Sunday, September 7, 2014

Prep, Travel, & Arrival

We've been planning our Disney vacation for a long time - over a year, at least.  We did all the crazy stuff to cooperate with Disney's reservation system, including getting up at 6am 180 days before our arrival to make dining reservations, spending two hours on the phone (mostly on hold) to get the Free Dining promotion when it came out, and staying up until midnight to book our Fastpasses at 60 days out, only to have My Disney Experience lose mine and my husband's selections (but not our kids), with the resulting stalking of the MDE app to replace our lost Fastpasses (oh, the coveted Anna and Elsa FP!).  To be honest, all this work and hassle took a fair bit of the excitement out of the process.  I don't mind doing some planning ahead, but when a buggy system causes me major headaches, it's just not very magical.

We also did a lot of crafting for our trip.  I made five sets of shirts for the six of us - rainbow tie-dye, vintage attraction posters, the Incredibles, Animal Kingdom, and character silhouettes.  We made Cast Member (CM) thank you cards, an awful lot of treat printables (pockets and bag labels) that we never ended up using, labels for M&M tubes for quarters & pennies to do pressed pennies (again, that we never ended up using), two regular autograph books, a Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) autograph book, and a CM autograph book.  I also made costumes for all of us for MNSSHP - an Ariel dress for Fiona, an Ursula outfit for me, Sebastian for Niall, a Triton shirt for Doug, and the boys outfits - Eric and Chef Louis - I was able to purchase.  Oh, and I painted all of our Magic Bands.

Then I slacked off on packing early - maybe because I was so busy crafting.  We did most of our packing the night before our departure and didn't get to sleep until 2am.  Which might not have been as horrible if we didn't have to get up at 4am to make it to Boston for our 8am flight.  Yikes.  Remind me to never book such an early flight again, especially if we're driving an hour and a half to get to the airport.

Oh, and speaking of driving - it was raining and I missed the speed limit signs in one area and - yup, I got pulled over.  The police officer gave me a hard time for not having changed my license to Maine (I need to get my birth certificate and marriage license to do so, and hey, I'm lazy), and for failing to realize that my car wasn't inspected in Maine, even though it was registered in Maine (my MA inspection isn't expired yet, so I goofed).  I was ready for him to just give me the almost $500 in tickets so I could get on my way when he hit me with, "But you know, you've got four kids here and you're on your way to the airport.. I bet you'd rather spend the money on something else.  I'll just give you a warning.."  And then I started to sob!  It was so embarrassing.  I blame it on the lack of sleep and stress of getting us all to the airport.

So anyway.. the actual airport went much smoother.  We got a parking spot right next to the entrance for our terminal (Dad picked up the car for us later), loaded up a cart with our luggage, and checked in with no problem.  Security went really smoothly - I'm so proud of my kids for following directions so well and handling it all in stride.  We got some donuts and hung out for a little bit before boarding, which again went very smoothly.  I sat next to Niall and Fiona, while Doug got to sit with Colwyn and Lachlann.  All the kids did great on the flight, coloring in their activity books, playing with toys, or watching TV.  Niall zonked out about halfway through and only woke up when we were starting to land.

It sounds really repetitious, but they did great disembarking and heading to Disney's Magical Express (DME), too.  We made a quick stop in the Universal Store so they could stretch their legs and let off a little steam before getting in line for DME.  That was a little less fun - we had to wait a long while for our bus, and the lines were not well air conditioned.  But before we knew it, we were on the bus to Disney World!

The biggest hassle of the day (yes, even bigger than only getting two hours of sleep, bigger than getting pulled over) came when we went to check in at All Star Music.  Doug took the kids over to Bell Services to pick up the stroller we rented from Magic Strollers while I checked us in.  Unfortunately, the CM at check in informed me that while I had been assured that, as a family with two adults and four children, I was guaranteed connecting rooms in the preferred section (which I paid extra for to be closest to the food court and bus stops), they don't actually have connecting rooms in the preferred section that would fit my family - I guess they have some with king beds, but those were out for us.  They could put us in connecting rooms at the back of the resort, or we could be next door but not connecting close to the main area.  I was not happy, to say the least.  If our rooms weren't connecting, that would mean that Doug and I wouldn't be able to spend time together at night, that we would each have to go to sleep at the same time as the kids, and it would really complicate getting ready in the morning.  Or we could have an incredibly long walk to and from the buses every day.

After a lot of hemming and hawing and some fairly unprofessional behavior on the CM's part, she said she could move us to either All Star Sports or All Star Movies in connecting, preferred rooms.  We decided on Movies, and despite being mightily annoyed with Disney for causing even more hassle, I started to see a glimmer of hope.  We had originally wanted to stay at Movies, but it wasn't included in the Free Dining promotion, so we'd had to switch.  Additionally, the Music food court was being refurbished with very little options for food there, but the Movies food court was just fine.  They had a CM pick us up in a van and drive us over, and she was super nice.  We had a little bit more hassle when we got there because I had to stop at the Concierge and get our Magic Bands (MBs) and the system took forever to get it done - though I did get to have a fun conversation with the CM about how I'd painted them.

We'd originally planned to swim before heading to dinner, but we were wiped out by that point, so we just crashed in our hotel room for a bit.  It was fine, though - the kids had fun checking everything out and having some down time with the toys they'd brought.  We finally pulled ourselves together and hopped on an empty bus to the Magic Kingdom so we could get to dinner at Narcoossee's.  It was pretty exciting being on a Disney bus, especially for the kids.  They pulled a few sad faces as we walked right past the gates to the Magic Kingdom, but getting to ride the monorail perked them up!  We were going to take the boat across to the Grand Floridian (it's faster and pulls up right in front of Narcoossee's), but the 'seas' were too rough and they weren't operating.

Niall loved the monorail and was a little annoyed that we had to get off, but we assured him we'd get to ride again after dinner.  Narcoossee's was fantastic, as always.  We got to spend some time on the porch taking pictures of the kids.  We got an amazing waitress when we were seated, which really helped us feel more excited about our vacation after the hassles earlier.  Colwyn, at 10, is considered an adult as far as the dining plan is concerned, but she was quick to assure is that it would be fine if he wanted to order the chicken nuggets, or even 'un-fancy' one of the adult options.  We got this spiel several times, which always made me laugh because Colwyn has a very adventurous palate and was dying to try the food that Doug and I had been raving about.  Niall, on the other hand, told her that all he wanted was ketchup.  She took that in stride and brought him out a giant dish of ketchup (to go along with his chicken nuggets, of course).  She also didn't bat an eye when Colwyn ordered the $75 lobster tails and filet.  I guess from her point of view, it just means a bigger tip!

The food was simply amazing.  Doug got the lobster and filet as well, and I got the scallops with  "Trofie pasta with Sultana raisins, Marcona Almonds, young string beans, and herb creme with lobster mushrooms, lemon-thyme-mustard jus, and arugula."  Drool!  Doug loves scallops as well, so we shared our meals with each other.  Colwyn gave Lachlann a good portion of his (Lachlann spent many meals frustrated at having to order off the kids' menu).  Lachlann got the shrimp and gobbled them up.

We were all feeling pretty full, but the dining plan includes dessert, so we got some stuff to bring home.  Again, our waitress was fantastic - the dessert that Colwyn and I both wanted came with gelato, she let us eat the gelato at the restaurant and then packaged up the 'portable' part (dark chocolate mocha bar, which was way more fancy and delicious than it sounds).  We got our waitresses autograph and snapped a picture of her with Fiona, then headed back to the main building and the monorail.  We had to stop to use the bathrooms and Fiona and I spent some time dancing to the music the pianist was playing.

We were back in our room at a decent hour so we could get a good night's sleep.  Animal Kingdom would be our first park!

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