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Noreen Chin -- May 2002 -- Walt Disney World (Offsite, AKL)


WHO AM I?

  • Noreen - 33 years old; First Vice President at an Investment Banking Firm in New York City.

My husband Paul (who couldn't join me during this trip) and I have been to Disney World several times in the last few years. It has become our favorite Vacation. We went to Disney Land (California) for the first time in January 1997 and became engaged at Sea World.

PLANNING

Paul and I have two other Disney trips planned this year. One in April 2002 staying at our timeshare - Vistana in a 2 bedroom condo for 8 days; and one in August 2002 spending 9 days at Disney's Yacht & Beach Club (Beach Club side). The annual passholder rates were too good to pass up.

Bonus Trip - I found out I have to attend a conference (LGE) for 3 days in May in Orlando. Since I'm going to be there and have a premium annual pass, why not add a few days on and go to Disney? Paul doesn't think he can meet me down there at this time so I'm going to be on my own. I've spent a few hours on my own at Disney during some of our previous trips where I've left Paul sleeping in the room or we've gone to see different attractions but I've never spent days alone at Disney.

Lodging
On 2/22/02 I booked 3 nights at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge in a Savannah view room for Friday 5/17 through Monday 5/20. With the Annual pass discount it came out to $711 including tax.

On 2/22/02 I also booked the same 3 nights at Disney's Port Orlean's Riverside for Friday 5/17 through Monday 5/20. With the Annual pass discount it came out to $313 including tax. I cancelled this reservation on May 5.

Why two reservations for the same nights? I really want to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge but it's more than double the cost. Do I really need to spend that much for a room for a few nights – especially when I'll be back in August for 9 days at the Yacht/Beach Club? However, even though it's expensive, the cost of the room without the annual pass discount is way more and how often do discounts like this come along? My husband thinks I should splurge and stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge. The practical side of me is leaning towards Port Orleans. So I made both reservations and will decide as it gets closer and cancel one of them. Just recently (mid March 2002) I read that there were two kidnappings that occurred at Disney. Since I may be by myself I will feel safer in a Deluxe where everyone gets off the Disney Bus in front of the hotel and walks in together and the room entrances are inside. At the moderates, the bus stops usually are in the parking lots.

Car Rental
Since I will be on my own staying at a Disney Resort I wasn't planing to rent a car. In the past, we've always rented a car so this would be a first to depend solely on Disney Transportation. However, after more thought I may rent a car after all. I don't know if I like the idea of being dependent on a bus. Not just that, but I have to depend on someone to get me to/from the airport. Although Mear's is cheap, I'm afraid I would feel like cattle herded on a bus to get somewhere and having to make numerous stops. This is a short trip – I don't want to waste time. If I were to book Tiffany Town car – it would be about $100 or so after tip. How much more can a rental car be for the few days? Not just the money, but the convenience. I'm still deciding whether it's worth it for me to rent a car.

On 2/25/02, I reserved the following rental car:
National – A midsize with unlimited mileage for $190.56. Used Disney Annual pass discount. Pickup is at the airport.

On 5/13/02, I reserved the following car on the internet:
National – A midsize with unlimited mileage for $139.70

If I decide to go with Mear's – it's $16 one way or $28 round trip. You don't need reservations leaving the airport – just show up. To have them pick you up for the return to the airport you need to call 24 hours in advance.

Flight
The flight will be on my company since I am going to Orlando on business. On Continental Airlines on Tuesday 5/14/02 it's flight #592 leaving from Newark Airport at 7:45 p.m. landing in Orlando at 10:42pm. Coming home Monday 5/20/02 on Continental Airlines it's flight #1693 leaving Orlando at 8:20pm landing at Newark Airport at 10:55pm.

Food
Since I'll be on my own, I probably will not have meals at a sit down restaurant. I would feel uncomfortable sitting there by myself. So I will probably eat at the fast food/counter service restaurants instead. At least my food bill will be cheaper than normal this trip.

Admission Media
I have a premium annual pass that was purchased during Paul and my September 2001 trip.

General Planning
I've printed out the park hours for the dates I'll be there and am trying to come up with a rough game plan. I'm trying to use the blocks of time method (ex – morning, afternoon, evening, night).

I'll try to keep track of my expenses. Not for the LGE conference portion of the trip since my company will be picking up that tab – but the Disney portion I'll track since that's what I'm paying for.

I'm also going to try to right down the tentative plan for the day and see how close I come to doing what was planned.

DAY BY DAY

The week before the trip
Kind of busy since Monday 5/6/02 through Wednesday 5/8/02 I was at another conference in Rhode Island.

Tuesday 5/14/02
I worked most of the day. I had a car pick me up at 4:30 from work and take me to the airport – arrived at Newark airport at 5:15 for a 7:45pm flight. I checked 1 bag and carried one on the plane. I went through security with no problems and waited. A lady was on my flight with a little dog she was bringing on in a carryon bag. We boarded the plane at 7pm. We were going down the runway about to take off by 7:50. We picked up speed, we heard the extra engines kick in that you are about to take off – and the plane screeched/skidded to a halt. We hung onto the seats in front of us so we wouldn't go flying. The man behind me became irate screaming that he wanted to get off the plane. We waited for maintenance to come look at the plane. It turns out there was some kind of computer malfunction. Many people chose to get off and wait for another flight in the morning. We ended up taking off around 10pm. We landed in Orlando without a problem, I got my bag that I checked, and went to check in at the Hyatt in the airport. Good thing that's the hotel we were staying at – I was tired after that ordeal and was happy not to have to drive around looking for a hotel. I got into my room a little after 1am. It seems like a handicapped room since there isn't a tub, but a shower stall and a bar by the toilet. Other than that, the room is pretty standard with a King-size bed. I called Paul (my husband) to let him know I finally arrived safely. I unpacked my LGE stuff and left my Disney stuff packed in the other bag. Finally went to bed around 2:30am.

Wednesday 5/15/02
I was up before 8. Luckily the conference doesn't start until noon today. I called work and Paul. I went down to Starbucks for some breakfast (caramel frappacino, apple danish, and water)

Went to my LGE conference that was very interesting. All the participants had dinner together at McCoys in the hotel. I had a crabcake appetizer and a sea bass entrée. It was very good.

Thursday 5/16/02
Spent the day at the LGE conference. All the participants had dinner together at the Hemisphere restaurant at the hotel. I had a fried calamari appetizer and a combo plate dinner that had shrimp, scallops, and filet mignon. Dessert was really cute – it was mini sizes so you chose 3 different things and received mini ones out of a list of about 12. I chose chocolate covered strawberries, tiramisu, and a third one I can't remember.

Friday 5/17/02
Tentative Plan: LGE, Get to Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge from Airport; Check In; Illuminations at Epcot

Spent the day at the LGE conference which didn't end until after 5. I went with all the participants to McCoy's for some snacks/drinks (soda for me) until 7pm.

I went over to National car rental to get my rental car. I chose a red Mitsubishi Lancer. When I go with Paul, he likes to have a convertible or at least a full size. I figured if it's just me – a midsize is more than sufficient. I followed the directions on the card and found my way to Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge without any problem.

I was planning to park the car myself since I figured I'd probably use Disney Transportation during my stay, but I couldn't even find a spot. After 10 minutes I gave up, and valet parked the car.

I checked in and was assigned room 5120. The CM checking me in was very pleasant. I asked him about the American Express lanyards so he gave them to me. I guess if you don't ask, you don't get them. Not that I'm into pin trading, but I wanted to see what it looked like. The room is in a great location – 5th floor, not far from the lobby with a nice savannah view. The first thing I did was go on the balcony to see what the view looked like and I saw a bunch of animals roaming around – they looked like buffalo maybe.

By the time I got into the room, it was already after 8 so it seemed silly to run to Epcot since they closed at 9. Instead I called Paul, got unpacked, and took the Disney bus to the Marketplace.

I went in the World of Disney and bought some chocolate covered pretzels I promised Paul I'd bring home and Minnie Mouse ears for my assistant who asked for Mickey mouse ears on my last trip then told me she'd prefer Minnie. I also browsed around the Christmas store and didn't buy anything (that's a first). I bought a Raspberry/White Chocolate cookie at the gourmet pantry – cost $2.92. These cookies are so good – but so rich. I would eat a little of it a day and still brought most of it home with me.

I took the bus back to Animal Kingdom Lodge and got dinner to go from Mara to eat in the room; as well as a refillable mug – cost $18 (including the $10 mug). I had the Sugar Cane chicken. I didn't like the chicken at all – it was spicy and dry.

I went to bed by midnight.

Did I meet the tentative plan? I didn't make it to Epcot for Illuminations

Saturday 5/18/02
Tentative Plan: MGM, Annual Passholder special event at Animal Kingdom, Spectromagic at MK

I went to Mara for breakfast around 8:45am and sat there to eat it. I thought it would my first attempt to sit by myself eating since I would be doing that for the rest of the trip and didn't want to be limited to eating in the room. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I got the Brioche Waffles with bacon and some fruit punch in my refillable mug – cost $5.93.

I dropped the mug back in the room around 9:10 (25 minutes after I left) and the maid had already cleaned the room. That was quick.

I took the Disney bus to MGM which stopped at Blizzard Beach on the way. I arrived at MGM and made it through security by 9:45am.

I saw the first Magic of Disney Animation show at 10, which lasted until 10:40am. This was really cute – I didn't see it during our last trip so it was nice to see.

I saw the first Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Show at 10:50 which lasted until 11:20. Fun, but I didn't even make it into the top 10.

I waited about 20 minutes for the Tower of Terror.

At around 12 noon – I had lunch at the ABC Commissary. I had the Yakitori Chicken (which comes with rice and Asian slaw) and a large sprite – cost $9.42. When I'm at Disney with Paul, we don't usually eat lunch at the fast food places, but it was good. Paul and I usually run, run, run then we're starving and eat too much. Since LGE talked about eating properly I was trying very hard to eat at normal times and normal meals.

After lunch, I took the bus back to Animal Kingdom Lodge (it stopped at Blizzard Beach on the way back). I got back to AKL around 1:30, changed into my bathing suit and went to the pool. I spent a few hours playing in the pool, going down the water slide, and reading my book. I spoke to Paul while by the pool.

I stopped in Mara at 3:45 to pick up a snack to bring back to the room – Chicken Pepper Pot soup – cost $2.64. I'm not normally a big soup fan, but I read good things about it on the internet so decided to try it. I brought it back to the room to eat – it was OK, no big deal.

I showered again, and took the bus to Animal Kingdom. There was a special Annual Passholder event that was supposed to start at 6:30. The park closed at 5 to regular day guests. I arrived around 5:45. There was a long line for registration but it went fairly quickly. I was in the park by 6:05.

I walked right onto Dinosaur. I thought this was how nice the evening would be with no lines – little did I know what awaited me.

I went to the DinoRama area next. It was totally packed; wall to wall people. There was a 1-hour wait for Primeval Whirl (I'm not waiting an hour for it). The games that you normally pay a dollar or two and win prizes were free and everyone was waiting to play because each game you played, you would get a raffle ticket to win various prizes. It took forever and was hot and you were shoulder to shoulder with other sweaty people (not my idea of fun). I only played 2 games (waiting 40 minutes or so for each one). I would have just gone to do something else, but not much else was open – just the games, Primeval Whirl, Triceratops Spin, Dinosaur, and It's Tough to Be a Bug. All of them were packed. This was very poorly organized.

Everyone received a coupon to receive a free ice cream bar and a free soda so I figured I'd go to get some dinner then get my free ice cream. The line for the free ice cream/soda was huge and many of the restaurants weren't open. The few that were had huge lines. So I got on the ice cream/soda line and had a nice chat with the people around me for the hour that we waited.

Finally got my sprite and simba paw ice cream and headed over to one of the areas that were supposed to have the numbers for the winners of the raffle. The raffle was done around 8pm. By the time the place I was standing got the numbers it was almost 8:30. An angry mob was forming because the drawing was at 8 but you had to claim your prize by 8:45 or it was forfeited. At this rate, we couldn't get the numbers then you'd first have to run through the park to the prize claim area. I didn't win anything.

I decided to leave and head over to Magic Kingdom which was open until 11pm tonight. On the way out, I stood in a short line for the free lithograph they were giving out. Then I got on the bus to the TTC. On the bus the driver asked if everyone had fun – there was a resounding "No" from the whole bus. Some people heard that Animal Kingdom was expecting about 5,000 people and ended up with over 12,000 people. Many of the people I was speaking with were Florida residents and were very surprised that someone from ‘up north' would have an annual pass.

I sat in the front car with the driver on the monorail with these two other people. They asked the CM when we got there and I asked if I can join them. We got to Magic Kingdom around 9:20 just as the first viewing of Spectromagic was ending.

I went to Cosmic Ray's to get some dinner. Hot dog and french fries – cost $5.72. I sat on the balcony facing the castle and ate. I thought I'd have a good view of the fireworks from here but you really didn't. I had already finished eating so I went into FantasyLand and watched from there.

I waited 15 minutes for Winnie the Pooh, then walked right onto Small World.

I walked down Main Street looking for a spot for the 11pm Spectromagic Parade. I sat in one of the cars that normally take people up and down Main Street with a man from Virginia. At least we had soft seats right near the front of the park. I enjoyed Spectromagic. Paul doesn't normally like to wait for the parades – he doesn't like standing in a crowd like that.

I just missed the Animal Kingdom Lodge bus and waited for the next one. I got back to the room a little after midnight. I called Paul and showered for the 3rd time today (I felt hot and sweaty still from Animal Kingdom earlier) then went to bed.

Did I meet the tentative plan? Yes, and even squeezed in some pool time

Sunday 5/19/02
Tentative Plan: MK, Hotel Pool, Epcot

I woke up to pouring rain. The shades in the room are very good – they're nice and thick so the sun didn't come through to wake me each morning. This wasn't an issue today with the pouring rain, but I'm a light sleeper and usually wake up from anything.

I showered and got dressed and went down to Mara for breakfast around 10am. I had a bagel with cream cheese and a cup of fruit – cost $5.07. I called Paul from Mara to see what he was up to. I went back to the room to drop off the mug around 10:25 and it was already cleaned.

I took the bus to Animal Kingdom and arrived about 11am. I went to the Safari first and there was no wait. Then went right into the 12pm Lion King Show. After the show I walked through the Pangani Forest Trail.

Pizzafari was my destination for lunch and to check out the annual passholder lounge. It was really hot in the lounge so I walked in and out. I had a chicken caesar salad and a sprite for lunch – cost $8.78. Of course, I forgot to show my annual pass to get 20% off. The food was good. There were several characters walking around that I had my picture taken with.

After lunch, I took the bus back to Animal Kingdom Lodge – I went swimming in the pool and went in the hot tub. It wasn't raining anymore but it was overcast and was kind of cool.

I went back to the room, showered again, then watched the end of the movie "Speed".

I took the bus to Epcot around 5pm.

I started in the Wonders of Life Pavilion and saw Making of Me, Cranium Command, and Body Wars.

Then I went to the Land Pavilion and went on Living with the Land. I waited 20 minutes for this. I got off around 7:15 and the Land Pavilion closed at 7. I chatted with this lady who travels by herself all the time. I don't really like these pavilions in future world closing at 7. It's kind of annoying if you want to spend time in any of them.

I walked into World Showcase and went to the Lotus Blossom Café for dinner. I had the Lotus Blossom Combo which had sweet & sour chicken, fried rice, and an egg roll. I also had a sprite. Cost $8.80. It was better than I expected it to be.

Then I wandered over to Norway and waited 20 minutes for Maelstrom. I even stayed for the movie. I stopped in Kringla bakery for a rice cream – cost $2.43 and walked towards Italy.

There was supposed to be a special Illuminations viewing area in Italy, but the cast member working there said that was discontinued.

So I found a bench near France to watch Illuminations. The show was good as always.

I took the bus back to Animal Kingdom Lodge after Illuminations.

Did I meet the tentative plan? I didn't make it to Magic Kingdom, but did everything else

Monday 5/20/02
Tentative Plan: Check out Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge; MGM; Disney Marketplace; Fly Home

I got breakfast from Mara (bagel with cream cheese and a fruit cup) cost $5.07 which I brought back and ate in the room. I spoke to the girls from work and finished getting my stuff packed.

My express checkout bill was on the door and was fine.

I called the valet to pick up the car. They had it ready for me right away. I threw my bags in the trunk and was on my way to Epcot by 10:15. I called Paul to see how he was and to make sure he was going to pick me up at the airport tonight.

I went on the single rider line for test track which was very quick.

Innoventions normally has all these e-mail stations, but they were being refurbished. Image Works had another e-mail staion that I used and sent picture e-mail to Paul and the girls at work.

Walked right onto Spaceship Earth.

I went into the Living Seas next. It seemed pretty boring this time. I used to enjoy this. But the portion where you ride in the cars was gone and there weren't many fish to look at.

I saw Ellen's Energy adventure next. I like this show. The more I see it, the more I like it.

At about 1:30 I had lunch at the Harry Ramsden Fish and Chips stand in England. I had the fish and chips plate and a sprite – cost $8.78. I sat at a table under an umbrella to eat, then browsed through some of the shops.

Exited Epcot through the International Gateway and walked to the Boardwalk where I got a black/white pretzel from the bakery to bring home.

I took the boat from the Boardwalk to MGM. I called Paul again to make sure all was OK, then made my way over to the 3:25 Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Show. When that ended I went right back on line for the 4:15 Millionaire show. I made it to 3rd place on the board. I think the guy I was sitting near was flirting with me. The funny thing is when they tested the cameras they stopped on us.

I took a bus from MGM to Epcot, called Paul, and took the tram to the parking lot to find the car, which I misplaced and took about 15 minutes to find. I drove over to the airport without incident, checked in using the automated kiosks (even changed my seat on this), then went to the gate and had some time to kill. I had to buy a new book since I finished the first one I was reading.

The flight was on time, and even landed about 15 minutes early. Paul was stuck in traffic so didn't get to the airport for about ½ hour. Because of all the construction going on, he couldn't find me at first. Finally, he found me. It was so cute, he brought Kiki (our puppy) with him to pick me up.

Did I meet the tentative plan? I didn't need to go back to the Marketplace, but did everything else

FINAL THOUGHTS
Travelling to Disney by myself was an experience. I enjoyed myself immensely. There were times where I would suddenly get lonely and miss Paul and Kiki. It was odd to not have someone to share the experience with. But it was nice to be able to run around at my own pace and see whatever I wanted to when I wanted. Since I was by myself my food bill was very cheap since I only ate at counter service type places. I felt very safe since I was at Disney. I wouldn't want to vacation alone all the time, but it was fun to do it for a few days like this.

Until the next Disney Trip...

Noreen Chin

Noreen.s.chin@citigroup.com


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