Okay...this was my first ever attempt at a trip report, so be nice! For those not acquainted with my writing style, you'll tend to notice that I tend to be very long-winded at times. I try to write these so that the reader feels like being next to us experiencing the same things we are at that moment. To those Laureates in literature, I know that there are times where I change verb tenses on the fly. I try to write it in the present-tense as much as possible, but I typically just take notes on the trip and then write the report after getting back.
Me, turning 33 on Day 1 of the trip
Sheri (DW), age withheld for obvious reasons
Aaron (DS), turns 3 on Day 4, fun-loving kid with a helluva imagination
Spikey (DSPS…darling son's pet stegosaurus)…almost became the narrator for this trip report. He'll be referred to throughout the report.
We initially were thinking of going to WDW in January of 2005 because we had quite a few points left over with Fairfield Resorts (which we own). Fairfield Orlando at Bonnet Creek had just opened, and not that many people knew about it, so we used some points to purchase a 5-day hopper and some more points for a reservation at Bonnet Creek (it's right by the Caribbean Beach Resort…have to get on WDW property to get to the resort, though the land itself is not WDW-owned). Immediately after we booked the resort, we found out that Sheri was pregnant with our second son and was due about the exact week that we were going to go. So we had three options:
1) Head down and hope that Mickey can deliver her while on Pirates of the Caribbean
2) Pay for our OB-GYN to come down with us
3) Put the trip off
I lobbied for option #1, and Sheri slapped me. So we opted for the Disney trip at a later date. Eric came on the 28th of December, and the sleepless nights started over again. We risked a trip down to Nashville at the Fairfield resort over Illinois State University's spring break and met up with my Mother down there so she could see her new grandson. On the trip down there (we drove), I started contemplating a Disney trip again, and Sheri (the accountant) immediately put up the defenses (at least she didn't slap me). It's part of the routine…she knows that if I really want something, I'll keep hounding and convincing. This time, however, she let her defenses down rather quickly, which indicated that she was either suffering from sleep deprivation or also wanting to go (probably a little bit of both).
I called Fairfield resorts on the way down there (prematurely) and realized that going in December is going to require more points than we had, as opposed to going in January (a quieter time). Well, crap! So much for that idea. There's no way we're staying on-site…it's too damn expensive (famous last words). Soooooo, I start looking at RCI for resorts around there as we have a week deposited with them that would expire around March of 2006. I found some resorts with rooms available for exchange and then looked up the ratings/reviews for those resorts at the Timeshare User's Group. Yep…you guessed it…the ratings for quite a few of them were really bad!
I took the chance and convinced Sheri to let me book the flights early on to get the best airfares. We looked at flying out of Chicago O'Hare, Midway, St. Louis, Indianapolis (we're equidistant from all three cities…really!), Bloomington, Champaign, and Peoria. Have I mentioned that I'm a thorough planner? Hell, I'm just A.D.D. and have to be doing 8 things at a time to be content! I priced park-n-flies, times, etc and found a decent airfare from home that was a few bucks more than the cheapest hotel park and fly at Indy. Mush the economist was able to convince Wifey the accountant that the marginal benefit of flying out of an airport 5 minutes from home far outweighed the marginal cost above leaving out of IND. I started drawing her a graph, and she slapped me.
With the airfare taken care of, plan C of where the hell to stay was now going to be implemented. We toured the Orange Lake resort back in 2001 and liked it (didn't buy though). I remember seeing Orange Lake having availability on RCI quite often due mainly to its size, so I decided to wait a month or two and see if anything there came available. There were also a couple of other Fairfield resorts down in the Orlando/Kissimmee area (Cypress Palms, Star Island, and Orlando International Resort Club), but again we ran into to problem of too many points needed for that time frame. I looked for quite a while and even looked at the TUG exchange/swap classifieds. Nothing…nada…CRAP!
So I start researching even more and am introduced to sites like Disboards, AllEars, The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and Mousesavers; ultimately, I found a little place called Lodgeboards, which has been my online home for nearly 4 years…where friendships that were made online transcended to become some of the best real-life friends I have (we wouldn't shell out over $700 for 2 days to meet up with just anyone as we did in 2007 when did that with nearly 70 other maniacs)…if you read nicknames that may not seem familiar, they represent people from this website. ANYWAYS!!!! As I priced everything, I started to realize that staying on-site might not be such a bad idea after all. We had a hopper pass already, but that puppy won't expire. We could join AAA and get a decent discount. We could use the Magical Express (which was just about to start up) so we wouldn't need to rent a car. I started pricing staying at both the Moderates (I shot for Caribbean Beach, while Sheri pushed for Coronado Springs) as well as the Values (only All Star-Movies really appealed to us). We decided that we should start small…that way we could work our way up on later trips...the value resort it was!
The call to (407) W-DISNEY was made, and we had our trip booked!
Then I read about the Dining plan option.
And my head started spinning.
So I researched some more, and I realized that I could probably crank out a dissertation on how to plan a trip to WDW in no time at all. I swear I felt like I had The Unofficial Guide memorized! I was sending Excel files to Sheri every other day with possible options, and she finally had enough (she's a supervisor at corporate headquarters for Country Insurance and looks at Excel files all day…the last thing she wants to do is look over yet another one). I finally gave her the numbers and said that going on the dining plan would cost around $40 more total for us, and we'd be eating something other than ice cream bars for every meal.
WOOHOO…now we're going to Disney World, staying on-site, and using the Dining Plan. I went to AAA and found that booking through them would save us a few more dollars, so I decided to let them do all the planning (?). I called WDW and cancelled our original ressie and had AAA do the rest.
T-minus 6 months and counting.
T-minus 5 months
T-minus 4 months…it was about this time that I really started my travels for my research associate position. I went from not flying for about 3 years to flying 1-2 times a month. Each flight had me connecting through ORD (O'Hare), so I was getting the terminal layout down really well.
T-minus 3 months…time for the seating reservations/priority seating/whatever-the-hell-they-were-calling-it-that-day phone call. The free dining plan was in full swing at this time, and everyone on disboards was complaining about pretty much everything, so I was more than a bit worried about getting where we wanted to go. I called at 90 days and got everything we wanted with no problems at all.
T-minus 60 days…I'm starting to finally understand why people do "double-digit dances".
T-minus 30 days…THE @#$%#^$#%@$# CALENDAR AIN'T MOVING @$#%)^)&&$@@!@ FAST ENOUGH!!!
T-minus 14 days…I had the touring plans all taken care of and started memorizing them (A.D.D…remember?). Sheri started packing all the crap errrr stuff that she ordered from the Disney Catalog and/or E-Bay. She actually started packing earlier, but I showed her that the unofficial guide explicitly has the time to start packing at 14 days…not earlier. I got slapped again.
T-minus 10 days…SON OF A...! I realized my finals schedule was going to have me absolutely smoking to get grades turned in by the 15th of December.
T-minus 5 days…I PM Delswife (Robin) and the Zurgs (Bennet and Kimball) over on Lodgeboards (from here on to be known as the Lodge) to see if they wanted me to pass anything on to Bobby (a favorite cast member of many) as we had ADRs at Whispering Canyon on the 18th. I print out part of the latest Delswife report and bind it up in hopes of giving it to Bobby.
T-minus 4 days…I get more private messages on the Lodge in the past 24 hours than I had the previous 5 months. Robin, Bennet, Kimball had all replied, and DaisyDebbie (Debbie, in case you couldn't figure that one out on your own) PMs me letting me know that she'll be over at WDW with her kids at the same time. We trade cell-phone #s in the hopes that we could meet up.
T-minus 100 hours…I realized that I screwed up one of the main questions on my Econ 239 (managerial econ) final, so I end up having to give everyone credit. Hell, it made the damn test easier to grade, but I didn't care…I WAS GETTING ON PLANE!
T-minus 36 hours…it is now that I realize just how much I loathe this part of the semester. While I don't want to call it "whining" per se, I always get students who beg for higher grades. This is amplified several times over when teaching a lecture hall. I can't sleep, so I fly the route the plane will be taking online.
Yeah, I'm really a geek. I fly occasionally for a virtual airline and am also certified as a virtual air traffic controller. My dream has always been to be a pilot, and I got a number of hours under my belt, including a couple solos. One of these days, I will get the license(s), but that's quite a ways down the road. So I substitute my passion for flying with a flight simulator and online network of other geeks like me. We follow everything to the letter just like the FAA would demand. I wanted to see what our route would be and everything…and I realize that it's pretty much a straight shot the entire way. KORD.ORD1.DNV.TTH.BWG.GQO.ATL.J89.OTK.LEESE1.KMCO. For those not attuned to flight plan routes, we depart O'Hare and head southeast at pretty much the same heading until we enter the LEESE1 STAR. BOOOO—RRRRIINNGGGGG. For those attuned to flight plan routes, most of the online flight simulation folks weren't set up for RNAV routes (myself included), so we didn't really know how to fly the PIGLT1 arrival. For those not attuned to flight plan routes, YES, they do actually have Disney-related intersections and routes in the flying community around Orlando (HKUNA and MTATA are two intersections on the PIGLT1 arrival, for example). Anyways…this is going to be a boring flight as I like turns, departure transitions, airway intersections, etc…the only big city we get to fly over is Atlanta, and we're only on an airway for a couple hundred miles.
I warned you that I'm more than a little attention deficit, so this report could have quite a few tangents.
Okay…back to the trip. On the 15th (T-minus 24 hours), Sheri's mother comes over to pick up Eric. He's not going, and, despite the fact that he is just starting to walk and only has a couple words in his vocabulary, he is letting us know that he is really pissed off about not being able to go. He has developed a knack to wake up every 2-3 hours and absolutely scream until we come into the room. I decided to let him cry once, and he went for over 45 minutes before he had me convinced that he was starting to hyperventilate. I pick him up, and he falls asleep. (grrrrr) I put him in his crib, and he screams. It started getting comical, so, to keep our family as well as all the folks on the same frequency as our monitor (and gets to hear all the screaming) happy, we threw him in bed with us for the last couple days. My M-I-L arrives about 1 minute after I get back from running errands and picking up Eric from daycare, and Sheri arrives about 30 seconds after that…the timing was just eerie. I had a huge fight with the car seat trying to get the damn thing into her van (it's an older van that doesn't have the L.A.T.C.H system in it), and I changed my mind about 27 times as to which stroller to send with her and which stroller we were going to take with us to Orlando. The smaller stroller won out (thankfully, as you will hear about later), and our family of 4 became a family of 3 for the next week.
The goal was to get Aaron to bed at around 8 so he'd be in good shape for the early flight. He got to bed at 10:15 (great plan, Mush). No problem…the night is still young, and I'm reasonably sure that we won't be able to hear Eric screaming at 55 miles away. Besides, it's my birthday tomorrow! I turn to Sheri to give her a kiss goodnight, and all I hear from her side of the bed is…
About 12.5 seconds later, I was zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz myself, waiting for that alarm to signal the beginning of the vacation.