Tuesday, March 1, 2016

MY Top Ten Tips for your Disney Vacation!

After I got back from my first Disney World trip in 20+ years, I started reading all these Pinterest “Tips & Tricks” about going to Disney. And yes,I realize I did that backwards – you don’t have to point it out to me! The thing I learned is that I missed SO much! And now I feel I have to go back again. However, there were lots of things that I learned from my trip that weren’t really addressed in most people’s lists of things not to miss. So for your reading and Disney planning pleasure, I submit to you my “Top Eight Things To Know Before Going To Disney World”. (Sorry, I couldn't actually come up with another two things!).

PLAN PLAN PLAN. Now, I know that nearly every article tells you this, but don’t do what I did and leave it up to someone else to plan, figuring you’ll just go with the flow. My friend Barb planned everything (Yeah Barb!) and only afterwards did I realize that some of the things I wanted to do weren’t on her list of priorities. Mind you, before we went, I didn’t know I wanted to do these things, only AFTER, when I – you know – read the brochures on the plane ride home! So take the time to visit all the tips and tricks sites BEFORE you go. Decide what’s most important to you and try to work it in. At first I thought that trying to plan our days down to the minute was going to be stifling, but really, it makes the difference between standing in the middle of a parade route (been there, done that) wondering what to do next and snagging the best place in line for Thunder Mountain. Vacationing is serious business!
GETTING OUT & ABOUT. If you’re staying “on property”, meaning in a Disney Resort, you really don’t need a rental car. I was worried because I have never been on vacation when I didn’t have a car at my disposal but the Disney bus system is so efficiently run, you’ll be glad you skipped the price of a rental. HOWEVER… if you are using the Disney Magical Express service – here’s a few things to know.
    •  DO NOT FORGET to attach the tags they send you in the mail to your luggage. These are very important. And if your travel agent tells you that Disney didn’t send tags for each person but you can just tell the ticket agent at the airport…(not mentioning any names-ahem- AAA Travel), INSIST that this is NOT acceptable and tell them you DEMAND to have the luggage tags you need, even if someone needs to overnight them to you in the mail! Trust me on this – you don’t want to be at your resort while your luggage is circling ‘round and ‘round on the carousel back at MCO! I speak from experience.
    •  If you are landing in Orlando at night, be prepared to NOT receive your luggage until the morning. I don’t remember seeing this in any of the paperwork I read beforehand ( I DID read some!), but you will not get your luggage from the Magical Express people for THREE HOURS or more after you land. So better pack some PJs and underwear in your carry on.
    •  The Magical Express is not Magical for everyone. I use a mobility scooter, or as Disney calls them ECVs. The giant Magical Express bus, and it IS giant, does have a lift for people using ECVs but it’s narrow and the turning radius at the top is quite a small area. They did give me the choice of loading the ECV while I took the stairs onto the bus, but there was no way I would have been able to make those 2 foot high stairs! (I exaggerate slightly!).They ended up calling a special van for me and my entourage and on the way home, there was chaos trying to get our party back to the airport. So if you’re using the Magical Express and you use an ECV, make sure you’re ready for any little “problems” that pop up. 
    • The bus system within the resort is great. I was worried about waiting long lengths of time because each bus can only take two ECVs, but I never had to skip a bus and wait for the next one. When you’re in your ECV, there is a special place to wait, rather than trying to master the cattle lines. In some cases, when the bus pulled up, no matter where the rest of your party was in line, the “gatekeeper” would put you on first and call your party out of the line and everyone got to board first. Other times, you waited til your party was at the front of the line and then they boarded you. But honestly, the first example happened more often.
CRASH TEST DUMMIES. Speaking of ECVs... As I said, that’s what Disney calls them – Electric Conveyance Vehicles. Personally, I think it stands for Every Customer [had better]Vamoose – because the people using these things are reckless! Seriously folks, Disney World is NOT the place to learn how to use an ECV/scooter! It’s way too crowded and congested for scooter newbies and really, you’re gonna end up hurting someone. I’ve been using ECVs for years, so I can stop on a dime and make a 20 point turn in under ten seconds but some of the people I saw using these machines needed their licenses revoked. There was one group of about 12 people – I kid you not – who had Granny and Grampy with them, each on their own ECV. There was NO WAY either of them should have been on scooters. I watched as they BOTH plowed into a crowd of people while waiting for the Muppet Vision 3D attraction. Then, as a man from their group tried to “help” them, he was running over his own feet, then ran Grampy into a wall. These poor elderly people had no idea what they were doing. Once inside the theatre, they tried parking their ECVs against a back wall and walking to the seating area, when they could have stayed on the ECV. BOTH of them crashed into the wall. Now really, they had about 12 people with them, they could have easily rented wheelchairs instead of scooters for Nana and Papa. So do us all a favor, unless you KNOW what you’re doing or want to take the time to go to an open area in the parking lot somewhere to practice – stay off the scooters cause you’re going to hurt someone!

QUICK SERVICE MEAL PLAN. DO IT! I was worried that our group of “healthy eaters” wouldn’t have enough to eat all week but we had plenty and then some. Just learn to take advantage of the plan the best way it fits you. Everywhere I read, it said it consisted of Breakfast, 2 Snacks and Dinner. But really, the meals are interchangeable and so flexible that you’re never hungry. I don’t eat breakfast usually so I would grab a bagel or muffin in the morning and that counted as a snack. I refilled my refillable Disney cup (which can be refilled nearly everywhere with soda or water) and off I went. Lunch and Dinner consists of your meal, a drink, separate from your refillable cup, and dessert. And you STILL have a snack credit for the day. At the end of our trip, our group of seven had over 30 snack credits left, which we promptly spent at the gift shop on cookies, popcorn and candy for souvenirs and plane ride snacks! And here’s a HINT! At Port Orleans French Quarter, one of the desserts/snacks you can get is an Ice Cream Sandwich. It’s two giant chocolate chip cookies with about three scoops of ice cream in between. Easily enough for two people. However, if you just want a cookie, you only get ONE as a dessert or snack… so… I put two cookies in the same Styrofoam container that the ice cream sandwich comes in and told them it was an ice cream sandwich without the ice cream! I ate one cookie and brought the other back to my room for later! How smart am I?? LOL!

MAGICAL PHOTOS. The Magic Photo Express thing - skip it. It’s a lot of money to have your picture taken when you can actually ask that same photographer to take a picture with your own camera. We did get some nice shots where they added some characters into the picture with you and yes, there were some shots of us on rides, but really, IMO, not worth the extra money.

PARADES & FIREWORKS. Okay, not really a tip, but a complaint. Disney is really no place for kids. We were there to do some serious vacationing and there were all these little kids everywhere! LOL! And what’s wrong with little kids? Well, for one thing, they’re scared of fireworks so there’s lots of screaming and crying. If they aren’t scared, they insist on being held high to see and Mom and Dad are all too willing to sling junior up onto their shoulders to get a closer look. But really people? I can’t fit on anyone’s shoulders so you just blocked my good view without even a glance back. So can I ask you, if you’re tall or insist on putting little Suzy on your back, would you mind stepping to the side and letting the short people see from the middle?

STROLLERS. Just about every ride that I saw had a stroller parking area and all of them were jam packed. Outside the Carousel ride, there had to be 100 or more strollers lined up row to row. And in these “empty” strollers were clothes, diaper bags, cameras, packages and even handbags. Yes, this is Disney, the most magical place on earth. But criminals go on vacation too. I’m not a thief but if I were, I could have made a killing. I know it might be a pain to empty the stroller every time you go on a ride, but unless you have someone watching out for your stuff, don’t be surprised if something is missing when you come back (it wasn’t me!).

GROUPS. Don’t do it! There were 7 of us and we spent so much time trying to keep track of everyone and who wanted to do what, when, and where, it was exhausting. Of course, if you’re bringing kids under 12, they shouldn’t be given choices of what to do or where to go anyway – be the boss! But when it comes to traveling with other adults – leave them at home! Just take your best friend and have a blast! 

You can read the "play by play" on my Disney Vacation at mishes2cents.blogspot.com - just scroll down to start at part one!

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Final Chapter On Our Disney World Adventure

The ride to our resort isn’t a long one and we shortly find ourselves driving into Port Orleans French Quarter. It’s now about 11pm and the main entrance is lit up with little lights off the trellis’s (sp!?). You can see inside to the lobby where there are several beautifully decorated Christmas trees, garland and swag. It was all very pretty.
We pile out of the van and enter the lobby. It seems as though all of us are enchanted by our surroundings – but enough of that – I want to get checked in, go to the bathroom and flop on a bed! So Barb and I head over to check in.
When we made our trip reservations with Eliza at AAA, it was easiest for her to put Barb and her three kids on one reservation (all with the same last name) and for me, the fiancĂ© and the girlfriend on the other reservation. (two rooms/two reservations). But just because we were booked that way, didn’t mean that was how we needed to stay in the rooms. And that didn’t matter anyway, because long ago when we made these reservations, we made it clear we needed connecting or adjoining or adjacent rooms – so we’d be just sort of coming and going in our two rooms – like a suite or something!
So we get checked in we’re given directions on how to get to our rooms but you know how when you’re already tired and cranky you only listen with half an ear and you’re so anxious to get moving that you barely look at what you’ve got in your hands and you wish the person would just stop talking so you could go? Yeah, that was us. So we finally wander off in the direction she pointed us in, figuring how hard could it be to follow numbers and find our rooms, right? Ha ha ha – silly us!
We exit the through the door she pointed to and find ourselves back outside. We’re in a little courtyard that leads out into these mini brick streets with old fashioned street lamps. The pool area is in the middle and the buildings of rooms are around it, with rooms on either side of the building. So some have pool views and some have garden views. It was really very quaint. But hard to appreciate when you have to pee so c’mon gang, let’s find our rooms.

Of course, one of us should have been listening to the check in lady. We had no idea where we were going. We’re trying to be somewhat quiet because it’s so late but the group has, for some reason, split up while following room number signs on the buildings and we’re sort of “whisper yelling” to each other. But suddenly group #1 finds our rooms and we all gather over there. But something is wrong. The magic bands, which act as keys to your room, are opening one door but not the room right next to it. We go into the open room and see the connecting door and try to open that, but it’s locked from the other side. Now we’re really starting to get frustrated. Then one of use gets the bright idea to look at the paperwork more carefully. This is when we realize that the room numbers aren’t even close to each other. One is 5230 and the other is 5923 (or whatever the numbers were, I can’t remember!). Brody seems to be the only one with any energy left so we send him in search of the other room.
He comes back in minutes saying he found the room but can’t get in. He has the wrong magic band. I give him my band and off he goes again. I think at this point he shouts that he found it. So not only is our room NOT connected. Not only is our room NOT adjoining or adjacent. It isn’t even in the same building!!! So now we face a dilemma. Do we traipse back to check in and get this resolved or do we leave it as is for the night and try to fix the issue in the morning? Guess which one my bladder chose?

We split up now and get into our rooms. But heyyyy… where’s our luggage?  Barb calls the front desk to find out what the delay is because you know, we’re part of the magical express thing and so far, we have experienced very little magic! Well, come to find out, when you use the Disney Magical Express, your luggage doesn’t get to your room for a full three hours or so after you do! This is neither magical nor express to me. It’s after midnight, we’re all exhausted and now we have no luggage/clothes til three in the morning or so. Needless to say, the frustration level is high. We’re given the choice to be woken at 3am when the luggage comes or we can call when we wake up and they will bring it to our room. We choose to call in the morning and just wing it for now.
Just before we nod off to sleep, Barb announces she plans on getting to the Magic Kingdom in time for opening ceremonies so we’d better all be ready to take the bus over there  around 8am. I think I was still laughing as I fell into sleep.

Breakfast on the Quick Meal Plan
When I woke up our luggage had already arrived and everyone was heading to breakfast. Unfortunately, they were never going to make the park opening. And I was never going to make it to breakfast. Before we even started this adventure, Barb and I discussed how I needed to move at my own pace and it was understood that they should just go as planned and when I was ready, I would text or call to find out where they were and I’d meet up with them.
Now, I’m not sure if I mentioned this before, and I’m way too lazy to go back to parts one and two to look, so…  When we booked the vacation, we also signed up for the Disney Quick Meal Plan. The way it is written or described is that it includes Breakfast, dinner and a snack at quick service locations throughout the resorts and parks. After looking at what would be available, like slices of pizza and boxes of popcorn etc., we decided that our group of big eaters may not be satisfied and buying food at the parks is just crazy expensive! So I went ahead and ordered a giant box of food from Amazon Pantry to be delivered to the hotel the day we arrived. When we checked in, I asked about the box but they said they had no delivery waiting for us. Since it was so late and so much was going on, I figured I’d deal with it the following day.
So here we are, the following day. I’m finally ready to face the world. The weather is beautiful. It’s sunny and cool, perfect sunburn weather for me – ugh! I scoot over to the concierge to talk to them about the room assignments and pick up the box.
Now, once again I’m stuck with waiting for the first free concierge and just by making eye contact, I already know the one I DON’T want. He just looks like he’s gonna be snarky, you know? And guess who I get??? Yup, Mr. Snark! I wheel up to his area and he gives me the fakest smile and with an equally fake drawl he wants to know how he can help me. I already hate him. I explain to him that we booked adjoining or adjacent rooms but come to find out, we’re in different buildings. We’re traveling with kids and this is just not acceptable. (Now, at this point, we’ve pretty much settled in anyway and I think if they had offered us two new rooms, I would have declined anyway.. but…). Mr. Snark replies with the “It’s only a request and we cannot accommodate all requests.” This pisses me off, so I tell him again that we have kids (ok, they’re older kids but they’re still kids, right?!) in separate buildings and that just isn’t appropriate. Again he gives me the party line. I was fuming by now. Really, all I needed him to say was “Gee, I’m sorry that happened. We’re fully booked right now but if something comes up where we can change the rooms, I will certainly let you know”. That’s it, that’s all I needed, but he wasn’t giving an inch. I was livid… and he was still snarky. So now I ask about the box from Amazon. I had received an email from them saying the box was scheduled for arrival on Monday and since it was already just about noon on Monday, I figured that it would have been delivered with the morning mail/deliveries. Snark-boy checks the computer and tells me there’s no package for us. I don’t trust him but I’m frustrated so I decide to let it rest and hit the park.
Now this is my first outing into Disney in over 20 years and I’m all alone. I have to figure out where I catch the bus then find the group once I get there. At this point my anxiety level is pretty high. But I don’t know if it’s from being alone and having to do something very much out of my element (boarding a bus and getting into the park) or if it’s just because I wanted to slap the shit out of the concierge and I couldn’t!
Finding the little bus station was easy. They had these covered areas with benches and soda machines and signs for which parks the busses that stopped there would be going to. Each little station had a rectangle painted on the ground with a big handicap/wheelchair painted on it. I was the only person there in a scooter so I parked myself in the rectangle and waited for the bus that said “Disney World”.  After reading several people’s blogs about Disney, I was a little worried about my wait time because each bus has a limited amount (turns out to be 2) of wheelchairs/scooters they can take at one time. But the first bus that pulls up is empty so I’m in luck. But wait – it’s time to be embarrassed again!
Apparently, there is some unwritten rule that says if you see this woman (meaning me), please be sure to somehow make sure she feels as uncomfortable as possible. Once the bus stops, all the people waiting in line by the door do that little “move forward” thing. You know, almost like a crowd surge but not quite…? So yeah, they do that but guess what? The bus driver tells them all to step back and wait because he has to load me into the bus first. Break out the dagger eyes again!
So he presses the magic button and the bus lowers and a ramp folds down. Pretty cool, except everyone is watching me, pissed off that they have to wait to board the bus. I ride the scooter onto the ramp and up into the bus but now I’m not sure where to put the scooter. I see an area with no seats but it’s directly in front of me and if I pull straight in, it blocks the aisle. The bus driver now starts touching the controls of my scooter, trying to parallel park me. But I don’t know this at the time so I’m not able to help. Had he just said – I need you to parallel park right here, I could have done it but instead, he’s moving me back and forth, bumping me into poles and seats, and really not going anywhere and all I can think of is that the people waiting to get on are gonna be pissed!
I finally get situated and the other passengers get on, sure enough, giving me dirty looks. I try smiling at some of them but my charms weren’t working on them. How dare I delay their trip to the Magical Kingdom where everyone is happy all the time, right?
Getting into the park was uneventful but I had been told to go to the “Town Hall” to get some sort of sticker or pass that says I’m disabled so that I wouldn’t have to navigate the long roped-in lines. But the front of the Town Hall isn’t handicap accessible and I have to go around to the side to get in. But the problem is the line for people to be served is through the building and out the front door, so I really can’t “get in line”. I see that part of the counter is low, to serve people in wheelchairs and there is a woman in a scooter being helped, so I get in line behind her. But guess what? Mr. Snarks brother works here! He looks up and says “Do you mind getting in line please and you’ll be helped in order”.. Umm.. ok but how do I get in line if it’s down the stairs? Sometimes I just hate people. So I drive my scooter over and get in line beside the line going out the door. I inch forward as each person is helped and soon enough I find myself at the front of the line but beside other people that were in the long line. The advantage here though, is that when it’s Mr Snarks brother’s turn to call someone forward, I can defer to the people in the original line! I end up getting helped by a very nice man at the other end of the counter. And of course, he tells me there is no such sticker or pass and I’m good to go. Shaking my head, I head off to Tomorrowland to meet the group.
I get to them in time for them to decide they are done there and heading over to their fast pass at the Haunted Mansion.

I’m jealous that I can’t go through the ride, but to make the best of it, I leave them in line and head down the road to find out where there are more of those machines that squish your pennies. Now, whoever said that the first week of December was a “low crowd” time has obviously never been there during the first week of December. If this was not crowded I can’t imagine what crowded looks like. And people get stupid when they see the scooter. They suddenly don’t know to move to the right or they just stand there not knowing what to do at all. It makes me want to scream but really I just say “Excuse me”, “excuse me” 42 times until they move. So I’m going along and I round the bend and suddenly there is no crowd but there *is* a rope across the path. I see it and start to turn around but a “cast member” unhooks the rope for me. I’m slightly puzzled but I move through the rope and guess what? I’m in the fat lady parade again! 

Apparently, it was blocked off for the 2 o’clock parade but for some reason, he let me go past the rope and now I am driving down the completely empty main thoroughfare while hundreds, maybe thousands of people watch me go by. I didn’t know if I should start waving or start crying of embarrassment. I could hear circus music in my head as I scooted down the road looking for escape… dun dun dudda da da dun dun da da… I finally found an opening to a sidewalk and got out of there. I watched most of the parade from a sidewalk I wasn’t supposed to be blocking but hey, as the star of the pre-parade, I guess I got a perk. But so did the many tall people that stood in front of me, not a care in the world for who might be behind them. Have I mentioned I hate people?
After the parade and the Haunted Mansion, we decide to go back to the hotel and rest so we can come back tonight for the fireworks. When we go back, I go to the concierge area to check on my delivery and I see Mr. Snark is still there. I see him see me, but he doesn’t know that I see him seeing me. Then I see him turn and go into a back room and I’m thinking – good, because I don’t want to deal with your snarky ass either! So I go to a nice lady and ask about my package. She says it’s not here. I tell her I got an email that says it arrived at 2pm and suddenly, out of nowhere – perhaps Disney Magic? – Snarkman pops up and says “All deliveries go to a central location then they are delivered to the resorts from there” It was like he couldn’t wait to give me that bit of news – the bastard. Ok, fine, it’s only around 4pm, so they’ll probably have it ready later on… oh, silly me!!
We rest then it’s back to park for fireworks. I stop at the desk again, but still no package. We get to the Magic Kingdom and apparently everyone else had the same idea because it was mobbed. Trying to stake out a spot on Main Street so you could see the castle and the fireworks was crazy. Our group of seven gave up on trying to stay together so it was just Barb, Brody and me. We tried to get closer and closer but so did everyone else. We finally thought we were in a great spot and could see everything pretty well and just as the little program and fireworks were about to start, some 6’9” guy decides to put his kid up on his shoulders. Now really, is this necessary? The kid is now 9 feet in the air and several people, me being one of them, can’t see because he wants his 5 year old to get the best view in the house. C’mon mister – if you’re going to do that, stand to the side and she’ll still be able to see. Besides she’s young and has a lot more chances to come back to Disney and see this while I may never get a chance to come back before I pop off! But it was no use, he wasn’t moving and the show starts. All my fireworks pics have the 9 foot baby in them. I hate people.

After the fireworks, we made the ridiculous mistake of trying to move forward against the tide. I felt like I was an ocean liner moving through a sea of little ice burgs. People were banging into me and walking to within an inch of the scooter before bearing right or left to go around. I was Moses parting the sea. We may have made it 20 feet forward before we decided to just stop where we were and wait for the crowd to thin. While waiting, we must have seen ten different people trip or stumble on the rails that are on the ground for the trolley. Strollers and wheelchairs were getting stuck in the grooves. I can’t believe Walt hasn’t been sued yet. Once the crown dissipates, we learn that the other half of our group has already left the park and is on the way back to the hotel. Thanks for waiting guys…
The box ended up arriving on Tuesday afternoon. Most of the items I bought got repacked in our luggage and taken home though. Once we learned how to use the Quick service meal plan to our advantage, it was plenty of food. You see, you don’t *have* to have breakfast as one of your meals – it can be lunch and dinner. So I chose to just get a bagel in the morning, which only counted as a snack. I refilled my free refillable mug and off I went for the day. Lunch always included what you ordered, a drink – not your refillable free one, but another full drink, and a dessert. Then dinner was the same, your meal, dessert and another drink and now you still had a snack to use. So the food plan was perfect for us and in fact, when we left, we each had 18 snack credits left on our account so we went to the gift shop and loaded up on snacks for the plane right and for home.
We had the three day park hopper pass so we spent the first day at the Magic Kingdom, the next day at Hollywood Studios, the next day we went to Disney Springs and shopped til we dropped then had our first/only real sit down, be
waited on dinner at the Hard Rock CafĂ©, and on our last full day we went to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

At Hollywood studios, I only experienced one burning, embarrassing situation. We had a fast pass for a ride that indicated you had to get off your scooter and onto the ride, but I must have been looking at the wrong thing because I thought it was some type of movie or “show”. So Brody and I wait in the longest fast pass line of the trip, with all the other mobility impaired people – a special place for us (hearing old lady/Lawrence Welk music). When we finally get inside, I see that I will have to get off the scooter and into this big contraption. The walk isn’t far, the cars look pretty big, Brody is tall and lean and I have my cane, so I think I’ll give it a try. WHY? Why do I do this to myself??
When it’s my turn, I get off the scooter, hobble over to the car and then realize that my leg will not fit in the opening to get *into* the car. I try twice and it’s no use. I turn around to go back to my scooter and see all the people seeing me. Once again, I’m so embarrassed. Brody goes on the ride alone and I wait by the exit. And just to raise the embarrassment level a little higher, two of the ride operators come over to me and ask if I want to try again and they can help me (I say no thanks) and then the supervisor comes over to talk to me and apologize and then he gets *his* supervisor to come over and I want to scream – LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE! – but this is Disney and you can’t do that! But the manager was nice and gave me two more fast passes to be used at any Hollywood Studios ride, which actually did me no good since we were now done at that park, it was closing and we weren’t scheduled to come back. (I ended up giving them to a mom and her son on the morning that we left).
While at Disney Springs, I discovered the world of Disney Pin
collecting. I swear, I need a keeper. People can’t be showing me these types of things. I’m just too susceptible. I purchased 12 pins at the parks but thanks to a trade site and eBay, I now own about 70. It’s a sickness I blame my mother for – she collected a lot of junk too!
Dinner at the Hard Rock was fun and I got my drink on. I rarely drink but got daring and told the bartender to make me something sweet where I couldn’t taste the alcohol. I don’t know what it was called but it was good. I drank most of it and although I certainly wasn’t loopy after that, I know I was a bit louder and sillier.
Animal Kingdom was ok, but I didn’t get to see many animals because I wasn’t able to go on the safari ride. And by this time, after 4 days in constant company of each other and for the rest of my tribe – walking a million miles so far – we were getting tired and cranky. We were all looking forward to our fast pass to see the Lion King show though. We lined up in the handicap section and soon the doors were open. This was the only time I experienced the actual cast members being slightly rude. They were rushing people and directing people where to sit but not doing it nicely. And in this setting, they had the people in scooters and wheelchairs in the front on the floor while their parties were to sit on bleachers directly behind them. But by the time everyone followed the directions of the screaming people - “PLEASE MOVE DOWN AS MUCH AS YOU CAN”, your friends and family were 20 feet away behind you!
But everyone gets settled and then they come out to warm up the crowd. They have us sing and holler and then the lights dim and the show starts. Out comes one float with dancers and singing and drums. I take a few pics and so far, I’m
enjoying the show. As the first float exits and the next one is due to come out, the house lights come on and the announcer says something like “Ladies and Gentlemen, GET OUT!” Ok, maybe not, but that’s what I heard! Suddenly, we’re all being herded like cattle out the doors we just came in. They announce “technical difficulties” or some such bullshit but I’m pretty sure a monkey got loose and threw poop in a dancer’s face or something equally ridiculous. They said we could get back in line outside and see if they would be able to do another show in 2 hours. Umm, no thanks, I’m not standing in line for two hours to *maybe* see a show. At this point, stick a fork in us, we were D U N. Back to Port Orleans French Quarter for dinner and rest and to start packing. 

Overall, despite the many times I found myself the center of unwanted attention, the star of the show, so to speak, I had a good time. There’s a lot I didn’t get to do and a lot I learned about once we got home that I want to do, so we’re planning another trip but this time, without the “kids” – just us. Cuz really, Disney is serious business and no place for kids!
But wait! One more story!
Knowing what I knew, I called the Magical Express hotline the night before we were leaving to make sure we were all set with the “special van” for me to use. The woman I spoke with must have been related to that woman who took care of us at the airport. She was clueless. Eventually, she transferred me to someone who also knew nothing about what I was talking about. She transferred me to the next clueless person but then finally I got to someone who knew what I was talking about and told me I was all set.
Wanna play the guessing game? Who can guess what happens next?
The Magical Express is supposed to pick us up at 4pm for our 7pm flight. So out we go, dragging our luggage and being a generally crabby motley crew. Eventually the giant Magical Express bus pulls up and the driver gets out and talks to the guy that I guess is in charge of getting people on the right bus or something. They start looking over my way and I’m no dummy. It doesn’t take me long to figure out their talking about me! Lol! Sure enough, the driver comes over and tells me to wait there and he goes back to the bus and lowers the small ramp into the bus.
Now, I’ve already been through this 5 days ago. I KNOW I won’t fit on the ramp on the scooter and up into the bus. Just looking at the width of the door opening, I know I won’t fit.  I explain to “the guy” that I am supposed to have a special van for my party that will fit me on my scooter. Guess who has no idea what I am talking about? I tell the bus driver the same thing and all I get back is a blank stare. They each start making phone calls but no one has any idea what I am talking about. Meanwhile, the clock tick tick ticks for everyone waiting to get on the bus. Yay! Yet another chance to piss people off!
Not long after this, but still before people have boarded the bus, a small SUV type vehicle pulls up to us but right away, both the driver and I know he can’t accommodate me.  He gets out, talks to the other two, then drives off. I’m told another van is coming. Once again, I am angry and frustrated. I called ahead of time to set this up. I advocated for myself and yet, nothing goes they way it’s supposed to.
Another mini-van /SUV pulls up but this time, it’s a car with a secret – you know, like the sofas with a secret? It’s a transformer van! He opens the back door and a ramp unfolds and I am able to ride right into the back area of the van! Yay! The bad part? Only two others can come with me. The others could have taken the Magical Express bus but it left already. So they have to call yet another mini-van/SUV for the other 4 of us.
Barb, Brody and I head off to the airport with the other van trailing after us. We hit some traffic but make it to the airport in plenty of time. But wait, what’s this? Yet ANOTHER issue? The driver of the other van is insisting that the kids pay $75 for the ride. By the time I go over there to release my fury though, Brian has already paid the guy with a credit card and the transaction can’t be cancelled. Again, the Magical Express Experience was not so Magical.  But I still can’t wait to go back! After all, I need more pins!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Happiest Place on Earth - Part 2

 So now we’re all aboard the plane and we’re ready to go. I’m sitting in the front with Brody. It’s his first time flying and when I ask him if he’s excited, he gives me one of those 14 year old shrugs. But he can’t fool me! His eyes are wide open and I can see the smile on his face when he thinks I’m not looking. As the plane pulls away from the jet way thingy, he leans forward and looks out the window. And yup, his eyes are full of wonder and excitement.

I was a little disappointed that when they did the safety thing about where the exits are, don’t form a line for the restroom at the front of the plane and how to blow up your life vest, they didn’t sing it or rhyme it. I thought that was one of the benefits of flying Southwest. Sort of like a traveling air show. But the waitresses in the sky DID pass out peanuts, to which Brody replied “They really DO pass out peanuts! I thought it was just like a.. stereotype”. It was cute, he had no idea that peanuts are the main source of protein on flights these days. I insisted he make a trip to the restroom because everyone should pee in a plane at least once. I was sorry Barb wasn’t sitting with us to experience all his firsts.

So after the uneventful flight to Baltimore (no screaming babies… or adults, no highjacking, no one with a shoe bomb [Thank goodness they check all the shoes, huh?] and no plane crash, we land safely. I already know that I will get off the plane last but they come to tell me to wait to deplane so everyone else can get out .And of course get another chance to throw daggers at me.

So I wait and the plane empties out except for me and Brody. At least FIVE different airline people, including the pilot, come over to tell me my scooter will be here in just a minute. I’m perfectly patient, knowing what a pain in the ass it must be for them to have to bring it up. After a few minutes, the sky waitresses for the next flight come on board as does the pilot and co-pilot. Now I’m starting to get nervous. I don’t know where this plane is headed but I don’t want to go there! Finally, fifty-three people tell me the scooter has arrived! Have you ever had SO MUCH customer service that you just want to scream at them? Maybe it’s just Massachusetts people but I have no patience for that. For three and four and five people coming over and being sickly sweet and telling me the same thing. Yes, yes, I know the scooter is here – do you see me trying to get up? Sigh.
So I get onto the scooter and scoot up the ramp… only to be met by 100+ people who have been standing in line waiting to board the plane but couldn’t because once again, the fat lady in the scooter needed to perform her one lady parade. Again, I’ve caused a plane full of people to hate me. Lovely, just lovely. Can anyone guess what happens next? Yep… We get to our gate for the connecting flight to Orlando and guess who they’re waiting for to board the plane? And guess who’s got to scoot by the angry huddled masses? This parade I’ve got going on is getting ridiculous. Maybe I should be throwing beads to people or something. At this point, I just want to crawl under a rock…
I scoot down the runway and hobble onto the plane, Brody beside me every step of the way, being my +1. But wait, what’s this? The front bulkhead seats are taken! People are already on the plane, in MY seats! But there’s no assigned seating on Southwest, which makes it a free for all. Apparently these people were on the previous flight and are continuing on to Orlando. So I end up walking down to the fourth or fifth row. I ask Brody if he wants the window seat, but if he does, he’s not getting out during the flight because once I sit down, I’m not going anywhere. He decides to let me have the window and I sit. And then I scoot over…wait… no, I don’t scoot over. I CAN’T scoot over! I’m stuck!! My left foot (not the movie) can’t get past the metal part of the row in front of me, and because I can’t lean forward due to the seats in front of me beingthisclose, I have no leverage to free the foot. And because I can’t scoot, Brody is standing in the aisle and holding up the passengers again! Executive decision time! Brody, you need to crawl over the seat and sit by the window because I can’t move. He goes to the empty row behind me and manages to jump over into his seat without kicking me in the head, so I guess that’s one for the plus column, right?

So I’m stuck in the aisle seat for the whole flight, which is fine. The plane lands and yes, you know the drill… wait til everyone deplanes then my scooter will come. This time though, the waiting is a Godsend. Why? Because guess who is stuck and can’t get up?
Yes ladies and gents, I am full fledged stuck in aisle five, seat C. In a matter of three seconds, I’m already imagining the chaos I’m about to face. I’m already thinking about how they’re going to try to get me out and how none of their attempts will work. And sure enough, once they realize I’m not getting up but everyone is off the plane already, the line of Helpful Harrys starts. One by each, the flight attendants, the pilot (I’m not even kidding), the co-pilot, the guy who brought my scooter up… they come to ask me how they can help. But they can’t. Short of bringing in maintenance and removing the row of seats in front of me, there’s nothing they can do. Brody jumps the seats again and tries to help but I’m the only one who can unstick me. And after several attempts and physics experiments, I manage to squeeze myself up, out, and into the aisle. Whew! I thought I was going to be a permanent airplane fixture!

For once, I’m not greeted by angry villagers because it’s nearly 10pm and I think the airport is shutting down. The gate area is practically a ghost town. So off we go, 7 stranded castaways… oh wait, wrong story… 7 tired vacationers in search of the Magical Express.

Have you ever been to Orlando airport? It’s one of those places where you take the walking sidewalk to the monorail shuttle to the concourse to the gateway to the indoor hotel in the middle of the airport to the long hallway to the short hallway to the.. well, you get my point, right? We’re following the signs to Disney’s Magical Express and finally we see the check in area. I immediately get that feeling. You know the one… where you’re waiting in line at the bank and you see that one teller… the one that takes forever. She counts out your one dollar bills as if they were hundreds, holding them to the light, then makes a mistake anyway? You know - her? And as you’re in line, you’re trying to figure out if she’s going to be the one to say “Next please” when it’s your turn? Yeah, that’s the feeling I got. As we approach I’m doing the math and it’s not working out in my favor (remember I said that math isn’t my strong suit). Sure enough, we get that agent.

Barb breaks out the “Disney Wristbands”, we put them on and touch the Mickey insignia to the Mickey orb on the desk. And we’re checked in. OMG, is it possible that we’ve successfully completed a task with no issue? Hahahaha… of course not!! 

Now think back to part one - during check in, just before Barb had to make a mad dash home for the carry on. Remember? I was supposed to tell the Southwest ticket agent that we didn’t have the special yellow stickers that indicated we were Magical Express people. But I forgot. Sigh!

The whole thing with the Magical Express is that they take care of picking up your luggage and bringing it to your room – so you don’t have to deal with baggage claim or schlepping luggage to a taxi or shuttle. You get to bypass that and just board the huge motor coach that is emblazoned with ‘Disney Magical Express” on it. It then drops everyone off at their resorts where their luggage is waiting for them (uh huh, yeah, right…).  But our luggage is naked! No yellow tags! So we tell this to Henrietta, or whatever her name was, and you could almost see her brain come to a complete stop. “No yellow stickers… this does not compute… danger, danger Will Robinson”… A five minute discussion ensues ending with her walking away to check with someone else. I KNEW we should have waited for the other teller! She comes back with news that if she can just have our baggage claim tickets, we’ll be fine and we can finally go forward to the magical area to catch the magical bus.

Off we go, through the cattle ropes, even though the place was nearly empty. When we got up closer, they sectioned us off into the handicapped area because of the scooter. Now let me say this… I’m a seasoned traveler, though as I said, it’s been awhile. But if I’ve learned anything by living life in this body, it’s to be my own advocate and to be prepared. Prior to starting this trip, I checked over and over with the travel agent and Disney guides online about the transportation. I was assured there would be no problems. Hahahaha!

Smiling person #1 comes to tell us that it will be just a moment. Smiling person #2 comes to tell us that it’ll be just another few minutes. Smiling person #1 comes back and asks “Are you able to get off the scooter?”. By this time, I tired and cranky and I want to respond with “No, I never get off the scooter. I sleep on it, shower on it, in fact, I’m fused to it!” But I don’t say that. But I DO say no, because I realize that they want me to get off the scooter and enter the bus through the regular door. However, I’m no regular person! There is NO WAY I would be able to get up those bus steps. They’re like 3 feet high I think, right?

Along comes smiling person #3 and says that the bus cannot accommodate me on the scooter, but not to worry, they’ve called in the cavalry! They have a solution, so if we could just hold on… like we’re going to go anywhere? Finally a passenger van that can carry me on my scooter and my 6 companions shows up and off we go to Disney World. And with the exception of the Disney Wristband, none of this vacation has been “Magical” yet!

Stay tuned! More to come – hotel fun and park madness!