Day 24 – Disney trip in retrospect

Some thoughts and points on the Disney trip in retrospect. After all those lengthy posts, I am going to make this a bullet post.

  • When we planned the trip, it was a one-time affair and I wondered who would want to take a membership and take all vacations in Disney. After spending 6 days there, I now understand the lure of the place. The ‘happy, happy’ place it makes even the most grumpiest person (including the husband,he he, ;-P) smile. While I waited for the Very Merry Christmas party, I saw families around me who were visiting for the 4th time or the 5th time. I met a teenage daughter and mother from London who make an annual visit but the mom said that they had never been there at Christmas before so they planned to be there for Christmas and New Years that year before the daughter went away to college the next year
  • Like I said before, we had taken a quick meal plan which gave us 2 meals per person per day and a snack. The quantity of food that came for a meal used to be huge – more often than not we would be waddling after a meal and not  feel hungry upto 5-6hrs. This, considering we went in search of veggie options. For those who are non-vegetarian,I guess the portion sizes are larger. So, unless your family has growing teenagers who can really eat well, or if you are vegetarians, I think it makes sense to buy food individually instead of the meal plan
  • On the positive side, what worked for us with the meal plan was that we experimented. Instead of sticking to Starbucks sandwiches or McDs or same old pizza, we went in search of veggie food options because of the meal plan. However, by the 6th day we realized we still had quite a few snack credits remaining.  So, for that last day, I picked up chocolate chip cookies and water bottles and carried with us to the airport hence ensuring that we did not leave any credit unused
  • It helped to read up Disney related blogs -I read this one extensively: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/  It gave me an idea of the rides, best times for the rides, must dos, what we can skip, food options, transportation, crowds, weather and clothes too!
  • Based on the weather suggestions on this blog and checking the weather until the last day before packing, I packed hoodie for Sam and a jeans jacket for me that came in handy most evenings. Though we had to carry it with us all day long which hubby kept grumbling about but on 3 out of 6 days we did wear them. I regretted not carrying it on Day1 for Sam – because he was cold in the morning at 7am until the sun came out and after that I packed it every day. And a 50% hit rate is good according to me! Who knew it would rain and the weather would get muggy? What if it had rained and got windy? huh?
  • Having a boy has its advantages. One thing for sure that helped us get through most shows and rides – we did not have to use our fast pass or our time standing in line waiting to meet and greet the princesses. Though, I loved seeing all those pretty girls from age 3 to age 23 wearing tiaras and dressed as princesses standing in mile long queues to meet their favorite princess/fairy
  • As predicted, the camera bag became a burden at times. I have written here before how hubby and I are not too much into pictures and taking pictures on my phone is sufficient for me as memory. Just because we bought it, there were times when hubby experimented for a few minutes and then left it saying, “let me enjoy the atmosphere and take in the live show than taking all these pictures. You take what you want on the phone”. Or for some of those roller coasters, I was left holding both the heavy backpack AND the camera bag
  • I mentioned on Sam’s birthday post that I was quite disappointed with the cast members for not wishing him despite it showing up on their screens. We also had experience of some cast members who turned away their faces and continued walking, much like our Bengaluru autos, even when we said ‘excuse me’ and wanted some help
  • In contrast, I really give kudos to these characters who have to wear those suits all day long and stand and pose and act as if they are happy meeting thousands of people everyday. I wonder how hard it would be for them in peak summer! Every character we met greeted us so well, Minnie noted my Minnie Tshirt and did a little jig, Goofy and Pluto played with Sam. Donald saw Sam’s birthday Tshirt and asked if it was his birthday and made some fun of him. Chip and Dale were acting naughty.It was a joy to meet these characters
  • About the families we saw. So many teenage siblings taking care of the younger ones – both boys and girls. Feeding them, pushing their prams, helping with their princess dresses, teenage boys going on small rides for the younger sibling – it was so good to watch the families interact
  • Last but not the least – Sam enjoyed. That is the bottom line. We worried that he might not be able to relate to the rides or characters but it never bothered him. I think it was the right age – he matched all height requirements for the thrill rides, did the scary ones,dark ones and the rides meant for younger kids. He loved the anticipation of standing in line before the ride. He enjoyed the fantasy ones as much as he enjoyed the roller coasters. Every day was “the funnest day ever” and he even thanked us for taking him there. His grouse – he did not want to stop for food, he was not interested in any of the fireworks
  • I shamelessly told many cast members that it was his birthday making sure they wished him and that made him feel special. Hubby was “why are you acting like this? you never do such things” but for me, this was a milestone trip and I wanted Sam to have good memories of it, and as his mother I gave up on my ‘sharam’ and ‘haya’ and told as many people as I could so he could be wished 🙂
  • Finally, a couple of tips:
    • Go with a like minded group. Kids have more fun when they have company. We tried. Asked 3-4 families but everyone had their own reasons for not making it. It worked out for us because we planned the day as we liked it but there were times when we thought that even if there was 1 more kid Sam’s age, he could’ve had maybe a little more fun. He might not have gone on every ride with his Dad – which he did this time – there are some roller coaster pics where he is almost hiding – sticking to hubby and he only once mentioned that he wished at least his friends from the apartment could be there with him.
    • Do not shop in Disney – it is true that all prices are hiked up and you can get them all for much lesser on the Disney online site or even on Amazon
    • Finally, fastpass – make sure of what rides you want to do in advance and book them in quick succession preferably in the morning slot. Once you are done with all 3, you can block 3 more for the afternoon and so on. If you block something for much later in the night – the App will not allow you to select any more Fast passes.
    • No point in taking fastpass for any fireworks or night time spectaculars or shows. Seats are plenty so the line moves pretty quick. Only the Lion King was an exception to that rule for us-so do your research on the crowds as well.
    • Fastpass is a must if you enjoy thrill rides – more the thrill, longer the lines (Crazy people I say!).

Phew! Done. And I thought this would be a short, bullet post. Duh!

Day 23 – Day 6-Animal Kingdom

The last and final day of the trip. Hubby had reshuffled our fastpass for the Expedition Everest ride cancelling the safari. As per plan, we skipped breakfast and managed to have an early start and be there by the time the park opened at 8am. While hubby had the big bag, Sam and I walked ahead as we had no security bag check and walked with the sole purpose of getting into the earliest Kilimanjaro safari ride. Looked like everyone was headed the same way! It was like all humanity was walking as fast as possible in order to get to that ride. We managed to get into the line as the ride opened but hubby was still playing catch up. Once we went upto the bus, we moved to the side making way for the others to get in waiting for hubby to catch up. Thankfully, there were enough buses so we did not have to wait long. A nice ride along African Savannah to see lions,crocodiles, rhinoceros, zebra, giraffe, Okapis, gazelle and flamingos. I felt it got done too soon for all the expectation I had built up in my head. Then we headed toward the Asia section for the Expedition Everest ride which has the scariest biggest drop. My God! Just looking at it made my stomach drop! My looks to the hubby went unnoticed because he would not hear of not doing it. After all we had the fast pass for it! I just stood at the place from where I could see the drop all poised for the picture 🙂 After what seemed like ages, they came barreling down the slope – all screaming. Sam was excited as he came out. “Amma, there is one place where we go up and there are no tracks only after that! Then the whole thing goes backward amma…we cannot even see where it is going…it will be full dark, then we go up and we come down this beeeg drop… you would have been scared on this ride amma. Good you did not come…” Even hubby said it was one ride where you cannot anticipate anything which makes the ride more thrilling.

Our next fastpass was for the Kali river rapids – a water ride that said ‘you WILL get wet’. I had thought of keeping Sam’s poncho but then felt silly and dropped it. A big round raft and the ride is compared to water rafting. Only 1 place which has a big drop and how wet one gets depends on how the raft turns and where you are sitting in the raft at that moment. As luck would have it, Sam and I were sitting exactly where the raft went down – into the water and we were soaked. Where as hubby, who was sitting hardly 2 feet away only got a wee bit of spray. Talk about luck and not getting the poncho! I loved the ride but sadly Sam did not want to do it again – he does not like these water rides where he gets wet – he says he is not wearing swim clothes to get wet! Anyway, it was 11am by then and we were beginning to get hungry. We walked toward Dinoland for the Dinosaur ride. Again, thinking it was a roller coaster I dropped off and sat down in the restaurant while they were still preparing for lunch and checked if I could book fastpass for anything else. I booked fastpass for the Space Mountain ride that hubby wanted to do but I could not get any more fastpasses for that day for Lion King. I had asked the boys to join me in the restaurant which they did. After taking veggie burgers for lunch which were more than filling with fries and coffee and lemonade for Sam we walked out for more rides. There was one ride just like Dumbo the flying elephant that we all did and then we walked to see if we could get to the 1pm Lion King show. This seems to be the most popular show and we could not get in for the 1pm. The option was to either ditch it or wait for the next show at 2pm. We did. We staked out there for the next 1 hr making sure that we did not miss it. It was extravagant with acrobatics and lights and music. But sadly, I thought that it would be a stage show of the Lion King movie which it wasn’t.

We got out by 2:30 and the next Finding Nemo show was at 4pm. What to do until then? We saw Its tough to be a bug (4D) show under the Tree of Life, we danced a little to live music, went back to DinoRama  to do one more ride. Sam was adamant about some ride that hubby thought would be boring which had a line of 40mins wait time and we had no fastpass. Also, since we did not have any fast passes for Finding Nemo show we decided to go stand in the line. While Sam and hubby were arguing someone in the crew walked up to them, gave them 6 paper fastpasses, said “Do that ride” and walked away! Just like that! So, hubby had no choice but to do that ride. By the time that ride got done it was 3:45 and we had to go stand in line for Finding Nemo show. We decided to use those Fastpasses that someone gave us. While we gave it at the counter, an elderly gentleman who was manning the fastpass, looked at it and said “Don’t waste it on this, use it for something else” and returned all the 4 passes! We felt so lucky that day!

Now Finding Nemo was a great show. The lights, settings, acting – everything met expectation! Beautiful. I wouldn’t have minded giving the fastpass for this one. Anyway, by the time we finished this, it was 5pm and time for us to head towards Magic Kingdom for one last time.

It was a quick ride and by 5:45pm we were there Magic Kingdom. Now, I had to ride the monorail – didn’t I? Boat and bus were done, how could we miss the monorail? So we just sat in one that went around to the other resorts and came back to Magic Kingdom – a 10min ride to satisfy that urge of Monorail and also give us a glimpse of the 5* resorts. After that, we entered Magic Kingdom for one last time. The fastpasses that we had, were given at the front city hall in exchange for any other fast pass ride inside Magic Kingdom. Sam chose the Seven dwarfs mine ride again. He was thrilled that he could do that ride one more time without standing in line 😀 We had a fastpass for Space Mountain at 8:30pm. It was still 6:15pm. We decided we will do all the rides and shows that we had missed the other 2 times. So, we did Mickey’s Philharmagic,Monster Inc. laugh floor, had earlier blocked fast pass for journey of the little mermaid and in the end took the last fastpass for Winnie the Pooh. We squeezed in dinner at Pecos Bill again – we had liked their salad bar that offered salsa and guacamole and the 3 soft tacos with rice. We did not have the patience or time to go in search of any other place either. The other 2 rides that the boys had fastpass for – another round of Seven Dwarfs and Space Mountain also got done by 9pm. We were done, there weren’t any other show that was on our must-do list anyway. There were some like the Liberty boat ride we found waste of time or the country bear jamboree show because we could not relate to it, or the shooting arcade where we had no idea what we had to do… so these got skipped.

I stood watching the castle lights one last time and the Christmas tree and the happiness and joy surrounding us and that had enveloped us over the previous 6 days.  Leaving it was quite depressing. Back to the resort and packing and off to sleep by 11pm.

The next morning, we took the option of checkin at the resort itself and got our boarding passes as well, so all we had to do was get to security and on to the flight. We landed to a cold Chicago though thankfully it was not snowing. Sigh! Back to the biting cold and reality but the memories remain forever.

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Day 22 – Day 5 – Disney Springs

Finally we are here on day 5. We had only 5 day park hopper option which means we had exhausted 4 days and had just 1 more day left. 1 day for Animal Kingdom. Hubby was of the opinion that we should finish it and take the last day easy while I was of the opinion that there were no night time shows at Animal Kingdom so we could come back to the room early to pack for the next day so the last but one day we should do Disney Springs in the evening. Also, I knew that after so much activity and fun, if we did not do anything on the last day, I would be the first one to get depressed. Hubby, then threw in his idea – he wanted to go to Magic Kingdom one more time and finish that Space Mountain ride. He did not want to leave any ride not done! He knew it would be late if we went from Animal Kingdom to Magic Kingdom and we would get late for checkout the next day. I convinced him that I would finish packing in time and we should just relax and let Sam play in the pool at the resort that day. Poor boy had been asking since day1.

So, that is what we did – no parks on Day5. We had a late breakfast and then took Sam to the pool. Spent a good hour there and then got ready to get to Disney Springs by 2pm. I had made a note of Wolfgang Puck express for food but was not sure about what veggie we would get. Again, I did not want to settle for pizza or burger. By the time we walked around and figured our way to Wolfgang puck it was a good 1 hour and lunch time was almost coming to an end. Thankfully there were some veggie options. I don’t remember what we exactly took – only that we had ordered red velvet cake and Sam took his usual Cheese pizza which had such a thin crust that for a  change he finished the entire 4 slices! We then wandered around the lake (I realize as I write this,that every park has its own water body) taking in the streetmosphere. The place was full of life with live music, singing, shows, a small carousel, street lined with ice cream carts and children chatter. Of course, there was the World of Disney store, a Lego store as well. *small digression – I had promised Sam that if he behaved himself and got ready on time for school for 10days before the Christmas vacation began, I will get him a Lego in Disney – of his choice. He had more or less kept up his promise and had been reminding me from the time we got on the flight of my side of the bargain. So, I had to get him his Lego.  – End Digression* We walked in and he was so confused that he just ran around the whole store thinking what he wanted. Hubby and I tried helping him pick but he was not ready. He chose something so big that cost 159$ and we were not ready 😛 He finally decided on a Lego Ninjago which thankfully came within budget!

Seeing the World of Disney store, I wanted to again check for the snowglobe but more, I wanted to buy a princess dress for my niece in London whose birthday is in March. I went crazy picking up stuff. A nice dress and Minnie hairclips and a tiara and a wand and socks. I was imagining her dressed like that with heart in my eyes. Hubby helped me pick as well. My hands were full of stuff for the little princess while hubby said “How are you going to send all these?” I would have to ship them all. So, he came up with “Why don’t you buy them all online and get it shipped directly? Our suitcases do not have so much space also.” Again very practical but it did not satisfy the josh of the moment. Sadly, I dropped everything and walked out. The only thing I picked up as a memento is our usual fridge magnet 😦

It was around 6:45 by then and we found a bar on the water front. Hubby suggested we have a cocktail each (no driving!) and Sam a pink lemonade. While he placed the order, I went to use the rest room.I was still standing in line outside, it was horribly crowded, when the hubby calls up  “Hey! see see, your drone show is on. Quick, come and join us here, it looks beautiful”. I was in 2 minds, really, whether to leave the line or forget the drone show. Reluctantly, I left my place and ran out so I could watch the drone show on the water. Compared to all the other ‘spectaculars’ this was a short 5 mins lights hovering on the water kind of show. Still, something new to see. I went back to the restroom to see an even longer line.Sigh! What to do…nature calls…all that tea I had for lunch…I also had to make space for the cocktail 😛

So, I meandered back slowly to the bar where hubby and Sam had settled down comfortably on a couch listening to someone playing wonderful guitar. I joined them and the next 30mins or so was blissful. Nice waterfront, watching the crowd go by, live music that even Sam seemed to be enjoying. It was nearly 8pm when we  decided to head back to the bus stand and home…err. room.. We window shopped and walked around some more to reach the bus stop by 8:20 and back to the resort by 9pm. Another soup snack for dinner and off to bed with a nice buzz.

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Day 21 – Day 4 – Christmas in Magic Kingdom

After 3 days of continuous parks and walking, we decided to take it easy and wake up late this morning. Then, made India calls and spoke to both sets of grandparents who were eager to talk to the little fellow about how he is having fun. We  decided to skip breakfast and had some biscuits that we had in the room. Decided to go to lunch at Disney boardwalk and then head towards Magic Kingdom as we had fast passes for rides later that evening. When we got to the usual bus stand, we realized that there are no buses from our resort to the Boardwalk! We were told we had to take the boat from Hollywood studios. Yaay! I thought, this too we will get to experience. So, off to hollywood studios and then caught the boat – quite an adventure this was, the boat which was about to start was stopped by Sam – running and panting 🙂 and he said “please wait, my parents are coming, don’t go without us” So the lady manning the boat apparently said, “No Sweety, the boat is going nowhere without you”. He was all smiles like he had achieved something.  It was a slow ride while we saw the Swan and Yatch club resorts while the boat sailed along the lake.

15mins later we reached the Boardwalk. Surprise, surprise! There was no one there! We were wondering if there was any place where we could have lunch. By then we were really hungry, having skipped breakfast. The only place that seemed to be open was the Boardwalk bakery and he had spinach,feta cheese and tomato sandwich (for hubby) Focaccia bread with cheese (for me) and a veggie burger for Sam. We also ordered a fresh fruit tart and peanut butter cake for dessert. While we picked these up and walked out, it had drizzled and stopped. Clouds hung overhead and the weather had turned muggy! We finally saw some people walking along the boardwalk and we ate leisurely watching the water. Of all the things we did/saw in Disney – this was the most boring place.

We walked to the bus stand and caught the first bus to Magic Kingdom, much earlier than planned! Reached there by 3pm right on time for the Very Merry Christmas parade. The crowds again! We quickly walked towards Tomorrowland as all our rides for the day were there. We stood in line for the people transporter that takes us around all the rides in Tomorrowland. A 20mins ride that was quite fun actually. We also saw Tomorrowland Christmas show while waiting. The boys then took a good 1hr for the Astro Orbitor while I went in search of coffee and then stood in queue for the Tomorrowland speedway ride. We ate Mickey’s ice creams and popsicles, did the Buzz light year ride which is very similar to Toy story mania. Once done, we walked to the main street to watch the Frozen singalong show and took pictures and videos to send to nieces all around the globe 🙂 The 10mins show looked boring to Sam however! While the boys had a fastpass for the Seven dwarfs ride (this is the most sought after ride in MK) I hefted our bag and walked as close to the stage as I could get to view the Very Merry Christmas Party show at 7:15pm. I stayed put right in front of the stage with so many others vying for a place to stand! A fun show of singing all Christmassy songs and all the Disney characters coming on stage – peppy and fast.

By the time this show got over, (Sam chose the ride over the show)  the boys had finished their ride and were ready for dinner. They also found an amazing place! Pecos Bill in Frontier land which served Mexican food – which means rice for us! On the way, I saw that there were so many Christmas shops all decked with christmas stuff and I really, badly wanted to see if I could get a snow globe from there. I love snow globes.  Met hubby and and Sam where they had picked up my dinner too and they were in a hurry to get to the Space Mountain ride. I told them to run along and said that I would checkout those shops and catch up with them by the time their ride was done in about 45mins. I quickly gobbled up my food and got into the Christmas shop with coffee in hand. I browsed through pretty things, cute things, Christmassy things but no snow globes. Anything else  that I saw – nothing was below 25$ (I had read on blogs before that everything inside Disney is more expensive than buying them outside). While I was still browsing, hubby called. He said that the ride was cancelled for the day due to some maintenance issue. Oho! ok, now what? we thought… we had done all the night time spectaculars the previous evening and were in no mood to stand in a crowd to watch it all over again. The crowd on Christmas was more than what it was on 24th! There was no concept of personal space, especially on Main Street USA where people had settled down to watch the shows.  We were in diagonal corners of the Magic Kingdom so we decided to meet in front of the Christmas tree at the entrance. While i walked, I saw a couple of Cast Members (people who work at Disney) and asked them about the electric water pageant and was told that it will be only at the Disney resorts at about 9:30pm and it would be good if we took the boat to one of those resorts to view it. It was past 8:45 by then. I met hubby and Sam and told them about this. We hurried to the ferry boat but were told that the ferry s were stopped for the water pageant. When we said we wanted to see the pageant, one of the crew pointed us to a few benches a few yards away and said “you can get a decent view of the pageant from those benches there but sadly that is a smoking area”.Hmmm….we looked around and saw there was no one there. Meanwhile, the Holiday Wishes night time show had started inside the Magic Kingdom and there was hardly anyone around. So, hubby said “Let’s just sit down here near the water and relax for some time. It’s a cool night and no crowds. We can head back towards the bus stand in another 15mins and we can still be back at the resort by 10pm.” We settled down on those benches. We could see the fireworks of Hollywood studios in the distance and behind us, the fireworks from within the Magic Kingdom. We asked Sam also to relax who did not want to sit there. Then, surprise surprise! We saw many boats making a formation a little distance away. It was 9:30pm and the water pageant had begun at the resort on the right banks of the lake! Though we could only hear the music faintly, we could see the different formations of octopus,dinosaur,fish,tortoise etc; We watched it for full 15mins and headed back to the bus stand. Yaay! I thought, we saw every thing that I had planned!

As we were already outside and near the bus stand, we got the first bus that was waiting there and reached back by 10pm as hubby had predicted.

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Day 20-Day 3 Hollywood Studios

Day 3 Saturday was Christmas eve. The idea was to finish Hollywood studios and reach Magic Kingdom for the night time spectaculars.

After my research, I knew that there weren’t that many rides in Hollywood studios and we again had an easy start to the day. Reaching Hollywood studios by noon gave us time to do all the rides and take in all the shows. For those who are Starwars fans, this place is heaven. Everything is filled with Starwars with plenty of shows. We stood in line for the great movie ride and again after reading that it can be dark and scary, I backed off from the ride in the last minute and waited for the boys. I guess i was the only one who wasn’t taken in with the Star wars show that was happening outside. I just sat there in the shade and experimented with the camera a little. In about 20mins the boys were out and we just began to walk around to see what rides and shows we could do before our fastpass for Indiana Jones started. We came across the Muppet Show and we also met Mickey and Minnie again. The only ride Sam had categorically declined to ride was ‘Tower of Terror’ apparently because someone in school had told him that it was a very scary ride. The other ride that hubby wanted to do was the Aerosmith ride and so the boys went to stand in the 80mins wait line for that while I decided to wander around and saw that people were entering the theater for Beauty and Beast. It was 1:28 and the show still had some seats left for 1:30 show. I just happily walked in for the 30min show.

I knew that a colleague of mine was also in Hollywood studios that day with his family. He said he was standing in line for the Ariel show which was supposed to start at 2:30pm. I just walked to the show, met him and his family – cute little 2yr old V 🙂 and sat with them to watch the mermaid show.

Meanwhile, apparently while my boys were standing in the queue, there was an announcement that the ride was fast and had, as Sam puts it “loopty loops” Sam backed out and said he did not want to do the ride. So, after standing in the queue for 45mins the boys walked out of the ride. I asked them to meet me at the star rolls cafe for snacks so they could meet my colleague and his family too. We had a quick snack and bidding them adieu, went to settle down for the 3:30 show of Indiana Jones. Next was the Starwars show – thankfully it was clearly written it is a simulation ride so I did not hesitate to walk in to the line. Once starwars was done, Sam wanted a picture of himself as Agent Skywalker,so we spent considerable money indulging him.  Thankfully, the lady who sold the light saber asked us if we were going back by flight and told us that the light sabers would not be allowed on flight-so we could dissuade him from buying one! phew! It cost 40$ while Amazon is selling it for 8$!!!  After a 20min wait for our Toy Story Mania fastpass by 5pm we were done and as per plan, took the bus back to Magic Kingdom for the night time spectaculars.

We reached there at 6pm and were taken aback by the crowds. We knew Christmas would be busy but 24th evening?! Oh my God! Heads,kids,trolleys everywhere. Only when I got hold of that day’s scheduled events did I see that there was a Frozen show at 6pm and a Very merry christmas party show at 7:30 and 8:30pm too that evening. No doubt people had already found the best spots for the shows and settled down on Main Street USA. Not wanting to be left behind, we walked as ahead as we could and found a spot for 3 and settled down. By this time, we were all very hungry. Post the quick snack at 2:30pm we had not eaten anything. Poor hubby kept walking to the cafe’s on Main street only to return dis satisfied by the options. Then he walked over the tomorrowland terrace and got us all burgers. By then, I realized that the spot where we were sitting would be asked to vacate for fastpass viewers and that there was no point sitting there for 2hrs, Sam and I also got up and followed hubby back to the restaurant. We had a leisurely dinner infact and decided that we will be happy with what ever place we get to sit and watch the castle.

We were back near Main street USA by 8:30 and again scouted for a place to sit. A bit of a struggle, but we managed to find a small congested spot which irritated hubby no end, but thankfully, he did not complain. Well, not too much atleast when I told him that this would be the best spot for photos. Everyone anyway stood up by 9pm to watch the Holiday Wishes nighttime spectacular – wow fireworks with holiday music. Spectacular it was, with the backdrop of the castle. I loved the way Tinkerbell flies out of the castle during the middle of the show 🙂 Like they say in kannada “eraDu kaNNu saaladu” – 2 eyes are not enough to see it. We forgot all about the crowds at that time. The next show was at 9:30pm and we stayed put right there for the Once Upon a Christmas Time show. Again, the castle is used as a projector screen and it is so colorful! The castle keeps changing colors with all the Disney characters on display.

Once this was done too, Sam was tired and said he wanted to go back to the room. After 3 days, he was exhausted and for the first time he said he was sleepy and his legs were hurting – maybe because of all the standing. We pushed him a little bit more so we could take a couple of pictures in the ugly Christmas sweaters that hubby also had no interest in. But I had! I had spent well over 60$ buying us all that sweater and I definitely wanted a picture with the castle in the background. But as luck would have it, the girl who took our picture did not take even a single one correctly – they are all shaky and distorted 😦 But with 2 against 1, I could not argue more (even I was tired though I was not ready to admit it) we decided to head back. Another late night as we did not get the bus immediately and reached back only by 11pm.

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Cannot get enough of the castle
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Mickey shows the time
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Wishes – Nighttime Spectacular
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Magic Kingdom Entrance
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Christmas tree at Hollywood studios
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Found this restroom near Muppet show and laughed at the name 😀
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Star wars parade
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Beauty and the Beast obsession

 

 

Day 19- Day 2- Epcot

After 15hr long previous day, we decided not to hurry. I had booked fastpasses for the rides and there weren’t as many rides at Epcot as there were at the Magic Kingdom. We also had fastpass for the Illumination show at 9:30pm so we knew we had time until then to finish all rides.

After a heavy breakfast at the resort cafeteria, we reached Epcot by 11:30am. I had fastpass for the Imagination with figment and The seas with Nemo and friends. Both of which turned out to be a waste. Unfortunately, the rides Soarin and Space Mission and Test track were the ones that hubby thought he wanted to do and there were huge crowds for them all. We could not even book other fastpasses as we had one still pending for the nighttime show. Once we finished the fast pass rides, we went to the Living with the land boat ride, which was educative and we would have easily missed it if we had not sat right near that for lunch. Lunch was a quick snack of soup,salad and cheesecake – 1 snack for each of us. We also saw a 20mins 3D short films and the circle of life show before standing in line for Soarin’ ride. It was a good 45mins wait and after reading the instructions, I backed off at the last minute thinking it was a dark,fast ride. Hubby and Sam came out and said it was like “Fly over America” that we had done in Mall of America and that I would like it. So, we stood in line for another 30mins and we did the ride again. It was a fun ride, going on top of Great Wall of China, and seeing Eiffel Tower and Paris all lit up at night and flying right above the Elephants in Africa 🙂 By the time we finished these rides it was 4pm and we still had 2 important rides left. While hubby and Sam went to stand in the 60min line for Space Mission, I walked to Jeoffrey’s and bought myself a Mocha latte with Hazelnut (turned out to be yummy) and walked to see what the test track was about which had a waiting for 80mins. It was a design your own car and have a test ride-sounded fun and it did not look like it had any drops. I love speed, so I wanted to do this ride too. By the time the boys came out of their Space Mission ride it was past 5pm. I quickly dragged them both to stand in the 35mins waiting line for Test track. Thankfully the wait line had reduced! While I was excited to do this ride, Sam and hubby were still going on about the Space Mission ride and said I HAVE to do it – atleast the less intensity one and that it was not a roller coaster but a simulation ride which I enjoy. Sam was bouncing off the metal barriers trying to convince me 🙂 Soon, we were asked to build our own cars and taken to the test track area. A fast ride, it starts off with testing for different parameters of a car and then at the end its about the speed. Woohooo! 0-65mph in 10seconds or less(or so I think). It was as I had imagined and more. We went back to the Space Mission – the one with lesser intensity and I thoroughly enjoyed landing on Mars 🙂 Though the  boys were disappointed that it was not as thrilling as the ‘orange’ high intensity one.

Once done with all rides, we decided to walk along the World Showcase to check out ‘holidays around the world’ theme. We walked along the lake to see Mexico,Norway, Germany, France, Italy,England,Chinese, Japanese and then to Morocco. Wonderful ambiance with Christmas music in some places, live shows etc; Although we had checked in all these places for vegetarian food the only option we had was pizza which I did not want. I wanted to try something different. At Morocco we decided to check for veggie options – we were in luck. A quick meal option of Tabbouleh, hummus, bread,couscous and baklava and hot Moroccan tea. Sam was content with his veggie burger-2 pieces of bread stuck together with cheese, lettuce and tomato. By the time we finished dinner it was 9pm and we had to walk back all the way across the lake to the FastPass viewing area for Illuminations night time show.

We reached there by 9:15 and just plonked ourselves at the first available space. By 9:30 there was visible excitement in the air as the music and the fireworks began. Then came the earth in the centre and the lights emnating from it and the background commentary. This was one 20mins show that hubby and I thought was the best – far better than the 3 night time shows we had seen at hollywood studios the previous day.

By the time the show ended and we started walking back to the bus it was 9:45pm. Thankfully we got a bus that was not very crowded and got a place to sit as we drove back to the resort on the second day at 10:30pm.

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Day 18 – Day 1- Magic Kingdom

The idea was to spend the entire day at Magic Kingdom. The park was scheduled to open at 7am for the early magic hour. 10 minutes before opening there would be a morning ritual of Disney characters coming to the entrance and welcoming everyone – I wanted to be there by 6:50am. Which means we had to be at the bus stop no later than 6:30am.

It all went as per plan. At 6:50, we were entering the park and saw the welcome by Mickey, Minnie and friends as we entered and went through security. We saw Pluto and Minnie waiting near the huge Christmas tree to greet the guests and there were maybe 4-5 guests waiting in line. Quickly, we stood in the queue and met Pluto and Minnie 🙂 And ahead of us – there it was… the Cinderella Castle! Still all lit up for another 30mins before it would be switched off for the morning. We hurried and took pictures and then started the rides. As I had booked Fastpass for the Splash Mountain and the Big Thunder Mountain railroad, we decided to walk towards it and do any rides along the way. As luck would have it, we walked right past and finished riding the carousel, “It’s a Small World”, “Peter Pan” and “Pirates of the Caribbean”.It was a walk-in, walk-out kind of scene at that time of the morning. The boys (am going to address hubby also as a boy in this series because he was as excited as Sam to do the rides!) then did the Splash mountain and the Big Thunder ride while I waited and took pictures of them coming down that huge waterfall 🙂 Meanwhile, I checked on the downloaded App for what next. We met the Chipmunks and then decided to walk towards our breakfast destination.On the way,we came across “Aladdin and the magic carpet ride” So hopped on to that too…By 9:30am, we had already done all these rides!

It being Sam’s birthday, I had booked for a breakfast at Be Our Guest Restaurant (I checked for lunch but it was fully booked!) We walked in and found a place as I had already chosen the menu too. While there were people standing and waiting to be seated, we were seated immediately. This whole restaurant has been designed like the Beast’s castle of Beauty and the Beast – the red rose in the beast’s room,the music box with the beast and beauty dancing. The only disappointment I had was that I had put it on our reservation that it was Sam’s birthday and I was/am quite upset that nobody wished him – it comes up at every place we swipe our Magic bands but nobody bothered. Even at breakfast, I told the attendant that it was his birthday, so the only solace was that she got a signed Happy Birthday card and a gray cupcake for the Birthday boy. I had not expected anything extra that cost something. All I wanted was Sam to feel special – and that happens when strangers also wish you. Anyway there were a couple of places where the cast members did wish him and he was pleasantly surprised and happy.

Anyway, after the pre-booked breakfast we decided head out to the next set of rides. Except for the Horror house, I was game for hubby to take Sam on all rides while I waited. I am very scared of roller-coaster rides -any ride that has drops. Since, it was right after breakfast, we went to the Jungle (Jingle) cruise. We then walked to the Main Street USA to watch the Move It,Shake It dance party parade. Once we finished this, we got hold of a map and an event list and checked out the other rides that we could do – we had planned to spend 25th – Christmas too at Magic Kingdom so we had plenty of time to look through and see what rides we could do that day.  Since that day was the last of the Very Merry Christmas party which was a ticketed event and we had chosen not to buy tickets for that, we decided to do more rides that day until about 4:30 and then go to Hollywood studios for the night time spectaculars there. We quickly changed our fastpass for the Fantasmic show at Hollywood studios and decided to see the Disney Fantasy parade at 3:30. Wow! All the fantasy characters, fairies,prince and princesses, a huge dinosaur spitting fire and then finally Mickey and his pals. A good 20mins show. We then quickly walked toward Dumbo the flying elephant and the barnstormer rides. Once done we went to the Mad Tea party ride and also met Goofy and Donald. The boys also did Stitch’s great escape ride and  we squeezed in the Disney’s carousel of progress by which time it was almost 5pm.

We decided to leave Magic Kingdom and head towards  the bus stop for Hollywood Studios. We reached the bus stop and see a really long queue, all waiting for the Hollywood Studios bus! Looks like a lot of people had the same idea as us! Thankfully 2 buses came one after the other and we reached hollywood studios by 6:10pm and after security, walked towards the Starwars Galactic Spectacular show. This is done in the open area right in front of the Chinese Theater and it feels like you are stuck in the crossfire while the fight happens right over your head. A loud and bright 15mins show and there was hardly place to stand. The show got done by 6:45 by which time we were hungry. We had fastpass for the Mickey’s Fantasmic Show so decided to grab dinner first. Where to search for dinner? We walked to a couple of places but they were either very crowded or closed. We spent a good 20mins searching for vegetarian food. We came across 1 place which did not have much crowd and while hubby just walked past, I decided to ask if they had anything veggie in the quick meal plan. There was vegetarian chilli with Nachos and frozen smoothies. I quickly grabbed a seat and hubby got the food. We were hungry and thrilled with the hot food. We thought we did a smart thing and by 7:45 started walking towards the show. As we neared the open auditorium we realized that people had picked up dinner and walked to the theater and settled down in the best seats! Not like the ‘smart thing’ we thought we had done. *eye rolling* Anyway, we walked all the way to one end of the amphitheater and settled down in one of the benches. The 30min show was just as the name suggests – Fantasmic! The fountains acted as screen for the laser shows which was filled with Disney characters all apparently from Mickey’s dream 🙂 There were boats in the water, fireworks in the water and even the  fire dragon made an appearance. We didn’t realize how the 30mins ended so quickly. We then joined in the milieu of people walking back to the open space near the chinese theatre for the Jingle Bell Jingle Bam show – of elfs who come to town in search of Santa. A fun 15mins show with ‘snow shower’ in the end 🙂 but by then we were tired of standing and wanted the show to finish.

We walked back to the bus stand and reached the resort at 10pm, standing in the bus. The birthday boy was a trooper and walked around with us every where not once complaining about the miles. My fitness App showed we had walked nearly 23,000 steps that day!

Now for the pictures:

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Entrance
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Meeting pluto
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Splash Mountain
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Fantasmic @ Hollywood Studios
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It’s a small world
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Big Thunder Mountain ride
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Move it Shake it dance party
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Fantasy Parade

 

Day 17 – Getting there

<ETA: These posts seem to be lengthy and detailed. I tried to shorten it, but that would mean skipping some details. Since this travelogue is also for myself to remind me of the good days, I choose to keep everything here. If anyone is planning a Disney world trip, this could help but otherwise, if I have no visitors on the next 5-6 posts I can understand 🙂 >

A week before we were supposed to travel, I began to have second thoughts about weather, transport, food, basically everything!

I made numerous calls to the helpdesk at Disney world to confirm on the food options, book a special meal and ask check about alternatives to buses if required. I also bookmarked a disneytourist blog and have spent most evenings checking for where to eat, what are the must do rides, what are the night time options etc;

Our initial plan was 5 days with water park option which we changed to 5 days park hopper option and cancelled the water park. We had been to Hurricane Harbor from 6 flags group a couple of times in NJ and done plenty of lakes and beaches as well. Also, we knew that Sam would not get into the water without atleast 1 of us and neither one of us wanted to get wet. We thought if he wanted water he could always get into the pool at the resort 😛 It cost us only 15$ more than our initial water park option and in retrospect it was the best decision we made.

I checked the weather and saw rain. I also read up that people wear ugly Christmas sweaters in the spirit of Christmas and I bought one for all of us. During Thanksgiving there was a good sale on DSLR that most of hubby’s colleagues were buying which prompted hubby to buy too! We also did some last minute shopping for new clothes keeping Disney in mind – a Minnie tshirt for me, cars tshirt for Sam. Hubby, acting very grown-up said it would look silly and did not buy anything. (You can imagine what happened later don’t you?)

On 21st, we had an early start – the flight was scheduled quite early. In order to reduce the weight of the suitcases, I convinced hubby to ditch the fat jackets and instead we all wore the ugly Christmas sweaters and a light jacket that I had decided would help incase of rain and winds after sunset (The website I checked said it could get as cold as low 50s if it rained or got windy).

Landed in Orlando at 12:45 and got to the Disney bus terminal. From the moment one gets into the bus there is a sense of Disney! As we settled into the bus for the 45mins bus ride and the AV in the bus started, it made me take a deep breath and put an automatic smile on my face. Here we come for a lifetime trip, I thought. I looked over to hubby sitting across me and he had the same relaxed look on his face. Thankfully, he did not have to worry about driving for the next 8 days.

I had already done online checkin and had my room number and the magic bands. We did not have any checkin process as we entered the hotel. We just took our luggage and went directly to the food court for lunch. Took us some time to figure out what the vegetarian options were and what our meal plan entitled. After a heavy lunch we went to the room and decided to roam around the resort. For an hour we walked around the resort checking out all the sporty stuff-our staircase started inside a helmet, there were buildings with staircases like whistle, tennis rackets, basket ball, baseball fields. Huey, Dewey and Louie playing american football with Donald 🙂 Mickey with his arms extended. Buildings with surfboards as walls. Even the wreaths and the Christmas tree decorations were sporty. There was also an arcade where obviously Sam wanted to play. While we let Sam enjoy for nearly an hour, hubby enjoyed the massage chair while I went around to checkout the shop and inquire about the bus to Magic Kingdom the next day.

By 8pm, we were exhausted and we had a very early start next day – at 6am. After a heavy late lunch, I wasn’t hungry. While I gave bath to Sam, hubby got himself a soup for dinner and we were in bed by 9:30pm.

Some pictures of the resort. Check out the sporty wreaths:

 

Day 15-Thanksgiving break

The next week of posts will be all about our travels. We did a lot of travelling through 2016 with my parents. We even went to Lake Geneva to see the fall colors but unfortunately it was a gray cloudy day and we couldn’t see much colors. The place is beautiful though and I am thinking we should go there again during summer – the lake beach, the vast park with trees and grass and play area. Ideal place for a picnic and just an hour away.

Anyway that isn’t the context for this post. Once my parents left mid November, the house felt empty and quiet. So, we thought of grabbing the opportunity  of the Thanksgiving weekend and decided to go to Minneapolis which is about 6 hrs drive. The initial idea was to start late afternoon on Wednesday and reach by late at night. But the weather check told us that there was an impending snow storm later starting Wednesday and well into Thursday. Like all our impromptu road trips, we decided to take Wednesday off and start that morning so that we drive through the day and reach home before it gets dark and driving gets more tricky.

We started at 7am the next day and a quick stop at Trader joe’s to pick up fresh pie to their home, we also picked up some butter croissants and buns for breakfast. We had expected to see some snow and rain but hadn’t expected so much fog that we could hardly see more than a 100mts ahead of us. Thankfully there wasn’t much traffic and we followed any tail lights of the car ahead of us. We reached their home by 3 pm before the impending snow storm. We did a quick walk in that cold to see the frozen lake near their home and then sat indoors chatting.

I had promised Sam that we will play pictionary there and so we played pictionary for an hour and then they set up the Karoke. Oh my God! What fun we had, we sang and sang for 3 hours! All 4 of us, Sam and me, Sam alone, all adults alone, the brothers (cousins). My co-sis and me attempted jawani jaaneman and even today I have a smile on my face remembering the fun we had singing that song “Oh ho” 😀 Finally, hoarse and tired we slept at 11pm.

The next day was Thanksgiving. All malls and shops closed. So we booked tickets for an afternoon show of Dear Zindagi and after a lazy brunch we left at 2pm to the movie. About the movie-I thought it would be a fun, comedy but on the contrary it is quite a serious movie with the 2nd half really dragged on. I did like Alia bhatt though. She seems to be improving with every movie. Post movie, at 5:30pm we decided to go to say our thanks at the temple and then eat at an Indian restaurant. A quick visit to the temple and then realized that the Indian restaurant was closed, we went back home to eat anna saaru and in bed by 10pm. It had been a cold rainy day and had started to snow by the time we got back home.

I had decided that being in MN for Thanksgiving and so close to Mall of America AND the fact that we had no major purchases scheduled for this year (like the laptop and TV we bought last Thanksgiving) I am going to buy branded stuff. Yes, I went crazy like that. All these years, it never mattered to me what purse I used or what watch and sunglasses I wore, but I always heard a lot about brands all the time. So this time, I decided I will indulge in branded bags, watch and sunglasses and bought in MoA 😀 So, off we went on friday at 11am to MoA.  We roamed around the mall and my first purchase was the red party purse that Sam liked and was endorsed by my co-sis, and 20$ – so bought it (I used this once for the christmas potluck party). Then, a quick stop at MK for a handbag that was 50% off. Co-sis and I wandered into Macy’s and Nordstorm for sunglasses but didn’t get anything that really was to my liking. That was it! We had lunch and wandered around some more. The best fun part of the day was the “Fly over America” ride we all sat in. Thrilling experience! Sam and his daddy did the other rides within the mall and bought some Lego and the day ended! I still hadn’t bought my watch or sunglasses. As we were headed back in the direction of the car park, I saw Sunglass Hut! Rushed in to check if I would like anything. There I found a Burberry – cateyes that I was looking for and both hubby and co-sis liked it too…That was it, picked it up and walked out of the mall before my eyes fell on anything else! oh! i forgot, while wandering we came across a store closing sale in Aeropostale that prompted us to buy some sweater tops and jeggings and a scarf. Additional expense. I also picked up the secret Santa gift at SIX there. I liked it so much that co-sis kindly bought me the same set as a gift 😀  Reached home exhausted and collapsed into bed at 10pm.

Saturday,we had plans of going to downtown Minneapolis by train. Co-sis had also booked  the 8am appointment at a hair salon. So off we 2 went while the men slept. I wanted to really try a short hair cut and had made up my mind after a lot of second thoughts. So, there… the hair got chopped off and the hair dressed set it up the way I showed her an image online. I was thrilled 🙂 We came back home by 10am and then set out at 11 to the train station. A  good 30mins ride into town where we saw the US Bank stadium and the Guthrie theatre. From there another train ride to an Indian restaurant or so we had thought. Unfortunately, the Indian restaurant was not open and all of downtown was alseep! We could find no place to have lunch. So, we came back near Guthrie theatre where we had seen a Thai restaurant and had yummy Thai food. Tofu and green curry – yummmm. Another train ride back to the train station by 6pm. Since it was still 6pm, co-sis suggested that we take a stop at the outlet mall as well. She said there is a Watch station there where I could look at my watch. So, off we went. Though I did not like any watches, hubby liked an Armani  that he bought while I saw a Coach outlet right in front. I told her that we should give it a try and we went in.  We were getting Coach bags for less than 100$! We were wandering the store looking at the prices while a sales person comes in and says -” these tags are all slashed prices and there is another 40% on the slashed prices.”What luck! Everything in store was more than 50% off! One look at each other and like most other women there we began to see things in new light! I looked at a mid size handbag which both hubby and co-sis said looked boring 😦 and so I bought a red (I can’t believe I bought it) coach handbag and a wallet for hubby. co-sis bought a bag for herself and her sister. We came out of the store looking like Cheshire cats – grinning ear to ear! We even put it up on our whatsapp group and SIL also bought one. With that loot we went back home by 9pm and tried to sleep early (by 10pm) as we had to head back home the next day.

Sunday had to come and sadly we had to start early, which still ended up being 11am after breakfast. We reached home by 6pm after a quick grocery halt in time to prepare for the week ahead.

It’s now January and I haven’t used any of those handbags even once…now I wonder, why was I so impulsive to buy ‘brands’!

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The fog and non-visibility on the way-do you see the car in front?
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Mall all decked up for christmas
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My loot 🙂
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At the Lego store in MoA
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Sam enjoying at MoA
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one more

Weekend Trips with parents

I thought I will do individual posts on all the weekend trips we took with my parents, but I have been so swamped with work,home, Sam, being lazy 😛 that I have been postponing the posts.

But for posterity, if I don’t put it here now, I might never put it up here, like what happened when we roamed around with the in-laws last year.

The idea was to cover as many places as possible before school starts. So we did Stroudsburg Sringeri Mutt, Niagara and Pittsburgh one weekend,taking a Friday off. We then did the Swami Narayan temple and our NJ – Edison, Oak Tree Road and Indian food of Paranthas, Long Branch beach one evening (I loved this place) , Atlantic City, New York City (Hop-On Hop-off is the best way while doing it with parents and walking is a problem), Statue of Liberty – all of these in a span of 3 weekends 😀 My parents have never really done so much sight-seeing in months I guess. Hehe.

Some of the highlights were

  • The Cave of the winds that Sam liked so much that he kept going back under the waterfall to get wet again and again 😀 I had forgotten what fun it is to be there
  • The Niagara fireworks
  • Long Branch beach – I loved the Pier Village right on the beach and all those shops, not many people but not too lonely either
  • Parents ready to weather a bit of rain to sit on top of the hop-on hop-off night tour because we told them that they can get the best views of lighted Manhattan from top
  • Packing our rice and chappatis and having satisfactory lunch and dinners not worrying about where to go for our veggie food
  • The US-Airforce band that played that Friday night at Atlantic City which was an unexpected bonus fun

Best of all is the satisfaction when Dad says that everything from packing food and finding places to eat, to all the places we saw, was very well organised and in seeing Mom and Dad satisfied with what we had planned 😀