Trip Report, Third Times A Charm

Nice soliloquy. If you start writing in hexameter, I’m going to worry your title has gone to your head.

(Seriously though, thanks for this newest installment in your trip report. I’m really enjoying it.)

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First Stop: Trepidation!
I wanted to add a quick update before the Thanksgiving stupor overcomes us all, and take the advice of Mr. Henry David T. and Simplify, Simplify, Simp.

Of course it turns out - Quick? Not so much.

We have decided to take the trip. or, more accurately, the clock has run out and we are gleeful yet worried.
After all, it is a long drive from New York to Florida, and flying isn’t the best call since we’re going to visit both Miami and Orlando, and renting a car + flying = mo’ money. Thankfully, I likes me a good road trip, and our kids are very good travellers (most of the time.)

Also, last year at Disney we had obtained their old helpful Guest Assistance card for my wife, as she was only a bit post radiation treatment et al, and the long term meds she is on really takes the sails out of her jib. (I am not a sailor. Did I just insult her? Hope not.) The GA card was HUGE in helping us cut the time down for her waiting etc, and we really appreciated it.

On the downside, it was our kids’ first trip and we felt they didn’t fully comprehend how LITTLE they had to wait for most things. With the change from the GA card to the new incarnation, we weren’t sure what the future was to bring for her. That question came to naught, however. While the meds effects still are a strong issue, she did not opt to try the new system and ended up powering through. Which wasn’t necessarily the right call, as I’ll mention later. But, she’s an awesome trooper. No doubt.

Also, my wife was a bit worried about taking the kids out of school, and told me I had to deal with informing the teachers and asking for work to keep the kids on the straight and narrow during the trip. That ended up being a non-issue - in fact, post-trip we both agreed they should have given them more work to do!

So, how to tell the kids? Blank stare. We’re both creative types. But, nothing. Last year, I doctored up a Garfield Comic and inserted it into the Sunday funnies.

Scavengers All
After a few weeks, I decided a scavenger hunt was in order. First, before lunch one day I placed a pirate map-looking word jumble and mysterious-o poem thing under their placemats. When we cleaned up, I told them there was a game afoot and handed them pencils. You can reference much of the materials mentioned herein in my previous post.

Once they un-jumbled the words, they were all clues that were supposed to lead them to the goldfish bowls in each of their rooms. Taped to the back of each, so as to be magnified, was half of a web address. When they found those and figured out they went together, they found a laptop was waiting on the table.

(This all took awhile for them to sort out.)

(Aside regarding the web URL: “Que Barato!” is a family joke. There is a store in Miami called that, and the sign has a long “Nooooooooooo!” on it. We’re told it means something like, “THAT cheap?! NOoooooo!” but in a rude way. When surprised, one of us now yells Que Barato! and the rest of us respond with, NOoooooooo!)

The web URL leads to a page on my genealogy blog. But it is password protected and they had to guess what it was. When they figured it out (took a few minutes, but well done), the page opened to show a US map with a single pin. What to do? Zooooom zooom zooming in, the pin was on the exact location of… our mailbox.

A sprint from the table to the mailbox and they came back with an envelope from the Dept of State. (Here’s hoping I don’t get sent to the hoosegow for creating fraudulent official correspondence.) In said envelope: Home made passports for each of the kids, with official “Upcoming Trips” stamps on the inner pages.

Fun was had by all.

The Drive
I set our alarm clock for 2:15AM on Election Day, but voting was not the point of order. Destination: Miami, or some waypoint in between. Truck loaded, kids bolted down, out in good time, I was a bit worried about hitting commute traffic in Washington DC, but just some slowness thereabouts were experienced.

Our typical plan is make the trip with an overnight on the way, and we book two different hotel rooms: a far goal, and a reasonable one, then cancel the one we don’t use. (AAA tends to get us the best rates, by the way. My government employee discount seems to increase rates. grumble.)

As those with kids will understand, any stop at all is an immediate 30 minute arrival extension. But, again, I’m proud of our kids, and - Woohoo! we made it all the way from Long Island to just outside Savannah, GA that night.

Our kids have severe nut allergies, so we lived on Sun Butter (sunflower seeds) and jelly, and focused on McDonald’s bathrooms, which tend to be the most consistently clean ones. Hampton Inn has been our hotel choice of late, since the free breakfasts are pretty nice, the rates are good, and we have already vetted the make-your-own waffles et al for allergy issues.

Boomerang
We arrived in Miami, and great to just hang around with family. The 25 cent tour of that leg of our journey can be seen in the photos below, mostly from the wonderful (though, woefully expensive) Butterfly World, north of Fort Lauderdale. We took my Mom there, which turned out to be an excellent day - so many beautiful butterflies, surprisingly large hummingbirds (I suspect they are tiny flying dinosaurs), and weirdly evil-scientist-like cross-created flowers. I highly recommend it, even with the price point of about $120 for 5 of us. (TIP: There are $5 off per person coupons in the Florida guide they have at rest stops on the Florida Turnpike.) Also, had many benches for my Mom to sit and rest on as we worked our way through.

Up Next: “Finally!”, the Readers Say, "This Dude Got His Family To Something That is Actually A Disney Property For this Trip Report!

Have a Very Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! I’m off to make some apple pie. May all your pie be warm.

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This is fantastic, @JJT. Where is the rest?

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Thanks!

I have been remiss. The holiday and work took over, but I hope I can get back to the actual trip report soon!
Loved the pics you and your wife were posting during the trip. So much joy.

Your scavenger hunt with passports for your kids was brilliantly conceived.

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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.”

Arrival
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.

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Your pictures are great! Hollywood Studios exhausts me too.

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Great report! Loved the pictures!

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What a great report. Now having been to WDW, I see why people treasure trip reports… Because it helps one to re-experience the magic all over again.

Your family seems like a lot of fun. And as a dad, I of course loved this: [quote=“JJT, post:20, topic:7724”]
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.
[/quote]

Sweet!

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Such a great story. You have a fun family. Great pictures!

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It is nice to read the reports - and writing this one is a good way for me to have a base to use for our own family journal. I’ll probably elaborate more on other parts of the day and keep a copy to put in an album. I’m also going to record some audio interviews to keep after I get the kids to pick out their favorite photos.

I had good intentions do the same last year, and that never happened - I’ve promised myself to go through the photos and create a small printed book with annotations. I’ve found can forget the details so quickly!

I found a journal entry I made when we visited a park in Lancaster, PA when the kids were younger - I wish I had done that more consistently!

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Good call taking your kids out of school at this age. We had our 3rd trip to WDW in November. This was the first trip with a high schooler. DS is a freshman an DD is in 7th grade. The high school work load is substantially greater and took a while to catch up and recover. No problems with the 7th grader. High school teachers where not on board with the timing of our trip.
As difficult as it was, it was worth it. We got great flights and a good deal from Disney. We will think long and hard about traveling during The school year again.
Please keep writing, I will keep reading.

Working my way through the report while waiting for others to get ready to head to Hollywood Studios today, will finish later, but noticed Cape May NJ t-shirt? Sounds like you may be another local. Did you see there’s talk about a potential Philadelphia area meet sometime in early 2015?

We’re from Long Island, but love Cape May. Was coordinating my shirt with my Mickey hat. :wink:

I wore that shirt to a museum in Queens this summer and had an older gentleman start quizzing me on ferry times. Appears to be a great shirt for making new friends!

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Sounds as though it works like when I wear my New Jersey Turnpike t-shirt around the parks!

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@JJT where on Long Island? Me too!

Howdy neighbor! We’re outside of Huntington village.

6 More Weeks of…EPCOT!

With the distance of my last mid-December post for this trip report in mind, I cautiously rear my head from my winter enclave, brushing off the last of December’s butter cookies and bits of wrapping paper. I made a promise to @JonMcIntosh that I would return, and… boy am I slow on the promise keeping. Removes Macarthur hat.

For those who are new to this particular Trip Report., I apologize in advance for my meandering.

When you all last saw our intrepid zeroes, er heroes, we had collapsed in our room at CBR, sans luggage. (That’s French for: uh oh.)
Being after 10:30PM and coming down from the high of investigating our water-viewed newly-refurbed, murphy-bedded USB-device-charging-ported beauty of a room, we all kind of went “Hmmm…” at the same time.

When we had dropped off our luggage at the morning check in, the friendly fellow at Bell Services (who would not take a tip!) told me our bags would be in our room when we got there later. It. was. not so.

A call to Bell Services led to a decent hold time while they seemed to be looking for something. (hopefully not our bags.) I was eventually told they would be there soon, but an hour later, another call, another wait, then the bellman arrived.

Well, if that’s our worst hitch in the trip, I thought, I’ll take it.

Our son took the initiative to schedule a wake up call for the morning and before you could say Fastpass!, Monday arrived with Olaf berating us for chillin’ in bed. In a flurry we stormed into action: OPERATION: EPCOT Rope Drop. It was my third time at that park, the first time in 1982 and second time with my pre-wife in 1997 - and the first for our kids, so much to see!

While the last of the ready getting was in play, I snuck outside for a daytime peek at our water view… And, ahhhhh.

In time I was met my some explorers…

Then, some 11yo boy shenanigans regarding which way was the right way to the bus stop…
“Dad, You have never been here before, so how do you know where it is?”, he storms off in the completely wrong direction. He disappears around a curve in the tropical parking lot, as my lovely wife, 7yo daughter and I walk over from Aruba to the nearby Jamaica stop. He eventually starts trailing behind us grumbling and arrives at the stop a minute or three after us.

My plan was to use this relatively nearby bus stop since I espied the evening before that the buses stop there first on the way in, and we’d have a better chance at seats.
-Sticks tongue out at son and takes a selfie-

Then… we waited.
First bus: Hollywood Studios.
2nd bus: Downtown Disney. (Say, what? It’s 8:15AM!)
3rd bus: Magic Kingdom.
4th Bus: Downtown Disney (I begin emitting my best Donald Duck impression.)
This latest bus driver sees our group of quizzical faces and asks where we’re heading. He phones in the troops… 15 minutes later
5th Bus: Emergency EPCOT Bus, thanks to driver #4.

Rope Drop shot. Bummer. Not too big of a deal, since we had configured a very open Touring Plan for this first morning so we could hit the headliners and explore.
-whispering aside- Also, One 'o them system glitches helped me score some extra Tier 1 Fastpasses that day, so we had them for both Test Track and Soarin.

Finally, we tried to do the right thing for this day and planned lunch and pool time back at CBR mid-day rather than the usual rush around. Uncharacteristicment, as the French say.

It was wonderful to see the kids reactions to the different atmosphere in EPCOT as we first walked through. We had to drag them away from checking out the area in front of Spaceship Earth, especially with the beautiful gardens all around… and we met a friend on the way.

We started with Spaceship Earth - which the kids immediately dubbed our family’s official start and end ride at EPCOT. (We do the same with Small World in MK.) Then we wandered through to our first Fastpass at TT. I am SO glad I took a video through the whole ride. Our worried, yet brave daughter was fantastic to watch.

We worked our way around the various attractions and before we knew it, it was time to head back for lunch!

Many refrains of “Aww, Dad!” were heard, but once we arrived back at the CBR restaurants, got the food allergen low-down from the chef, happiness ensued. It is so nice to be able to eat out with a good feeling about the contents of our kids’ meals. And… chocolates cupcakes they could eat!

The pool was terrific - I took the kids over to splash and slide, and gave my wife some time to coffee up and relax on a beach chair. Again… Ahhhh.

f

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I’m not sure how I missed your report before, but I’m sure glad I found it now! Great job! Can’t wait to follow along! :slight_smile:

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I just came across your trip report and read the entire thing! Love your writing style. I’m glad that your wife’s health is doing better. So far it sounds like it was such a fun trip :smile: I can’t wait to read about the rest of your great family trip!

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