DAY ONE – Our flight is at 7:30 am so we need to get a good night sleep because my wife and I have to wake up at 3:30 am and leave the house by 4:30 am to get to the airport. Because I look like a terrorist you never know how security is going to go so we always like to throw in a little extra time. So anyway back to getting to sleep. I needed to get some last minute things together before I left for the week which brought me up to 10:30 pm already running behind my planned time for hitting the hay. I had to set the alarm for 3:30 but the new alarm clock I got for Christmas took me most of the rest of December to figure out how to set it so my wife suggested my Droid – perfect! – Well, I couldn’t find an alarm anywhere on that phone so now it’s 11:30 and I am looking for an alarm clock app which after downloading I finally got it set for 3:30 am. I guess I really didn’t need it after all because I slept like a rock till 2:30 than proceeded to stare at my phone for the next hour wondering if it was going to go off. It did.
Everything actually went well and we arrived at the airport after dropping the car off at the long-term parking facility at 5:30 am. We hooked up with my step-daughter, son-in-law and our 9 month old grandson. We were all pretty hungry and the line at the McDonalds was short. The Egg McMuffins looked delicious, so did the Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuts but because I have a serious dairy issue I elected to pass and have a cereal bar instead, mmmmmm. With my luck I would be stuck by the window with a 600 ponder in the aisle seat sleeping the whole way to Florida blocking my emergency dash to the restroom.
While I was waiting to board I thought this trip might be a good time to start to lose some weight. After all I was off to a good start with my organic breakfast bar. So, when the snack cart came up the aisle I looked past the diet Coke and saw a can of cran-apple juice and chose that instead. When I was done with the juice I happen to spin the can around and read the nutrition label. It was 220 calories and 58g of sugar. By 9:00 am my diet was over.
After we arrived in Orlando we went straight to the loading area for the bus trip to Disney to start the MAGIC! You know you are in the right area because you pass all the other bus companies with their nicely dressed agents and you see at the end of the walkway this white haired guy in a maroon and mustard 1950’s movie usher uniform with a giant white hand frantically waiving you towards his line. Why is every “cast member” so freakin happy? The initiation starts the moment you step on the bus. There is a video playing with Mickey and Friends singing and dancing. The bus pulls up to our hotel which was the Old Key West Resort where even happier people greet you. You know this is going to be the best damn vacation you have ever been on! The happy people direct you to even happier “cast members” (this is what they call all Disney employes) to check you in. At that point I realized why they are so happy. They just charged my wife and I $619.00 to get into the different parks for five days. I don’t complain because at this time I am so tired and hungry it is stupid.
I must say our accommodations were amazing and the lunch we had was delicious. After my daughter, son-in-law and three year old granddaughter arrived we boarded the shuttle boat for a casual ride to Downtown Disney to get the Disney groove going. We had dinner reservations at Paridisio 37 or something like that where we had a great meal accompanied by a very talented local singer. After dinner we strolled around Downtown Disney, shopping and trying to buy a little something for dessert. We decided on Goofy’s Candy Store. While you’re in line choosing what cookie you want you keep staring at the price tags and start wondering if they all have a typo. Can Mickey really charge that much for a cookie? Is that the real price for a candied apple? Did we bring enough money for a week here?
Travel tip:When planning your Disney vacation put all your money out on the bed before you leave. count it and triple it. You just might get through if you don’t go crazy buying things or have a lottery to pick one family member per day who gets to eat.
DAY TWO Sunday was pretty cool. We all went to the House of Blues for their Gospel Brunch. The selection of food was fantastic and as we were walking in the “happy” person told us coffee, juice and soda was included in the brunch price. I think the price was around $50, so that was mighty nice of them. By the way, my diet was really off because I vowed to eat and drink as much as I could seeing as how they were charging me as much as they could. When the curtains came up none of it mattered, the Gospel band was as good as anything I had ever heard. Their show was great!
After brunch we all got on to the inter-park bus to get us to Hollywood Studios and went on a bunch of rides. My three-year old granddaughter was crazy for all the 3-D movies. She also slept through the entire parade. All in all a pretty good day. Dinner was burgers & fries back at the condo.
DAY THREE was going to be a great day, we were going to Epcot which is my favorite park. If you’ve never been to Epcot it is essentially a giant lake with exhibits from several countries around the world. Everything is absolutely authentic so it is a great place to meander and take in all the sights, sounds and tastes. Before we all got on the bus my daughter and I decided to “drink around the world”. Bad decision. Mexico was first and the beer went down easy. Germany was OK because I had bratwurst and sauerkraut with my second drink. We stopped in Italy but I don’t think we had a beer there. Ella was having a grand old time dancing with the “ladies in red” in the square.
Tips for Disney: Sell pizza by the slice. You might also want to think of having finger food in every country so you can eat on the run. I’ve never sat in a chair in Epcot because for the thousands of people there is seating for around 30. A hot dog in Disney is $4.79 (I just paid $2.49 at price Right for an 8-pack of Nathan’s) Just think what they could get for a slice and a soda.
OK, back to drinking. I think the next beer was from Japan as I was eating sushi with Jena (remember I had the bratwurst and sauerkraut about 45 minutes earlier). I actually don’t remember what countries we hit after that. I do know my glass was never empty. We stopped to hear a Scottish bagpipe rock band where I had my last beer of the day. I just assume it was from England, I couldn’t tell. That one took an awful long time to go down.
It was Valentine’s Day and we hooked up with some friends from Florida and babysat Jake and Ella while the kids went out to dinner. As we were walking over to the hotel restaurant Jake fell asleep and we figured it would be a nice quiet meal. Wrong. He got his second wind as we entered and sat down and the two of them ate like they had never been fed before. I hope the waitress could read my signature as my hand was shaking trying to sign the credit card receipt.
DAY FOUR So here we are at day 4 – The Magic Kingdom! This is what’s it’s all about. This is the reason you come to Disney World. This is also the day you realize you are about $3,000 short. When we first started walking up Main Street I noticed there were quite a few balloon sellers. People dressed in knickers and caps with giant bundles of Mickey balloons. You have to understand that Main Street looks like Times Square on New Year’s Eve and I saw maybe 4 or 5 kids with balloons. It didn’t take long to figure that one out. The balloons were going for $8 – $10 each.
Our first stop was the character breakfast. These are fun. If you are thinking of attending one you need to book now, even if you haven’t had kids yet. The waiting list is the same or worse than season tickets for the NY Giants or a parking space at the Fairfield, CT train station. But it’s all worth it when you see the kids faces. Because our two grandchildren did so good the day before when they hooked up with Mickey and friends we knew this was going to be a memorable event. The kids didn’t let us down. When Winnie the Pooh came to our table, Ella jumped up and gave him a big hug. She tugged on his little red jacket and said” your shirt is a little small, do you like salads?” She actually said that. Jake was happy just biting all there noses and leaning back and staring at all the ceiling fans. They both were having a blast.
The rest of the day was very exciting. More rides, more characters, ice cream and the ultimate -THE DUMBO RIDE. It is the simplest of all the rides and easily the most popular. Ella could have spent the day on it.
It was getting close to parade time so we had to find a spot. Because the parades are daily and extravagant they are relatively short so you don’t want to miss them. One cautionary note: there is a parade every day in every park and you need to beware of the line Nazi’s. They are the people who tell you where you can stand for the parades. You don’t see it happen but the parade route has a masking tape boundry put down just before it starts and there are more people enforcing that line than auto workers in Detroit. Watching the kids lose their minds over the parades is pretty cool. Everything is so polished in Disney it is amazing to see.
Travel tip: Make sure you have very good sneakers and powder. You have to walk about 50,000 miles and by the end of day four I happily paid any price for some powder as I had a near fatal case of chafing.
Dinner that night was at the Polynesian Resort and was very good. Don’t go here if you’re a vegetarian because the only thing to eat is mountains of fire roasted beef, chicken, pork and shrimp with dipping sauces. The entertainment was for the kids and everyone loved it.
DAY FIVE Animal Kingdom Day! This is the park where you need nice weather or it will be miserable so plan accordingly. We really lucked out with another perfect weather day. All of us hung out at the pool before going to the park. Dinner was also there so we delayed going over.
Let me tell you something about the pool. Somewhere in the past Disney must have been sued or something because there were three lifeguards for a small figure eight pool. One of the guards walked the edge of the pool at a very quick pace staring into the pool. He was like a caged animal never stopping. He only stopped for the changing of the guards. The new guy paced too. The whole time never taking his eyes off the pool. THERE WAS NOBODY IN THE POOL! These three were equipped like it was the ocean off Australia. The pool was 3’9″ deep. We swam (actually you can’t swim because the it’s only 3’9″ deep) – we sat in the pool where the guard stopped pacing and stood over you staring. I was waiting for the guard up in the high chair to whip out binoculars. To tell you the truth I was expecting to see Pamela Anderson come running out is slow motion in her famous red bathing suit.
Animal Kingdom is a lot of fun. There is a safari, a skyscraper sized carved tree with a 3-D bug movie inside and a great roller coaster called the Everest Express. Everything in the park is worth the 30 minute wait. A must see is the Lion King show. It is near broadway quality. This is the one thing Disney does right. They don’t skimp anywhere. It’s just that someone has to pay for it.
The parade is full of mechanical animals and the marchers wear great costumes. Just make sure you stand where they tell you. One of the line Nazi’s was staring at my feet just waiting for me to touch the tape border. I was afraid to move, she was big.
It was time to make our way to the Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner. It was an African buffet. All I can say is save up your money because most of the restaurants are very good and some are top notch.
DAY SIX was low key. My daughter and family left se we hung out at the pool, took the boat over to Downtown Disney for some last minute gifts for the other grandchildren. Dinner was back at Epcot in Italy where we sat down for some comfort food. It was nice to get away from the gourmet meals and mounds of buffet foods. I guess Disney wanted me to know I wouldn’t be free and clear yet. For four little personal pizzas, a bowl of lettuce to share and two Bud Lites was $117.00 before tip. The check had something I’d never seen before, maybe I don’t get out enough but they had sample tips printed out to help you put salt on the wound. My wife and I have milestone birthdays next year and we thinking it might actually be cheaper to go to the real Italy for a few weeks than to Italy in Epcot.
DAY SEVEN was lounging around the condo playing with Jake and the trip home. This was our 4th or 5th trip to Disney and it all went smoothly, the weather was beautiful and we all had a really good time.