Thursday, October 2, 2008

Florida Trip Report

Florida- Disney Trip Report
DH, 2 year old dd, and myself. September 12-September 20, 2008

Friday, September 12th- Arrival, Downtown Disney, Sheraton Vistana
We flew on Delta, nonstop BDL to MCO. No complaints about Delta. We boarded easily, left on time, and arrived early in both directions. DH was cramped, but we knew he would be. DD had the window seat and did fine. I did think that TSA was a bit harsh on people in wheelchairs. We saw them make people get out of the wheelchairs to get through the metal detector. Um, hello???? That's both mean and dumb. Someday someone is going to fall and get hurt, and TSA is going to get sued. People are in wheelchairs for a reason, making them get out is dangerous and silly. Use a hand wand to go over them if you are really worried that they might have a bomb in their pockets or something. I mean really! DD wasn't happy about getting out of her stroller and taking off her shoes, but we just dealt with the tantrum and carried her through. The process goes pretty quickly if you are organized, and DH and I worked together to be as efficent as possible so we didn't hold up the line too much.

We arrived at MCO 30 minutes early, got our luggage quickly and easily, and got on the shuttle bus for Hertz. We booked with Hertz through AAA because it was a good rate, and because they also gave us a free car seat for dd. (Other places charge about $9/day). I had never rented from Hertz before, but I've seen the ads and figured they would be good. Well, here I was wrong. Hertz was the worst customer service of our trip. When we got there, there was a long line to check-in. When we finally got the keys, the clerk handed me a car seat which we had to lug out to the parking lot, along with all of our luggage, to the rental car. When we finally got everything out there, about 4 rows back, we couldn't get the trunk of the car open. Plus the car was all scratched up etc. In short, not acceptable. So I took dd and went back inside. DD was being a typical 2 year old, and while I tried to keep her under control, it took about 5 different people from Hertz before I found one who would help me. Then we were directed to another car, on the opposite side of the parking lot. DH had to go get all of our luggage plus the car seat, and bring it over to the new car. It took a while of course. When we finally got there, the car seemed nice enough, but it had a GPS that we had not signed up for. The agent assured us that we would not be charged for it. I really hope he was right. So we finally get loaded up, and go to leave, only to have to stop at the security gate and do even MORE paperwork. The whole process took us about 2 hours, way too long!! My dd was bouncing off the walls by the time we were done. Plus we were late meeting my mother.

The plan was to meet my mom at Old Town in Kissimmee. I had printed directions from Google, we had the Hertz Neverlost GPS, and DH had his GPS with him. Unfortunately none of them had the Hertz location listed correctly so we got lost. We ended up back at the airport, and then finally got to where we were supposed to meet my mom. She'd been waiting for an hour. We had lunch at the A&W place and wandered around the tourist shops and let dd go on a ride. It was very hot and humid, in the 90s. After a few hours, we said goodbye to my mom and headed over to the Sheraton Vistana.

We were a little early for our check-in, and dd was too tired for us to go anywhere else. So we hung out in the lobby until DH could get our room keys. Then we found our villa, which was conveniently near the elevator, and got dd down for a nap. We checked out the place, and sent DH off to the convenience store located on the grounds. He came back with milk, soda, and munchies. When it was time for supper, we realized we were very close to Downtown Disney, maybe about a mile away. Hooray!

We had supper at McDonald's, and dd made a hat out of her Happy Meal box. Then we went to the Lego store to use our Gift Card and buy a gift for a friend etc. After that we did a little more wandering and shopping, before returning to the Lego store one more time, and then finally heading back to the Sheraton. I should say I was very pleased to find a blender in the kitchen. I was able to chop up ice cubes for dd to eat. She loves shaved ice at home, and this was a great treat for her. I also liked having 2 bathrooms too. We didn't use the hot tub since we were only there for one night, but I would have used it if we stayed longer. The place wasn't as big and roomy as the other place that we stayed at for the rest of the trip, but it was way better than an average hotel room. Thumbs up!!

I got lost in the Sheraton grounds. There is more than one security gate, and they all look the same. As a result, we got quite a tour of the place. We saw the little playgrounds and some of the pools, etc. There sure are a lot of villas there, and they are packed in tightly together. We finally made it back, and got settled in for the night.

Saturday, September 13th- checkout of Sheraton, Magic Kingdom, checkin Mystic Dunes
We had a light breakfast in the room for dd, and packed up. Did Express checkout around 9:30am, just as Housekeeping was getting antsy (checkout is at 10am). DD had woken up early in the morning, and then fallen back to sleep, so we had to load a sleeping little girl into the car. We got to Magic Kingdom, and dd perked up as we were getting out of the car in the parking lot. We had an ADR for a character lunch at Crystal Palace with Winnie the Pooh and Friends. Before that we went on the Jungle Cruise and saw the Country Bear Jamboree. After lunch we went over to the Main Street railroad station and did a full loop on the train. We took the boat in both directions to and from the parking lot. After the train ride, dd was pretty tired and it was evident that she wasn't going to nap in her stroller, so we headed off to Mystic Dunes Golf Club & Resort to check-in.

When we arrived at Mystic Dunes, dd was asleep in the car. DH went in to do the check-in stuff. Our friends are owners there, and lent us their week at their 2 bedroom villa. Very nice of them! We got their regular unit, which DH and I had stayed in before in 2005, when I was pregnant with dd. By the time check in was over and everything, dd was awake. We got to the unit with the guest service representative, and listened to his speil etc, and got settled in. There was a light out in the kitchen, and this necessitated a phone call by the rep to get it fixed. Communication is not the strong-suit of this place. Someone came and fixed the light pretty quickly, but we must have had about 5 phone calls from various departments checking to see if the work had been done. Every day we got phone calls inviting us to the bar or the restaurant for whatever activity was happening. Our guest rep really pressured us to have breakfast with him, we finally committed, and then forgot about it and didn't reschedule. There was no way we were going to sit through a breakfast with him with our 2 year old dd. Just wasn't going to happen. Later in the week our dd managed to lock us all out of the Guest bedroom, where our clothing and her diapers were. We called maintenance, and no one answered. We called the front desk and were told someone would be over in a few minutes. No one showed. We called back, and someone from Security showed up pretty quickly. After the door was open, I took dd to the pool. While we were gone, DH took a shower and was surprised by a maintanence guy coming in to unlock the bedroom door. So communication at this place really needs improvement. Aside from that, and the constant phone calls, we really enjoyed our stay. The villa was great. Very roomy and nice. DD liked the big hot tub, and the screened in patio. We went grocery shopping Saturday night and got some popsicles, milk, bottled water, and other groceries. We did supper at some bad Chinese buffet place on Highway 192 before we got the groceries. Got to bed a little late, but were glad to finally be "home". DH and dd really enjoyed the very large tv in the living room, and I enjoyed the nice big sofas too. DH also liked having the washer and dryer in the kitchen, and I was surprised at how much I ended up using them too. We were about 10-15 minutes from the parks, and a little further away from things than I'd like to be, but the place was very roomy and comfortable. Definitely felt blessed that our friends were willing to share it with us. I wouldn't spend $200/night to stay there, but if I could get a decent rate I'd go back.

Meanwhile, my MIL and her friend Gail checked into another hotel late Saturday night. I never saw Gail during their visit. They stayed in Orlando/Kissimmee until Wednesday. My MIL refused to go to any of the parks with us though, so we only saw her for dinners.

Sunday, September 14th- Animal Kingdom
The zoo! We didn't do much for breakfast, but headed off to Animal Kingdom around 9am or so. Got a parking spot close enough that we didn't even need the tram to get to the gate. Got in, and headed off to Africa right away. I was eager to do the Safari ride. We did that, and then got snacks at the fruit stand nearby. Weren't sure what to do next, but dd answered the question by falling asleep for a nap! We wandered over near Asia, but decided to go to the Baby Care Center. A very nice baby place in this park. We brought dd in, in her stroller, to an air conditioned room and let her sleep. Meanwhile, DH went back out and got a turkey leg and did some shopping. When he came back, I did a little shopping. When dd finally woke up, a couple of hours later, we went to Dino-land and got lunch at Restaurantasoursus or whatever it was called. Had a typical burger/nugget/fries meal, and then stopped at the Kidcot station nearby. DD wasn't interested though so we went to the Boneyard, which was a big play structure for the kids. Lots of slides and things to climb on, and a little water area too. We played there for quite a while, and then walked around the rest of the area, before heading out. The big hit of the day was definitely the Safari ride. We went back to Mystic Dunes for popsicles and a break. Even though dd had already had her nap, we still needed a rest. Later we called MIL, and arranged to pick her up and bring her to the Black Angus Steakhouse for dinner (on Highway 192, near Mystic Dunes).

Dinner was okay, dd got antsy before MIL and DH were finished talking so she and I wandered. She liked the decor, but didn't care for her meal much. Then we brought MIL back to her hotel, and called it a night.

Monday, September 15th-Epcot
Light breakfast and snacks before heading off to Epcot. Went straight to the Nemo thing, Seas Pavillion. Not quite what we expected. DD was scared by the darkness of the ride. Had fun looking at the fish afterwards though, and then found our way to the Turtle Talk with Crush show. I think DH and I enjoyed that more than dd. Stopped at the Kidcot station and dd had fun coloring. Really enjoyed the aquariums and had a tough time getting out of there. Then we were off to have lunch in Japan in Future World. We stopped at a water play area along the way, and I thought we might be late getting to Japan for our ADR. Japan was about the furthest we could possibly be for a reservation! We got there though, and then had some confusion trying to find the elevator to the 2nd floor where the restaurant was. We had a nice table looking out over the lagoon, and wonderful food. DD had a kids meal, and I had the tempura. DH enjoyed his sushi. After lunch we knew dd would be getting tired, but we still had to get out of the park. So we stopped in the Japan gift shops and got some chopsticks and then stopped at a shaved ice stand. DH and dd got some nice dessert there. Continued up to China for more shopping, and dd got a nice pair of slippers/shoes, and DH tried to find the RIGHT tea. In Japan and China we went to the Kidcot stations too. We went onwards, stopping occasionally, and then did the Mexico boat ride. DD went on the boat awake, and came off the boat sound asleep. We carried her up to the Baby care station, but there really wasn't anywhere there for her to nap. So we got her settled into the stroller, and then went back toward the main entrance. We stopped at the Electric Umbrella restaurant for some beverages to cool down, and then we headed out. Brought dd back to the room for some popsicles and a break.
Around 6pm we went and picked up MIL and took her to Downtown Disney. I had made some phone calls, and made a reservation for the CrabHouse but it wasn't really what we wanted. We stopped at Planet Hollywood, and made it inside only to discover that it was way too loud for us. Then we stumbled upon a place called Raglan Road, which was an Irish pub type place. Menu looked good, and we were able to get seated right away. I called and canceled our other reservation. DD loved the music at Raglan Road, and DH really enjoyed the food. I ordered the pasta which was okay. Don't remember what MIL got, but she was just happy to visit with DH anyway. After dinner we walked around Downtown Disney, all the way to the Rainforest Cafe. Pretty much wore MIL out, but I wanted to see the place and I thought she'd enjoy visiting with DH. Finally brought her back to her hotel around 9pm.

Tuesday, September 16th- Hollywood Studios
This was our Easy Day. Even though it was only Tuesday, we were about halfway through our trip. I knew there wasn't much at Hollywood Studios for us to do because dd was so young, but I also knew that DH wanted to go. So we headed over around 10am. Saw the Playhouse Disney show, visited some shops nearby while we waited, and then headed over toward the Muppet thing. DH and I debated whether dd would do a 3-D show or not, and decided against it. She didn't really enjoy the Playhouse Disney show and we knew she was tired. We saw some of the Jedi Academy stuff, and got lunch at the Backlot Studios (burgers and fries). Then we went to the Muppet gift shop and looked around there. Decided to head out after that. This took us about 3 hours total. We went back to Mystic Dunes to relax, take a nap, etc. I think this was the day that dd locked the bedroom door, and we checked out the pool.

Around 6pm, we picked up MIL and went to House of Blues at Downtown Disney. This time I spared everyone the tour afterwards. We had a very nice meal, and then hit the gift shop. DD even let MIL hold "her tail" for a while. We tried to go into Virgin store, but there was a band playing inside and it was way too loud. So we called it a night, and brought MIL back to her hotel and said Goodbye.

We used a stroller and a "bear backpack" for dd on this trip. The backpack has a "tail" which a grownup holds so that the child can't get lost in a crowd, etc. DD likes it because it means she doesn't always have to hold someone's hand. I like it because she can burn off some energy without wearing me out.

Wednesday, September 17th-Magic Kingdom (2nd day of MK)
This was a "No Grandma Day" and dd was happy about that. She even panicked a little when I called my mom in the evening (to make plans for the next day). Anyway, the first time through MK, I was fairly relaxed because I figured we could just hit things the "next time". Today we really had to pick and choose what we were going to see. We decided to walk through the park and head over to Mickey's Philharmonic. The first 3-D thing that came flying sent the special glasses off of dd's head, and she went into DH's arms. It was a great show though, and he did calm her down so she could see the show anyway. Then we went on Small World. "Wow Mommy! LOOK!!" I would have done that ride again with her if she had wanted to. She was just such a joy to watch! Lunchtime at Liberty Tree Tavern. Not a character meal, just some basic good cooking in air conditioning. Our waiter was from Massachusetts, and I think other parties in our room were from Massachusetts too. Another table was celebrating a birthday, and dd was disappointed that we didn't get any birthday cake. After lunch, we headed for the Merry-Go-Round, but the lines were long. Long lines for the Pooh ride and Dumbo too. Bummer. We found the water play area in front of Arial's grotto though, and dd played there for quite a while "Water! Water! Where are you water?" she said as she leaned over the holes, and then she'd get splashed in the face. She had a blast! We did a little shopping after that, and got an Eyore to bring home. Then we walked through Toontown and boarded the train back to Main Street. I was a little sad to leave without going to the Bakery and a few other things, but it was time to go. We took the monorail back to the parking lot and called it a day. I don't even remember what we did for supper that night. Might have gotten some fast food take out or something. I know we were beat, and didn't want to go back to Downtown Disney. Maybe we did, and ate at McDonald's again.

Thursday, September 18th- Epcot, with Becky's mom (2nd day of Epcot)
Stuff with my mom always has some drama. We had a little trouble coordinating and agreeing on a time. Then my mom called en route and said she was having car trouble. Then she had trouble getting her ticket. We finally all met just inside the gates at Epcot around 10am. This was our second trip to Epcot with dd. We offered to go back to see the fish again, but dd wasn't interested. So we went to Innoventions East and West. When we got to West part, we were greeted at the door by a cast member who told us to hurry inside for a big surprise! We won 2 Dream Fastpasses!! Yay! Well, it would have been a bigger yay if we could have let my mom babysit dd while DH and I went on a ride, but oh well. We decided to use the passes for my mom and I to go on Soarin' in the Land Pavillion. This was an unscheduled stop, but we made time for it. While my mom and I did that, DD and DH found a Mickey bar and got ice cream all over dd from head to tow (and DH has the pictures to prove it). My mom doesn't like flying too much, but I guess she did okay with the ride. I did the ride before in 2005 and was happy to do it again. After that we headed over to the World Showcase for our noontime reservations at the Rose & Crown in United Kingdom. We got there a few minutes early and had time to visit the shops and water fountains nearby. All DH bought was a candy bar I think, if that. We were seated outside on the patio at the Rose & Crown (so much for my plan of an air conditioned lunch). My mom wasn't interested in much on the menu, and wasn't brave enough to ask for something else so she just an appetizer. Meanwhile, we pieced together a turkey sandwich and carrot & celery sticks for dd (had to pay the adult price, but tried to get food she would eat). I enjoyed my Shepards Pie, and I think DH had the Fish and Chips, as well as a pint of Guinness. He was disappointed that the Boots were no longer being offered.

After lunch we toured the other countries. We always skip over Canada and the US. We wandered through the gift shops a little of France and Italy and Japan etc. I think we skipped Morocco. DH wanted us to do the show in China so we did that. 360 degree all around movie that is pretty cool. My mom can't stand for long periods so she brought her stool and sat a bit. DH and I took turns holding dd in our arms. When we came out of the show, we saw the acrobats performing. We were all pretty tired but had to get back to the main gate anyway. We stopped at the drums, whereever they are and dd really enjoyed playing on those for a while. My mom bought dd a Minnie Mouse doll in France, and DH and dd got shaved ice in Japan. We were all pretty tired by the time we got back around the circle. So we didn't do anymore shows. We debated stopping for one last drink or whatever, but it was after 3pm and dd still hadn't napped yet so we just called it a day. I think dd was asleep before we actually got back to the car. We said goodbye to my mother in the parking lot.

We were parked close enough so we didn't need the tram. DH and I were hoping to go back for the night show, or maybe go over to Magic Kingdom for the night show, but it didn't happen. I lost our parking pass for the day anyway when I opened up all the car doors to let the heat out of the car before we climbed in. The heat was taking it's toll on dd and we ended up going back to our villa at Mystic Dunes and making pasta for supper and staying in.

Friday, September 19th- Animal Kingdom (2nd visit, last day of Parks)
Another "No Grandma Day". We had a very early 8:20am breakfast reservation for the Tusker House, and honestly we were probably 20 minutes late. It was too early for us, but I wanted to get to Animal Kingdom before the park opened so we could catch the Safari Ride again early in the day. Anyway, we were still able to get in for our breakfast and dd was terrified of the characters. So I made DH take my picture instead. The pictures didn't come out that great (am I really that fat??), but the food was yummy! And I still tried to have fun. After breakfast we headed to the Safari only to see that the lines were already long so we grabbed Fastpasses and took the train round trip to the Conservation area and back (didn't get off the train). Then we did the Safari ride, and then the Jungle trek. After that we stopped for snacks and shopping before heading off to Asia to do the Trek there. By the time we got halfway through that, dd was getting pretty fussy. She threw a tantrum and DH had to pull her aside for a while. We debated what our next move should be, and decided to just head out and get drive-thru fast food for lunch. We went back to Mystic Dunes to eat and relax, and dd got sick in the afternoon. DH was worried that she was dehydrated. We still had some gift shopping to do so in the evening, when it had cooled down we went to Downtown Disney and tried to get dd to eat some flavored ice. She wouldn't touch the stuff though, so we left and came back to Mystic Dunes. We called her doctor back home and they weren't too concerned. So I left dd and DH in the villa and went out to the drugstore to get a thermometer and some medicine for her. I also filled up the gas tank on the rental car. When I got back she didn't have a fever and wouldn't drink the Pedialyte stuff I got. We did our best to give her some fluids and I heated up the leftover pasta for my own supper.

Saturday, September 20th- Going home day
We packed up our stuff Friday night, and finished early Saturday morning. DD was awake early as usual. We left around 7am I think, and headed for the car rental place and the airport. When we got to Hertz the lady gave us a really hard time about the gas tank not being completely full. "You used gas to get here, didn't you? Then the tank isn't full!" Grr... I wonder how much extra they charged for that. I bet it was a lot. What a rip-off!! We unloaded the car as fast as we could and climbed on the shuttle. Hertz staff didn't help at all, and were pretty rude all around. We got to the airport and printed off our boarding passes and checked our luggage pretty easily. Then it was time to get through Security. I was shocked to see the TSA people making elderly and disabled people get out of their wheelchairs in order to get through the metal detector. How disgraceful!! These people are not terrorists and someone is going to get hurt. DD gave us a hard time about taking her shoes off and getting out of the stroller, but DH and I outmuscled her and got her through. She was fine again once we got to the other side and put her back in the stroller. We stopped at Burger King for breakfast, but no one was really hungry. Gulped down my coffee before we got on the plane. Plane took off a few minutes early. DD was a bit antsy on the plane even with snacks and stuff. I finally made DH get the dvd player out and then she fell asleep. She was still asleep when we landed, but woke up when everyone was getting off the plane. We landed a few minutes early and got our luggage quickly and got out to the car. DH was shocked that it cost us $109.00 for parking (long term parking garage). We got some drive-thru fast food for lunch and started to head home. Got stuck in traffic near the Mass-CT state line, but finally made it home around 3pm. DD was very happy to be home and ran from room to room checking everything out. Before she even went inside she had DH take her for a bike ride while I brought in the suitcases. Then she and I went for another ride down to the beach afterwards. It was like she was rediscovering everything for the first time. Fun to watch definately.

By the next day though she was asking to go back to our "other house" with the big "daddy bathtub". LOL!

And that is our trip!!

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