Category Archives: Trip Reports

Stories from Mouse Unlimited’d Disney vacations.

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Trip Report November 2016 – Day 2

Our first day in the parks was one I worked hard to prepare for.  On paper it was just a morning in Epcot with a lunch at Garden Grill.  In practice it was the shining glory of a chipmunk toddler.

Since the Garden Rooms at the Boardwalk are not located near the Innkeepers Club Lounge I went up and brought breakfast for all of us back on a tray.  After finishing that we walked to Epcot.  We arrived 40 minutes after park opening and did the Seas, Turtle Talk, Imagination, checked out the DVC Lounge, and Fastpassed Living with the Land in 2 hours.

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Waiting for Turtle Talk with Crush

Our lunch at Garden Grill might be the most magical memory we’ve made in the parks, rivaling baby Goofy meeting Minnie and Pluto.  Our little chipmunk had fantastic interactions with the characters and all the staff went above and beyond in making our meal great.

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Trip Report November 2016 – Day 1

Our November 2016 trip was somewhat an accident.  It started out as a long weekend trip after Thanksgiving so we could see some of the new experiences that opened since our January 2016 trip.  The trip slowly grew, then a month and half out had to be moved completely.  Suddenly it was a week-long trip in the middle of November!

I’ll start by talking about our flight, since traveling with toddlers is sometimes a fiasco.  This was not our toddler’s first flight, but it was his first with a seat.  I swore off lap children after our last trip, so it suited me just fine that’s he’s old enough to require a ticket now.  We have a dedicated travel car seat (Evenflo SureRide DLX Convertible Car Seat) which we strapped to the stroller (Summer Infant 3Dlite Convenience Stroller) using a bungee cord.  Our toddler walked or was carried through the airport.  At security the stroller was broken down and went through x-ray while the car seat is manually inspected since it’s too big to fit through the machine.

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When a Travel Agent Plans Their Own Trip

I spend every day thinking about someone’s Disney vacation, excited about the fun activities they have planned or a special milestone they’re celebrating.  What’s it like when I plan my own trips?  We have a trip coming up so I thought I’d share some of the thought processes we go through.

Dates
As my own boss, I approve my own vacation days.  When we start to get an idea for a trip, one of the calendars I check against is my work calendar.  Are there any dining reservation openings or final payment due dates while I’m gone?  I need to be sure I have time set aside to keep current on these important dates.  For our upcoming trip I had to do this twice, as we had to make a major date change less than two months out.  Yes, we lost our Frozen Ever After Fastpasses :'(

Hotel
We take two kinds of Disney vacations – DVC villa trips and resort hotel trips.  When we take a resort hotel trip, we prioritize unique room types or hotels we haven’t stayed in recently.  We also do split-stays frequently, which means more hotel experiences in a short time.  We may start a trip in a moderate hotel, then finish with a few days in a deluxe hotel.

This trip we are staying in a Garden Room at the Boardwalk.  These two-story Club Level rooms only sleep 2 adults, so we are  one year away from our family size outgrowing these rooms.  I’ve hoped to stay in these rooms for a few years and I’m excited to finally have the opportunity.

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Boardwalk Inn lobby

Planning
As I mentioned above, our two types of trips are also planned differently.  Our DVC villa stays are usually planned a year or two in advance.   Our resort hotel trips are usually planned a few months out when we have an opportunity to get away for a few days.  These more spontaneous getaways have a fun factor that differs from the months of anticipation our DVC trips have.

Dining
We’re notorious dining reservation changers.  Ironically, when we book dining 180 days in advance we usually make few changes to our plans.  When we plan a few months in advance we constantly book and cancel dining reservations.  We aren’t seeking the “perfect” plan, rather we change our minds about what we’d like to do.  Since we have less time to brainstorm the trip our plans are constantly evolving.

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Expedition Everest queue

New and Improved
We prioritize new experiences on each trip we take.  Our last trip was 9 months ago but so much opened or changed that we are taking another trip just to experience these changes.  Here are some of the new experiences we’re looking forward to…

Disney Springs – We’ve only had one quick visit here since it began its transformation, and missing it due to days of rain on our last trip was our biggest regret.  We’re excited for new shopping, food, atmosphere, and parking and navigation.
New restaurants – We intend to eat at Skipper Canteen (oops, had to cancel this after it interfered with the Once Upon a Time announcement!), Rizzo’s, and Homecoming Florida Kitchen.  We’re excited for some new experiences, but whether a restaurant is new or just new-to-us it’s always good to try something different.
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! – Hollywood Studios is going through so much change that we’ve completely missed a fireworks show between the one that ran in January 2016 and the new Christmas show that debuts this year.  As a parent to a toddler, I secretly appreciate that this show is running early at 6:45.
Once Upon a Time – The new projection show in the Magic Kingdom is a surprise addition to our new experiences list.
Animal Kingdom – Several years ago we experienced nighttime in Animal Kingdom, both from early sunsets and from evening Extra Magic Hours (which no longer occur.)  The atmosphere of Animal Kingdom at night is so unique from the daytime, and nighttime is even better with the entertainment and visual improvements they introduced over the summer.  Hopefully I can hit the single rider of Expedition Everest because it’s in its best form at night.
New rides – Frozen Ever After and Soarin’ updates opened since our last trip.  We’re also looking forward to the finale scene upgrade to Gran Fiesta Tour.  As Muppet fans we’re also excited to check out The Muppets Present…Great Moments in American History.
Restricted Admission – The Disney Visa meet and greet in Epcot has a new location and we love what we’ve seen of the design.  The DVC Lounge in Epcot opened after our last trip and we’re pumped to stop by.

When I write it all out it’s so clear why we booked our upcoming trip.  As I mentioned in my Trip Report for our January 2016 visit, we experienced a lot for the last time.  Now we’re taking a trip that we’ll have experiences for the first time!  Pardon me while I go check on a few dining reservations…

Trip Report January 2016 – Day 8

Our last day was easy and relaxed.  We had no park tickets which is a new rule we’ve implemented to prevent the crazy last days we usually have.  We’ve considering doing this for years, but having a baby to tote really pushed us to implement the rule.

We called Bell Services to our room at 10:13 and were done with Resort Airline Check-In by 10:36.  That’s pretty good time since Bay Lake Tower does not have Bell Services and they come from the Contemporary.  We also stowed our carry-on bags with Bell Services to free up our hands.

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Bay Lake Tower beach. I want 4 Imagineers to paint this tree.

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Trip Report January 2016 – Day 7

After years upon years of stressful last days we finally got smart and did not buy park tickets for our check-out day.  That meant that day 7 would be our last day in the parks and we had a long list of things we wanted to do again or missed the chance to do earlier.

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Chinese Theater

We started the day in Hollywood Studios with a Fastpass for Great Movie Ride, which had skipped earlier in the trip.

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Great Movie Ride

Then we all took turns experiencing our favorite attraction – Tower of Terror.

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Trip Report January 2016 – Day 6

Day 6 of our January vacation started exactly the way Day 5 ended – rainy.  Since we accomplished so much at Extra Magic Hours, we planned a sleep-in morning.  That’s not always possible with a baby, but we tried!

Rainy Magic Kingdom from Bay Lake Tower. The train left a picturesque trail all morning

Rainy Magic Kingdom from Bay Lake Tower. The train left a picturesque trail all morning

We left our room at Bay Lake Tower at 9:50, and by 10:18 were in the Fastpass line for Jungle Cruise.  We had an excellent skipper for our only daytime journey.

Mekong River is my favorite on Jungle Cruise

Mekong River is my favorite on Jungle Cruise

Up next is one of my personal favorites, Enchanted Tiki Room.  I love the show and the music, and it never has a line.  You really can’t be that!

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Trip Report January 2016 – Day 5

Wednesday was an atypical vacation day for us.  We had a few Quick Service credits to use up, so we started the day with breakfast at Gasparilla Grill.  After breakfast, we finished packing and loaded all of our luggage into our rental van.  Then we set out for Daytona Beach.  Traffic through Orlando was much worse than the last time we drove around with a rental car.  It took us just under 2 hours from leaving the Grand Floridian to driving onto the beach.

We planned this trip a long time ago.  The 1 year anniversary of my father-in-law’s passing fell halfway through the trip.  This was one of the reasons my mother-in-law joined us on the trip.  We planned this beach day to return to one of their favorite locations and where they first met despite growing up in the same area in Indiana.

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Entrance to Daytona Beach at Plaza Resort & Spa, $10 fee with one re-entry allowed

It was a rainy day throughout Florida and daily rainfall records were set in Orlando and Daytona Beach.  Luckily most of the rain in Daytona Beach fell that morning, so other than a brisk wind the beach was still enjoyable.

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Daytona Beach

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Trip Report January 2016 – Day 4

Day 4 of our January 2016 trip started in Animal Kingdom.  We had an easy drive of less than 15 minutes and were in one of the first few rows of parking.  It took about 20 minutes from parking to entering the Kilimanjaro Safari Fastpass line.  We had an excellent crisp early morning safari with lots of animal sightings.

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They stood so still they looked fake peeking above the bushes

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Snoozing hippos

Up next I rode Expedition Everest by myself with a Fastpass and then again as a single rider.  Since I’m the only one who rides this in our group and it has a single rider line, the Fastpass was not necessary.  Next we child swapped Dinosaur with Fastpasses.

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Trip Report January 2016 – Day 3

Dreams do come true.  Day 3 in Hollywood Studios brought us back to our favorite ride, the Tower of Terror.  I haven’t ridden it since March 2014, which is far too long.  But I’m jumping ahead…

This morning was the most on time we’ve been in years.  In 17 minutes we drove from the Grand Floridian to Hollywood Studios, parked, unloaded the car and were on a tram.  First stop was Toy Story Midway Mania with a Fastpass.  We were through the ride quickly and stopped to see Star Wars Launch Bay.

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Star Wars Launch Bay

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Star Wars Launch Bay

Star Wars has taken over the Animation building, with a making of video in the theater, meet and greets for Chewbacca and Darth Vader, props and costumes from Episode VII, Disney Infiniti stations, mock Cantina, and of course merchandise shop.

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Trip Report January 2016 – Day 2

Day 2 of our January 2016 trip started like 95% of our vacation days do – late.  It was my resolution for this trip that we would be at the parks as close to park opening as possible.  We have a night owl baby, which means we have to wake him up to accomplish this.  After already running late, halfway to the monorail platform I realized I forgot a key part of the baby’s costume and had to run back to the room.  Ok, I speed walked after about 5 seconds of running.  Running is a poor choice for me overall, especially so when the overnight low was 31.

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Grand Floridian

Once on the monorail, it was only a 30 minute journey from leaving the Grand Floridian to arriving at Epcot.  I meandered around Mission Space and Innoventions West while the other adults rode Test Track with a Fastpass.  I bought a Starbucks mug at Fountain View to add to the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios mugs we have already.  I got in line for Baymax, but had to leave the line before meeting him.

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