When we bought our DVC resale it came with points that needed to be used by 1/31/2012. Instead of just letting them go to waste Mr. T and I decided to seize the opportunity and took a 3 day/2 night trip down to WDW. We had not been back since our fantastic honeymoon in 2008. I had been angling for a return trip for some time now but the cost seemed exorbitant (I think our 9 day trip to France was less than one of the 4 day trips I had priced!) and so 3 years slipped by without laying eyes on Cinderella’s Castle.
We used previously canceled flights on Southwest to fund our plane tickets down and back. Since it was going to be a short jaunt we booked the “Oh, wow, it’s not even light out!” flight down and the last flight of the evening coming back. We also decided to rent a car because Magical Express would eat about 5 hours we figured of our vacation that was only about 50 hours long. I used my new favorite car rental site to book (www.autoslash.com) and wound up paying $10 per day INCLUDING all taxes and fees by the time auto slash did it’s magic.
So at “too early in the morning” we got up and left for the airport. I had packed almonds, an apple, and blueberry muffins for us to eat when we were hungry to go with the coffee we would purchase at the airport. We lucked out and caught the airport shuttle right off (in fact, Mr. T hadn’t even parked the car yet!) and made it to the Southwest counter in good time. I was dumbfounded by the rudeness of the Southwest employees who were assisting us! Maybe they were both having a rough morning as I had never experienced that kind of attitude from that airline’s personnel before. In fact, I love to fly Southwest because of the cheer and enthusiasm of everyone from the pilots, to the attendants, down to the baggage handlers. They were so rude I almost lost it and cried. (As I thanked them for their help Mr. T said, “You don’t need to thank them they were rude and awful to you!”) But security was a breeze and we made it to the gate with time to get coffee! Yay!
Mr. T handed over his wallet and I went with AU down to the terminal Starbucks while he waited with the luggage. When I returned both Mr. T and I sat and sipped and tried to wake up more. AU was still in her pajamas and so Mr. T took her into the bathroom to change her diaper and put on her clothes for the day. While he was gone boarding began. I was a little panicked to say the least! I asked if the gate attendant could watch my bags while I ran down to holler into the bathroom that the plane was boarding as I didn’t think Mr. T would be able to hear the gate announcement. The gate agent said no which I understood. I tried to gather up the carseat, stroller, diaper bag, 2 coffees, and 2 bags we were hauling to get in line. I failed. Mr. T didn’t turn up. A second gate agent appeared who was a man and I asked him if he would go into the bathroom and tell Mr. T to come on. He wouldn’t but the first gate agent said she would help me onto the plane. I said, “I don’t want to leave without my husband and child.” She said it would all be fine. So, I loaded down and she helped some and we boarded the plane. I left Mr. T and AU’s boarding passes at the check-in podium and hoped for the best.
I was on the plane, installing the carseat to keep myself busy, and on walked Mr. T and AU. Relief! We buckled AU in and took our seats. I told Mr. T I was worried he was going to be left. He asked for his wallet back. I realized I had no.idea.where.it.was. None! I flew out of my seat and said to the closest flight attendant, “I think I left my husbands wallet at the gate!” He said, “Well, you better go get it!” Off I dashed running back to the gate. I checked where we had been seated to no avail. I asked the attendant who had helped me on to the plane if a wallet had been turned in. Nope. She said she would go down to Starbucks to check there and that I should get back on the plane. So, I got back on the plane absolutely mortified that I had lost Mr. T’s wallet. I apologized to him profusely and said that when we got to Orlando I would stay in the room calling to cancel cards and such while he and AU went out to the parks to have vacation. Then! It struck! His wallet was between the folds of the stroller’s sunshade! The stroller was just under the plane. The sunshade never unfurls unnecessarily! The wallet would be fine! I explained to Mr. T that having purchased coffee I stashed the wallet there, safely out of sight, so that I’d have enough hands to carry the coffee. It was all going to be okay. He only razzed a little during the flight.
We arrived and horror! The umbrella was open and there was no wallet to be found. I was just turning to the ramp attendant to ask if he could help me when the luggage handler opened the door and said, “Did someone lose a wallet?” I actually hugged the guy while blathering my thanks. Lost wallet- found! Yahoo!
We proceeded to get our rental car and navigated our way to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas. It was a short 20 minute drive there until I missed our exit and we got lost. Thankfully, between Mr. T’s stellar navigating and Shirley, my phone’s GPS, after a brief 15 minute detour, we made it! I was not expecting to be able to check in since it was only 11am or so and check in isn’t until 4pm. Walt smiled on us though and our room was ready.
To say we were amazed by Animal Kingdom Lodge is an understatement. The lobby of Jambo House is grand and offers splendid views of the animals roaming the savanna. Our room was gorgeous and thematically perfect. We had a studio savanna room which provides a kitchenette, queen sized bed, bathroom, table and chairs, couch, and a gorgeous patio to observe the giraffes, zebra, various African antelopes and gazelles, birds, and cattle from. It was spectacular!
We were all hungry and decided to head over to the Magic Kingdom for lunch and rides. I was distracted, right off the bat, by the zero line to meet Mickey and Minnie and the Princesses. AU loved Minnie’s nose and refused to leave Princess Aurora. She actually cried! We also took the time to get AU her first set of ears (traditional font of course!) and had some more magic with free embroidery. We grabbed hot dogs at Casey’s and headed over to Fantasyland.
AU’s first ride on her first trip was Small World. She loved it! She clapped and cheered and looked around in amazement. It was awesome. We rode all the other Fantasyland rides with little to no waiting. It rained. We went over to Tommorowland and rode Space Mountain on child swap passes and no wait. Then we decided to get some dinner. Columbia Harbor was closed and The Plaza wasn’t taking walkups. We wound up leaving and heading over to Downtown Disney for dinner.
We ate at the cuban restaurant and it was ok. Actually, it was pretty good. We were hungry and between the three of us put away most of what we ordered! By this time AU was getting a little fussy (who knew that getting up at 5am and not napping would result in 8:30pm fussiness? ) so we skipped dessert and went back to the resort.
We decided to explore the pool and outdoor areas. The pool was nice and the hottubs seemed very inviting. We stumbled upon the “night vision animal viewing” and spent a few moments spying on the animals. We only found one lonely zebra but it was still fun! We decided to head back to the room and tuck in for the night.
There was a momentary issue when we couldn’t locate the room’s pack-n-play but a call from housekeeping helped us find it. (The call center guy suggested looking in the non-existant closet.) AU went down smoothly and Mr. T and I drifted off shortly thereafter.
We enjoyed our Main Street Bakery cinnamon roll and croissant with freshly brewed coffee, showered, watched the animals, and headed over to Disney Hollywood Studios for the day. We walked around a bit, watched a bit of a show/concert, checked the line for Toy Story Mania, saw the Muppet Show ride, and decided to go to our Mama Melrose ADR early.
I did not have high hopes for Mama Melrose’s. I was blown away. We had the antipasto platter, tomato and mozzarella “salad”, AU had the chicken parmigiano with minestrone soup and fruit, and Mr. T and I shared a delicious chicken pasta dish with carmelized onions, garlic, and spinach in a white wine cream sauce. Everything was just super tasty.
We went to get in line for Toy Story. The wait posted was 50 minutes but we only waited maybe 30 minutes. Luckily, AU crashed in the Ergo and napped. She missed seeing the ride but I didn’t have to take her out so she got in a good hour long nap. I’m blaming her being in the way for my 10,000 point loss to Mr. T though.
We went on the Great Movie ride which was fun. We ate a churro, a Mickey Bar, and a frozen banana for snack. We considered going to the Little Mermaid show but decided to head over to Old Key West and Saratoga Springs Resorts to do some fact finding. We liked Old Key West better than Saratoga Springs. Mr. T really like it! I thought it was okay. I liked Animal Kingdom and Wilderness Lodge better. We briefly discussed scouting Boardwalk and Beach Club but since we will be there in May decided not to take the time this trip.
Epcot was having insane extra hours–midnight! Now, I know there are those who go to Disney during really crowded times like Spring Break and Christmas who have seen the 3am hours but as low season travelers midnight seemed really, really late. We arrived at Epcot at sunset (Mr. T remarked that he loves Epcot at dusk! Awww.) and made our way over to Soarin. Amazingly, there were fast passes available so we plucked two and headed over to the ferry to Germany.
We had ADRs at the Biergarten and were both looking forward to a delicious German meal. We were early but were seated easily and the band was playing (it was disappointing that the band only plays for 25 minutes of each hour we love polka music and were really looking forward to a wild rumpus of a time). Our waitress took our drink order and we made our way to the buffet. When we returned our table companions had been seated. It appeared to be a family group and the waitress exclaimed with surprise when the “grandfather” of the group spoke to her in fluent German. As we ate I realized that the group wasn’t speaking German. It sounded like a cross between Spanish and another romance language. So, at a pause in their conversation I ventured a guess, “Are you from Brazil?” They were! That was really the only conversation we had unfortunately. After dinner, Mr. T and I wondered if the “grandfather” wasn’t the child of a war crimes fleeing Nazi. Have to say, that’s the first time I’ve wondered that about someone.
Mr. T and AU took a couple of spins around the polka dance floor before we left. We walked back through the World Showcase and over to the Land building. The posted wait for Soarin? 10 minutes. I didn’t wait that long. Loved it! I could have ridden it again and again. Mr. T took his turn and AU and I spoke with a cast member about the President’s speech. I feel bad for him. Calling WDW “Disneyland” seems like a huge error! Mr. T had a good time on Soarin’. We rode the Living with the Land ride. AU was feeling especially cuddly and seemed to enjoy it. It was getting late then so we headed back to Animal Kingdom Villas.
Back at the villas AU was conked out in her stroller so Mr. T and I put on our swimming suits and strolled AU down to the hot tub. As I was getting in the gorgeously landscaped hot tub, AU woke up. Mr. T tended her and I soaked. It was lovely and dissolved all the muscle discomfort from the previous days and weeks. It was time to get to bed since it was nearing midnight and we had Kona Cafe ADRs for the next morning at 8:30am!
Needless to say the alarm sound came far too soon. We headed over to Polynesian and were seated shortly for our breakfast. We tried a little bit of everything and it was just okay. We wound up with the regular Kona blend coffee instead of the 100% Kona french press pot we had been dreaming of which was disappointing. Kona had been on our “must do” list for this trip but I think we will cancel the reservation for our next trip. It just wasn’t worth the price or the hassle. Too bad.
After breakfast we returned to the room to pack up and sadly check out. While I was doing that, Mr. T had a massage. He said it was good. AU and I packed up and were blessed with a little more Disney magic when our request to check out at 11:40 instead of 11am was okayed. She and I spent the remaining time hanging out on the balcony. She pushed the patio furniture ottoman back and forth on the balcony. These were her first “walking” steps without holding hands. We enjoyed watching the giraffes, zebras, and antelopes eat and play.
Mr. T returned from his massage and we said goodbye to our first villa stay. We made the incredibly short trip over to Animal Kingdom park. We had lunch at the counter service portion of Yak and Yetti (so yum!) and road the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. Then we passed on riding Expedition Everest in favor of the family friendly Festival of the Lion King show. It was fantastic! AU really enjoyed it and so did I!
It was then time to return the rental car and fly home. We barely made our return flight because I didn’t get the time right. It was stressful and we both lost our cool but we had a photo finish and a smooth flight. Mr. T and I agreed that although it was very short trip it truly felt like a vacation. We cannot wait to go back!