Sunday, October 26, 2014

There and Back Again.....Disney October 2014- The Journey Home

After over a year of planning, waiting and more planning, the day was finally here. My niece Brynley put her last sticker on her calendar! 

This trip would feature my parents, driving their own car following us and mom using her personal scooter to get around.  Then there is my family of course, with the twins at 14 months old and not yet walking.  We were also driving and using our own double city mini stroller from home, plus William walking.  Then my sister’s family with their two daughters, almost 4 and 2. They were flying instead (smart I tell you!). 

We had done lots of prepping- making stroller license plates, laminated itineraries and held Disney movie nights! 



We planned this trip last year around William’s school break. While they don’t have a real fall break, they do have a half day on Thursday, then that Friday and following Monday off.  So we planned that week knowing he would only miss 3.5 days of school (first grade) vs a whole week. Well then the school district released the calendar this summer and guess what, no more break at all.  They removed the days off and now we get a full week off at Thanksgiving instead (used to only get Wed-Fri off).  Oh well, so the kid was going to miss a week of school.  Good thing though, I hear that several other kids were also doing Disney that week and the principal actually was at Disney week before! So I didn’t feel so bad.  It was unexcused, but we filled out the form so the school and district were aware.

So we planned to pick up William early from school at 1:45pm.  My parents came over and Alan left work early.  We had both cars packed and ready and picked him up and off we went on the road by 1:45pm! We hit traffic early into the drive- in the first hour, before really getting out of Dallas.  Trying to take a shortcut to 20, we hit where they were paving a road and literally had the road closed so traffic could go one way at a time.  So that was a nightmare.  Cut into our drive big time.  We drove all the way to Tillmans Corner area just West of Biloxi for our stop for the night.  I had tried booking a hotel further West, but literally everything was booked up.  We ended up at a Baymont Inn and Suites which was a complete dump, but considering we were only there for like 7 hours, it was fine.  We literally had the last two rooms available.  I had called to remind them of our late arrival to ensure they didn’t give our rooms away (this has happened to me before, at the Gaylord Texan no less when rooms were paid in full by the company for a holiday party, talk about pissed!).  So we arrive at 12:30am, and those last 2 hours driving were bad, so tired! I can’t sleep in the car well and especially not when I know Alan is tired from driving.  He drove the whole way as did my dad despite my offers to drive.

Magic Bands were ready too! 


On the drive, I made sure William was loaded with fun.  We had a backpack with books (he loves to read), including the Guide to the Magic, which I purchased before the trip and he enjoyed reading up on all the attractions.  It has stickers and tips for the kids.  Highly recommend it.  I also ordered the WDW travel journal, but he didn’t use it, I think he just was overwhelmed and we will save it to use next trip instead.  We also printed out license plate bingo off pinterest and he loved that.  He enjoyed trying to find rare license plates from all over.  
Guide to the Magic- http://www.guidetothemagic.com/shopping.htm



We were up by 7am and loaded back up to continue our drive.  The babies were okay in the car, but not great.  They don’t sleep well in the car at all for some reason, so getting them to nap some was hard.  We had lots of snacks, toys and milk/water.  We finally arrive the Orlando area around 5ish, but end up missing a turn on Disney property and that takes forever to get back turned around.  We usually fly, so it was fun to drive in and see this sign!



We finally arrive at Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, our home for the next 7 nights!

Mandy and her family had already arrived earlier that morning via their American Airlines flight.  They had already checked in and requested a high floor room.  Here are Brynley and Olivia at the airport- flying on American out of DFW. 

They had started out at Animal Kingdom, but the heat, crowds and just being exhausted had them coming back early.  But not before getting in a safari ride and seeing D-vine!


We unloaded the car and some stuff my parents had driven down for my sister.  We literally used almost four whole bell carts.  One was just cases of bottled water.  Talk about “stuff”, we had a lot of it! Babies require a lot of stuff.  


The only downside of being DVC is that you don't get daily mousekeeping. With a 7 night stay like ours, you get trash and towel service on day 4 and that's it.  They don't vacuum, don't change your sheets or anything.  Just take out trash and leave more towels and stuff if needed.  We usually get more toiletries, but didn't this time.  I was going to call for more since I take them home, but never did.  If you stay more than 8 nights, you do get a full cleaning once.  You can also pay for mousekeeping if you want a full cleaning.  There is a trash storage closet on each floor where you can take out your own trash, which was important to us with three kids in diapers. Here are a few pics of the awesome dedicated (versus lockoff) 2 bedroom villa (lakeview) at Bay Lake Tower.

This room can run $1200-$1500 a night if paying rack rate.  We were using our Disney Vacation Club points and it was 315 points for the 7 nights.  Even at $1200 a night at the low end, this would have cost us close to $8500 for JUST the room, this isn't including tickets or dining or anything else.  With just four trips, we've already made up what we paid for our initial membership in DVC and we still get 200 points a year to use for the next 45 years or so!

Notice the floor has hidden mickeys?


So after unloading, we headed up to our room, our magic bands were already working. William couldn’t wait to try it and open the door.  We ended up  in room #8202 on the 12th floor. I had called and requested just like I do every year- high floor, even numbered room and north end.  Those requests are supposed to get you a better chance of a corner room that would have a partial theme park/fireworks view. We had booked a lakeview and all three prior trips we were given either the lake/pool view or a partial lake and monorail view facing the Contemporary.  I had never scored the coveted partial Magic Kingdom view while only booking the lakeview.  But this time we got it! Our master bedroom balcony had a great Magic Kingdom view with the castle and Space Mountain! 


My tip- always call a week out to the resort DIRECTLY and put in your requests.  Even as a Travel Agent, when I put requests in for rooms when I book, that is through a whole other entity, not the resort itself and often times those requests don’t transfer over to the resort or are lost in translation, so call a week out or fax them.  Also reiterate your requests in person at check in, again, sometimes your requests are lost or not noted, despite your best attempts. Often they will do their best to meet your request, but it can mean waiting for that perfect room to be ready until after 3 or 4pm (or later).  If you are willing to wait, your chances are better.  They will text you when your room is ready.  We were once assigned a low floor and I simply asked if they had anything higher and they did, so just ask. 

I found this on our bed!

There is a little area that slides open and shut where the tub is, so you can have a view out the window while enjoying a soak!



 There is a large living room with pull out couch that sleeps two plus a chair that folds out into a bed to sleep one.  There is a balcony for the master bedroom that is accessible through the living room too.  There is a breakfast area with built in seating/table which we used daily.

The second bedroom features two queen beds, private bath with tub, one sink etc. There is also a third full bathroom in the hallway- again, tub, one sink. The second bedroom has a private balcony too.  


We got settled and started unpacking and our Garden Grocer order was sent up. www.gardengrocer.com is great for ordering some snacks, bottled water and perishables for your room.  I’ve had perfect service every time with them.  They are pricey, with a $40 minimum order and $14 delivery fee, but worth it for us to avoid shopping for groceries during vacation when our time is limited (or if you don’t have a car).  You can order months before even and edit your order.  I had our order placed 2 months out- they do provide small discounts when you order early too.  We had ordered some perishables such as fruit, juice, yogurt etc. Our luggage came up too and I gave the bellman a hefty tip for unloading all those carts!

My extremely generous parents had goodie bags for everyone.  So the kids enjoyed opening those.  I got two adorable shirts, two scarves including a haunted mansion one I love! Thanks parents!!!  it was a nice treat to start off the trip. The girls got matching ELSA dresses! 



We got all organized and got the babies down for a little rest while I took William down to the pool area. Mandy took the girls down too and we all enjoyed a little fun and we enjoyed an adult beverage! 


The kids had a ball playing at the pool area.  It has a zero entry area, plus mickey shaped splash ground.  This is strictly the gated BLT pool. There is a separate pool for the Contemporary too with a huge slide we could have used as well. 


Life jackets are provided at the resort pools and they have all sizes, including baby/infant/toddler etc.  This pool is gated and while all resort pools are not yet, they soon will be as this is a project Disney is working on now.  Your magic band opens the gate.  There are free towels provided at all moderate and deluxe resorts.  At value resorts, you must bring your own towels (can bring from your room and get more from mousekeeping).  

After a short swim, it was time to freshen up for our dinner at Ohana! Stay tuned for our dinner review. 



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