A Note on These Posts
I’m doing these posts a little out of sequence. I’ve written notes as things happened, but I’m going back and filling in the blanks as I get time to write them. At times it may seem a bit disjointed, so please forgive me. The dates will be posted as though they occurred on the days in which the events actually occurred, however they will not be written or posted on those actual days. Please adjust your expectations accordingly.
Mom and dad (Glen and Cheryl) decided that it was time for some reciprocity and treated my family to a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. When I say reciprocity, I’m of course referring to the numerous vacations that I was unable to attend with the family since I was too old when they went. Sure, we went to exciting places like Philadelphia (in a car), California (in a car), and Colorado (in a car), but my younger brothers benefited from my having finished college on time by getting to go to places like Hawaii, Dominican Republic, and Peru – and none of those were by car! Anyway, it was a very nice gesture on their part, and Ethan is at a very good age to take advantage of their generosity.
We planned the trip several months ago. Knowing that we were in the middle of the adoption process, we purchased insurance for our trip, thinking that we might have to forego the trip if an adoption came through. As luck would have it, an adoption did happen, but we didn’t have to forego the trip and Quin was able to come as well. You may think we’re crazy taking a 5 week old infant along on a trip like this, but our rationale was that he is really at a very good age to do this. He can’t move yet, so he can’t get into anything, and he’s still pretty light, so carrying him around shouldn’t be too hard. We’ll see how it goes.
The Trip Out
The day started out very early today. Last night was a rush to get to sleep while hoping Quin would cooperate. For the most part he did. He slept really well all night, waking up twice to eat quickly then go right back to sleep. Still, we had to get up before 5:00 AM to get ready. We had packed the car the evening before, and Jenny had all the bags ready to go for the morning, so we were out of the house by 5:45, our desired departure time.
Traffic was light at that time in the morning, which was good. Of course, the parking structure was completely full except for exposed parking on the 6th floor. The exposure was a little rough to take since spring in Wisconsin just means it’s just as cold but with more wind. Still, we were to the airport by 6:30. Checkin was smooth, we grabbed a bite to eat, then headed over to the security check to have our body cavity searches. One thing we found out early at the security line was that traveling with a 5 week old infant gets you a lot of attention. One of the gate agents started ogling immediately and then called one of the other agents over to ogle as well. Needless to say, we didn’t have too many issues getting through security. It seemed like they shut down an entire security line just for us, which we pretty much needed.
At the gate, we met a young lady who was traveling with her grandmother that didn’t know where she was going. Her mom had purchased her a trip to Disney but didn’t tell her about it. We didn’t get to see her when she got there, but I can imagine it would have been something to behold.
While waiting for the plane, my mom explained to Ethan that he would have to chew gum or something so that his ears would pop on the takeoff. This scared him, so as we were boarding he was telling us about how nervous he was that he was going to hurt his ears. Nice one, mom. When we got onto the plane, Ethan made sure he had a piece of gum in his mouth and another one nearby in case he lost that one. Once we took off, though, he was having a great time in the air. He loved flying! Jenny, on the other hand, didn’t fare quite as well. She doesn’t really like flying. Quin did great. He slept the whole way with no issue. The flight was uneventful. Everything went about as you would expect it would with a 6 year old. I tried to listen to my MP3 player, but I only got through 1 song through the entire flight. Also, I tried to read a magazine, but only got through 1 article. Ethan was very curious and wanted to talk about a lot of stuff during the whole flight!
As an editorial aside, Jenny was very nervous about flying AirTran Airlines for some reason, but once the flight was completed, she was pleasantly surprised. The service was exceptional, the airplane was clean and as roomy as airplanes can be these days, and the flight left and arrived on time. Nice work, Airtran.
Upon our arrival in Orlando, we headed towards the Disney Magical Express on the ground transportation floor. My parents had purchased this option which allows us to skip baggage claim and go directly to our resort. This was awesome. Basically all we had to do was take our carry on bags onto a charter bus and ride to the park. It was a brief 20 minute ride during which time we were treated to an orientation video that told us all about our life at the resort.
After our brief bus ride, we arrived at the “Caribbean Beach” resort located across the street from Epcot (which turns out to be probably a mile or two away, I’ll let you know when I actually find it). The resort is nothing spectacular, but nice. Our room was decent size. Enough with the hotel room, though, we wanted to eat something and to check out the facilities. It was 1:00 local time at this point, and we had been up since 4:45 (5:45 local), so we were getting hungry. Luckily, my parents had splurged and purchased the dining package, which entitles us to 1 table service, 1 quick service, and 1 snack per day each. We went to the central area of our hotel complex (which is somewhere in the area of 2200 rooms) and found the food court.
The food court counted as a Quick Service meal for the day, but we were to find out that you get way too much food at this meal to eat in one sitting. If you are going to be visiting Disney, I would recommend this option. I don’t remember the cost, but each of our meals would have cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $13 if we would have purchased them individually.
After lunch, we explored the resort a little bit. It is huge! I mentioned before, it has somewhere in the neighborhood of 2200 rooms. It is called the Caribbean Beach Resort, so there are something like 6 different building groupings, each named after a Caribbean island. Our area is Martinique. There are also areas for Bahamas, Aruba, Jamaica, among others. In the middle of all of these buildings is a medium size lake with beaches surrounding it. In each area is a heated swimming pool and in the center is a showcase swimming pool. Unfortunately the showcase pool is closed at this time.
After our explorations, our luggage still had not arrived in our room – oh, I forgot to mention that we didn’t have to carry our luggage to our rooms. Instead it was delivered to our room cruise style. Very nice. Anyway, our luggage had not yet arrived, so we decided to make do with what we had packed in our carry on luggage and went swimming. It was a little chilly out, in the low 60s, but the pool was heated to 85 degrees, so Ethan and I had a blast. He is really starting to swim well. He had no trouble swimming all over the pool, including the deep areas. When he and I were in the pool together, he swam underwater with me, raced me, and rough-housed with me for the better part of 90 minutes. I tired out early and left the pool to have a beer with my parents and Jenny on the deck while Ethan continued to play for another 20 minutes. We were finally able to coax him out of the pool with promises of visiting the park…
Before we left for the park, we had read that it was a good idea to get reservations for any table service meals you planned on taking. Since we had used our quick service meal for the day already, we set out to find a table service dinner. I called the reservations number but was met with completely booked restaurants pretty much throughout the resort. There was literally nothing available in any of the resorts we checked! This was going to be difficult. Taking this as a hint, we decided to make our reservations for the rest of the week at this time so we would at least be able to use our table service vouchers this week.
Free tip to those that might be traveling to Disney in the near future. If you are getting the dinner plan, call a week or two ahead of time and make your dinner reservations. Otherwise you may be stuck without dinner one night… We ultimately decided to use another of our quick service vouchers and make a reservation for table service later in the week for earlier in the day, so it all worked out in the end.
The Magic Kingdom
After our complicated reservation process, and our luggage having arrived, we packed up and headed out to the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s first resort on this property. It would seem logical to walk there since we were staying on the Disney property itself, but it turns out we are like 5 miles away from the Magic Kingdom. Everything is huge on this resort! So, to get there, we boarded a bus and took a 15 minute drive to the park.
I can’t say it enough, this place is huge! I had visited Disney when I was younger, and I don’t remember it being this big! To get to the park, you can take a bus, the monorail, or a boat! They have big lakes where you can boat across from the parking lot and resorts to get to the park itself.
When we finally got to the park, we scanned our passes and gave a print of our fingers (to stop pass-backs) and arrived at the Magic Kingdom. If you’ve never been to Disney before, the first impression of the Magic Kingdom is impressive. You are placed in the midst of a thriving downtown. A cobblestone street travels down the middle of many shops and food stands, and there were people everywhere!!! We found a statue of Walt where we took a picture, and we saw a bunch of people with balloons (LOTS of balloons), but there was nothing quite like the look on Ethan’s face when he first saw Cinderella’s Castle. He was completely amazed and his jaw pretty much just dropped.
After getting over the initial shock of Cinderella’s Castle, we headed over to the “It’s a Small World” attraction, a staple for any first time Disney visitor. The line wasn’t terrible, about 25 minutes, and Ethan really seemed to like the ride. I remembered it from my last visit, and it didn’t seem that much better from that time, but hey, it’s for the kids. At one time during the ride, I looked up (because it wasn’t very interesting looking at the attraction), and I saw ceiling tiles at the top of the building. They were painted a dark color, some had sprinklers in them, some had things coming through them for the attraction. In fact, it was those that caught my attention, because they manner in which they broke these tiles to get the pieces through was sort of funny. It looked like they just broke it with their hands and stuck the things through. This is kind of funny because everything else in the park is so well thought out and perfectly done. At this point we passed a staircase covered in old carpeting with an illuminated exit sign over them. Seeing that combined with the sprinklers on the ceiling made me think of how funny it would be if the ride burned down. It would look just like that scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The little small world people smiling and dancing while they melted down, their voices distorting while the blaze envelops them. I think I would like to see that…
Prior to getting on It’s a Small World, we scanned our cards at Mickey’s PhilharMagic show’s Fast Pass station. Scanning this allows you to skip ahead in line if you agree to just come back later. Our scan allowed us to skip ahead if we came back between 6:30 and 7:30, which worked out well. The show itself was a pretty neat production of many different Disney shows from the past 25 years all made into a 3-d show with smell-o-vision and water effects. If you’ve been to the SpongeBob 4-d adventure at Noah’s Ark, it’s pretty much the same thing, but with Disney characters.
At last, Ethan told us he wanted to go to the Buzz Lightyear ride, so we walked over to Tomorrowland and scanned our cards at the Fast Pass station. While we waited, we decided to go to Stitch’s Great Escape which only had a 10 minute wait. I was unable to go on the ride since I was carrying Quin (using a Snugli infant carrier, which worked very well), but Ethan, Jenny, mom, and dad all went on it. I was concerned since the brochure said it could scare young children. I’m sure they meant three year olds, but I had a feeling it might be a problem for Ethan as well. Sure enough, Jenny informed me that they had somewhat of an episode getting Ethan to actually go into the ride when it finally got down to it. It was another one in the same vein as the PhilharMagic ride, but in smaller vessels. He did end up going on the ride, but it wasn’t without its drama.
We decided to grab one more quick service meal, since we were unable to obtain reservations for a table service meal, before we tried to go on the Buzz Lightyear ride. After eating, though, we were all pretty beat, so we left the Magic Kingdom just minutes before the fireworks started and headed back to the resort.
At this point, we are all pretty beat. We’re going to rest up and prepare for another big day tomorrow.
Epcot stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.