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Michelle Kosloff -- December 2002 -- Walt Disney World (FWCa, PR)


Who

Me (Michelle) – 34 – many trips to Disney (years ago), none recent (report writer)
Lee (husband) – 32 – first time (hurt his ankle just before going last time so didn't go into any parks)
Titus (son) – 10 – second trip (last trip only saw bits of Epcot and Magic Kingdom)
Alex (daughter) – 6 – first time she can remember
Grandma (my mom) – veteran
Grandpa (my dad) – veteran

The idea for this trip came up in the early spring. I had this burning desire to go back to Disney World. Until I was about 20, my grandparents had a house in central Florida (snowbirds). We used to visit them about every year and invariably did a trip to Disney World. Since my grandmother passed away it was much more expensive to visit and my sisters and I also started families of our own, all with different interests.

My husband was not interested at all in going to Disney and was pretty anti-Disney World anything so I wasn't sure I could convince him. I brought it up and he surprised me and said no problem. We didn't have any other vacation scheduled for this year. I then thought it would be great if we could get the family (mine) to go (my family are all Disney fanatics). Turned out that two of my sisters (and families could only go in early October and I could only go in Nov/Dec time frame. My other sister and husband couldn't go at all. My mom however could go when we could. So we decided to vacation with my parents and my other sisters would go in October. We figured we could cut some costs this way and Lee and I could go out without having to get a babysitter.

We live about a 15 hour drive from our families but had decided to go home for Christmas before this trip came up (our in-laws had been pressuring us for a long time – its been 6 years). So we decided instead of doing two trips and leaving from the area where we live (Atlantic Canada - which is much more expensive), to combine the two trips. Perhaps not the best idea but it worked out in the end.

Packing was a nightmare. We had to pack all our winter gear because we might get stranded on the road if the car broke down. We had to pack all the Christmas gifts. We had to pack hockey gear because my son had a hockey tournament on the way back. We also had to pack summer clothes for WDW! (turns out we didn't need much of them – but you never know).

We stuffed the van to the gills. The drive had only about two hours of snowy conditions so we considered ourselves lucky. I almost hit a deer near Quebec city, but was fortunate that the roads weren't slippery and I was able to swerve into the other lane and avoid him. We drove overnight so we had minimal stops and made it in record time.

The next part of the trip was visiting with relatives, so I'll skip ahead to just before we leave. We had an early flight out of Buffalo so my parents had booked a hotel in Buffalo near the airport. Glad they did because we had to get up at 5:30 as it was. Problem was there must have been a big group of people with kids who kept running up and down the halls until all hours. So between that, sleeping the first night in the hotel room with my parents, worrying about getting up on time, and just plain old anticipation, none of us got any sleep.

Day 1 – Sunday

We did wake up on time and got to the airport with lots of time. We did curbside check-in and got in group A (for Southwest). The only glitch came when we got to the desk after the security check-in we discovered that we were missing a boarding pass. We don't know if it was dropped, if we never got it or we left it at security. Luckily they gave us another one. It was my mother's of course and she is a white knuckle flyer so it didn't help her confidence a lot. She got a B but they told us she could board with us. My father and my husband are both very tall and find sitting in crowded planes difficult so we really wanted those emergency door seats. We were second in line and had no problem getting them. We also had the row right behind for me and the kids.

The flight was very good with no problems. We then headed through the airport and picked up our rental car with no problems. We had no problem getting out of the airport but my parents had done this several times before.

We headed right to the campground. We should have gone right away to get some supplies but my Dad was all excited. We checked in. They hadn't got my fax – not just because I didn't get the loop I requested, but because on it, I had told them we had 4 adults instead of 2 and they didn't have this on the reservation. We were lucky though, we were in loop 2100, which was very convenient to two bus stops (purple and orange lines) and actually a fairly short walk to the meadow trading post and the main pool. We were also very near the entrance of the loop.

This part of the trip was booked by my husband and I because we are more into comfortable surroundings and we wanted the fridge and stove to try and cut down on our costs. We also liked the separate bedroom. We could put the kids to bed and still be able to watch TV. I think my parents enjoyed it, but they wouldn't have chosen to stay here. We decided that we would pay for these nights and my parents for the ones in the place that they chose, which worked out quite well.

Back to the story. It was just around 1 so we decided to go the Trail's end buffet for lunch. It was great! I think it was one of the better meals of the trip (we didn't do any fancy dining). Since we were there so early we decided to go over to the Magic Kingdom. We took the boat over and it was really nice seeing the Wilderness Lodge. Fantasyland was very crowded but we were able to see most of the rides we wanted there, in Toontown and Tomorrowland. It turned out that this was the early entry park for the day. The rest of the trip we stayed away from the early entry park and had barely any crowds at all.

We then thought we should take the monorail over to Epcot. Bad timing. We hadn't had dinner and after we did the Spaceship earth ride though we would head over to the land and get something to eat – they were closed. We asked and the only suggestions for food was to go to the World Showcase. We were all exhausted at this point and very cranky so we walked around a bit – Canada's restaurant were not taking walk-ins and I didn't want to walk anymore. We grabbed some McDonalds and grumpily walked out to catch a bus. My dad doesn't like eating on the run – he considers TGI Fridays fast food and he doesn't like taking the buses so he wasn't too happy right now. We were just so excited that we didn't stick to any plan.

Day 2 – Monday

Next day we went to MGM. First we parked at the Boardwalk and got breakfast at the bakery. We had Egg McMuffins which were pretty good and it was a nice atmosphere of the Boardwalk waking up. At MGM, I won't detail what we did when, but we did quite a lot. We saw Beauty and the Beast, went on the Tower of Terror, Rock 'n Roller Coaster, Muppets 3D and Star Tours. We then wanted to get our groceries (again not what my father likes to do) so we decided to get lunch out of the park since we were going anyways. We ate at Ponderosa and then got groceries and shoes for my daughter as she had grown out of her running shoes since summer and had been wearing her boots before we left so we hadn't noticed. We then went back to MGM and saw Indiana Jones (which was pretty amazing) and then saw the Osborne lights. I didn't like the fake snow, but then we get more than enough of the real stuff at home. Exhausted we limped back and got in line for the boat to the Swan. We had to wait ages and the boat was packed. My parents like to park at the Boardwalk, but I think it took more time to do it this way than just taking a but or parking in the MGM parking lot.

My husband and I decided to get out a bit but I didn't feel like going to Pleasure Island so we took the campground bus and thought we would look around. The driver said everything was closed in the campground but we might enjoy looking around the Wilderness Lodge. We thought it was beautiful and would love to stay there some day. The kids would have loved the pool.

Day 3 – Tuesday

The next day we went to the Animal Kingdom. We saw a ton of characters here including Lilo and Stitch. We didn't do the walks, conservation station or Kali River Rapids (it was still pretty cold out), but we did pretty much everything else. I really liked the shows here. I liked Tarzan Rocks although it was very, very loud and that did bother me. We were right up in the front section so maybe its worse there. The acrobats were incredible though. Same with the ones in the Lion King show. My daughter was just enraptured. We ate at Flame Tree BBQ.

Even though it was freezing we decided to take the kids for a swim. We'd been by the pool and could tell it was heated because we could see the heat rising from the pool. So we put our bathing suits under our warm clothes and went. Bad for us, we mixed up the pool with the Wilderness Lodge and thought there were towels there – there weren't. We went in anyways and sort of sponged off with paper towel before going back so we didn't freeze. You were fine in the water – it was quite warm, but the air was freezing!

This night we decided go to PI. My dad said he would drive us. I asked Lee if he had his license and he said yes and joked about why he'd get asked for it (he's over 30). Got there and guess what, it wasn't in his wallet (we cleaned them out and stored most of the stuff in the safe). He also discovered this after I went through and used a plus. So I had a pout and we left. You'd think that the guys at the gate could have let him through and just not put one of the armbands on him. Next day we had to change to the Polynesian so we had to pack up so we ended up doing that that evening.

Day 4 – Wednesday

The next day we were up quicker than we thought. My parents had arranged the princess breakfast at Norway for my daughter this morning. We were the first to check in at the Polynesian. Again they hadn't received my fax…??? I faxed them to the numbers in the PassPorter and I didn't receive an error message – are they not taking faxes anymore? So we got assigned Tahiti. I was disappointed. We lost a lot of the atmosphere of staying at the Polynesian. It was a hike to everything but the TTC and there's not a lot of atmosphere there. It was quiet and it was nice to sit out on the balcony eating my breakfast in the morning but it just wasn't quite the same. We should have held out for something else but the guy checking us in said it was one of the nicest buildings.

So off my parents and daughter went. We took the bags to the room. After dropping the stuff off, we realized that I hadn't given them her pass. We called (luckily my dad had kept his cell phone on) and then ran over to the TTC and the monorail. We got them the pass and they got up to Norway only 5 minutes late. We went right over to Test Track and got right on. We were actually a bit disappointed with this ride. We were expecting a bit more. The acceleration part was great but the rest was a letdown. My son was terrified of the corrosive spraying part even though we assured him that they wouldn't actually spray real corrosive agents. When we went out we got fast passes for my parents. We then met up with them and they went on Test Track with my son again – now that he had discovered that it was awesome (now that he new that it wasn't really corrosive). Actually this happened on many of the rides, he had to be coaxed to go on and after they were so cool and he wanted to go on again and again. Oh well. My daughter was scared of lots of things and we used the child swap quite a bit.

We did the rest of Future World, eating at the Land. They also had a special thing for kids where they could bake cookies. The kids loved this although they do this with me all the time at home. They just got to put in one ingredient for Pete's sake… And then just before the Honey I Shrunk the Audience film - a meltdown. The kids went through the "I don't want to go on this"… speil. So this time we just left. My parents wanted to go on to the World Showcase, but that was it for us. We were going to the Hoop-Dee-Doo that night so it was naptime. It was almost 4 when we got to the hotel and we told the kids that everyone was lying down until 5 and no one was to say a word or they's have an extra 5 minutes of lie down time. Everyone was asleep in 5 minutes and I was the first to wake up at 5:30!

My parents strolled around the World Showcase and then came back and had cocktails in the bar at the Polynesian.

We then went to the Hoop-Dee-Doo. We skipped the picture line (I hate all the pressure that goes on with all these pictures and we tended to avoid them). It was a great show. We were right up front (too up front actually) because I had booked back in July. The food was very good too. I especially liked the salad, bread and butter and ribs. Oh desert was good too. We aren't drinkers though so the all- you-can drink was lost on us.

After this Lee and I did laundry. It wasn't as painful as it could have been as there weren't many people there and the room was quite nice.

Day 5 – Thursday

The next day we slept later and when we woke up my Mom realized that the character breakfast with my son was supposed to have been this day. Luckily they were able to reschedule it for the next day. We split from my parents then and we went to Blizzard Beach and they toured the resorts.

It was the warmest day so far but it was still not hot. I heard a lot of British accents when we were there so I think it was mostly Brits and Canadians like us who were there for whom the weather, although cool, was still warm to us. It turned out to be the nicest day of the trip. The rest of the time we were in pants and often sweaters as well. This day you could actually walk around in a bathing suit. It was still quite cold when you were wet though so we didn't do a lot of slide. We stayed in the Ski Patrol training camp and watched the kids. We really did enjoy the family slide ride (forget what its called) though and actually bought the picture of us they took (since I forgot the waterproof camera I had frugally bought back home). We also bought sunscreen (although I'm not too sure we needed it) even though this too I had forgot back in the hotel room.

After that we went back to the hotel and the kids went to the Polynesian pool. Its heated much more than the water at Blizzard Beach and they loved the pool there. My son went down the slide a dozen times.

After this my parents stayed with the kids and we tried PI again. This time armed with licenses, we got in. We got to the Comedy Warehouse just in time for a show. It was quite good. We then spent the rest of the evening in the Adventurer's Club. It was really cool and I really enjoyed the shows there. We realized that we are turning older (or at least I am) as I had no interest in going dancing after that and the people coming in looked like little kids (and yet we got carded going in every time!).

Day 6 – Friday

The next day we went to the Magic Kingdom. My parents didn't go as they had used they multi-day passes and they just wanted to see Fantasmic before they left so they bought a one day pass for MGM. We did the Adventureland/Fronteirland parts of the park. We also caught the surprise celebration which my daughter really enjoyed.

My parents wanted do a dinner package for Fantasmic so they treated. We went to Mama Melroses. They seemed to have worked out the bugs in the pre-paid packages because it worked quite smoothly. It was quite a fancy restaurant, not quite what I expected. I think I would have preferred something a little less dressed up. The food was good. I don't think we really needed the package though as we could have gotten seats about the same position on the other side no problem.

My husband really enjoyed this show but I found it lacked a bit on the story side. We also had an annoying couple in front of us – one videotaped the entire show and the other snapped pictures constantly. I don't know, maybe because I hadn't seen it before, but I like to enjoy the show through my own eyes rather than through a video recorder. Besides I can't believe that the video would actually show the effects that well. We got separated on leaving and thanks to the cell phones again, we were able to hook back up together.

That night Lee and I went out to a movie (normally we have to pay for babysitters so we don't get out much so this was a treat). We wanted to wait to see Lord of the Rings with our son so we saw Star Trek. For the opening weekend, the theatre was empty! I was also not so impressed with the theatre – the one back home is nicer. Maybe it was in one of the less nice rooms because it wasn't expected to do well.

Day 7 – Saturday

The next day was the last day. Our plane was on Sunday so this night we were staying at a hotel near the airport. My parents weren't doing any parks. My father is an administrator for a hospital so he went to see the hospital in Celebration to see how they do things. We went to the Magic Kingdom to do the Haunted Mansion which we had missed the other day and I didn't want to miss because its always been my favourite. We also wanted to get a picture for my grandfather who had stayed home. So we let one of the street photographers take our picture in front of the castle. After the HM, we found that our picture hadn't gotten back yet, although the guy who had taken it had said it would only take an hour, the girl who prints the pictures said it takes at least 2 hours for them to be ready.

So we decided to do a couple of pictures in the studio in back where they paste you into a scene. The kids did Lilo and Stitch and we did Treasure planet. We were lucky we did this because we met a ton of characters there – face characters too. It was a very busy day in the park so some of the characters were not going out so we could meet them here. Nobody else knew they were here though so the kids had them all to themselves. We saw Cruella de Vil (who was a riot and was right into character), Snow White, Cinderella, Alice and the Mad Hatter, and Peter Pan and Wendy. It was very cool. Our pictures turned out good too :)

So then off to the World Showcase. The kids had missed school and had to do scrapbooks so we thought that this would be great for them. They bough passports and had them stamped in every country and we took a picture in each as well. We sort of rushed through because we had to meet my parents but the kids really enjoyed it.

We then met my parents at the BoardWalk and then went off for a bit of shopping and dinner (Olive Garden which we used to love but have all closed in Canada). We then checked into our hotel by the airport (some suites hotel) that was very nice. It even included a breakfast.

Day 8 – Sunday

Now comes our big mistake of the trip. We thought two hours early would be enough (remember we had been there that early leaving and had breezed through everything. But this was Orlando, not Buffalo and rather than one Southwest flight leaving, there were 4 at the same time as us and within a half an hour on either side, six more. We also got there only 90 minutes early. Taking the rental car back was no problem, but when we finally found the Southwest counter, we almost died. We waited about half an hour to check into our flight and we got C seating. Then we waited even longer in the security area. My husband couldn't understand why I was stressed, he thought waiting here or there was a the same, but I would have felt much better waiting right beside the plane! They also thought they had seen a pocket knife in my dad's laptop case so they went though it pocket by pocket (and never found anything). We got there less than 10 minutes before boarding.

Remember my mother – she really wanted a seat near my Dad. Also my father and I both have a clotting disorder so we really didn't want cramped seats (my dad is 6'4" and needs to stretch and move his legs so the blood doesn't pool – as do I but because I'm short, I'm ok in regular plane seats – well most anyways). So we all hemmed and hawed and my husband, sick of us, went up to the counter and explained our clotting problem asked if we could board early so we could get emergency row seating (I would have switched with my Mom so they could sit together – and I thought someone would take pity on a 6 year old so she could sit with one of her family). But they actually let the whole family pre-board. My mom breathed a big sigh of relief.

The flight was great coming back. We had no late planes and our relative picked us up and had a great lunch all ready when we got back to his place.

Good Things

  • We saw a ton of characters
  • My husband enjoyed his trip and said we should go back for two weeks next time (so we can relax between days in the parks)
  • The shows (Alex was just in heaven)
  • No crowds except the day we were leaving
  • Wilderness cabin – you walk right out to your car

Bad Things

  • Not getting any sleep the night before leaving - we were all sleep deprived and cranky the day we arrived and probably for the next couple of days
  • The weather was cool – we were in pants almost every day and sweaters a lot of that as well
  • Losing a boarding pass
  • Alex being so afraid of so many things (she was just terrified in Its Tough to Be a Bug – they could have made a great show without the scary part)
  • Staying in the Tahiti long house of the Polynesian

Good and Bad

  • We missed so many things and really did not take advantage of all the things the resorts had to offer (and we had 6 days in the parks – 7 day Canadian passes) – that means we'll have to go back again ;)

Things we did to save money

  • Bought breakfast and snacks beforehand
  • Ate one big meal and snacks and breakfast for rest of day
  • Traveled with a group
  • Bought notebooks from dollar store instead of autograph books ($1 versus $7)
  • Bought glow sticks at dollar store for nighttime activities
  • Read mousesavers to get the most discounts
  • Used points to get rental car
  • Had relatives give the kids money for Christmas so that we didn't constantly fight the gimmees. This way they knew how much money they had and when they spent it - that was it. They were pretty good about using their money this way (although my son lost his fanny pack twice)

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