From no trip to celebrating 20 years together… planning it all in less than 100 days! LIVE UPDATE 3/10 - PassPorter - A Community of Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, and General Travel Forums
As of January 1, 2019, we have closed our forums. This is a decision we did not come to lightly, but it is necessary. The software our forums run on is just too out-of-date and it poses a significant security risk. The server software itself must be updated, and it cannot be without removing the forums.
So it is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to our long-running forums. They came online in 2000 and brought together so many wonderful Disney fans. We had friendships form, careers launch, couples marry, children born ... all because of this amazing community.
Thank you to each of you who were a part of this community. You made it possible.
And a very special thank you to our Guides (moderators), past and present, who kept our forums a happy place to be. You are the glue that held everything together, and we are forever grateful to you. Thank you aliceinwdw, Caldercup, MrsM, WillCAD, Fortissimo, GingerJ, HiddenMickey, CRCrazy, Eeyoresmom, disneyknut, disneydani, Cam22, chezp, WDWfan, Luvsun, KMB733, rescuesk, OhToodles!, Colexis Mom, lfredsbo, HiddenMickey, DrDolphin, DopeyGirl, duck addict, Disneybine, PixieMichele, Sandra Bostwick, Eeyore Tattoo, DyanKJ130, Suzy Q'Disney, LilMarcieMouse, AllisonG, Belle*, Chrissi, Brant, DawnDenise, Crystalloubear, Disneymom9092, FanOfMickey, Goofy4Goofy, GoofyMom, Home4us123, iamgrumpy, ilovedisney247, Jennifer2003, Jenny Pooh, KrisLuvsDisney, Ladyt, Laughaholic88, LauraBelle Hime, Lilianna, LizardCop, Loobyoxlip, lukeandbrooksmom, marisag, michnash, MickeyMAC, OffKilter_Lynn, PamelaK, Poor_Eeyore, ripkensnana, RobDVC, SHEANA1226, Shell of the South, snoozin, Statelady01, Tara O'Hara, tigger22, Tink and Co., Tinkerbelz, WDWJAMBA, wdwlovers, Wendyismyname, whoSEZ, WildforWD, and WvuGrrrl. You made the magic.
We want to personally thank Sara Varney, who coordinated our community for many years (among so many other things she did for us), and Cheryl Pendry, our Message Board Manager who helped train our Guides, and Ginger Jabour, who helped us with the PassPorter-specific forums and Live! Guides. Thank you for your time, energy, and enthusiasm. You made it all happen.
There are other changes as well.
Why? Well, the world has changed. And change with it, we must. The lyrics to "We Go On" for IllumiNations say it best:
We go on to the joy and through the tears
We go on to discover new frontiers
Moving on with the current of the years.
We go on
Moving forward now as one
Moving on with a spirit born to run
Ever on with each rising sun.
To a new day, we go on.
It's time to move on and move forward.
PassPorter is a small business, and for many years it supported our family. But the world changed, print books took a backseat to the Internet, and for a long time now it has been unable to make ends meet. We've had to find new ways to support our family, which means new careers and less and less time available to devote to our first baby, PassPorter.
But eventually, we must move on and move forward. It is the right thing to do.
So we are retiring this newsletter, as we simply cannot keep up with it. Many thanks to Mouse Fan Travel who supported it all these years, to All Ears and MousePlanet who helped us with news, to our many article contributors, and -- most importantly -- to Sara Varney who edited our newsletter so wonderfully for years and years.
And we are no longer charging for the Live Guides. If you have a subscription, it's yours to keep for the lifetime of the Live Guides at no additional cost. The Live Guides will stay online, barring server issues and technical problems, for all of 2019.
That said, PassPorter is not going away. Most of the resources will remain online for as long as we can support them, and after that we will find ways to make whatever we can available. PassPorter means a great deal to us, and to many of you, and we will do our best to keep it alive in whatever way we can. Our server costs are high, and they'll need to come out of our pockets, so in the future you can expect some changes so we can bring those costs down.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for your amazing support over the years. Without you, there's no way us little guys could have made something like this happen and given the "big guys" a run for their money. PassPorter was consistently the #3 guidebook after the Unofficial and Official guides, which was really unheard of for such a small company to do. We ROCKED it thanks to you and your support and love!
If you miss us, you can still find some of us online. Sara started a new blog at DisneyParkPrincess.com -- I strongly urge you to visit and get on her mailing list. She IS the Disney park princess and knows Disney backward and forward. And I am blogging as well at JenniferMaker.com, which is a little craft blog I started a couple of years ago to make ends meet. You can see and hear me in my craft show at https://www.youtube.com/c/jennifermaker . Many PassPorter readers and fans are on Facebook, in groups they formed like the PassPorter Trip Reports and PassPorter Crafting Challenge (if you join, just let them know you read about it in the newsletter). And some of our most devoted community members started a forum of their own at Pixie Dust Lane and all are invited over.
So we encourage you to stay in touch with us and your fellow community members wherever works best for you!
Welcome! We're happy you've found the PassPorter Community -- the friendliest place to plan your vacation to Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise Line, Disneyland, and the world in general! You are now viewing the PassPorter Message Board Community as a guest, which gives you limited access. As our guest, feel free to browse our messages by selecting the forum you want to visit from the list below.
To post messages and ask questions, join our FREE community today and you'll get access to tools and resources not available to guests, such as our vacation countown timers, "living" avatars, private messaging system, database searches, downloads, and a special PassPorter discount code. Registration is fast, simple, and completely free. Just click the Join Our Community link.
From no trip to celebrating 20 years together… planning it all in less than 100 days! LIVE UPDATE 3/10
From no trip to celebrating 20 years together… planning it all in less than 100 days!
Pre-trip report – part one: cruising at Christmas is not cheap
Dates: Friday 24 February – Friday 10 March Adventurers: Me, Cheryl (44) and DH Mark (51) Destinations: Walt Disney World, along with SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Discovery Cove, LEGOLAND and a few other attractions, oh and a Disney cruise Resorts: Old Key West, BoardWalk Villas, Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge, Disney Wonder and Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas Meets: A few along the way… Celebration: 20 years since we first met!
As the title of this trip report suggests, this is a very different trip to the ones we usually plan. Let me just start off by saying I am an uber-planner. I probably need to attend some sort of support group. That’s how bad I am.
When we bought into the Disney Vacation Club back in 2002, we talked about our home resorts. For those who aren’t DVC Members, why not and heck, you need to learn all about it now in my book – PassPorter’s Disney Vacation Club Guide for Members and Non-Members (sorry couldn’t resist the plug… ) Anyway, a very quick summary. You buy points at one specific resort and that’s known as your home resort. The bonus of home resort points is that you can book 11 months ahead. i.e. say it’s January, you can book as far ahead as December. You can book at the other DVC resorts, but only at seven months out. Even then, you can usually get availability at the other resorts. I remember when we bought in being told “you’ll only have problems if you book a few weeks ahead” and me confidently sitting there and saying “we won’t be doing that”. Ok….
This trip was booked starting from 24 November, yes Black Friday, literally three months ahead. So why was it so late? Well, are you ready for a bit of a long story? Sit down and make yourself comfortable…
I said I was an uber planner, right? Well, having not been to Walt Disney World for my birthday and Christmas for a number of years (2012 for my 40th was the last time ), in my long range plans that had stood since about 2014, I was adamant I was going back for 2017 for my 45th birthday. It wasn’t going to be easy, as my work has strict guidelines in place for peak period leave. Only 40% of people can be off over Christmas, but that’s alright, as I was planning on working the whole Christmas period in 2016 and had worked most of it in 2015, so that should count in my favour…
The other problem was we wouldn’t know whether we’d been successful in our applications until mid-July. Ugh. This was a real issue, as I’d have to hope that flights were still a reasonable price by then. This is how much of a planner I am. I even checked prices in mid-July 2016, and they didn’t seem too bad. Ok then, looks like this could be a goer.
We were going to take a total of three weeks off outside of Christmas/New Year mandatory holidays. Over here, we get Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day off. If they fall on a weekend, you get a day off in lieu, so it can lead to quite long weekends, if it falls right, which it would’ve done in 2017. What could I do with three weeks? What couldn’t I do, more like?
Anyone who’s read my previous trip reports will know that’s usually the case with me. I tend to cram as much into a vacation as I can, generally on the grounds of “I never know whether we’ll get back to a place, so I’d rather see it all or as much as we can anyway.” This was the girl who in 2008 took a 16 day trip to the States that took in 24 hours in New York City, a week in Walt Disney World, followed by time in Chicago, Disneyland and Las Vegas, before heading home, and in 2016, our eight day road trip from Boston to Buffalo took in Acadia National Park, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Niagara Falls.
So the original plans for our Christmas 2017/New Year 2018 was basically to fly to Hawaii, spend a week in Aulani, then fly back to LA and spend a couple of days in Disneyland, fly to Orlando, spend a week in Disney World, then take a short cruise to finish up. It would’ve all worked out nicely, except for one thing… the cruise would’ve been over Christmas. I figured the Disney parks are crazy over Christmas, but a ship can only fill up so much, right? Probably right, but I reckoned without how much Disney can charge for a cruise over Christmas…
When we were on the Dream in September 2016, we went to go and talk through our next cruise, and just about had heart failure at the price of Christmas or New Year cruises. There is no way I can afford to pay for those!
We decided there and then to change things around a bit. We figured we’d still aim to take three weeks, but would leave later in December or even at Christmas time, and would take a seven night cruise on the Fantasy, as hopefully they’d have Star Wars at Sea Days on them. Ok, that would work. I was gutted that we’d probably have to lose Hawai’i off the itinerary, as we absolutely adored our first visit there in 2013. We weren’t expecting to, but trust me, Aulani is a complete delight. We fell in love with the place immediately and really can’t wait to get back, but I guess we will have to wait after all.
At this point, I just have to share a few photos we took around the resort with the tripod. They always remind me of how wonderful this place is. Sniff. Oh well, we will get back there…
So where was I? Ah yes, cruising at Christmas is not cheap. Our Christmas plans were in a bit of disarray, but they were sort of repairable, and so that remained the state of play until…. Disney announced their early 2018 cruise itinerary. I’ve always fancied the idea of a Southern Caribbean cruise, as so many of the places sound wonderful, and guess what popped up in January 2018, just when we were thinking of taking a cruise. Ok, now this sounded good…
The day the cruises went on sale, I got our evil travel agent Sara (evil, because she has a way of getting us to take cruises we weren’t necessarily planning on! ) to price up a Fantasy cruise with the Star Wars Day at Sea, and the Southern Caribbean cruise on the Wonder to see which was cheaper. The Southern Caribbean won, and we decided to go with that, except its sailing dates are from 14-21 January. This meant that, if we took a three week vacation, we’d literally be flying out on something like 29 December.
Why does this matter? Well, it doesn’t for me, as I have a fair amount of vacation time, and we also operate a flexi-time working system, i.e. you get back whatever you work extra in a month (to a reasonable level) as time in lieu. However, Mark gets a set amount of vacation time and his is fixed on the calendar year. In 2016, he actually ended up taking a week extra due to an administrative error, shall we say? However, what it suddenly meant was Mark wouldn’t be taking two weeks leave in early December, which meant he had two weeks of vacation left to use… Ok, time to plan then…
Registered Message Board Members Get Our Free Newsletter! When you register you'll have the option to sign up for our weekly PassPorter Newsletter. It's chock-full of feature articles; news; tips; contests; photos; and special offers in our online store.
I think you're in good company on these Boards being an uber-planner! For most of us Disney Fans understand that the journey is just as important as the final destination Looking forward to hearing how this all played out.
I'm sad you won't get to go to Hawaii, nor be at Disney for your birthday. But, getting an extra vacation isn't a bad compromise.
I'm sad about both, and I know I certainly will be when we get to my birthday, but by then, we'll have a vacation to look forward to in January, so hopefully that will make me feel better. We're looking to return to Hawaii in April 2019 and frankly that will be here before we know it at the rate the years seem to disappear these days!
Pre-trip report – part two: airfare has gone up how much?
I left you last time at the point where we’d worked out that Mark suddenly had two weeks of vacation time, and heck we might as well make sure it’s all used up, so what to do with it? I knew that I wanted to return to Florida, as I’m currently working on PassPorter’s Everything But the Mouse, a guidebook to everything outside Walt Disney World… or most things anyway. I’ve done a lot of work on it, but there’s still a fair bit left to do, and we just didn’t get much of a chance on our September 2016 trip. We only had six days in Florida for starters, and secondly, it was just too darned hot to do very much. I came away, realising that somehow I’d have to get some serious time in Orlando at some point, but without knowing how or when.
I started to hunt around for flight prices. As I hadn’t planned on this trip, I didn’t want to pay a fortune for these, as this was a bit of an unexpected expense. I figured we’d be paying for flights in the summer sometime. I did some shopping around on the Virgin Atlantic website, our preferred airline, and found some very good prices for late in January.
Now this is where part of the title of this trip report comes in: “From no trip to celebrating 20 years together… planning it all in less than 100 days!” We were married in November 1999, and here’s the photographic proof!
As you can probably work out, that isn’t the 20 years celebration, as we’ve still got a couple more years to wait for that. I still remember our very first date on 19 January 1997. Mark took me to the cinema to see Evita starring Madonna. I was at that point a very big Madonna fan, and was for many years afterwards. I have to admit that her last few album releases haven’t done much for me at all. Anyway, I loved that film, and when Mark wiped away a tear while I was watching it, corny as it sounds, I knew he was the one for me. Ok, so it took us nearly three years to finally get married, but I still try and celebrate our first meeting, and heck this year, it’s a big one. The big 2-0 in fact!
That’s why I was keen to go at the end of January. Sadly, although I wouldn’t have had a problem taking that time of the year off, Mark did encounter some issues, shall we say, and we had to look a little further ahead instead. I didn’t want to leave it too late to head out to Florida, as neither of us does well with the heat, as we re-affirmed during our September 2016 trip. Ugh, I have never in my life encountered heat and humidity like that, and frankly I never want to again.
The second week of February was out, as it’s school holidays over here, and I didn’t want to go beyond mid-March, as we went to Florida in late February/early March in 2015, and it was starting to get too hot for us even that early on in the year!
I did some checking of air fares on the Virgin Atlantic, and made some enquiries with friends about when a good time might be to visit. I also checked out some historic crowd calendar information, and to be honest, there wasn’t much in it, so we ended up opted for exactly the same two weeks as back in 2015 – the last week of February, and the first week of March. That means it’s the Princess Marathon weekend, although I suspect we won’t be viewing it in the same way we did when we stayed at Bay Lake Tower.
Ok, so now we knew when we wanted to go. I put in a request for leave from my manager, and waited…
…. Then I waited a bit more…
… I waited a bit more….
…. Then I got a bit impatient, and asked what the heck was going on. I knew no-one else was off when I was, and there shouldn’t be an issue. “I’ll get it done”. I waited again….
…. Then a day or two later, I practically watched while everything was signed off, as this was getting silly, given we’re supposed to have leave signed off within five working days of the application. Finally! Once Mark knew my leave was signed off, then he put in for his, and thankfully the process was a lot quicker. Right, now we can go and purchase our air fare, right?
Wrong! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I went to book it. The fare had gone up 70%!!!! Oh my goodness, there is no way I can afford that. Now what do I do?
I watched the flights for a few days, and the price didn’t change. By now I was really starting to panic. I didn’t want to push the vacation back any further in the year, as firstly it would start to get hotter. Secondly, there was a time limit on how much later we could go, as my passport expires in October 2017, and you can’t travel on a passport in the last six months of its life. Before anyone thinks that’s mean, you can apply for a new passport up to nine months before it expires, so that addresses that little problem.
Still, I keep watching and hoping that the flights would come down to the price I’d already budgeted for. I also started working on back-up plans. By that, I mean I looked at all the other options open to us. I priced up Virgin Atlantic flights going into Atlanta, Miami, and even looked at New York City. It wasn’t ideal, as we’d then have to fly down from there, and of course I didn’t really want to be flying into some of America’s northern cities during the winter, but the flights into NYC were a couple of hundred pounds cheaper. It wasn’t cheap enough though.
I also started to look at British Airways flights, which shows how desperate I must’ve been getting, as we haven’t flown with them to America since 2006, preferring to stick with just the one airline and rack up miles. Tampa wasn’t an option, it was just as expensive as flying into Orlando. Miami however was coming up quite cheap, so that looked as if it would be the way to go. I debated for ages about whether it was worth adding in a connecting flight to Orlando, as it would barely cost anymore, but what kept putting me off was how little time they allowed. I think it was about two hours. In that time, you’d have to land (and assume there were no delays in getting there), clear immigration (remember it took about 45 minutes at Boston Logan), get the cases, clear customs, then hand the cases back and head to the gate for our next flight. I thought that was a heck of a lot to accomplish in a relatively short space of time.
I looked at driving instead. However, if we were going to drive, I’d really want to drive and spend the night at Vero Beach, as we haven’t been there since 2009. That was three hours’ drive away, and I wasn’t sure if Mark would be up to that, after a long flight over. Normally, we only have a half hour or so flight from Orlando to Walt Disney World, and I felt that was probably about the right length of time when you’re exhausted and your body already thinks it’s late evening.
So that’s where I was by late November – just over three months before we were due to fly out. What on earth to do? I had back-up plans, but they weren’t ideal. What I really wanted was the price of the Virgin Atlantic flights into Orlando to come dramatically down in price, but did I stand any chance of that happening?
Next: is the Black Friday sale going to come through for us over here?