Sunday, May 5: Cinco de Mayo! Let’s get the boring details out of the way – Sunday began much like Saturday. Get up. Get dressed. Get breakfast at Whole Foods (today, from the hot bar. Hot bar!). Drive to Disney … Continue reading
Saturday, May 4 Although we had told ourselves the night before that we’d sleep in this morning, my internal Disney clock had kicked in and I was up shortly after seven. CP awoke not long after, and we both were … Continue reading
Do you ever notice how some years seem to be better than others? CP and I have had a good run of years, but 2013 has been a challenge. It’s reminding me of 2008, the last year I remember thinking … Continue reading
Hey, I’m off to WDW in 30 hours! So, the briefest of pre-trip reports: a superfast, 2.5 day trip to WDW. Staying offsite (I know, the horror!), planning maybe one rope drop day (I know, double horror!), and otherwise we’re … Continue reading
Tuesday, May 10.
Departure day. The day the wheels officially came off the wagon. You know, just another Tuesday in Walt Disney World. (Far from it!)
Today is best described in two parts: the ORIGINAL plan, and the ACTUAL happenings. You see, I had this day all planned out – we had a late flight, so technically it was like having a fifth full day at the parks. We’d pack up in the morning, head to Kona Cafe at the Polynesian Resort for breakfast, and then finish up at the Magic Kingdom or Epcot. Maybe we’d even hit Toy Story Mania! first thing in the morning.
So what ACTUALLY happened is that we got up around 7am, and in the midst of final packing I noticed that there was a message blinking on our phone. I picked up the phone and found out that there was a problem processing our credit card, and thus we couldn’t utilize Express check-out. I then felt the feeling of utter panic that everyone must feel when getting this kind of message – after all, we were paying for the trip in cash out of my debit card, and thus if there was a problem, would that mean…I had no money left? In any case, I sent CP down to the front desk to figure out what the problem was, and she came back in a huff. Apparently, way back on our first night, Sarah Vowell-lookalike had problems getting our card approved, but instead of saying anything, she just sent us on our way, with our room not paid for. The problem, we then figured out, was that although we had called our bank on the 1st day of our trip to have them authorize a larger-than-$500 withdrawal, we checked in after midnight (and thus the day after), so our card was declined. Granted, this turned out not to be the biggest deal in the world, but we lost a significant amount of time dealing with the front desk and the bank, time we could have saved if Sarah Vowell-lookalike had let us know on night one.
Between packing and dealing with $$$ drama it became clear our Kona Cafe reservation was out of the question. Around 8:20 we headed out to the car and over to Hollywood Studios, with a plan to ride TSM one more time and possibly get a Fast Pass for later if time allowed. We parked, we grabbed a tram, and were at the front gates by 8:45, and promptly took our place among the gathered masses.
Our TSM ride was, as usual, terrific, but it was at this point that the wheels totally came off our trip. Why? Our feet. For some reason, even though we both wore broken-in, comfortable shoes (and different pairs each day), our feet were a torn up mess of blisters and callouses and all-over hurt. Worse, CP’s ankle had given out, and she was walking with a pronounced limp. Suddenly, our whole day was in jeopardy. We had TSM FPs for later, but would we use them?
We decided to head out of the park and go to Starbucks before returning to the BoardWalk one last time and vacating our room. First, however, we stopped at the Studios’ First Aid Station, where I would get some band-aids for my terrible, hockey-puck sized blister (seriously), and CP would ask for an ACE bandage to wrap her ankle for some extra support. For some reason, I had kind of envisioned going to First Aid, asking for a band-aid, and going about my way, not realizing that you had to sign in, consult with a triage nurse, sit in an exam room, and then take aftercare instructions with you. All for…a blister? The nurse did do a bang-up job wrapping CP’s ankle, though, so the awkward visit to First Aid was saved.
Hobbling out, feeling dejected, we drove to Kissimmee to get Starbucks, and headed back to the BoardWalk to pack up. As it turned out we *just* made the 11am cutoff to vacate our room, and feeling a bit homeless and wayward, we drove back to Epcot, with the intention of making a quick trip to
Mouse Gears to pick up a couple pins we couldn’t find anywhere else. Pins successfully acquired, we hobbled back to the car, and – this is gross – my giant blister popped, sending a gush of nasty into my shoe and increasing my pain level exponentially. That’s it. We were officially DONE.
Sad, defeated, and dejected, we headed back to the Epcot parking lot and decided to head back to the Studios, where we used our TSM FPs, and then we headed to Downtown Disney for lunch, where we could maybe get some free Wifi and at the very least, sit off our feet for awhile and kill time. It was only noon, and we didn’t have to leave for the airport until 4:30 at the earliest, but we just couldn’t physically do anything else. As we did on our October trip, we headed to Wolfgang Puck Express for lunch, and ordered a barbeque chicken pizza and salad to split. Ten minutes later a salad was brought to our table, and the server with it gave us a receipt and promptly left. We felt a little puzzled, wondering where our pizza was, and then realized that somehow our order had been screwed up from the get-go, and all we would receive was a chicken caesar salad. Now, this makes the second visit in a row with a lackluster WPE experience, and we weren’t feeling like waiting to re-order, so we split the salad between us and decided we’d make up for it with a snack from Goofy’s Candy Company later. We lingered at our table, drinking refills of soda and playing with our iPhones, and me doing a bit of work that showed up in my inbox. Inside, I felt devastated – this was not how I wanted to spend the last 20% of our trip.
Disappointing lunch behind us, we hobbled over to World of Disney to buy some candy for my coworkers, and then headed to Once Upon a Toy to use the bathroom. By this time, it was after 1:30pm; it was blazing hot outside; and there wasn’t much we could do to entertain ourselves as hobbled as we were. Not knowing what else to do, we decided to get in the Camry and take a scenic tour up International Drive, which we did, marveling in the tacky tourist attractions and roadside stops. We took I Drive as far as it would go, dead ending in an outlet mall in a less-than-lovely area of Orlando. We turned back around, and somehow ended up driving through the grounds of Universal Studios, until finally we were back at I-4 and soon back on Disney property.
Once again we ended up at Downtown Disney, where we went straight to Goofy’s Candy Company and made ourselves a custom Mickey Rice Krispies Treat, dipped in chocolate and m&ms and covered in chocolate drizzle. We sat in GCC eating it quietly, both feeling sad about the shortness of our trip and the injury we both had endured. After cleaning up our table I – on impulse – made a beeline back to the pin store, where we purchased another box of limited edition mystery WDW 40th anniversary pins. What can I say – I am one of the suckers on the backs of which Disney makes a pretty profit on pin trading.
In truth there’s only so much time you can kill by killing time. Our bags were packed and now repacked, with CP ferreting away our last-minute DTD treasures. There was no way we could hobble through another park, and no point doing that anyway, since we had time left but not enough time to make a trip to a park worth it. Absent any other good idea, we decided to head back to the airport, but instead of taking 417 or 528, we’d take the back roads, a trick I’d learned nearly ten years ago as a Cast Member on the WDW College Program. In my recollection, we simply had to head north until we hit Sand Lake Road, and then take that until we hit the airport grounds. No problem.
Yeah, well. The first part was indeed no problem; following the route we took to Whole Foods the first day, we took I-4 and exited near Sea World, and then took Turkey Lake Road north until it hit Sand Lake Road. We turned right on SLR, and drove. And drove some more. And further on still. Good thing we had time to kill! Eventually I saw a Wal-Mart that I remembered from years past, and knew we were on the right track. We stopped to gas up the rental car, and soon I could tell we were close to the airport. Except for some reason, Sand Lake Road wouldn’t get us right there – we either had to get on 528 and pay a toll (which I guess we could have done), or we had to make a quick turn onto an unknown road and hope we could figure it out. We chose the latter option, and ended up driving down a desolate road past cargo companies and airplane maintenance hangars. Clearly, this wasn’t working.
Dejected that my memories from ten years ago were failing me, I sullenly and quite dejectedly turned back onto 528, paid a toll, and in what felt like mere feet we found ourselves back on airport grounds. We followed the signs back to rental car drop-off, and with the exception of one harrowing moment of following bad signage which led some cars to honk at me, we returned our car and checked in without incident. Our only real hurdle was the security line, which was longer than I’d seen it at any airport we’d flown out of during the past few years, NYC airports included.
From that point on all we had to do was hurry up and wait. We boarded on time, flew out on time, and landed on time, back in dark, chilly Connecticut.
How many days until our December trip?
Monday, May 9
After two days of blissful morning touring, we were officially rope drop converts and thus were up again around 7am. We quickly ate and got ready to drive to the Magic Kingdom, and after a relatively quick drive there, we got a parking spot in the first row of spots that wasn’t reserved for handicap parking. SWEET. I’m not sure if this is a normal thing or not, but the Express monorail wasn’t running, so we hopped on the Resort monorail and ended up in front of the train station at 8:25.
The opening show was cute, but we were both impatient to get a move on, AND I realized while standing there that I had forgotten to put any sunscreen on this morning, save what little was in my foundation. Since my skin has two color options (blindingly pale and blindingly burned), I hid in the shade during the show and hoped for the best.
One the rope was officially dropped, we decided to actually follow a Touring Plan (we usually follow the spirit if not the letter of TPs, but I was game to try something new) and headed off to its first stop, Space Mountain. After a brisk jog up Main Street and through the Tomorrowland Terrace, we turned left toward SM and came to an abrupt halt. We were greeted by a solid human wall of Disney Cast Members, some costumed, others clearly managers, waving their giant stuffed Mickey hands away from Space Mountain – the ride was down, and no time could be estimated for its return. Well, CRAP. If we had known this at the entrance, we could have used the OTHER Touring Plan, which called for us to head directly to Big Thunder/Splash Mountains. In any case, not wanting to waste any more time, we skipped ahead in our current TP, bypassing Winnie the Pooh (just weren’t in the mood) and heading straight for Peter Pan’s Flight, which was an easy walkon. Next stop was the Haunted Mansion, which was also a walkon – not complaining here, but we still haven’t had a chance to really check out the new queue. The next stop was Big Thunder Mountain, which we rode twice, and which was a walkon both times. Have I mentioned yet how I LOVE ROPE DROP?
Our next stop via the TP was Pirates of the Caribbean, a favorite of ours that was sullied horribly by the lady seated in front of us who must have taken a hundred flash pictures throughout the ride. Oh, well. At this point it was getting much hotter and I was growing even more afraid of the sunburn that would await me at the end of the day, so after a fruitless search of sunscreen in Adventureland and on Main Street, we headed out to the monorail to take a quick ride to the Contemporary Resort. There, we both took a bathroom break (love the quiet CR bathrooms) and I stopped into one of the shops to buy a horribly overpriced bottle of sunscreen, but seriously – can you put too high a price on avoiding a nasty sunburn? I can’t.
After resting a bit and checking our e-mail, we headed to the monorail, where we disembarked at the TTC and transferred to the Epcot monorail. Yes, for those of you keeping track at home, we chose to leave our car in the TTC parking lot for two reasons: 1. We LOVE the Epcot monorail ride and 2. we planned to visit the MK later in the day, and figured we’d just monorail ourselves back.
Our main Epcot mission this afternoon was to enjoy and take pictures of the Flower and Garden Festival, which we had really seen only in passing on Saturday and Sunday. We took numerous pictures of the Toy Story 3 topiaries at the entrance, and then made our way back to the World Showcase to take pictures throughout Canada, the United Kingdom, and Morocco, before stopping at the Tangierene Cafe in Morocco to split a vegetarian platter and refill our water bottles. (Note: for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike the Tangeriene Cafe is a fantastic deal AND offers really good food. You are ordered to eat there!) Our appetites satisfied, we continued on through Italy, China, and Germany, and then Norway and Mexico, where on the spur of the moment we decided to do the Mexico boat ride. It was pretty much as terrible as usual, but it offered a nice respite from the beating heat of the day. Now, before we move on, enjoy some lovely Epcot pictures:
Anyway, our next stop was at the Cantina de San Angel for a passionfruit margarita, which CP claimed to have no interest in, but then helped me demolish. We both sipped on it as we walked through the other side of the World Showcase and back toward BWV, where we collapsed on the bed for a much-needed afternoon nap. It should also be mentioned that Monday was the day that both CP and I felt we were beginning a losing battle with sore and blistered feet. More on this later, ha ha!
After our nap, we awoke feeling sad about the fact that we now had less than 24 hours of fun left. We decided to drown our sorrows in ice cream, and walked down to Seashore Sweets on the BoardWalk, where CP had ice cream and I had a delicious Coke float. We watched the people wandering by and the boats honking their horns, and then took a few more pictures before heading back to our room to start packing.
Once sufficient progress had been made on the packing front, we walked back to Epcot, stopping to take more pictures of the Flower and Garden Festival in the late afternoon sunlight, and then headed to Guest Relations at the front of the park to upgrade our current six-day Park Hopper tickets to Annual Passes, as doing so would save us money in the long run given our upcoming 10-day December trip. The upgrade process took a bit of time but was ultimately worth it, and like cats with canaries in our mouths, we headed out of Epcot, onto the monorail, and back to the TTC.
Now, you might reasonably expect that we were headed back to the MK for the evening, but decided instead to head to Downtown Disney to finish our souvenir shopping and grab some dinner before going to the MK for a late evening. This was partly because it was something like 95 degrees at 6pm, and our feet were very sore and torn up, so some time in the car – and in the car’s icy air conditioning, was certainly welcome.
Our first stop was Earl of Sandwich for – can you believe it? – a sandwich. Afterward, we ran over to
Once Upon a Toy to use the hidden bathroom in the back, and then headed over to World of Disney, which was an absolute madhouse. We then checked out the Art of Disney store, before heading to Goofy’s Candy Company and finally the pin store. Soon after, we headed back to the car, drove ourselves back to the TTC, and to be different walked to the Polynesian – one of my favorite places just to visit – to use the bathroom again, watch the Electrical Water Pagaent, and stroll the grounds a bit before monorailing back over to the Magic Kingdom. Once again, my momentary insanity led me to completely forget that we were AGAIN entering during the Electrical Parade.
Somehow – I can’t even really remember because I think I’ve blocked it out – we made it to Frontierland, where we waited out the parade and then headed directly to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which we road twice in succession, the second time during Wishes. Afterward, the wheels of our collective train completely fell off. We were tired. Our feet hurt. It was already late. So…we left. First, though, we headed back to Main Street to finish the shopping we couldn’t do at DTD. Again, temporary insanity must have made me forget what a bad idea this would be, as the stores were mobbed and the lines were long. Somehow we managed to survive it, but then we encountered the next mob at the TTC, where we waited an HOUR to board a tram back to our car.
This was truly the only time during our trip that I wished we had taken a bus instead of a car – while most parks’ parking lots are within walking distance and you can usually get to your car without relying on a tram, at the TTC you’re stuck waiting for a tram with everyone else. Also, CP getting her butt groped by some old lady while waiting in the tram line didn’t exactly improve the experience. Ah, well. Not the magical final evening in the MK we had on our October trip, but still a lovely day nonetheless.