After not having a real fly somewhere, stay at a hotel and go sightseeing vacation in 7 years (Mall of America for my sister's 50th! And yes, we went to the SPAM museum and it was awesome! lol) I decided I wanted, no needed, to go somewhere. I knew my BFF Barb was hoping to take her youngest boy to Disney before he was too old to appreciate it so I suggested to her that we go. She jumped right on board and soon the trip included me, Barb, her daughter Cassidy and her fiance Phil, her son Brian and his girlfriend Melissa and Barbs' youngest, Brody. Seven of us were off the the Happiest Place on Earth - Disney World Florida!
I jumped into the planning with gusto. How hard could it be, right? Airfare, hotel, rental car, bing bang boom. Yeah... not so much. Booking a Disney vacation is like giving a 16 year old an old paper map and having them use it to get somewhere. Talk about confusing! We wanted to stay at the Animal Kingdom Resort but the prices I saw were astronomical. Upwards of $300 a night. We needed 2 rooms for five nights. That's $3000 just for the hotel (Right? Math is NOT my strong suit, but even if I'm wrong, it's still expensive!) The flights seem to be running about $250 per person out of Boston/Manchester NH area - $500 for me because I need two seats. And then the rental car... it needed to be big enough for 7 people AND my scooter. We're suddenly in 18 wheeler territory! THEN... we had to figure in park passes and food. This is where I gave up because we were looking at a vacation that was going to cost about $12000!!! It was time to call in the professionals. Hello, AAA?
So Barb came up and we went to the AAA office and told the agent, Eliza, what we wanted. Hotel, Flight, Rental car, park passes etc... Her first suggestion was that if we were staying "on property" and not planning to go anywhere other than different Disney parks, we should scrap the rental car. I have NEVER been on a vacation without having a vehicle at my disposal and the thought of this made me nervous. What if there was an emergency? What if I needed a midnight run to CVS for peanut butter M&Ms? I gulped and agreed - no rental car. Instead we would sign up for Disney's Magical Express. Yup... uh huh... it was Magical alright... more to come on THAT!
Next, we had to forget about the cool rooms at the animal place where giraffes come right up to your balcony. It just wasn't in our price range. We had to face the fact that we were not Animal Kingdom people... we were Little Mermaid people - over in the low rent district. We finally settled on two rooms in one of the lesser resorts, a 3 day park hopper pass and the quick meal service plan. Eliza told me that I should book the airfare myself since I can get the same "deals" she can get and AAA charges an extra $50 fee for booking airfare - why?, I don't know. Seems to me if you're a member, which I am, and you're using them to plan a vacation, they should be able to do that, right? But ok, whatever. We put down a small deposit and off we went with whatever brochures she could give us. Of course, as soon as we got back to my house, we jumped online to look at what we just agreed to!
Everything was fine but I was having a hard time with the welfare resort we were booked in. I was looking forward to a nice relaxing vacation and I just wasn't getting that type of vibe from the "Cars" building or the "Little Mermaid" place. They seemed to be just concrete buildings with brightly painted characters all over them. The rooms opened to the outside concrete courtyards with concrete play areas. It just wasn't speaking to me. Of course, you may be wondering why in the world I was going to Disney if I was looking for a "relaxing" vacation, right? The only answer I have is that I'm my own worst enemy! Anyway, I finally decided I would spend a little more and upgrade to what they call a "Moderate Resort". We ended up at the Port Orleans French Quarter and if I do say so myself, what a smarty pants I was on that! More to come about the resort itself but I don't want to skip ahead!
If you've ever traveled anywhere with me, you know there is always some type of adventure or international incident and this trip was no exception. We started off the week with a doozy.
We arrived at the airport about 2.5 hours before our 4:30pm flight. I wanted to get there a little earlier than the usual 2 hours because I had never flown with Southwest before, was on my new scooter, needed to make sure I was assured pre-boarding and that they knew we were transferring in Baltimore and I would need the scooter there too. The AAA office screwed up and only gave half our party the bright yellow luggage stickers that signified "Disney Express", so they (AAA) told us we would have to check in and tell the agent and they would put stickers on the luggage.
So the seven of us descend upon the Southwest ticket counter, bags, carry-ons, jackets in hand. The reservations were under my name so I was the mouthpiece. I was also the problem. In times past, when booking an extra seat for myself, I put that seat under the name "ExtraSeat Jascowski" and the airline figured it out. I guess Southwest wants you to just... oh hell, I have no idea what I was supposed to do! So the agent had to clickety clack away on her computer trying to fix it. So we waited.... and waited... and... you know... waited. Finally, after calling in reinforcements, she gets it all straightened out and we check our luggage through.
We were headed up to the security area when I ask who was carrying my carry-on (I'm on my scooter and my purse is in my basket so I couldn't carry it myself). Everyone stops and looks at each other. NO ONE was carrying my carry-on. OMG, we left it in the car! But Barb says no, she didn't see anything left in the car. My carry-on has my Cpap machine, my medications and most importantly, my Kindle in it! I refuse to go on vacation without my Kindle... and those other important things too. So Barb grabs my keys and runs all the way back to the Long Term Parking area to find my carry-on. Who can guess what happens next?
So the remaining six of us wait for her to come back with the bag. And we wait. And we wait. We try texting and calling her but there's no answer. By now we've figured out the worst. The bag never made it into the car and she's had to race from Manchester NH back to Methuen to find the bag. It is now about 3:00pm, an hour and a half before our flight leaves. We have to get through security and to the gate but because she was just going to the car, Barb didn't have her purse. She had no way to pay for the half hour she was parked and she doesn't have her boarding pass or her ID to get through security. I go over and talk to the Southwest people and the one lady agrees to just print up another boarding pass for her and we could leave her ID with them so she would be all set. But we can't find her ID and we assume she must have had it on her. (You KNOW what they say about assuming, right?). So we all head up to the TSA at the top of the escalator.
Luckily the lines weren't that bad and the other five people in my party went right through. But of course, I'm on my scooter and can't fit through the scanning machines. So they open the little gate and talk with me and I agree to the manual pat down. Let me tell you, if you haven't been "gettin' any" for awhile, go through an airport security check and ask for pat down. You'll need a cigarette afterwards!
So after I got felt up by security, we make a pitstop at the ladies room. We're taking our time, la la la... and when we exit the restroom, my phone rings, it's Barb. We start to talk but suddenly some official looking woman rushes towards me and asks "Are you Michelle?". Why yes, yes I am! "We've been waiting for you" she says... "We've held up boarding the plane so you can pre-board!" And with that, I look up to see gate number whatever it was FILLED with people standing in the boarding lines... all looking right back at me. I hand the phone to Cassidy and I scoot towards the gate. A plane-full of people giving me the hairy eyeball.
Now, I'm the type of person that DESPISES (hate isn't a strong enough word) being the center of attention. It's not that I'm shy, I just like to blend in. And I do realize how ridiculous that sounds. As I type it, I hear Marisa Tomei sarcastically telling Joe Pesci (Uncle Vinny) "Yeah, you blend"... But I guess that's why I try to make as little a commotion with myself as possible - because - to quote my friend Deidra - I'm already a train wreck that people can't stop looking at.
As I pass through the hoards of angry villagers, I almost feel like giving them the beauty queen wave. That's what it felt like, that I was the only float in a fat lady parade gone wrong. But I get on the plane with Brody and I choose the comfortable front row. It never occurs to me that I am now on display for every angry passenger to once again shoot daggers at me as they pass by. I know for sure that if there's a plane crash, not one of them will help me down the blow up slide!
But wait! We forgot about Barb, right? She finally made it back to the airport, luckily didn't get stopped by any troopers while she was racing back and forth, and she's got her new boarding pass. BUT... it turns out that Cassidy DID have her ID and now she can't get through security. So Cas has to hand off the ID to a TSA agent who agrees to hand it off to the harried looking woman on the other side of the ropes. At this point, nearly everyone in the area is aware that the plane is now being held for BARB! She gets through security and they shove her shoes into her arms and tell her to run!! With seconds to spare she does her best O.J. Simpson impression (the old one - where he runs through the airport, jumping over seats and luggage, not the newer one where he kills his ex-wife and her friend) and she gets onto the plane in her stocking feet carrying her shoes and my carry-on bag! Whew, crisis averted.... for now!
Watch for part 2 - coming soon! And we're not even off the ground yet! LOL!