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Kim Howe -- October 2002 -- Walt Disney World (Offsite)

Offsite Timeshare Condo
Celebration World Resort
7503 Atlantis Way
Kissimmee FL 34747
Phone: 407/396-4005

For me, this trip was considered a spontaneous one. The decision wasn't made and planning begun until the end of August a mere six weeks before. Although, I have to admit, for a couple of years I'd yearned to do a spontaneous trip, perhaps even alone, sometime in the fall taking advantage of great last minute money saving promotions. This wasn't exactly a cheap trip (but when is a trip to WDW?) but I think I did the best I could under current circumstances-without an annual pass and without friends/relatives nearby to help with lodging and transportation.

My companion for this trip was a friend from work, Paula. She shares my love of visiting WDW and all things Disney in general. Like me, she's visited WDW numerous times with her husband and son and with other family and friends. This past June she and her family spent a couple of days at Disneyland and in February they are going to FL again. After one of us returns from a trip the other is looking forward to hearing all about it. Other coworkers just don't understand what draws us back so often.

In mid-August, Southwest sent me an e-mail advertising a $68 one way from Albany to Orlando. Since my husband had a Wyoming hunting trip planned for three weeks in October and I was itching to do something too, I checked out a few weekends that would work for me during that time. This fare was booked already for all the combination of days I tried so I let it go. Paula got the e-mail, too, and we talked about what a great fare it was and how fun it would be to go. A week or so later, I looked into cost and availability for the Columbus Day weekend. I found a Friday afternoon non stop flight down for $106 and a late afternoon non stop flight home Tuesday for $106. Hmmm, I thought: $229 (with all the add ons) for non stop flights on dates that are convenient and that would only mean taking 1 1/2 days off from work with the Monday holiday.

Okay, so then I check out lodging availability. Low and behold I have my choice of numerous timeshares available for the mere cost of the exchange fee, $129 (for a week, not per night). Some of them are even two bedroom units, hmmm. A search for rental car rates was next and I thought they were pretty high for a four day rental. The best I came up with was $171 for an intermediate or $141 for a compact with National using the Disney Club code and coupon. I happened to mention my findings ($750 for air, car, lodging and a 4-day hopper) to Paula and asked her if she would want to go with me. She said she would love to but we agreed to think about it before making definite decision.

Even though I really liked the idea of doing this, my thoughts were running something like this: it's not a real great deal regarding cost (I've done better on both air fare and rental car rates and don't have an AP), I could do so much else with the money, I can wait since we are going to Disneyland in January, etc. My husband told me to just do it and asked why not a whole week instead of the long weekend. Gotta love that! Paula's family told her to go, too, so that's what we agreed to do. Splitting the cost of the car and lodging the total cost came down to $570. We each bought our air line tickets and I confirmed a two bed room unit for Friday check-in at Celebration World Resort in Kissimmee. I had reserved an intermediate car already through National for $171.

Soon I thought of Mickey's Not-so-scary Halloween Party and wondered if we might be able to make one of those. I checked and, yes, there was one being held during our trip-our first night. I noticed they went on sale in April and since it was a Friday night I worried that tickets might already be sold out. I called the Disney Club Travel toll free number and found it wasn't and I was able to get two for $62.26. Our flight lands at 5:30 p.m. and it starts at 7 p.m. We'll hit the ground running! Now this is getting really exciting. So we're up to $600 each for the four days plus food and shopping at ALL the Disney outlets.

Checked Mousesavers.com to try and find some rental car codes to bring that cost down and found I could save a mere $10 with Dollar but even if I joined their Fastlane program, I would still need to go to the counter. I thought of getting the compact from National instead of the intermediate to save $30 until I learned that the Emerald Isle program, bypassing the counter, was not available on a compact rental. I did find that the rate on the intermediate I had reserved dropped by $8 so I made another reservation and cancelled the higher one. Hey, $8 is $8.

A week after I bought my airline ticket, Southwest sent me a post card telling me I was eligible to get a free award ticket by purchasing a ticket online and then flying within a specific window (September - November). Lucky for me I met those two criteria with the ticket I bought for this trip. WhooHoo! I see another WDW trip in my future.

On September 8, WDW ticket prices increased and policies on discounts and purchasing changed too. I studied these changes on WDWIG, Mousesavers, Mouseplanet and the official site. I was very confused. I kept trying to determine what the best deal was for me. I also called AAA and my local Disney Store and Disney Club Travel. I was thinking of getting the 7-day hopper plus. It is more days than what I needed and $100 more but since the unused days and options don't expire and with that free Southwest award ticket, hey, that next WDW trip within a year may work out. I couldn't guarantee that I will visit again within one year so I didn't see my getting my money's worth out of an annual pass (break even at 8 days when I figure getting free parking at $7 a day too).

At the end of September WDW reinstated Early Magic Hours (a.k.a. early entry) for different mornings than when it ran previously. I thought this was good because now I can use my "go to the park the day after its EMH day" touring plan. I set about putting a tentative itinerary together. We agreed this trip was not going to be commando yet there were some goals we wanted to meet. I mapped them out over the four days to make sure we would have/make time to accomplish each one. Our highest priority was to enjoy the atmosphere of just being at WDW, others are shopping at the Disney outlets, catching the parades and other attractions because they are new or because our families don't care to do them as much as we do, dinner at Animal Kingdom Lodge's Boma and Grand Floridian's Garden View Lounge's Afternoon Tea which I made PS for only two weeks out. Knowing that a seating at either Cindy's Royal Table or Tony's Town Square for an early breakfast mostly to enjoy the park prior to opening would be highly unlikely at the late date, I inquired anyway but as I thought, it didn't work out.

Friday, October 11 finally arrives and I work in the morning. After a stop for cash at the credit union, I pick up Paula at her house. The drive to the airport, parking, ticket counter and security went quickly and smoothly. There wasn't one person in line at the ticket counter. We were pleased that Southwest now assigns boarding numbers when you check in eliminating the need to camp out at the gate until an hour before the flight to get one. Neither of us checked any luggage so that we wouldn't have to wait to claim it once in Orlando. Remember our tight schedule! We were careful with our packing so that we wouldn't have any contraband (you know, scissors, nail files and the like) packed in our carry-ons that security would frown upon. Just the same, we were relieved when security didn't ask to search any of our bags. Since we didn't run into any delays, we had an hour and a half to kill before our flight. We had a nice leisurely lunch at the Saranac Brewhouse before lining up at the gate.

We were nearly first to board after families with small children and those needing assistance. We met our goal of sitting close to the front with seats in the second row to allow us to exit as quickly as possible once in Orlando. I was relieved when my small suitcase fit in the overhead compartment. Since we packed in carry on size suitcases and expected to do a lot of shopping, we each packed a collapsible carry on to carry our booty home in. I caught up on some trip reports I'd printed and took a cat nap during the flight.

Our flight was uneventful and we arrived on time, 5:30 p.m., to find it still 90 degrees and very humid outside. After a bathroom stop, we headed directly to the National garage. Since no one was in line at the counter and being a new Emerald Aisle member, I stopped to find out how Emerald Aisle works. The clerk checked my reservation and directed us to the garage to pick out our car. We picked a sporty looking gold Oldsmobile Alero. The attendant at the garage exit checked my reservation, asked to see my driver's license and took the Disney Club coupon I'd used for a free day. I was surprised she asked for the coupon. We followed the signs for the south exit and paid the $2 in tolls on the Greenway. This is such a nice ride. It was 6:30 p.m. as we exited at International Drive and drove down SR535 to Publix. We zipped around and got the few grocery items we'd need-OJ, muffins, Fritos, water, lemonade, etc..

From here I was unsure which route would be quickest to the resort, SR192 or through WDW property, especially with it being a Friday evening and wanting to avoid traffic. Even though I had my reservations about SR192 because it's always been a real bottleneck, that's what I chose since it would be the most direct. We were very lucky and made our way to Old Wilson Road without any traffic delays. Now that the construction has been completed on SR192 traffic seems to move along much more efficiently. Besides widening the road, I especially like the new access roads for the hotels, restaurants and shops with access to SR192 only at traffic signals.

We arrived at Celebration World Resort at 7 p.m. and check-in went quickly with only one other person there checking in. We were assigned a first floor room in a building close to the resort gate which made it easy to come and go thus a quicker commute to WDW. We dropped our luggage, freshened up and were headed out to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party by 7:30 p.m. Paula was very surprised at how quickly we were on WDW property-5 minutes tops.

We parked at the Contemporary and walked to the Magic Kingdom. I was surprised to see so many people still arriving at 8 p.m., an hour after the start of the party. Large orange helium type balloons decorated like jack-o-lanterns were flying above the rail road station. We joined the crowd at the security check point. Just past it, CMs were handing out trick or treat bags. They were shaped like small shopping bags, made of plastic, color was orange (bag part) with black handles and were decorated with a Halloween scene. We picked up a party brochure at the turnstiles. There was a lot of ground fog (dry ice?) in the entrance area before you go under the train station. The usual lighting here and throughout Town Square and Main Street was dimmed except for colored lights (purple, maybe?) casting an eerie glow.

There was a sign on the train station underpass welcoming us to the party. Town Square had more ground fog and was decorated with bales of straw, corn stalks, and pumpkins. Along with the lighting effects, eerie music was playing too. The fall decorations, music and lighting continued down Main Street. Jack-o-lanterns were in many of the windows above. Lots of people were lining MS for the 8:30 p.m. parade. We headed straight for, where else?, the Haunted Mansion, of course.

As we continued through the park, we found lots of people in the walkways. This would be the case all night. When we entered Liberty Square, I saw the line was quite long for the complementary photo. As a result, we never bothered to have one taken all evening. There was a large mob of people outside of the HM gates and at first I thought it was the line to enter. It turned out to be a trick or treat station marked by a smaller helium jack-o-lantern balloon. We nearly walked right into the HM but were lucky enough to have a moment to watch the new tomb stone. I think I saw the eyes move but it was hard to tell since it was dark and there was a lot of ground fog here too. When the CM opened the door and came out to welcome us, she had some great ghoulish make up on-cool. The ride was the same as usual, no added effects or antics from CMs.

The Diamond Horseshoe Saloon had special performances for the party so we headed there for the 8:30 p.m. show. We were unable to cross the parade route until the Headless Horseman rode by. The dimmed lighting made it hard to see a black costumed rider cantering by on a black horse. It did make for a good effect though. Our delay in crossing the street to the saloon didn't cause us to miss much. Even with our late arrival, we were able to find a table for two downstairs along the side of the room. The jokes were Halloween corny, but funny and they sang Ghost Riders in the Sky. The Dapper Dans were called the Cadaver Dans this night and were also made up to look like cadavers.

It was time for Fantasy in the Sky next (9:00 p.m.) so went in search of a place in the hub to watch the fireworks. I got popcorn and we sat on the curb until they began. We saw the witch fly in Tinkerbell's place and the perimeter fireworks were cool too. They made me feel as if we were really part of something special.

While in Liberty Square earlier, we noticed special goings on the Riverboat so we went to check out what that was all about. We were disappointed to find that not only was it very crowded, and extremely hot due to the outside temperature and the boilers running but it never even left the dock. Everyone else seemed to be confused about the situation too. Obviously, we didn't stay long but while we were there we saw a band playing on the bow, who I thought were quite good, and Chip and Dale were greeting guests in another area.

We made our way to the Pirates of the Caribbean next and walked right on. Out boat wasn't even full. Our experience regarding crowds was that the walkways were full of people and hard to walk from place to place but the attractions were walk ons. While in Adventureland we listen for a while to a very good "not so scary" storyteller and then move back to the hub area at 10:15 p.m. to find a spot to watch the 10:30 p.m. Halloween parade.

We lucked out by finding a front row spot on the curb in front of the Partner's Statue. The space was being used as a walkway but wasn't taped off so I asked the CM if we could sit there and he said it was fine. Many people followed, sitting behind and around us. Our view was wonderful; we could not only see the parade as it was coming toward us as it came down MS but we could also see the floats from the side when the parade made its way around the hub. We saw the Headless Horseman again and enjoyed the parade too. It was full of characters, many in costumes carrying plastic pumpkin treat or treat buckets. There were a few hay wagons pulled by draft horses and full of characters too. It's fun to see the characters!

A Cinderella's Surprise Celebration show was to begin at 11:00 p.m. so after the parade we move to the front of the castle to see it. I told Paula that I was glad we had the opportunity to see it tonight since it would be very uncomfortable during the day to stand out in the hot sunshine to see it. I really like this show, again, since it has lots of characters. When the show was over and we walked away, we noticed pure delight in the kids faces. This is what a visit to WDW is all about.

We walked through the rose garden and to the back of the castle to see Cindy's coach. We saw Jasmine along the walkway posing for a photo with a young woman dressed like Jasmine. It was fun to see the "older" children having fun too. To our surprise, Cindy was signing autographs and posing for photos in front of her coach. The Fairy Godmother was there too. The coach was displayed with some fall decorations around it. It's not the same coach as the one used for weddings but just as beautiful.

We were pooped at this point and walked down Main Street out of the park, to the car and then back to the timeshare by midnight. We enjoyed Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party and saw lots of children in costumes but not as many adults. There were many princesses and Buzz Lightyears. One family was dressed in the Peter Pan theme-dad was Hook, mom was Peter, children were Tinkerbell, Wendy and the little brother...forget his name. If I were awarding prizes, I would have given them first place.

Saturday, October 12 we were up early but took our time getting ready, which was a nice change from my usual WDW trips. It was 73 degrees at 7:19 a.m.-yikes! Our plan this morning was shopping. We left the room around 9 a.m. and drove up I-4 to the Belz Mall at the north end of International Drive. We encountered no traffic and were there in no time. Unfortunately, the stores didn't open until 10 so we window shopped for a while and then sat on a bench outside of the Character Premier and waited. Other stores began to open but not CP. Finally a CM came to the gate and told us that they didn't have the key to open the gate and it would be a few minutes until someone arrived with it. So, we wandered in the Woolrich store next door and we both bought camo hunting clothes on sale for our husbands. By the time we did that the CP was open. We spent a lot of time looking everything over but I only picked up a shirt for my husband, a nice frame and those cute s'mores ornaments at half off. We shopped at a few other stores before walking to the other mall and to the Character Warehouse. I found the shirt I just bought for my husband at CP in a color I liked better so I exchanged it.

A quick drive back down I-4 to the Orlando Premium Outlet's Character Premier was next. We were really hungry so we got a slice of pizza from the food court right next to CP. Looked everything over in CP but didn't find anything to purchase. Next stop was the Character Corner at the Lake Buena Vista Factory Outlet on SR535. Again, we made no purchases. All in all we were disappointed with not finding merchandise that we had to have. Back at the resort by 2:30 p.m. where we freshened up and headed back out for the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Our afternoon goal was to visit Animal Kingdom to see Tarzan Rocks and Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade then enjoy dinner at Boma before heading the Magic Kingdom to see Spectromagic and Fantasy in the Sky.

At guest relations in AKL we tried picking up the park hoppers that we purchased before we left home but were told we could only do that at the guest relations at the parks. I thought you could pick them up at any guest relations. We took a bus to AK and got our passes. I didn't have the number I was given to get my pass. Me, known for my organizational skills, screwed up! The CM found it after a while of searching. I though it very interesting that while he was searching, he was finding old records of transactions I'd made in the past. For example, tickets to the Very Merry Christmas Party last December. I wonder just how much info those computers hold and why. Once recently when calling WDW for something, the CM asked me some questions to "update the system". One of them was the date of the last time I stayed on property and before I could answer she answered found the record before I could think of the answer. I was amazed that such old information was still part of their records. Anyway back to AK...

Once in the park and looking over the entertainment schedule, we see a Tarzan Rocks show starting right away. I didn't think we could make it in time but Paula said we should try so we walked really quickly and made it in. It was so very hot and humid and with our sprint to the theater, we were dripping in sweat just sitting there. Paula had never seen the show and she enjoyed it, especially Tarzan. We went to find a spot to watch the parade next which Paula had also never seen. We found a shady spot with no one around right at the gate were the parade enters the park in Harambe. This put us in a good spot to get right in the standby line for the safari after the parade.

I was so hot, I paid $2.50 to get a bottle of water while waiting for the parade to start. As the floats with guests aboard entered the park, a CM with a disposable camera took a picture of the guests riding the float and then gave them the camera. We thought that was a nice touch. The CM also interacted with many of the CMs in the parade. Donald was the best, though. He gave a big kick of water from his float and splashed the CM soaking him pretty good. It was really funny. Paula got a hug and kiss from King Louie.

As soon as the parade ended we got right on the safari. It was one of the better ones I've been on with lots of animals out and active. I think it was due to it being feeding time so they were moving around. We saw BOTH the lion and the lioness. Our jeep had to stop numerous times due to animals crossing in front of us. The poacher story was played up quite a bit too.

We leisurely shopped our way out of the park with no purchases before taking a bus back to the AKL. We checked in at Boma and were given a pager. We had just enough time to take a restroom break and walk almost out to the viewing area before it went off. We enjoyed our meal and had a quiet table in an alcove which provided a nice break from a hot tiring day. Before we left AKL we made our way out to the viewing area and saw zebra, watusi, giraffe and other antelope thingies. Of course, we hit the gift shop before catching a bus to the Magic Kingdom.

At 7:30 p.m. on a Saturday night, the only night for Spectromagic, of course Main Street was mobbed. We made our way up MS browsing through the stores since everyone was camped out on the side walk. We were doing good until we had to go out on the side walk at the bakery. Luckily we got behind and stayed behind a big guy in a red shirt who was successful in making his way through the crowd. Once we made it to the end of MS we were able to move along the walkway past the Plaza restaurant to Tomorrowland for a FP for Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.

Besides Buzz our other goals tonight were to see Fantasy in the Sky and the later Spectromagic parade. While the early parade was taking place, we--can you guess?--shopped through Tomorrowland then Fantasyland. We hoped to catch the Hall of President's show but it was closed. We waited on the path on the side of the castle that goes from TL to FL to watch Tinkerbell's flight, but she never appeared. It was unfortunate because this put us in a poor spot to see the Fantasy in the Sky fireworks. Oh well, it wasn't like we'd never seen them before.

Our FP window for Buzz was open so we went there and found a mob of people (like us who'd just finished watching the fireworks) outside the attraction, but we got through them and in the FP queue. Paula was happy to be able to shoot for the first time since her family assigns her spinner not shooter. We had fun especially since our scores stayed really close throughout the ride. In the end she was 12,900 and I was 12,800.

We head to the hub to stake out a spot for the parade a half an hour early. We were able to get "our spot" at the hub, the same place we watched the Halloween parade from the night before. The concrete was hard and hot to sit on but it felt good to be off our feet and enjoyed people watching. Spectromagic was great especially with front row seats with a front and then side view as the floats turned to go around the hub.

To finish the evening, we browsed through the shops on the opposite side of the street we browsed up through earlier in the evening when we entered the park. We catch a bus back to AKL but have to stand. We drive back to the Celebration World Resort, have a glass of wine and talk about our goals for tomorrow-Epcot, Studios and Downtown Disney.

It's Sunday, October 13, and we leave the resort at 9 a.m. We park at the Swan and take the boat to Epcot's International Gateway. I found this to be quite time consuming since we'd just missed a boat and so had quite a wait then made numerous stops along the way.

Paula has spent little time at Epcot, so my goal was to show her around. It was fun to walk through the closed World Showcase to Future World where we did the Wonders of Life pavilion first to see Cranium Command. The Universe of Energy was next before we headed over to World Showcase when it opened at noon.

We stopped and had lunch, kid's meals, at Mexico's Cantina de San Angel. We rode the dull El Rio Del Tiempo afterwards and now Paula can say she's done it. We walked through Norway's stave church and shop. Maelstrom was down for rehab. I also took Paula inside Askerhaus, Norway's restaurant, so she could see how beautiful it is. In China we just walked through again since Paula didn't want to see the movie. I was giving her as many details as I could remember from the tours I've taken at Epcot. We walked through the shops of Germany and I took her inside the Briergraten restaurant. We skipped Italy but stopped at the American Adventure and saw the show. I made a point to see the 9/11 flag. I think this is a fitting place to have it on display. We also shop in the store before moving on to Japan. I introduced Paula to kaki gori which we enjoyed in the 90 degree 100 percent humidity that we'd experienced each day so far. We decide to leave the park, Paula had seen enough for now so we walk past Japan, Morocco, France and leave through the International Gateway and take a Friendship boat to the Studios.

Our goals at the Studios is to see the Motor Cars and Super Stars parade and the girly shows-Beauty and the Beast and the Little Mermaid. We get FP for LM first and then shop in the Christmas store to kill time before the parade. It starts raining so we run across to another shop before it's time for the parade to begin. The rain has lightened a bit and the parade runs. Some of the characters on the floats are holding up clear plastic umbrellas. We'd found a good place to watch but the rain gets heavier. We move back a little to a chained off area that was protected by a tree and finish watching from there. I noticed the parade was shortened. Of course, Paula wouldn't have known the difference since she'd never seen it before.

Our FP window for VoLMM was about to open so we cut back down the side walk away from the parade route to that. First, however, I took Paula in the Sci Fi Diner to check it out. From there we walked quickly through the rain over to VoLMM and were glad we could stand under cover until we were let in the building. Once inside, it seemed everyone-especially the kids-had to make loud squeaking noises with their wet sneakers just to annoy us! I always enjoy this show and sing to every song. It was raining very hard when we left so I bought an umbrella at the VoLMM shop and Paula put her raincoat on.

The heck with "Singing in the Rain," we shopped in the rain! We hit every store before leaving the Studios. We caught the boat back to the Swan. Again, we were lucky to be able to wait for it under cover. People were pretty spread out under the cover and more people kept coming. Paula asked those in front of us if they could please move forward and they did. The people around us thanked her for doing that. I don't know why those people in the front just didn't do it out of courtesy, I mean, they could see all the people standing outside when if they moved up the others could get out of the rain. Oh, well.

Took the car back to Celebration World Resort and quickly freshened up before taking off again to Downtown Disney for shopping at the Marketplace. I'd like to note that we never took more than 15 minutes or so to freshen up-wash face, brush hair, change shoes, etc. Except for my husband, I'd never traveled with anyone who could do all that as quickly as I could. It was nice not to have to wait for someone else to get ready to head out again.

Of course, Marketplace shopping is serious shopping-not browsing. This is where you actually buy everything you've scouted out over the last few days but taking advantage of the Disney Club 10% discount. Unfortunately, after about an hour of picking out what I wanted at the World of Disney store and filling my basket, I discovered I forgot my DC card! And, I really didn't want to leave it all and come back and pick it out all over again. So, fortunately, Paula volunteered to buy my stuff and use her card. This worked out well since she was going to reimbursement me for her share of the rental car and airport parking. In the end, I owed her money!!! During the evening we hit the Lego store where Paula was able to purchase some pieces to finish a set her son was collecting. We also hit Team Disney, the Pooh, Home, Christmas and Gourmet Pantry stores before loading the car and moving it closer to Planet Hollywood.

Armed with a great coupon Paula found in a discount booklet we picked up when checking in at the resort we went to Planet Hollywood for a late dinner. The coupon was for $10 off a purchase of $20 or more. We ordered the chicken tenders appetizer and a shrimp Caesar salad and split both. Even after tipping on the total check before discount, we each paid $8 for dinner-what a bargain. We found the prices here to be very high and on top of that, our waiter really pushing expensive alcoholic drinks-we didn't give in though, so he got the idea and gave up on us.

Back at the resort, we put in a load of laundry before going to bed at 12:33 a.m. We laughed that we'd planned to be in early tonight-HA-not once we got shopping.

Monday, October 14, when I got up to get my orange juice, I noticed Paula had put the clothes in to dry so I folded them. We put in another load to wash before leaving at 9 a.m. or so. We drove and parked at the Swan again with plans to take the bus the Magic Kingdom. We'd changed our original plan of shopping today to going to the park because it was sunny today and rain was predicted for tomorrow. We'll shop in the rain tomorrow.

We learned a valuable lesson this morning. We just missed the MK bus at the Swan but another one came along not too long after. Once on board we rode for 20 minutes stopping at the Dolphin, Yacht Club, Beach Club and Boardwalk before evening heading to the MK. Next time we know to park at the Boardwalk and board there instead. By the time we arrived at the MK an hour had passed since we left the resort.

Of course, arriving at the MK at 10 a.m. we found it very crowded. After getting FPs for Buzz, we went to the bakery for breakfast. The line was very long. We watched a CM in the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor making the waffle cones while we waited on line in the bakery. It was a slow morning with our long trip to the MK and now waiting for breakfast. I got an apple turnover and a milk. I really wanted a big cinnamon bun but didn't see them until after I'd asked for the turnover. We took our food out to the tables by the Plaza Restaurant and ate there.

The window for our Buzz FP had opened so we got a FP for Peter Pan before returning to Buzz where I scored 121,000-Planetary Pilot. We rode PP next and got a FP for Pooh before walking to Mickey's Toontown to catch the train. Our FP return time was during the parade and I wasn't going to get one, but Paula said we should in case we could make it. We'd just missed a train so we browsed through the store here before riding the train to Frontierland. We wait on a short line for the Magic Carpet ride. Why is this simple ride so attractive and fun-even for adults? We are really hot and we pass the ice cream sign out side the Diamond Horseshoe Revue, look at each other and go for it! AHH, AC and a root beer float and a coke float. We stand in the back and enjoy our floats while watching this great show. A very funny kid up on stage was interacting quite well with the CM. This was certainly a high point-having floats for lunch!

Outside we find it raining again. On goes the raincoat and up goes the umbrella again. We noticed that the WDW ponchos are not just yellow anymore. There are also orange ones now.

We shop some and then find a sheltered spot to wait for the 3 p.m. parade. We were waiting under the overhang of a soda stand in Frontierland. It was very close to parade time and no ropes or tape had been set up due to the rain. We asked the CM inside the stand if she knew if the parade was going to run or not. She made a phone call and said it was. Soon CMs came by removing the covers in the sidewalk for the posts, another followed putting up the posts and rope. The parade was passing us by shortly thereafter. It was abbreviated though. Again, Paula wouldn't have known if I hadn't seen it in its entirety and told her what was missing. She was grateful to see what she did since she'd not seen this parade before.

We strategically watched the parade from the spot we did so we could make a quick get away on the boardwalk around the lake behind parade watchers to get to Pooh quickly since our FP window would be expiring shortly after the parade started. We made good headway until the caught up to the end of the parade and then were mobbed with people making going slow. We make it to Pooh in time, though. We leave the park at this point and take the monorail to the Grand Floridian for our tea time. We freshen up in the rest room a bit (much needed after a morning of touring in hot weather and then getting rained on) before checking in at the Garden Veiw Lounge.

We are seated and Izzy is our waiter. He his quite a character and helped us with our selections. It was a little awkward at first-never taking tea before-like this anyway, but he quickly made us at ease. We both got the same thing, can't remember it's name but it had a good variety of items. Izzy brought Paula a milk since she doesn't drink tea. She came for the pure fun of the experience. Paula shared one of her sandwiches with me since she knew she wouldn't like it. Izzy coaxed me into trying a new dessert and said if I didn't like it, he bring me my other choice. I told him it was okay, so he brought me the strawberries which I like much better but was glad to have tried the other-darn it can't remember its name.

While we were enjoying our tea and such, we see a bride walk up outside the window near where we were sitting to have photos taken. We concluded that the wedding must not have taken place yet since there was no groom in sight, just a woman dressed beautifully who was probably her mother. A few minutes later, out the window I saw a coachman followed by, YES, the six white ponies and Cinderella's coach! Paula's back was to the window. I said something like "Oh my God, it Cinderella's coach", got out of my seat and ran to the window, motioning for her to follow me. The lounge was just about empty so we didn't make a spectacle of ourselves, well, not too bad. Anyway, we wanted to follow that coach but our server, Izzy, sat down with us to chat. He was really nice and we enjoyed his service and conversation, but had a coach to follow.

As soon as we could, we left the GF and walked down the path toward the wedding chapel. We both should have taken a restroom break before leaving the GF but we didn't want to miss seeing that coach again. When we got to the chapel area, we saw the bride walking across the bridge to the island where the chapel is. The coach had pulled up next the wedding planning building so we walked over and admired it up close and chatted with the coach "people" (one was actually a woman). It's just beautiful and the ponies are so cute and were well behaved while waiting. We all waited for the wedding to end and for the bride and groom and guests to come out.

By now the tea was causing us to really need a restroom but the ones at the wedding planning building were locked. We were worried we'd miss something so we waited some more talking about our weddings to pass the time. Soon we couldn't wait any longer and had to find a restroom. We backtracked on the path toward the GF to the spa and a very nice CM inside directed us to the ladies' room. Here we were, dressed for the parks with shopping bags and all, trying not to look out of place while women are sitting in the lounge we needed to walk through in white terry cloth robs. The spa was very dimly lit once through the lobby area and the aroma and music very soothing. Neat, we got as close to visiting the GF spa as we probably ever will again.

Back to the wedding...we hadn't missed anything during our restroom break and as we continued to wait behind the hedges. We noticed a guy in jeans shorts and a tee shirt with a video camera also hanging back behind the hedges. He was closer to the bridge and keeping very low but watching intently. We wondered what his purpose was. At some point he got nearer to us and we could read something about WDW fireworks on the back of his shirt. We still thought this was weird.

Soon the wedding party came out, crossed the bridge and formed two rows for the bride and groom to walk between before getting into the coach which had now pulled up. The bride and groom followed crossing the bridge but stopping half way. Then another CM, dressed similarly to the coachmen but with a long gold horn, blew the horn and announced the newly married couple. Cool. Then the bride and groom kissed. Cooler. THEN fireworks went off from the back of the wedding chapel island. Way cool! Now it was obvious to us why the shorts and tee shirt wearing guy was there video taping. The bride and groom walk the rest of the way across the bridge, between their friends and family, who throw rose pedals, before getting into the coach and ride away to live happily ever after.

Oh, and the bride waved to us and a couple who also stopped to watch as they rode by. I'd seen a couple get in the coach once before and loved watching it again but this was the first time Paula had witnessed it. We waved back, thinking this was a really a fairytale wedding. Then the coachman with the horn announced the cocktail reception followed by dinner at the GF. I turned to Paula and the couple and said, "Okay, now we know where to go, let's crash!"

I wanted to note here that there is a sign posted at the wedding pavilion listing all the weddings for the day. So, you could check this out to know if/when a wedding was going to take place and return to watch. Not all weddings have the coach though. That is an extra. Izzy said weddings start at $27,500 and just the coach is $2,500.

We continued along the brick path to the Polynesian hotel, caught the mono rail back to the MK, a bus back to the Swan, and the car back to resort. We did manage to get in early tonight-7 p.m. We put the laundry in to dry, watched some tv, ate Fritos and drank some wine before going to bed.

Tuesday, October 15 we packed most of our stuff and headed out to make it to World of Disney at opening to make a return. It was a wet morning and we found a cute green frog outside our car, well I though he was cute. Paula didn't think so especially when he hopped in our car, went under my seat and I couldn't find him. I looked and felt around under there but no frog. Paula was pretty grossed out but when I asked her if she could stand riding in the car with it she said she could. She just rode with her feet up on her seat!

Unfortunately for us the computers at WoD weren't up and running this morning and we couldn't make the return. So we drove up to the Belz Mall and planned to take care of the return later. We didn't find anything at the Character Premier or Character Warehouse that we hadn't seen a few days earlier. But it was "do or die" time since we were leaving for home today, so we picked out some things to buy. By the time we returned to the car it was very hot and so we assumed our frog friend was fried. We stopped at the Marketplace on our way back and made the return at WoD. We split a pizza and salad at Wolfgang Puck Express before wandering through the shop with the Disney artwork.

Afterwards, we headed back to the resort, packed up everything, checked out, got gas and headed for the airport. Returning the car, check in and security went quickly with no problems. I don't think the guy at the car return believed me when I told him about the frog when he asked if we had any problems with the car. We both checked a bag for the return trip since we now had an extra carry on from all our shopping. This time one of my carry ons was searched at security. I was very glad, and so was security, that my bag was not packed full and I had my camera equipment in a plastic zip lock bag for easy viewing. Our boarding section was the last one. When we arrived at the gate, we sat on the floor in line for that section so at least we would be in the front of the last group to board. The rest of our trip went smooth and nothing out of the ordinary to report.

Paula's husband had flowers for her upon her return. Since mine was still off hunting, I came home to our two dogs and a cold 58 degree house. I made fast work of getting the wood stove started. It was ironic that for the last four days I was dying in the extreme heat and now I couldn't get that stove hot quick enough. Off to bed. Back to work in the morning.

In summary, the trip was much different from all my previous ones. First of all, I wasn't traveling with my husband or family. Paula and I made good traveling partners and we look forward to doing another "girls" trip together some time. I think we both really lucked out being so compatible. Nothing was a problem between us. We just went with the flow. We didn't make food a big priority and ate mostly counter service or skipped meals and had snacks along the way. We often split meals or ate kids meals. I'd never done this so much before. One of our goals was to shop and we certainly did that. There does come a point, however, when you've seen it all! It just takes a few days. Another goal was to not pay to park and we did that too. This brings up a point I want to make since this was the first trip I relied on Disney transportation so much. It takes time, lots of your time. If you are not in a hurry to get anywhere it's okay but if you are, I can see where it could be very frustrating. Since another one of our goals was to make this a laid back relaxing trip to enjoy the atmosphere, the slow transportation didn't bother me too much. We did not get to the parks for rope drop and did not try and see/do a lot-just a few preset attraction goals which we did pretty good at meeting too. We felt the crowds were pretty big and challenged us from time to time. Fortunately for us, we are seasoned WDW guests and knew how to make the best of it. Experiencing large crowds was something I didn't think of when planning the trip for Columbus Day weekend. Silly me. The only other low point was the weather. It was extremely hot and humid all the time and it rained a lot too. All in all, it was another great WDW trip.

Coming soon: a trip to Disneyland Resort in California in early January. Look for that report to be coming your way!

PS On December 28, I saw the Lion King on Broadway. Excellent! Do it if you can.

Kim Howe


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