Heidi Commerford -- July 2004 -- Walt Disney World (PCR)
Cast of Characters
I think this trip was "meant to be" since I wasn't planning on going this summer and Carolyn had never expressed an interest in going to Disney. In early April I was on the computer when I saw the AP codes for the value resorts for 59.00 a night. On a whim I looked up Southwest to see that we could fly roundtrip from N.H. to Orlando for, 175.00 roundtrip. After some quick math I realized the boys and I could fly to Disney and stay at a value resort for a whole week for less than a thousand dollars!! Since we have AP's we wouldn't need to buy tickets and I knew I could economize on food by bringing my large suitcase packed with food.
I called up WDW to see if I could secure a room for the 59.00 rate. I know from experience that sometimes a great rate is posted but when you call all the rooms at that price are unavailable. I called and was pleasantly surprised to find out that sure enough I could stay at the Pop Century for 59.00 a night. At this point I realized that my pocketbook with my credit card was out in my car. The CM was nice enough to wait for me while I ran out to get it. It was while I was retrieving the credit card that it occurred to me to see if I could reserve two rooms at that price in the hope that maybe someone would go with us. Sure enough I could reserve two rooms so I did with the reassurance that I could cancel them both at a later date if I needed to.
At this point it was a toss up as to whether the boys and I would really go. We would be leaving in two weeks (April 14th) for our annual Disney trip that would be almost three weeks long, and our summers are so full as it is, I wasn't sure if a July trip to Disney was something we would do or not, but it was fun to think about! When Jim got home that night I told him about it, he thought it sounded like a great opportunity and even though he would be too busy to go because of work he whole heartedly encouraged me to take the kids and go.
Now who to go with us was the burning question! My friend Carolyn popped into my mind immediately and almost popped out just as quickly because Carolyn had never expressed any interest in going. I also thought the cost might be too prohibitive. Yes it was a great deal, but Carolyn had three children to my two and she would need to buy tickets where I already had my AP's, so it was going to cost her a fair amount more than me. I was so sure she wouldn't go I almost didn't even ask her! However that night Carolyn called me to inquire about a concern I had with our children's school. I was in a good mood because the problem seemed to be improving and in my happy state I mentioned the whole deal to Carolyn. I was surprised when she said she would think about it so I gave her all the info and prices.
The next morning Carolyn called wanting more specifics. This was a great sign, but I really didn't think that we would really go! We were talking ticket prices and trying to figure out how many tickets she would need. The problem was that I thought three theme park days would be enough (it was) but we would want the option of park hopping and no three day park hopper existed! It seemed a waste for her purchase the four- day park hopper because Carolyn had no idea if she would ever go back again to use the extra day. (Now that we are home the whole family can't wait to go back to Disney!) Since we go at least once a year I had an assortment of tickets so I offered those to Carolyn at what they cost me.
We talked again that night, going over prices and other plans and things were really shaping up. We talked to our husbands again that night and slept on it and the next morning decided that "YES" we were going to go. YIPPEE!!!!
I went online to Southwest to make sure the tickets were still available. The flights we originally wanted were all gone but other flights were still available so I purchased those. The big difference was that instead of being able to spend part of our departure day at Disney we would have to get up at 5:00AM to get to the airport, UGH!!!
The plans were made and I marveled over the fact that I almost didn't even mention the trip to Carolyn and within two days of me asking her we were definitely going!!!! I spent the next few months working out an itinerary that I thought everyone would enjoy.
Jimmy and Cam were very excited to experience Disney with their friends and to have an opportunity to collect more pins! I can't wait to see the firework show that Disney will put on for the 4th of July. I am a bit nervous about the heat and crowds that we will encounter the week of the 4th. I have tried to prepare everyone for the worst, hot temps and, humidity that could drain the life right out of us, and long lines especially in the MK. Carolyn reassured me not to worry about them seeing everything, or even half of everything, that they will be happy to just look around and see things, not necessarily see AND do everything!!
We will be there for 6 ½ days and the plan is to do three theme park days. If necessary we can always do a fourth park day. I just don't want to exhaust everyone by trying to do too much. I know too many people that have gone to Disney for one week and go into parks everyday, get exhausted and have no desire to ever set foot in Disney again!!! How tragic is that??? Our plan is to see the Magic Kingdom, MGM and the Future World of Epcot. See Wishes, Spectromagic and Fantasmic and at least for the Commerfords, E-ride night. We have a PS for breakfast at Chef Mickey's on the 4th of July. This will be our first full day at Disney and I figured it would give the kids a chance to see the characters so when we go into the parks we can concentrate on the rides.
I have promised Jimmy and Cam we'll go to the Wilderness Lodge at least once for pin trading, and to the Contemporary for the kids pin trading night. We may possibly go to Downtown Disney and Winter/Summerland for mini golf but if its super hot I imagine we'll just stay at the Pop Century pool.
All in all I expect another fantastic trip and perhaps the highlight will just be "seeing Disney through new eyes" since it's the Cookinghams first trip!
Saturday July 3rd
The big day is here!!!! Unfortunately I woke up at 4:00 and couldn't go back to sleep, finally at 5:00 I got up to begin the day. We left the house at 8:00 and made stops at the dump, Dunkin Donuts and the grocery store to pick up batteries for our hand held fans. (One fan ended up being left at the bus stop at Epcot on Monday) We arrived at the airport at 9:15. Jim dropped us off and went to park the van. After waiting a couple minutes Joe Cookingham came around the corner, the Cookinghams had arrived before us and had been waiting out of sight just around the corner. We got our luggage checked in and received our boarding passes, I was shocked to receive a B boarding pass since we had arrived so early. Carolyn and the girls can pre-board since Jamie is under five and the women at the ticket counter reassured us that Carolyn could save seats for the boys and I. We all sat at the McDonalds for a little while before saying good-bye to Jim and Joe and going through security. I had packed a bag of pins for trading in my carry-on, which caused security to examine the whole bag. It's comforting to know the airport staff is so vigilant for safety.
We found a comfortable place to sit down and relax. I gave each of the kids a gift. Baseball cards for Jimmy, a Sponge Bob activity book for Cam, two trading pins for Jen, a Little Mermaid doll for Jillian and a Cinderella doll for Jamie. Everyone looked over their gifts and then we all sat in the B boarding section for about a half hour before Carolyn, Jillian and Jamie went to the pre-board area. While we waited Jen the boys and I did Mad-Libs, and played a few games of I Spy memory before we all boarded. The Cookinghams spread out and saved seats for us. Jimmy sat with Jen while Cam and I sat with Jillian, Carolyn and Jamie, were right across the aisle. The flight went well, Jimmy and Jen read, played cards, and looked out the window. Cam taught Jillian how to play Gameboy and Jillian shared a magic coloring book with Cam. The flight attendants did a couple of trivia questions for the kids on the flight. The first question was to name an animal that is native to the Northeast, is covered with fur and has lots of teeth. With a little "help" from Carolyn, Jimmy and Jen pushed the flight attendant button and answered the question correctly with Opossum. They were rewarded with a handful of candy a luggage tag and a postcard. The second question was to name the five Great Lakes, which a young girl answered correctly. After the two questions we all sang Happy Birthday to Zack who turned five today. The trivia questions were fun and I have never seen that done on another flight. As we were coming in for a landing Jimmy and Jen counted six planes flying nearby, and Jamie saw a smokestack in the distance and said "Look Mom Cinderella's Castle!!"
We disembarked our plane at 2:35 and met our driver from Tiffany Towncar at the bottom of the escalator. He walked us to where our luggage pick-up was located. My luggage came our first, and we nervously waited until all of the Cookinghams luggage arrived. Luggage in hand our driver guided us outside to the curb where we waited while he pulled the van up and loaded in the luggage. We made a quick stop at the Crossroads to pick up a Styrofoam cooler and some water and juice. I checked out first and while I waited for Carolyn I watched her walk by a few registers then come back again. Our eyes caught and I knew immediately what the problem was. The register set-up seems a bit backward to us Northerners, I motioned for Carolyn to come through and she pushed her cart up to where the cashier unloads it and quickly checked out. When we exited the store it was POURING, our driver pulled up, we threw in our bags and we were on our way to the Pop Century.
It felt great to pull up to the Pop Century and I could feel the excitement in the air from all five kids. Since I wasn't sure how long the lines were for check in I decided to have the Bell Hops hold our luggage for us. Although our luggage was manageable the additional groceries, drinks and coolers were not. Once all the luggage was loaded the CM told me it would be delivered within an hour of us getting a room assignment, Carolyn and I looked at each other and wondered if this was a good idea, we had no desire to sit in our room waiting an hour for our things to arrive. I grabbed the girls carry-on bags and my own so we would at least have our swimsuits and went inside.
I was happily surprised to see only two families waiting in line ahead of us to check in, how Cool!!! I figured that at 3:30 on a Saturday of a Holiday weekend it would be mobbed. We soon had our turn and I was again happily surprised when we received all the requests that Jim had faxed down for me. We were assigned the 70's building, 4th floor, adjoining rooms. Check-in was quick and I didn't realize until I got to my room that the CM had only given me our room keys, no Pop Century info. Paper, no schedule of events with the park hours, nothing! It was strange, as I have always been given those things at check-in before. (It was no big deal though I picked them up the next day) We went to our rooms and hung out until our luggage arrived in about 15 minutes. It was still pouring with thunder and lightening so we spent the next half hour unpacking, organizing our stuff, and getting the cooler filled with ice. The five kids were very excited and loved walking back and fourth to each others room through the adjoining door. Once we were all settled we headed down to the food court. The Cookinghams came into our room through the adjoining door and we all went out our door. (This seems like a small detail but wait until you hear what we discovered when we returned to our room!!)
We all made our selections at the food court, I had a cheese steak wrap, which was outstanding, and the boys shared a hotdog meal. I had purchased a Pop Century mug back in April so we used that to get lemonade. At 6:00 we watched the CMs do the hustle then we looked around the gift shop where the boys made their first pin trades of the trip. Jillian loved the make your own jewelry with all the really cute charms.
We kept hoping that the thunder and lightening would cease so we could go swimming but it was not to be. The boys, Jenny, and I headed back to the room while the others continued to check out the charms. Jenny went to unlock her door while we went to ours. Before I got inside Jen was at my side saying she could not go inside her room because the security lock had been flipped across the door blocking her entrance. I couldn't believe it, until I looked for myself, and sure enough it was across!! "No big deal" I said "We'll just go into our room and Jen can go through the adjoining door". I however, did a double take when I went in to see their door had been closed and the only way you can open their door is from their side. Hmmm, now this was interesting!!! I foolishly thought that perhaps with a pen or my curling iron I could somehow get the safety lock to swing back, but that was of course impossible, that's why it a SAFETY LOCK so people can't do that!!! I returned to my room with the kids and called the front desk to explain our predicament. It took a bit of explaining for the CM to understand why the safety lock was across with no one in the room! I told him how sorry I was and he said not to worry that he would send engineering up and they would figure out what to do. He went on to say, "I'm from N.H. too, we'll get it taken care of". I asked him what part of N.H and he said Hampton Beach to which I replied that we had just been there last week! I hung up and shortly after Carolyn, Jillian, and Jamie returned. We explained the situation to Carolyn and she couldn't believe it! We all sat in our room trying to figure out how they were going to get in the other room. We were feeling a little nervous wondering if they would have to take one of the doors down. Carolyn started to get a headache and I realized I was feeling a bit tired after our long day. After around 20-30 minutes a CM arrived. He used a tool to enlarge the safety lock until he was able to open the door, once inside he removed the now damaged device with a promise to be back and replace it with a new one. (He came back at 9:30 and put on a new one) Lots of relief and happiness when the Cookinghams were able to get back in their room!
The kids got real goofy and silly with one another. Jimmy had a VERY loose tooth that was hanging on by a thread with a new tooth completely in under it, it was quite bizarre looking!! Jen and Jillian kept offering to pull it out for him although Jimmy declined their offer! We all wondered how he could stand having that tooth moving around in his mouth! After much silliness and going back and fourth between rooms the kids settled into a card game although the laughing and giggling continued. It was heart warming to see a group of boys and girls ranging in age from 4-11 get along so seamlessly. Carolyn and I visited for a bit then we all got ready for bed around 8:45.
Chef Mickey's in the morning!
Sunday July 4th
Happy Fourth of July! I didn't sleep well last night. I kept waking up although it was very quiet. (Carolyn told me later in the day that they had some loud neighbors but I never heard a thing) I called Dad at 6:45 on his cell phone mistakenly thinking that he and Mom were driving home from Montreal, instead they had arrived home at 3:00AM and had been sound asleep. I felt terrible for waking them but Dad and I had a nice chat.
We left the room as planned at 7:15 and walked to the bus stop. The girls looked great in their red, white and blue outfits and the boys handsome in their white polo shirts with blue and red stripes. Near the bus stop a CM was handing out MK pamphlets and another one was greeting people in line. I've never seen that done at another bus stop but it was a nice touch. We only waited about two minutes for a bus to come and we hopped on. I sat down next to man who struck up a conversation with me. He was from Illinois and had arrived yesterday like we had but would be leaving on Thursday. He had driven down and was telling me about that.
We hopped off the bus at the MK and walked across the deserted street to the sidewalk on our way to the Contemporary. As we started across a CM said "This way to the MK" I replied that we weren't going to the MK but to the Contemporary and he nodded at me. We were slowly walking down the sidewalk admiring all the engraved bricks and I was explaining them to the Cookingham's when I heard someone shout "Hey you, wait right there" I looked back to see a security guard walking toward me at a brisk clip. I walked back to meet her and she asked me where I was going, I told her Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary. She then proceeded to tell me that I had just "gone across four lanes of bus traffic on a busy Holiday" and that I "should have gone down, around and back up again" I apologized several times as she continued to lecture me for a few minutes then we were on our way. I however was left with a bitter taste in my mouth from the whole encounter. I am not sure where the heck she thought we had gotten dropped off but we certainly had not crossed four lanes of traffic we crossed one lane! I was also annoyed that she threw into her lecture that it was a Holiday, I wasn't stupid I knew it was a Holiday, would it have been ok to cross if it wasn't a Holiday! Lastly I want to add that from the time we crossed, got reprimanded and walked almost to the crosswalk we never saw another bus. I understand all of Disney rules are for the safety of the guests which I appreciate I just didn't appreciate the tone in which she spoke to me, also why the first CM waved me on if this was such a dangerous move is beyond me! (As a side note, later in the week a whole group of people got off of our bus and proceeded to walk across like we had done, security came out and very nicely directed them back on the walkway, possibly a sign needs to be put up to avoid this apparently common mistake!)
We had a pleasant walk over to the Contemporary and even saw two bunnies. We were 15 minutes early so we shopped at the pin station. Jimmy and Cam wanted to buy the limited edition 4th of July pins, we found the ones with Stitch on it and I picked up three of them. As I was waiting in line a couple were inquiring about the 4th of July Tinker Bell pin. The CM said they were all sold out and the couple was both surprised and disappointed. However as they were leaving another CM came around the corner with a dozen in her hand saying she had just found these. The couple grabbed two and three other people who were walking away rushed back to get some as well. I picked up three and bought those along with one Stitch. (I found out later in the day that each park had their own 4th of July pin and that the Stitch and Tinkerbell were the hardest to find! The person telling me wasn't lucky enough to get either of those but stood in a line of 50 other people at AK for another one! I guess we were lucky that we walked upon that at the right moment!) The Cookinghams surprised me with a red, white, and blue Mickey pin since I was the only one not wearing patriotic colors.
We checked into Chef Mickey's and I mentioned that Jillian would be celebrating her Birthday in a couple days. We had our obligatory photo taken and were seated pretty quickly. The waitress gave Jillian a special placemat and the characters started making the rounds with Mickey visiting first, the fun had begun! The girls were able to get everyone's autographs and we took lots of great snapshots. During the "celebration" Jimmy and Cam swung their napkins with enthusiasm and I remembered all the times we had eaten there before and Cam was too shy to twirl his napkin! The waitress brought Jillian a Birthday cupcake, which was beautiful with its Mickey sprinkles and Mickey shaped chocolate on top. Unfortunately I wasn't able to eat much as my stomach had been doing flips all morning. Carolyn had rescued me with some Tums but I wanted to be cautious. Everyone seemed to have a fantastic time!
We rode the monorail around the loop and got off at the MK to catch our bus back to the Pop Century. We had considered riding the monorail to Epcot so the girls could have a longer monorail ride and get a glimpse of Epcot then board our bus at Epcot but all the kids wanted to go swimming so we headed back.
Once back at the Pop Century we quickly got into our swimsuits and headed to the Hippy Dippy pool. The girls had brought their flippers and snorkels with them but the lifeguard said they couldn't use them. It's funny because people had all different types of flotation devices while others were throwing balls around occasionally hitting an innocent bystander and all those things were fine but "no flippers!" We swam for about an hour then we headed to the computer pool. That pool was fairly quiet and we all got right in. Here we saw two children who were eating snacks, one was actually eating in the pool while her sister was eating on the edge of the pool with her feet in the water. The rules clearly state, "no eating on the pool deck or in the pool" but the lifeguard said nothing but of course "no flippers" Whatever, we had fun anyway! Jimmy and I were swimming across the pool together when Jimmy stopped and said that he'd just lost his tooth. He and Cam searched for it with their goggles but we never found it. We returned to our room where the Cookinghams all napped while the three of us relaxed, watched Toon Disney, and went to the food court to grab a bite to eat.
At 5:30 we caught the bus to the MK and then the boat to the Wilderness Lodge. While on the boat the skies opened up and it was POURING. We were undercover on the boat but by the time we walked/ran from the dock into the Lodge we were soaked! I don't think anyone cared because it was so warm out. The cup holder in Jamie's stroller looked like it had an inch of water in it, proof that it was raining HARD!!! We visited the pin cart and the gift shop and the boys did some trading. The girls seem very interested in the pin trading. (By tomorrow all three of them will have purchased their own lanyards) We showed the girls the hidden Mickey in the fireplace, then, Jimmy, Jillian, and Jamie participated in the limbo competition that was being held by the lifeguards in the lobby.
We caught the boat back to the MK and hopped aboard the monorail in search of a place to watch the fireworks. As we were pulling into the Contemporary I noticed that the balcony that I thought would be mobbed with people was practically empty. Of course this was too good to be true but we disembarked the monorail to go check it out. When we got to the area it was all roped off and you needed reservations to go any further. Oh well, back to the monorail and on to the Polynesian, which had been our original destination. I was hoping that the beach wouldn't be roped off for reservations too! Not to worry we made our way down to the beach and got a comfortable spot. Once everyone was settled I backtracked back toward the main building in search of the bus stop. I wanted to make sure we could get a bus after the fireworks to Downtown Disney and then make the transfer to the Pop Century. There was NO WAY I wanted to return to the MK and catch a bus from there because I figured that would be a mob scene. I found the bus stop and sure enough there was a bus route to Downtown Disney. I returned to the beach where all the kids were happily playing in the sand. At this point we were entertained by a spectacular lightening show where steaks of lightening were spread out on the horizon. We heard no thunder and felt no rain. The lightening was amazing, unlike anything we have in N.H. Carolyn took Jillian and Jamie to the bathroom and also stopped and got everyone something to eat. I had a sandwich, Cam had fries and Jimmy had a piece of pizza. A few minutes before the fireworks started the electric water pageant parked right in front of us and started sparkling with the Stars and Stripes display. The fireworks started with patriotic music piped in. The display was BEAUTIFUL and seemed to be set up for everyone on the Polynesian beach. I'd heard it would be beautiful and it certainly was, I think we were all in awe!
After the show we merged with a mob of people leaving the beach onto the sidewalk. We however, walked to the bus stop almost by ourselves while the mass of people went into the Poly presumably to catch the monorail to the MK to make their transfer. (I can only imagine how mobbed that must have been) We waited at the bus stop for at least 10 minutes before we even saw another bus come by, we were feeling a little forgotten! The first bus was for MGM, Jimmy wondered if we should get on that and make a transfer there. I said "no" the last place we wanted to be was at a theme park because surely the parks were overcrowded with the Holiday crowds and the buses were probably not keeping up with the rush. A few minutes later a Downtown Disney bus arrived and we boarded. We transferred at Downtown Disney and were in our hotel room in a little under an hour after the fireworks had ended. (The next day Carolyn talked with a lady who had waited a couple hours at the MK to get back to the Pop Century) As I laid in bed I thought about how beautiful the fireworks were and how lucky we were that we were able to sit in a "perfect" spot to watch them. I was also thankful that we were able to get back to our resort so easily without having to wait in a long bus line!
We went to bed with plans to meet at 8:00 to head to Epcot.
Monday July 5th
I woke up at 6:20, showered and packed the backpack. I let the boys sleep until the last possible minute and finally woke them up at 7:50. They quickly got dressed, grabbed their baggie's of Fruit loops and were ready to go. I opened up the adjoining door and the Cookinghams were all up and ready to go. An Epcot bus was waiting for us and we were all able to get seats for a leisurely ride where we all reminisced about the awesome firework display!
Once at Epcot I left Carolyn and the kids in line to enter the park while I waited in line at guest relations. My big fear was that the tickets that Carolyn had purchased from me, may be demagnetized and not work. This was a valid fear because in the last few years this has happened several times. I keep the tickets in little envelopes away from credit cards and keys but the problem continues, working one day and not the next. To arrive at a park early, wait in line for the ticket counter to open, then be denied entering the park because the scanner can't read the ticket, then be directed to guest relations to stand in another line to have the ticket re-issued only to return to the now very LONG line to enter the park with the new ticket is not what I think of as a "magical" way to start the day!! We have had this happen and believe me it is not fun, hence this is why I found myself at customer relations before the park opened so if there was a problem I could get it taken care of so we could enter the park at opening with everyone else! I got my turn at guest relations and asked the CM if he would check my five tickets to make sure they were not demagnetized. He said sure and was checking my tickets one by one and telling me what I had for days. I didn't ask him to do that as I knew what I had for days but that was fine, I just wanted the reassurance that they were not demagnetized. He did four tickets but did not reach for the fifth so I slid it toward him and said "only one more" to which he replied "you know your asking me to do something that I'm not suppose to be doing" HUH!!!! (I'd already asked him if he could do it and he said "yes") I was stunned and said "oh really, why?" he answered "because ‘some people' go out on International Drive and buy tickets from scalpers and then they come in and ask us to check them to see how many days they bought" He went on to say that he is only suppose to check one ticket per person! I didn't like his tone and felt like he was insinuating that I had bought my tickets from scalpers and I had the nerve to ask him to check them illegally!!! He checked the last ticket and I left but I was ticked off. If Disney is going to sell tickets that become demagnetized so that their own machines can't read them at the entrance and they send their guests to guest relations then they sure as heck shouldn't harass you for getting them checked!! I left confident in the thought that the CM "knew" that I'd bought my tickets from a scalper and I'd had the audacity to ask him to do something that he wasn't suppose to do! The nerve of myself!!! This encounter didn't bother me nearly as much as my encounter with the security guard yesterday but I wasn't "feeling the magic"
I met up with Carolyn and the kids who had been standing in the sun, at 8:45 we were let through the ticket gate. We were stopped to wait in the roped off area at Spaceship Earth where we were instructed to sing Happy Birthday to everyone celebrating a Birthday. We all sang for Jillian since her Birthday is Thursday. The character bus drove in, we waved to all the characters and went into the park. We made a beeline for Test Track where we were able to walk right on the ride with no wait. I had Carolyn and the five kids go together in one car and I went by myself. I had told Carolyn about the ride before the trip and she assured me that Jamie was such a daredevil so I didn't think that anyone would be scared on the ride. Wrong!!! Jamie was quite scared and was glad it was over, Jillian said that she was scared "right before the accident" she thought that instead of the door opening to go outside to the loop they were going to slam into the wall and bounce back!! I reminded her that Disney would never have a ride where people would get hurt. Jen loved the ride and of course Jimmy and Cam had a great time as always!
We retrieved the stroller and walked next door to Mission Space. There was only a ten- minute wait so Carolyn, Jimmy and Jen went inside while I took Cam, Jillian and Jamie for a walk. Carolyn bought a new stroller for this trip and I have to say it is the smoothest, easiest stroller I have ever maneuvered, and with two kids I owned four strollers over the years but this one was excellent! Cam and Jamie did some pin trading. Cam got some new lanyard pins, which was very exciting. Jamie traded 4-5 times and seemed to enjoy the act of trading more than the actual pin itself, very cute! At one point she was going to trade the pin that Carolyn had bought her last night or the bottle cap Princess pin that Cam gave her so I gave her one of our pins to trade. We returned to the Mission Space gift shop where Cam bought a small stuffed Space Mickey with magnets in the hands and feet, before we met up with the others. Carolyn, Jen and Jimmy all enjoyed Mission Space. Carolyn said she was rather nervous in line with all the warnings about motion sickness and considered sending the kids on and using the chicken exit but she went on and held the barf bag "just in case" but had no problems and enjoyed the ride.
Next up was Ellen's Energy Adventure. Cam didn't even remember the show from our previous trips and all Jimmy remembered was the "big bang" and a little of the dinosaurs. Everyone enjoyed the comedy of Ellen and Bill Nye and the realistic looking dinosaurs.
We returned to Test Track for a second ride with FP's. Carolyn told me to go on with the kids since Jamie wanted no part of a second ride. I however insisted she ride it figuring that she would enjoy it more the second time if she wasn't trying to comfort a scared child. I pushed the stroller with Jamie in it and speed walked over to the Land to secure FP's for the Living with the Land boat ride. Jamie was so happy and helpful as she held the tickets for me while I got the FP's. When we got back to the stroller I joked that I was getting in and she was going to push me!! I couldn't convince her of that option so she hopped back in and we backtracked to Test Track. We waited in the air conditioned gift shop, and ate Pringles until the others came out. Everyone was happy and smiling and had a great ride, Jillian who was frightened the first time loved her second ride and declared it one of her favorite rides!
Next up was Ice Station Cool for some drinks. Everyone had a good time sampling a variety of drinks, even Jimmy, and Cam found they liked the one from Japan. Jen found a lost Minnie Mouse pin on the floor and added that to her lanyard which was fun. (Throughout the trip she referred to it as the "cursed pin" because it continuously fell off from her lanyard!)
Once we were cooled of and hydrated we strolled over to the Imagination Ride. There was no line and we walked right on, the boys and I in front and the girls right behind us. Jamie was a little nervous on the ride after her experience on Test Track but ended up enjoying herself. All the kids held their noses when the skunk let loose. When the ride was over Jillian asked to go again but we continued on, stopping in the play area for a little bit. The girls had their photo taken with the castle backdrop, then, we hurried over to the Land with only ten minutes to spare before our FP expired. Great ride as usual, my favorite is seeing how fruits and vegetables can be grown in desert sand or with the roots hanging in mid air!
At this point I was feeling a bit tired, mostly my legs, but we continued on to the Living Seas. We waited perhaps ten minutes before we loaded onto our Hydrolator. All the kids loved it in here, there were tons of fish but I think the favorites were the dolphins and the huge sea turtle. I think Jamie could have spent the day right here! We stayed for about 45 minutes, certainly not doing the pavilion justice but getting a good glimpse of everything. Once we exited the building we did a quick search for the stroller since it had been moved to a completely different area. There was an ice cream cart nearby so we all bought ice cream which served as our lunch. We walked and ate making a quick stop at Pin Central to purchase two AP Holder pins.
Our last attraction was Spaceship Earth with no wait. We hadn't been on this ride in years and Jimmy and Cam barely remembered it. It felt good to sit down and we all enjoyed ourselves. When we got off Jamie asked if we could go again! On the way out a survey taker asked me a few questions, I was ready to get to the bus stop but I always feel bad for those people so I did my part and answered all the questions!
We waited at the quiet bus stop keeping cool with our misting fans, (Unfortunately we forgot one there) and we were back at the Pop Century by 3:00. I was psyched that we had seen everything I had planned, had almost no waits, and although it was hot we were never uncomfortable. Carolyn bought Jillian a lanyard so now all three girls have them, I guess we got them hooked on pin trading!
The boys and I went directly to the Food Court with a plan to meet the Cookinghams at 6:00 to go to the Magic Kingdom. I had pasta, Cam fries and Jimmy more ice cream! Nutritious lunch, but hey we are on vacation! The boys and I returned to our rooms where our bodies soaked up the heavenly air conditioning and we relaxed. I called both Jim and Mom and Dad and updated then on our terrific morning at Epcot. It really had been perfect we basically did every ride in Future World with no wait. Several times Carolyn and I looked at each other and commented on how the weather was pretty comfortable. At home I had been worried that the heat and humidity would literally suck the life right out of us or the crowds would be so bad that the lines would be out of control but it had been the exact opposite!!!
As planned we met the girls at 6:00. They had all napped and Jen woke up thinking it was the morning of a new day and sat down to a breakfast of pop tarts! We caught the bus to the MK with no wait. As we were riding I took the opportunity to remind everyone that the lines would probably be too long to ride anything but we could walk around, soak up the atmosphere, and see Spectromagic and Wishes
As we entered the park the boys and I went to get Jillian a Birthday button while the girls hopped in line to see Pinocchio and Geppetto. Next up was Meeko with almost no wait. We slowly walked down Main Street, where I pointed different things out to Carolyn and was so glad that we were coming in now and not the mad rush in the morning! I have seen the castle many, many times but there is something special about seeing it for the first time each trip, from Main Street it just seems larger than life. I checked out the tip board to see what the waits were. Peter Pan had a 70- minute wait. I can't imagine who in their right mind would wait 70 minutes for a three minute ride, probably the one with the unhappy, over tired, crying child!!! Adventureland rides looked great so that's where we headed. As we crossed the bridge we saw Jasmine and Aladdin. Carolyn said "no" they didn't need to stop but the line didn't look to bad so knowing the girls wanted to get a few more autographs I told them to go ahead while the boys and I ventured on ahead to see if the tip board really was accurate. It was for Pirates with a 5- minute wait, Magic Carpet with a 20- minute wait and walk on for the Tiki Birds and the Treehouse. The only discrepancy was the Jungle Cruise, the tip board said 10 min. but the sign at JC said 30 min. We went back to meet the girls and apparently Jasmine and Aladdin went on break and were replaced by the Genie and Jafar. We got back just as the CM announced it was "Princess Jillian's Birthday" and the whole crowd sang to her! Jafar tried to approach Jamie, which scared her so she came out a little teary eyed. We all met up and since Carolyn and I were in desperate need of air conditioning we went straight to the Pirates. After a short wait we boarded our boat getting the first and second seats. Jamie covered her eyes for most of the ride but everyone else LOVED it!
Next up was Aladdin's Magic Carpet ride. I really wanted Jamie to have a fun ride and the boys and I have never been on this ride so we hopped in line, snacking and drinking until it was our turn. I rode behind the girls and Carolyn rode behind the boys so she could videotape. The ride started and poor Jamie got frightened and burst into tears. I couldn't offer much comfort from the backseat but she really wanted her Mom. We thought she would love this ride and she might have on another day but not today! (Looking back on the trip I think Test Track startled her so much that she was unsure of future rides, however after Aladdin's, Jamie rode everything else just fine!) We headed to Frontierland where at 8:15 there were still tons of front row seats for the parade so I figured time for one more ride. There was only a five- minute wait for the Haunted Mansion so I suggested that everyone go on that and I would take Jamie over to the Carousel. Jamie however surprised us and said she would go on. Carolyn and I rode together with Jamie and Jillian, big mistake as we were so squished together I couldn't sit all the way back! Jamie had her hands covering her eyes but said she was "peeking". The other four kids loved it.
We retrieved the stroller and got a front row seat in Frontierland for the parade. We all got settled on the pavement and had juice and snacks while we waited. A selfish man nearby lit up a cigarette in the crowd. It's hard to imagine how someone could light up a cigarette when people are confined to such close quarters. A little girl next to us turned to her Mother and said quite loudly "Mommy, Mommy I smell someone smoking" Even then the man didn't stop so the Mother went and found a CM who came over and told the man he either needed to put it out or go to a smoking area.
The parade started and it was fantastic, just beautiful. We don't see this parade every time we go and some of the floats seemed different since the last time that I saw it. Everyone loved the floats, all the lights and the characters. After the parade we started toward the castle to secure a good spot to view Wishes. Suddenly a man hurried by me screaming "Helen" He looked and sounded frantic. I looked toward my left and a woman was both yelling to Helen and trying to comfort her crying son telling him that they would find her. It was a scene that would make any parents blood run cold. A woman stepped in and showed them where to go for assistance. With heavy hearts we continued on to the castle but kept a lookout for a little girl who looked afraid or stranded. (We of course never saw Helen but every time I walked through that area again on this trip I couldn't help thinking of her)
We got a great spot in front of the castle and had more snacks and drinks while we waited about ten minutes for the show to start. I LOVE Wishes and the Cookinghams loved it as well. I think Carolyn watched most of it through her video camera because every time she went to put the video down Jillian asked her to tape more. The show was excellent, from seeing Tinkerbell take her flight to the very last firework!
When Wishes ended we worked our way "upstream" to the walkway between Fanastyland and Tomorrowland. It was 10:20 and the park closed at 11:00. I was hoping that we might possibly get on another ride. We had more great luck and rode both Winnie The Pooh and Peter Pans Flight with short waits before we continued on to Mickey's Philharmagic for the last show of the night. As usual the show was awesome and everyone enjoyed all the surprises.
We worked our way down Main Street during the second showing of Spectromagic so the kids got another glimpse of it. We only waited about ten minutes for our bus and were soon on our way back to the Pop Century. Cam fell asleep on the bus and had a difficult time waking back up, so the girls were kind enough to give up their spot in the stroller so Cam could sit down and be pushed back to the room. We walked into our rooms at 12:05. As I laid in bed I marveled over how perfect the day had been. We had done so much at Epcot and the Magic Kingdom and somehow avoided all the long lines. I was especially excited that we had seen six major attractions in the MK plus Spectromagic and Wishes and the girls even managed to get five autographs!! I had really thought we would just see Spectromagic and Wishes so everything else was a bonus!!!
Tuesday July 6
I was up at 6:00 wishing I could have slept later but feeling pretty rested. Jimmy woke up at 8:00 and Cam at 8:30 all ready for another fun day. We called both Jim and Mom and Dad and had nice talks with all of them. Today was our non- park day so when Dad asked Jimmy what we were doing today his reply was "nothing" This gave me a good chuckle because very often our "off" days are busier than our park days!
At 9:00 we opened up our adjoining door and the Cookinghams were all up and ready to go to the pool with us. The pool area was quiet there were only a few families around. At 10:00 the lifeguards picked a young girl to help officially open the pool. They had her put on a bright wig and gave her a wand to wave, when she pointed her wand at each flower it started spraying water. It was hard to hear what they were saying but we all clapped for her. We all swam for about an hour and a half before getting out to walk over to the fountains. Our kids were the only ones at the fountains and had a blast running around and getting sprayed. I think they could have stayed all day but today was our day to go to the Wilderness Lodge and see if CM Sandra would be at the pin cart so we returned to the room to get ready. Carolyn and the girls wanted to come as well so we quickly got ready and were on our way.
We only waited five minutes for a bus, which was great so far we had made great connections. The kids all sat down while Carolyn and I stood. A woman sitting next to Jenny noticed her lanyard and asked a few question. Jenny and Carolyn were like pin trading pros telling her the ins and outs of pin trading!!
At the MK we caught the boat to the Lodge. We sat in the back of the boat and had a nice refreshing breeze. Jimmy, Cam, Jen, and Jillian all sat together and were joking around and laughing non- stop. They have had SO MUCH fun together!!!
We went inside the Lodge and Sandra wasn't at the pin cart so I asked the CM working there if Sandra was around today and found out she was on break. Whew, we would happily wait the boys were really looking forward to seeing her. Sandra returned, instantly recognized us and gave us all hugs. The boys did some trades and we wished Sandra a good year until we saw her again. We went downstairs and ordered lunch at Roaring Fork. Since it was almost 2:00 I sent Carolyn and the kids out to see the geyser erupt while I waited for our food. Everyone enjoyed the geyser but they were very glad to be back in the air conditioning. Jamie had gone out with a Mickey ice cream bar that aparently instantly melted!! When we finished eating we went out to catch the bus to Downtown Disney, another short wait and we were on our way.
The kids put their swimsuits on when we got to the Marketplace so they could play in the fountains. First they played in the small fountain then the big one. It was fun sitting there, watching them play and thinking about how everything worked out so perfectly for this vacation to even come about! When we finished at the fountain we split up to look around with plans to meet up in 30 minutes. We went into the pin store first and checked out all the new pins until I was overcome with heat. (This was one of three times on the whole trip that I was uncomfortably hot but it only lasted for a few minutes since we went into air conditioning and cooled off) We went into the World of Disney and I picked up a few scrap booking supplies and some gifts before we went into the Sports store and Once Upon a Toy. We met the Cookinghams and we all went into the Rain Forest Café gift shop together before catching a bus back to the Pop Century. As usual the bus was waiting for us and we hopped on. A few beetles were on the bus, which absolutely TERRIFIED a nearby family. The boys were Jimmy's age and they acted like they had never seen a bug before, the Father was equally upset. They were so agitated that they were jumping around making a spectacle of themselves. Just watching them almost made me wonder if these bugs were some deadly strain that I was unaware of!!!!! Back at the Pop Century we soaked up the air conditioning before heading to the pool. The kids swam for 1 1/2 hours having a wonderful time together. Even though I had my swimsuit on I didn't go in the pool. The hot weather had been replaced by, a nice refreshing breeze. We made a quick stop at the bowling pin pool to check it out before heading to the food court where we finally ate dinner at 8:15. Returned to the room and called Jim before going to bed. Another excellent day! MGM tomorrow at 8:00.
Wednesday July 7th
I woke up at 7:00 and the kids at 7:30-7:45. I opened our adjoining door at 8:00, the Cookinghams were all up and we were on our way. Waited five minutes for our bus and before we knew it we were going through the bag check at MGM. As we were leaving the bag check area a ton of characters came out and spread around to different areas. Donald Duck practically stopped where we were standing so the girls got autographs from him then pictures of all the kids. As we were leaving Donald to go toward another character Jamie started to walk away then she turned back and gave Donald a huge hug, it was so cute! In rapid succession the girls were able to get autographs from Donald, Timon, Rafiki, Piglett and Eeyore. It was awesome how that all worked out because if we had arrived a few minutes later or earlier we would have missed seeing all those characters with no wait!
After the rope drop I sent Carolyn, Jimmy and Jen straight to the Rock and Roller Coaster while I took the other kids and got FPs for the Tower of Terror. We then went to the Gift shop at the exit of the RRC to wait for the others, Cam did some pin trading and was able to get a lanyard pin that Jimmy needed, good job Cam! Carolyn and the Kids exited with rave reviews of the RRC. We then proceeded on to The Great Movie Ride since our FPs were not ready yet for the TOT. For the first time ever we got the Western side. It was a welcome change and a nice surprise for us. The heat and smoke seeping out from the building were some pretty neat effects! Just as we were about to depart from the Wizard of Oz room the ride broke down and we sat there for about 10 minutes before we were up and running again.
I grabbed FPs for the Little Mermaid Show before we hoofed it back to the TOT with our FPs. We all went in together since we were doing the child swap. Jimmy found the Mickey Mouse sheet music in the library that we had been searching for unsuccessfully on our last few trips, all right Jimmy!! I rode first with Jimmy, Jen and Jillian. Jillian was pretty nervous so I talked her through the ride so she knew exactly what was going to happen next. Once we got off Carolyn went on with Jimmy and Jillian, Jen sat this one out because her stomach was bothering her.
We speed walked to the Little Mermaid show with minutes to spare on out FPs. I hadn't seen this show in years so it was something different to see. I joked with Jimmy how when he was three he was terrified of this show and Jim had to leave with him!! Everyone enjoyed the show but unfortunately we were sitting right on the edge of the theatre so Carolyn, Jen and Jamie didn't even feel the effects of the rain.
We picked up FPs for the Millionaire show that were good in 20 minutes so while we waited for those to be good we went into the Honey I Shrunk The Kids Playground. It was really quiet there and the kids had a blast running around. Jimmy and Cam loved climbing through all the nets and zoomed right through since it wasn't mobbed with kids! I was wishing we could have spent a little longer there but I was also grateful to be in the air conditioned Millionaire show! We saw two people make it to the hot seat one being a 13- year old boy it was a fun show.
At this point its only 12:00 and we decide to leave the park. We had seen everything on our plan in record time thanks to the FPs. I encouraged Carolyn to stay longer but the only other thing that interested Jimmy was TOT or RRC both of which had 45 minute waits. MGM is Cams least favorite park since he doesn't care for either one of those rides. Carolyn wanted the girls to have naps before we went into the MK tonight so we all headed back. Nice quick ride back to the Pop Century since MGM is so close.
We all got into our swimsuits for a little pool time and went to the bowling pin pool. I stopped and grabbed a sandwich from the food court while Carolyn brought the five kids to the pool. I saw a CM with a safety series pin on which was the last one Jimmy needed to complete his set so I traded for that. We all swam then I hopped out to eat my sandwich. As I was finishing up I heard a rumble of thunder and seconds later Carolyn saw a flash of lightening. We got all the kids out and as we were drying off the lifeguard closed the pool.
The boys and I headed back to the room and Carolyn and the girls headed to the food court. We all got settled in and I was hoping that we could have a little snooze before going into the MK tonight. WRONG!!!! After about five minutes the thunder seemed to move directly over our building and was incredibly loud. There was no way anyone was going to fall asleep with that racket but we continued to lay there until it sounded like our window and door was being pelted by stones!!! The wind had also picked up and even though our door was shut and locked it was banging back and fourth. I got up and peeked out the door and a bunch of hail blew in. I called the boys over to see and we looked out again and again the floor was covered with hail!!! We scooped up all the hail and made a small pile on the floor! It was hard to believe that as hot as it was out earlier, that now piece's of ice could be falling out of the sky! The storm continued to rage on for almost an hour!! When it ended the Cookinghams returned from the food court and we talked about the amazing storm. The Cookinghams all laid down for a nap while we relaxed, watched Toon Disney, and called Jim and Mom and Dad.
We met the Cookinghams as planned at 5:00 and caught the bus to the MK. It was great to be back in the MK, my favorite park! We walked to Tomorrowland and picked up FPs for Space Mountain that were good between 8:55-9:55. Once our FPs were securely put away we hopped on the Tomorowland Transit Authority for a ride high above Tommorowland. When we went inside Space Mountain all the lights were turned on and the ride was stopped. We got a quick peek of the layout of the track which Jimmy and Cam thought was pretty neat! After we descended from the ride and had our feet on firm ground again we started walking toward the Carousel of Progress when a low flying bird flew so close to Carolyn's face it actually brushed up against her!!! I did a double take, as I couldn't believe what I had just seen, it was so close!!! Crisis averted and Carolyn's face intact we went into the Carousel of Progress. Everyone enjoyed a look back at what life used to be like, perhaps with more appreciation of how "easy" our lives are today!
We walked on over to the Tea Cups where Carolyn and the kids waited ten minutes to ride while I walked into Fanastyland to see what the waits were for rides there. Both Pooh and Peter Pan had 60-70 minute waits!!! No thanks!! We went into Toon Town instead. We started to get in line for Goofys Barnstormer but a sign proclaiming the wait to be 30 minutes combined with the fact that Jamie got spooked by the sound of the coaster made us get out of line. Instead we went into Minnies House. It was pretty crowded inside especially in the kitchen. Carolyn and I had a good chuckle because there were two twenty-something girls inside who wanted to pose for pictures in front of all the appliances. The only problem was they wanted to pose for their picture with no one else around, and meanwhile all these children and adults were trying to check things out too. The girl's expressions were priceless as their frustration grew over the fact that they couldn't get the perfect picture. I thought the whole thing was comical that the girls appeared to think that the crowd should stand back while they took turns taking pictures of each other in an empty kitchen!!! A little common sense would have gone a long way here, as in if you want a picture by yourself in Toon Town go to Toon Town when it opens first thing in the morning!!!!!!
We stepped in the big tent so I could show Carolyn where you could stand in line to meet the characters in case she wanted to come back and do that tomorrow. Carolyn asked what the wait was for Cinderella and the CM said 20 minutes. It sure was hard to imagine that a "big star" like Cinderella could only have a 20 minute wait but I told Carolyn to go ahead since 20 minutes didn't seem to long to wait. I said we would meet them in 20 minutes and the boys and I left to ride the train. We ended up just missing the train so we checked out the Barnstormer again and the line was shorter. Cam really wanted to ride so we hopped in line. The line ended up being 15 minutes and we all had a fun ride. We went back in the big tent and waited and waited and waited for the Cookinghams. As the time ticked on it became clear that the CM was way off with her 20- minute wait! Finally after 40 minutes the Cookinghams came out, they had great photos and autographs.
Next up was the train ride, where we rode the whole circuit around the park. We all enjoyed the ride but Jamie especially loved it as she loves trains! By now our FPs were good for Space Mountain so we walked on over. We did the child swap with Jamie, which worked out good for the other kids because they got to ride twice, once with me and once with Carolyn. When Carolyn went on I brought Jamie over to Buzz Lightyear where Jamie racked up a score of 2000 points and "beat" me!! She was equally thrilled that she beat me and had been on a ride before her sisters!
Met up with Carolyn and the kids and we all walked down to Main Street to see our favorite show, Wishes. We stood halfway down Main Street and felt we had an even better view than two nights ago, plus the audio was much clearer. Watching and listening to this beautiful show with an arm around each of my boys was the best!!!
We made it out to the bus stop where there was a bit of a line but they brought in three buses and we were on our way in 5 minutes. We arrived back at the Pop Century at 10:50 and we went into the food court to get hot fudge sundaes. We made it just in time since the counter closed at 11:00. We ate our snack and headed back to our rooms and crawled into bed. Early opening at the MK in the morning.
Thursday July 8th
Happy Birthday Jillian!!! Short night, I was up at 6:00 and I let the boys sleep until 6:55. All they had to do was slip into their clothes and brush their teeth. They ate their pop tarts on the way to the bus stop. The Cookinghams were all ready as planned and we walked to the bus stop. One MK bus was leaving but another one came in a couple of minutes and we all got seats. Jenny spotted two deer on the ride over.
When the park opened Carolyn brought Jamie to Dumbo while I brought the other kids to Space Mountain. We hurried straight to SM as soon as the park opened and the sign already posted a 25- minute wait!!! It was actually more like 20 minutes. The problem I find here is that they only open one side of the track creating long lines first thing in the morning. We did 5 extra magic hours on our vacation back in April and only I out of 5 mornings did they bother to open both sides first thing in the morning. While we were waiting I began to wonder if Extra Magic Hour is worth it for our family anymore. If the boys wanted to do all the Fanastyland rides then it would be great because you could probably do all those rides in an hour but one ride on Space Mountain practically takes up the whole hour!! We finally emerged from our flight through space at 8:40 and met Carolyn and Jamie. Carolyn is getting to be a Disney pro, she found her way to Dumbo then went on the Carousel and then over to Buzz to meet us. Good job Carolyn!!! Carolyn and Jamie had already rode Buzz but rode it again with all the kids while I ran to the restroom. I was hoping to be near Frontierland for rope drop but we missed it by about 5 minutes. Carolyn, Jimmy, Jen, and Jillian all went on Splash Mountain while Cam, Jamie and I went to Thunder Mountain. Jamie was very brave because I know she was nervous. We were in the second seat from the front, Cams least favorite spot but a little slower for Jamie's first ride. I kept my arm around Jamie and talked to her throughout the ride saying, "we are going up, down, and now we are going around etc." When we finished the ride her eyes were wide open but she said she liked it. I suggested we ride one more time before meeting the other since Thunder Mountain is so much faster than Splash Mountain but Jamie wanted to wait and ride with her Mom so that's what we did.
We met the others who all loved Splash Mountain then it was back to Thunder Mountain. Carolyn and Jamie sat in the front seat and I sat in the back with the other kids. When we got to the second hill climb the train stopped and my heart skipped a beat remembering the accident last year at Disneyland. All was well and we were only stopped for about 10 seconds and the ride continued. Cameron was pumping his fist in the air as he had done earlier on Space Mountain really getting into the ride. It was SO NICE to see him loosen up like that! (I commented later to Carolyn that I wished the kids at school could see this side of him since he is super shy and quiet. In fact he adores Jillian, and Jenny but when he sees them at school he can hardly bring himself to say hello!) When we got off the ride Jillian had something in her eyes so Carolyn helped her flush it out before we headed to Tom Sawyers Island.
Jimmy and Cam were hoping to find a paintbrush but since we were not on the first raft of the day I knew that was not going to happen. We boarded the raft and the CM noticed Jillian's Birthday button and wished her a happy 21rst Birthday! When we reached the island the CM had a VERY hard time docking the raft in fact I have never seen another driver struggle the way he did!! If he didn't finally land it Carolyn and I were ready to take over for him!!! We disembarked and went to where Jimmy had found the paintbrush two months ago, no luck today but the kids said it was fun to look anyway. The five kids crossed the barrel bridge then we went around the corner to our first cave. We encountered a terrible smell that seemed to overpower all of us. We all held our noses, I can't even begin to imagine what could have caused that smell but it was nasty!!!! Next we crossed the bridge to go over to the Fort where the kids explored while Carolyn and I sat down in the shade. After snacks we left the Fort through the escape tunnel and headed back to the dock. The driver had better success docking the raft this time and we were back on dry ground. We walked onto Thunder Mountain for another ride with FPs. Carolyn and Jamie sat up front while the other kids and I sat in the back. Every time I glanced at Jimmy and Cam throughout the ride they were smiling and laughing, thoroughly enjoying themselves. It was another excellent ride, when we got off we picked up FPs for Splash Mountain that were good at 12:25.
We then proceeded to the Country Bear Jamboree where we only waited about two minutes before we were seated in the theater. Jimmy said he was looking forward to this show because the last two times he'd seen the show it was the Christmas version and he could barely remember the original. After the show we exited through Pecos Bills and I realized that I was starving. I actually felt like ordering one of everything on the menu!! I settled on a bacon double cheeseburger and smothered it with mushrooms and onions from the topping bar while the boys shared a hotdog meal. There were lots of CMs in this restaurant keeping it clean and wearing lanyard's so the boys kept getting up to trade between bites of their lunch.
After lunch we walked around the corner to the Tiki Birds. Again we had perfect timing and walked right into the show and sat down with no wait. Everyone enjoyed the show and all the birds. We walked back to Frontierland and retrieved the stroller before splitting up. Carolyn, Jimmy, Jen, and Jillian headed back to Splash Mountain with their FPs while I took Cam and Jamie and headed to Main Street with plans to meet between 1:00-1:15. Jamie fell right to sleep in the stroller and was out like a light. Meanwhile Cam did lots and lots of pin trading in the uncrowded shops on Main Street. In the sports store I bought Jim an ESPN t-shirt. It was the same one that the boys had picked out for him at Downtown Disney on Tuesday but they didn't have his size. Our last store was the camera store at the end of Main Street, Cam checked out all the lanyards and we turned to leave when Cam pointed to the back of the store. I said there wasn't anybody back there but I noticed a couple of displays to look at so we wandered back. Cam however was right and he found two more people to trade with. As it turned out these CMs had lanyard pins on so Cam traded for four lanyard pins including the gold Donald pirate pin, which was so exciting. I traded for a Jungle Book pin that Jimmy needed so we were both happy that Cam suggested that we go back there! As we were leaving a CM all dressed up in period clothing came over to admire Jamie sound asleep in the stroller. I asked if I could take a picture and she did a cute pose next to a sleeping Jamie while I snapped a picture. We went outside just as Carolyn and the kids were coming around the corner. Lots of characters were out and a CM was standing nearby with three Hula Hoops, so Jen and Jillian ended up hula hooping on Main Street. It was fun watching them and although it was a small thing who, would have thought when we were home that Jen and Jillian would be hula hooping on Main Street USA!!!
The Cookinghams were heading over to meet Dopey so we made plans to meet at 5:15 to celebrate Jillian's Birthday. I sent Jimmy into the camera store to check out the CM lanyards then we headed out to the bus stop. I was shocked when we got to the bus stop and Carolyn and the kids were there, apparently after they got in line for Dopey he left for a break so they decided to head out. The bus was crowded but someone was nice enough to give up their seat to Carolyn who was holding a still sleeping Jamie. When we got started Jillian who was sitting on the floor of the bus pulled her knees up and rested her chin in her hands and fell asleep!!! Every time we stopped or went around a corner her head would go to the side then she would straighten it up but she remained sound asleep. It was remarkable that she could fall asleep in that position on a noisy bus!!
We returned to our rooms with our plan to meet in the food court at 5:15 to celebrate Jillian's Birthday. I knew Cam really needed a nap today if he was going to stay awake tonight and have fun. Jimmy however is not a napper and I knew he wouldn't fall asleep. I spread a beach towel in the bathtub, put in a couple pillows and made a comfy spot for Jimmy to lie down and read. I told him that I needed to rest and he had to be very quiet. Cam fell right to sleep which I was thankful for because I knew he really needed it. I couldn't sleep but it felt great to lie down and close my eyes. When I got up we called Jim and Mom and Dad and talked quietly into the phone so we wouldn't disturb Cam.
I finally woke Cam up at 4:30, he'd been asleep for over two hours, and Jimmy was really wanting to go swimming. At first Cam did not want to get up but as soon as he heard the word "swimming" he was up and into his suit. We only had 30 minutes to swim before the Birthday Party so we hurried to the computer pool. Unfortunately even with his goggles on Cams eyes burned terribly. Jimmy wasn't affected at all but Cam has really sensitive eyes and an undiagnosed eye condition and the water really hurt his eyes. I suggested we go to another pool but Cam said he would just stay on top of the water and not go under. At 5:00 we hustled back to the room where we met the Cookinghams heading down to the food court. We quickly changed, grabbed the presents and headed down.
Carolyn had purchased a Mickey cake and candles right in the food court. We all sang Happy Birthday, had cake and gave Jillian her presents. I told Carolyn that we were having second thoughts about returning to the MK for the evening. During our three visits there we really had done all the rides and the only ones that Jimmy and Cam were excited about repeating were the "mountains". However I knew the lines would be quite long for those rides, besides the boys and I were going into E-ride night tomorrow night so they would be able to get multiple rides then. Jimmy said he would rather go into Epcot and see some of the countries. Jenny wanted to come with us and see more of Epcot and Carolyn decided to stick with the MK to see if she could get the younger girls on a couple rides. I went and got a map of the MK and went over it with Carolyn giving her some suggestions of things that they may be able to get on with not much of a wait. With that we were both on our way!
We were soon at Epcot where I was checking the tip board. I noticed that Honey I Shrunk the Audience had a 15- minute wait so I asked the kids if they would like to see it and they did. Cam had never seen this and the last time Jimmy had seen it, it had left him terrified. We made a quick stop at Ice Station Cool for drinks then walked over. We all enjoyed the show although Cam did take his glasses off for a few of the more intense parts.
We strolled over to World Showcase just enjoying being in Epcot, without feeling like we had to rush anywhere, or stand in a line. We went to Mexico first since Jenny has vacationed in Mexico several times I thought she would enjoy it. The boat ride was a walk on so we went on. After the boat ride I spotted those mask making stations and asked the kids if they wanted to make a mask. Jimmy and Cam didn't care about it but Jen did so they were happy to do it with her. Masks in hand we headed to Norway where we checked out the trolls in the gift shop and added to the masks. Unfortunately on our way to China the skies opened up and it started pouring. We tried to protect the masks as best we could but sadly the decorations the kids drew on with markers ran. While the kids added to their masks in China I was able to get three plastic bags to put the masks in to try and protect them. Next up was Germany, which for some reason was very busy. I got the kids in line at the mask station then I went to the food cart and bought a pretzel to share. No one was excited about the pretzel until I said, "here have a taste of Germany" then they all had a piece. (The next night in the MK we were buying drinks at a cart and Jen noticed a piece of pretzel on the ground and said "hey look a piece of Germany" this struck us all as quite funny and we laughed and laughed!) The rain stopped and we strolled through Italy, America and Japan. At the large store in Japan we purchased some rice candy. (This would provide more laughs later in the hotel room!) At this point it was 8:55 and we speed walked by Morocco because we wanted to get to France before it closed. Jimmy and Cam really wanted to buy an Eiffel Tower on this trip. We felt partial to the Eiffel Tower since staying at the Boardwalk two months ago and having a gorgeous view of the Tower. I bought a tower, the kids added to their masks and they literally locked the doors behind us! We walked by the United Kingdom where we noticed ropes were put up to prevent people from meandering in. We passed by Canada then got a spot for Illuminations, which for some reason was running late. We had a pretty good view and it was a nice show but for us Wishes is the best and nothing else compares!! After the show we got in a little bit of gridlock so I held Jimmy and Cams hands and had Jen grab Cams hand so we wouldn't get separated. The gridlock was short lived, and nothing like Main street after Wishes!
We arrived at the bus stop and there was a bus filling up, right when it was our turn to board it was full so we waited for the next bus. The next bus arrived in two minutes and since we were first in line we had our pick of seats! Back at the Pop Century we picked up a few things from the food court and returned to our room. Jen came into our room and we all piled onto the bed and watched the top seven things to do at Disney. We had already seen it but we watched it anyway. (A funny thing about the Top Seven Things to do at Disney. Carolyn told me that the first night back home she heard Jamie in the living room using the clicker to click her way through the channels, and she could hear her getting upset while doing this. Carolyn went in to see what was wrong and Jamie was upset that she couldn't find the Disney resort channel and the top seven things!!!!!) Jimmy remembered the candy we bought in Japan so he got that and opened it up. We opened up the rice candy and struggled to get what we thought was the cellophane wrapper off. After I picked at it for a while without much success Jimmy wondered if the wrapper was edible. He and Jen read the side of the box and sure enough it was edible. Unfortunately it was a chewy candy so Jen couldn't try it because of her braces. However after Jimmy and Cam finished theirs Jen noticed a piece of the wrapper that I had picked off and said "Can I eat this?" I said "sure" and she popped it in her mouth. Probably because we were exhausted this struck us as so funny and we were howling with laughter!
Carolyn, Jillian, and Jamie arrived back from the MK at 11:15 and had had a fantastic night. When they first arrived in the MK they stopped to look at the tip board and the CM noticed Jillian's Birthday button. He asked her what her favorite ride was and she said Splash Mountain, he then proceeded to give the three of them a FP for Splash Mountain! Jamie wasn't thrilled about riding but was very brave and went on. They then headed over to Fanastyland and in the next three hours rode Dumbo three times, Snow White twice, Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, Mickeys Philharmagic and the Teacups. They were happy with everything they saw and did and I was surprised they did so much. We said good night with plans to swim in the morning.
Friday July 9
Our last full day, Boo Hoo!!! The week has flown by proving yet again that one week is simply not enough time for a Disney vacation! The kids woke up a little after 8:00, we called Jim and Mom and Dad and got ready to go to the pool. I opened our side of the adjoining door around 8:45 but the Cookinghams was still closed so I left them a note and we were on our way. We got settled by the pool and the Cookinghams arrived about an hour later around 10:00. It was a great morning of swimming and splashing around. Carolyn discovered the frozen drink machine in the food court and used her refillable mug to try that out. One drink was frozen Coke and the other one was blue so I got the boys one of those. Initially neither of them were to crazy about but it must have grown on them since they finished it and got a refill.
I again offered to bring Jen with us to E-ride night and after much discussion Jillian decided she wanted to go to. Carolyn purchased two E-ride night tickets, I had bought mine the day before so we were all set for the night. We ate lunch poolside before returning to our rooms around 1:00. Our plan was to meet at 5:00, and the girls would come with us to the kid's pin trading night at the Contemporary before going into the MK. I REALLY wanted Cam to have a nap since E-ride night was from 10:00-1:00 and I knew we probably wouldn't be back to the room until 2:00 in the morning. In addition to that late night we had to leave for the airport at 6:00am!!! I got Jimmy settled in with a book and I laid down with Cam. Just as we were starting to get sleepy we could hear VERY LOUD noises outside. I lay there hoping it would go away and trying to ignore it but it only got louder. When I couldn't stand it any longer I got up to investigate. I peeked out the door to see what the racket was and I see people power washing all the windows, walkways and walls!!! Talk about loud!! We even had soapy water coming in under our door!! Since sleeping was out of the question we turned on the T.V. and watched Toon Disney. At 3:30 the boys and I headed down to the pool to swim for 45 minutes, the boys would have enjoyed staying longer but we had to get ready to leave. Once we were ready we called Jim and went over the flight info for tomorrow. We were looking forward to seeing Jim but not wanting to return home!
Jen and Jillian were all ready and we left at 5:00 as planned. As an after thought I asked Carolyn if we could bring the stroller, I figured as the night got later maybe Cam or Jillian might want to use it. We must have just missed the MK bus because we waited 15 minutes for one to arrive, our longest wait all week! We then waited about 7-8 minutes for a lady in her electric chair to be loaded. When we got on the air conditioned bus it felt great! I sat down next to the lady in the electric chair and we had a nice visit all the way to the MK. She told me that it had taken her one hour and fifty minutes for her to return to the Pop Century from the MK earlier that day! That sounded horrifying especially in this heat! She explained that the bus can only hold two wheelchairs so if there are two people in wheelchairs in front of you, then you have to wait for the next bus. In her case the next bus arrived and it had a broken lift!! I really felt bad for her especially when she went on to say that she sometimes gets dirty looks from people because they have to wait while she gets loaded on the bus first. Despite the heat we didn't mind waiting at all and I would hope that anyone that did mind would take a minute to appreciate that their bodies were fully functioning and they didn't need any assistance. I'm sure anyone in a wheelchair would change places with the people waiting in the heat in a heartbeat!!!
Once at the MK we boarded the monorail to the Contemporary for the kid's pin trading night. On the walk to the monorail we saw another bunny. We arrived at 6:00 and got our places in line for the event that started at 7:00. I had put together a corkboard with Jimmy and Cams extra lanyard pins and told Jimmy and Jen that they could go around to the adult pin traders to see if they could trade for any lanyard pins that they needed to complete their sets. People have told me that the adult pin traders are "mean" and sometimes "take advantage" of kid pin traders but we didn't find this at all. Jimmy and Jen went to five pin traders and had a great time usually getting the pins that they wanted. Jimmy and Jen were a great team and looked like little professionals!! Jen held the corkboard while Jimmy flipped through his sheets of paper picturing the lanyard pins that he and Cam needed. In the end they traded for 17 lanyard pins. Jen got two Chip and Dale Disneyland lanyard pins and Jimmy and Cam split 15 with Cam getting 9 and Jimmy getting 6. Both Jimmy and Jen remarked how much fun that had. Meanwhile Cam and Jillian played cards and kept their place in line, which was a great help. I gave Jillian three pins to trade off the board and Jen one to go with the Chip and Dale pin since we had given her two pins to trade for those. Finally it was their turn and they began by trying to answer some trivia questions that they said were pretty difficult. They all had a great time trading off the board and got some nice pins. I was starving and had planned on getting a bite to eat at the Contemporary but between keeping an eye on Jimmy and Jen trading and Cam and Jillian in line I wasn't able to. I figured I would get something at the MK. (I never did get anything to eat, all the lines were long and then the food places closed, lesson learned, fill your belly at your resort before going into E-ride night if you want to concentrate on the rides and not waste time eating!)
Once in the MK we went into the camera center where Jimmy and Cam each purchased limited edition Figment pins that had just come out today and I bought a Wishes CD. We made our way down Main Street and turned toward Adventureland. I had hoped to ride Jungle Cruise since it was one of the few things that the girls hadn't been on. The line however was 35 minutes so we walked on by. Pirates had a 25- minute wait so we walked by that as well. We went to the Haunted Mansion and rode that with a 5- minute wait. In the stretch room when the lights went out someone said "everyone scream" and it seemed like everyone did. It was awful, my left ear was actually ringing when we walked out and Jen said hers was as well! I have never had that happen here before and didn't care for it at all. I was thankful that the kids were old enough that the shrieking noise didn't terrify them or make them deaf for life!!!
Great ride through the Mansion, Cam showed me the hidden Mickey that we had searched for back in April by the grim reaper. It was tough to spot so Cam did a great job of finding it! The four kids all wanted to go to Mickeys Philharmagic so that is where we went next. As I have said in other trip reports we LOVE this show I don't think my kids will ever tire of it.
We were heading toward Tomorrowland to get our ride bracelets but when we saw almost no line for the Teacups I sent the kids on while I watched. A strange thing happened here. The four kids had gotten in their teacups, Jillian and Jen in one teacup to go "slow" and Jimmy and Cam in another to go "fast". They were all settled and I snapped a few pictures. Meanwhile a Dad walked in with his son and daughter and all the teacups were filled. The logical thing to do would be to go back to the front of the line, wait three minutes for the next rotation and have his first pick of Teacups. But no the Dad didn't do that instead he put his daughter in with Jen and Jillian and his son in with Jimmy and Cam. This seemed odd, my four kids had waited in line to select their Teacup and I think the man and his kids should have waited their turn as well!! None of my kids seemed to mind, but I didn't like it, I never would have pushed my kids onto another families Teacup!!!
It was now almost 10:00 so we headed to the arcade at Space Mountain to get our ride bracelets. Once we got our bracelets we headed into Space Mountain for our first of four rides. Each ride was great and the kids LOVED getting four rides in a row. I loved seeing Cam holding his hands high above his head with all the confidence in the world. Next we walked over to Buzz Lightyear for three rides. Jen discovered a big points target that she showed Jimmy, which he hit on his second time through.
We walked over to Frontierland and the stroller came in handy, both Jillian and Cam used it each riding part way. We were all laughing having a great time. It was fun to be in the MK at night and seeing everything all lit up. We only passed a few people on our walk over it was pretty quiet. At every opportunity Jen and Jillian thanked me and thanked me for letting them come with us. It was my pleasure they are such wonderful, helpful and polite girls and so much fun to be with. We went to Splash Mountain first which Cam had no desire to ride. I planned on walking the other three kids to the entrance line than meeting them at the exit if I couldn't convince Cam to go on. He was dead set against going on Splash but I suggested he go on it this once and if he didn't like it he never had to ride it again, but he could have the satisfaction of saying he rode it. Poor Cam really didn't want to but we went through the line although he wasn't too happy with me. When we got near the logs I asked Jen to ride with us for two reasons, I figured Cam would feel more secure sitting between Jen and I and I knew she wouldn't say anything scary but be a calm presence. Cam did great and ended up liking the ride, saying he would go again! (Now that we are home Splash Mountain is one of Cams top three favorite rides!!)
We hurried over to Thunder Mountain and had three rides in a row. After the third ride Cams stomach was bothering him a bit and he didn't look his best. I offered to sit with him while the other kids took a fourth ride but he said he was up for one more ride. When the ride ended we speed walked over to Splash to get one last ride of this vacation. We walked through the entrance of the line at 12:56. Cam still wasn't feeling his best but said he'd ride. I told him as soon as we got off the ride he could sit in the stroller and I would push him out of the park. We went to board our log with Jillian, Jen, and Jimmy in the front seat and Cam and I in the second seat. As we were stepping in Jen mentioned that she didn't like the front seat because you don't get as wet. I noticed no one else was getting in our log so I told her to grab another seat. She did then Jimmy wanted his own seat so he jumped in the back. At that moment the CM said to get in and sit because the log was leaving. As we pulled away Jillian said "I didn't want to sit up front all by myself!" I felt terrible but she did great and I talked to her throughout the ride. When we exited the ride we stopped to see the picture. As a rule I never buy the ride pictures but if there is ever a time to buy a picture its when your group takes up the whole picture and there are no strangers in the picture! Since we were spread out in the log it was just us, the picture was great with every ones expressions so I of course bought it!
It was now 1:15 and the park was closed. We headed out with a few people in front of us and I thought a few people behind us. Adventureland was roped off so that everyone would walk through Liberty Square. Jenny had been wearing a lightstick bracelet that had broken and leaked onto her hand so I stopped near the Christmas shop to get the wet wipes out of my backpack. She washed her hands and I had a drink from my water bottle. As I was putting it back in my backpack I happened to glance behind me, and standing right there were three male CMs. I had no idea they were there and was so startled that I almost jumped out of my skin. Apparently we were the last ones out of Frontierland so they were following us out to make sure that part of the park was empty. It sure did surprise me!!!! As we made our way down to the hub I noticed CMs and security guarding the entrance to each of the lands. We walked down a practically empty Main Street, which was all lit up and beautiful. All the store were closed, and it was so peaceful and quiet, very different from the Main Street that I am used to!
A bus was waiting for us at the stop and we all boarded for one last ride back to the Pop Century. As soon as the bus started Cam and Jillian fell right to sleep. When we arrived to the Pop Century Jimmy carried off the stroller while I helped Cam off and Jen helped Jillian. Jillian woke up enough to walk but Cam didn't so I plopped him in the stroller and we walked back to our rooms arriving at 2:06 AM. The girls went into their rooms and the boys crawled into bed, I said "good-night" to Carolyn and told her I would see her in a few hours. After a quick shower I was in bed thinking about what a great night we had. E-ride night was AWESOME and I wished we had done it twice on this trip. It was fun to ride on some of our favorite attractions with little or no wait. Although there were people around it wasn't crowded so that was nice, and I'll always remember that last walk down Main Street, with the shops closed and the place deserted it almost seemed like a dream! It was most definitely a great night!!
Sat. July 10
I had just fallen asleep a little after 3:00am and my alarm woke me at 5:00am, talk about a short night!!! As tired as I felt I had no regrets about going to E-ride night and being out so late. I had a shower, did the rest of the packing and woke the kids up at 5:50. Jimmy woke up easier than Cam who couldn't seem to open his eyes. Even with the difficulty we were out the door by 6:00. As we were walking out Carolyn told me that when she was paying our phone bill the night before the front desk said we had a balance of 299.00, we of course didn't but Carolyn spent about 45 minutes straightening it out. Although I hadn't planned on going to the front desk I decided I better make sure everything was all set. A CM waited on me and after checking my bill proceeded to tell me that I did indeed have a balance of 299.00!! Huh???? I told her we certainly did not, so after a few phone calls she told me that we were all set and gave me a receipt. Hopefully nothing shows up on my credit card or I wont be a happy camper! (Thankfully nothing did)
We all went outside and our driver was standing there waiting for us. We had a pleasant drive to the airport. Cam, Jillian, and Jamie slept the whole way and Carolyn and I chatted about what we had each done the night before.
We arrived at the airport to a LONGGGGG line for Southwest. Fortunately it moved right along and we only waited about 15 minutes. While we waited we watched the most unruly out of control child I have ever seen in my life. The Mother had absolutely no control whatsoever. Thank goodness we didn't have the misfortune of being right behind them! We got all checked in and we received A boarding passes this time. We made a quick stop at the Disney Store where Jimmy and Cam each made one last trade. Now it was on to McDonalds for breakfast. I had been hungry since 5:00 last night and I felt like I could have eaten everything on the menu!! We ordered, ate then headed to our gate. It was a short wait until we boarded our plane and said Good-Bye to Florida until next time.
This was definitely one of our BEST trips ever!!! It was a completely different type of vacation for Jimmy and Cam to be at Disney with friends. I think they will really miss that on future trips. There was so much laughing, giggling, and joking the whole entire week. I would challenge anyone to put together five kids and have them get along like perfect angels for a whole week, (I am not exaggerating) I think it goes to show how special these five kids are.
I was concerned before the trip that the hot temps and large crowds would be overwhelming although it turned out to be exactly the opposite. There were only three times, each lasting for about three minutes that I was uncomfortably hot. Considering we were there for a full six and a half days that is nothing! The crowds were fine, we went into the parks at opening and did everything we planned to do with minimal waits and FPs.
If I had the chance I would not hesitate to go back to WDW in the summer again because we had such a great time. Before I went I would mentally prepare myself for hot weather, thunder storms, and large crowds and then plan my days accordingly!
We thought the Pop Century was a great resort and would stay there again especially for the great rate I got. We have stayed in the value, moderate, and deluxe resorts and have never seen a difference in service. At Disney at least, there doesn't seem to be a correlation in the more money you spend the better service you get! As I have said for years if I had a choice of going to Disney once a year (Or, gasp, even less than that!) and staying at a deluxe resort or going two even three times a year and staying at a Value resort I will pick the multiple trips every time!!! I also want to add that the bus service at the Pop Century was top notch. I think the Pop Century must be one of the only resorts that doesn't share their bus service with another resort, so every time we got picked up we always had a direct route to our destination, even the deluxe resorts cannot claim that!!
This wouldn't have been the awesome vacation it was if the Cookinghams didn't accompany us, therefore I give a huge thank you to Carolyn for stretching her budget to join us on this fantastic trip. I also want to say thanks for always being ready on our decided time and being ready for a good time and just going with the flow if something unexpected happened! It truly was a magical vacation that we will always remember! Now our goal in life will be to get the Cookinghams to return to Disney with us!!!!