Disney World’s Pandora in Animal Kingdom – Vacation Day 3

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom Pandora Avatar Flight of Passage
Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom Pandora Avatar Flight of Passage
Through clever use of vines draping from the Pandora sky-islands, Disney World makes it look like the islands actually float.

At my old age, it’s hard to actually surprise me.

People doing stupid things? (I have a whole top 10 from Disney World coming up), but those things hardly raise an eyebrow. Something amazing invented? Well, of course, it’s the age we live in. A twist in a movie? Ack, I saw that coming in act 1.

But the Disney World’s Pandora area surprised me.

We arrived back at the Animal Kingdom Theme Park at about 4:30, rested, good mood restored and ready for some fun in the evening. Having a Fastpass for Avatar for 5pm, we raced to Pandora.

From the moment we stepped into Pandora, I felt like I’d gone to a different world.

It started with a great mountain surrounded by floating islands. Floating islands! So cool.

Then, as we marched to the ride, I saw they had a show with the Pandora Utility Suit (pic here.) The man inside the towering exoskeleton put on a decent show, though, weirdly, I was the only one who ran to see it. The rest of the family waited patiently with their magic bands for the 5pm Fastpass appointment while I got my nerd on.

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom Pandora Avatar Flight of Passage
Ah, the details! Look at the plants on the walls, the cracks on the floor, the rust on the barrel, the dirt on the storage case.

Once inside the mountain, a ton of details, big and small, made it seem like were inside an underground complex from a different world.

From the scuffed paint on the floor to the doors that whooshed open to the posters on the walls, the attention to detail was epic.

Yes, I said it, epic.

And when we were led from the waiting area into the ride, we didn’t just jump on the scooter thingee, no, we found ourselves in a decontamination room. A person appeared on the screen and explained what would happen, and why we had to do this whole avatar thing.

They scanned us (but didn’t probe us, thankfully – that’s a whole different and somewhat uncomfortable experience), decontaminated us  (complete with 4D puffs of air), analyzed our DNA, and then we were assigned Avatars. Mine looked like he’d walked into a wall a whole bunch of times, but whatever, it was different from all the other avatars.

It was fantastic.

And it was genius.

See, the time we spent outside looking at the bulbous, alien plants, or me pointing out how even the guard rails were all Pandora-ish (which, spoiler alert, no one really cared about), to the organic-looking drums the boys drummed, to the decontamination room, it all built up the expectation.

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom Pandora Avatar Flight of Passage
A spooky, hulking plant, but look at all the details around it. They really out-did themselves in the Avatar-themed part of Animal Kingdom

They created a world (and a ride) better than anything else in Disney World. Not entirely unique, as Star Tours still had that feeling, but it’s like they took all the best things they learned and applied it here, in Pandora.

I won’t lie, I became like The-Youngest, giddy and as excited as a boy on his first date.

Then the door leading out of the decontamination room whooshed open and, like good Canadians, we followed directions, put our packs away, sat on our bikes, and strapped in.

But ‘strapped in’ isn’t the right term. As we gripped the handlebars, braces were placed against our backs and sides. It was oddly snuggly.

Like good Canadians, we put on our magical glasses and waited.

Then the bikes began to vibrate. Right on our tummies and backs where the braces had been placed.

We waited for the doors in front of us to open. My heart drummed inside my chest.

What would the actual ride be like?

Disney World’s Animal Kingdom -Vacation Day 3 – Troubles

Disney World's Animal Kingdom, Orlando, Florida
Disney World's Animal Kingdom, Orlando, Florida
Early in the morning, the Boyz getting ready to ride the Expedition Everest Rollercoaster. Already The-Youngest is having a hard time keeping his eyes open

I had thought that our first day at the Magic Kingdom would be our toughest. We’d be jet-lagged, we hadn’t figured out how things worked, and we had no idea how the weather would affect us.

But I was wrong. It would be the day we spent at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom.

A day that almost became a disaster.

We actually managed to arrive at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom in time for the ‘rope drop’ (opening time) and made our way to our first ride. We had 3 booked for today. Expedition Everest at 9:10. Kilimanjaro Safari at 10:20. Avatar: Flight of Passage at 5:00.

So, first up, the Expedition Everest rollercoaster which had terrified me when I’d gone on it in my Joe 1.0 life. Now, older, a lot wiser, a lot less comfortable with plummeting 10,000 feet, I had zero desire to risk a heart attack, complete paralyzation or listening to myself scream like a little girl. So, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and I stayed behind.

The Boyz, however, were super keen to test it out.

They soon found out that this ride was not for the faint of heart. The-Oldest had to shut his eyes as it tore downwards like a rocket plunging to earth, and while The-Youngest said he had fun, he declined to go on it, again. Ever. Like never, again. That Yeti had really terrified him.

Still… First ride: A success, I say, a success!            

However, by 9:30, it was already getting hot and humid, and morale began to plunge like the stock market during a trade-war with China. Yesterday’s crazy day of theme-parking and a night of little sleep had left us all weary.

Hoping to shift the mood, I talked the boys into doing the Kali Rapids (since it would get them wet and cool), while we adults chose a nice, dry bench in the shade.

The rapids weren’t that great, according to The-Youngest, but they did get SOAKED with a capital WET.

But by the time we reached the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, grumpiness was settling in like a spaghetti stain on a good dress shirt.

There’ll be lions, I said. Giraffes. Elephants. Hippies. Unicorns.

But the best I got was a shrug and a look that said I’d rather be sleeping (The-Youngest) or playing the piano (The-Oldest).

The safari wasn’t quite like the San Diego Safari, this was a large zoo, somewhat like the Calgary Zoo, but with only the most popular animals on display, (yes, I’m sure there was a survey done and those poor, ugly warthogs were left out.)

Lots of pictures here!

No matter. I loved seeing the animals, I won’t lie. The giraffes were magnificently elegant. The lions were sleepy but cute. The rhinos were content that no one was trying to murder them for their horns.

Crocodiles lurked menacingly in the water. The boy elephants play-fought each other for fun. And the hippos submerged themselves waiting for a moment when you thought they looked cute and wanted to pet them, then they’d bite your freaking arm off. Those buggers kill more people in Africa than any other animal due to them being complete assholes.

Vids here.

As well, the tour guide was lovely, if very scripted, but the real bonus was that we could do this ride sitting down.

Disney World's Animal Kingdom
Tired and hot, by 11, the boys were done, so it was time to implement the NEW PLAN

Sadly, though, the animals didn’t raise the spirits of the Boyz so we went in search of food. Food usually perks them up. A bit.

I found the Dole Pineapple Whip counter which made my day since it was on my Disney Bucket List. I had mine without rum. Maybe a mistake. It was still very yummy, even if it melted all over my hands and I became that sticky, chubby kid everyone hates.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World had a dole float, which was far less messy and (surprisingly) she also had hers without alcohol. The boys, being now thoroughly in a bad mood, refused any food. They grumped at each other, at the weather, and at the food. Everything became either boring or stupid.

Oh oh.

Time to put our brilliant new plan into effect. Time to head home. Time to rest in a nice AC room. Or float in a pool. Then head back to do Avatar, maybe get some food, or maybe even see the River of Light show.

But when we got back, we found something even more fun! The arcade was open and it was free!!! (we had no idea why but weren’t going to look a gift-arcade in the coin-slot), so the Boyz played Guitar Band, raced motorcycles and zapped aliens, forgetting how grumpy they’d been.

While the boyz played, I caught up on my writing at the Pop Century cafeteria, and the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World got to spend some boy-less time alone, meditating and thinking girl thoughts.

For the moment, everyone was happy.

But would it stay that way? Would the rest of our trip to Disney World’s Animal Kingdom be doomed?

Pop Century Resort Disney World Orlando Florida
The-Oldest and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World battle it out on an old-school game. Space Invaders. The day was saved. We were back at the resort, cool, and having goofy, good fun

As always, thanks for reading about our adventures! Please like or follow for updates.

Disney World’s Animal Kingdom – Vacation Day 3

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom
Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom
This is the early morning crowd, all rushing off to get in line for the most popular ride. Due to early entry, by the time this crowd arrived, the wait on Avatar: Flight of Passage was 2 hours! We went for Expedition Everest.

Forecast for Disney World’s Animal Kingdom? Lightning and Thunder possibilities around 2. Chance of sore feet? 100%. Chance of barely bearable humidity? 1000% Chance our new plan would work? I gave it 100%.

We hoped that the whole ‘chance of thunderstorms and lightning’ would not happen. Like yesterday. While that kind of storm was fun when we arrived, the thought of us standing in a line while a billion tons of water fell on us was about as appealing as taking a shower in our clothes. For 90 min. While other people watched.

None of us slept well, so getting up on time was a small, but delightful miracle. I went through my new morning routine of getting up: I banged my leg on the protruding sides of the bed about a hundred times as I gathered supplies for the day, dressed, shaved, gelled my hair so I’d look cool, packed extra waters, and stuffed our rainproof gear into our backpacks.

I had a feeling that if we carried around the rain gear, it wouldn’t rain, like primitives who crossed their fingers for good luck.

As I said in the last post, our plan for Disney World’s Animal Kingdom was a little different than yesterday’s plan for Magic Kingdom. We had Fastpasses for the Expedition Everest rollercoaster at 9:10, the Kilimanjaro Safari for 10:20, and finally the #1 ride in the park, Avatar’s Flight of Passage at 5:00.

Now, at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, there were also walks to go on, gorillas to see or other safari walks to take, but we’d learned from yesterday that by noon, the crowds were bad, and being in the sweltering heat for 90 min drained all the fun from us.

Plus, we knew from looking at the wait times, that the most popular rides like Avatar’s Flight of Passage, The Expedition Everest or The Kilimanjaro Safari could only be done on Fastpass.

So we came up with our new plan.

What if, I mean, seriously, what if we just went back to the hotel around 11, and rested up? The boys could be in the pool, I could catch up on writing or take a nap, while The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World could rest her feet, have a cleansing shower or maybe hop into the pool with the boys.

Then we could head back in the late afternoon. Yes.

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom
The Tree of Life. Seeing it lit up at night was on my Disney Bucket list. This is the early morning crowd continuing to march toward their own goals.

On MY bucket list. 2 things. See the tree of life light up in the evening and taste a dole pineapple ice whip.

On The-Youngest’s? He HAD to ride the rollercoaster, Expedition Everest… And survive that Yeti. He wasn’t terrified of a roller coaster dropping 100’, like I was, no, he was worried the Yeti would give him nightmares.

The-Oldest? he wanted to ride the Expedition Everest without closing his eyes. I don’t know if that meant no closing them for the entire 8 min ride or not closing them when they plummeted downward at 1000 mph.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World just wanted to see the animals, eat some Yeti ribs, and have a more relaxing day. Oh, and not murder us.

So, fingers crossed, we slicked on sunscreen and boarded the bus. Outside, the weather was HOT, the skies blue, but inside, the bus was wonderfully air-conditioned.

We had hopes of another successful day, but fate had some twists for us.

Magic Kingdom – 10 Fails on the First day

Fastpass for disney world

In the Magic Kingdom, we made 10 mistakes. I hope you can learn from us.

orlando florida hot and humid sun at disney world's Magic Kingdom
Knowing it would be hot and humid is COMPLETELY different from experiencing hot and humid. We underestimated the effect
  1. We underestimated the effect heat AND humidity would have on us in the Magic Kingdom . After 8 hours, we were done. Like completely done.
  2. I didn’t get any writing done. I brought my laptop to the Magic Kingdom, but didn’t have any time to get any writing done. This stems from #10.
  3. I didn’t take enough pictures. I mean, I’ve come back from a week’s vacation with over a thousand pictures. And that’s just camping.
  4. The ‘early arrival’ thing didn’t work out as planned. I thought that being at a resort would allow us to be in the park an hour early, but it turns out, that only happens on certain days, like Magic Kingdom opening for Pop Century guests only on Fridays at 8am. Doh!
  5. I didn’t have a hat. What was I thinking? I had enough Kleenex to choke a horse, but no hat. I guess I could have made a hat out of Kleenex…
  6. We used our Fastpasses for early rides. There were no line-ups early in the morning. We’d have been better off using them for rides from 11am-5pm.
  7. We didn’t take advantage of reusing Fastpasses. See, when you’ve done all your Fastpasses for the day, you can rebook a Fastpass. Sure, the super popular rides will be booked, but the fun, goofy ones like the Mad Tea Party ride, CAN be booked, which will still save you an hour in line.
  8. Waiting in line for 2 hours, (sweating, hot, and grumpy), is NOT the way to do Disney World. They don’t have any A/C, fans or cast members waving big palm leaves to keep you cool. We thought they would understand they live in a tropical climate and take steps to ensure people remained cool, and I don’t mean, Hawaiian-shirt-cool, but cool-air cool. We were very wrong.
  9. We didn’t eat in the off times. Eating at 1, you’re eating with a billion other people in the park. Eating lunch at 10:30, you basically have the choice of seats and no one sitting beside you with a parent asking themselves, why did I do this, why did I do this?
  10. We rushed too much and didn’t stop to enjoy it all. We didn’t do badly, like when we took the Peoplemover, or stopped every so often to take a picture, but sore feet, heat exhaustion and jet lag and massive crowds made us want to leave earlier than we should have left.
Fastpass for disney world
Getting a Fastpass for the most popular rides is a MUST. Staying at a Disney Resort allows you to reserve rides 60 days in advance

Honestly, if I had to do it all over, again, I would say spend 2 days in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom to do it justice. That way it’s not all one mad rush from one ride to another, fighting your way through massive crowds.

I’d also advise going in the off-season, something we couldn’t do ourselves.

Disney World Vacation – Day 2 – Magic Kingdom Lessons

Magic Kindom's Cinderella Castle, up close and personal, disney world, orlando, florida
Magic Kindom's Cinderella Castle, up close and personal, disney world, orlando, florida
Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Disney World.

I won’t lie. Despite all the planning and research, there are times when you’re going to do something you’re going to regret. In Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, at around 2:30, we made our worst decision.

Much to our surprise, the weather remained spectacularly nice, if hot and humid. The forecast for thundershowers and lightning had been wrong.

So, we decided to do the Big Thunder Mountain Railway.

Ok, it made sense on paper.

We had a Fastpass for Splash Mountain at 2:45, but we could arrive as late as 3:45 (or 4, since the app told us we could be 15 min late and STILL be fine), it looked like a lot of fun, and the line-up would be inside, out of the sun.

Sure, the wait time was 90 min, but that meant that we’d finish it about 3:30.

Plenty of time to walk 3 min to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, right? Plenty of time.

So we got into the line.

The reality was slightly different. Yes, the line-up was out of the sun, but not quite indoors as the heat filled the open-sided building, making it feel like I was having menopausal hot flashes for a full 90 min. No fans rattled inside. No A/C. It was hot. Humid. We went through all our water.

Like cattle, we shuffled along, and it didn’t matter that Disney World had a ton of neat things to look at in the line. It was hell. People smelled. Likely I smelled.  Very few people, including us, looked all happy and full of love for this experience.

Plus, it took more than 90 min, so as the time ticked past 3:30, and we still had a ways to go, I began to stress. We were in danger of missing Splash Mountain.

But what do we do now?

I mean, we’d waited and suffered 90 min in line, but do we leave to go to our Fastpass ride? Do we make our way back THROUGH the line (the wrong way) to leave?

Or do we hope the line moves fast enough for us to get through in time?

We chose the latter, and as the line slowly snaked forward, I really began to worry. 3:40. 3:45. 3:50! But then, we got on the ride.

It was fast, exciting and fun, but I actually willed it to be faster – We needed to get off and get to our next ride.

Luckily, we did. Despite sore feet and heat exhaustion, we made it to Splash Mountain. With our Fastpass, we raced past the sweaty, hot, angry people waiting 2 hours in line for this ride, and got on.

We’d done it!

Splash Mountain didn’t disappoint, (though The-Youngest didn’t get wet as much as he had wanted to).

But the Big Thunder Mountain Railway had cost us more than a ton of time, about 30lbs of sweat, and all our water – It had sapped our love for Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. The magic was gone.

thunder mountain railroad in magic kingdom, disney world, florida
This is what menopause feels like? Hot, sweaty and angry? For 90 min? Fun times at the Thunder Mountain Railroad

As we made our way through the massive crowds back to our resort, we vowed that we’d do better.

Here’s what we learned.

  • Morning was good. Less crowds in the morning meant less time in line-ups.
  • Heat was bad. No, really bad. We’re from the West Coast of Canada so we’re not used to that heat and humidity. It saps your will to live. It saps the fun. We had to find a way to avoid that heat.
  • Going from 8am to about 6pm had totally exhausted us. Sure, the heat and crowds played their part, but even The-Youngest, our energizer bunny, chose to go back to the resort rather than go on other rides in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. That’s gotta tell you something.

So, after lying on our beds in an air-conditioned room, we came up with a new plan for day 3, The Animal Kingdom, a plan so cunning, it couldn’t possibly fail, right?

Right?

Disney World Vacation – Day 2 – Magic Kingdom Fun

Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Main street in the Magic Kingdom at Disney World. We’re about to learn a valuable lesson of how NOT to do Disney

The first part of the day at Magic Kingdom had gone so well, but by 11am the crowds at Disney World had begun to grow.

In a big way.

Wait-times shown on our Disney World App went from 20 min to a minimum of 30min, and 2 hours for the super popular rides.

On the Tomorrowland’s Peoplemover, we had decided to try and do the park in a circle. Tomorrowland to Fantasyland to Adventureland (where we’d get lunch) to Frontierland, then home.

We had tons of rides we could do, but we wanted to avoid all the huge line-ups. Nothing could be worse than standing under the sun in 100% humidity for 2 hours for a ride.

Plus, it was 11am and the park closed at 9pm, so we had 10 hours. 1 each for lunch and supper, which left 8 hours. So 2 hours waiting for each ride meant we could only do 4 rides (which doesn’t include time for picture taking, walking and eating Mickey balls), and that would suck.

So we’d hit up the MUST-DO rides. At 11:30, we had a Fastpass to the famous Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train. At 2:45 we had another Fastpass for Splash Mountain. Fastpasses meant no lines. Plus, we’d learned that we had a window of 1 hour to use the Fastpass. So we didn’t have to rush, we could be there from 2:45 – 3:45.

Lots of breathing room.

Right?

First up, though, was the famous Mad Tea Cup Party, which had only a 20 min line, but after waiting for about 10, the darned thing broke down.

We didn’t wait for it to be fixed, we dodged through the crowds to the Enchanted Grotto (the Little Mermaid clamshell ride). The-Youngest, able to do the most terrifying rollercoasters, couldn’t face princess animatronics, so we waited for The-Oldest and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World to do the ride.

The sun beat down on us, the sweaty crowds moving in front of us like human rivers, mostly in two directions, but every so often the river would dam up and slow everyone up. Kids shrieked with excitement or temper tantrums. Rides roared and beeped. The air smelled of suntan lotion and fast food. 

This, my friends, is the reality of Disney World in the summer.

Watching the crowds, baking in the sun with me, I realized two things. 1. Disney World in summer is hell. 2. I needed a hat. Badly! Or I risked sunstroke. Luckily, in Adventureland, while the family rode the Barnstormer, I found a good hat that was cool and not goofy at all, not goofy at all, I say.

The day was saved for me. We had super fun on the Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train, got lunch at the Boat House but I was so hot, so sweaty, my feet so sore, that I ate only a bowl of clam chowder. That was it. No epic princess cupcakes. No fruit-filled waffles. No cookies the size of my head. The chowder was all I could handle.

I wasn’t the only one. The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World needed a rest. That heat and humidity and constant walking took it out of everyone. So, while she and The-Youngest rested in the air-conditioned, but smelly restaurant, The-Oldest and I went off to see the Haunted House.

The Haunted Mansion line up in the Magic Kingdom, Disney World
There is always something to look at in the Disney World lines. In this case, the spooky family from the Haunted Mansion

I don’t often get a chance to have a real chat with the-Oldest, but for the hour we stood in line IN THE SUN, we had a great talk about life, about his desire to create something musical that would last, his desire to be on his own, his fear of never being good enough, and why he loved certain composers. Now, the latter is usually what he talks about, but I treasured the openness that he discussed his desires and fears.

I told him I worried he’d lose his love of music if he pursued success over creativity. Money was needed to live, of course, but what powered his soul was his love of music, of playing the piano, of composing. It would break my heart to see that love die. He had a gift, something he still denied, and I couldn’t wait to see what amazing things he’d do with that gift.

It was a great moment for me. The Haunted House? Meh. Amazing visuals, sure, but I get more scared watching an ‘It’ trailer.

The-Oldest and I returned to the restaurant where, as a family, we made our worst decision.

Disney World Vacation – Day 2 – Magic Kingdom Start

Joe and the boyz stand at the entrance to Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida
We had arrived at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom! I had to hold onto the backpack of The-Youngest to keep him from running off!

By the time we had arrived at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, everyone had forgotten that it was 6am our time and that we had slept maybe 8 hours in two days. We were here!

It took a bit of time to walk from the buses to the security check. It took a bit of time to line up, then have our bags checked and walk through a metal detector. It took a bit of time to line up, again, to get into the park.

But by 9:15, we were in!

But, as I looked over at The-Youngest, I realized we’d made a terrible error. No, not the sunscreen that made him look as shiny as an oily nickel… no… he didn’t have a hat or a siren or a sparkler on top of his head so we could find him in a crowd!

Good lord, he’d blend in with anything. Grass. Mike Wazowski . Thin air.

It would be hell keeping track of him. Like me, like Dug the Dog from Up, he tended to see something (“Squirrel!”) and runoff. I think between the The-Youngest and me, we’ve given The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World a permanent frown wrinkle on her forehead.

But standing inside the gates to the Magic Kingdom was, well, magical. In the distance, Cinderella’s castle, set against the bright sun and blue sky, looking like something out of faerie tale. (Wait, it IS out of a faerie tale!) Leading to the castle, Main Street, the buildings quaint with a New England theme. And in front of us, the entrance building, a garden full of flowers that make up a Mickey Mouse face, and, at our feet, ‘The Magic Kingdom’ in stones.

And, adding to the wonder, cast members wandering around in full costume or as Disney characters.

No question, Magic Kingdom was a sight, a proper introduction to Disney World.

We embraced the magic.

There were rides at Adventureland and Tomorrowland and Frontierland, and Fantasyland, there was Mainstreet and Liberty square to shop in, and there were donuts and Mickey cookies to eat and… and… and…. so much more!

Did we run off to see the sights? To ride the rides? To give Mickey a hug? No, we rushed to take a picture.

Now you can get a picture pass thingee, but at $250US, we decided to take our own pictures. But set up in all the BEST spots are the Disney photographers. Being Canadian, we didn’t jump into those spots, but shot as best we could, The-Youngest and I bouncing around like pinballs looking for neat shots.

The boys walking into a misting station at Magic Kingdom, Disney World, Orlando, FLorida
I love this picture of the boyz in the mist! Always keep cool in the summer at Disney World, let me tell you!

But we had a 9:15 Fastpass appointment to Space Mountain since I didn’t quite understand how they worked, we raced off to go on the ride, the boys slowing only to run through a water mister, again and again, and again. Space Mountain was the first part of our plan.

Now, being old, neither The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World or I needed to go on the ride, so the boys rode it together, but without us. They had a blast! That ride, in the dark, scary as hell, was the best way to start the adventure. While they rode, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World bought a purple Magic Band (we all had basic ones that allowed us to ride the rides, pay for stuff and look like we belonged.)

When the boyz got back, the line-ups were still light for nearly every ride! So, we raced off to the next ride, the MUST-DO ride, Buzz Lightyear’s Spin.

Now, this is pure, silly fun. While waiting in the line, we looked at all the Buzz paraphernalia. It’s something Disney does so well, making it interesting to be in a line! (though later there’s a blog on what they DON’T DO so well.) Then we boarded our ships and fought off evil aliens by blasting them with, you know, blasters.

The-Youngest, having watched every YouTube video ever made on Disney World, knew what to hit for the most points and he killed us all with 138,000 to the next best, mine, at 68,500. I think The-Oldest got a score of 1,500 due to the fact he spent most of his time shooting his brother. With a laser. In the face.

The only reason The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World didn’t get the high score (and these are her words) “Is because my partner kept hitting the spin button on the spinner just as I was about to shoot.” That partner was, The-Youngest and, yes, that was part of his strategy!

We all had awesome fun!

By the time we left, the lines had begun to form at the best rides. We chose the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover. Not the most exciting ride, sure, but it took us through Tomorrowland and gave us time to discuss what to do next.

In hindsight, we could have done the whole ‘Fastpass thing’ better. (There’s a blog coming on that, too!) but there were still rides that had smaller lines, and it was only 10:30. Lots and lots and lots of time to do some amazing things.

But ‘wanting to do’ and ‘being able to do’ are two very different things.

The bad-asses with newly bought sunglasses at Future World in the Magic Kingdom, Disney World.

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Disney World Vacation – Day 2 – Magic Kingdom

eating mickey faced waffles in disney world, orlando, florida

No rain in the morning, but the forecast for Disney World was more thundershowers by 2. Would we be able to have a great day or would the bad weather kill our riding time???

And was the weather really the thing we should have worried about?

Our plan for the first day at Disney World, we’d decided upon the Magic Kingdom. We had booked Space Mountain for 9:05, Splash Mountain for 2:05 and the oddly, super busy Dwarf Mine for 3:45. We’d try to catch the parade at 2:45 and the fireworks at night. It would be touch and go for those last items. Thunder and Lightning could shut them down.

Dammit.

But we were all up at 7am, local time. That’s 4am our time. 4. AM!

That’s early!

The magical transport that I would call a bus would take 20-25 min to get us there, then maybe another 20 min in lineups so we needed to be on the bus by about 8. Or at least in the lineup.

Amazingly, we were all up, though ‘awake’ didn’t really describe it. The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World did heroic feats, getting everyone up, showering, making herself all pretty and stuff, and ready to go by 7:30. We packed raincoats, lots of sunscreen, lots of water. I took my laptop to do some writing on our downtimes (oh how foolish that was!) and phones to keep in touch or take pictures.

Then it was off to grab some food. We had the ‘quick service meal plan’ which allowed us 1 meal, 1 drink and sometimes, but not always, a snack, twice a day. (It was part of a great deal Alyssa helped us find.) Alyssa’s link is here, and meal plan link is here.

eating mickey faced waffles in disney world, orlando, florida
I don’t know why, but Mickey-faced waffles made my day. If anyone is thinking of what to buy me for Christmas, either another trip to Disney World or a Mickey-faced waffle machine.

I ate mickey faced waffles, which were so goooood, while The-Oldest ate about ½ a scrambled egg and had a few bites of bacon. That didn’t bode well. He needs his food or he gets a case of the grumpies as bad as an old man (like me) who just saw a neighbour’s dog poo in his yard.

Worse, The-Youngest complained his Mickey waffles were too doughy and he didn’t like the non-Canadian syrup.  So he didn’t eat them. Good lord. (Spoiler alert, I did!) However, both The-Prettiet-Girl-in-the-World and I had GIANT coffees so we’d be good to go.

No matter that the boys had a bout of picky, thought I, we’re going to the Magic Kingdom, a Disney World theme park where there was all kind of food. Right? We’d have plenty of time, right?

To our credit, we finished by 8 and made our way to the buses.

Sure enough, there was a massive lineup for the buses!

Seems everyone in the hotel, I mean ‘resort,’ had the same idea we had – Get to the parks by rope drop (which is Disneyese ‘for when the damn place opens’).  So, like all the others, we got in line. The sky was clear, the sun overhead as hot as if we were in an oven, and the humidity, being a tropical paradise and all, was about 4000%.

However, what could have been a true nightmare was not. This is Disney World after all. A ‘cast member’ came out and said more buses were coming right away. So we waited and applied sunscreen with the dexterity of Cirque du Soleil acrobats to avoid spraying the other people in line.

This is a vital step in any sunny vacation. Failure to properly apply sunscreen results in my head looking like a tomato and likely a case of heatstroke. Worse, if completely assed-up, we’d end up at the nearest clinic to be treated for third-degree stupid sunburn.

I speak from experience.

The shuttle that gets us to the Magic Kingdom in Disney World
The ride to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Oddly, everyone looks awake. It was 5am our time!

Just as we finished covering ourselves with sunscreen, the bus arrived and we were all packed-in like businessmen on the Tokyo subway.

20 min later, we had arrived at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom!

Little did we know that the seeds for how the day would play out had already been planted.

For good and bad.

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As always, thanks for reading the blog. Please follow or share or talk about me to your friends, but, ah, in a good way. Also, more pictures here on Instagram. Or here on Pinterest.

Disney World Vacation Day 1 – Arrival

Magical Express bus at Orlando airport, Florida, heading to our resort, Pop century, Disney World
Magical Express bus at Orlando airport, Florida, heading to our resort, Pop century, Disney World
Not a bus! The Magical Express. It’ll take us to our resort, Pop Century, in Disney World, Florida

One of the best, and sometimes worst, part of traveling is that you never really know what’s going to happen.

It could be a car breaking down on a deserted Italian road, which would most definitely fall into the category of bad, or it could be a whole different type of show at Disney World.

The Air Canada flight had movies so we weren’t bored, but the transfer in Toronto took a very long time as we seemed to have to go through about 20 security checks for traveling to the USA. I guess a lot of terrorists think about blowing up Splash Mountain in Disney World.

Everything went smoothly as we arrived at Orlando airport, 6pm local time, at least until the conveyer belt broke down. However, this was not something completely ‘unexpected’ as these things happen. To me. A lot. Not something planned for, but not something terrible.

By now, we were all very excited to get to Disney World and see EVERYTHING and waiting while the belt was fixed was excruciating. But when it worked, we got our bags quickly and raced to the Disney Magical Express.

See, in Disney World, nothing is called anything mundane. A bus is not called a bus.  It is a Magical Express. They don’t hang up the phone with a cheery, good-bye, no, they say “have a magical day.” The hotel is not called a hotel, it’s a RESORT. The workers here aren’t called expendable cogs in a corporate machine, no, they’re called ‘cast members.’

Now, this may seem cheesy, but I have a different opinion. I think it’s ‘branding’ at the highest level. They want this to be a magical experience and have worked hard to make sure it is just that.

As we loaded onto the bus, we got a taste of Florida’s weather – clouds filled the sky, and the air felt oppressively hot and humid. The Magic Express, though, was air-conditioned – a vital thing in these parts of the world.

The bus ride took 40 min or so but even that was ok as they’d set up screens to tell us more about Disney World. For The-Youngest and I, there was nothing new, but for The-Oldest and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, there was a ton of stuff.

To quote The-Oldest, “Wait, they have a fast-pass?”

We arrived at Pop Century as the clouds overhead darkened like they weren’t glad to see us. By now, The-Youngest vibrated with excitement despite (or perhaps because of) the 10-hour flight. I was just glad to have so little go wrong and that a nice bed awaited me. I needed sleep.

Check-in itself was a total “Disney” experience. The staff from behind the counter CAME AND GOT YOU, introducing themselves, asking how they could help you, then TOOK you to the counter. All smiles. Behind them, behind us, dozens of pop culture pictures. Even some from my childhood.

I began to vibrate with excitement like The-Youngest. We were here! Really here.

We grabbed our bags and went outside.

In the distance, we heard thunder. A deep booooom. We knew where there was thunder, there’d be rain, so we raced towards our resort room, then as a few drops began to fall, we raced out of our room to get some food.

And the rains came!

Not Canadian rain, all cute and stuff. Movie-set rain, drops as big as beetles, a solid sound of water like a small waterfall. We stopped as thunder boomed so close it echoed in our chests. Lightning sheeted across the dark sky, again and again, flashes that lit up the entire resort.

We stood and watched in amazement. I’ve been in thunderstorms, sure, but this was so close, the lightning and thunder rolling over us so quickly that we barely had time to take a breath before another flash lit the sky.

Then, foolishly, we thought we could run from shelter to shelter and get to our food.

We got soaked. Not wet. SOAKED. Like we’d jumped in a pool.

We ran to the cafeteria, dripping on the floor, smelling like wet dogs. But The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, being all kinds of amazing, managed to find a Disney cast member who was handing out towels!

All in all, a great start to our adventure. That lightning and thunder show was simply spectacular and something none of us had expected.

See below for the videos.

When a storm comes, it really comes. Who knew Disney World had such shows?

Disney World Vacation Day 1 – Flight

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks
We packed like pros! We were ready for our trip to Disney World and Universal Theme Parks. Or were we?

The Beginning of the Start

We had to get up very early to catch our flight to Disney World and Universal Theme Parks.

Like 3 am early.

We wanted to have plenty of time in case things went wrong.

Things always go wrong on every vacation. Not always big things, like forgetting a passport or no place to buy coffee, but small things: Misspelled names on tickets. Luggage weighing too much. Kleenex forgotten. No charger cords for iphones (ok, that’s a HUGE thing!)

So it’s good to have some extra time to deal with any random events, and since our flight boarded at 5:45, leaving by 4 seemed about right.

To my utter amazement, the previous night, the boyz had showered, one of them shaved, and were both in bed before 10pm.

I’m pretty sure it’s one of the signs of the apocalypse.  

Being in bed that early would give them a solid 4 hours sleep. Not enough, but way better than getting just 1 or 2 hours sleep.

Then, again to my utter surprise, both boyz got up on time. No dragging them out of bed. No shouting. No use of water cannons. We did the final packing: Electronics. Chargers. CPAP machine. 40 bottles of meds, supplements, and vitamins. Some pharmacies are not as well-stocked as we were.

 By 3:45, we were all ready to go. Again, shocking. I was pretty sure I was dreaming.

We packed up, set the alarm, made sure the stove, iron and nuclear reactor were turned off, then stuffed all the luggage into the car. Vegas-the-dog had been dropped off at her spa, yesterday.

So far, so good,

We left just a little after 4.

Waiting for our flight to Orlando, Florida. We now have coffee. Life is good.

I won’t lie, I was a little anxious. Not about the drive, that was simple enough, but about all the things that could go wrong.

  • I had done online check-in for the first time and I had no idea if that would work, (though I think you could probably guess the answer to that one).
  • I had a delivery coming to the hotel that could go wrong.
  • There was the whole illogical panic of not having my wallet or cell phone or passport.

All stupid stuff, but at 4am, yeah, the panic is real.

In my other life, I honestly didn’t worry about any of this. It was just me and Margot. But with the boys and a very tight schedule, any major failure could mean a disastrous vacation. I’m not sure if it’s an old age thing, that you worry a lot more, or a parenting thing. Or both. Or lack of booze.

But we arrived at the parking lot without any problems, The-Youngest talking for the entire ride, excited and sleep-deprived, which caused one of The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World’s eyes to twitch, which was a bit of a concern.

The price to park cost an arm and a leg but it was efficient, secure and easy, except the pay machine wouldn’t recognize when The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World tried to use the touch-screen buttons. She said it was because she had no soul this early in the morning.

Inside the terminal, we hit our first hiccough.

Yes, the online check-in worked, but the kiosks where you needed to print up the tags did not work. Gack!

We had to get in line for an assistant like the other 200 people. It was too bad, too, because up to that point, Air Canada had been awesome. Awesome when I called them. Awesome with their online stuff, but at the last moment, that fleeting instant when they could have had a clean sweep of awesome, they failed with the kiosk.

But remember. We’d arrived early, so even that lineup, even the line-up at security and even the line up at the café on the other side of the check-point didn’t cause us to miss the flight or even panic about missing the flight.

We boarded the flight, ready for a great adventure in Disney World and Universal Theme Parks!

But in the back of my mind, I still wondered what would go wrong?

air canada flight to Orlando Florida disney world and universal theme parks
at 5am, I look slightly insane. Air Canada FLight to Disney World, Orlando Florida

Disney World Planning 2019

Planning for Disney World in Orlando Florida is vital to a successful vacation.
Disney World Planning is vital! See the previous post.

Together, Disney World and Universal Studios, have more rides, more cool restaurants and more exciting things to do than any place on the planet.

Want a donut the size of your head? Yup, they’ve got that. Want to ride up a mountain and come down with a splash? Yup, they’ve got that. Want to get a wizarding wand and wander around Diagon Alley and cast spells, oh yessireeeee, they have that! OMG! OMG! OMG!

Sorry Nerd attack there. Lemme take a moment.

Ok, doing Disney World and Universal in a week would be hard, if not impossible so we had to make a plan.

Me? I LOVE planning. Oh sure, I know most planning goes to hell as soon as you arrive, but part of the fun of going to Disney World is finding out what’s cool, thinking about it a lot, then going and doing it.

planning for disney world theme park planning
The family plans for the great Disney World Adventure

The-Youngest is with me on this. In fact, he’s far keener on the whole planning thing than me and ended up doing a ton of research on the rides.

He would become our official tour guide.

First I booked the flight. Holy hell, that was expensive, but I kept telling myself, trip of a lifetime, trip of a lifetime, trip of a lifetime.

Then, perhaps not surprisingly, I became overwhelmed with all the choices, the deals, the Fastpass system, the early openings, the meal plans and booking events.

So, I decided to find a good Disney World agent.

Being me, I did my research and found a great person. Her name is Alyssa and she works for Mouseketrips.com.

I can’t say enough about her. She’s been there a ton of times and knows the ins and outs. Plus, she LOVES Disney World so she’s genuinely excited for us to become Mouseketeers or whatever they’re called these days.

Then, we had to figure out what fast passes to book. Since we decided to stay at a Disney Resort, we could get our fast passes 60 days out! The fast pass allows us to bypass lines and feel super special. But we could only book 3 rides in each park, so we had to choose wisely. Plus, even at 60 days, some of the rides were already taken by annual pass holders or worshipers of Satan.

So we watched every Youtube video we could find, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World brought home books from the library, and I read blogs like Disneymoms.com and hotrussianbrides, the latter of which (perhaps not to anyone’s surprise) had a complete lack of information of Disneyworld.

Having gathered a ton of information (and a few requests from the Russian brides for marriage), we had a family meeting about what to do in Disneyworld, and did what all families do – We compromised so everyone was vaguely unhappy.

To find out what we chose, check out the next post.

The last thing we had to do was find out what HAD to be done in each park.

Booking the Fast Passes was not enough. We booked a restaurant. We looked up what quick-service places to visit. We figured out how long it takes to get from point Mickey to point Minny.

Now, we couldn’t plan every minute, (sadly) but we did have an idea what would be nice to do given the limited time. I mean, if we miss the tea-cups, not a big deal, If we miss the Haunted Mansion, (which we couldn’t book a Fastpass for), then that would be, you know, a thing.

With our plan made, we were good to go.

Oh, sure, there’d be clothes that needed buying (I wanted to do the Don-Johnson-Miami-Vice look), but we’d organized as best as we could!

Bring on that donut the size of my head!

Check out the links for more help. 🙂 And a neat checklist from Lil Luna below.

Planning a Disney Trip 2019

What to Pack (really an outstanding site for a whole bunch of plannin’.)

From Lil Luna – https://lilluna.com/disney-world-packing-list/

Disney World Planning

Disney Castle, Orlando Florida
Disney Castle, Orlando Florida
Disney World. A once-in-a-lifetime trip.

So, why go to Disneyworld? Why Walt’s Wonderland? Why the Magic Kingdom? Why not the equally exciting city of Calgary? Or camping in the mosquito-infested forests of BC? Why even go anywhere?

Simple. But maybe not what you think.

See? Time is running out. The-Oldest graduates next year, and The-Youngest will (all too soon) be a YouTube billionaire, software engineer, mountain bike professional or plumber (depending on the day he’s planning this out).

So, we wanted to take advantage of a week’s vacation and go someplace amazing.

Calgary and camping don’t quite fit the bill.

Sooooooo…Disney World. Florida.

And, although there are other amazing places to go (NY comes to mind, maybe the Amalfi Coast in Italy, maybe Mars), Disney World was one place we could all agree upon.

To be fair, it’s not just Disney World. It’s a trip to see Disney AND see Universal Studios AND, maybe, just maybe, take a ride out to see the Kennedy Space Museum.

All in 8 days, including a flight.

That’s no small task.

Seems there’s a lot to see and do in Disney World (and Universal). Seems there are, like, 4 theme parks in Disney World, and in Universal, 2 parks plus a waterpark. Doing the math, we’d need 7 days, plus 1 for looking at rockets, plus 2 days for travel. That’s ahhh, lemme do the math in my head, ah, carry the two, invert pi, and, yeah, that’s 10 days.

And we have 8.

So how would we do that? How could we design a vacation that wasn’t a stresscation where we ran around desperately trying to see everything, probably literally running from ride to ride?

We would have to compromise. The simple truth was, we couldn’t see or do everything. So we began to look at what was important.

It’s why Disney World and Universal were the go-to vacation locations. The boys had already been to Disneyworld and, long, long ago, Legoland. I wrote a ton about that vacation. There was so much to see and do.

I mean, just look at what Disney World has to offer.

Rides like Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Avatar’s Flight of Passage, a Tower of Terror, a Haunted Mansion, a ride soaring above spectacular scenery, safaris, loads of Disney characters wandering around, parades, fireworks, shops that sell authentic Dug backpacks from Up.

Then there’s eating a donut the size of your head, tasting the oddly popular dole whip, or munching on a huge pretzel in the shape of Mickey’s head.

 So, we came up with a plan. A basic plan to be sure, (that’ll be the next post), but a plan nevertheless.

All we had to do was figure out what was important to us. What did we HAVE TO see and do?

The-Youngest had a LOT of opinions. Even The-Oldest, after trying his teenage best to pretend this wasn’t going to be fun, had a few ideas. Both The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and I had ideas as well, but let’s face it, this was a trip for the boyz and we wanted to make sure they had the BEST time ever.

More to come!

As always, thanks for reading this. Below is a neat video on planning a Disney World Trip.

Some good suggestions here – for people who like their planning!