Monday, February 25, 2019

Disney/Universal Spring 2019

Day 1 - Thursday - Fly to Orlando  

This afternoon we flew to Orlando.  We used United's new Basic Economy for most of our tickets. For those who haven’t experienced this new class of service, be forewarned- it’s like they took the Spirit/Frontier business model and said, “Let’s see what we can do to make it even worse.”  They won’t even let you pay to bring a carry-on bag!  We had two tickets that we used miles for, so those were regular Economy, otherwise this wouldn’t have worked for us.  Honestly, some airline should just go back to the old way of doing things. They should offer free seat selection, free checked bags, reasonably comfortable seats, maybe even bring us some trays of airline food.   I think they would be very popular.

I came up with a new slogan for United - "It's the least we can do!"

Jacob and Zachary conspiring
Our kids are super awesome travelers! They've all traveled frequently their whole lives. Zoe (7) was the keeper of the backpack on this trip. The backpack holds all of their tablets, chargers, and headphones/earphones to keep everyone entertained on the plane.

On our way to get our rental van!

 We rented a car from Fox Rent A Car.  I wouldn't book an offsite car rental again, and the wait to check out at the car rental place was about 30 minutes (even though it was 10:30pm), but otherwise they were friendly enough and the car is in good condition.

While we were waiting to get our rental van, I looked up the company online. They had poor reviews and maybe 2/5 stars. I'm glad our experience was better than I read about, but I second Marc's thoughts about never using an offsite rental car in Orlando again.

Two Bedroom Unit at Marriott Cypress Harbour Resort
We are starting our trip at Universal Orlando and this time we decided to stay off site.  Marriott had a great deal for a 2 bedroom unit not too far away at Marriott's Cypress Harbour as long as you attend their 90 minute timeshare presentation.  We decided it was worth it in order to get a 2 bedroom instead of staying in two rooms somewhere else.

We're very happy with the room.  It is modern and in excellent condition.  Plenty of room for our family.

Full kitchen

Living room with fold out couch and door out to screened in balcony
Master Bedroom
The master bedroom was big but the bed was a bit hard and the bathroom was very 1990's. It's a good thing that Marc is a hard sleeper so that my getting up early and using lights didn't bother him.

Kids' Bedroom
with pull out couch
and 2nd bathroom

The view from my balcony is directly proportional to my satisfaction
with a resort/hotel. I loved that the porch was screened in and I could watch
the sunrise! 
Day 2 - Friday - Pool and Universal

Today we slept in and then spent the midday at the pool.

We knew we'd be tired after a late arrival yesterday, so the plan today was to sleep in, go out to breakfast, get groceries, then go to Universal. Looking at the weather forecast though, it became a priority to get some pool time while we had the chance! It's been a TOUGH winter at home, so we needed the sun and warmth!

A little nature on the steps
Looking online, I selected Keke's Restaurant. It ended up being just okay and overpriced. The pictures look good though.

The kids liked the waxy bendy things they were given to play with while waiting

Stuffed French Toast - tasted liked canned pie filling- disappointing

The resort has three pools.  We checked out two of them which are on either side of a small lake and connected by a bridge.  Both pools were nice and there were a lot of people using them.  Plenty of room though and didn't have trouble finding deck chairs.

In the lake we saw lots of turtles and some fish and a couple of snakes swimming.  That was kind of gross, but at least they weren't in the pool!  We did get a little sunburned - but not too badly.

The resort gave us a $50 gift card when we checked in. I guess this was part of our deal too. So, we bought a couple of drinks at the bar by the pool and another day bought the kids some ice cream treats and me some coffee at the little store on property.

We headed to Universal for the evening.

It's nearly Mardi Gras so Universal Studios had a "Bourbon Street" set up with food and drink stands that opened at 4pm. We shared a few snacks.

Beignets and Ki

We went on a couple of rides, watched the Mardi Gras parade, and planned on eating dinner in the park after that.  But, even though the park was still open for another 90 minutes, the restaurants all closed!  We found this out by running around the park with the false hope (given by the previous restaurant) that a different area of restaurants would be open.

The parade was nice. We got to stand in an Annual Passholders reserved area. We were directly in front of the gate that the floats come out of. It was easy to see everything, but it was the worst place to be to catch beads. The floats turned away from us and even if someone tried to toss beads our way it was just too far. Meanwhile the kids just to the other side of us had lots and lots of beads.

We went on the Men in Black ride which was only running one side and took much longer than expected and then watched the end of day show call something like "CineMagic" .  It was kind of good.  It used water projection, fireworks and projections on some of the surrounding buildings to play clips of movies that are represented in the park - like Fast and Furious, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, Despicable Me, etc.  Certainly worth seeing once.

After the show, we went to the food court in City Walk and had Panda Express and Burger King.  The lines were super long of course since everyone left at once, but it was fine.  We got Voodoo Doughnuts for dessert and breakfast!

Day 3 - Saturday - Universal
Always mixing work with pleasure

This morning Kyrie met with a student from a nearby Chiropractic College at breakfast time and then Kyrie and I went to the timeshare presentation after that.  We've been to these before and are used to the sales tactics.  We knew we had no interest in buying and we didn't have much trouble convincing them of that when the time came, but it definitely took all of the 90 minutes that they said it would.  Not a bad trade off for the room though.

We were thinking of going to a water park today, but our sunburns made us a little hesitant, not wanting to make them worse, we decided to head back to Universal instead.  It was pretty busy there.  It's Saturday, plus they have some big cheerleading competition going on.  So most things were at least a 30 minute wait and an hour for the most popular rides.  We still had a good time, but we didn't do that much.  

We had dinner tonight at Antojito's in Citywalk which is really good Mexican food.

Coconut Mojito

Max brought his own meal in from next door



Day 4 - Sunday - Universal and Blizzard Beach
Breakfast on the balcony

We went to early entry at Universal today and went on several rides at both Universal parks.  Seven year old Zoe had her first rides on Rip Ride Rocket and Dr. Doom's Fearfall and loved them both.  She is quite courageous!

The theming at Universal is at its best in Harry Potter's Diagon Alley. There's not much open during early entry, so we had plenty of time to look around with barely any crowd.

Islands of Adventure has some pretty great rides. We rode most of them with very little waiting.

Keeping our eyes on the weather, we see colder days coming up. That's one reason we wanted to go to a water park today!

First, we had lunch at Chicken Guy in Disney Springs.  I didn't like it that much.

It was very busy and tough to find a place to sit except in the sun.

What's not to like about fried pickles, fried chicken, and french fries though? It was fine but not outstanding. It does not live up to the price or the hype. 

We spent the rest of the afternoon at Blizzard Beach.  It was super busy here.  It's in the mid 80's and Disney has only one water park open in the winter, so this created a lot of crowds.
Yay! We're at Disney! 

We had trouble finding a couple of chairs (mostly to create a base for our stuff and to find each other when the bigger kids went on their own), but otherwise the bigger crowds weren't really a problem.

Jacob and Max mostly went and did their own thing (slides) while the rest of us went to the junior area and lazy river.

We split a Sand Pail Sundae. It was vanilla and chocolate swirl soft serve ice cream mostly. Zach and Zoe appreciated the shovel and pail.

While trying to pick up Zach who wanted to be carried, Kyrie dropped her phone as we were leaving, and the screen shattered.  It was a bummer, but we found a place not too far away in the town of Celebration that could fix it while we went to dinner.

We had dinner at Village Inn.  They serve breakfast all day, so we had a good breakfast for dinner at more reasonable prices than most area restaurants.

Day 5 - Monday - Universal

Today was our last day at Universal.  We went on a lot of rides, saw the Monster Makeup Show and ate really expensive Krusty Burgers at the Simpsons food court.

Zachary hasn't wanted to ride Escape from Gringott's, but I bribed him with something this morning to ride it so we didn't have to take turns. He liked it of course, just like last trip. 

Personally,I think it's the best ride out of both parks!
Train Station to park hop to the Harry Potter section of Islands of Adventure

Transportation and themed ride in one

After the Harry Potter rides in both parks, we rode King Kong, The Fast and the Furious, Transformers, and maybe more before heading to The Simpsons area for lunch.

The Fast and Furious 

The kids had Krusty Burgers for lunch and Marc and I had Tacos from the truck. They look better than they tasted and as Marc indicated previously, they were expensive for the quality.

I have packed an Uncrustable sandwich (peanut butter and jelly sandwich that is frozen) and Goldfish crackers in our bag each day for Zach knowing that otherwise he'd order something and not eat it for lunch and dinner. This has worked very well! He's stayed satisfied and we've saved money.

We finally spent some time in the kiddie area.  Zoe, Jacob, and Marc left the rest of us here while they went off to ride Rip Ride Rockit rollercoaster.

Our "littles" are getting quite big and independent 

Zach loves looking through every store he sees and tries to spend his souvenir money over and over again. The Monster Make Up Show was pretty lame.

Here is everyone's favorites at Universal:
Marc - Forbidden Journey
Kyrie - Escape from Gringotts
Jacob - The Hulk
Max - The Mummy
Ella -  Escape from Gringotts
Zoe - Rip Ride Rocket
Zachary - Transformers

Kyrie would like to add that there are NOT enough good snacks at Universal and it was really annoying when all of the restaurants closed way too early. Universal definitely cannot compare to Disney with food or service!

We took a break back at the hotel before going to Pizzeria Uno for dinner.
We had a good idea what to expect here, but I guess I'm just not a fan of this place even though we're from "Chicago." (Really we live in the country outside the far west suburbs of Chicago.) It was expensive too.

Day 6 - Tuesday - Bay Lake Tower/Magic Kingdom

We switched hotels today to Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort.  It always feels good to arrive at Disney!
Universal was fun, but there's definitely something extra magical about Disney. We love being immersed in Disney!

I dropped off Kyrie and the kids at the resort, checked our luggage and left over groceries, then returned the rental van to the airport. Then I took Disney's Magical Express back to the Contemporary. The staff seemed confused to see me arrive again.

The kids and I walked to the Magic Kingdom. It's an easy five minute or so walk from the Contemporary. We arrived well before open and took our time (and some pictures) along the way.

Ella and Zoe got 1st Row on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train 
We stopped at Main Street Bakery, otherwise known as Starbuck's these days, first. We used our first "snack credit" on a Venti decaf Java Chip Frappuccino for the kids to split and I think I got my own iced latte that was not quite as foo foo and definitely caffeinated. (I'll explain "snack credit" later.)

Then we enjoyed our coffee while waiting for the rope to drop when the park officially opened. I miss the old opening song and train full of characters that used to arrive to open the park, but I like being able to stroll down Main Street and be much closer to Fantasyland with this new opening show at Cinderella's Castle!

Putting on scared faces for Haunted Mansion
We used our first Fast Pass on Space Mountain
Zach's "favorite ride"

Taking Selfies on the People Mover
Look who we spotted?!
They went on several rides and then we met up at the People Mover just in time to walk over to lunch at Liberty Tree Tavern.  

It was a super fun and flawless morning packed full of rides despite the fact that Ella and Zoe both forgot their Minnie Ears in the pocket of the Seven Dwarf's ride. We had to back track to recover them and it took about ten minutes of precious "no wait ride time."

We saw this parade in passing many days but never stopped to watch
I guess now is a good time to explain Disney's Deluxe Dining Plan. (DxDDP for short.) It includes 3 meal credits and 2 snack credits per person per night. Each meal credit includes an appetizer, an entree, a dessert, and an alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink or a buffet and drink. Everyone in your room must be on the dining plan. This would be WAY too much food and a poor value if all seven of us were on the dining plan. (That would be 21 meal credits and 14 snack credits per night of our trip!) 

What we did instead, is stayed in two rooms and only got the meal plan for the room with three people in it. (So we got 9 meal credits and 6 snack credits per night.) This was more than enough to share and an incredibly good value used this way! We generally ate two meals a day and some snacks.

I had the turkey pot pie which was good. The kids had smaller versions of it too.

This included appetizers-a cheese plate and brown bread and cheese dip and desserts. The Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake is always the star at this restaurant!

Apple Fritters
Caramel Apple Pie 

We spent some time on Tom Sawyer's Island.  We let Zach lead the way since he usually just has to go wherever we make him go and he loved that.

The kids had so much fun trying to scare each other in the caves.

We found out that one of Kyrie's friends and fellow chiropractors was at the park with her mom and daughter, so we met up with them for Dole Whip at Aloha Isle.  The kids all picked the new Hei Hei Cone based on the chicken in the Moana movie. Cute! And since we have a ton of snack credits to use, they each got their own- which NEVER happens in this family!

When we went on Big Thunder Mountain railroad, Zach and I got in our seats and Zach pushed down the safety bar.  Of course with me sitting next to him, the bar was snug on me, but left quite a gap for him.  He looked at it and said, "So, I guess I'll just hang on then." 

A rainy but beautiful Magic Kingdom
We left the park just before it started to rain, so we had good timing for a change.

"In fact, we've had good timing this whole part of the trip since Kyrie meticulously researches and plans our Disney trips for us- getting up early in the morning 6 months in advance for our dining reservations and 60 days in advance with a spreadsheet of our park days to get perfectly timed and popular fast passes." --is what I'm pretty sure Marc meant to say here. LOL! 

Zoe peeking out of the bathroom and Zach peeking out of the kitchenette
We had received text messages that our two studio rooms were ready and we proceeded straight to the rooms and accessed them with our Magic Bands. We had rooms directly across the hall from each other. Since Marc knows I enjoy my balcony time so much and just because he is so generous anyway, he let me choose which room I wanted. The girls and all of our clothes stayed in the room I chose too

My balcony view! I could see both  Epcot's and Hollywood Studios' fireworks and of course the monorail

We had dinner at The Wave - great food, not such great service (took forever) - and then headed back to the room for an early night.

Magic Kingdom Fireworks from the bridge Contemporary to Bay Lake Tower

We used 4 Deluxe Dining Credits here and paid for two kids meals. It was a ton of great food but as Marc indicated the service was way too slow. I still highly recommend The Wave.
Nighttime Balcony View

Day 7 -  Wednesday - Epcot
We are such a theme park family!

We spent the day at Epcot today.  We started with going on a rides with no wait between rope drop, a good plan, and fast passes, then we headed to breakfast with Chip and Dale at the Garden Grill.

The girls creating their Test Track vehicle

Boys creating their vehicle

We arrived before the 9am opening and they let people in a bit early as has been the trend at least since our trip last March. We were already in line for Test Track as the park officially opened.

We also rode The Seas with Nemo and Friends and Soarin' with Fast Passes before going to our late (10:30 breakfast.)

The Festival of Arts just wrapped up at Epcot and the Flower and Garden Festival starts in a few days. We picked the time in between the festivals to visit hoping for the lightest crowds. I love the topiaries and extra special landscaping they do for the Flower and Garden Festival which is mostly finished already.

Just the two of us on The Seas with Nemo and Friends ride

Breakfast at Garden Grill was fine, but it wasn't great.  The food was sticky buns, fruit, Mickey waffles, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and some potatoes.  Not sure if I missed anything, but that was pretty much it.  It was fine, but the lunch and dinner there is much better.  Zach really liked meeting the characters though.  Being the youngest, he missed out on a lot of that.

It took a long time to be seated because the tables that could accomodate seven were occupied. So we ended up being the last breakfast table seated. They brought out two pans of sticky buns and fruit bowls before even taking our drink order and Mickey showed up at the same time too. You could tell the buns had been sitting under a warmer for awhile because they had a hard texture on the outside. I'm sure they're better fresh. We were definitely rushed. Mickey and Chip were great. Dale was there and gone in a flash for his break-only posing for a quick pic with the little ones. We never did get to see Pluto- they told us we could pop in later when they were serving lunch and get our picture if we wanted. I'm sure this would have been a much better experience if we weren't the last table that they obviously wanted out of there to start serving lunch. If we paid the $304 in cash that this breakfast cost rather than 7 dining credits and a $50 tip- I would have complained. Everyone was nice enough though.

Chip noticed the boys were not interacting with him, so he motioned for them to stand up and pose for a picture anyway. It was funny!

We used our last pre-planned Fastpass at Spaceship Earth right after breakfast then used the My Disney Experience app to get a Fas pass for Journey into Imagination (the Figment ride.)

Our kids' favorite place in all of Epcot is the DVC Lounge above the Figment ride. There are free Coke Freestyle Machines and once in awhile the CMs come around and offer a free snack too. Not to mention the cartoons, charging stations, and video games. It must feel like home to them...but with junk food!

While we hung out here for a bit, I used the MDE app again to score more Fastpasses for Soarin'. Unfortunately on this ride, Zoe left her Minnie Ears in the storage bin below her seat and when we returned not long after, they were not found. 

In memory of Zoe's original ears. Here are the last pictures taken of them...
Surprise! We found this pic on Jacob's phone
We checked at the Lost and Found at the front of Epcot too as they instructed us to do. When they told us they did not have any turned in, the nice Cast Member gave Zoe a certificate for the current value of the Ears, so she could replace them. This made for a happy Zoe and Grandma Rita (who had purchased these for her on our trip last year!)

I would never expect Disney to do something like this of course, but I was not surprised as I've heard similar stories. I think it's great that they made a negative moment into a super positive experience!

Zoe immediately went into the gift shop and selected a new style of ears.

We always find Jacob's 5 mo old Picture from our first Family Trip
We received a call today from our handyman that our vacation home in Wisconsin had 4 feet of snow on the roof and recommended that we have it shoveled off.  Some roofs were collapsing because the town had gotten 60" of snow in February.

We spent a cool $700 on unexpected roof snow removal. Ouch!

Pin Trading
Monorail to T&T Center to get to The Grand Floridian Resort

We had dinner at the Grand Floridian Cafe which we always enjoy.

Dessert Fondue
Worms and Dirt- Kid's Dessert

Free cupcake for our Anniversary

"Dessert Sampler for Two"
Having the Deluxe Dining Plan encourages us to splurge on things we normally wouldn't like appetizers and cocktails. They are included except for the extra gratuity of course. It definitely makes it an even more luxurious vacation.

We basically spent 3-4 credits at most restaurants since splitting appetizers and even main entrees sometimes fed most of us and we paid out of pocket for kids meals since they are cheap, which let us spread out our credits for optimal value. We did use seven credits at character meals.

Dropping half our group off at Magic Kingdom and zooming by on the monorail

Marc, Jacob, Max, and Ella decided they wanted to go to Magic Kingdom and possibly stay for the late Extra Magic Hours tonight. They hopped off the monorail there. The Zs and I went back to Bay Lake Tower and enjoyed a little quiet time.

Day 8 - Thursday - Hollywood Studios
I enjoyed my coffee on the balcony literally watching he "World" come to life. It's so peaceful and yet so much action going on at the same time. Sidewalks being pressure washed, buses, monorails, and boats getting started, a few die hard runners on the paths.

Then I woke up the girls, and cleaned up the room as if Mousekeeping had come. I did the girls' hair as they ate their cereal and they had time left to trade pins when the boys started showing up for breakfast too.

This is the view from the boys' balcony

Our timing was perfect! We waited about 1 minute for the bus and arrived at Hollywood Studios before the park technically opened. I recall they had let people in quite awhile before opening time on our trip last Fall, and they did today too. We were able to spend a couple of snack credits on Starbucks again and walk leisurely over to Toy Story Midway Mania rather than rush to Slinky Dog Coaster like almost EVERYONE else! We got a quick ride and then went on Alien Saucers without waiting too.

We spent the morning at Hollywood Studios.  Went on Toy Story Midway Mania a couple times, saw the Dumbo preview that they were showing in the Walt Disney area, rode Star Tours, Rock n Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror.

"Snacks"-- Jack Jack's Cookie Num Nums and Frozen Coke 

Zach (age 5) has $11 of souvenir money that he saved up before our trip and all he wants to do is look through shops.  He pretty much can't afford anything, but that hasn't stopped him from shopping.

We left the park and had lunch at Big River Grill (at the Boardwalk resort).

Pin Trading at Rock 'n'  Roller Coaster

After a fun and efficient morning of rides we exited the park for an early lunch

There was no boat in sight, so we walked 10 minutes to the Boardwalk

Eating a meal outside of the park you're visiting or your own resort (with the exception of a resort on the monorail) takes too long! Walking to the Boardwalk to get to Big River Grille and then taking the bus from Boardwalk Inn to Magic Kingdom and walking to the Contemporary used up a LOT of our time today. I will try to remember this for future trips and avoid it! We'd rather be less choosy about where we eat and use this time at the pool!

Still enjoying the view from my balcony
Complimentary campfire toasted marshmallows at Bay Lake Tower

The kids enjoyed the games outside the pool area just about as much as they enjoyed the pool.

Day 9 - Friday - Magic Kingdom

Did I mention that I enjoy rising early and enjoying the peace and beautiful surroundings? This is my daily ritual whether I'm at home or away. I took a walk this morning. 

Back to Magic Kingdom today.  

Today was Early Extra Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom. We were ready and waiting again since it allows us to ride so much without waiting during precious park hours.  I used some of the waiting time to do the girls' hair.

Zach will try on any hat he sees!

The girls were really into pin trading this trip

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

So big and yet so little

Had lunch at the Plaza where everyone had way too many milkshakes.  The other food here is good also, but I doubt the rest of my family has any idea.

What?! They have "bottomless" milkshakes! You can even refill with different flavors.

We brought Zach to the Dumbo ride, but he had no intention of actually riding it.  He just wanted to play in the play area!

We could have stayed at Magic Kingdom all day today riding with no waiting! After using all of our scheduled Fastpasses, I was able to get one after another for more rides. We had tons of rides though and called it enough around 3 or 4 pm so we could get a little rest before dinner. No other day of the trip was as easy as this one was to obtain extra Fastpasses.

We ate at Grand Floridian Cafe for dinner again.  I don't remember how we ended up eating here twice, but it was still good!

I think we canceled a restaurant that we would have had to travel farther to and changed it to GFC, which we know is good and more convenient.

There was a glow party at the resort tonight.  Only Zach was really interested at first.  Zoe and Ella came along and eventually they joined in also.  It was pretty much like the pool games, but in the dark with glow sticks.  

Day 10 - Saturday - Magic Kingdom

Disney trips are awesome, exciting, and exhausting! So today was a planned "sleep in" day. But I'm an early riser no matter what, so what's better than coffee and a beautiful view on the balcony?  Disney cupcake and coffee and a beautiful view on the balcony! 

We started out at The Wave for a late morning buffet breakfast.  It was decent, but not remarkable.

We went to the pool for a while and then Zoe and I went to the community center because there was a project she wanted to do there.  I think they called it melty beads.  It was a Rapunzel thing and she had to put all of these tiny colored beads on a tray and then at the end they melt them together.  The one that Zoe picked was probably the biggest one they had and it took forever!  She ended up spending about 3 hours on it!  She definitely has patience!  She was delighted with her project when she was done.

The other kids came and went from the community hall also to play some games and Ella painted a fairy house.

While this was all going on, I received a call from my Mom.  She was checking on our house and found several inches of water in the basement.  Worse yet, when she called the water was still pouring in and she hadn't figured out where it was coming from!  Thankfully, with the help of our neighbors, she got the water turned off.  My awesome neighbors worked on finding a plumber and I called the insurance and a disaster recovery place.

3 HOURS later...!
It was very disconcerting to have all of this going on at home where I couldn't really do anything, but at least with everyone's help I could be sure that everything was being taken care of.

Window blew in and froze a nearby pipe in our basement

Flooded basement at home :-(

Kyrie and I had reservations at California Grill tonight to celebrate our 24th anniversary early.  So we picked up some dinner for the kids (I think they mostly ate cupcakes) and then Jacob babysat for us.  It was a nice dinner.  We had never been to the California Grill before.  They gave us a window seat and a glass of champagne for our anniversary.  It was a nice view of the Magic Kingdom.  Our reservation was early, but they invited us back to view the fireworks that night from the balcony.  It was nice, but still nothing like seeing the show in front of the castle!

It was a nice dinner.  We had never been to the California Grill before.  They gave us a window seat and a glass of champagne for our anniversary.  It was a nice view of Magic Kingdom.  Our reservation was early, but they invited us back to view the fireworks that night from the balcony.  It was nice, but still nothing like seeing the show in front of the castle!

Disney Vacation Club's Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary Resort

Magic Kingdom Fireworks viewed from the balcony at California Grill

Day 11 - Sunday - Hollywood Studios

Getting my money's worth out of my balcony!

We went to early Extra Magic Hours at Hollywood Studios.

This sea of people are heading to Slinky Dog Dash

It's kind of amazing how long the line is for Slinky Dog coaster.  It was over 2 hours soon after they opened the gates.  I'm surprised anyone waits that long.  We had a fastpass for it later in the morning, so we hit all the other rides instead.
Since Hollywood Studios is kind of a half day park these days (unless you spend half the day in line for Slinky Dog Coaster) we had done everything in time to make it to the Bon Voyage Breakfast at the Italian Restaurant (Trattoria al Forno) at Boardwalk.

Zach has already made plans (in his head) to do this on our next trip to Disney.

MuppetVision Theater

Back to Toy Story Land for our ride on Slinky Dog Dash

IncrediDad and I had a good time on the ride

Late Breakfast on the Boardwalk

There were some more characters there, so Zach liked getting his book signed (poor youngest child had to use his siblings left over autograph book from years ago!)

The food is delicious here and well themed too. We don't care about the characters too much, but the interaction is cute. This is my new favorite breakfast restaurant. (Dinner isn't with characters and it is has even better food- we know from previous trips.)

After lunch we split up with some going to the pool and the rest going to Epcot.  I was with the Epcot group.  We had fun on Test Track and Mission Space.  Then went to Club Cool to drink some weird flavors of soda from around the world.

For dinner we went to Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge.  Always a good time!

Max's soda "refill"

Zoe needed some ketchup for her fries.

We had an impromptu "Fireworks Cruise" on the boat back to Bay Lake Tower.

Day 12 - Monday - Animal Kingdom

We went to early entry at Animal Kingdom today.  We were quick enough to make it on Flight of Passage within about 20 minutes.

Underestimating the urgency to get immediately in line for the Navi River ride, we took a bathroom break and got a morning snack instead. 

By the time we got in line, so had everyone else who was already off of Flight of Passage. Max didn't get to ride it on our last trip, so we figured it was worth waiting in line.  It took about 45 minutes. 

Posers. These Mickey Bars are actually dog toys.
Once we finished the Pandora area, we walked to Dinoland USA. We took turns riding Primevil Whirl with child swap since Zach is too short. Marc and the big kids went on first, while I took the Zs on Triceratops Spin and then we tried to go to the Boneyard, but it wasn't opening until 10:00 am. We did a little window shopping and returned when it opened. 

Our kids LOVE the Boneyard play area, especially the dig site. It's just a gravel pit. But I guess it's cool and zen or something. It's always a priority for them. Marc and the big kids used our Expedition Everest Fast Passes, then Marc took over watching the Zs while Jacob and I went to Expedition Everest. We then met up at Tusker House for our late breakfast reservation.

We went to Donald's Safari Breakfast at Tusker House.  They were switching over to lunch soon after we got there, so that worked perfect for me since I'm not much of a breakfast person.

It's nice that Marc lives in this Magical World where things just seem to work out for him. I do think Disney is Magical, but in reality, it was me getting up early in the morning 6 months before our trip to reserve the latest breakfast here, knowing they would switch to lunch and we'd have both options to satisfy everyone! 

Our Fast Pass for Kilimajaro Safari were up next. As many times as we've been on this ride, it's a must do once each trip. 

They say Giraffes almost never sit down even when sleeping

Baby Elephant!

We ducked into Kusafiri Bakery to pick some treats just as a completely unanticipated and heavy rainstorm hit. It was over by the time we paid and left. Now THAT was Disney magic!

We left the park and the kids enjoyed their treats at the bus stop.
These treats were huge, so everyone had some to save for later too.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the hotel catching up on laundry, resting, and going to the pool.
For dinner we went to 'Ohana. 

 I usually like this place a lot, but maybe I was still too full from lunch!  Anyway, the food was still good.  I'm just shocked at how much these dinners would cost if we weren't on the dining plan.  This would have been $462.46 for the 7 of us!  The only reason this works for us is because we are sharing dining credits from one room and paying cash for the kids meals at the restaurants where kids meals cost about $10-$12.

We did use 7 credits here. Also, we let each kid order a specialty drink or Virgin cocktail, so that added a bunch into that total. Of course, it didn't cost us any extra except adding to the gratuity we paid.

Pin Trading and more shopping

Day 13 - Tuesday - Epcot World Showcase

Breakfast Cupcake
We slept in a little today, which worked out well because it was a little rainy and cold this morning.

Today was check out day at Bay Lake Tower and check in day Disney's Polynesian Resort and Villas.

Farewell pic-- I hope I get a good view at Poly

Our "stuff" checked and loaded to transfer to the Polynesian

We headed over to Epcot and spent the whole day there.  I don't think we went on any rides and we spent most of the time in the World Showcase which we hadn't spent much time on so far.  We did go on some rides, but the focus was World Showcase today. 

We used a lot of our snack credits, plus we had lunch at Tutto Italia and dinner at Chefs de France.

We had to be sure to use up our Dining and Snack Credits today from the first part of our stay. They expire at the end of this day. We did pay for the Dining Plan for the next part of our trip too, so we CAN use some of those if we need them too- but we HAVE to use the others first or they will be gone.

View of Epcot from the Monorail

The cast member here said, "I like all your Jellyfish costumes!" 

Zoe and I caught the boat to the other side of the lagoon, while the others walked and checked into Tutto Italia. This saved a little walking for us. My new shoes have been surprisingly comfortable but the body of the shoe is made of wool and I was trying to limit how much I walked in puddles. My toes are already wet and cold.

The weather cleared up by lunchtime and it turned out to be a nice day.

"Secret" banquet/conference building in between the UK and Canada

Do you ever wonder who the idiots are that choose the winners of America's Funniest Home Videos?  Well, today it was us!  They were recruiting people throughout the park to spend 15 minutes watching AFV clips and then choosing this year's winner.  I didn't think either video was that great compared to other videos I've seen, but it was fun to get to be a part of the voting.

They gave us free t-shirts

We checked into the Polynesian tonight. It's the one DVC hotel that we haven't stayed in yet and I'm really enjoying it so far.  We have connecting studio rooms which is much more convenient than being across the hall like we were at the last hotel.

The rooms are really nice and the resort grounds (torches and Hawaiian music) really make you feel like you are in Hawaii (except that it's about 50 degrees tonight).

This nice laundry room was just down the hall from us

Day 14 - Wednesday - 

Really enjoying this hotel!

Breakfast from Epcot's French Bakery that we picked up yesterday

My new morning and evening hangout

Not quite as good of view as I had at Bay Lake, but it was still peaceful and nice

We spent some time at Disney Springs today.  We had lunch at the Edison restaurant.  The food was interesting (bacon on a clothesline anyone?), but not really what we had in mind today.  The atmosphere was interesting and I thought the silent movies that were playing on several of the walls were really cool!

The Edison

Cap't Hook eating a pretend Mickey Pretzel- the CM set it up

The Edison had interesting cocktails and appetizers. Everything except the guacamole was good (too much lime or something.) The flavors were more complex than most of our kids preferred, but there were plenty of burgers and fries to fill them up.

We spent a lot of time at the Lego Store!

As we entered the Magic Kingdom this afternoon, we thought we'd walk right past the parade, but the kids wanted to stop and watch, so we did. Plus Marc got separated from us while he was on a phone call or something and it took him half of the parade to find us even though I texted him our location.

Controlling traffic with a balloon blockade to clear the streets for the parade

Zach really enjoyed the parade and the rest of didn't mind it either. 

Next, we were off to use some snack credits and go on some rides of course.

The boys stayed for the fireworks show in front of the castle, while we girls rushed home to avoid the crowds but see it from the beach at the Polynesian.

Day 15 - Thursday

Today was another sleep in day and then we had breakfast at one of our former favorite breastfast restaurant Kona Cafe. They are known for their Tonga Toast (banana stuffed, cinnamon and sugar coated, french toast with strawberry puree) but none of us even ordered that this time. 

We've had several "cold" weather days in a row now and I'm not one to wear my jeans twice, so I started a load of laundry before breakfast and stayed behind as the others went to Animal Kingdom today.

This was a perfect way to relax a little. I had contemplated booking a massage at the spa, but I decided that going to Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival on my own was a more desirable way to relax.

Shopping at Animal Kingdom
Ironically, by the time my jeans were dry, it was warm enough to keep wearing my shorts. I put the laundry away and went to Epcot. I always enjoy the nice views on the ride through Epcot on the monorail. 

It was nice that Marc occasionally texted pictures to me of their fun.

I shopped for a t-shirt and coffee mug and picked up this free magnet too. I waited in line for about 20 minutes to pick up that Orange Bird souvenir sipper that sold out in the first few days. I thought it would be a cute decoration in our pool house.

Marc loves this retro Hawaii theme at the Poly. It turned out to be a really nice day, and we all got back to the hotel around the same time and spent some time at the pool.

Pool Games

Max wasn't feeling well tonight and preferred to stay in the room rather than go to dinner with us. We all took the boat over to Artist Point at the Wilderness Lodge for our much anticipated Storybook Dining with Snow White, a couple of Dwarfs, and the Evil Queen. This is a very new experience. The food looks adorable but the reviews have been mixed regarding the taste.

I loved the way the restaurant and the place settings looked. 

Snow White was great and really spent some time with us taking Max's empty seat for a couple of minutes.
Kids' appetizer with a little jar of cream to shale until it turns into butter. Brilliant way to occupy kids!

We were thrilled that the food tasted as good as it looks and the service and character interaction was great too!

We all decided that this was our favorite meal of our trip.

The desserts were also cute and good. They brought us a free cupcake to celebrate our anniversary which of course, I took home to be my "breakfast cupcake" for tomorrow!

The transportation always takes awhile, but at last the travel time was worth it for this meal. Max had texted us quite a bit during this meal. He was just bored, but at least I knew he was fine (and not really ill.) He asked us to bring him some dinner on our way back.

Monorail Fireworks- Have we seen them from every possible place now?

Electric Lights Parade which we've also seen from many vantage points on this trip.

We had dinner at Storybook dining tonight.  This is also at the Wilderness Lodge.  The characters were Snow White, Dopey, Grumpy and the Evil Queen.  The food was fancy, but delicious.  I was really impressed with this meal.  Compared to the other character meals, this was definitely a step up and a way better value for the price.

Day 16 - Friday

Some of the kids and I had a great time doing early entry at Magic Kingdom again today, We rode plenty of rides in the first hour and got a cinnamon roll before Marc, Max, and Zoe joined us a little later when it was timeto use our planned fast passes.

We spent a lot of time at the pool today.  The kids love the Volcano slide and the pool games.  Zoe was thrilled to win a cup!

Last night, I changed whatever meal we had planned to go to an 8 pm (late for us) dinner at Chef Mickey's. This allowed us to enjoy our pool time without having to rush to get ready for dinner.

The food quality was better than I remember at Chef Mickey's, but the only reason we are doing any of these character meals is because we can use our dining credits for it. There is no way we would pay $33 for a kid or $55 for adults to eat at a buffet. We figure this will likely be our last trip where the kids really appreciate the character dining though, so we've done plenty of it.

Goofy always loves to hear that his son and mine have the same name.

My favorite item at this place are the Mickey Domes!

More Anniversary Cupcakes- aka "breakfast"

Day 17 - Saturday

Our last day was spent at Magic Kingdom.

Even Starbucks is better at Disney!

Space Mountain was Zach's favorite ride going into this trip, but now it's not. The rest of the family rode it while Zach and I rode Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin instead.

We all can agree on Big Thunder Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean though.

The last day really was about going on our favorite rides, one last time!

We went on a couple rides in the morning before our breakfast buffet at Crystal Palace with Winnie the Pooh characters.  

Often our last meal at WDW is at Crystal Palace. We always spend our last day at Magic Kingdom and there are so few good restaurants right in the park, so I guess that's why we choose it. 

We had one last fast pass for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train which was an excellent way to end our trip.

Soon it was time to head back to the hotel and catch the bus to the airport.

Despite some crazy troubles at home and with our phones we still had a great trip!  It was so nice to get out of the cold for a couple weeks and take a break from our usual routine.

We didn't mention it, but at some point Jacob dropped his phone and not only did the screen break, but it completely stopped working. For some reason, he took his protective case off and left it at home. Even before I broke my phone, we were commenting that he better be super careful or could easily break his phone. Then today, on our last ride, my phone's screen cracked for no good reason. I think they must not have had it attached perfectly. But it was too late to do anything about it there. We had to get to the airport and pay to fix it again at home. This is crazy! We've never had any broken screens before this trip and now we've had three!!!

This was a super trip! People wonder what we do at Walt Disney World for so long and how we don't get bored with it. We all just love spending time with each other and having fun! We love home too. And Wisconsin. And Hawaii. And traveling and seeing new places. So I'm sure we'll be writing in our travel blog again soon!