Saturday, March 5, 2011

August 2010 Walt Disney World Trip Report - Day 1

Day 1 - Take Off and Splashdown

We spent a week at Walt Disney World August/September 2010. We had a really great time and some very magical experiences. Here's a trip report.

Our flight left from Buffalo at 7:40am. Since the airport is about an hour and 15 minutes from our house, DW and I were up at 4:00am to shower, make a quick breakfast for the trip, load the van, and get DD ready. We were out the door at 5:00, and were at the airport, through security and waiting at the gate by 6:30. The flight took off on time, and we were off!

I had copied some movies and episodes of Kim Possible to my laptop for DD to watch on the plane. As soon as the pilot gave the OK, I set it up for her to watch. My battery must not have been fully charged, though, because it gave out after about 90 minutes – it usually lasts about 5-6 hours – plenty for our two and a half hour non-stop direct flight. So DD listened to Disney Theme Park music on her ipod.

Our flight landed about 10 minutes early. We waited for our bags, then headed down to National to pick out our car from the Executive Aisle. Last year there was a convertible Sebring, but this year, no such luck. We ended up taking a black Jeep Liberty from the regular Emerald Aisle. It had 8,000 miles on it – not the newest, but better than the 18,000 mil SUV parked next to it.

After about a 30 minute drive from the airport – we had arrived!

We always have to take a picture as we drive under this sign. This one came out better than any other we had done – a sign of good things to come, perhaps?

Our first night was at the Pop Century. We had never stayed there before, but got a really good Annual Passholder rate, so before our reservation at the Animal Kingdom Lodge began the following day, we decided to give Pop a try.

The AP rate was only good for preferred views, but when we checked in (around 11:00) we explained that we didn’t really care where were ended up, if we could get into a room sooner. Luckily, the CM found a room in the 70s that was really close to the main building, and it was available right away. We drove over there, dropped our bags off, took a minute to refresh, and went back to Pop for lunch. We had the Quick Service dining plan for this night, and the regular dining plan for the week at AKL.

We had wanted to eat our first CS meal at Magic Kingdom, but because we had eaten breakfast so early, we decided that eating at Pop was the wiser choice. It was really crowded. There were probably a lot of people who were on the free dining promotion, and it was prime lunch time. I really liked the selection – there were a lot of different choices, from burgers, to salads, a pasta station with Chicken Parm and meatball subs, a sandwich station, and a Chinese food station.

After a quick meal we headed off to the Magic Kingdom. Our plan was to stay for a few hours, and because we were arriving so late in the day (for a TGM RD’er), I planned some activities we had never made time for before. But our first order of business was to renew our Annual Passes, which had expired a week before our trip.

We had participated in the Give-a-Day, Get-a-Day promotion, and had each received a free day admission. We were able to upgrade those to DVC Renewal Annual Passes. After it was all said and done, it was about $815 for three 15-month annual passes for the three of us – not much more than three 7-day Park Hoppers would have been! We are planning trips in May and October of 2011, so we plan on getting more than our money’s worth.

The transaction itself went very smoothly, even though the CM at Will Call had never done one before. I had been told to expect 5-10 minutes per ticket as they went through the various redemption and upgrading processes. It did take about 15 minutes, so while I waited at the ticket window, DW took DD over to trade some pins with a nearby CM.

With APs (good until late November 2011) in hand, we headed for the express monorail… which was down for maintenance. The resort monorail was also down, so CMs were directing everyone to the Ferry. We had never taken the Ferry before, and since we weren’t in a huge rush, it was OK with us!

The first thing we did when we arrived was to check the standby and FP return times for Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We grabbed a set of FPs for Splash with a return time 40 minutes away. Just enough time to explore Tom Sawyer Island.

DD and I had never been to TSI, but she loves to explore and after all of the time in cars and planes, we figured she could use some running around time. We thought she might be afraid of the caves, but she assured us she was a “big girl, and not afraid of anything (in literary terms, this is known as foreshadowing).”

She actually wasn’t scared at all, and enjoyed exploring. She wanted to go through a second time, but I told her there were more fun things to do… so we bounced a bit on the Barrel Bridge…

…and shot at people racing by on the BTMRR…

After sneaking out the underground escape from Fort Langhorne, we were ready to use our Splash FPs. We’ve been looking forward to Splash since last August. We have the music to Splash from the Disney Park CDs and DD loves to listen to it in the morning before school, so we pretty much know all of the words to “How do you do,” and “Everybody has a Laughing Place.”

We got right on – I was in the front row and DW and DD were behind me. Before our trip I got a Kodak PlaySport video camera, which is waterproof. I had used it underwater at the YMCA during DD’s swimming lessons to test it out, and the quality is pretty good (HD) for a camera that’s smaller than my cell phone. I pulled it out and filmed over my shoulder as we made the big plummet. It wasn’t until a couple of days later when I copied the video over to my computer that we had a chance to see what our crazy kid looks like when going down Splash Mountain. I haven’t had a chance to edit the video yet, but these stills that I grabbed tell the story…

Everytime we look at those photos or the actual video, DW and I crack up – the way she goes from joy to sheer terror back to joy in about two seconds is so funny. By the way, in that last frame, she’s complaining that she was “so dry.” She wanted to get soaked, but only got splashed.

After Splash, we realized it was about 2:55, and we had never seen the 3:00 parade before. So we picked a spot on the rope across from Pecos Bills, and waited… and waited… and waited… For some reason, I had thought that the parade started in Frontierland and then proceeded to the hub and down Main St. It actually went in the opposite direction.

About 3:15 we caught the bonus Voluntears Parade, led by Kermit and Miss Piggy. Many of the characters interacted with DD and the other kids nearby. Here’s Dale, who right after this picture came up to me and messed up my hair…

The main parade was pretty much right behind, so we stayed for that too. DD is helpfully pointing out that Dopey is on the float…

Here’s the Queen of Hearts… just in front of her in the parade was Jafar, but he was on the other side of the road, so DD started screaming out “JAFAR!!! JAFAR!!!” She didn’t even see the Queen of Hearts come up and stop right in front of her. The Queen put her hands on her hips and pointed at her with her mean face, so ever-cheerful DD waved at her, and the Queen waved back…

Peter Pan and gang…

Prince Naveen and Princess Tiana…

There was a young girl next to us who had a Birthday pin on, and we were surprised how many people in the parade stopped to say “Happy Birthday” to her. Naveen even did it from up on the float!

After the parade we went over to use our BTMRR FPs. Here’s DD and I – DW asked her if she was excited, and this was her reaction:

I hadn’t planned on us seeing the parade or being able to get onto Splash or BTMRR so easily. Because it was getting late and we were getting tired, we scrapped plans to see the Swiss Family Treehouse and ride the Liberty Belle and headed back for Pop.

DW gave DD a bath while I went over to the food court to get dinner to go. We ate in the room and went to bed early. We were all asleep by 8:00!

General impressions of Pop – we weren’t there long, but here’s my take. We can’t really do the double bed thing. The room itself was OK, recently refurbed. The TV was nicer than what we have at home… the towels on the other hand were not. It was a bit noisy – there was music playing outside our room loud enough that I could hear from the bed, and we could hear our neighbors pretty easily. If we weren’t so dead tired, the noise might have kept us up or woken us up. We thought the food court was great and the food there was at least as good if not better than we got at the Pepper Market at CSR the last couple of years. We might stay there again for one night if we got a really good rate, but not having Queen beds, and the noise situation is kind of a deal-killer.

Tomorrow – I get up early to check in to AKL-Kidani, and we “Let the Adventure Begin” at Animal Kingdom.

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