Community Rank: Passenger
Join Date: Feb 2004
(New Day 2 and Pics!) Urgent Visit to WDW 2/27-3/5 Both solo and w/DW
I suppose the origin of this trip actually lies back over a year ago. My extended family tries to spend Christmas together every even-numbered year. During the odd-numbered years, my sister and her children visit her husband’s family in Norway, my children visit their mother/my ex-wife in Toronto, and my parents usually take an extended trip somewhere near my brother in southern California. Things get pretty quiet for my wife Patty and me during those odd years when the kids are gone, but we usually go down to Atlantic City for at least a few days to visit her family there.
Sometime shortly after Christmas 2002, which was held at my sister’s home in Michigan, I proposed that our family gathering in 2004 be held at Walt Disney World. No one rejected the idea, but then again there were no firm commitments either. Getting a family of independent-minded folks who are stretched out across the country organized and committed to a major vacation nearly two years away proved to be no small task. I would raise the issue every so often, only to be told, “That sounds like fun, but we aren’t ready to make plans that far in advance yet so let’s wait and see.”
Finally, in early January 2004, recognizing that the Walt Disney World area books up far in advance of the holidays, everyone signed on to spending Christmas near the House of the Mouse. My father asked me to investigate accommodations for our group of 7 adults, 2 teens, and 3 pre-schoolers. I found a great 6 bedroom pool home in the Windsor Palms resort subdivision where I have stayed twice before. It’s just a few miles from the parks, and I think it is going to be perfect for our needs.
Unfortunately, I didn’t/couldn’t stop with finding the home. You see, I am something of a guidebook and travel-planning junkie. I started making proposed day by day itineraries for a trip which was eleven months away. Worse yet, I realized that – unless I did something soon – I could waste every free moment between now and Christmas obsessing over the details of our family holiday.
There was only one thing I could do – make a trip to Walt Disney World now in order to get the Mickey Mouse monkey off my back! It had been three years since my last trip to the Magic Kingdom, and I simply needed to refill by pixie dust reserves to avoid going crazy before December.
The kids had school, but Patty was surprisingly willing to allow me to go by myself. I think there are a number of reasons for this. First, she was sick and tired of hearing about Disney World and knew that this would give her at least a short-term break from my ramblings. Second, I recently had to cancel a trip to Las Vegas so a visit to Orlando would make up for that. Third, Patty has her own mini-vacation scheduled for the end of March. Fourth, I have a major surgery coming up in a couple of weeks so I deserved a little trip if it would make me feel better. Needless to say, Patty is a great woman and shows an amazing capacity to put up with a lot of nonsense from me.
It was now time to make my reservations. I booked nonstop flights between Hartford and Orlando on Southwest for just over $200, departing the morning of Friday, February 27th and returning the afternoon of Friday, March 5th. A little research revealed that I could book the Hilton in the Walt Disney World Resort (across the street from Downtown Disney and eligible for the Extra Magic hour) for $60 per night through Priceline, which is exactly what I did. To avoid being hostage to airport shuttles and resort buses, I booked a premium-sized car, also through Priceline, for another $25 per day. I think I got some great deals, and while there is something to be said for staying in an actual Disney-themed resort, dollar-for-dollar I think the Hilton and a nice car beat Pop Century and shuttle buses hands down. But that’s just me.
About a week before I was to leave, I had a crazy idea. Why not get a babysitter so Patty can fly down with me on Friday, spend the weekend in Florida, and then return home Monday morning? I immediately called a good friend of mine who had stayed with my son (14) and daughter (12 ½) before. He was available and willing so I called Southwest and booked Patty’s ticket just minutes before the seven day advanced purchase window closed.
Initially I wasn’t going to tell Patty about her ticket until she was driving me to the airport. I figured I could sneak some of her clothes into my suitcase and then really surprise her at the last minute. A couple of days later, however, I sprang the news on her. Why? For one thing, I am not very good at holding in surprises (and I always want to give presents early). I was also a little worried that Patty would really be thrown off by a last minute trip. She isn’t a big planner herself, but she doesn’t like major events sprung on her with short notice. A major side benefit of telling her early is that I wouldn’t have the pressure of worrying about what to pack for Patty and sneaking it into my suitcase.
When I subsequently asked Patty whether she would have preferred to be surprised at the airport, she said she really didn’t know. She’s never had a surprise like that and was unsure whether her primary reaction would be excitement or stress. The one thing of which she was certain, however, is that I probably wouldn’t have packed all of the right clothes and accessories she would need for the trip.
With the major details handled, I was now free to read guidebooks, make to-do lists, develop itineraries, and otherwise wallow in the minutia of Walt Disney World to my heart’s content. I made lots of plans, but as usual only about half of them ended up being implemented during the trip. One splurge in particular was spending about $25 for three customized touring plans created using the software developed by Len Testa for Bob Sehlinger’s “Unofficial Guide” to WDW. More about the plans later in this trip report.
As Patty and I awaited our Friday departure, there was just one dark cloud on the horizon … and it was in the shape of my right ankle. I injured my ankle on the ice a couple of weeks earlier and it was slow to heal. When Patty and I tried taking a short one-mile walk to build up my stamina for the theme parks, it started hurting again and made it difficult for me to walk. Ultimately, the health of my ankle was a major issue throughout the entire trip.