Travel Day

Welcome to our August 2008 trip to Disney World.

The crew on this trip are as follows:

Me (big surprise)
Jeff (Hubby and fellow Disney lover)
Emily (20, My daughter who no longer lives with us but loves Disney as much as I do)
Bri (20, Emily's girlfriend, partner, room mate and good family friend.. never been to WDW)
Erin (16, Jeff's daughter, lives with her mom, and has been to the World once for one day a couple of years ago before a cruise)
Alex (13, easy going and a genuine pleasure to be around)
Katherine (just turned 9, our little princess we brought home from Russia 3 years ago)
Jeffrey Jr (7, our youngest and biggest goofball of the group)

There will plenty pictures of everyone so no need to post any here.

We live about 45 minutes from LAX and then 5 hours via airplane from Florida. I always try to book the earliest possible flight out so we can get there at a reasonable hour. This usually means that we have to get up while it's still dark and not everyone is happy about that even if we are on our way to the World. It also means that I don't have even a second in the morning to do any last minute packing. According to Jeff everything has to be in the suitcase, zipped up and waiting in the hallway to be dragged out to the van the minute he wakes up.

It follows then that I am up far too late the night before, refining my packing, worrying about what I forgot (despite the detailed list) and falling asleep standing at the kitchen counter trying to remember what I had come in there for in the first place.

Everyone who didn't live with us stayed overnight so there was no panic in the morning if someone didn't show up on time.

Luckily our van holds 8 people and after we stuffed everyone and their 1/4 ton of luggage into it, there was barely room to move. Suitcases in the rear and everyone's carry on's at their feet.

As expected, the freeways were empty and we made it without incident to Wally Park (which I like to call Wally World) where we park our car for the duration.

Here we are taking the shuttle to the terminal. As you can see not everyone is awake yet.

Alex, Katherine, Erin & Jeffrey:

As per usual, our flight was delayed an hour, so instead of grabbing something at one of the fast food places, we ate a leisurely breakfast at Ruby's Diner which was at the far end of our airport terminal.

We got done fairly quickly and still had time to spare so Emily took pictures of herself:

and the back of Jeffrey's head:

Our plane finally pulled up to the gate, everyone got off and then we got called to board. As we were getting on, Jeffrey said hello to the flight attendant who was directing people to their seats. She thought he was so cute and polite that she invited him to sit in the pilots chair with the captains hat on. Katherine got to try the hat on too. They loved it!

(I had to stop Jeff from making comments reminiscent of the Airplane movie "Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?")

The flight was relatively uneventful and we each had our own video screens so Erin and I played trivia most of the flight. Jeff and Alex played a couple of times too. It was fun. I won 4 times and got the highest score on the whole flight... woo hoo! Of course I'm not sure that many people were playing.

Emily, still taking taking selfies with Jeffrey & Bri.

A pretty view out the window, somewhere over the middle of the country:

Finally we made it Florida!
I really like the Orlando airport. Its full of Disney stuff before you even get to the parks!
I always call this our first ride of the trip.... the airport monorail.
I try to get this seat every time we get on so I can take a picture.

And this is our second ride of the trip.... the Magical Express:

Jeffrey was so excited he could barely sit still.
Careful kid, you wouldn't want to your face to get stuck like that:

We got lucky and Old Key West was the first drop off.
Welcome Home!!!!
We got checked in while the kids watched some TV in the lobby.
Already I was so excited. All the sights and smells just dripped of magical good times!

We booked a 2 bedroom villa which works out very nicely for our group. Us in the master bedroom, Em, Bri, Erin and Katherine on two the queen beds in the second bedroom and Alex and Jeffrey on the pull out couch in the living room. We love the space. The room also has 3 TVs which works out well when there are 8 people who all want to relax in the evening and watch something different. We also love the large balcony. Although this trip, even though we had a prime location (meaning we could see some of the EPCOT fireworks), there were tall bushes and trees that blocked most of our view. I just so happy to be there I didn't care!

We had decided to let the Magical Express deliver our luggage again, even though last time we were here they misplaced 2 of our bags (well they technically belonged to Chris and his wife who were staying at a different resort) and they didn't find them again until mid morning after the night we arrived. We hoped it was a one time thing. Since we didn't have anything to unpack and we were all starving, we dropped off our carry-ons, walked up to the hospitality house and took the boat to Downtown Disney to get something to eat.

We ate at Earl of Sandwich which is such a wonderful value for what you get. I adore the tomato soup!!!

Part way through our meal Katherine was squirming around and asking if she could take off her shoes. (Not in a restaurant!) She continued to fidget until I asked her what was going on.

"My shoes hurt." I reached down and gave them the toe squeeze and discovered that her toes were jammed all the way into the front of the shoe.

"Why did you wear these?" (In my mind I was really asking "why didn't I check their foot wear more carefully?"). She shrugged her shoulders and got tears in her eyes. "I can't walk very well."

"Don't worry we'll figure something out."

As soon as we finished eating we started searching Downtown Disney for someplace that I could buy her something that would stand up to all the walking we were going to have to do.

We found a store called Team Mickey Athletic Club that sold name brand shoes with good support. We found her a pair of Nikes for a lot less than I anticipated paying and her vacation was saved.

We caught the bus back to the resort and just as we were going into the room  the sky opened up and it started pouring. It was actually pretty cool since we don't get that kind of downpour in California. Our luggage had arrived so we spent time unpacking while we watched the Olympics (gymnastics and swimming) and went to bed at midnight.

First Full Day ~~ Animal Kingdom and MGM

It's always hard for those of us on the west coast time to get up and running early on the east coast time. Every year we try to force ourselves out of bed to get to the parks as close to opening as possible but it just doesn't happen. Especially with the little kids. If you wake them too early you'll just end up with a bunch of grumpy bunnies.

This morning we got up at 8 AM Florida which is 5 AM our time. We got out the door and to the bus but not all of us were awake and happy about it.

Smile Katherine!

I guess not.....

The running theme of the trip began right away when it started to pour rain as soon as we got off the bus.
Thankfully I brought ponchos for everyone.
Ponchos in general are a mixed blessing because although they keep you dry, you feel like you are in a sauna while you have them on.
As it turned out, the dollar store ponchos everyone tells you to buy to save money felt like we were wearing saran warp and they ripped and tore and never lasted more than one wearing (if that).
I definitely will NOT use these again.
I bit the bullet and purchased Disney ponchos for everyone since there was heavy rain forecast for the entire week due to Tropical Storm Faye.
The one perk of Disney ponchos is that if the kids tore them (which they did several times, usually at the neck) any place that sold them would replace them for free.

Here are Bri &Alex modeling the cheapo ponchos:

A least the rain kept the temperatures down which was very nice.

Our first ride in the park was Dinosaur which was a great way to stay dry. Then everyone except me and Jeffrey (he was too short) rode Primeval Whirl. He and I shopped in the stores and I got him a caramel apple that he ate while we sat on bench out of the rain. It was nice to just be here and taking in the all the sights, sounds and tastes.

Our first sit down lunch was at the Tusker House for an African themed buffet. We arrived 20 minutes early and didn't have to wait very long before we were seated. I cannot tell you how much I love this place.

Here Jeffrey gets a little love from Bri as we wait to be called:

 Erin & Alex before we ate:

And a couple of pictures of the buffet area.
Not very crowded!

After we stuffed ourselves to bursting we headed towards Expedition Everest and our first Fastpass ride of the trip. I had been dreading this for months. I kept telling myself I was going to go on the ride and not be scared (who was I kidding?). The closer we got, the more my stomach hurt. Before I knew it, I had all but stopped walking, my eyes were welling up and I was trying to tell everyone that I had changed my mind about going.

Everyone completely ignored me and kept bee-lining right for the Mountain. Mom? Mom who?

Before I knew it they were heading down the fastpass lane and dragging me with them. I literally had tears dripping down my cheeks. Finally Emily noticed me, but all she did was give me a hug, tell me it was going to be OK and kept herding me along. There was no line at all and I was caught up in the middle of the family parade and until suddenly found myself pushed into a seat and buckled into the ride. I somehow ended up next to Jeffrey. I don't think anyone else wanted to ride with me.

My heart was beating out of my chest but I was trying to keep it together so Jeffrey didn't freak out. Em and Bri were in front of me and kept turning around to check that I wasn't trying to escape. As soon as we left the station Jeffrey said "It's OK mommy, this will be fun."  I guess I realized at this point there was no turning back so I took a deep breath and tried to relax.

Overall the ride was not as bad as I thought it was going to be, but it still gave my stomach a good lurch during the backwards part. The huge drop was not too bad either because it was over before you realized you were dropping.

Here's the picture of us as we about to drop. The front row is ecstatic, Jeffrey looks stunned, and back row is lovin' every minute. Erin and Katherine were in the car behind us.

I was SO incredibly happy that I survived.

Next we went on the safari and because it was so cool and overcast there were lots of animals out.

Here is an artsy picture I took of Katherine reflected in the drivers rear view mirror:

We walked the Pangini trail next and that was pleasantly cool and beautiful.

This first picture is in the building that you have to go through with all the small caged animals:

Em's favorite animal is the hippo, so of course we had to take a picture of her here:

NO Bri don't do it!!

Even the gorillas thought it was cool enough to be out and about:

By now Jeffrey's legs were giving out so we headed back to the room for a rest.

Its had been a fun first day so far.

Tonight we are going to go to Hollywood Studios so Jeffrey can ride Tower of Terror (which he had been talking about forever) and then get some dinner.

After we all rested and changed clothes we headed to DHS (NO NO NO MGM).

On the way over Alex was telling Bri all the interesting facts he knew about the bus service. Jeff said Alex needed to start his own "Bus information hotline" where he could impart all sorts of trivia on the Disney bus system. (Alex loves to talk endlessly about stuff like this). Everyone was laughing and Alex said "My service is now out of business". Everyone laughed even harder.

When we got there, we split up. Jeff, Em, Bri, Alex, Katherine and Jeffrey went straight to Tower of Terror. Erin and I passed on the ride and headed to soak up some AC in the gift shops then went and waited for them in the TOT basement and watched the groups of people come out and view their "terrifying" pictures. Jeffrey had never ridden this before and when he got off he kept saying "I was floating".

We ate at the ABC Commissary for dinner where they took FOREVER to get us our order and then got it wrong but we ended up with a free burger so it worked out.

Then off to The Great Movie Ride and Star Tours. We walked around the New York backlot streets and there wasn't a soul there. It was like they closed the park and it was just us. It was really cool.

We passed Toy Story Mania and the wait was posted at an hour but we figured what the heck and got in line. We waited for about 40 minutes before we got on and it was SO much fun. This was the first time any of us had ridden it.

The queue is a lot of fun with lots of different things to look at.

By the time we got out it was 10 o'clock and Fantasmic was starting in half an hour.
Since none of us had ever seen this either, we decided to give it a try.
Here we are on the way:

The theater was half empty and everyone enjoyed it.
This was the only shot that came out:

We got back to the room about 11:30 and were all asleep by midnight.

We had a really great fun first day.

Day 2 ~~ EPCOT

Friday was EPCOT day. We got a late start (shocker) but we just couldn't get everyone moving. We got there about 10:30. Since Jeffrey was so miserable with all the walking he had to do yesterday, we decided to rent a stroller where he could sit if needed to and also use it as a rolling locker for all the stuff everyone seems to find necessary to bring to the parks with them.  I paid for a weeks rental on a single but when I got to the pick up point I found out that the lady had given me a receipt for a double. The lady at pick up said not to worry and just enjoy the bigger stroller. It turned out to be just what we needed because not only did Katherine have a place to sit if she got tired but there was a ton of room to put all our junk.

Here is a picture of them taking a rest break together.
As you can see even though they are 7 & 9 they both fit.

We first got fastpasses for Test Track then headed over to Mission Space. Em, Bri and Alex rode the orange (spinning, crush you into your seat) side and Jeff, Erin, Katherine, Jeffrey and I rode the green (wimpy baby) side. Our group got on and off in about 20 minutes and had time to visit Station Cool, the hidden museum behind it, and let the kids color at a Kidcot station before the other 3 got out of their side.

We all met up for lunch at the Garden Grill.

The food was fantastic. They are now serving roasted chicken in place of the turkey which I liked much better. We got some good pictures with characters and Chip loved Jeff's "Totoro" T-shirt. He wrote a message on Katherine's menu that said "Totoro gives me his acorns."

There was a running theme with Katherine's pigtails:

We went downstairs and rode Living with the Land.
I only took this one picture right before you go into the greenhouse of the giant movie screen showing Mt Fuji.

When we were done, Em and Bri struck out on their own and the rest of us headed over to the Living Seas. We rode the Nemo ride for the first time (it was a walk on) then waited about 10 minutes to see Turtle Talk which we had also never seen. The kids loved the real jellyfish and the stingrays in the waiting area.

Katherine wanted to sit in the back with the adults because she was afraid that Crush might ask her a question. We convinced her she would have a better time on the floor but she covered her face when Crush was looking around the audience to find someone to talk to.

I got one decent shot that came out and of course it was of Crush wearing his bikini top:

Next up was Ellen's Energy Adventure which is definitely one of my favorite rides!
It's so relaxing (well the part without the dinosaurs) and nice and dark. Jeff proved it by taking a nap through half of it.

When we got out it,  we used our Test Track Fastpasses and hit another Kidcot station on the way out.

Since we had dinner reservations at O'Hana we decided to go back the room and relax a bit.

Em and Bri were already there showering away the heat and sweat.

We left in plenty of time to get to dinner but made the mistake of trying to connect with the Polynesian resort bus in Downtown Disney instead of going to the Magic Kingdom and catching the monorail. Our resort bus was pulling up to the Downtown Disney stop just as the Polynesian bus was leaving. I assured everyone that the buses come along fairly regularly so not too worry.  Famous last words. The next bus didn't show up for 20 minutes and when it got to the next DTD stop there was a driver change-over and the next driver sat around for 10 minutes doing paperwork. Truly one of the longest 10 minutes of my life.  When he finally decided to get moving, there was horrible traffic and getting through intersections to the next stop took forever. We stopped at Typhoon Lagoon where the driver waited for for an extended period of time to see if anyone showed up. No one did.  THEN we stopped at the Contemporary Resort where a huge number of people were both getting on and getting off. And taking forever to do so. Finally we made it to the Polynesian 20+ minutes late for our reservation. Fortunately they sat us without problems.

Note to self... NEVER connect through DTD... Especially in the early evening.

Dinner was excellent and we had the perfect corner window table where we could see the castle at the Magic Kingdom. Our waiter on the other hand was awful. He forgot to bring the kids meals until the adults were almost finished eating, even though we reminded him several times and he said he would get right on it. I ended up bringing home their food in a doggy bags because they had been eating off our plates and weren't hungry anymore. Because we are a party of 8, our tip was figured in automatically to the bill total so we couldn't adjust it accordingly. I suppose we could have talked to a manager but it didn't seem worth it at the time.

We jumped on the monorail and headed over to the Magic Kingdom where we immediately caught a bus to Old Key West. No issues, no delays, very nice!

Our goal was to come home early, get to bed early (both of those happened) and then get up early and make rope drop at Hollywood Studios the next morning. You may begin laughing now.  9:15 the next morning found only me, Jeff and Alex up. And only Alex wanted to be up.

So I think we will go back to the original plan of sleeping in late and staying late at the parks. Since its summer and the parks are open late, it will work out fine.