A little background:
Some friends of ours surprised their kids with a trip for Disney on Christmas. My oldest DD thought that was the coolest thing ever and suggested that she wouldn’t mind be surprised one year for Disney. Hmm. Could we pull that off? Our kids are pretty smart and very nosey and we’d have to hide everything. In a moment of insanity, we decided to do it. We told the kids that we’d be taking a trip to Disney in May after school let out, when in fact, we’d be going in October during their fall break from school.
So the planning began. My daughters are used to me reading the Dis and they are big lurkers on the boards so it wasn’t anything unusual for me to be planning. The girls like to plan fake trips and decide what they would like to do on each one. Planning a trip that wouldn’t happen for almost a year is not unusual in our house, so maybe we could pull this off after all.
So I began pumping them for information. What if we could go to the Halloween party one year? Would we dress up? What would we wear? What restaurants would you eat in? What are the must do attractions at each park? What resort would you like to stay in? On and on we planned our “hypothetical” trip.
I started ordering things for the trip and hiding them away. Luckily, my husband receives packages at home for work, so the girls didn’t look twice when I said they were for Daddy. Pins, glow sticks, shirts, bathing suits, Mickey pumpkin for the window, on and on it goes. We had also talked about making Mickey tie-dye shirts for our “May” trip. The girls wanted to make a shirt to use for autographs plus an autograph book with characters on the pages. Um… OK. We’ll start those now in case they don’t turn out. Yep, that’s what we’re doing. That way we have plenty of time to finish.
I got online and found Dharma Trading for tie-dye supplies. Following the directions, we decide to try to make the Mickey shirts. Hey, why not invite some other kids over and we’ll have a tie-dye party! It sure seemed like a good idea at the time. Now I’m tracing and basting and rubber banding in a frenzy to get the shirts ready in time for the party. The dying was really fun! All the kids had a great time and most of the shirts come out pretty good except for Brenna’s. Good thing we’re not going until May. I have plenty of time to redo them. The thing I had forgotten about tie-dying is the fact that the rinsing and washing of the shirts does take a while. Especially when you have almost 30 shirts to do. After the second round of dying, all the shirts were done!
Now we have to figure out how to keep the destination of our little car trip a surprise. My Dad lives outside of Washington DC. It’s almost the same distance north as Disney is south. We call my Dad and he agrees to help with the subterfuge. We’ll tell the kids we’re going to Maryland and we’ll visit the Smithsonian while we’re there. We also do plan a real trip to see him in November, so we’ll still get to do those plans. We usually drive at night, so if the kids watch a DVD in the car and then go to sleep, they hopefully won’t notice that we’re going the wrong way.
My DH and I begin planning in earnest. We ask on the Dis and are given the name of Michelle from AAA as an agent who knows Disney. Great! We call and make a reservation for Oct. 14-22 at Pop Century. I started researching restaurants and playing the numbers and decided the Dining Plan was a good thing for us! Hey Michelle, can you add Dining to that? Thanks! Hmmm I think I actually want a preferred room. I hate walking miles to the bus stops and the food court. Hey Michelle, can you add Preferred to that? Thanks! She was very efficient and friendly and never acted like I was bothering her, even when I did bother her several more times.
We still had about a month before our 180 day mark to plan our days and meal. We’re big fans of table service meals. We had always done two each day before. So, out comes the list and I have the kids pick their favorites and any new restaurants that they want to try. Now to plug them into my plan and make the schedule to call for the ADRs. Kevin gets up and hides in the basement to call for ADRs. He gets everything we want, even the 8:05 Cindy’s! Yea, Kevin! Hey, why don’t we try for an Illuminations Cruise? We got one last trip and loved it. I get up and don’t get the cruise. Kevin comes out of the basement with thumbs up! He got it!
Then one day, I’m surfing the Dis and I see the Official Cake Ordering thread. Yum! Our 15 year anniversary was coming up… Hmmm…
Finally, the trip was upon us! Luckily, I get kind of crazy when I’m packing for a trip. Any trip. So the crazy mom running around the house was no different than typical crazy trip mom. Every day when the kids went to school, I came home and packed the items they couldn’t see. Every night, my DH and I would sit around and giggle about the trip we couldn’t talk about during the day.
Yea! Finally, it was time to go. We were planning to leave about 7:00 PM. Molly had therapy on Friday and the girls had dance. Therapy is from 4-5 and dance is from 3:30-5:15. We thought that we would pack the car while the girls were at school and then do the dance-therapy rounds before we left. Unfortunately, Kevin didn’t get finished from work until I had already left to take the girls. That meant that he had to pack the van after we got home. I picked up McD’s on the way home and we stuffed it down while Kevin ran around like a crazy man. We made it on the road around 8:00 PM. Not bad.
Since I didn’t want the girls paying attention to where we were going, I had bought a few new movies for the trip from our used movie store. The girls were delighted with the new Spongebob, Barbie Diaries, and Barbie and the Twelve Dancing Princesses movies. They were immediately sucked right in and that was that. The things we go through for our kids. Before the girls went to sleep, we stopped for a potty break. Brenna started asking what state we were in. We just glossed over the details and talked about how many hours we had left to go. It never occurred to her that you don’t get to Maryland by going through Georgia.
We like to drive the trip all night. I’m a night owl and I married a morning person. I tend to drive through the 11-3 shift when Kevin sleeps. It works for us. Kevin woke me when we started to get close. At 5:30 AM, we see THE ARCH! Kevin pulled the van to the side of the road and we woke the girls. With movie camera and pictures flashing, Kevin told them that something happened and he had gone the wrong way. We weren’t going to be able to visit Granddad after all. It took several minutes for the fog to lift. Brenna finally was able to focus and realize what she was seeing. Then realization slowly hit Erin. Priceless! They were in shock!
We pulled into Pop Century Resort, the place the girls had always wanted to stay. When codes came out, I thought I’d upgrade to a moderate, but when I asked the girls where they wanted to stay, Pop was the request. So no upgrade for Mom. We went to the front desk and they said they couldn’t do anything for us until 7:00. We changed everyone into the new Disney shirts I had bought to surprise the girls with and still had almost 45 minutes to kill. We went out and looked at the pool, but it was a little cool to stay outside. We camped out in front of the movie area and waited for 7:00 to roll around. Finally, someone arrived that could actually help us get our tickets so we could enter the parks that morning. I had requested a room in the 50’s or the 70’s. We were told that our room would be in the 60’s. Oh well. We could check back at 3:00 PM and find out our room number.
In one of our hypothetical trips, I asked the girls if they cared what order we went to the parks. Nope, they didn’t care. So, for our first day, October 14, we were going to the Animal Kingdom! We had an 8:00 AM ADR for Donald’s Breakfastosaurus. We decided to ride the bus that day, because I had read that sometimes the parking lot didn’t open early enough. We went to the AK bus stop and waited with the few other families who had early morning ADRs. And waited and waited. The bus didn’t come until almost 7:40 AM and it was a bit on the chilly side that morning. The girls were still in a bit of shock and couldn’t believe that they would be seeing Mickey in less than an hour. When we get to the AK, there is a LONG line of people waiting to get in to their ADRs. But it all worked out well.
We hoofed it to Donald’s and checked in. By the time we finished our picture, our pager was blinking.
We actually enjoy this meal even if the characters seem a bit rushed. It was a nice start to our trip and our server was great. He squirted the fake ketchup on mom which was a hit with the kids. We had Mickey, Donald, Goofy and Pluto sign the shirts and had quick pictures while we ate our typical breakfast food. Nothing fancy, but good never- the-less.
Our first concern was getting out of there in time for rope drop to do the Expedition Everest run. We had plenty of time to spare. As we left the restaurant, we had a nice little chat with the CM holding her sweet tarantula which Molly was not thrilled with. We went to the rope at Dinoland and chatted with the CMs waiting there. We looked for the non-existent bog turtle with the CMs who admitted that they had never seen them either (which I found humorous). She said the keeper for that area confirmed that they are in there, so we decided to take her word for it. The rope dropped and we were away!
Kevin walks faster than me, so he walked ahead and got FPs while we caught up with him. We got a Child Swap pass and Kevin and the girls rode standby. Molly and I walked back to Dinoland and waited for Triceratops Spin to open. As she walked up to the ride, Molly fell down and got red marks on her knees, tears but no blood. She loves this ride. Kevin and the girls made it back and we went to Primevial Hurl. We got a Swap Pass and I rode standby with the girls while Kevin and Molly went to ride spin again. When I got off Whirl, there was Molly Boo Hoo crying on the sidewalk. It turns out that she tripped again getting off of Spin and this time there was blood. While I played Doctor Mom, Kevin rode standby on Whirl with the girls again.
All that crying and the early morning excitement caught up with Molly and she fell asleep in the stroller while we walked to Dinosaur. We got a Swap Pass and I took Brenna and Erin on Dinosaur. Brenna has yet to actually ride this ride with her eyes open and this was no different. She did not want to ride again. Erin however was eyes open and ready to go again with Kevin while the rest of us browsed the handy gift shop. After we escaped from the Carnotaurus, we headed back to Expedition Everest to use our Fastpasses. We picked up another Child Swap pass and the girls rode with Kevin. I was to go for Fast passes for Kali River Rapids while I waited, but when I got there, the Fastpass machines were covered. Standby for the ride said 30 minutes. I walked back and met the girls who decided that they didn’t want to wait.
We were planning on meeting some friends in Epcot at 1:00 to ride the New Nemo Ride so my plans for the day had to be changed. Our friends are DVC owners so they could take us. We didn’t want to miss the ride and made plans to ride it before we realized that it would be opening to the public on our trip. We decided to walk the Pangani Forest Trail to visit with the gorillas as we’ve missed this the last few trips. It was quite crowded and the kids were getting tired, so we decided to ride the Wildlife Express around the loop before we left. As we walked into the train station, we were given Dream Fast Passes! A Dream Fast Pass is a plastic ticket with a Fast Pass for each Fast Pass enabled attraction. Yea! The kids decided they weren’t tired after all!
We decided to ditch the train and go back and ride Kali with our new Fast Pass. On the way, we came across Divine. She is beautiful! We’ve always wanted to see her and have never managed to do it, so that made our day. Kevin decided he didn’t want to get wet, so I donned my handy poncho and rode with the girls. We could have gotten a Child Swap to use later, but I didn’t think of it until after. Oops! Even with my poncho, my shirt got quite wet, but at least my rear was dry!
We decided that we better head over to Epcot to meet our friends. We were hoping that we’d get back to Animal Kingdom later to see the parade and use more of our Fast Passes, but it was just too much. We never made it back that day. We hoped on a bus over to Epcot and were pleasantly surprised by how quick the trip was. We had plenty of time to ride Spaceship Earth! Oh good, a cool relaxing ride while we wait. Who knew that this was the most terrifying ride in the world? It is also a very LONG ride when riding it with a petrified 2 year old. I never realized how very dark this ride is. Thank goodness she is still nursing. It is probably the only thing that kept her from screaming through the entire ride although there was still quite a bit of crying. I’m not sure what creeped her out so badly, but she declared she NEVER wanted to go on that ride again! Sigh…
We met up with our friends and headed straight over to the Nemo ride. We all really liked this ride. The themeing in the queue is really cute and the ride loads really fast. This ride is also a bit dark, but I guess the addition of Nemo guys made it alright in Molly’s eyes. In fact, this was one of her favorite rides of the whole trip. She liked it so much, as did we, that we immediately went on it again! When we exited, we saw the humongous line of people waiting to see Crush. Not for us this day! We decided to just take it easy and headed over to Journey into Imagination. The ride was cute although some kids (I’m not naming names) don’t like having air blow into their face.
After the ride we had a sweet encounter with Figment himself! The girls asked for his autograph and he took them into a little room to stamp their book and they had a few minutes of play time to themselves. Molly kept hugging him and then told him what a pretty shirt he was wearing. Very sweet. The older girls were happy as we’ve never met him before now.
The girls were thirsty and wanted to get something to drink, so we decided to go try some free soda at Club Cool (although it’s not called that anymore). There we sampled sodas from around the world. The kids had read quite a bit about the yucky soda “Beverly” and couldn’t wait to try it. It’s the aftertaste that got them. Ewwww! They did like a few, but decided that American soda won hands down.
We then went over to Character Connection to see our favorite friends again. We got to visit with the characters and take some pictures. Here began Molly’s obsession to hug and kiss every character on the nose. She’d grab their heads and pull them close to kiss them on their little noses. She wouldn’t leave until each one had their hug and kiss.
It was time… time for the first Mickey Bar ice cream of the trip! Molly sure can make a mess with a Mickey Bar. Come to think of it, so can Brenna! We then decided to ride Ellen’s Energy Adventure. We have always liked this attraction, even if it’s a bit slow. It was a nice ending to our park day. We called to see if our room was ready yet and it finally was, so we said Good by to our friends (we would see them later in the trip) and went to relax in our room until our dinner ADR (Advanced Dining Reservation). I was a bit disappointed with our room location. We had paid for preferred and we were about as far from the parking lot, bus stop and food court as we could be. It was not worth the extra cost and we will not pay for preferred again. Other than location, our room was great and housekeeping had left a little wash cloth dog for everyone on our floor.
On the Dis Boards, the Disney message boards I read, I joined a window decorating swap. On check in, there was a box and a bag full of decorations for the window and door. I had also brought a bunch of stuff so the kids and I took a little bit of time and made our door and window very festive. It was fun reading the notes left on our door throughout the trip. It also made it really easy for us to find our room!
During our last trip to Disney, Kevin REALLY wanted a baked potato and we couldn’t find one. During our planning, we found that there are, in fact, a small number of restaurants that one can order a baked potato. Never having eaten at any of said restaurants, we chose one at random. I began to worry a bit as I started reading negative reviews of our choice, Concourse Steakhouse in the Contemporary Resort. After our rest, we headed over and used the valet parking (the first of many times on this trip- very handy!) arriving about 5:15 for our 5:30 reservation. We were given our pager and found a nice spot by the windows and waited almost 30 minutes for our table.
We were on Disney’s dining plan for this trip. As Brenna is now 10, she is considered an adult. Erin took one look at the “new and improved” children’s menu and decided to share Brenna’s meal. Brenna ordered the Onion Rings, Kevin had the honey-sesame chicken wings and I had the pan seared scallops for our appetizers. The onion rings were good although neither of the kids liked them. The scallops and the wings were only OK. The kids were going to have the Top Sirloin. It was listed with a red wine sauce and we asked for it to be left off. I had the Filet Mignon and Kevin had a chipotle glazed ribeye. During this whole time, Molly was tired and cranky. She would not sit in her highchair and was sitting on my lap. It took a lllloooonnnnngggg time for our food to come. When it did, the kids’ steak was smothered in the sauce (disgusting according to them), my steak was much too rare and Kevin’s glaze also was out for the kids. We had also ordered a loaded baked potato on the side for Brenna. The potato came out completely plain, not even cut open. We had to flag down our waitress for some toppings and she brought out a tiny amount of butter and sour cream for her potato. The only tiny redeemable feature of the meal was the smoothies we had for drinks. I had a strawberry banana and Kevin had the raspberry. They were really pretty yummy! Overall thought, we were not impressed with this restaurant..
By this time, our kids were starting to lose it. It had been a long day and we didn’t have the time to send everything back for edible food. Between the baked potato and the bread and a few small bites of steak, we found enough food to barely get by. Our waitress had disappeared again and we waited and waited to order our desserts. When she finally made an appearance, Brenna ordered the Triple Chocolate Cake, Kevin ordered the carrot cake and I had the Butterfinger Cheesecake and we ordered the check. It took about 10 minutes for the desserts to arrive and another 20 to get the check. The desserts were pretty good, but not outstanding. All in all, this would be the worst meal of our trip and one restaurant we will not repeat. The food was simply not very good and the service was terrible. (A manager did come by and asked the obligatory “Everything alright?” question. We informed her of the incorrect orders and the non-existent service but she really didn’t seem very interested. We weren’t looking for any compensation, but it would have been nice if she had tried to act like it mattered that the food really was horrible.)
We got back to the hotel and everyone was wiped out and hot. We decided to take the kids swimming before bed to cool off. That’s when I realized that I had forgotten one small item, mainly my bathing suit. I had ordered a new suit and it didn’t arrive before we left (in fact it never came at all) and I forgot to throw my old suit into the luggage. No problem, I’d just have to buy a new suit in the gift shop. Um…No. Nothing above a size 8 there and that just won’t cut it! That’s OK, Kevin took the kids in the pool and I took Molly to the kiddie area. She was very cautious and slow to warm up to the idea of the water. She then went into the big pool with Kevin for about all of 2 minutes before she was done. It was a very easy bedtime that night for all involved!