Disney & Florida – Christmas 2016

Chapter 1. Getting to the Airport with our Ridiculous Pile of luggage

So.. yeah. The theme of the day was pretty much…luggage. You may have seen my FB post Friday morning with the massive pile of suitcases in our living room. Here it is again, at the bus stop 🙂

I had been warning Brian for months that it was going to be like this, and I don’t think he believed me until he saw it. The 5 largest suitcases were filled with camping equipment – tents, air mattresses, pillows, bedding, headlamps, etc. Two more were filled with Christmas presents, because we would be going directly to Naples after our Disney vacation to celebrate Christmas with my family. Most of our clothes and miscellaneous items ended up in carry-ons because we maxed out our checked luggage limit of 8. And we each had a backpack, so 16 total pieces of luggage to pack, and keep track of.

We had decided to take the bus to the airport. (A perk of moving to Superior – there is an express airport bus that comes to the Park-n-Ride only a couple of miles from our house. At $2/day for parking, it was a deal too good to pass up). Brian took the bus from work and met us there, which was a good thing – because it turned out that 16 bags was far more than would fit in the trunk of our Outback, so most of the backseat was filled as well. No idea how we’ll get home with all 4 of us, guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it!

Brian was worried the bus might already be full when it got to us, or at least the luggage compartments would be, since we are one of the last stops. So, I was already nervous. Because we couldn’t all fit in the car with the luggage, making a last minute decision to drive was going to be complicated. We had opted to take the 4pm bus, instead of the 3pm bus (which I thought would be safer), and it was not going to leave us with any time to spare. 4:00 came and went, no bus. I was starting to panic! We had no time for error, and with the massive pile of luggage, very few other options. After what felt like an eternity (probably really only 10 minutes) the bus finally came, mostly full but just enough room for us. Whew!

Owen was so tired, he kept falling asleep on my lap. We had gone to the opening night showing of Star Wars: Rogue One the night before, so we had been out late. Then he had a full day of school.

The bus was 15 minutes late getting to the airport, and anyone who knows me, knows that being late is the easiest way to turn me into a ball of stress! “On time” to me, means 15 minutes early, lol! It was just over an hour until our flight, and we still had to check-in and get through security.

We had noticed that there was a special check-in and baggage drop right by the bus stop, but they were very strict about not taking bags less than 90 minutes from your flight, and we had already missed that. Brian ran off to get a cart instead so we could haul it upstairs ourselves, and again, after what felt like another eternity, he finally came back. I was starting to think our chances of making the flight were slim, much less getting there in time to board and get seats together. Only if everything went as smoothly as possible from here out…

We still had our hands full, even with what fit on the cart, but somehow ran/stumbled our way up two elevators to the ticket counters. With bags constantly falling off of our piles as we went. We must have looked quite the sight, lol!

The poor ticket agents were a little overwhelmed with our ridiculous amount of luggage (we heard a lot of “Wow” and “Oh My!”), but to their credit, they were extremely friendly and helpful, (one of many reasons I love Southwest!) and within a few minutes we had everything tagged and were on our way. Security was the usual madhouse, but moved reasonably quickly, and we made it to our gate with just a few minutes to spare.

Oh, I have to mention a very near-miss at security… As I was gathering my bags off the belt, and starting to walk away, one of the agents grabbed me and asked if the wallet he was holding was mine! It had somehow fallen out of my bag as it went through the scanner! That would have been a disaster – not only my ID, but my credit cards too. (Brian has a CC, but it’s the same as mine, which we would have had to cancel) Don’t even like thinking about how close to “really really bad” that was. I’ve since started a two-wallet system, with backup credit cards in a different wallet than my main one, so the chances of losing everything are less. 

I had picked up some Subway sandwiches earlier in the day to bring on the plane, knowing it would be our only chance for dinner. Once settled in our seats, we scarfed down our food. Mine was barely edible by that point, but knowing it was that or nothing, I made do. Owen had been getting a little whiney because he was hungry, and Lily almost lost her temper with him. But overall, the whole getting-to-the-plane part had gone relatively smoothly, considering how little wiggle-room we left ourselves.

During the flight, Brian and Owen were talking almost the whole time, I think they got into some pretty deep discussions, while Lily was mostly absorbed in her music for the trip.

We landed just before midnight and headed straight to the hotel check in for the in-airport Hyatt. We had decided that with so much luggage, and it being so late, we would just let Bell Services collect our bags and bring them to us. Within 20 minutes of getting off the plane, we were lounging on the beds in our room. Can’t beat that! It took a while for the luggage to come up, but being able to wait for it while stretched out in bed was priceless. Worth every penny of the $30 tip we gave to the guy that delivered it, lol!

View from our balcony:


I was really hoping everyone would sleep in tomorrow, as we had a rather late night planned at DHS.

Chapter 2. In Which Jaime Gets in Trouble with the Valet

So, my sleeping-in plan didn’t exactly work out. I was almost angry when I woke up and realized it was only 7am! Brian woke up a few minutes later, and was already antsy to go get breakfast. The kids were still sound asleep, and I managed to hold him off for almost an hour. But no more. So we were headed out to find food shortly after 8am, a whole hour before I had even planned on getting up. Oh well.

We stopped by Hemispheres, the hotel restaurant, but it was packed with a long line out the door, so we just went down to the terminal to eat in the food court.

I wanted to go ahead and get the keys to the rental car, because I knew it would only get busier the later we waited. The initial counter process went smoothly, no wait, no pressure for upgrades, insurance etc. Turns out they were saving that for later once we were actually at our car. Oh well. I sent everyone else back to the room to start bringing down luggage, and said I would meet them at the motorcourt (outdoor entrance to the hotel).

Now, airports are streamlined for getting people in and out, taking the usual traffic patterns that would be expected. Unfortunately, I was doing something unexpected, trying to get from the rental car area to the valet area for the hotel. Let’s just say the signs were far less than helpful. (And Google Maps even less so. I know, don’t bite the hand that feeds you, right?)

I ended up making multiple circles around the airport, finally stumbling my way into the short term parking, where the parking attendant was able to give me directions. I was quite flustered when I got to the motorcourt. More so when the rest of the family was standing by the side with no bags. Apparently, after all that, I was the only one with a room key. And the room was only in my name, so Brian couldn’t get one from the desk. I handed off the key and sent them, thinking at least the worst was over now.

One of the valet attendants asked me what I was doing there, I explained that they were bringing down our stuff and he said that was fine, just asked me to move to one of the parking spaces off to the side, so that the driveway was clear. I stood around for nearly 15 minutes before they came back. As I was walking towards the doors to meet them and grab a few bags from Lily, the same valet came up and asked me if I was the driver. Assuming he remembered talking to me before, and that maybe he needed me to move the car again, I just said, “Yes, of the white minivan over there.”

He turned very serious and started explaining to me that it was illegal for me to be picking up there, that it was a $1500 fine! Clearly flabbergasted, I reminded him that he had told me minutes earlier that it was fine, and that no one had ever said otherwise. But I offered to take our stuff back upstairs if need be. He was quite furious with me by now, asking me what I was thinking, and how could I possibly not know that (to which I think I replied that there were no signs anywhere stating that fact, how exactly WAS I supposed to know??).

Brian had noticed by now that something was going down and came over to intervene, right about the time the valet demanded to know who I worked for. I was stumbling over words by now, trying to figure out what he meant, why did he need to know who I worked for? Did I really need to tell him about the small amount of contract work I had recently done for a curriculum company? Or just tell him that Brian worked for Google? Why the hell did it even matter?? He asked again if I was “the driver”, and again, I stated that “Yes, I am driving the white minivan that you told me to park over there!” Suddenly, the misunderstanding became clear. He had gotten it in his head that I was a professional driver, making a pickup in a private area. It suddenly clicked for him that we were just a simple family trying to load our stuff. I guess it was something about the way I had interacted with Lily when she came out with the bags that made him think otherwise. Now he was falling all over himself apologizing, but we just laughed and apologized as well for contributing to the confusion. Apparently to them, “the driver” means something different than just the person in possession of the car keys, lol!

Well, surely the worst was behind us now.

Chapter 3. No Rocks In Florida

The drive to Ft. Wilderness was, thankfully, uneventful. And only one car ahead of us at the security point for the check-in line. Later in the day there was a line of about 20 cars and RVs, so I’m glad we got there early. For some reason, she directed us to park and go inside for check-in, I later realized we could have just used the drive up booths farther ahead and saved a bit of time, but oh well. The CM checking me in asked if we had been there before. Assuming she meant to FW, I said no. But later realized she had given us a stack of 1st Visit buttons, which I’ve always assumed apply to WDW in general.

Our site was ready, even though it was not even 11am, so we started the long process of setting up the two tents. Man it was HOT! A week ago, the forecast had called for highs in the mid 70’s, lows in the 50’s and significant chances of rain everyday. Which is pretty typical for December. However, the forecast had shifted in the last few days, and was now saying highs in the upper 80’s. And lows that barely reached room temperature. Most days on the weather app now warned that we would be at or breaking record-high temperature for that date. Sigh. I only agreed to go camping because I assumed it wouldn’t be hot this time of year. I felt like I had been tricked! Those electric blankets I bought for the trip clearly weren’t going to get used.

One flaw in our plan, that was quickly realized, was how to drive the stakes into the ground. I’ve often seen large rubber mallets in the camping section, meant for the task. But never understood why anyone would bother to buy and carry one – it’s so much easier to grab a large, nearby rock and use that. Apparently we are too used to camping in the mountains, because there was nothing at the campground but sand, leaves, and small sticks. And none of those were at all helpful. Now I know why people buy the mallets, lol! No rocks in Florida. We were left with nothing but our own hands and feet to use. So it took far longer than it should have, and we were far more exhausted afterwards than we would have been. Lesson learned, I guess. Oh, and did I mention that it was hot???

Before the trip, I had bought the vestibule add-on for our tent, thinking it would make a good place to store our luggage. It basically adds a porch area to the tent, with the sides and top covered, but has no floor. Not wanting our stuff to get too sandy or muddy, I picked up a simple tarp to put down on the floor inside. We had never set up the vestibule before, so of course it took a little extra time to figure it out.


On the bright side, our location was great – right across from the comfort station. (And bus stop, though I wasn’t planning to use it. My plan was wrong though, so at least we were close) And there would be no long walks down the road in the middle of the night to use the restroom. And Lily was being unusually helpful, ended up setting up her tent almost by herself. Something which she has never had any interest in doing before. And Owen was having a blast exploring the area and climbing trees while we worked.

After two hours, we were finally ready to go. (Honestly, by now I was mostly looking forward to a few minutes in the air-conditioned haven of the minivan). DHS, here we come! After almost 24 hours of travel and manual labor, the fun felt like it was well deserved by now. 

Chapter 4. Stormtroopers!

We drove to DHS, and I realized that the kids have never actually ridden on one of the parking lot trams. I associate them so much with my trips as a kid. I guess it’s silly, but I felt like it was something the kids should experience.

Just before reaching the gates, Owen had to go to the bathroom, so Brian disappeared with him. While they were gone, the Star Wars music started and the stormtroopers came marching down the street! I really didn’t want Owen to miss this – I could see the boys coming down the path towards us, but they couldn’t see into the park from where they were to see what was going on. I started yelling and motioning to them like a mad-woman to get their attention, and Owen ran as fast as he could, getting to me just as the stormtroopers passed in front of us. We weren’t even in the park yet, but actually had a really good, unobstructed view from just outside the tap-stiles.

It was a few minutes after 2pm, so we hadn’t quite gotten there in time to see the Beauty & the Beast show. I had known when sketching out a plan for the afternoon that if we didn’t make the 2pm show, we would have to choose between seeing it at 4pm, or seeing the Star Wars stage show  at the same time. Of course the kids wanted SW, but Brian had his heart set on B&B, which is his favorite. At least we were going to see the SW fireworks, so it seemed like a reasonable compromise.

We had a little time before our late-lunch at Brown Derby, but not enough time to really do anything, so we followed the stormtrooper procession back to the stage, where they did their presentation. We were so far back that we couldn’t see much on stage, other than watching the large screens on each side.

But at the end, they parted the watching crowd down the middle to march out, and their path just happened to cross right in front of us, so we got a great close-up view as they marched by. The stormtroopers are Owen’s favorite character from Star Wars, so I think he was more than a little mesmerized.

I decided to check-in for lunch even though it was early, maybe they would at least let us wait inside in the air conditioning. It was sweltering outside! Honestly, it felt like summer. This was totally unfair, lol! The CM that checked me in warned that they probably wouldn’t be able to seat us early, but our pager was going off just a few minutes later.

We had never actually eaten here before – turned off by the high prices and lackluster reviews. But there are so few other options at DHS, that we picked it by lack of desire to do anything else.

Brian ended up really liking his food, and said it might be his new favorite restaurant! The only vegetarian option they had was the pho, which I am not terribly fond of, but it was fine. Dessert was included, as we were doing the Fantasmic! Package, but it almost took too long to get it, and we had to scarf down a few bites quickly before darting out to make our Star Tours FP. We only had a few hours here today, so I had to stack our FPs and ADR pretty close together to be able to get everything in. We made it to ST 3 minutes before the end of our window!

As we were going in, Owen spotted the Jedi training going on next door, and was sad that he wasn’t doing it. I had asked him before the trip, and he refused to even consider it, saying he was “too shy”, but now I think he regretted that decision. Of course, with the way our plans worked out, we hadn’t gotten there in time to sign up that morning. But if I had known it was important to him, I might have shuffled things around a bit. Oh well, maybe next time.

Star Tours was a lot of fun, probably the best ride we’ve ever had on it! We got the front row, and Owen was in the very middle, can’t get any better than that. He’s usually stuck behind some guy with a big head. Plus we got two new scenes that I had never done before- the Wookie planet and Coruscant. They were both really cool. I wished we could have gone again, or even a few more times, but the standby wait was almost an hour, so not this time. But it was definitely a highlight of the day, and probably Owen’s favorite thing here.

Now it was time to split up for our next fastpasses, as Brian and Lily were headed to Rockin’ Roller Coaster, while Owen and I went to Toy Story. He got very excited about the fact that he beat my score on the ride, lol!

Otherwise, our separate adventures were uneventful, and we met up inside the Beauty and the Beast theater afterwards.

We were pretty late getting there, and ended up sitting on the far right side, the second row above a planter and walkway. It was mostly little kids in the row in front of us, so I figured we would be able to see really well. When showtime came, there was an announcement that it was delayed. I just hoped they didn’t cancel, if we missed the SW show and still didn’t get to see this one, that was going to be a bummer! After about 10 minutes, people all over the theater started giving up and leaving, including the family sitting in front of us. A group nearby had been eyeing those seats as soon as they hard the family discussing leaving, so before they had even gotten out of the aisle I jumped down there to claim them. Sitting behind kids was fine, sitting behind 5 large adults was not. About a minute later, the show started! Our patience paid off 🙂

The show as great as always, and we were glad it worked out that we could see it. 

Chapter 5. Fantasmic! and Star Wars Fireworks

We split up again afterwards, as we had FPs for Tower of Terror, and Owen was still refusing to try it. Overall, he did much better this trip with trying, and even liking, rides. But this one was still a solid NO. I took him shopping while Brian and Lily rode. After several stores he picked out a set of Mickey hands, which he wore for much of the trip afterwards.

We switched off when they were done, Lily using Owen’s FP for a second ride. She secretly hopes he never agrees to ride, because it’s her favorite, and having the extra FP works out to her advantage.  The boys went on to the Fantasmic! theater to get our seats.

I do really like ToT, and this time was no exception. But I swear, it was scarier than normal, lol! Lily agrees, so it wasn’t just me. We got SO many drops, and long ones. I kept thinking it was over, then nope! There we went again. She wanted to look around in the gift shop afterwards, but I felt like we needed to find the boys, as I wasn’t sure if they would be able to hold our seats for long without us. Especially since they had no bags to claim them with.

We found them in the middle of a long aisle, and after climbing, crawling, and trampling a bit, made it to them. I was so parched already (yes, it was STILL hot, even though it was long-since dark) and had planned to go back out for a drink after dropping off my bag. As soon we we reached them, Brian, in a panic, asked if I had any napkins or wipes. Apparently, he had let Owen get a bottle of Coke, and he had proceeded to spill most of it all over the seats. Fortunately, I was prepared, and set about cleaning up, asking them to go fetch me a drink. Brian went with her, and it was only a few minutes before showtime when they came back.

Lily had a frozen lemonade. And nothing else. Apparently neither had heard, or remembered, that I wanted a drink too. Sigh. Oh well. 

The show was good, of course. I hadn’t seen it since I was pregnant with Owen, over 6 years ago. And he had never seen it. He was still wearing his Mickey hands, and would often cover his ears or eyes with them during the scary parts. It was pretty cute 🙂

 

Our only other plans for the night were to see the Star Wars fireworks, still almost two hours away. Everyone was hungry, despite our late and big lunch. Knowing that Brian likes sit-down meals, I directed us to the ABC Commissary. Not a table-service, but at least it did have tables, as opposed to many of the snack carts scattered around the park.

The line to order wasn’t long, but moved painfully slowly. We were given a locator for our table, and told that CMs would bring our food to us. It ended up not being our best meal. Everyone was a little tired and grumpy by now, and the food was slow. And not very good. Hopefully we could still salvage the rest of the night. 

A lot of people were already camped out for the fireworks, in front of the Great Movie ride. It was still about an hour away. We sat down in a spot near the front, but Lily was immediately restless. Brian was tired, and fine with staying in the spot to rest, so I took Lily shopping. We went to a few stores, including back to the ToT shop. She ended up picking out some earrings and a couple of other little things.

Just before the fireworks started, the CMs asked everyone to stand up, and scoot forward to make more room in the back. And then right as they started, the guy next to us, as well as a couple more farther up, put a kid up on their shoulders. And understandably, there were huge outcries from behind us from people whose view had suddenly become non-existent. It has always seemed so rude to me to do that. I’ll hold Owen up on my hip, so he’s the same height as me, but it shouldn’t be allowed to create an 8 foot wall right in front of someone. Especially at the last minute when they can’t even move. Anyway, rant over. Luckily none of the shoulder kids happened to be blocking our view. Just the usual heads and hats.

Overall, I thought the show was good. I really liked the music, how it was blended together from all of the movies. And the projected scenes were neat, but still hard to see. It wasn’t really the fault of our spot, it’s just not a good venue for that kind of show. There is too much in the way, and too small a space for people to watch from. Clearly the area wasn’t designed with that type of production in mind. Hopefully part of the new Star Wars area will include a better setup for it. But I was still really glad we got to see it.

We slowly worked our way out afterwards, waiting in a very long tram line, then a long line of cars exiting. Still beats waiting for the busses though! Back at the tent, it took us longer than I would have liked getting settled in and to sleep. It was still so HOT! And muggy. It was just relentless, no relief. Once I did get to sleep, I slept okay though, thankful for the comfy air mattress and my pillow from home.

All in all, it had been a successful day. Definitely some bumps, but we had recovered and made it work. Nothing is ever stress-free for us these days, so I’ve had to learn to not let the bad moments overshadow the good ones in between. And we had actually gotten to do everything I had planned, with no major hiccups. If the rest of the trip goes this smoothly, all will be well!

Chapter 6. From Camp to Glam

We were slow to get going this morning, bud didn’t need to leave camp until 10am. Brian ventured out on foot at some point to find breakfast. But got lost and called me for help. He finally stumbled his way to the Settlement and picked up some pastries and cinnamon rolls to bring back, after eating a breakfast sandwich there.

Owen was busy climbing trees again, Lily was generally hanging out, and I was trying to keep the tent and campsite tidy. Everything was so sandy and dirty already, after less than 24 hours! (Oh, if only I had known what was coming, I would not have complained about the current state of things)

We had a family portrait session booked at the Grand Floridian this morning. For some reason, it hadn’t occurred to me when I first thought of it, that getting into formal dress clothes was going to be a little bit awkward in the tent. And it was already so hot and muggy, trying to squeeze into panty-hose was quite miserable. But somehow, we all emerged looking more or less presentable, and only running a few minutes late.

It took us longer to get there than it should have though –  a common theme of the trip was that we had a very difficult time navigating the area in a car, as we usually rely on the buses. Much like at the airport, if you are doing something normal, like coming or going from a park, the highways and signs make it pretty streamlined. Trying to get between resorts can be a bit trickier. We ended up valet parking as we only had a few minutes to get inside, and they were going to make us use the overflow parking across the street.

I have to say, walking into the Grand Floridian with all of us dressed to the nines was quite the experience. Every single CM we passed stopped what they were doing and practically stood at attention as they greeted us. I suddenly had this vision of the Titanic movie, how all the first class passengers were treated so differently from the others. It was fun, but also a little awkward and uncomfortable, like I was being fake. I kept feeling like I needed to explain that we were only doing this for the pictures, lol!

We met our photographer by the Grand Staircase and immediately set about getting some shots outside. We were a few pictures in when Owen’s glasses fell apart. They had been on their “last legs” for a couple of weeks, and I was hoping we could get through the trip with them, but it was not meant to be. We had ordered new ones before we left, but they hadn’t come in yet. So he would have to manage the rest of the trip without them. And that’s why he is wearing them in the first half of the pictures, and not in the rest, lol!

We went to a few different locations, and got several combinations of us in each. Even though Owen is my happy, bubbly child, he will never smile for pictures, especially for a photographer that he doesn’t know. He just gets too shy and tense. But I still thought the pictures came out really cute. 

Because I knew we would be here, and be all dressed up, I thought it would be fun to have a nice meal at the hotel. Narcoosee’s just so happens to do a brunch on Sunday’s so that seemed like a good fit. We had to wander around a little to find it, as we had never been there before. Again, we checked in quite early, and again were seated within a few minutes. I have to say, that happened at almost every ADR we had. We definitely spent less time waiting than ever before.

“Grown-up drinks” were included in the price, so I decided to have a Mimosa. I had never had one before, but champagne is about the only alcoholic beverage I really like, so I thought I might as well. Our server even asked Lily how old she was, thinking he was going to offer her a drink as well, lol! I don’t think she looks THAT old!

We liked our food, but overall didn’t think it was quite as good as the Brown Derby yesterday, for about the same price. I was glad to finally get to see the restaurant though. It was a little awkward at the end, as I had planned to use the money I had on my Disney Rewards card to pay, since it was almost exactly the amount of the meal. But then how to leave a tip? The server finally figured out how to let us put only the tip on a separate credit card, but that may have been more trouble than it was worth.

When getting the car from the valet, I realized I hadn’t left them the keys. The rental van has the newer style key that just has to be nearby for the car to start, but doesn’t actually get put into the ignition. They had no trouble parking it, but couldn’t go get it without the key. We apologized for the trouble, but the valet just laughed and said that happens all the time.

Once back at the campsite, we changed into swimsuits as quickly as we could. It was so miserably, unbearably hot! We’ve been in December many times, and it’s never been like this! I had been looking forward to the cooler weather this trip after our trip this summer, but it was not much better now.

We decided at the last minute to take the internal bus, since the stop was so close. But it turned out, after a bus came, that the bus that went to the pool didn’t come to that stop. And the driver yelled at Owen for not wearing a shirt. Seriously?? He’s 6, for crying out loud!

Brian talked us into walking down to the next stop for the right bus, then decided it was far enough away that we should just walk to the pool instead. It wouldn’t have been so bad, if it wasn’t so hot, and if I wasn’t wearing flip flops. Hopefully I didn’t end up with blisters on my feet for the rest of the evening.

We swam for a while. Owen participated in the hoola-hoop games and did the water slide a bunch of times. But later, tripped getting out of the pool and cut his ankle. I was quite proud of myself for being prepared with antibiotic wipes and bandaids. But he was still upset and claiming that he couldn’t walk on it.

Well, this was going to derail our plans for the night if he couldn’t walk! We had tickets to the Christmas party at magic Kingdom in just a couple of hours. We finally coaxed him out of the chair, and decided to see if he could walk back. As we were coming out of the pool, he got distracted, and almost immediately was laughing and skipping, pain forgotten. Whew!

Chapter 7. Mickey’s Very Space Mountain Christmas Party

As usual, it took us a little longer than I had planned for getting ready to go. I thought the quickest way to get there would be to drive to the TTC and take the monorail, but Brian really wanted to take the boat. So we had to wait for a bus to take us to the Settlement, where the boat dock is. There was a boat there when we got off the bus, and we broke into a run, hoping we didn’t miss it. The CM was (jokingly) giving us a hard time about the fact that we were running so hard, that we didn’t even realize that we came through the exit. But, we made it nonetheless.

I still think it’s creepy that you can see the dilapidated remains of River Country from the boat, surely they could clean up the mess they left! Otherwise, it was a relaxing ride over. I guess we got lucky when we came to the Halloween party a couple of years ago – we arrived right at 4pm, and the gates were empty. Not today, every entrance on the right half (for party guests) had a line of 30-40 people. Finally, we were in and had our wristbands.

We had a Fastpass for Pooh that ended at 4:20, so we efficiently made our way down Main Street towards Fantasyland. I did though, make it clear that it wasn’t a big deal if we didn’t make it, surely we could ride later during the party without much wait. 

The kids were being unusually buddy-ish, holding hands down Main Street 🙂

Pooh was fun, as always. We had just barely made our FP window, so our next FP, for Barnstormer was already open by the time we got off. Owen hadn’t been able to remember which ride we were talking about before, but as soon as he saw it, he realized what it was and how much he liked it. We were zipping right onto rides so far with our FPs, the standby waits were all 30+ minutes. Hopefully the crowds would lessen once the official party hours started.

And of course, it was still HOT! High of 89 degrees. December?? Yeah right. Try June. We must be confused. Brian wanted to cool off in the Circus fountains, and ran around like a little kid getting soaked, which Owen found hilarious.

Lily was hungry, and demanded food. So we quickly found a pretzel stand and munched while we walked towards Journey of the Little Mermaid. For some reason, Owen had really loved this ride at Disneyland in February, and even though he seemed reluctant now, Brian really wanted to do it. (I told you, he is a secret princess lover!)

The standby time was listed as 20 minutes, both on the sign and the app. But we ended up waiting about twice that. Oh well. We entertained ourselves pretty well in line. I actually realized it was the first time I had done the standby queue there. It was also the first ride we had done on this trip without FP.

We had just enough time afterwards to  make it to our Enchanted Tales with Belle FP. Lily has been a Belle kick lately, (It started with Once Upon a Time, and now she is excited for the live action movie) so I wanted to make sure we got to do this one.

Owen was really hoping to be chosen for a part, and sure enough – he got to be Maurice! So he held up the prison bars as his prop. He was very cute, and Lily was genuinely smiling while watching him. I also really enjoyed watching the little girl who was chosen to be the beast. She was beaming the whole time, especially while Belle danced with her. I love seeing special memories like that being made, even when it’s not my kid.

By the time we came out, the sun had gone down and suddenly the whole park was glowing! I love nighttime in the parks, it feels so magical.

We were just a little bit early for our ADR at Be Our Guest, but I decided to check in anyway. They said they would send us a text when our table was ready, so we ventured off a little bit while we waited. Sure enough, at 6:29 (our ADR was at 6:30) I got the text. Continuing the trend of on-time seating.

We were taken to the West Wing, which is Brian and Lily’s favorite. I like the Ballroom, but we’ve eaten in there a couple of times already, and we could still see if from our table anyway.

The meal was really good, but another not-so-good trend I noticed in the table service restaurants was their unwillingness to modify or offer alternate options. I thought my request was pretty simple – the ratatouille without mushrooms, but was told it couldn’t be done. I assumed the mushroom must already be mixed into the sauce somehow, but when it came, it was just two large slices of mushroom laid on the very top. Easy to remove, to my relief, but really? They couldn’t have done that in the kitchen? It was a common trend every time I asked about something. They seem to have adopted a policy of “take it or leave it”. Otherwise the meal was really good though. I guess this has become our can’t-miss meal at MK. Fortunately I’ve always been lucky (or just persistent) enough to get reservations for it. 

The line to meet Beast was really long as we were leaving, and no one was that interested, so we skipped it and headed out. The kids just aren’t really into characters right now. Sad, I know. 

I had a feeling that we would spend most of the evening in Tomorrowland, but I did want to get to Haunted Mansion, so we went there first. Owen was actually acting more than willing to ride – something he has never even considered before. He had fun playing with some of the new features in the queue (well, new to me, as I haven’t been able to ride it since he was born).

There wasn’t a wait at all, but unfortunately, we ended up in a group with some very large, and very obnoxious, college girls. (I say large because I believe they may have been the basketball team, they were all towering over me!) But they were completely out of control, yelling, pushing, and generally annoying everyone else in the room, including the CMs. So we didn’t get to hear any of the pre-show. As we headed out into the loading area, I held the rest of the family back to the end of our group so that they were well ahead of us. Even still, I could hear them a couple times during the ride. Apparently, it wasn’t just about being loud. They had to stop the ride multiple times while we were on it, and twice a very angry looking CM stormed past us in our doom-buggy, headed towards them. I guess they were being too wild, standing up, or trying to jump out. So, it was an unusual experience on the ride, to say the least, lol!

But, the good news is that Owen wasn’t scared at all, and really enjoyed it. So glad that he is getting past his fears. Oh, and I thought it was really clever that our hitch-hiking ghost at the end said that he was coming to Colorado! I doubt that was a coincidence, they must be putting that RFID technology in the Magic Bands to good use.

Most everything else we wanted to do was in Tomorrowland, so we made our way there, and straight to Space Mountain! In February, at DL, Owen had been excited to ride SM, but found it terrifying and said “never again”. But for some reason he had changed his mind and was adamant that he wanted to ride it tonight.

He really has gotten past his fears- he was bouncing with excitement all through the line (only about 10 minutes) and absolutely squealing with delight through the whole ride. He said we were on a mission to another planet to find some rebel spies. I guess he would make a good Imperial Stormtrooper!

 

 Afterwards, we split up because Owen wanted to do the Speedway. I have to admit, that ride holds no appeal to me whatsoever, so I wasn’t sad to skip it. Lily and I did the People Mover instead. I still love that ride – it’s so nostalgic and relaxing.

I had heard that they gave out free cookies and cocoa at the party, and that they would be easy to find, all over. But, I had heard the same thing about the trick-or-treat stations at MNSSHP, and we barely found any. But I was determined to find the cookies tonight! With a little sleuthing, Lily and I found the Tomorrowland cookie station inside Auntie Gravity’s. As we were coming out, we spotted the boys.

Brian really wanted to do the Tomorrowland dance party inside Cosmic Rays. Lily had no interest, but Brian was begging me to come with him. So, we let her venture off on our own, and headed in to dance.

The boys danced for about 20 minutes with various Christmas characters that rotated in and out. I mostly stood back and took pictures, but joined in a few of the dances. I was anxious to check in with Lily though, and she had found her way to a shop on Main Street. We started slowly making our way towards her. A crowd was already gathering to watch the fireworks, so it was slow going.

She was happily perusing an art store, and had no desire to leave and ride with us. So after a brief check-in, we left her again and headed back towards Tomorrowland. The fireworks were about to start, so we found a spot just before the bridge to watch. It wasn’t perfect, but for last-minute, not too bad either. And not at all crowded, so much better to watch with room to move around!

The fireworks were really cool.  I thought the music was really good too. I hadn’t cared as much for the fireworks at the Halloween party, so I was pleasantly surprised by these. Owen, thankfully, has gotten over his fear of them, and it was fun to watch him enjoy them as well. 

We had positioned ourselves well to make a dash to Astro Orbiter as soon as the fireworks were over. It’s still one of Owen’s favorites. And so much better at night.

Afterwards, Owen wanted to ride Buzz. It only had a 15 minute wait, but Brian thought we should see if Lily wanted to join us first. Between watching the fireworks and riding Astro Orbiter, it had been about 45 minutes since we left her. She texted Brian back that she was at Small World. I thought we should go ahead and ride once while we waited for her to come, as I wasn’t sure if she meant she had already ridden, or was still in line. Brian wanted to wait though, and we ended up wasting over 20 minutes before she got there. Oh well. At least Owen was being pretty patient about hanging out.

I’m never as good at the Buzz ride here as I am Toy Story at DHS, but still fun. It helped that we got stopped in a couple of rooms, and really racked up the points there 🙂

Both kids wanted another ride on Space Mountain by now. There wasn’t hardly any line, but they were closing the Omega side as we came up. I like that side better because it feels smoother, but Owen liked Alpha better because it feels faster. It was another good ride, with Owen screaming pure joy the whole time. On the way out, we discussed what to do next, with less than an hour of park time left. All they wanted to do was keep riding Space Mountain! I think we ended up riding 4 more times. So I guess we mostly came to the Christmas party to ride Space Mountain! But we couldn’t have ridden so many times in a row on a normal park day, for sure. The 5-minute waits spoiled us. Owen says it’s his new favorite ride.   

By the time we started heading out, just after midnight, all of the rides were closed. It actually looked funny to see the doors shut at the entrances. We tend to be rope-drop people, not close-the-park people. This seemed to be working well for us this trip though, might have to rethink our strategy a bit in the future.

It was “snowing” as we came down Main Street. Of course the kids are well used to real snow in Colorado, so they found this quite amusing. It had been a good night. Unfortunately, we never got over to Adventureland or Frontierland at all, but I have become a lot more okay with the “There’s always next time” approach than I used to be. It would serve me well at Epcot in a couple of days, lol!

We took the boat back to Ft. Wilderness. It stopped first at Wilderness Lodge, but only a handful of people got off. It was mostly a FW load. It was interesting eavesdropping on others conversations on the boat, always fun to see how other people perceive the parks and go about their planning. Brian had commented earlier in the day that he was amazed at the conversations he heard around the park, and that so many of them sounded like something I would say, lol!

Then we had to take the internal bus, luckily we were the first stop. Owen was falling asleep on my shoulder. It was still so hot and muggy, even at nearly 1am! How could it possibly be December?? So getting comfortable and falling asleep was as difficult as last night. Then I was awoken a few hours later by a hard rainstorm. It was the first real rain we had had on the trip. Would the tent survive? It was staying dry inside, as far as I could tell. But of course, the vestibule wasn’t sealed up from the elements, and I was worried about what state our luggage would be in by morning. Time would tell. 

Chapter 8. In Which Jaime gets in Trouble Again

Today was sort of a down-day, so I’m just going to gloss over the highlights.

– When we got up, the floor of the vestibule was soaked. I think the tarp I put down did more harm than good, as it meant there was no drainage, so all of our luggage was sitting in muddy puddles. This time, we actually got pretty lucky as none of the stuff  that was really important got too wet. The bottom layers of each bag were wet, but stuff near the top was okay. At least we all still had enough dry clothes. For now, anyway.

– We ended up driving over the Wilderness Lodge for breakfast at the CS place there, then headed to Disney Springs. Lily had wanted to do some shopping, but wasn’t really in the mood to take advantage of the time there today. The heat certainly didn’t help. Walking outside in the sun was almost unbearable. Felt like summer all over again, at almost 90 degrees.

– We had arranged to meet an old friend from college for lunch there, at Blaze Pizza. We hadn’t seen him in 15 years, so it was fun to catch up for a little while and meet his family. 

– After lunch, we had tickets to ICE! At the Gaylord Palms. Several rooms of large, colorful ice sculptures. Apparently they do it every year with a different theme, this year was Charlie Brown. The kids aren’t familiar with him at all, but it was interesting. And deliciously cold! After sweltering for several days, it certainly felt nice. Afterwards, we did a couple of runs on the indoor tubing hill and explored the hotel lobby. I had wanted to see the Gaylord for some time, but overall it was not an experience I would care to repeat, and I don’t think it’s a place we would ever want to stay. Though it was an interesting diversion. Perhaps our time would have been better spent elsewhere, but I had known we would probably need some downtime today, and at least this was easy, and indoors.

On the way back to the campground, Brian was getting very antsy that we weren’t going to have time to swim. I finally agreed to drive him and Owen to the pool and drop them off, so that they would have about 25 minutes to play before getting ready for our evening plans. I followed the signs on the road for the pool, but it turns out that based on the directions they give – you end up in an area where you can see the pool, but there is no place to park or even pull over to let someone out!

Brian talked me into stopping on the side of the road, just past the bus stop. I knew this was a bad idea, because I could already see a CM driving towards us on a cart. If they could have gotten out quickly, we might have been okay. But suddenly, everything went wrong. Brian couldn’t figure out how to open the trunk to get their stuff out. Owen couldn’t figure out how to unbuckle his seatbelt. Brian couldn’t find the goggles. Owen forgot to grab his towel before closing the door. Then couldn’t get it open again. Of course by now, angry-looking CM is at my door, demanding to know what is going on, and why I am illegally parked in a bus stop. (I thought I was in front of said bus stop, and technically “standing’ as opposed to parking, but whatever.) She was not happy. Why is it always me that gets in trouble??

I started stammering, trying to explain that this was the way the signs directed us, and there really should be a designated drop-off spot if they are going to point you that way. She was lecturing me on where I “should have” gone when a security truck pulled up, and the officer got out to see what kind of trouble I was in. Of course, at this very moment, the boys finally get their act together and seem to instantaneously disappear, leaving me on my own with two angry CMs. After a bit of groveling, I managed to talk my way out of trouble, fortunately. But got a stern lecture from both not to do it again. And then the van wouldn’t start for several tries, once I was finally permitted to leave. Shaken, I made it back to the campsite, only a few minutes before I would have to leave to go get them again. (At the time, I just assumed the van not starting was somehow cosmically related to the pile of bad luck I had been in at the moment. I guess I really should have considered the possible reasons in more realistic terms. But more about that later.)

The boys were a little late meeting me afterwards (and I had followed the CMs directions, and actually found one of a handful of parking places on the other side of the pool). I wasn’t sure how we were going to get down to the Settlement at this point, since it didn’t look like there was any parking there (other than for golf carts, of course). We ended up leaving the van parked at the pool, and jumped on a bus headed for the Settlement, that was just pulling up.

I had booked a Holiday Sleigh ride at 5pm. (No, it’s not really a sleigh, as there is no snow, lol!) When we got to the loading area, the sign said that the rides started at 5:30. I had wanted one at 5:30 because that would have worked better with our dinner plans, but the phone CM said that only 5pm was available. If they had given me the wrong time, and caused all the pool-rush for nothing, I was going to be quite unhappy! But, apparently the sign was just wrong, because we were immediately introduced to our horse and driver, and loaded up. I feel bad that I can’t remember our driver’s name, but the horse’s name was Dan. A lot of people around the Fort seemed to know him, and called out to him as we went.

Our driver took us through several of the RV loops, where guests had set up some elaborate Christmas decorations. I hate putting up decorations at home, I can’t imagine doing it on vacation, lol! We also passed a wagon full of Christmas Carolers a couple of times. Our driver had lived in Colorado for a time, so we we chatted a bit about that. He had apparently been in the parade at the party the night before, and was disappointed that we hadn’t watched it. (It didn’t seem to help when I justified it by offering that we were too busy riding Space Mountain, lol! But, we had seen the Christmas parade last time, so it just wasn’t a priority.)

After the ride, he gave us a special Sleigh Ride pin, that just happened to be Beauty & the Beast! So Lily liked that.  

Because I had to book the earlier ride, we had some time to kill before our dinner check-in at Hoop-de-Doo Review. Owen quickly ran for the playground, Brian headed out to the beach, and I followed him. The sun was starting to set and everything looked pretty and peaceful on the water.

Except the newly installed rope-fences at the water’s edge. My heart sank when I saw them, remembering at once why they were there, and I almost felt sick. I had seen the pictures all over Facebook and blog sites as they were being installed since the summer, but being there and seeing them for real still caught me off-guard. I guess it puts things into perspective.

As we were waiting to go inside for dinner, it started just barely hinting at rain, but luckily it held off, for now. We were seated, and soon the show began.

Overall, it ended up being a lot of fun. I had heard good reviews, and was glad to see that it lived up the the hype. They did several musical numbers on stage, and also wandered through the audience, interacting with (and often embarrassing) the guests! The food was pretty basic, mostly comfort food, but not bad at all.

Towards the end, they gave each table a washboard to make noise with, and Owen thought it was the best thing ever!

Again, we got pretty lucky with the buses afterwards, and were back at our car in only a few minutes. As we drove back to our site, the rain arrived. It was pouring by the time we got there, and we covered as best we could, and ran as fast as we could, trying to stay dry.

Brian had been getting frustrated at how sandy the inside of the tent was getting, in no small part due to the fact that I hadn’t been taking off my shoes to go in. So, tonight of all nights, maybe because I knew they were especially wet and sandy on the bottom, I took them off and left them in the vestibule. I had the fleeting thought that maybe I should bring some of the clothes bags from the vestibule into the tent with me, as the rain was seeming relentless. But the bags were all wet and sandy on the bottom from having sat in puddles all day. Hopefully our stuff would make it through the night again.

Spoiler: <insert foreboding music here>.

Chapter 9. To Soar’, or Not to Soar’

It had rained, and rained, and rained. For most of the night, it seemed. This time, our stuff did not escape it. Everything in the vestibule was soaked. Not just damp, but dumped-in-a-swimming-pool wet. Actually the ground kind of looked like a swimming pool. Dang tarp, I never should have brought it. The vestibule was protected overhead, but the water had crept in from the bottom up, unable to drain out. (Of course my shoes, which I so responsibly left outside the tent door, were a lost cause)

The driest things we had, were the clothes we had been wearing the night before, which we had with us inside the tent. And they had gotten quite wet during the run from the car. Actually Owen did happen to have a shirt from a couple of days ago still in the tent, and Lily found the shirt she had bought at DHS, which was still safely wrapped up in its plastic bag. So at least they both had a dry shirt to wear.

Today was our only early-morning of the trip, and we had to be to Epcot by 8am, so there was no time to try to dry anything. Admitting defeat, we put back on yesterday’s clothes, thinking we would take slightly dirty and damp over clean and drippy wet. And loaded up in the van.

I had wanted to ride the monorail at least once during the trip, so this seemed like a good chance. We would drive over the the Transportation & Ticket Center, and monorail to Epcot from there.

Perfect plan. Splendid plan. Would have been great.  

Except that the van wouldn’t start.

Wouldn’t even think about starting. At all. Nothing. Dead. I really should have paid more attention to its warnings yesterday. 

We were out of time, and only one option remained. The busses. Trying not to think about the fact that we were being a bit irresponsible, leaving our dead rental car just sitting there, with no plans for how to get it fixed. And we had to leave town tomorrow morning. Oh well. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, I suppose!

We only had to wait a couple of minutes for the internal bus, but a bit longer for an Epcot bus once at the Outpost. We made it just barely to the gates by 8am, for our 8:10 reservation at Garden Grill.

(There’s almost never a picture of me because I always have the camera, I think Lily stole it from me for a few minutes here.)

The CM managing the early-entry line for breakfast tried to scan my MB, but the reservation didn’t come up, and he was acting like he wasn’t going to let us in! (The park wasn’t open yet, so only confirmed reservations could get it for the next hour) Then I remembered that I accidentally made a few ADRs while logged into my other MDE account (that I don’t have a MB for), and this must have been one of them. Fortunately, that account is linked in the MDE app on my phone, so I was able to quickly bring up the confirmation to show him, and he let us in, albeit reluctantly.

We got to Garden Grill at exactly 8:10 and were seated almost immediately. Unfortunately, on the top row, where you can’t see the Living with the Land ride below as well. I really only had two motivations for doing breakfast here. It was the cheapest way to get a Candlelight Processional package, and I thought that by getting in before park open, and already being in the Land building, we could get a jump on the line for Soarin’. As I’ve mentioned, the kids aren’t really into characters, and Brian hadn’t been too fond of the food last time. (Though in fairness, that was dinner.)

The characters started coming around as the family-style food was brought. The kids did the usual greet and picture. I hadn’t bothered with an autograph book since I suspected these were the only characters we would see.

The food was nothing fancy, but nothing to complain about either. The highlight of the meal though, was Mickey Mouse. Owen had brought his Mickey hands, and put them on when he saw him headed to our table. Mickey thought this was so cool! He got very excited, they had fun comparing hands to see whose were bigger! So everyone really enjoyed that interaction.

The meal had gone a little slower than I had hoped, and as we were still trying to finish up paying the bill, the hoards suddenly came through the door, headed for Soarin’. It was still a little before 9am, but I know they do open the gates early quite often. Well, we were almost done, hopefully it would still be manageable when we got down there.

When we did, the sign said 60 minutes. I was skeptical, it didn’t look that long. They were just starting to let people through the doors, so the line was just the crowd we could see standing outside. Then it changed to 80 minutes. And I realized the line was actually snaked through several switchbacks in a room to the side, about 3x longer than I had thought at first. It probably WAS 80 minutes, in that case. I had really wanted to see the new Soarin’, but I couldn’t convince myself this was worth it. Not when I knew everything else in the park was going to be a walk-on for that first hour. It seemed silly to spend it standing in line.

The rest of the family was reluctant to leave, not so much because they cared about riding, but because they knew how much I had been looking forward to it. I assured them we could come back later, and wait in line when everything else was busy too. But really, I knew that once we left, we weren’t coming back. It was okay. Next time. And I’ll blame it on the car not starting. Had we been able to get there a few minutes earlier, we probably could have beat the initial rush. Oh well.

We walked over and did Living with the Land instead, which was empty. Last time, Owen had freaked out and thrown a fit getting onto this one, so I hadn’t gotten to ride. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. Even Owen was intrigued by the unique ways they were growing food. This was definitely better than standing in an 80 minute line, lol!

Afterwards, we headed to the Seas with Nemo, which was also mostly deserted. Not having to wait in line was nice, but what was better was being able to look around at the tanks afterwards without it being shoulder-to-shoulder people. We actually got to move around at our leisure and could see everything with no interference. The kids especially enjoyed watching the manatees grooming each other.

Our first FP, for Spaceship Earth, had just opened up. The standby wait was already almost an hour! Definitely going to be a busy one. I just love this ride though. Soarin’ might be my favorite, but Spaceship Earth IS Epcot to me. I wouldn’t feel like I had been here without doing it. While we waited to load, we reminisced about Lily’s first trip, and how much she had loved SE too. So much that, on our last night, she really wanted to ride it again. We hadn’t planned on coming to Epcot again, but made a mad dash over here after watching Fantasmic! And just barely made it on before they closed. Such fun memories 🙂

We had a little time to kill before our next FP, so we wandered into Mouse Gear. The boys ended up picking out some sweatshirts and both of the kids got ears. Lily’s were a light-up pink Minnie Ears, and Owen got – is it any surprise – Death Star ears. They have never been into the ears before, but actually ended up wearing them for most of the day.

I also picked out a Wall-E Christmas ornament. It’s so hard to find Wall-E stuff at the parks, and Lily was so in love with the little robot when she was younger, she says it was her “first fandom’, lol!

Oh, I guess i haven’t mentioned it yet, but I have to give credit where credit is due. To the weather, that is. Today, it FINALLY felt like December! Cloudy and comfortably cool. On our last day, we were actually getting the weather I had planned on having the whole time. But, it was good to get it today at least, since it was our only full-park day, and I’m not sure I could have handled that in the heat and humidity of the last few days.

Soon, it was time for Test Track!  Owen loves this one. In fact, until he fell in love with Space Mountain two days ago, it was his favorite ride at WDW. So, while it might not have seemed like the smartest choice for our Tier 1 FP, I had promised him that, no matter what, we would get to ride it. So I wasn’t willing to take any chances. (If you look closely in the top of the picture, you’ll see the standby wait time – 105 minutes!)

In the design room, the boys teamed up to make the most powerful car, while Lily and I tried to make the most efficient. And cute, lol! You can probably tell which is which below.

Sure enough, in the tests, the boys’ car won all of the performance tests, and ours came in last. But won first for efficiency. So we all achieved our goals. And of course the ride was fun like always.

We spent a lot of time playing the games in the area at the end of the ride. We’ve never taken much time for this before, but we had plenty of time before our next FP, and everyone was having fun.

As we left, the kids wanted a frozen treat, so we agreed to share a couple from the stand outside.

The ride was fun, like always. Afterwards, Lily picked out a cute Figment jacket in the shop, that actually has wings on the back!

Chapter 10. World Travellers

We were done with Future World, time to head on to our tour around the world! I hadn’t made plans for lunch, figuring that with a big breakfast and dinner, we could get by with samples from several snack carts in the countries instead.

First stop was Canada. I had decided to make it a priority to see the movies in the different countries this time, as we always plan to, but end up not having time. I hadn’t seen the O Canada movie in a very long time, probably not since I was a kid. It seems like they must have updated it, I didn’t remember it being that funny! It was really good. We used to listen to the song from it (“Canada, Oh Canada”) and would always make fun of how lame the lyrics are. So we couldn’t help smiling a little at the end when it came on.

 It would be nice if it had seats, but I can see why it wouldn’t be practical since you have to turn your head so much. (I had to wear my boots today, as my Sketchers got left in the vestibule last night. They aren’t bad, but not quite as good for walking, so my feet bothered  me more today than they would have otherwise)

We wandered around United Kingdom a little. Owen did some coloring at a kid-cot stop and had fun playing in the phone booth.

Then on to France! I had definitely wanted to see the France movie, and go to the bakery. Those used to be some of our favorite things to do when I was a kid. The bakery didn’t look at all like I remembered it though- it must have gone through some changes. Or maybe my memory has faded in the last 20 years, lol! But we finally escaped with some pastries, and met up with Brian who had found a cheese plate somewhere. (Things got a little complicated trying to find a seat inside, so we settled on a ledge outside instead).

We walked into the entry for the theater about 12 minutes before a show, and were first in line at the doors! I hadn’t seen this one since I was about 15. I remember one time, in the mid-90’s, my parents talking to a French CM afterwards about how much they liked the show. And he was horrified, saying that it was so old and outdated, he thought it was an embarrassment to the country and that they needed a new one. I was secretly hoping that had never happened, and I was in luck! It’s still exactly the same, over 20 years after that conversation, lol! I was glad to get to see it again, for sure. I’ve always especially loved the music from it.

We got a couple of glasses of champagne on the way out of France, then wandered through a few more countries. Owen had never seen a disposable champagne flute before, and was kind of horrified to see me throw it away a few minutes later!

In Morocco, Lily found some belly-dancer outfits that she really liked. She ended up coming back later and buying one. I guess I never really got a picture, but it’s the blue one you can kind of see behind the brown skirt in the front.

We came into the America area just as the next American Adventure show was about to start. We had seen that one last time, and the smaller version of it at DL in February, so I hadn’t really cared if it worked out here. But our timing was so good, why not? It was good as always, and we heard the very end of the Voices of Liberty singing as we came through the lobby.

We watched the trains for a little while in Germany. 

I can’t remember which country we were coming though, maybe Norway, but there was a show going on with a walking Nutcracker, and at the end the narrator asked the Nutcracker if he would like to let the children line up and get pictures with him. He stomped and shook his head no. Feigning shock and horror, the narrator scolded him and told him that wasn’t nice, that he was going to have to do it anyway. To which he threw his hands up, dramatically dropping the ornaments he was holding. It was pretty funny.

We finished up our world tour with Mexico. Wandered around inside a bit and did the Gran Fiesta Tour boat ride. I’m not sure Owen had ever done this one before, and I thought it was funny that in line, Brian described it to Owen as being “trippy”.

We still had plenty of time before dinner at Marrakesh, but we started slowly making our way back around towards Morocco. The earlier Candlelight shows were already going on during this time, and I hadn’t realized how much you could see and hear from all around the world showcase. Ours was the last show of the night, and at this rate, we were going to have experienced the whole show before ours even started. Oh well.

Lily ended up buying her belly-dancer outfit, and Owen bought a wooden flute from the same shop. I checked in for dinner, early again, and again we were seated within a few minutes.

This was one of the few restaurants at Epcot that we had never done, so I was intrigued to try it. I got the vegetable couscous and it was really good! Probably one of my favorite meals of the trip. (Once again though, I attempted to get it without something, onions maybe, and was told no.) A belly dancer came out later and performed on stage. We didn’t have great seats for watching, but Lily enjoyed getting to see a little at least. As always, anything to do with dance catches her attention.

When we came out from dinner, the line for the dinner package entrance to CP was already to Morocco! So out of America and through Japan, still an hour until the show. I had planned to line up right after dinner, thinking we would get good seats that way. But since we weren’t going to be anywhere close to the front, it no longer seemed worth waiting an hour. Our package tickets would guarantee us entrance later, so we decided to explore Japan for a bit instead.

While the boys were perusing the museum, Lily and I walked through the shop. And I found a lightweight but super soft and fuzzy black hoodie that I just had to have, lol! We hung out by the lagoon for a bit, with the kids just being silly and running around. When we finally got in the dinner package line for Candlelight Processional, it was almost all the way back to France!

I was surprised going into the theater that it didn’t look more full given how long the line was. I guess it is big enough to swallow a LOT of people. We actually found pretty good seats. Not near the front, but because of the layout, there wasn’t a row directly in front of us, so we weren’t right behind heads. I kind of wonder why there are so many tall trees in the middle of the seating area though. I know it is called the Garden Theater, but really? Whose idea was that, lol!

The show started, and Owen almost immediately fell asleep next to me, leaned over onto my arm. I tried to stand for Hallelujah like everyone else, but it quickly became obvious that he was going to topple right out of the bench without me next to him, so I sat back down. Surely people would understand.

Overall, I enjoyed the show, and it was nice to finally get to see it. I didn’t feel like it lived up to all the hype I had heard though- it’s a decent Christmas program, but nothing all that unique or spectacular. Next time we’ll just plan to catch a song or two from behind the theater as we walk by, and call it good 🙂

Illuminations was going to be starting soon. Even as busy as it had been all day, there were plenty of spots right up against the rail throughout most of world showcase. However, I had suggested that we get closer to the entrance to FW to watch, to put us in a better position for leaving. Apparently that’s why it was so empty in WS, everyone else had that idea too! By the time we made it past Mexico, the show was starting and it was shoulder to shoulder people everywhere!

We couldn’t get anywhere close to the water to see the stuff that goes on there, but could still see the fireworks at least. Owen was half-asleep on my shoulder most of the time anyway.

As soon as it was over, I thought it was time to head back. But… evening Extra-Magic-Hours were just starting, and suddenly Owen was wide awake when Brian raised the idea of going to ride Mission Space. He hadn’t been tall enough last time.

I hadn’t actually liked the ride the two times I had done it before – it just made my chest hurt like I was being crushed, and I was always so dizzy afterwards. So I suggested that we do the mild version (I still can never remember which is green and which is orange), especially since it was Owen’s first time.

It actually ended up being a lot of fun, and I enjoyed it a lot more this way! You definitely still feel like you are moving, but not so much like death-is-imminent. So I was glad we got to do it, and Owen loved it.

Brian made a quick, and stealthy stop by Mouse Gear, to get a present for Owen. He had fallen in love with a set of Imperial Binders earlier in the day, and since Brian hadn’t done his Christmas shopping yet, that worked out great. Afterwards we watched the fountains for a bit – so pretty and colorful in the dark.

(I just love how you can see the silhouette of Owen’s Mickey ears here, lol!)

We could have maybe stayed longer, and made a try for Soarin’, but at some point, good sense had to prevail. It was almost 11pm by now, and we had an early and busy morning ahead.

So we slowly made our way back to the front. And the busses. Where we waited, and waited, and waited for one to come. Because our rental car was still sitting dead at the campsite. I had tried not to worry too much about it all day, but it had always been in the back of my mind. We had so little time to deal with problems. Maybe we would get lucky and it would magically fix itself and start on its own.

Back at the campsite, I decided to give it a try. The engine made some horrible, squeaking noises, and struggled for a few seconds, and then STARTED!!! I knew it was no guarantee that it would still start tomorrow, but at least there was hope. Maybe everything had just been too wet this morning. 

We quickly settled in for our last night here, though not the last night in the tent, as we were still planning to use it at my parents’ house. But at least then we would be able to use their dryer and recover a little from flood-magedon. Until then, dirty (but dry) clothes it was!

Overall, it had been a good day. We hadn’t gotten to do 2 of the 3 things I had initially said I wanted to make the trip for – Soarin’ and Frozen Ever After. (FEA never had less than a two hour wait all day, and with none of us being big “Frozen” fans, it never ended up being on our radar.)

But we had done a lot of other things, and it had been a pretty laid back day with everyone enjoying themselves. We definitely got to spend a lot more time in World Showcase than ever before, which I had been wanting to make happen for several trips. So I’m counting this one a success. The rides will still be there next time 🙂

Chapter 11. An Anticlimactic Finish

We had to get up early, after only about 7 hours of sleep. Time to tear down camp and get loaded. I was simply resigned at this point to everything being a wet, muddy mess. We would clean it all up once at my parents’ house. Until then, this was a modified-survival-mode, lol!

We had to be at the Contemporary at 10am for our parasailing / jet ski adventure. I had almost been wishing I hadn’t booked this, as it was causing our check-out morning to be a little more rushed and stressful than I would have liked.

Slowly, but surely, we got everything loaded. Then took a deep breath, and started the van again. Like last night, it struggled, but finally hummed to life. What a relief! At least if it died from here on out, it wouldn’t make us miss parasailing. And more importantly, wouldn’t be stuck in the driveway of our campsite past check-out time. That had been stressing me out most of all.

We scarfed down a quick breakfast at Contempo Cafe inside the Contemporary, then headed out to the boat docks. As soon as we walked up the the marina, I got a bad feeling. It seemed a little too quiet. And sure enough, they quickly shared the bad news. The boat was broken. It “might’ be fixed by the afternoon, but no guarantee. We needed to be on the road right after lunch, so we really couldn’t wait around on a “maybe”. They claimed that they had tried to call me yesterday, but I hadn’t missed any calls or gotten any messages. Oh well.

In some ways, it was a bit of a blessing. Like yesterday, the weather was still cool and cloudy, threatening constantly to rain. Not bad for park touring, but not so great for flying around up in the air. Of course, they wouldn’t have been willing to let us cancel just because of that, so at least this way the problem was on their end, and we were able to get a refund.

Owen was a little bummed, understandably, even though we promised to take him once we got to my parents’ house. He was trying to hold back the tears as we walked away. Luckily, right at that moment, a CM walked past us (looked like a shuttle boat driver) and sensing that Owen was sad, started playing a game of tag with him. Owen was all smiles after a couple of minutes!

We weren’t in any rush to leave now, so we walked around the grounds of the Contemporary. I actually ended up being really glad we got to come over here, even if the water sports didn’t work out. After exploring a bit, Brian was in love and wants to stay there next time! 

Still early for our lunch ADR, we headed to Disney Springs. Way back in the summer, Owen had specifically asked to eat at T-Rex. We wandered around the shops a little more. Lily found some cool stuff in the Co-op marketplace, but had spent all of her money by now. And I had done my Christmas shopping for her already.

One of the things she really liked was a painting of Princess Leia. I was tempted to buy it for her anyway, but figured we could always order it online from home, since it was an awkward size to travel with. Three days later, Carrie Fisher died (still bawling about that, btw), and so of course it immediately sold out everywhere! Bummer. Snooze you lose, I guess. I did happen to take a picture of it. 

The boys had been playing at the Lego Store, and I decided to see if I could check us in early for lunch, and have our good luck with that hold. Sure enough, we were seated within just a few minutes, right in the very front of the restaurant in the Geothermal room. There was a large, animatronic dinosaur right over our head, and the kids joked that we must look like tasty chicken nuggets to him!

When the waitress came over, she noticed Owen’s Death Star ears that were sitting next to him on the table. She started to grab them and asked if they were for her. Now, Owen is usually very shy and won’t even acknowledge strangers in these situations, much less have a reaction. But oh my, if looks could kill! He locked eyes with her in a death glare, and without breaking eye contact, slowly pulled the ears off the table and strapped them onto his head with a low growl. It was hilarious! We joked that you don’t mess with someone when they have a Death Star on their head, lol!

The restaurant is really neat inside – it was the first time we had seen it. I have to admit, we’ve always assumed it was just a Rainforest Cafe clone, which we haven’t been all that impressed with. But both the atmosphere and food were much better here.

So it was an enjoyable way to end the Disney part of our trip.  We let the kids ride the carousel after lunch, then we were Naples-bound.

I’ll have more about the rest of the trip, but to wrap up the Disney part, a few final thoughts:

Ft. Wilderness –

It is VERY difficult to navigate the campground if you don’t have a golf cart. Most places don’t allow cars to park, or even drop off, as we found. And the internal busses are time consuming and even a little confusing, as there are multiple routes.

The comfort stations looked impressive at first, definitely better than ones I’ve seen at other campgrounds. But not nearly big enough for the number of people using them in the mornings, and we could never get hot water in the showers. Not having amenities like towels, soap, shampoo etc. was also a big inconvenience.

The one thing I really dislike about all of the MK resorts is how you have to go through the MK parking gates to get to them. I wish they at least had dedicated lanes for the hotels. It never failed that we would get behind a few cars that were slow to get their money out, or had ten-gazillion questions. I know, we won’t get out of that if we stay the the Contemporary next time. But being on the monorail, maybe we won’t need to drive so much.

I’m glad we finally got to try it out, but I don’t feel much desire to come back. Honestly, trying to mix tent camping with theme park vacationing is just more trouble than it’s worth. We were really longing for a real room to come back to many nights. I’ll think we’ll leave our camping adventures in the mountains from now on. But, we can check it off the bucket-list now 🙂

Crowds –

It was definitely more crowded than I was expecting. When we’ve come this same week in the past, it’s been busy but much more manageable. This felt more like after-Christmas crowds. But, I still think we did a relatively good job of not letting it get to us, and just focusing on what we could do.

Weather –

Well you know how I felt about that! 3 of our 5 days were at, or near, record high temperatures. The same thing happened when we came in July. And when we went to DL in February. Why must the heat follow me everywhere?? I blame global warming, lol! At least it returned to normal the last couple of days, though we do end up back in Orlando at the end of the trip, and it’s another scorcher. Because, of course.

Next Time –

We will be in Florida again for Thanksgiving next year (we alternate with Christmas every other year). But we have decided to go back to Universal for that trip, which I am really excited about! So the next time I know for sure that we will be back at Disney is December 2018. That’s the tentative plan, hopefully at the Contemporary (or maybe Bay Lake Tower if I can score a DVC rental).

The only thing that might complicate this is that the first launch of SLS (a new Nasa rocket), which Brian has promised Owen we will come to, is currently scheduled for November 2018. Of course that could change a lot between now and then, but if it stays relatively on schedule, I’m not sure if, or how, that will affect our Disney plans. We may also end up making a spring or summer trip to visit my family in the meantime, though I’m not excited about the prospect of visiting the parks when it’s going to be any hotter than it already was. But, not ruling it out completely. Since apparently it doesn’t matter when we come, it’s probably going to be hot regardless.

So… a quick recap of the rest of the trip. We spent the remainder of the week in Naples with my family.

We set up our tent on their back patio, to avoid needing to get a hotel room in town. But at least here, we had easy access to a washer and dryer, and immediately set about cleaning up the mess from the last few days.

Brian and Owen did get to go parasailing in Ft. Myers, on a very sunny and hot day, so that probably ended up working out better. Owen seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. Lily and I hung out on the beach and watched.

We had several days to hang out with family, and of course the cousins loved getting to play together.

We had a nice Christmas Eve dinner with everyone, including my aunt and uncle from Michigan, who I hadn’t seen in many years.

Owen loved his Imperial Binders that Brian had stealthily bought him from Epcot, and Lily was quite pleased with the Limited Edition Belle doll that I got her.

On Christmas morning, Owen found that Santa had left him a set of Legoland tickets! We were leaving to go home in two days, so we suggested, “Why not go tomorrow??”  He had been begging for a couple of years to go again, and this ended up being a good opportunity. I just hoped it was as good as I remembered it being last time, and wasn’t another Sea World experience, like we had this summer.

Chapter 12. Open-to-Close, We are Theme Park Pros (or…”Everything is Awesome!”)

So,  it’s now the day after Christmas, and we are headed home tomorrow. But first, Legoland! Because Santa had left Owen a set of tickets yesterday. He was so excited, and several times throughout the day reminded everyone that we were only here because of him, lol! My sister and her family decided to join us as well. We’ve been one time before, almost exactly 4 years ago. Owen barely remembers that trip, and of course he will be able to ride much more now.

We were determined to make it to Legoland in time for opening, despite the fact that it was nearly a 3 hour drive. And that we had to take down the tent (which we had been sleeping in, on my parents back patio) and load the van. We were rather efficient, if I may say so myself, and arrived at the gates at exactly 9:52am, 8 minutes before open!

They did a little show first, having a kid near the front flip a large switch to “turn on” the park, I thought that was clever. And of course, they were playing “Everything is Awesome” as the theme song.

I had read, and it made sense, that we should immediately go all the way to the back of the park, and work our way forwards to the front.

On the way, we passed through Miniland, and took a few minutes to look at some of the Lego sculptures. The kids especially enjoyed the Star Wars ones.

It was a long walk back to Flying School, but we must have been the first ones there because it was completely deserted, and we walked right on. Unfortunately, this probably ended up being our least favorite ride of the day. It’s a pretty wild roller coaster, that would be more fun if it didn’t bang your head around so much. After getting off, I suddenly remembered having that same thought when we came 4 years ago. Maybe next time I won’t forget.

We were right next to Driving School, and it had been one of Lily’s favorites last time. It gets notoriously long lines if you wait too long into the day. The kids get to drive these little carts around on real roads, with stop signs, traffic circles, etc. Nothing is on a track, they are actually in control, and have to obey all traffic laws. Afterwards, they can get their “driver’s license” printed.

There was no line, but a group was just about to start, and they had exactly two spots left. Perfect! It was actually a great year to come for this – they are very strict about age. Only kids age 6-13 can participate. So this was the only year that both of our kids could do it!

Lily was definitely a little on the old-side, and barely fit in the cart. But she still enjoyed it, and Owen had a blast.

We did the Fire Truck Rescue game next. It’s actually a race. We had to first drive our fire truck to the burning building, by pumping a lever. Then aim the water hoses at the windows where the fire was. Once the bell rang, that indicated we had put out the fire, and we had to “drive” back. I amazed everyone with my strong arm on the way back, and pumped us to victory! Okay, we were only competing against two other families, one of which we outnumbered, but we were still proud.

Next up was Boating School. We really should have done this one sooner. Even though the line didn’t look long, it moves VERY slowly. It’s fun though. Like Driving School, the boat is not on a track and you actually have to navigate it through the winding canal. We only had a few near-crashes, and made it through without incident.

Oh, I guess I haven’t mentioned yet… My sister and her family weren’t here yet.She messaged me around this time to say they would probably be there around 1pm.

Next up was Coastersaurus. A simple, wooden roller coaster. But lots of fun! Only about a 10 minute wait. I was pleasantly surprised at how not-crowded the park was today. It had been much more crowded at Disney than I was expecting last week. And when we came to Legoland 4 years ago, it was right before Christmas, and packed as well! It was much better today. Most of the queues were also set up such that there was an area for the kids to play in (with Legos, of course) until the parents got near the front, then there was a gate so they could join up. It was a brilliant design.

We were ready for lunch by now, and passed through Miniland again on the way. It was especially fun to see the city displays of places we had been, like New York, Washington, and Vegas. They really do make them so realistic.

We had lunch at the same pizza buffet as last time. There was no line when we got there, but a really long one by the time we left, so we timed it well. It’s a pretty good deal too – around $15 for unlimited pizza, salad, drinks and dessert.

My sister had messaged me again to say that they were running late, so we went ahead to the Lego Technic area for the Project X roller coaster. I was afraid this one might have too long of a wait by now, but only 15 minutes! It was probably my favorite of the day. It sits up really high on the track, with individual 4-person cars. We rode a similar style roller coaster at California Adventure, can’t remember what it was called though. But it was fun, and fast!

We went over to the Wave Racers next door. It had a longer wait than most anything we did all day. Probably around 20 minutes or so. But it was more fun that it looked at first. We were slung around in a circle over the water, and could steer and have some control over how we turned and how fast we went.  

We headed over to the Kid Power Towers next. This might look like a just a simple dropping ride… but the trick is that you have to get yourself up! By pulling a rope! Brian and Lily teamed up against Owen and I, deciding to race. It was hard! Probably because I was trying so desperately to beat them, even though they clearly outmuscled us. We were just about even on the first run, but I couldn’t keep up for the next few. Oh well.

Our bad-weather luck seemed to have followed us, and today was another summer-in-December-what-in-the-world-is-mother-nature-thinking kind of day. High around 90, and so humid! So it was time for a frozen treat. I ended up getting these popsicle shots – they were like Dippin’ Dots, but made with popsicles instead of ice cream.

My sister still wasn’t here, and we wanted to see the water ski show in Pirates Cove. So we figured we’d have just enough time to do the 2:15 show before she arrived. She didn’t think her kids would sit through a show anyway.

We were one of the last into the theater, and of course the only seats left were the ones not under the cover of the shade. The sun was brutal by now! It was a fun show – cool water ski tricks, and the Lego soldiers had to defeat (pirate) Captain Brickbeard. But we were just about melting into a puddle of goo by the end!

Ashley and her family were here now, and we arranged to meet by the carousel. 

The younger kids all quickly headed to the carousel with Scott, but there was some mix up about the horses, and he ended up riding with all 3 of them on a bench. They didn’t seem to mind too much, though. I sent Brian to fetch us some cold drinks while they were riding, I was still feeling exhausted from the heat.

We wandered through Duplo VIllage for a while, knowing that was the only area with much that Isabella could do. They rode the train with Ashley, while Brian ran around like a little kid (again) in the fountains.

And played on a couple of playgrounds and Lego structures.

Aiden had apparently told his parents on the way there that he really wanted to ride a roller coaster. Fortunately, he just barely made the height requirement for The Dragon, which we hadn’t done yet. So my family took Aiden for his first coaster ride, while Ashley and Scott took Isabella back to the Duplo playground.

The boys were both very excited through the line. The MC loading the ride (Model Citizen, what they call their CMs) asked to measure Aiden first, then joked that he was too tall, lol!

I can’t remember if I rode The Dragon last time, but it was really neat! The first part is a slow, dark ride inside, with lots of animatronic, lego dragons. Then you are taken outside for the roller coaster part. Aiden was laughing the whole time, and kept exclaiming after getting off that “It was SO exciting!”. 

Brian and Lily wanted to ride The Chi, which looked to be a water ride. Even though it was so hot, I really don’t like walking around in wet clothes, so I sent them while the rest of us continued on around toward the Lost Kingdom Adventure.

There was some juggling as we got in line, no one was sure if Isabella was going to ride or not, or who would stay with her if she wasn’t. Scott ended up staying back with her, and she promptly fell asleep in the stroller.

Brian and Lily made it back to us just before we loaded, so they joined us in line. They were soaked! They said it was the wettest ride they had ever done. Glad I skipped it, lol!

The kids (and by kids I include Brian) had a blast playing in the Pharaoh’s Revenge playground, we had a hard time retrieving everyone when it was time to move on.

Aiden kept talking about wanting to do “the brown roller coaster”, which we figured out was Coastersaurus, which we had done earlier. But we were happy to take him for another ride, while Ashley and Scott stayed with Isa, who was still sleeping.

There was a crazy, spinning green ride at the front that Brian had spotted, and we hadn’t done yet. He was determined to get to it. So we split up and my family headed there – turns out it was part of the Lego Friends section, called Mia’s Riding Adventure. And Owen wasn’t tall enough. It was the only thing in the park he couldn’t do. So I took him over to get some Apple Fries while Brian and Lily rode. And he thought it was hilarious to pose in front of the Lego photographer.

We met back up with my sister in the Imagination building, where they have all sorts of Lego activities. For a long time, the kids just made pictures and shapes on the lego walls around the outside.

I did NOT take a picture, but I have to tell you what Owen did. He had been working for a while on something down in a corner of the wall by the bench. All at once Lily yelped and covered her mouth. Once she stopped laughing so hard, she told me I HAD to see what Owen had written in legos. Sure enough, on his section of wall, plain as day, was S H I T. And of course, he is laughing maniacally. Luckily, not many other people were around to see, and I quickly made him tear it down, trying desperately to act more mad than amused. But it was pretty funny. I had no idea he could spell that, lol!

There was some other cool activities in the center of the building too. In one room, you could design a lego-fish on a touchscreen, then you creation would come swimming into the virtual lego tank on the big screen. The kids all got a kick out of that.

Owen’s favorite was the race-car building area. They had a track set up where you could race your creation against others, and even a video screen that started the race and called out the winner. He built a pretty cool looking car, and must have raced it 20 times at least.

Lily, not too into building a car, just grabbed a set of wheels at one point, and threw it onto the starting block as her “creation”. The other kids, mostly younger boys, were really giving her a hard time about it. But, hers won first place! By a longshot. The other boys were beside themselves with fury, it was hilarious. And we laughed so hard about it. I guess less really is more!

There wasn’t much time left before the fireworks, so we left the Imagination building and did one more ride – Technicycle. It’s like these flying bikes, that you actually have to pedal to make go higher. Brian had taken Owen on it last time when he was barely big enough, and had been so afraid he would fall out, lol!

They were already seating people in the stadium for the fireworks show, but Ashley’s family hadn’t seen any of Miniland yet, and I couldn’t let them leave without at least seeing a little of it. In the dark, it was hard to make out as much detail, but it took on a cool atmosphere now too, with many of the building glowing.

We headed back to the theater, and there was some discussion about where to sit. Ashley and Scott wanted to be at the very top so they could easily escape with Isa if she threw a fit. But Brian was worried that we were so far under the overhang that we wouldn’t be able to see all of the fireworks. (Would have been lovely to be that far under the roof for the show earlier!)

He and Lily ended up going down by the beach in the grass, and I stayed with the others. We could see most of the fireworks, but the tops and very high ones were out of sight. It was a cool show though! It was called the Christmas Bricktacular, and the soundtrack was mostly from Polar Express and Home Alone. Tons of fireworks, and creative timing with the music. They seem to be living up to their goal of being legitimately considered a world-class theme park.

The park was closed afterwards, so nothing else to do but head out. Passing through Miniland one last time, of course.

We said goodbye to my sister, as they were headed back to Naples, and us to the airport. 

Just a quick nod to Legoland – it really is an awesome park! Beautifully maintained and themed, and every MC we encountered was great. I had been worried that Lily wouldn’t have much fun, as they make no secret about the fact that they are a park geared towards younger kids. But she actually enjoyed it a lot, and I think they sell themselves short to claim that older kids won’t like it. I think we’ll have to make at least one more trip here at some point.

On the way out, Brian made the joke that “Open to Close, we are theme park pros”, lol! Hence the chapter title. We had managed to open-to-close two parks on this trip. Who needs sleep anyway??

We left and went to the nearby Tijuana Flats for dinner, same place we had eaten afterwards last time. That had actually been the first time we discovered TF, and now we hit them up every time we see one in Florida. Bummer they don’t have any in Colorado. But we got to go twice on this trip 🙂 I’ve been craving it ever since we got home, and November is so far away!

We didn’t get to the MCO Hyatt until around 11pm. And guess who met us at the valet and helped us unload??? Mr. You Owe a $1500 fine! If he remembered me, he didn’t show it though, and I was certainly in no mood to rehash it. He let us leave the car there while we checked in, then I had to go return it to Enterprise. Our bags were already in our room when I got back, but Brian hadn’t bothered to put Owen to bed before collapsing himself. Grr.

So, it was a very short night, with a 6am alarm set. With so much luggage, and being so tired, we admitted defeat and had bell services come get our stuff in the morning. He delivered it right to the curb-side check-in for Southwest (because inside had a long line) and a baggage handler grabbed it all immediately, tagged it and gave us boarding passes. So, 5 minutes after leaving our hotel room, we were ready to head to security, having never touched our bags. We dropped quite a bit of cash in tips, but it felt so worth it at the time!

The rest of the trip was uneventful. I did find it interesting on the flight – I had assumed that being right after Christmas, most travelers would be headed home. But the vast majority of our plane was Floridians headed to Colorado for vacation. It was funny to hear them talk about the snow and cold, like it was some great mysterious thing, that probably didn’t actually exist. I was happy to be back to it though.

Unfortunately, right after getting back, Owen got sick. At first I thought it was the same mild cold the rest of us had been fighting, but his fever kept getting higher, so after a couple of days I took him to the Dr, turns out he had the flu! Poor kid. We were leaving almost immediately for our ski vacation in Steamboat Springs, so sadly, he didn’t get to do much skiing there. But, as I said with the rest of the trip, there’s always next year! (And he’s already started his weekly ski class in Winter Park, so there will still be plenty of skiing for him this year!)

Overall, I thought the trip was a huge success! Nothing will ever be perfect, but we had a lot of fun, and made a lot of memories. Which is always what counts in the end.

The END.