Sunday, November 16, 2014

Disney Day Two- Going Wild at Animal Kingdom

Today was our second full day in Disney and on today’s agenda was a morning at Animal Kingdom.  Many people overlook this park, and while it wasn’t my favorite on my first or second trip, I really have grown to love and appreciate it.  It can be the least crowded when crowds are high elsewhere, so a great option for busy holidays.  But it also can get very hot due to all the overgrown foliage that traps the heat.  And it is very spread out so get ready to walk. But first, some breakfast in our villa!  

We planned to be up and out the door early by 8:15am, but that wasn’t the case, so we didn’t make it to the park at rope drop, but soon after.  and while in AK, you must dress the part! 

The crowds were already huge at 9:15am.  We drove and parked close.  We headed in to the park and waited in line to get in.  Lines and crowds frustrate me like no other.  I just wanted to get moving already! 

We headed straight in for the safari, but we lost Mandy and her family along the way. So we just rode the safari separately.  We went with mom to the accessible line, which allowed her to ride her scooter through the line, but it meant we actually waited longer than we would have in the regular line.  Just so you know, there are no shortcuts in Disney, and almost all lines are accessible, meaning if you use a wheelchair or scooter, you can still go in the regular line.  But on a few rides, the line will split like here, and you often end up waiting a lot longer if you are using a chair or scooter.  Many think that will get them a “front of the line pass”, but that isn’t the case and usually it is the opposite, you can end up waiting longer.  This was just one case, but later in the trip, my poor mom waited literally 45 minutes longer than us when using the special accessible line at Toy Story Mania.  So just wanted to share as almost all lines are accessible for those with mobility issues. 

Tip- if using a stroller, you do actually take the stroller in line with you.  Halfway through the line there is an area where you drop/leave your stroller and then continue in the line without it.  You will pick up the stroller as you exit.

We waited for the special safari truck that is wheelchair accessible (they can actually load the chair onto the truck for those that can’t transfer, which is really nice).  Mom can transfer of course, but it was nice for her to get to ride the scooter in line and not have to navigate the bumpy and rough line on her feet.  We actually heard from Mandy and they were in a truck passing right by us!  They got in line way after us, but got to ride before us.  We waved and waited our turn.  We had a great time on the safari as always and got up close and personal with quite a few animals. 


Afterwards, we did have a FP for Dinosaur at 9:40am, but it was already like 10:15am and I wasn’t sure we would make it with all of us in time.  Plus we wanted to stop at Expedition Everest on the way for a few of us to ride that via the single rider line before it got too busy.  So we decided we would just skip our first FP.  We could have changed it to something else via the My Disney Experience app on my phone, but we weren’t going to be there long enough and still had two more fastpasses to use.  So we headed towards Expedition Everest.  Everyone sat out while my dad and I rode in the single rider line along with my brother in law, Jeff.  The line was literally 5 minutes long.  We got on almost immediately and Dad and I even got to ride together, which isn’t guaranteed.  The single rider line is used to fill in the empty seats when there is an odd number party- like a party of three, so two of the three ride together, but the third person is alone, leaving an empty seat next to them.  That is when the cast members pull someone from the single rider line to fill in, but sometimes they just let you ride together.  Love this ride, so exhilarating and great views up top!

After exiting, Mandy decided she wanted to try it, so Dad and I rode again with her while Jeff, Alan and my mom watched the kids. Dad and I were so happy to ride 2x!  Remember- if you have a magic band and have purchased the Memory Maker package ($149 in advance), then you get ride photos like this one! And you don’t do a thing.  As you exit the ride, there is long range radio frequency (RFID) technology that will scan your band as you exit (you don’t stop or scan it yourself) and it adds that photo to your account.  You can log in to see it later that day.  Sometimes ride photos can take up to 24 hours to appear, but you can check often.  So much fun to have these photos included in our photo package.   I'm in the pink, second row, hands up of course!

So after escaping the Yeti, it was time to head to the Boneyard, my son’s favorite! We let the kids run wild in there for a good 45 minutes or more. This is a great place to let the kids run wild and burn off some energy.  There are huge 3 story tall slides, caves, and then across the bridge is a dig site where they can dig for fossils and bones.  There is only one way in/out and guarded by a CM that doesn't let kids exit without a parent/adult with them.  The twins even got in and had a little fun crawling around.   We had planned to try and do Dinosaur over there too and my favorite Primeval Whirl, but we just ran out of time.  It was extremely HOT today too which didn’t help.  

We had an 11:50am fastpass for the Adventurer’s Outpost to meet safari Mickey and Minnie.  We knew we had to eat lunch before that. So off to Flame Tree BBQ we went for lunch.  This is a favorite of ours.  There were no lines since we ate so early.  If you want to avoid the long lines at quick service, then go early or late.  It was close to 11:15am and we walked right up.  They have a great selection of BBQ and we love all the outdoor beautiful seating areas here. 

After lunch, we headed to the outpost right nearby.  TIP_ you can ensure you are selecting fastpasses near each other by looking at the map feature as you are selecting your fastpasses.  It will show a map so you can make sure attractions are close and you aren’t criss crossing the park.  Or just ask me, I know where everything is!  Lol

We waited in a short line and soon were in to visit Mickey! The twins love Mickey. 

After our visit, we hit the 3D movie- It’s Tough to be a Bug.  This is a really cute little show, but it does have some dark portions, including spiders that float down off the ceiling right above your head in the dark that can scare some kids.  We waited a while for this one and it was packed and HOT.  Everyone was tired and mom was getting overheated.  The crowds were not helping.  And I had one of the few rude guest encounters of the trip.  There was a large group near us and these young men probably 18-25 nearly trampled me and my babies trying to push past us into the theater.  It was ridiculous.  I tried to say something about there being plenty of seats for everyone and no need to push me down with a child in my arms, but they didn’t speak English and just continued shoving an elderly lady.  So rude, but thankfully one of the few encounters like that. 

Thankfully we got in and seated as Charlie was extremely fussy now and mom was feeling the effects of the heat and crowds.  We loved the show and William liked getting “stung” and we decided it was enough for the day.  We still had a fastpass for the Lion King show, which we LVOE, but it was so hot and miserable and the twins were done.  We knew it was time to go.  As much of a type A planner as I am, I knew I would have to be flexible this trip and we’d have to skip some things and change plans on the fly.  When the babies need their rest, we needed to break.  There was no sense in pushing when everyone was really hot and tired.  Then we all just get grumpy and no one has a good time.  So we left.  I’m sad we didn’t get as much done at AK as we wanted, but I know we will be back next year.  The babies had been so good going with the flow and so I knew we had to let them have some rest. 

Back to the hotel for a nap for the babies.  William and I got changed and refreshed and decided we would ride the monorail around, his favorite!  So Mandy and Brynley joined us while the guys stayed back and rested with the younger three.  Stay tuned for our monorail adventures! 

Disney Day One- Part II Downtown Disney

So after a nice long rest, naps for the kiddos and all, we headed to Downtown Disney to shop and eat.  DTD is a great stop that doesn’t require a park ticket, so I recommend it as an arrival day or departure day activity if you need something to do outside of the parks.  It is also great to use as a non park day in the middle of the trip to get a break from the action of the parks.  DTD is more crowded on weekends, so I anticipated crowds, but it was packed.  It was Columbus day weekend and it was a Sunday evening, so apparently lots of people were off the next day because they were all at DTD!

Parking was a whole other issue.  We had our own vehicles, so we drove.  Parking there is always a nightmare, but it was really bad due to construction.  They are building a parking garage thankfully, but that was causing many areas to be shut down.  We also got stuck at a traffic light right outside, waiting to turn in.  The light was malfunctioning (it was a temporary light due to construction) and there were cops sitting and watching, but not doing anything.

So it took forever to go the short distance from our hotel to Downtown Disney.   The same is usually true when using the buses, it seems to take forever! So be forewarned.  We decided to valet park.  It wasn’t too bad- I think $15.  My parents lucked out and found a handicap spot right up front.  We headed in and first on the agenda was FOOD!  Earle of Sandwich to be exact, our favorite fast food on property.  It’s affordable, delicious and something different and fresh instead of the usual chicken nuggets and burgers.  I love the sandwiches and tomato soup.  

The line is ALWAYS long and looks awful, but it moves fast.  The real issue here is finding a table.  They have added more tables outside, but I highly recommend finding one first.  We lucked out into a large family leaving and I quickly grabbed up the two tables as they were leaving.  Score! Some of us got in line to order and we were right in line behind some other Cowboy’s fans (the game was going on right then) and she was keeping us updated on the score.  Always fun to make new friends in line, right? 

We got our food and all enjoyed a nice hot dinner.  The weather outside was nice for sitting outside too.  Lots of good people watching here.  After dinner, the shopping commenced, but not near as much as I would have liked.  Between the kids and everyone just being exhausted from travel and our first day, we didn’t get that much done.  We split up and Alan took the kiddos with William and my dad and they headed to the LEGO store.  Mom and I headed to the Christmas store first, got a few things and then we all headed to the Goofy’s Candy Company.  But not before William showed me the really expensive working remote control train lego set he got! His dad spoiled him! Then on to the Candy Co., where William got a slush, his favorite.  I got in line for some freshly baked treats.  Tip- they have great “make your own treats” here.  You can select a candy apple, pretzel rods or marshmallows and have them dipped in your choice of chocolates, caramel etc and then rolled in your favorite candy- m&M’s, sprinkles or whatever.  The kids love watching their creation being made. 

Downtown Disney was packed, so it was super crowded in here.  You definitely want to avoid DTD on weekends when you can and day time at like 10-11am is the least crowded time to come usually.  Evenings get busier. We could feel it with the holiday weekend too.  Next up we knew we had to hit the Co-op at the Marketplace.  This new shop basically is a huge open area that encompasses several little shops inside- including D-Tech where you can get all your iphone covers and electronic accessories, as well as a store full of bags and purses, including Veras and Dooney.  But our eyes were set on the kitchenware store.  Mom and I had a ball in there and bought several items including placemats, napkins and plates.  I have a lot of Disney themed items in my kitchen.  LOVE this store and I’ll be back in February.  Apparentlyt the inventory is always changing and they test out new products to see how they do before making them available across property.  So great little rare finds in here. 

By then, the babies were done, mom was done and so we headed out.  We never even set foot in World of Disney (the World’s largest Disney store!), where I usually do a TON of shopping.  We usually hit up a lot more stores, but it wasn’t meant to be this night.  With the babies, we had to always be flexible and while they were great most of the time, we also knew it wasn’t fair to push their limits either.  So my parents and sister headed to their car and we headed to the valet line and waited…..and waited.  It was almost 30 minutes or more to get our car.  It was insane. Alan was about to go ask for the keys and get it himself as we could see it from where we were sitting.  It was ridiculous. 

So after a night of shopping and fun, it was off to bed to rest and dream about our next day at Animal Kingdom!  Oh but not before we enjoyed a view of Wishes from our balcony! Nothing like the fireworks to put you to sleep!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Disney Day One- Princesses Galore

Well today was our official first day at Disney! And the plan was a big one, including lots of princesses. We were all up extremely early and got out the door by like 7:40am or so to walk to the Magic Kingdom. 

Brynley had a BBB appointment for a princess makeover at 8am at Magic Kingdom.  I recommend booking a pre park appointment (or breakfast at Crystal Palace or Cinderella’s Royal Table) as you will get in the park early and can be ahead of the crowds before they come in. I wasn’t sure they would let all 11 of us in since it was only one little girl that had the appt, but they did, no problem.  If you do have a pre park reservation, there is usually a cast member at the far left with a clipboard or ipad and they will verify your reservation and let you go in early! It is always fun to explore Main Street with no one there.  And that is exactly what we did.  see how empty it is?

Since BBB won’t let all 11 of us in there to watch Brynley get her makeover, my immediate family just wandered Main St. a bit and took some photos and took it all in, the music, the smells etc. My parents went to watch Brynley become a princess.  Unfortunately Olivia was too young as they only take three and up.  While they do offer a package with a dress, I highly recommend saving your money and bringing/wearing your own princess dress from home.The MK was decorated for fall and just gorgeous. 

Look there aren't thousands of crowds around! 

After exploring some on Main Street, we headed back towards the castle, just in time to see Brynley all princess’d up! She looked adorable.  

Btw- they do have all the “lands” blocked off with ropes and cast members, so you can’t just stroll on into Tomorrowland, you are limited to stay on Main ST only and into the castle since that is where BBB and Cinderella’s Royal Table are located.  There is a rope at the back of the castle blocking entry to Fantasyland as well.  

So now that she was done, we headed for that rope and staked out a spot.  It was about 8:35am.  We parked the strollers and mom’s scooter and stood by the rope.  Princess Fairy Tale Hall where the elusive Anna/Elsa meet is, was immediately to our right, literally like 5 steps away behind the rope.  We knew we would head there first thing.  While we did have a fastpass for it, it was on our last day and my sister would have to leave for her flight before it.  So now was our chance.

I would say about 50 people or so ended up around/behind us- all folks that had pre park reservations like us for breakfast or BBB.  Way back at the front of the Magic Kingdom everyone else was waiting to get in.  All of those people were being held in the courtyard area before you enter the train station and would not be let in until 9am (sometimes a few minutes before).  So we had a HUGE headstart on almost everyone.  We were as close as you could be.  The CMs were super nice standing at the rope and chatting with us.  We learned they would lead us around “slowly” to the left of the carousel and then to Anna/Elsa.  It was a roundabout way, but they do that to force folks to not trample each other.  We ended up being in third in line as the rope came down. We literally walked right in to Anna/Elsa waiting on only  one other family ahead of us.  It was great.  

The interaction with the sisters is wonderful.  Although they no longer pose together, they are in the same room, but you miss the banter they used to have when they stood together.  Regardless, it was still great. Anna was truly adorable. We all got our pics, including some photopass shots for our Memory maker photo package and headed out. 

We found the first of our pressed penny machines! The first of many this trip and a new obsession for my son.  He loved doing this, so I highly recommend it.  My mom cleaned all the pennies for us ahead of time and I put all the quarters and pennies in a round M&Ms tube and decorated it (removed the M&Ms label).  This worked well to store our quarters and pennies.  I ended up buying him a pressed penny book as well to store his final product.  The pressed pennies are 51cents- two quarters and a penny.  There are some machines that are $1.25- and require five quarters too. These are cool since the final product is so much bigger.  Each machine has a choice of 2-3 imprints, almost every machine is different with characters, parks, resorts, restaurants and more listed on it.

So next up we hit Peter Pan really fast. The line was already getting long and we noticed how long the line was already for Anna/Elsa as we exited! Everyone enjoyed a ride to Neverland before the crowds hit. Next up, the kids wanted to do the carousel, so while it isn’t a must do early morning attraction, we did it.  Alan took Sam and William on while I waited out with Charlie- we had moved the strollers and lost our place in line with them.  

Next up was our 10:10am Cinderella’s Royal Table breakfast in the castle.  This is one of the hardest reservations to get at Disney and I highly recommend booking it at 180 days out when reservations open.  They do serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.  All are order off a menu (not buffet, not family style).  It is prepaid if you are paying for it vs using dining plan.  If using dining plan, it is two credits. Tip is included in this one whether you pre pay or use dining plan. The kids also get a sword for the boys and wand for the girls, plus a wishing star for a special ceremony. We also got a matted/framed photo with Cinderella! They are no longer offering this in 2015.  You can get the photo added to your memory maker photo package digitally, but they will no longer offer the printed photos. 

We checked in a little early at 10am or so and were told it was too early to check in.  Go figure.  I waited 5 minutes and tried again and this time she took us.  After some diaper changes and bathroom roulette with all 11 of us, we waited in line to meet Cinderella in the lobby.  This is where they take your photo.  She will sign autographs first too. Next you wait to be called and then head upstairs when called.  We were seated fairly fast, faster than previous meals here. We got a great table in the back to seat us all together and two high chairs. There really isn’t a bad table in the place, but those near the beautiful stained glass windows overlooking Fantasyland are cool.

We were immediately greeted by an awesome cast member who took our drink orders and brought out plates of muffins, mickey bread and more. The twins loved the blueberry muffins and were covered in blue on their new white onsies.  Then we all ordered.  Alan had the healthy breakfast.

The princess music and stories started as they introduce each princess individually with a back story and music.  It’s very cute. One by one they came out and started their rounds. We were able to see them all and did not feel rushed at all.  Our service was great all around. Food was good too.  They also do a wishing star ceremony where they play the song and all the kids make a wish too.  It’s very cute as well.  The kids were given their swords and wands, which they loved. I wonder how many times the servers get hit by those things? 

Everyone finished up their food and all the princesses.  They loved our custom autograph books that I created in shutterfly for about $20 each.  There are some great 8x8 templates you can google and import into shutterfly to use for specific meals, characters and more. It’s super easy, cute, and unique.  We used clickable/retractable sharpies and stored them in ziplock bags to keep dry and together.

This was Olivia and Brynley’s first character meet, as well as the twins. It was funny because Olivia was picky about which princesses she liked and would meet.  I think it was Ariel she refused to meet or hug.  But she loved Sleeping Beauty (Aurora) which is who she was dressed as.  It was so cute.

William got a cupcake for his birthday.  Be sure to note all special celebrations on your dining reservations! 

After breakfast, we left the restaurant sufficiently stuffed. Next up on the agenda? Our fastpasses! This was our first fastpass plus- Enchanted Tales with Bell in New Fantasyland.  This was a first for all of us as it was in soft opening while I was there in November 2012.  Of course I hadn’t been back since that trip since I had the twins. Our fastpass was for 11:20am-12:20pm, so we just needed to arrive in that window.  The FP entrance means you miss going in a portion of the cottage, but that’s okay.  We waited about 5-10 minutes for the next show and headed in. The attraction is extremely cute and I won’t ruin it for you, but definitely worth doing.  William was chosen as “Maurice”- Belle’s father, my dad was chosen as a knight and Brynley and Olivia were spoons/forks.  Definitely get the kids to volunteer for a part, as they will take their photo with Belle after.  Everyone did a great job with their parts and we got some cute photos.

Next was our fastpass for Ariel’s Journey Under the Sea.  This attraction was newly opened in late 2012 too.  We had a little time to kill, so we looked around the area including Gaston’s Tavern where we got William a frozen drink after waiting in a long line.  It was already pretty hot outside and lines were building at MK.  It was time for our FP, so we headed to park the stroller and ride. 

After our visit under the sea, we had a FP for Splash Mountain in Frontierland. There is a cute playground area near Splash, so we found spots in the shade near that (under the railroad bridge). My mom and Jeff ended up sitting out while the rest of us rode.  William was scared.  He had ridden it several times before, even at 3 years old, but I think the older you get, the more afraid he got.  Plus he had read something online about the drop at Splash being faster than Space Mountain, so that had him riled up for no reason.  He ended up loving it after.  I rode in front with my dad and got soaked!  

The wait for the ride was over 50 minutes I think now, even the fastpass entrance had a line a good 30 people deep.  It was getting crowded and extremely hot, even for us Texans, so we decided to head out.  It was about 1:45pm or so. We found a few more pressed penny machines and made our way out stopping at a few shops.  It was time to walk back to Bay Lake Tower for a break.  I can’t explain how awesome and easy the walk to BLT is.  If you are at the Contemporary (especially Garden Buildings), it is a little further, but BLT is so easy. Faster than the monorail in most cases.

Our first morning was a success, we met Anna/Elsa, flew through Neverland and met a handful of other princesses. The kids (and adults) were beat, so everyone went to rest. We got the babies down for a nap and then I started organizing our stuff more in our room etc.  We had an easy evening planned at Downtown Disney and I think we planned to meet at 6pm to head over by car.  

William loved opening the door every day via his band.