Monday, October 15, 2007

Disney Writeup!

I finally went to Walt Disney World! This seems to be the year for me to be making trip to places I’ve always wanted to go. First Paris (and London, but I’d been there) and now Disney!

I *LOVED* it! I can’t wait to go back. And I’d go again in September in a heartbeat. I’m already trying to see if I can plan for it for next September, and for a longer visit! It was so not crowded, it was fabulous! We never waited more than a half hour in a line, and rarely used the fastpasses at all since they weren’t really needed.

Day 1: Up at 4:30 to catch our flight from little Islip Airport. Boy to I love that airport. It was so easy to just get up, grab the last few things, head out and only have a 15 minute drive to the airport. If we ever get our “town resident” stickers for the car (I didn’t know about them to apply in time) we will even be able to park for free there! Security was a joke (more on that later) and we were off to wait for our flight. Brian was doing pretty good (doped up as soon as he got up) and we were off to the races! The flight down was great, and at the end as we were taxi-ing to the terminal the flight attendant sang a full welcome song (three verses!) to the tune of Bibbidi-Boppity-Boo. We all enjoyed it. I had a two year old behind me in his carseat, and he was great throughout the flight. Off the plane and looking for the Disney Magical Express at 10:15.

Disney Magical Express rocks. In all the best ways. Way One: it’s free. Way Two: they pick up your bags at the airport and deliver them to your room. Not just to your hotel, right up to your room! Way Three: they’ve done a fabulous job of making it easy to find them once you do get to Orlando to get the bus to your hotel. Way Four: if you’re flying one of their partner airlines (we weren’t :( ) you get to check your bags in for your flight right from your hotel and they’ll even print off your boarding passes. Way Five: they can’t accept tips.

We got to the hotel, and easily checked in even though it was way to early to get our rooms. Got our passes and headed off for the busses to the parks. We got on the bus to MGM Studios at 11am. How’s that for quick and efficient! The only diappointment upon arriving at the park was that the Rockin’ Rollercoaster we’d really been looking forward to was closed for repairs. We spent the rest of the day there and saw most of the big attractions (Muppets 3D, Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, Lights Camera Action Stunt Driving show) and did many of the rides. We both loved the Test Track (and rode it 5 times over the course of the day) and I got motion sick on Mission Space. And we’d even taken the “beginner, less intense” version! Vertigo is, unfortunately, nothing new for me, so at least I knew how to handle it. We also enjoyed the Star Wars themed ride Star Tours enough to go back later in the day for a second run through. During the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular early in our day there, however, my camera stopped working. All it would record was a black screen. And yes, the lens cover was off ! :) It would still record video (with picture) so I did a little of that. But I was seriously disappointed to have my camera die on the first day. However, at some point in the afternoon, it decided to work again, and worked happily for the rest of the trip. Oh shucks, we had to go back on a few of the rides so I could get more photos! :P In particular I found a “hidden Kermit” at the Star Tours ride. It rained off and on for the whole day, but we didn’t mind. We’d brought our little emergency ponchos from the car, and it was certainly hot enough we didn’t mind getting a little wet! They do sell really nice ponchos at Disney, for only $7. We bought a set since they were much better than what we’d brought and didn’t end up needing them for the rest of the trip. Call it $14 in rain insurance, and money well spent! We didn’t get to see the evening finale show though since it’s in a big open ampitheatre with metal benches and a lightening storm had started. We got thoroughly soaked waiting to see if it would happen, and loved seeing everything. Dinner was at the Toy Story themed pizza place, and if you’re on the dining plan, that place is a steal! Our dinner *should* have cost us about $40, and only cost us two counter service credits! Score! The only bad part about dinner was discovering (when he pulled it out to use) that not only we, but also security at the airport had totally missed his Swiss Army knife on his keychain. We were NOT impressed, but like it has been said many times before, it really is “security theater”. Once they fully cancelled the evening finale, we grabbed the bus back to the hotel and to find our room. We lucked out and were in Casitas 1 and nice and close to everything! Our bags were there and waiting for us as we dried off, put the shoes to dry (and helped them along for a while with the blow dryer) and crashed for the night.

So a quick explaination of the meal plan since I’ve had several people ask. We got extra lucky and got it included for free as part of the promotion we booked the trip through. Going in September, their slowest time of year, has a lot of benefits! Otherwise it’s $38/adult/day of tickets. Kid prices are less, but I don’t remember exact details. If you’re someone who likes to graze throughout the day, it’s *NOT* for you. If you’re someone who likes to eat regular meals, it’s a steal. WDW is a theme park. They know you’re ‘trapped’ within the park and have to eat there. The prices aren’t terribly horrendous, I’ve seen much worse, but they do add up quickly, and are significantly higher than you pay “on the outside”. Included in the plan, you get one snack, one counter service meal and one full service meal per day per person. Use them whenever you wish in whatever order you wish. It’s all tracked through the one ‘key’ they give you that also acts as your park pass and room key and lets you charge things to your room. Do NOT lose this card! If you do even a little research ahead of time, you’ll make out like a bandit on the meal plan. The full service meals in particular can easily pay for the day’s cost in and of themselves. For each full service meal you get: a non-alcoholic drink (and usually free refills), an appetizer, your meal and dessert. We used it at Planet Hollywood on Saturday night, couldn’t eat everything (yum, strawberry cheesecake for breakfast!) and our tab should have come to a little over $100. Oh, and the meal plan also even includes the tip! (But we left a little extra.) Cost to us: 2 full service credits (and voluntary tip. Disney won’t say how much the tip percentage is, but it’s rumoured to be 12%, and the waiter said he didn’t mind it at all as he was guaranteed a decent tip that way. We asked. We’re like that.) Counter service credits usually include a ‘combo’ meal, dessert and a drink. At the pizza place, it also included salads. So, for two counter service credits we got two salads, two (large) individual pizzas, sodas and desserts. The pizza meals in particular were large enough that we agreed in future when we come back, we’d just get one and split it! The snack credits can be used all over the parks at most of the little stations for things like water or ice cream or things like that. Just ask first and they’ll be happy to tell you what they’re good for and what not. Our favourite use was for real, hand dipped ice cream just outside the Beauty and the Beast stageshow in midafternoon. Very little could have beaten sitting there in the shade enjoying that ice cream! Oh, and one of the neater things they sell at the park are water bottle straps that let you hang the bottle off a shoulder etc. At about $3, they were well worth it to buy and then just keep refilling one bottle at the water fountains. Most of which we pleasantly discovered have *cold* water!

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