On Site Day 1: Sunday at Hollywood Studios
or A Shoehorn! My Kingdom for a Shoehorn!
After several days of visiting with our family, we sadly had to part ways. It is funny how when family moves apart, you get into a rhythm where the lessened contact feels normal. These days, social media can help with maintaining a thread of contact in each others' daily lives, and it can be a valuable thing - knowing and sharing the small things do make a difference in how close one feels.
But when you get to actually visit and hug, and then have to leave, social media is left wanting.
After bidding our fond fondues on Saturday evening, the kidlets, wife and I awoke with early aplomb and set off from Miami as scheduled about 6:30AM. The plan was this: GO! GO! GO!.
Actually, it was bit more detailed: Arrive at Caribbean Beach to drop our bags and then skedaddle over to Hollywood Studios by 12:30PM. Try to stick to the Touring Plan, which I may have found to be the most challenging one in the whole week to balance: Turns out fitting rides and eating (YOU MEAN YOU'RE HUNGRY? HERE HAVE SOME GUM!) in between scheduled show times with a few crucial missing morning hours kept me second guessing myself.
Also, the whole tiered Fastpass thing meant I had a painful choice to make - especially one that my son may not be happy with.
Tier 1: Toy Story Mania, Rock n Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror.
The latter two: wife and 8 yo daughter OUT.
My son LOVES that roller coaster. We have never ridden ToT.
One Tier One Fastpass. Urgh.
Aside: A Neat Way to Keep Track of Your Trip Movements
Or: Daddy, Why is That Satellite Following Us?
If you have a Smartphone and use The Google Location History can be your friend. I have the Google to Android feature turned on my phone so that it keeps track of where I am throughout the day. Unless I decide to take a day off for some undercover espionage, it can be interesting to see how various routes on my commute fare (Long Island traffic: UGH.), or also help me track mileage for expense reports.
It also means I have an automagic, step-by-step, inch by inch, slowly I turned record of each day of our journey. There is a certain satisfaction with looking at the location map for a day in a NY to Florida drive and seeing just how far you've gone.
When it comes to the Magic Kingdom and environs, Google Maps has pretty detailed in the park location info. (Yes, I am a map and data geek.)
Years from now I'll call up my then-grown children and shout into the phone "HEY KIDS REMEMBER WHEN WE WERE WALKING FROM THE BIG HAT TO STAR TOURS AT 12:48 PM THAT SUNDAY? GOOD TIMES. HEY YOU, GET OFF MY LAWN."
Or: How I Learned to Love the Plan and Stop Worrying
Our travel was great - once again, my kids are great travelers and helpful when packing the car. (Albeit, with a lot of "Git yer stuff in order!" reminders the night before. And, not to mention the 7,638 things my wife had packed and ready for us each day.)
A drizzly ride up from Miami, but nothing too bad and a bonus of a beautiful sunrise in the distance. We arrived at Carribean Beach about 10:20 - early! Check in went nice and smooth, and I learned that my fax from a few days before requesting one of a specific set of rooms was successful. Very successful, in fact: I had mistakenly requested a Preferred Room when we had booked a Standard one. The CM told me of my mistake, but said they were able to help us anyway. All right!
(Detail: I had created a fax document using the TP room info before we headed down to Florida. I sent it via HelloFax online 4 days earlier. Very useful free service - I also use it to send document requests to the National Archives in Ireland when doing genealogy research - hasn't failed me yet, and you can't beat the price.)
So.. our first FastPass was for Toy Story Mania at 12:45. I figured it would be good for all if we started our week with an all-together favorite. I was a bit worried the 11yo Master Miles would rue my decision, but all were happy during the pre-trip TP report. whew
I told my son I thought it was important all of us were together for the rides we all enjoyed and that if we found time later in the day and the wait times were manageable we'd try for RnR and/or ToT - and he was good with that. He's has a great heart (of course, I'm biased) but can get ornery at times. Thankfully, this was not one of them. (There will be others...)
We had an ADR for 50's Prime Time Cafe at 1:40PM, so the original plan was to hopefully get in the park and on TSM by 1:20. But, with our early arrival at CBR, we were through the turnstiles at the park by noon. So, we had some time to wander and then hit Muppets, wave at Phineas and Ferb on the Phly and take a look at the Streets with the Osborne lights in the daytime.
The standby at TSM was up around 60 minutes, and the Fastpass wait was only about 10. My wife had somehow managed to max out Buzz Lightyear last trip with a 999,999 score, so IT WAS ON for TSM. I was able to edge her score out, carpal tunnel be damned!
A bit of Pixar fun was had by all.
Everyone was psyched for 50's Prime Time, especially son Miles, who still talks about last year's fried chicken at least once a week. As I've mentioned before, Both Miles & Lily have severe nut allergies, so Disney dining is almost pure freedom for them, since a quick discussion with the chefs makes it much easier to eat out safely than the real world.
Short wait, (dark table!), fun waiter. (Kept telling my son to "Go get it yourself, I'm tired!") Miles ordered fried chicken again, I had food envy. My meatloaf was delicious, but the portion size was small. My real complaint was our daughter's portion size: she got a mac and cheese on the kid's menu, and it was about as big as a yogurt cup. Thankfully, said son shared a piece of chicken with her.
From ADR time we had about and hour and 15 minutes before the girls had to be at their FPP for the Disney Junior show, and we boys were to head over to save the galaxy at Star Tours. Before we knew it, the girls had to run out to make it, and we stayed behind to settle up. I considered leaving my son to wash dishes for his dinner, but thought better of it.
We had awhile before the girls would be out and our ST FPP kicked in, so we wandered over to look at the Raiders gift shop (Of course: Guns! guns! guns! my son's brain said.) I noticed a cool setup on the far side of the Raiders path - a tank and explosives, so we took advantage of the opportunity.
Star Tours was great. (On our second pass there later, we waited behind a father with 3 boys under 6 with him. As he pondered his smartphone scree, the boys proceeded to climb fences and rip leaves off of bushes with nary a glance from good old Dad. Just as my DadSense started kicking in on their shenanigans, my son's Boy Scout tendency kicked in and he told the boys they should stop and be careful. They looked at him cockeyed like the Dead-End kids from the 1940s, "Hey boys, whatta we gots here, a goodie two shoes?"
But they ceased operations, and I was proud.
We hit Raiders, to make up for seeing a shortened post-rain show last year: kids loved it. Did a bit of wandering, and then heard someone calling "Yoo Hoo! Family!" and took a gander in the Frozen shop and make your own snow cone factory. (A bit too crowded for more than a peek for our kids.)
Our last Fastpass was for the Frozen Singalong, and I had heard that you should be there a bit before even with a FPP. We stopped and checked the pretzel cart for allergy issues (none!) and got some of those for the wait. We were about half way back on the Fastpass line, and munching away when the salt kicked in. I threw my son some dollars and he ran to a cart to buy some water - and they almost immediately opened the doors. Yay! He snaked back just in time, just as we noticed the Non-Fastpass line was going in too. Cue quizzical Scooby Doo sound
It all worked out, but that's one bogus FPP system, right there, even if they do make the fastpass-challenged go in the back door. All annoyance was soon washed away - nice seats, nice atmosphere, my daughter on the edge of her seat. The show was funny, and my attempts at family photos were less than stellar. But, I recorded the whole show audio on my phone, and my daughter and I sing along with it now whenever we have time to fill.
After Frozen, we took a peek at the Osborne lights: So cool! So crowded! I then queried the wonderful chatters on lines to find a FPP kiosk and scored a FPP for the 2nd Fantasmic! show later. I peaked at the line times for RnR and ToT: 60+ minutes each. Bummer. We took a quick break, looked for some snacking alternatives (None of us are enamored with the QS food choices at HS. Is it us?)
We headed back for Fantasmic (first for all of us!), once again knowing you have to be there early even with a FPP - but not realizing the only thing a FPP does is guarantee you get in. Once I gazed upon the sea of humanity all wearing lights flashing in unison, I was glad it was a "throwaway" 4th FPP. Rally not worth a FPP at all. From then on it was stop, Moo, step Moo. But, in the end it moved well and even the back row we sat in was a nice view. Kids loved the show, but I was kind of got lost in the middle, and felt it was a bit over the top on the evil side of things.
But, I think our best move of the night was to sit back after the show and let it clear out - then we headed back over to the Osborne Lights: EMPTIFIED. We all were so impressed with the dancing lights, my daughter began dancing up and down the street and catching the snow as it fell. The musical choices were pretty neat too! Found many hidden Mickeys, but never did see that darn cat.
A group of CMs got together and danced a line dance to one of the songs. I stood in the middle of the intersection by the tree with my camera taking video and just breathed in the sound and the sights and spun around catching it all. Every few minutes my daughter would run up and hug me, and then run off to see something else. My absolute favorite part of the night.
We closed the joint.
It was a very full day from Miami to Orlando to Hollywood, but we walked out the park energized by the lights and to find our car parked in an almost empty lot. Back to CBR, I checked my text messages for the room number - Aruba building 51 (refurbed!). We found it, searched a bit for the room, then realized: water view! It was beautiful, with the lights of the far buildings shimmering in the water and the geckos in tiny top hats bowing in welcome. (I may have imagined one of those things.)
We walked into the room - so nice!
The Murphy bed was an order of contention.
Our bags were supposed to be in the room, but they were not.
We collapsed on the beds.