I … have nearly finished my trip report. Technically, the trip part is finished! But I’ve got a few notes to make here and there, not to mention editing and adding photos.
This is big. I’ve never finished a trip report. So I’m going to start posting it – one or two days at a time, because when I write, I write. This is longer than I wish it were. I apologize now. I totally understand not reading my trip report. But I wrote it, so I have to post it. Also, it was an amazing trip, filled with magic and happy tears. So yeah, I really want to remember this one!
Cast of Characters:
- Bay, age 57, huge Disney nut who forgets to take pictures but writes a lot
- Wesley, age 63, memorized the Tigger song the night it debuted on TV in 1968
- Tobin, age 36, autistic trans firstborn who moved back home last year, loves Disney
- Woodrow, age 30, Cast Member and enabler who somehow didn’t love Disney for years
- Amy, age [mumble mumble], Bay’s sister who does not love Disney
- Randy, age 63?, Amy’s newish husband who is game for almost anything and owns lots of timeshare points
Points of Origin:
Wesley, Bay, Tobin: Philadelphia, TN
Amy & Randy: Las Vegas, NV
Woodrow: WDW (bad kid!!!)
2 BR villa at Saratoga Springs on Randy’s timeshare points.
Check in: November 25
Check out: December 2
Nov 24: Start driving south, LaQuinta in Ocala
Nov 25: Check in at SS, go to Disney Springs, go back to resort
Nov 26: Resort, Disney Springs, resort
Nov 27: Rope drop HS, hop to MK*
Nov 28: Rope drop MK, hop to HS*
Nov 29: Rope drop DAK
Nov 30: Rope drop Epcot, w/Extra Evening Hours there, too
Dec 1: Resort, resort, resort
Dec 2: Pack up and cry all the way home
- HS had Jollywood the first night and MK had MVMCP the second night. We avoided both parties and enjoyed low, low crowds in the mornings!
** We are “always take a break early afternoon” people. ALWAYS. The nap is as important as the cuisine!!!
Without any further ado…
Friday, November 24
Travel day – hit the road, y’all!
We made it out of our driveway around 11:30. Woodrow gave me a hard time on the phone; Wesley rolled his eyes. Tobin took Dramamine and Benadryl for sitting in the backseat with Scupper.
Stopped at Buc-ee’s in north Georgia. Tobin had never been; Wesley and I had never been inside together because we always travel with a dog! Delicious smoked brisket sandwiches, and I picked up a bag of those candy nuggets – Buc-ee’s Beaver Nuggets. Amy, Randy, Woodrow, and Wesley had enjoyed them so much on our beach trip in May, I figured they would appreciate them again. Spoiler alert: They did.
Had dinner in Lake City, FL, at a Five Guys there, and then went to Ocala to our subpar La Quinta Inn & Suites that I had reserved based on TripAdvisor reviews and inaccurate photos. It smelled like cigarette smoke and I nearly walked out.
Then I calmed down – less than $160/night, and they don’t charge for dogs, and I won’t go back to that one again. Tobin and I went to a nearby Kohl’s because Tobin had NO CLOTHING SUITABLE FOR A WDW VACATION. (I had asked about that months earlier, when I could have ordered some cargo shorts and stuff. This is life with an autistic adult child.) I bought a very expensive candle to counteract the stench in the hotel room, and we got lost in the parking lot. I’m not kidding. That was the worst parking lot of any department store I’ve ever tried to get out of. It was, like, loop-the-loops. The poor GPS couldn’t help, either.
It was very late when we got back to the stinky La Quinta (La Stinka?), and Wesley and Scupper were already asleep.
NOTE: Many weeks later: Just last night (1/23/24), Wesley told his endocrinologist that the Ocala La Quinta Inn was the worst motel we ever stayed at. He never traveled with my mother. She had a talent for finding the most terrifying motels the 1970’s ever saw. I mean… Wow. Don’t want to go down that memory lane! LOL!
Saturday, November 25
Drive to Orlando! Drop off Scupper! Check in to Saratoga Springs!
We leapt up!!! I went out for McDonald’s breakfast and coffee, and we were soon on the road to Orlando.
The neatest note from the drive was watching the northbound lanes fill up with cars leaving Orlando after Thanksgiving in the magic. I was so glad not to be heading home! That was some impressive traffic over there.
The most depressing note was that I didn’t see any crape myrtles in bloom or waterlilies on the ponds as we went southward. These were always the things I looked for when I went to Florida in autumn, but this was the latest I’d ever been.
First we went to Woodrow’s townhouse in Davenport, FL, a town so small it doesn’t really qualify as a town; it’s just a spot close to WDW with a lot of shopping centers and very tightly packed housing developments. I used the bathroom at Woodrow’s townhouse. He rents with two other “permanent” renters and occasional vacationing renters. I wonder how the landlord keeps everyone straight. It would be a cute townhouse for a family. It is … weird… and mostly bare as a rental place.
Then we split up. Wesley and I went to take Scupper to her pet sitter’s house, also in Davenport, and Woodrow and Tobin headed for Disney Springs.
Tobin took this picture:
(Those signs are trippy in photos!)
I was so worried about dropping Scupper off with strangers I’d found on Rover.com, but everything seems to have turned out all right. They had a little girl, about 5 years old, who was screaming with delight over Scupper. Literally shrieking. I don’t know how her parents stand it. But hey, they reported no problems over the course of the week and sent many pictures of Scupper and Screaming Girl cuddling and playing together, so I guess … it was OK.
Then we drove to Disney Springs on the first Saturday of the official Christmas Shopping Season of 2023, where it was a freaking madhouse. We parked in the Watermelon surface parking lot at the far end near Cirque du Soleil (laughing internally at the concept of anything being “near” Cirque in that full parking lot) and hiked up to security, where I was pulled for additional screening because I forgot to hold my umbrella WAY OUT in front of me while passing through the metal detectors. My bad. I always take my umbrella for shade, and I needed it that day.
We only made it as far as Jaleo through the mass of humanity. Woodrow and Tobin had parked at the other end of the complex, but had gotten there so much earlier that they found us practically the same time we found them. I was delighted to have lunch at Pepe, the sandwich shop attached to Jaleo. I had the long, skinny sandwich on crisp Spanish bread that comes with thin, thin Spanish ham and smashed tomatoes. Divine!!! Highly recommend!!! The rest of the people in my party got the Spanish version of a Philly cheese steak. Smelled great, but I really loved my sandwich and dream about going back to get another.
While eating (outside, people watching), Amy and Randy had landed and were making their way through the airport to their Lyft car. So after lunch, we immediately left Disney Springs and drove over to Saratoga Springs to check in.
We all met up outside the registration area and hugged, and a young man checked us in. When he told us our building, I asked him to check for something closer to Disney Springs. He couldn’t find anything closer.
Back outside, still chatting, a woman walked up to me and asked if we were just checking in. I said yes, and she held out two refillable mugs. “They still have a week left on them,” she said. “We have to leave early, but we hope they will be put to good use.”
We all thanked her giddily, so happy to already be in the magic. Spoiler, though: They were not put to good use. We never ate in the food court. We had a really hard time finding anything at Saratoga Springs, including the Carriage House and Artist Palette.
First challenge: Finding our room! Two cars and a golf cart! … Except the golf cart never had time to get Amy and Randy. It was busy. So they finally just walked to the Paddock and found our building. Amy used Google maps, I think.
It was a very pretty room. The kitchen is not big, and the dining table is tiny for a place that is supposed to hold 8-9 people. Here’s our view…
The rest of Saturday is a blur. Amy and Tobin and I went grocery shopping, which took a long time. We got lost a lot. I don’t remember what we did for dinner that night. Maybe just sandwiches? I don’t know. I had to cook sausage to prepare for Christmas breakfast casserole the next morning. Woodrow and I had to go out again because the villa didn’t have a grater for the cheese. I didn’t mind that, though; I love me a Target shopping excursion.
We picked up booze and bottles of water and yogurt and, well, all kinds of stuff. I always end up making three or four trips for groceries and stuff while I’m at WDW. That’s just what I do.
Tobin got the Murphy bed; Amy & Randy got the master bedroom, and Wesley and I let Woodrow sleep on the second bed in our bedroom. We’re givers. That’s just how we are.
Also, if we had made him sleep in the little pull-down bed in the living room under the TV, he would have broken something. D’oh!
A note about the title: A novelette has fewer than 19,000 words. A novella, as I intended to call this thread, apparently has only about 40,000 words. Well, I’m not finished with my trip report and it’s getting really close to 59,400 words, sooooo… Yeah. Novel. Sheesh.