Thursday, January 31, 2008

Planes, Trains and Buses...and RESORTS!

Obviously, from reading yesterday's post, you are aware that we got up at 3:30 a.m. to leave our house by 4:20 to make it to airport by 5:30 a.m for a 7:00 a.m. flight to get to Orlando. I had ANTICIPATED Beth would sleep all the way to the airport- NOPE - not one wink! The Airport at 5:30 a.m. was a breeze and there were no problems with anything. We checked our luggage - not to be seen again until is "magically" showed up in our resort room! We were up and away at 7:00 a.m.! We landed in Orlando just about 9:15 a.m. and headed to the Disney Magical Express Counter...the furthest possible point from our arrival gate! Hehehe! The Disney experience started here and never stopped! We were checked in quickly and sent to a line (the first of MANY) to await our bus to Pop Century. We were then put on a nice motorcoach bus for our 30 minute ride to Pop Century. Beth was bouncing off the walls, but a 25 minute Disney introduction video kept her content until we rolled into Pop Century.

Pop Century in one of the 4 Disney "Value" Resorts. It is comparable to a Best Western or Days Inn. It has 10 4-story buildings, 3 pools, one archade, one Disney store, one Food Court and 2,880 rooms! That is A LOT of people! Pop Century Resort represents 5 different decades in teh 20th century - the 50's, 60's, 70's (where we stayed), '80's and the '90's.
Each building is decorated to fit its decade. For example- our staircases were giant 8-tracks. The 80's building had giant rubix cubes. The '60's building had giant yo-yos.

Our room was small with 2 full sized beds. The maids had left a cute little animal made out of washcloths.
Each day, she decorated our window with Beth's toys and books and balloons.
That was fun to walk up and down the hotel and see all the different decorated windows. BUT...the place is HUGE. There is A LOT of walking involved to go anywhere- to get to the bus stop, the food court, the store......too much walking. But I'm guessing ALL the resorts are that way. What I didn't like was that the place was such a ZOO! We figured at full capacity, they can have over 11,000 people. The food court wasn't even worth entering in the morning. We just took our own b'fast foods, which was a very smart decision on our part. We bought 2 refillable mugs, so I would run down and fill those up in the morning (no line to stand in for that!). Next time I will bring disposable cups to pour my coffee into, so I don't have to lug that big cup around all day. Its only re-fillable at the resort, not the Parks. The Bus stops were all out front and clearly marked, so you knew which bus to get on to go to whatever park you where headed to. My main beef was that at Magic Kingdom (MK) and Epcot, the Pop Century stop was LAST. And the longest. And after a long day at the MK, the last thing you want to see is your bus stop about 4 more blocks away with a LONG LONG LINE! Its probably for that reason alone I won't stay there again. When I'm ready to go home...I'm ready to go right then...not 45 minutes to an hour later!

When you make reservations at a "value" resort for the cheap price, you do know that the rooms are small. But my thinking was that we would only be there to sleep, so who cares what the room was like. I said above, you are getting more than a "small room" for your cheap price. You are getting long lines and far away bus stops. You are getting a hotel that resembles a ZOO and is VERY VERY crowded. You are getting a small room and small beds, that honestly, aren't that comfy. And if you can't sleep with really puffy pillows- bring your own. I like flat pillows and my neck hurt all week from the big pillows! Next time, we will probably go the moderate or even save up and stay in a deluxe. The conveniences that come with the "room" are worth it to me.

Speaking of "deluxe" resorts, we had the opportunity to check out three of them- The Contemporary, The Grand Floridian and The Wilderness Lodge. All three were AWESOME! The Grand Floridian was my favorite, though! These were taken inside the Grand Floridian - you can't really see the resort very well, but you can get a gist of the decorations!

The monorail makes stops at The Contemporary and The Grand Floridian. The Wilderness Lodge can be reached by bus or boat (from MK). The convenience of the monorail might be worth the big bucks to me next time! Honestly, I cannot begin to explain how nice this form of transportation was!! The Wilderness Lodge had a "ski lodge" feel. We talked to the conciege and she told us a little about it and gave us a 2008 rate sheet. Yep - we'll definitely have to save lots of money to stay at a delux - $250 during the "value" season! But again...I say...probably worth every penny! The rates are the same for all the deluxe resorts and I will TRY hard to talk everyone into The Grand Floridian. The monorail also stops at the Polynesian, which looks AWESOME, too, but we didnt' get a chance to check it out. We also made a stop to the "moderate" resort Port Orleans Riverside and took the water taxi from there to Downtown Disney. It was dark so we didn't see a lot, but it looked gorgeous! We did see the food court (just like the Pop one), but they also have at least one (maybe 2) actual restaurants on site. Its VERY spread out...and for this reason...very quiet! NICE! There were 4 bus stops for people staying at Port Orleans - each at a different location on the property. I'm not sure how that works, though....if a bus gets full at stop #1, would it continue on to the other three stops? If we stay there, I'll have to call them to ask.

As you can tell, I am very opinionated about Disney transportation. But it was so nice to just sit back and let someone else drive. Plus, I would have gotten lost in a heartbeat! Beth loved the buses during the day, but at night when they were crowded and hot and she couldn't see where she was going, she got a little motion sick. So we tried our hardest to get on first and get a front seat! Its also really hard to count on someone else to get you where you need to be on for dinner reservations. We finally figured out that we had to be walking out our resort room at least 45 minutes prior to any reservation! It would take that long to get anywhere!

Beth never got the chance to ride with the "pilot" of the monorail. We asked several times, but there was usually a line of other kids who wanted to do the same...and we didn't have time to wait. I think next time we are there we will MAKE time to let the girls to do this!

Disney Magical Express sent us a letter the day before we left letting us know what time we (and our luggage) had to be on the bus to the airport. We had a 5:30 p.m. flight and the buses will typically leave 3 hours before your flight. (so if you don't want to leave before 9 a.m in the moring, don't book a flight before noon!) We left Pop Century at 2:30. We were able to put our luggage at the Bell Services while were enjoyed the parks that morning and we retrieved it when we got back, in order to put it on the bus. We flew Southwest, which is NOT a Disney partner, so we were not able to check our luggage at the baggage check right there at Pop Century, but it really wasn't that bad. Also - if flying Southwest, you CAN check-in to get your boarding passes at the conciege desk - they will print them for you! Off we went on another Disney Magical Express bus for another 30 minute ride, which did include another 20-25 minute video! Beth loved the Orlando airport fountain and Disney store!

It took almost 30 minutes to get through security...enough time to grab dinner and wait at our gate for about 30 minutes! Then we were up and away back HOME!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What we learned at Disney...and more....

I have MORE Disney updates and information and pictures than I can POSSIBLY begin to post in one day, so I'll do a 7-part series! Today will be "What I learned at Disney" -by that I really mean, what I'll do differently next time and other tidbits! Over the course of the next week, I'll write about the following:

1) What I learned from 5 days at Disney (to be discussed more in #2-#7)
2) Resorts & Transportation
3) Disney Princesses 101
4) Disney Dining: A Review of the Dining Plan and Park restaurants
5) Character Meals & The Bippity Boppity Boutique
6) A Closer look at The Magic Kingdom and Epcot
7) A Closer look at Animal Kingdom and The Disney Studios

What I learned from 5 Days at Disney:
1. that Beth snores!
2. that its MUCH better to arrive the EVENING of your first day. Stay in and eat dinner at your hotel or go to Downtown Disney. DO not attempt a Park the first day (especially if you got up to go the airport at 3:30 a.m.). Go to bed EARLY that night- you will need it!
3. Play in the parks for 2 days then take a FULL DAY off! Sleep late, eat a late b'fast, explore a resort you aren't staying in, go swimming, order pizza to your room...RELAX.
4. Play for 2 more days and then leave the morning of the 6th day. (or not before NOON if utilizing Disney's Magical Express...more to come on that.) So in other words - arrive late Sunday afternoon. Play Monday and Tuesday. Take Wednesday off. Play Thursday and Friday. Come home Saturday mid-day. REST AT YOUR HOME ALL DAY SUNDAY!
5. My family cannot all sleep WELL in the same room.
6. There is such a thing as TOO MANY character meals.
7. There absolutely IS such a thing at TOO MUCH FOOD!
8. Be ready for long lines...mostly at bus stops...and Park rides...and restaurants!
9. That your child will need to go potty at the most inconvient times!
10. Use the "sports" option on your camera or you will miss half the good photos.
11. Utilize the Disney PhotoPass Service to get pictures of your entire family together.
12. Just KNOW you are NOT going to see it all. Its impossible.
13. I learned that my child is just like all the other 4 1/2 year olds of the world. Cranky and disagreeable when she's tired. I witnessed MANY MANY MANY cranky, overtired 4 1/2 year olds.
14. That, honestly, any younger than 3 1/2 or 4 is really too early to go to Disney World. Its too much WORK for mom and dad. Folks- if you think Disney is a VACATION, you are WRONG. Disney World is WORK and EXERCISE and lots of it. Late nights and short naps make for tired and cranky kids and parents.
15. As much as I didn't want to have to discipline Beth while at the Parks, sometimes it was absolutely necessary to lay down the law.
16. Your kids WILL completely freak out about certain Peter Pan. Yep - she was scared to death of the THOUGHT of the crocodile. Now, mind you, the actual ride she loved once she was on it! We didn't even ATTEMPT the Haunted Mansion. However, she LOVED Space Mountain. WHO KNEW!!?!
17. I learned that even 4 1/2 year olds still need their stollers every now and then. $10 bucks later for a stroller rental, she was a much happier child...and Bob's shoulders were happy, too!
18. I learned that I will need at least 3 years to get up enough energy to do this again!
19. I learned that its entirely possible to completely fall in love with Disney World all over again as an adult...and watching the magic through the eyes of my own daughter is awesome!
20. I learned that Princess Belle is a UK Student! hehehe!!

21. That your child will immediately want to get off every single ride and do it again! Esepcailly ITS A SMALL WORLD, DUMBO, the TEA CUPS and other incredibly annoying rides!
22. that its never too cold to swim....for some people. (NOT US!)
23. That January in Orlando can be CHILLY!!! And that it never fails it will be prettiest day of your entire trip the day you have to leave.
24. Your children will beg and whine and complain...even at Disney World.
25. You have completely no idea how unbelievably tired you and your kids will be after your "vacation."

Resorts and Transportation.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

TOODLES! (insert - me waving good-bye!)

We're outa here at the crack of dawn tomorrow! I WAS packed and ready and then Orlando had to go and change their forecast to MUCH cooler than originally anticpated, so I'll be RE-PACKING this afternoon. Oh well- 69 degrees is STILL warmer than the 17 degrees outside right now in our little part of KY.

We told Beth yesterday - not quite the overjoyed reaction I had been dreaming of, but nevertheless, she IS very excited. The BIGGEST reaction she had was when my parents came over to talk to her about it last night! You would have thought she was telling them she was getting to go to the moon, although I'm sure the moon would be no where near as exciting as Disney World! She is super excited about seeing the Wishes Fireworks at Magic Kingdom. And strangely VERY EXCITED about hugging Goofy at dinner tomorrow night. Really? Goofy? Hum... (truth is....I am too!!!) And she is thrilled at the idea of meeting the "real" princesses!!

I bought a new memory card for my camera. My old card only held about 50-60 photos and I don't think that will cut it at WDW. I'll be bombarding you all with an overload of pic's when we get back! YEAH!!

Friday, January 18, 2008

My Apologies and Random Disney Stuff

I apologize for the lack of anything interesting to blog about! My life is consumed right now with Disney plans and other ordinary day-to-day stuff that I know you all really could care less about!

Speaking of Disney - does my above ticker really say 7 days? YEP!!! One week from today we'll be in Disney! I swear, half of the fun of going is the planning. I've read and researched and read some more! I have LOVED and, as well as for all my planning, but really, is my fave! I chose the dates we are going based on that site, alone. I have an expandable file ready to be packed in my carryone luggage, that included hotel and airline reservations; Magic Express transsportation info and luggage tags; dining info, which includes all our reservations times and confirm. #'s and maps to all the places where we have reseravtions and other print outs of fun stuff that I pulled off the internet, like the "cheapest" places to eat in the park, how to "share" meals, the best hotdog in the Magic Kingdom and other fun facts; our Disney Rewards Card info (from Chase Credit cards - we've earned $160 Disney Reward dollars); maps and park hours/extra magic hours; and random stuff, like a heighth chart for the rides Beth can/can't ride, as well as all the Bippity Boppity Boutiqe info! I have already bought glow-in-the-dark neclaces for $1.50 at the local party store, to have on hand for nighttime (to avoid the price tag of $7 per necklace in the park!)and I have already bought several souviner T-shirt/sweatshirts from when the Disney Store had their after-Christmas clearance. Most of it is being packed and will be brought out one by one as surprises for Beth! I still need to sneak her Cinderella dress out of her dress-up clothes box and iron it, so its ready for her dinner with Cinderella! YEAH!

We are going to tell her next Wednesday. That way, she can enjoy 1 1/2 days of prep time and telling her friends and I won't have to try to figure out how to hide two HUGE suitcases from her! I still have a few things to gum for the plane! Did you know they don't sell gum ANYWHERE on the Disney properties?

I'm SOOO ready! Now I can start talking in terms of "days" till we leave, instead of weeks! YEAH!!!!!

Monday, January 14, 2008

"Sick" of being a "single mom"

Bob has worked 10-12 hour days EVERY day since Jan. 2. Big audit at work TODAY. So, I've basically been a single mom for 2 weeks and I'm HATING it. Sarah is sick and I'm sick...just that winter "cold" I guess and its just hanging around, which makes things worse. Beth has managed to not get it, but did get poked in the eye last night by her little sister, and managed to cry and whine about that for SEVERAL hours and Sarah's speed was set on "go fast" so between listening to Beth scream and chasing Sarah, I had such a bad headache last night that my head was pulsating! I layed in a dark room with a cold compress on my head for a long time! ho hum....
No new pictures to share for obvious reasons stated above...and my memory card is still full of Christmas pictures.
11 days and counting to Disney! I'll have LOTS of pictures after that! :-)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Movie Review

Bob and RARELY get to go to the movies anymore, but ever since I saw the previews for the new National Treasure movie, I knew I had to see it! I love those treasure hunting "type" movies, like Da Vinci Code and the first National Treasure movie. So, at 4:00 yesterday, we dropped off the girls at Grammy and Dandaddy's house and off we went. We paid our $11.50 per 2 diet Cokes and a large popcorn (can you say highway robbery?!?) and waited through 20 minutes of previews...mostly bad previews, although Horton Hears a Who, coming out next summer, looks like a cute kids movie!

National Treasure #2 was great! It was EXACTLY like the first one - action packed and it kept you wondering and guessing what was around every turn and what each clue meant, although it didn't seem like there was as MANY clues in this movie as there were in the first! If you liked the first one, you will like this one. And they left it WIDE OPEN for a third one, so yeah! It had a few things in it that really leave you wondering "I wonder if that is really true?"

It will win no Oscars, by any means, but if you need a movie to be drawn into for about 2 hours, go see it! If you really WANT to see it - don't want for the DVD. The effects/scenery will not be the same on a TV.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Hello 2008! Back to normal....

Our New Years Eve was completely uneventful, just the way I like it. Bob and I took advantage of daycare being open. We dropped the girls off that morning and then we headed to Nashville for a little shopping and time together. It was nice. I, of course, ended up getting more stuff for the girls then for me, but oh well! Hartstrings had a great sale, what can I say! We ate at Tony Romas, which was yummy...spicy, but yummy! We picked up the girls around 4:30 and watched the last half of the Music City Bowl....YEAH UK WILDCATS! We had casserole for dinner and everyone went to bed at normal times. No big parties here. No kisses at midnight....hum..... New Years Day was spent cleaning and orgazining our bedroom closets and getting stuff ready for Kids Closet coming up in February! Sounds fun, huh? I bet Bob got rid of HALF the things in his closet/drawers that he hasn't worn in a WHILE. I need to call a consignment store....there are far too many nice things in his "give away" pile to go to Goodwill.

I hate to say I'm thankful that the holidays are over, because I'm NOT, but I like the fact that everything will return to "normal" now. Normal schedules, normal school hours, normal FOOD and normal clothes! I've packed away all the Christmas clothing and put them in the top of my closet, mainly because Beth still wanted to wear her "I LOVE SANTA" shirt....eerrr..... Nursery School started back today and Gymnastics starts back today (THANK GOODNESS!). Although its been nice to have two 4-day weekends back-to-back, I think we were all starting to drive each other crazy being stuck in the house together! :-)

I am also back to not eating like crap all day long, like I did the month of December. When all you have surrounding you for a month are cookies, candy, rich foods, chips/dips, etc....its hard to NOT gain 5 lbs or so...and I did. I'm trying to get into my "healthy" routine again and MAY start counting WW points next week. I need to lose 10 lbs (don't we all?). The problem with starting to acutally count points NOW is that in 3 weeks we leave for Disney and I REFUSE to do that while on vacation. I think I'll just focus on portions, drinking more water, not snacking on things I know I shouldn't be eating......we'll see how that goes for a while!

Speaking of the Disney trip...we leave in 22 days! WOO HOO! Bob and I are kicking around the idea of not telling Beth until we GET TO ORLANDO! What do you think? We would just tell her that we are taking her on a trip and leave it at that till be got to Florida! Or, we are thinking of telling her a few days before we leave, so she has time to be excited and talk to her friends, and we have time to prepare her for the experience, etc....I think there is a little bit of magic either way. I think there are pros/cons to both, too. The more I think about it, the more I'm leaning towards NOT telling her till be get there!!! FUN!

Happy New Year Everyone! May 2008 be filled with lots of Great things for you & your family!! :-)