We’ve been back from our vacation for a week. I started to write this trip report as a way to detail the pictures for a photo journal that I am making my son. But, as I wrote it, it morphed. I started to include information about where we ate, thinking that it might help another Liner, and at that point decided that I would post it online. But, then it morphed again! And I started to include the ups and downs of our trip, it became a way for me to sort of process the events. So, in the end, it’s a look into my chaotic stream of consciousness – proceed with caution. It’s long… don’t feel obligated to read it all – or even at all.
Just a little note before I begin: This was our second trip with FPP. After our first trip, I thought I liked the way it worked. But, FPP was so new at that point that I’m not sure it was working the way it was designed to function. But regardless, I decided that I really didn’t like FPP this time – it felt too forced. Between FPPs and ADRs, it seemed like we were always waiting and watching, crisscrossing the parks with our heads buried in our phones – at the risk of missing the magic. I have an obsessive personality, so maybe this isn’t a problem for the majority of the more relaxed population, but I had to constantly remind myself to stop rushing and savor the little details that Disney does so well. This also applied to ADRs, I miss the days of just walking into a restaurant or booking dinner the morning before. So I loved how Skipper Canteen’s let us make same day reservations. We stopped in Epcot to watch the Jaminators and it didn’t seem like the show gathered a very large crowd. I wonder if street performances are losing viewers because people are rushing to get to their reservations. I hope that’s not true. Of course, it was super crowded and rainy and maybe it was just a weird spring break crowd… I would be interested to hear how people with APs perceive how the scheduling has affected the little things like street performers?
Anyway, back to our report. We left New Jersey on Tuesday (March 22) and flew into Orlando. We spent three days in Daytona Beach (one day at the beach, one day touring the Daytona 500 Racetrack, and another day at Kennedy Space Center). Then we headed to Disney, stopping for a quick airboat ride to see some alligators before arriving at Disney…
We got to our hotel around 3pm on Friday, checked our bags at POFQ (room wasn’t ready yet) and hopped on a bus to AK. About 5 minutes into our bus ride it started pouring! But we were armed with ponchos and ready to tour, so we weren’t turning back. We had FPP on KS @ 4:30 (which was fun in the rain). We also rode EE and saw Nemo (to get out of a downpour) and Lion King (because it’s the best!) and then headed to the hotel. We walked to Riverside and ate at the make your own pasta bar (QS). A little history: my son a gluten intolerance – so all of our dining is based around what he can eat. When I tell you that he enjoys a meal, it’s important to remember that he’s not able to enjoy many meals out. The boy loved the meal! And the chef who came out to take his order 0was from the town next to ours. They chatted about local (home) things, which was really fun! Then we went to see Yehaa Bob. I had a blast, but the teenager was way too cool for the experience so we only stayed for a half hour or so. I would definitely recommend checking out the show, and I hope I get back to it on another trip. A little history: I’ve been visiting DW since 1977. I barely remember the trip as I was only 5 at the time, but my mother fell in LOVE with the place. And so began our annual pilgrimage to the mouse house. It was a trip that I dreaded as a teenager! In fact, I am currently in the process of helping clean out my childhood home and I found an old diary of mine from 1988 in which I wrote “If I have a family I’m not going to make them go to Disney World.” Alanis would’ve been amused that I found that tidbit right before leaving for this trip. But the truth is that I’m always aware that not everyone loves the parks and I won’t make anyone go. In fact, my last two trips (this one and one in 2014) were just with my youngest son because my husband and older son weren’t interested in going. So, when I say that my 13 year old was too cool to enjoy YeHaa Bob, I don’t say it begrudgingly, I say it more just to give an overall feel of our trip. There’s so much to do in the world that there’s no sense wasting time on something you’re not enjoying! Anyway, we walked back to the FQ. And just for the record, it was still raining! We unpacked and played cards (a game called Spot It – which travels well and entertained us nicely) for a little while and then called it a night…
We were satisfied with our care when Baymax woke us up at 7 am the following morning. The call said something about happiness can be expressed with a fist bump, and that quote has woven itself into our life. Every time my son is happy he’s been saying “fist bump” and he puts his fist out. That kid cracks me up! Anyway, we made it to HS by 8:15 and they started letting people into the park probably 20 minutes before opening. Our plan was to jump on RnRC right at rope, but Steven Tyler threw a monkey wrench into that idea! We were held in front of Beauty and the Beast’s theater until the park “officially” opened. CMs were telling everyone that RnRC wouldn’t open @ 9 – they were reporting that it was down for “technical difficulties.“ Holding people in that area got a little crazy, it was crowded and there was some pushing – and people were irritated that the roller coaster was down. Then @ 9 a line of ToT CMs tried to lead the masses in an orderly fashion to the queue, some people even tried to push past the CMs who maintained only a thin level of crowd control. We rode it quickly and then spent the morning flitting about the park enjoying the shows and rides. We hadn’t seen the launch bay before, so that was fun to explore. The meet and greet with Kylo Ren was great, he tried hard to convince us to join the dark side. I could see this meet and greet being scary for little ones, but we thought it was fun. Because of my personality I started obsessing over when RnRC would open, and I kept watching both the MDE and Lines apps to see if it was running. I feel like I missed a lot of the little things that makes Disney a special experience that day because I was focused on darting over to RnRC as soon as it opened. We had FPP for TSMM and were in that line when I began to notice times building for RnRC, and even though we raced over as soon as we were done with Toy Story by the time we got there the line was listed at 102 minutes. Neither of us wanted to wait, but had we known that Steven Tyler would soon be high-fiving guests we might have stayed. We continued to meander, rode ST and confirmed that I still hate that ride (although the boy loves it). We had lunch at 50s, a first for us. I told him that the peanut butter and jelly milkshake got rave reviews on Lines, but he wasn’t feeling brave enough to order one so he went with chocolate. After some debate, we decided to split the fried chicken (the meal was ok, but I’m glad we shared as I wasn’t that impressed with the food). I figured I’d have room for a milkshake too, because we were splitting the meal. So, I went ahead and ordered the PB&J. I enjoyed my first few sips before it was stolen from me! And, with that single milkshake Lines gained another faithful follower – from that point on the boy would ask “do your ‘friends’ have any recommendations?” everywhere we ate! The park was getting crowded so we decided to go back to the hotel and swim. After our break, we headed into Epcot – arriving just as another storm began again. But, armed with our trusty ponchos we walked through the world show case, and then had diner at San Angel Inn. Since we have a great Mexican restaurant in our hometown I wouldn’t have chosen to eat here if the boy hadn’t requested it, but the ambiance always makes it enjoyable. We both had enchiladas – he had beef and I had chicken. They were fine, nothing spectacular but tasty. After the meal, we decided to cut out of the park before IllumiNations, in order to beat the crowds to the bus. But, you know what they say about the best laid plans… TT was showing a 20 minute wait as we approached it, that’s one of the boy’s favorite rides. The Lines app listed the posted time at 40 minutes and expected wait time of 60 minutes (yeah, that was wacky). What to do? I gave the boy the stats and told him to decide. He wanted to bank on the posted time. So, we got in line. Our actual wait ended up being a little under 30 minutes, and Lines caught up (we refreshed in the queue) about five minutes into our wait. It was a fun day, and we were tired when we got back to the hotel so we showered and went to bed.
On day three we headed to the Magic Kingdom. The last time we were at Disney 7DMT wasn’t open yet (it opened like 3 days after we left), so we were really looking forward to our 10am FPP. We arrived at the park in time to see the Welcome Show (yay) and were surprised that it was family that was also from New Jersey and it was Liner family! How exciting!! We rode Space Mountain, did Buzz Lighyear (3x in a row), rode BTM, and made it to our 7DMT FPP. We really enjoyed the ride, but waited maybe 10 minutes for it. Had we waited the posted 80 minutes, I think we would’ve been disappointed. It’s a great little coaster, for sure, but it’s a super short ride. Anyway, next we went on HM (one of my favorites but the boy hates it) and then rode Splash Mountain. And here’s where things got a little weird. *A little history: over memorial day weekend my mother passed away unexpected (she was at the gym, wasn’t feeling great, left her class, had a stroke in the locker room, and died before my father or I even made it to the hospital to see her. Unexpected and devastating. I’ve found that there are times when I “feel” her presence (or lack thereof) more poignantly – and I thought that Disney would remind me of her in a happy way so I wasn’t really prepared for the emotional roller coaster that I was about to ride). *Splash was one of my mom’s favorite rides – in fact, at home, she’d often just randomly start humming Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah. So anyway, right in the middle of the ride, I got weepy . I had tears rolling down my cheeks when we got off the ride, but the boy, bless his heart, decided we should go to JC since (and I quote), “corny jokes always make you laugh.” While we were waiting in line to see the backside of water, I made reservations for Skipper Canteens. We literally got off the ride and walked into the restaurant! Loved, loved, loved that arrangement! We just had appetizers – he had the arepas and I had the falafel – but we both really enjoyed our food and the service! We decided to head back to the hotel and swim, because it was actually sunny! We swam and then the boy said he wanted to take a drawing class – he’s most upset that the program was discontinued in HS. So we jumped an Uber over to Art of Animation where we sketched Simba! Once class was over, we hopped a bus back to MK and just as we boarded the bus it started to rain. Again! We had dining reservations at Trails End, so we arrived and took a boat to the campground. I have to tell you, I was nervous about having the boy eat at a buffet but we really wanted to try the restaurant. And, it was a fabulous experience. The chef came over and spoke directly to my son (rather than me, which I think goes a long way toward making a teenager feel respected). They talked about gluten and what the boy could eat and they decided together that it would be best if the chef just made his meal in the back. So, he took his order and brought him his own mac-n-cheese and baked chicken. Then, for dessert the chef told him to go get ice cream (for those who haven’t been there’s a self-serve soft ice cream station) because, honestly, who doesn’t like getting their own ice cream? As we were enjoying the soft serve, the chef came over with this tower of goodness that he created for the boy. Now, let me see if I can explain the tower of goodness: the base was half of an apple (flat side down) with wooden skewers stuck into it (pointing up), so it looked sort of like a porcupine. Then on each of the skewers there was fruit (strawberries, bananas, and pineapple) and brownies – so picture lots of little shish kabobs sticking out of the apple dome. When he set this creation down in front of the boy, the chef began pouring chocolate syrup all over it – drizzling the syrup from great heights – until the boy said “when” (which was a lot of chocolate later). And, as if that wasn’t enough sugar, he then produced a can of whipped cream which he spiraled that around the base of the structure. The boy’s eyes and smile couldn’t have been any bigger! It was great. (Just a note of interest here: I sent guest services a note of thanks later that night. I didn’t have the chef’s name, but listed the date and time of our meal in my email. I also can’t confirm this because I didn’t notice, but the boy reports that the chef was wearing a blue name tag. We’d talked about blue name tags when we were watching the Yehaa Bob’s show, so it’s logical that the boy would’ve picked up on it – either way they guy was awesome! When you’re gluten free, dining out can be a burden. I know the boy often feels like he’s being a pain in the neck when we ask for special (necessary!!) accommodations (not at Disney, as they’ve always been great – but in general). So the fact that the chef went out of his way to make the dining experience special really warmed my heart!) The rain let up some as we headed back to MK. We got on BTM (with FPP) in time to see a little bit of Wishes. We saw Laugh Floor, rode Astro Orbiter and People Mover and the CoP. We ended the night before the park closed, it was surprisingly crowded. Usually the rain sends the crowds home, but there were a shocking number of people who were braved the rain… all week long.
Tuesday morning, or day four for those of you keeping score, started in Epcot. We had an 8 am ADR at GG, which has always been the boy’s favorite restaurant. I was a little surprised that he requested a character breakfast this year, happily surprised, but surprised nonetheless. I was thinking that he’d be too cool for characters this year, but that wasn’t the case. Wondering when he’ll outgrow such requests? Anyway, HOLY FOOD QUANTITES! We really gave it the ole college try, but we couldn’t finish everything that they served us. The boy started with a chocolate chip muffin, which he devoured! My meal started with a skillet of cinnamon rolls, ohhh those babies are heavenly! We both should’ve stopped there but continued to gorge ourselves. We were brought eggs with tater tots and waffles with a warm Nutella-like syrup. There were salsas served with the eggs that were made from the ingredients in the Land, so we had to try all of those. There was a regular salsa and salsa verde – neither of which were very spicy but both were tasty and added a nice depth to the eggs. There was also an apple salsa, it was sweet and I didn’t care for it. The boy said he liked the flavor, but not on eggs, and there wasn’t really anything provided that we could pair it with (so he ate it with a spoon). We made a full rotation around, had visits from Chip, Dale, and Mickey. The boy has grown so much since our last visit that he was taller than Mickey this time! That was a little sad to see that… my baby is growing up . And then Pluto joined us! Pluto stayed for a little while longer than the other characters when the boy told him that he was his favorite – I snapped the sweetest picture of them hugging. It was, as always, a very enjoyable meal. Our plan was to hightail it over to TT and ride it before the crowds mounted (we had a FPP for later in the day, but, as I’ve mentioned, it’s one of the boy’s favorite rides). Well, we were distracted by some baby ducklings in the pond en route and didn’t make it over that way until 9:07. At that point, the line to TT was winding into the park. Yeah, we weren’t waiting for that. SoaT was a 10 minute wait, so we hit that and then MS Orange. We loved the Pixar Shorts, they were adorable, the only complaint we had was that should be longer! We rode Ellen, and SE, and headed back to the World Showcase after grabbing drinks at the Cool Club. The Flower and Garden displays are just so pretty. We kept texting pictures of “things we should do in our backyard” home! I really think that there should be a contest where you win a Disney gardener for the year, wouldn’t that be awesome? This is the only day we didn’t leave a park to rest. We flitted between FW and WS and enjoyed the rainy day. We stopped to watch the Jaminators and enjoyed the “fountain fireworks” (the dancing water set to music, which I’m sure has a name but that the boy has always called fountain fireworks). We also did the Behind the Seeds tour. The tour was interesting, worth the $20, but not something I think I’d do again. The boy liked Stalely, one of the plants – or “pets” – and wants to get one for our house! Then we had a FPP for TT… the boy is a huge car enthusiast (in fact, we spent a day in Daytona, before arriving at Disney, touring the race track). He loves TT. He talks to the GM reps and he cares about the aerodynamics and likes to compare his design to whatever he compares it to on the computers in the lab after the ride. The point I am trying to make is that he really cares how his car does. That said, we waited over a half hour with our FPP (the track had been down for a while before our FPP) and he created his car with intention. As we were waiting at the gate to load a young girl sort of pushed in front of us – not rudely, she said excuse me and said she needed to get past. I didn’t really understand what was happening – I thought she was with the family in the gate beside us and that she was trying to line up with them. But, she didn’t get into the car that was there, then she scanned her band and when the next car came she hopped into it. Now, we were told to board with her. The problem being that she’s scanned her band, meaning that we would be riding in her car. The boy’s car wouldn’t be what was being “tested.” I tried to explain the situation to the CM loading us. It was humid and it had been raining off and on all day (all week) and the ride had been down and the crowd levels were 10, all of which had him stressed out, I’m sure, but he wouldn’t listen to what I was trying tell him – he yelled at me to get in the car or get out of line. (I do have his name and city/state and I haven’t done anything with it, yet.) We rode. Her car and data showed up. I was very frustrated. The boy said it was fine, that he’d done the ride earlier that week and that the lab would still have data to analyze – but this mama bear didn’t think it was fine. We stepped off and I went over to another CM (I also have her name and city/state) and explained the situation. She was very understanding and simply walked us up a flight of stairs, across the track, and back down another flight to the loading area where we were able to get right back on the ride. This time we scanned the boy’s band and he got to ride in “his” car! Yay! His data appeared and we lived happily ever after (I even got a fist bump). I was going to write to guest services, but I feel like I’d need to explain the whole situation. I understood why the first CM was stressed, not that he should’ve been so rude, but I do understand. I also feel like I should thank the second CM, so I’m torn. So I do anything? If there’s anyone still reading the extremely long log, please feel free to weigh in with your thoughts. Anyway, we ended the night eating dinner and watching IllumiNations at the Rose & Crown. The boy had shepherds pie, which he didn’t love, and I had the fish and chips, which I thought were fine but not great. I had the pear cider and that was delicious, totally recommend grabbing one at the cart outside if you’re there. Our waiter was adorable and the view was spectacular. So we enjoyed the meal, but certainly wasn’t our favorite.
Wednesday was our last park day. We’d originally planned to end our week at AK for the morning and MK for the evening, but that best laid plans thing bit me in the butt again. While we were at R&C for dinner the night before, we’d decided that IF we didn’t carry a bag we could RD HS and ride RnRc before getting to AK, where we had a 9:45 FPP for KS. So, on the morning of day five, we crammed our ponchos into our pockets and boarded the bus to HS. The park was already open when we arrived at 8:40. We zipped in through the guests-without-bags turnstile and rode RnRc – TWICE before 9:10! I wanted to stay and ride ToT but the boy was worried we’d miss our FPP. And he loves the safari… So we jumped a bus to AK and made it with what seemed like plenty of time to spare. We zoomed in through the guests-without-bags turnstiles again (LOVE) but got held up at the actual park entry point. Three or four turnstiles all the way to the left weren’t working, shoving all guest to enter through the right-side turnstiles only. The lines just to get into the park were long. We watched people try to walk up to the empty turnstiles, where CMs were posted and they were telling people that they’d need to get into the long lines. Well, one women lost her mind and demanded to speak to a supervisor. So, someone (in plaid) came out. And right as we were about to scan our band, they asked us to wait. They walked the crazy screaming women and her family members around to the top of the turnstile and they scanned their bands. If that women had simply gotten in line, she would have only been 3 or 4 families behind us, but whatever! I thought the boy had a good attitude about the situation when he said, “how’s she going to handle the lines to the rides?” But this situation would cause me angst later on in the day, but I’m getting ahead of myself. After the crazy screamer was scanned in, we scanned our magic bands – no finger print, just the bands, and walked in. All-in-all, it took us about 15 minutes to get through the line, and I was grateful that we weren’t still stuck in the bag check lines which were stretching on for great lengths! Anyway, we rode the safari and the boy got some great photos. We visited Rafiki's Planet Watch where a bird was getting its little head stitched up. (The CM told us that it had skinned it’s noggin on a branch, which we learned is normal in the course of bird life, but they wanted it to heal without issue so they were administering the vet care. She went on to tell us about a frog that had a tumor removed from its eye the day before and that a lioness had an emergency c-section the week prior. The boy was very disappointed to learn that we’d missed a c-section – ummm, yup, he’s weird.) We rode KKR (FPP) and then had a 1:45 FPP for EE. It was only 1:30. We asked the CM how long the FPP line was averaging and he told us 15 minutes (he was right). We had reservations at Sanaa at 2:30 and the crowds were out of control. Like, crazy out of control. I think there may have been power problems because several of the band scanners were not working and CMs had manually scanned our bands with a hand-held device – leading to longer lines. (Just for a point of reference, there was a line to get on the train to Rafiki's!) And I feel like AK’s walkways are always crowded, even on a low crowd day, but they were really bad on this day and we were having problems moving at some points. So I was getting nervous about making it to our reservation. I decided we’d get in line and try to get through early. I’ve heard that they’ll let you in 5 minutes early. The line was winding around outside, so I wasn’t sure what part of the quoted 15 minutes would be outside, meaning I wasn’t sure how long we would have before we needed to scan our bands. But we were at the scanner about 2 minutes later, or 13 minutes early. I was prepared to be turned away. We scanned our bands and the Mickey head turned blue. Oh no. She looked at us and said, “go ahead.” Seriously, I think the crowd level was so crazy that CMs were letting small things slide in order to keep guests happy and thank goodness because we were tight on time. We rode and headed out of the park right as the rain started! We arrived at Sanaa, checked in early and went outside to see the sights. The boy was awe struck. A little history: I had booked us at AK (lodge) for this trip as we’d never stayed there before, but when I told the boy he was disappointed. He said he wanted to stay at POFQ, where we’d stayed on our last trip. I have never stayed in the same resort twice, I think it’s fun to see what each place has to offer so didn’t want to go to POFQ. But then the boy said, “I love being able to go get beignets for breakfast every morning.” ARGH! The gluten thing is such a huge factor! I always feel bad for him – because it sucks! He doesn’t get a chance to have donuts in the morning – ever! Not when team mates bring a box of them to sidelines of a game, not when students bring them to class parties – NEVER! Walking over to get beignets in the morning is as close to stopping into Dunkin Donuts as this kid is ever going to get. BLAH! So I changed our reservation to POFQ. Anyway, outside of Sanaa we chatted with a CM and she was telling us which animals we were looking at when a small black snake slithered past and into the fire pit on the deck. The poor CM almost passed out! She’s has ophiophobia, which we learned (from her) is a fear of snakes. The other CM looked up the type of snake (a harmless variety) on his iPad. He also call for backup and a management-like person came out. She let the very frightened CM go inside. I felt so bad for her! But then our table was ready, so we left the excitement (although the boy would’ve happily stayed and watched as they were apparently calling pest control to have the snake removed). Fully trusting the Liner Nation, we ordered the bread service and buttered chicken. Both of which were fabulous! The boy was a little put off to be sharing a meal – he thought he could eat his own, but I stressed that ‘my friends’ claimed it was a ton of food. And, in the end we were both very full. Best part of the meal? A wacky bird that ate bugs out of the air in front of the window where we were sitting. This was our favorite meal of the week, maybe ever. Food, ambience, everything – it was perfect! We were planning to head to MK from Sanaa and finish out our day there, but while we were eating we decided that we could hit Epcot before MK and make it a 4 park day. But, before we left the hotel we needed to try a zebra dome. While we were at Jambo House, the boy decided that we most definitely need to come back and stay at this hotel (Why didn’t I just keep our original reservations… ARGH! But, silver lining, he’s thinking we should come back during his sophomore year…). Anyway, we took a bus to Epcot – walked around the WS, rode Three Caballeros (because in order for our 4 park day to “count” we needed to do at least one ride in each park), and then headed to MK. We had a nice night. We had done all the rides we wanted to do that day, except Space Mnt. and the wait time wasn’t going down on that ride. I asked the boy what he wanted to do. The queue is fun but I was happy to skip it if he didn’t want to wait. What happened next is debatable: he’ll claim that he was joking, I maintain that behind every joke there’s a little bit of truth. But he suggested that I go freak out on the CM at the gate, in the same way that the scary screaming women had done this morning at AK, so that we could move to the front of the line. He was laughing and even said that he thought we could get free FPPs if I really yelled. He stopped talking when he turned and saw my face. I was not amused. Not even a little. I was tired (it had been a long day), it was raining (day 5 of rain, for the record), it was crowded (did I mention Crowd Level 10?), and I was at a loss on what to say to him. What could’ve been a teaching moment, turned into me telling off a 13 year old boy. I proceeded to tell him that acting like an a-hole isn’t a way to go through life. And I was mad – at him, sure, but at Disney also. Letting that women go to the front of the line, unintentionally, showed an impressionable young person that Disney will reward inappropriate behavior. I hope that my son has learned enough morals from our family that he wouldn’t ever act that way, but I didn’t like the joke. And, in the end, I felt inadequate when the best advice I could offer was to say that because you can act that way (and get rewarded), doesn’t mean you should. We both let the conversation go, and went on to enjoy the last few hours. We rode Space and then ended up getting into a 20 minute line on 7DMT at 11:50pm, which was a great last ride of the trip. There was a midnight MSEP which we caught the tail end of, then we had ice cream, and left the park after the kiss goodnight.
Wednesday we woke to sunshine. Of course, we would have leave on the first beautiful day!! But it was time – we both were missing everyone at home. We packed, sent our bags to be held, and printed our boarding passes. Then we hopped on a boat to DS (or DTD as the signage all still says). We shopped for gifts for ourselves and a few mementos to bring home to the family. We grabbed an early lunch at RR. The boy had fish and onion rings, which he’s still raving about. I had a colcannon soup that was wonderful and a peach/beet salad with goat cheese that was also delicious. We got back to POFQ in time to swim for about an hour. The boy bought another order of beignets and enjoyed them! Although, he made a point to tell me (with a bit of an ornery smile tugging at the corners of his mouth) that the zebra domes were even better than the beignets… And with that, we boarded the Magic (Tragic) Express and headed home.