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Off to Walt Disney World

Those of you who have been following this blog over the years know that we take a family vacation to Walt Disney World every September. (Except for one time we traded September for December.) This year’s WDW vacation starts this Saturday when we leave home, and lasts till next Saturday when we come back.

We’ll be driving this year — it’s a 10-12 hour trip. We drove for our first family time at WDW, 5 years ago, but then after that we flew each year. The combination of expensive tickets and ridiculous airport security has made us decide to try driving again. We have a DVD player, various Disney movies, Nintendo DSs, and some travel games to entertain the boys. We’ll have packed snacks and lunches, but we’ll still stop several times to at least get out and stretch. I’d like to stop for meals, but I’d rather get to the resort sooner rather than later, so we’ll eat on the road. We plan to leave first thing after waking up, (probably 6 a.m.), so we should be in WDW by 6 p.m.


I’m partially looking forward to the drive, the experience of the long family road trip. I remember taking long road trips as a kid with my family, and our boys are now old enough that they’ll remember this excursion. But I’m also dreading the drive, the looooooong monotonous sitting in one place for hours. We drove to the Great Wolf Lodge back in March, but that was only 3 hours. This coming drive will be 3-4 times longer. I’m feeling some trepidation.

This year, both boys are tall enough for all the rides, and they’ve both said they want to ride all the rides. In past years, Calfgrit7 was too small to ride some, and even the ones that either boy was tall enough for, they weren’t adventurous enough to try. Was kind of disappointing. But this year may be more fun in that regard. Also this year, we’re going to the water parks. They enjoyed the Great Wolf Lodge slides, so I think the Disney water parks will be a hit. I know I’m really looking forward to the water fun.

Well, this will be the last post for me until after we get back. So now . . .

To the Minivan

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We’re Back

When going to Walt Disney World, timing is very important. We always choose to go during the slowest times, the times with the lightest crowds. This means wait times for the various rides and attractions usually aren’t more than 10 minutes. The most popular rides, during the busiest time of the day can get up to 20 minutes, sometimes even 30 minutes.

Occasionally, during some confluence of events and timing, some wait time might go over 30 minutes. These rides and times, we just get a fastpass, or we just skip it now and come back later when the natural wait time drops back to 10-20 minutes. Personally, there are no rides or attractions at WDW that I’d wait in a line 30 minutes or more. Maybe I’m just spoiled.

On Wednesday, Disney’s Hollywood Studios had the biggest crowd of any park we visited, and we ended up waiting 25 minutes to get on Toy Story Midway Mania. That was the longest wait time we experienced. Otherwise we stuck to our 10-20 minute preference. In Magic Kingdom, Tuesday morning, we walked onto all three mountains, (Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain), with literally no waits. I mean, literally, no wait: we walked into the building, along the pathway, and got in the next car. A couple of times we were the only riders in our car. When the ride was over, and we were supposed to get out of the car, we were allowed to just stay seated and ride again immediately. (There was no one waiting to take our places.)

After riding twice in a row, we got off and moved on to the next attraction, but we sometimes went back later for another ride. During our week, we rode our favorite rides 2, 3, 4, even 5 times. At one point, right before we had lunch reservations, we rode Space Mountain with about a 5 minute wait. After we got off, we got fastpasses for later. The Disney cast member standing by the fastpass machines pointed out that there was only a 5 minute wait. “Yeah, we just rode it,” we said. “We’re getting these fastpasses for after lunch.” He said the wait probably won’t ever get above 10 minutes that day. And he was right.

After lunch we rode Space Mountain again without going through the fastpass lane. After that third Space Mountain ride of the day, we didn’t go back. An hour or so later, we decided to leave the park altogether, and I ended up giving our fastpasses to some random visitor who was coming into the park as we were going out.

I know there are lots of people who have never been to WDW during a slow time of year. I’ve talked with people for whom waiting in line for 60+ minutes is normal and perfectly acceptable. They’ve never seen a WDW park look like this:

Magic Kingdom, Sunday 4:00 p.m.
Magic Kingdom Crowd

Frontierland, Tuesday 10:00 a.m.
Magic Kingdom Crowd

Epcot, Monday 12:30 p.m.
Epcot Crowd

Epcot Aquarium, Monday 11:00 a.m.
Epcot Crowd

Chef Mickey’s Restaurant, Wednesday noon
Chef Mickey's Crowd

Coral Reef Restaurant, Monday noon
Coral Reef Crowd

I honestly just can’t imagine trying to navigate through the crowds of a busy time of year. Last year, when we visited during December, the crowds were heavier than this time this year, but they were still light compared to the really busy times.

I’ve been warned that posting this might sound like bragging, but really, it’s not. I’m posting all this as a public service announcement.


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We Have Too Much Fuel, You Must Get Off the Plane

Our flight from Orlando last week had a very interesting start. A couple minutes after all passengers were seated, one of the flight attendants came on the PA and said that because the plane had to take on a lot of fuel, it couldn’t take everyone that was currently aboard. Five passengers needed to get off.

The airline offered a decent deal for anyone who volunteered to remove themselves: $300 plus the price of their ticket, in return for just taking another flight 5 hours later. That’s a pretty good deal for someone who can take hanging out in the airport terminal for five more hours. But as tempting as that deal was, we didn’t think the boys could handle hanging out in the airport terminal for another 5 hours, especially considering we had already been hanging out for nearly 2 hours. (Read: we didn’t think we could handle the boys hanging out in the airport terminal for another 5 hours.) So we just sat there. As did every other passenger in the cabin.

After a minute, two passengers volunteered to get off the plane. After that, the flight attendant announced that if no one else volunteered, they would have to force the three passengers who boarded last to get off. After another minute, she announced that she was going to get the information for who boarded last. She left the plane briefly, and came back with three names.

Two of the three named passengers were a husband and wife, and they immediately got up and started gathering their carry-ons. The third named passenger to be deplaned turned out to be a mother with a baby.

Since there was other stuff and movement going on in the cabin, it wasn’t immediately apparent that the mother and baby were the ones being ejected. But when I realized what was going on, I leaned to Cowgrit and said, “They’re kicking a mother with a baby off the plane? If you and my mom can handle the boys, I’m willing to take her place. She can’t wait five hours in an airport with a baby.”

Cowgrit immediately nodded and said, “Yeah, do it.”

I stood up and started heading forward. (I’d come back and get my carry-on after I talked with the flight attendants.) When I was about half-way to the front of the plane, I saw the mother and baby returning to their seat. And then everyone on the plane applauded. Huh?

I stopped. I heard someone near me say, to someone else, “Someone took her place.” Oh. As the mother and baby returned to their seat, I turned around and headed back to my own. The suspense and drama was over, and the flight attendants started preparing everyone for departure.

But this whole situation made me wonder: don’t airlines know how much fuel they have to put on a plane for a flight before they sell tickets on the flight? Is this just a version of the old, “the flight is overbooked,” aggravation? Ain’t it kind of rude to kick people off a plane? Ain’t it downright cold to kick a mother and baby off a flight?


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I Need a Vacation

We’re back home from week in Walt Disney World. Because we’re busy with wrapping up and winding down from our adventures, I’ll just throw out some scattered anecdotes for this post:

One day we had a lunch reservation at the Hollywood & Vine restaurant in the Disney Hollywood Studios park. H&V is a buffet, with all kinds of foods, but there was no pizza. Calfgrit9 wanted pizza — in his experience, buffets have pizza; Golden Corral has pizza. He was so disappointed that he was ornery and stubborn, and couldn’t (or wouldn’t) find anything else on display that he wanted.

We explained that our plans were to go to Pizza Planet for dinner — a restaurant with pretty much nothing but pizza — but he wanted pizza now. We got him to nibble on a few things, but he did it with a big ol’ pout on his face the whole time. I even took a picture of him pouting, (bottom lip stuck out), over a big bowl of chocolate ice cream with a chocolate chip cookie dipped in it. Poor thing.

Immediately after this “terrible” lunch, he was laughing out loud at a group of Disney street performers acting as a incompetent public works team.

Kids. They can go from one extreme emotion to another in seconds. It makes me dizzy.

* * *

Both boys created a double-bladed lightsaber in the Star Wars store.

* * *

They spent nearly an hour building and racing Lego vehicles in the Lego store in Downtown Disney.

* * *

They could both outscore their mom on Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, but no one could even get in the same ballpark of my scores.

* * *

They got me to join them in the outdoor pool, after the sun went down — 45-50 degrees even in Florida. The lifeguards were wearing full coats with hoods. Supposedly the pools are heated to 85 degrees, but only the hot tubs, heated to 104 degrees, were comfortable.

* * *

They loved the Wilderness Lodge resort we stayed at, but they both claimed the video game arcade made it the best hotel we’ve stayed at in WDW.

* * *

None of us had to deal with the naked body scanners or the grope pat downs in the airports. But standing in the huge line, with a couple or three hundred other travelers showed that if a terrorist really wanted to kill a bunch of people, all he’d have to do is set off a suitcase bomb at the security checkpoint. No need to bother trying to get a bomb through the security and onto a plane.


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