatbread w/extra pepperoni. I decided to just eat stuff from the villa.

    Chris familys food was ready before mine, so I asked Amanda to turn the oven on when she got back to the villa and gave them directions to the Paddock. Finally SBs pizza was ready and I walked back as well. Chris & Ari were at the table eating dinner chicken nuggets for Ari and the Italian sub for Chris. Chris also had the pumpkin cheesecake and they had a chocolate peanut butter cupcake for Ari.

    Amanda heated up some buffalo chicken dip and I put some honey corn dog nuggets in the oven, then prepared a small plate with crackers and cheese. SB said the pizza was much better than he expected, and he liked the corn dog nuggets as well. We all had plenty to eat.

    Just before 8 Amanda took Ari in for his shower, and we agreed to head out tomorrow morning by 8am. Chris wont be joining us, as he has a continuing education webinar thats scheduled from 8-noon tomorrow morning.

    Today was another really nice day, and its such a treat having this time with the family. The weather never did warm up like they had said, but it was comfortable for park touring. Tomorrow is Magic Kingdom day, which means some time in the morning and then returning later to see the holiday lights & castle projections. SB will most likely be going home sometime in the afternoon.

    DAY 3 Saturday 12/5/20
    Who: Sue (62), DVC Member
    SB (63), my husband
    Chris (34), my son
    Amanda (32), daughter-in-law
    Ari (4), grandson

    Plan: Magic Kingdom

    Actual: I slept really well last night, and got up to make my cappuccino around 4:30. I love that its so quiet & comfortable. Being tired from running around the parks probably helps, too. I took my shower around 6:15 and SB followed. The others were up by the time I got out of the shower.

    Ari had another hard boiled egg for breakfast, along with bacon and toast. The rest of us had the usual stuff, except SB. At first he wasnt hungry for anything but then he decided on a ham and egg sandwich. I made that real quick and we were out the door just before 8. This time the bus wasnt already at the bus stop, but the wait was only 5 minutes or so.

    At Magic Kingdom we breezed through the process of getting into the park, and were pleased to see not many people around. Most likely anyone driving was still sitting outside the parking booths for the Ticket & Transportation Center. We took a couple photos by the Christmas tree, then walked down Main Street and took a couple more by the castle.

    Ari was looking forward to Barnstormer, so we walked over there and were the first riders of the day. Ari rode we me in the front row, and we had SB behind us and Amanda behind him. Nobody else was in line so we rode repeatedly without getting off the ride. SB bailed out after the 2nd time, and I left after the 3rd those seats are just so hard and uncomfortable. Amanda and Ari got off after the 4th ride.

    We decided to try Big Thunder next, but on the way past Peter Pan Amanda noticed the standby wait was only 5 minutes. We couldnt pass that up, so we joined the queue. The 5 minutes is basically the time it takes to walk the queue very quickly! Ari rode with me again and the others were in the flying boat behind us. This is a classic attraction enjoyable, but certainly not worth the usual 70 or 75 minute wait!

    With Peter Pan out of the way, we continued to Frontierland for the wildest ride in the wildnerness! Ari had never ridden this and he was a bit unsure. He easily passed the height requirement and we joined the queue the posted wait was either 5 or 10 minutes, and we never stopped moving.

    Soon we were ready to board our train, and we lucked into getting the back (fastest) car! Ari decided to ride with Amanda, with SB & I behind them. Ari ended up loving the ride he was laughing through most of it, but I didnt see him put his arms up in the air this time. He wanted to ride again, but the line was long enough that we said no to a repeat this morning. Well be back to do it again though this is a much better choice for first ride of the day vs Barnstormer!

    We walked into Adventureland and Ari wasnt interested in riding Pirates, which was fine with us. The last couple times wed gotten pretty wet, and right now it was somewhat cool and damp outside. Wait times were still not bad many places, so we decided to do Mermaid, race cars and Astro Orbiter. To not be zig-zagging the park we went to the Mermaid ride first, and walked right onto our clamshells. Once again it was Ari & I followed by Amanda & SB. As we were exiting, SB commented that Disney did a really nice job on that one.

    We walked over to Tomorrowland, and the queue for the race cars was snaked around outside of the attraction. They only seemed to have 1 lane of cars operating, which is pretty ridiculous. We skipped it not worth a long wait for this attraction. Ari was more interested in Astro Orbiter anyway, so we continued towards that. The app had the wait time listed at 20 minutes, so we thought wed just skip it.

    Ari had wanted cotton candy and SB always wants popcorn, so when we saw the cotton candy & popcorn stand with no wait we stopped there got both. We sat at a table under Astro Orbiter to enjoy the snacks, and once we finished eating decided to go ahead and get in line. SB bailed out after a while and waited for us on a bench. The wait wasnt too bad, but I wouldnt have wanted to wait any longer than that. Over at Buzz Lightyear the wait was already 35 minutes, so thankfully that was off the table.

    Ari rode with me and drove our rocket, while Amanda was in the rocket in front of us. This ride is really quick! We were getting off almost as soon as we started, lol. When we came back down to the ground level Buzz Lightyear was up to 45 minutes crazy!

    We decided it was time to head out of the park, and were surprised at the big crowds coming down Main Street from the entrance. The line for Starbucks was unbelievable, as was the one for Joffreys in Tomorrowland. Its bad enough these people are arriving after there are long lines everywhere, but now theyll stand in line for 30-45 minutes more to get coffee, while the attraction lines get even longer. Makes no sense to us but it certainly works for us that so many people arent willing to get here early when we do!

    The bus was waiting for us, and once again Amanda & Ari ran up ahead just in case. As it turned out, it was bus sanitizing time so the driver was spraying down stuff inside. More covid theater. Soon we were seated and on our way back to Saratoga Springs with one other party.

    Ari was getting tired and irritable he didnt like that Amanda wouldnt let him pick up acorns from the part of the parking lots where cars and golf carts drive, and she didnt like his attitude. SB & I left them to sort it out and we all got up to the villa around the same time.

    Once Ari got past his disappointment over the acorn incident Amanda made him spaghetti & meatballs for lunch (microwave). I went next door to the Paddock Grill and got SB the burger. By now the sun was shining and it was nice & warm I was regretting not packing my swimsuit.

    The burger was very good this place is a nice option. The other choices are a spicy fried chicken sandwich, cobb salad or fish tacos. Amanda created her lunch from leftover buffalo chicken dip and some of SBs French fries. While Chris was finishing his webinar Amanda got him the fish tacos from Paddock Grill.

    After lunch SB went into the bedroom to watch football (and nap), Ari took his nap in the other bedroom, and the rest of us walked over to the Carriage House to tour the grand villa. While there the cast member took our name and said shed notify the Grand Floridian that we were coming over around 3-3:30. This kills 2 birds with one stone they get to see the beautiful grand villa, and we dont have to deal with the bus to get to and from the Magic Kingdom.

    The grand villa is pretty, but for the number of points it costs I dont see myself ever booking one. I still dont see Saratoga as a top location either. We enjoyed seeing it though, and the cast member was very nice.

    We walked back to the villa and both Ari and SB were awake. Amanda fixed Ari some cantaloupe for his snack, and then friends of their stopped by with a Christmas gift for Ari. I downloaded the photos from the camera while we hung out together. The friends were headed to Magic Kingdom so they decided to just take the bus from here. I let them know which bus stop we were, so theyd be able to get their car easily.

    We finished getting ready and decided to head over to Magic Kingdom. It was around 3pm and SB looked pretty horrified that I was asking him if he was ready to go because he was watching a football game. He decided to stay back and we headed out.

    We drove to Grand Floridian, and didnt have any issues getting into the parking lot. The security guy likes cars and was all over Chris Tesla. I think he would have handed us the key to a grand villa if he could, lol! While there a bunch of wild turkeys were roaming around, and we had to wait for one of them to get out of the road before we could move.

    After parking the car we went to the grand villa and had to wait just a minute while the previous party finished touring. When it was our turn Chris & Amanda were quite impressed. The villa is just gorgeous, but also not practical in some ways. It accommodates 12 people and theres a huge dining room table with 10 or 12 big dining room chairs around it. But, the living room has 2 regular sofas facing each other, and thats it. Then there are some odd easy chairs along the wall on the other side of the dining room so if you need more than 2 couches for people do you drag chairs into that part of the room?? The dining room is a wow factor but its kind of a waste.

    We left the grand villa and walked to the main resort. The Christmas tree is beautiful, and they have the piano player tucked away in a corner rather than out in the open. We took the elevator up to the 2nd level and went out to catch the monorail. We had 2 incredibly slow or stupid women ahead of us, and although the monorail arrived as we were nearing security we still almost missed it! The first lady of the pair plops her whole backpack in the bin, so the security guy has to tell her to only put metal stuff in the bin and carry her bag through. So, shes standing there blocking the way while she rummages through looking for metal stuff. Disney, being a multi-billion dollar company, only has one bin. The 2nd lady is in a scooter, with piles of crap everywhere. She cant stand long enough to walk through the detector, so theyre having to wand her and all of her stuff. We had the stroller, and Amanda couldnt get past her. Thankfully she made it just in time, but we kind of stood in the monorail doorway so the doors couldnt close before she got there <g>.

    At the Magic Kingdom there was no wait to get into the park but once inside it was very crowded. The wait times were all pretty long, too. Ari was wanting to ride Big Thunder with Chris so we headed over there even though the posted wait was 55 minutes. We decided since we had a couple hours to kill and everything had long waits, we might as well get in line & hope for the best. We were shocked to see the standby line went up the stairs to the train station, along the train station, down the wheelchair ramp from the train station, behind the popcorn cart, etc before actually hitting the entrance to Big Thunder! To my surprise & relief, the wait was actually much less Id say closer to 25 minutes.

    Chris got to ride with Ari and Amanda & I were in front of them. Ari laughed and screamed through the whole ride he loves it. Hes really looking forward to Expedition Everest tomorrow, so hopefully hes tall enough now. After Big Thunder we walked over to Barnstormer, and there the actual wait was probably a bit longer than the posted 20 minutes. I decided to skip it, and sat on a sunny wall to wait for them. After quite a while Chris texted to say theyd just reached the entrance, so I assume this line was snaked around outside of the normal queue. Once they got to the entrance it was a pretty short wait to get on the ride.

    While they were in line they used mobile ordering to get dinner and Chris texted to see what I wanted. When they met back up with me we split up, with Amanda & I going to pick up food at Pinocchios Village House and Chris going over to Tomorrowland Terrace with Ari. I didnt realize we were getting food from 2 different places, and would have thought Chris would bring his food to Pinocchios since 3 of us got food from there. But, Amanda carried the tray of food while I tried to keep the crowd from bumping into her & we walked over to Tomorrowland. Once there we couldnt find Chris and didnt understand his description. Every door we came to was exit only thanks to this covid crap. People can crowd together to wait for a cavalcade to come down Main Street, but they cant enter and exit through the same door without getting covid?? This is one crazy virus.

    Eventually we spotted them, and enjoyed dinner. Chris had a nice hot spicy chicken sandwich. I had tomato basil soup, which was still nice & warm. Amanda had cold margherita pizza and Aris chicken strips were probably pretty cold by now too. But, everyone seemed to like their food. Chris had gotten a warm smores dessert thing too, and we all tried some of that not bad!

    After dinner the posted wait time for the raceway was 10 minutes so he took Ari over there while Amanda & I took the stroller and went to wait for the castle projections. I asked a cast member what time theyd start, and he told me 6pm which was about 4 minutes away. As expected, lots of people were in this area, so evidently the virus doesnt transmit here either.

    When the first projection appeared it was the gingerbread house, and it was very cute. What I didnt realize is the projection changes every 15 minutes I had assumed it would be much faster! I hadnt brought my jacket, it was dark and getting cold, so no way was I going to be standing out there for an hour to try to see them all (assuming there are 4 maybe its only 3). Chris & Ari arrived, and thats when Chris told me about the 15-minute thing (hed asked a cast member). We watched it for a little bit, then headed back down Main Street to see the tree all lit up, and then left the park.

    We had a short wait for the monorail and rode back to Grand Floridian to get the car. We were back at Saratoga Springs by 7. SB was still in the bedroom watching sports on the tv, and he was thinking of heading out tonight instead of tomorrow at 4am like hed planned earlier today. I told him that was a much better idea than getting up so early tomorrow plus he normally goes into work at 5 on Sunday & can get off at 1 which is in time for all the football games. He cant do that though if he doesnt leave until 4am.

    He gathered up his stuff and said goodbye to everyone, then headed out. Before he left he asked me which way he should turn when he leaves the resort. Uh-oh, he has no clue how to get home! I told him left out of Saratoga, left at the light after passing OKW, then right at the 2nd light that would take him to Western Way (just after Coronado Springs). He left, and I assumed all would be ok (silly me).

    Ari ate some watermelon and we went through the rest of the photos, then it was time for his shower & getting ready for bed. I worked on the report and decided to cut up some cheese for crackers, and my phone rang. SB was lost, but he was seeing a sign for exit 62 to Celebration or Disney World, lol! He was on I-4 somehow. I dont come that way any more, and dont know the landmarks so it was tough trying to help him. He asked about just staying on I-4 to Tampa and then getting on 75, but I told him that would be a 3-hour drive instead of a 2-hour drive. I suggested he get back onto Disney property and hope for a sign that would indicate Coronado Springs. Around 8 he called again, saying hed found Western Way and was just getting to the first highway phew! Chris asked why he didnt just use his phone, and of course the answer is because he wouldnt have a clue how to do that but had I thought of it I could have shown him and put our address in so thats a lesson for next time were driving anywhere together when he has his phone with him (he recently retired his flip phone for a smart phone). Technology is not his middle name, obviously <g>.

    Ari came over to my room after his shower and we talked about the rides and how brave he was to ride Big Thunder even though he was nervous at first. We said goodnight, and he went to bed I got changed and finished up the trip report from bed.

    Today was a great day we got a lot done at Magic Kingdom by getting there early, and everyone had a good time. I was a bit concerned about the crowds this evening, but Big Thunder was a pleasant surprise when the wait was much shorter than advertised. I would have liked to have seen more of the projections, but I wasnt dressed warmly enough and we didnt want to sit around for that long. Hopefully next year the ice lights will be back, although I hope to be on a HAL cruise next December and may not be around to see Disney decorated for the holiday.

    Tomorrow Chris family heads to Animal Kingdom and then goes home from there. Ill have this big villa to myself, and will spend some time in Epcot for Festival of the Holidays. Its supposed to be quite a bit cooler tomorrow!

    DAY 4 Sunday 12/6/20
    Who: Sue (62), DVC Member
    Chris (34), my son
    Amanda (32), daughter-in-law
    Ari (4), grandson

    Plan: Animal Kingdom (or Epcot)

    Actual: I turned off the tv just after 10pm and slept well. I was up just before 5 to make my cappuccino and get online. Todays the day I can book the start of the main Food & Wine trip (4 nights solo in a studio before 5 nights with SB in a 1-bedroom).

    Due to Chris snoring Amanda went out and slept on the kiddie bed in the living room to get some sleep. She said the mattress wasnt that comfortable, but at least she had more quiet. She & Ari were up by shortly after 6. Ari had his last hard boiled egg and we made some Grands crescent rolls. This oven is so slow to heat up it takes forever. I think she turned it on before getting in the shower & getting dressed, and it was still not up to 350 degrees. We finally put the crescent rolls in when it said 340, because Im not sure the oven is even accurate. They need to get to Animal Kingdom early enough to get on the stuff they want to do, and not be waiting on a silly oven.

    It was a good 30 minutes or longer before the oven registered 350, and by then we already had the crescent rolls in the oven since they didnt have all day to wait. We finished up the eggs as well. They quickly finished getting ready then rushed out dont remember what time it was. I puttered around a bit, took my shower & dressed, and then remembered I needed to make that reservation for next years Food & Wine. Thankfully a studio at BCV was still available for my arrival date, as they were sold out the 2 nights prior!

    Once I secured the studio I blow dried my hair and finished getting ready. Amanda had texted to say Ari is tall enough for Everest but its down. However, she saw people walking along the tracks so hopefully itll be back up before they leave.

    By 9 it was up to 61 degrees, and is supposed to be 67 by noon. Thats warm enough to skip a jacket, although its another long pants and long sleeve day. I gathered up my stuff and headed out around 9:15 to walk over to Disney Springs. The shops dont open until 10, but I wasnt really interested in shopping just walking around before catching a bus to Beach Club or Boardwalk to walk into Epcot the right way, lol!

    Rehab construction is going on a couple buildings away and they had a fence up to contain the equipment and supplies, which blocked access on the sidewalk. I had to go out onto the main road, but there wasnt much traffic so it was ok. At Congress Park I went out to the lake and walked into Disney Springs on that walkway. Despite it only being 9:40 there were quite a few people already there. The only thing I noticed being open yet was Starbucks, which of course had a line <g>.

    I just wandered around until 10, looking at the holiday dcor. I didnt notice where the snow blowing machines were located, but I would assume theyre near the main (bigger) tree. The only shop I went into was UniQlo, but I didnt buy anything. Coming out one of the exits I noticed an Amazon Prime package on the ground, kind of hidden behind a pillar. I stopped at the next door (also an exit only) and tapped on the glass so the person working would crack the door open a bit to hear me. I pointed out the package, and said I dont know if Amazon left a delivery for them there or if somethings not right. He thought it was probably somethings not right and said he needed to go tell his manager.

    I continued on my way, headed to the bus stops. Getting to most bus stops is a LONG walk from this end of Disney Springs its much shorter from the exit by Planet Hollywood. Both Boardwalk and Yacht/Beach stops were empty so I stood at Yacht/Beach and a bus pulled in within a minute. I was the only rider, and got off at Yacht to walk through the resorts.

    Yacht Club has their pretty tree in the lobby, but no train village. I met a couple outside and used their phone to take a couple pictures with both of them in it, and they took one of me with my camera. They werent staying there, but asked me about it & said it looked really nice. Yep, it is! For me, it felt good being home since this is where I generally prefer to stay.

    Continuing on to Beach Club, the holiday dcor consisted of pretty garland and a couple small trees. They did not do the gingerbread carousel this year, which isnt surprising considering the resort is still closed (just the DVC villas are open). From there I walked into Epcot, which took literally seconds to get through temp/security/entry. Best of all, now I was right where I wanted to be rather than having to trudge to and through the construction portion of the park.

    It was around 10:40 now, so I just wandered around a bit to kill time, then headed towards China. Frozen already had a crazy line that was out of Norway snaked through China in 2-3 places and ended just over the drawbridge. I backtracked to the China booth, which was just opening up, and ordered the curry chicken rice bowl. Theyve added a second table beyond the booth, so I took my food to the sunny one. This dish had gotten really good reviews on Disney Food Blog, so I was eager to try it. Once again, I thought it was ok happy I tried it once but wouldnt repeat it. It was a huge portion, and I didnt finish it. It wasnt great enough for me to force it down.

    While eating I heard holiday music start up so I knew something was coming. This time it was some holiday ribbon twirlers followed by the 2 horses pulling Santa Clause. I put my mask back on and stepped over to the walkway to take a few pictures, while keeping an eye on my table with the food & my backpack on it.

    After Santa passed I ate some more of the chicken then threw the rest away and continued walking. In Germany I got one of the linzer cookies that were so good last year, and got a small merchandise bag so I could take it to go. Ill eat this later tonight. I continued to Italy and decided to get a glass of prosecco from the food stand. I still remember buying $3 and $3.50 prosecco at the festivals, in the old Festival Center building. Today I had $10 prosecco that didnt taste any better to justify the higher price <g>. It had been years though, so what the heck.

    I took it over to a shady bench and sat there watching people while I sipped. I saw everything from shorts/tank tops (bit cool for that) to people wearing long buttoned up or belted winter coats (waaaaaaaay too warm for that). Since you have to be stationary to remove your mask to eat or drink I stayed on the bench until the prosecco was all gone. I replaced my mask, threw away the plastic glass and continued walking.

    As I was entering America I ran into Carol Stein, who was getting some steps in before getting ready to work over at World Showplace. We walked together and enjoyed chatting, parting ways at International Gateway. I learned the entertainment in there kicks off with her (or the other pianist) at 12:45, then Joyful immediately follows and they pretty much rotate until early evening. It was now just past noon, so unfortunately I wasnt going to be catching Joyful today unless I come back later.

    At World Showplace I went inside and this place was very busy. It does seem like there are fewer tables than they had during Food & Wine. I stood in my first line at Holiday Hearth. Up to this point I hadnt had to wait for anything. When it was my turn I got the red velvet bundt cake and a container of the snowball cookies (taking those home). I found a table with chairs and was able to sit down to eat the cake. It was good, but again not worthy of repeating. At least it wasnt massive. At $4.00 I figured it wouldnt be too big, but it was certainly big enough.

    I finished up around 12:30 and decided to head out of the park. I walked through Future World, and noticed LOTS of people coming in. Its going to be a very busy day. All of the food booths I passed had very long lines. With the physical distancing theyre not as bad as they look, but it was looking similar to a Saturday during Food & Wine Festival.

    I left the park and my bus was at the bus stop! However, when I boarded the driver told me hed be dropping the other guests onboard at Disney Springs first. I could either wait for the next Saratoga Springs bus that was right behind him but would sit there for 10 minutes before leaving, or stay on his bus. He said hed get me to the resort faster, so I decided to just enjoy the ride.

    After dropping off the others at Disney Springs he asked what stop I wanted. He said theyd asked about getting to Disney Springs and he agreed to take them, now since I had to wait he was going to take me directly to my stop & then restart the route. That was very nice, but I was planning to get off at Grandstand, which is the first stop, lol. So, I told him Grandstand and he just laughed.

    My reason for Grandstand is next month were back in a Treehouse and will need to park the extra car over at the Grandstand. I wanted to find the walkway to the treehouses so Id know where exactly in Grandstand we should be parking. It wasnt hard to find, and I also found a short cut from Grandstand to the Carriage House (in the Springs section). We could have just gotten off at Grandstand and walked there so easily the other night when we got dinner from Artist Palate. Im sure by the next time we stay here Ill have long forgotten this, lol!

    I walked back to the villa, and settled down to update the report. Amanda had texted earlier evidently Everest went down yesterday and it still wasnt up today. It must have been some big problem. She tried to get Guest Services to allow them to go to Epcot to spend time with me, since their sole purpose for Animal Kingdom was for Ari to ride Everest. Guest Services said no, but they did give her a fastpass for a future trip. Since park hopping starts in January, theres a good chance they can hop over to AK in the afternoon and this way they can ride without having to wait in the standby line.

    Today is my trash & towel day, but it hadnt been done while I was out. I got the rest of the photos off the camera and into the album. I also packed up the nonperishable kitchen stuff and brought it out to the car around 4pm before walking over to the bus stop. Id decided against Disney Springs, as it was likely to just be mobbed. Instead, I was heading to Epcot via the skyliner from Hollywood Studios (Im in no rush). It was 72 degrees out but I carried my jacket just in case I stayed out later than expected.

    This time I had a short wait for a bus. Two Epcot buses arrived practically together, then the Hollywood Studios bus came along. At the Studios I boarded the skyliner and had a nice ride over to the hub in Caribbean Beach. Some people were already in the queue, but it wasnt too bad. However, I quickly noticed they werent loading anyone the gondolas were going out empty.

    At first I thought this was a good thing, that they were sending some empties so the Riviera guests would have the opportunity to get on. But, it was way too many gondolas. They opened up the rest of the queue and the line that had formed outside walked through to our new positions in the queue. Before long a cast member with a clipboard came over and asked me the # in my party, my name, and my destination.

    When I said I was going to Epcot he told me not to worry, that hed get me on a bus just as soon as they can find some to send over here. I told him in that case Im going to Disney Springs, lol and he gave me walking directions to the nearest Caribbean Beach bus stop (off in the distance). I didnt come out this way to take a bus to the front entrance of Epcot, lol! I figured Epcot just wasnt meant to be for me tonight so Id take my chance with Disney Springs, where I can walk home.

    Im glad SB wasnt with me, as the bus stop was in the far corner of the village/island, and he would have grumbled. I enjoy the walking, especially when the weather is comfortable. The first bus to arrive came quickly, and it was Disney Springs! I was seated, and another big party, which nearly filled the bus. At the next stop the party waiting to board had 4 or 5 people and evidently that was too many for the section that was left, so they had to wait for another bus. It certainly sucks being the last bus stop at these giant resorts with so many bus stops!

    We were at Disney Springs pretty quickly, and I was surprised to see no crowd at the entrance. The temperature takers were just standing around waiting for people to show up. Once inside it was busy, but not the mob scene I expected. Ive seen photos online that looked much worse. That said, at many stores they had people waiting in line to get inside, which is a deal breaker for me. Restaurants and bars were busy as well some with pretty long lines to get in.

    I wandered around, backtracking some of the time. I never did find the soap/snow blowing things, so maybe theyre not doing it. I wasnt interested in sticking around until late to find out for sure. Over in the Marketplace I was able to walk right into the Co-Op place, and the clothing store next door. That was the extent of my browsing. World of Disney had a huge line plus they were doing virtual queues but I have no idea what the wait time was.

    I decided to head back to the resort, so I left via the place I came in this morning, not knowing there was an exit further down. By the time I got to Saratoga it was dark enough that I didnt really know where I was, but I figured if I kept walking eventually Id figure it out. Sure enough, where I decided to turn eventually took me to the Congress Park bus stop, and from there I could find my way to the surrey bike path which ran along the back side of the Paddock buildings. I didnt want to be walking on a dark road with no sidewalks, so this was much safer. As a bonus, I could see in one building and noticed it had not been refurbished yet still had the lovely green cabinets in the kitchen, dark wood furniture, etc. The next building is currently being rehabbed and I could see most of those rooms as well its coming along nicely. Fans & furniture are in there, but mattresses are still wrapped in plastic and little details need to be done.

    I was back in my villa just after 6. I got settled in, turned on the oven to 350 degrees, and cut up some cheese & crackers. 30 minutes later the oven had reached 330 degrees, so I put a couple corn dog nuggets in there. This oven is ridiculous! Now Im in for the night will watch some tv, eat the linzer cookie and enjoy my last nights sleep here.

    The photos are on snapfish at

    This turned out to be a really great trip! The weather was better than expected, but the big surprise was how nice the refurbished villas are. I booked this thinking I could put up with the crappy rooms in order to enjoy time with the family, but the villa was gorgeous! Now I can only complain about the crummy location (if youre visiting parks) <g>. The food at the resort is pretty limited right now, like everywhere else at Disney, but what people had was very good. Our luck with the buses was very good too!

    The parks were busier than Id like, but you could walk around more easily than you could before covid. I do miss park hopping (comes back in January) and fastpass still. It was very cool we were able to ride Rise of the Resistance. Chris & Amanda had been trying still it opened, so it took a year, lol! I never tried didnt care about it but went along with it and was impressed with the riding part. We did well getting out early and doing a lot before the hordes of people arrived. That will continue to be our strategy.

    Tomorrow I head back to Gainesville to go to work, but the next trip starts 5 days later! Call it a covid silver lining, but I hate wasting vacation time and I obviously cant cruise right now (I book them the cruise line cancels them, repeatedly). My friend Holli & I are heading up to Disneys Hilton Head Island Resort for 4 nights, staying in a 2-bedroom villa. The resort is so festive and pretty during the holiday season, so even with the covid cutbacks it should still be very nice. Hollis never been to Hilton Head at all, so shes really looking forward to the trip. The next WDW trip will be in January, over the Martin Luther King weekend. Holli will be along for that one too, along with Chris, Amanda & Ari.

    Sue (Holland) Rayford

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  3. #2

    Glad you enjoyed the new villas at SSR (my home) and even more excited you're doing a Treehouse next month! I still think they're my favorite - although I hate that you can't open windows. Enjoy the "old style" decor before they white wash it in the next remodel, whenever that may be...

  4. #3

    The "snow" is in front of the Disney Welcome Center, near that contraption you can turn. And, in all likelihood, if your phone can't mobile order, it also can't get you in the queue for ROTR.



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