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Old 07-14-2007, 05:04 PM   #1
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Post Branson Holidays 2006, COMPLETE as of 8-23

Cast:

Me, Christie, 35, stay-at-home mom and obsessive-compulsive trip planner.
My husband, Jay, 37, production line worker at Nissan.
Our son, Joshua, 4
My father, Rance, 57, self-employed carpenter - trim and cabinetry
My mother, Carolyn, 55, junior-high school teacher

Experience: 3 previous trips for me and Joshua, 2 for Jay, first trip for my parents

Dates: November 22-26, 2006

Lodging:

Comfort Inn, Pine Bluff, Arkansas (1 night)
Falls Village Resort, Branson, Missouri (3 nights)

Transportation: my parents' van, 8 hours from Clinton, MS

Contents:
Introduction
Planning
Day 0 - November 22
Day 1 - November 23
Day 2 - November 24
Day 3 - November 25
Day 4 - November 26
Conclusion

~Introduction~

This is a typical "me" trip report, which means than it's fairly detailed. I've always enjoyed reading this type of trip report as it seems to help me plan better, and I hope it helps you out as well. It also helps me remember things months later that I otherwise would have forgotten about.

If you've kept up with my travels over the past couple of years, you may notice a trend here: trips to Branson in May and November each year. Branson is still a fairly new place for us. Each of our previous trips has been only a few days at a time, so we're still learning something each time we visit. Because this was a holiday weekend visit, and we had a resort right off the Strip, there was a little bit of downtime involved even though we were close to everything.

If there's any specific questions you might have, feel free to post, or send me a Private Message. I always like to offer my assistance based on what I've picked up over previous trips, since I pick up such good tidbits from reading others' reports. And if I need to do any clarification, just chime in and let me know!

In addition, there was supposed to be pictures included in this report. However, since I'm still waiting (after 7 months) for Jay to resize them and get them posted on a photo server online, I'm kind of thinking he's just not going to do it. So since I noticed Amy and Melissa finishing up their holiday WDW trip reports, I thought I might as well finish up my holiday Branson trip report. If I wait any longer on the pictures, it'll never get done, so sorry about not having pictures with this one, hope you enjoy the narrative anyway.

Be back soon with our Planning story!
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Old 07-14-2007, 07:01 PM   #2
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Ohh I have always wanted to visit there!! Hurry back with more!!
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Old 07-14-2007, 10:09 PM   #3
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Great start, Christie! Hopefully Jay will help you out with the photos before you're finished. Can't wait to hear about your trip! I haven't been to Branson since 1996!
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Old 07-15-2007, 02:39 AM   #4
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I'm looking forward to hearing all about your holiday trip.
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Old 07-15-2007, 10:01 AM   #5
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Christie - My parents have been to Branson a few times and it! I can't wait to hear about your trip!
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Old 07-15-2007, 06:16 PM   #6
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Can't wait to hear all about your plans Christie
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Old 07-15-2007, 07:17 PM   #7
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Old 07-16-2007, 05:30 PM   #8
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Planning

Well, starting in May 2005, we have been taking extended weekend trips up to Branson to check it out. We went in May 2005, November 2005 and again in May 2006. It was nice to visit in May with the warm weather, but it was awesome to visit over Thanksgiving weekend, to take in all the Christmas lights and shows at Silver Dollar City. We never went there on either of our May trips, because that's when they have their Bluegrass festival, and bluegrass isn't really our favorite music (except when we're in the Smoky Mountains!). Well, anyway, their Christmas celebration is right up our alley. We enjoyed it so much in 2005 that we knew for sure we'd be coming back again in 2006.

We went back to our favorite website, Branson Missouri Vacation Reservations - ReserveBranson.com They sell discount tickets for attractions and shows, and also have special deals on accommodations. They again were offering tickets for Silver Dollar City, 2 days for the price of 1. That was our plan, so then we just had to figure out everything else for the trip. Last year we did the Christmas dinner show at Shepherd of the Hills, followed up by driving through their Trail of Lights display. That was pretty neat, but we enjoyed Silver Dollar City so much we just decided to spend all our time away from the resort there.

Finally, since Jay didn't have any extra vacation days for this year , we knew we would have to leave home Thanksgiving morning (he had to work Monday through Wednesday of that week), and come back that Sunday evening. That presented a problem with where we would eat on the drive up. We usually eat at the Arby's in Pine Bluff. I emailed them to see if they would be open Thanksgiving day, and was pleasantly surprised to receive a very apologetic email back from their manager, telling how sorry he was that they would be closed, but that he hoped we would visit them again some other time. So I decided we would just pack some sandwiches for the road.

We called our vacation club to make our reservations, having two options available. We really liked Big Cedar, and had stayed in an awesome cabin there last Thanksgiving. But it is about 10 miles south of Branson, and we knew we wanted something a little more convenient to town, since we'd be there during such a busy time, and since we wanted to go to Silver Dollar City both days this trip. That meant making a reservation at Falls Village Resort, which is just off the strip on Highway 165. I called and reserved us a 2-bedroom unit, which consists of a Studio and a 1-bedroom joined by a connecting door and sharing a common foyer. We were hoping to take some family members with us to share the experience, but even if we didn't, we could use the Studio side for Joshua's bedroom and not have to worry with the sleeper sofa.

Last year we took Jay's dad and his wife with us, but didn't want to do that again (she's not a pleasant person to travel with to say the least ). So this year we decided to ask my parents if they would be interested in going. I knew they would not have to work that week, so it was only a question of whether they would actually want to go (I never can read them!). Much to my surprise, they were interested in going! So I gave them the info on what we would be doing, and they agreed to just do whatever we had planned. Knowing now that they would be going with us, I went ahead and ordered the 2-day tickets for Silver Dollar City, and we were all set.

I pretty much knew what our itinerary would look like for this trip. Since Silver Dollar City didn't open until after lunch each day, we would spend the mornings visiting some of our other favorite places - the visitor center at the dam, the fish hatchery, and the Mountain Man chocolate store . We'd also have the option of visiting the Tanger Outlet Mall if they wanted to. The resort has a mini-golf course and playground, so I knew Joshua would want to do those two things if there was enough time and good weather.

As the time got closer for the trip, I started making a shopping list of food we would need to take with us. Since my parents were going, I wanted to surprise them with a nice Thanksgiving meal at the resort. So I needed one of those freezer-to-oven pre-cooked turkey breasts, and stuff for making dressing, some vegetables, and I wanted to make a pecan pie too. I also started getting together other odds and ends that we would be taking, like movies, stuff to keep Joshua occupied in the car and at the resort, etc.

Since my mom has a nice minivan, I had kind of hoped that they would volunteer to let us ride with them on the trip. They would have to come through our town on the way to Branson anyway, so they wouldn't have to be going out of their way or anything like that to pick us up. However, I didn't want to ask if we could ride with them, and eventually they said that they were going to go ahead and leave on Wednesday and drive part of the way and spend the night somewhere along the road. I said OK, even though I was disappointed. But then I got all excited with typing them up a driving plan - giving them directions, but with my own commentary thrown in about the various towns they'd be driving through, things to watch out far, best towns to plan to stop for gas or food, etc. I also gave them directions to the resort, and a few ideas of things they could stop and see in town while they waited for us to arrive to check in.

Then the week before the trip, my dad wanted to know if we couldn't all just leave Wednesday as soon as Jay got home from work, and ride together in their van. Well, it seems silly to me to spend two days driving for an 8-hour trip , but it would be fine with me if Jay didn't mind. I asked him and he said it was fine with him. So my parents were now planning on coming to our house Wednesday afternoon to get all our things loaded in their van before Jay got home. By the time he arrived we should be finished, he could get a quick shower, then we'd be off. After much debating the merits of hotels in small towns, we decided to stay at the Comfort Inn in Pine Bluff, the one that is right off Highway 65 so it would be easy to get to. Having never driven into Pine Bluff and knowing nothing about the town besides where Arby's is, I could only hope it would be a decent neighborhood. I also had to get busy putting up the Christmas tree before we left for Branson so I wouldn't have that giant task to do when we got back home.

So the Christmas tree, lights, and decorations went up at the beginning of Thanksgiving week, and I saved the other house decorations until after we arrived home. I spent Tuesday washing clothes and packing our bags. Packing was a challenge, since both us and my parents were taking so much extra stuff like food and drinks. So even though we had a van for the trip, space was still limited. Especially since my Thanksgiving meal required us to take two coolers. I never did tell them what I was going to cook because I figured they'd say it was too much trouble. I just told them that I would be cooking for us, and I made sure the cooler was already packed before they arrived at our house, so they wouldn't see what I was putting in it! Wednesday morning was spent going through our usual packing list, making sure that we wouldn't forget anything. As each suitcase/box/bag was ready to go I put it by the front door.

Next up: Day 0 - Our trip begins!
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Old 07-16-2007, 06:39 PM   #9
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Great plans Christie Glad it all worked out driving up with your parents in their van! More please
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Old 07-17-2007, 01:45 AM   #10
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Your plans sound great - I can't wait to hear about how it all went!
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Old 07-17-2007, 09:03 AM   #11
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Plans sound great!
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Old 07-19-2007, 06:00 PM   #12
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Day 0 - Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Well, my parents drove up right on time, and as far as I can remember, I believe I had everything ready to go. I helped my dad load our bags and food into the back of their van, and we had to rearrange a few things to get everything to fit. And, of course, a couple of smaller items had to go at our feet. And due to our cooler being full of Thanksgiving meal food, I needed to put a few of our smaller items into their cooler. It all fit somehow, although I was a little nervous about my turkey starting to thaw while we were driving. I had packed the cooler as full of ice as possible, but I was still a little concerned about it.

Jay got home as we were finishing up the loading process and went inside to freshen up a bit. This was around 4:30 or so, and it was starting to get dark. But shortly Jay was ready to go and we locked up the house and set out. This was the first trip my parents had taken their new van on where they would be able to use the built-in DVD player so none of us really understood the controls. This precipitated a classic Daddy moment where, upon overhearing our confusion, he quickly swerved into a parking lot and pulled his door open, hopped out and stuck his head in the back door to get it all set up for us. That catastrophe over with , we headed onto the interstate and my mom pulled out the sandwiches that my grandmother had fixed for our supper and started passing them out along with chips and drinks.

This was my first time driving to Branson in the dark! At least with our several trips in the past few months, we were able to easily guide my dad through the interstate exit and the small Louisiana towns. On the DVD player we were watching the newly-released Christmas show from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Gotta have Disney in the trip report somehow! And, believe it or not, this was Joshua's first experience with a DVD player inside a vehicle, so he thought it was really, really cool that Mamaw had one! I don't remember how long that DVD lasted, but it seems like we did put in something else afterwards. I think I had brought along a couple of holiday shows or movies to watch.

We usually stop at the Arkansas welcome center for our restroom break, but of course at this time of night it was closed and we had to drive about 15 miles further up the road to the rest area. Not being on an interstate, this rest area has no security provided, so I was a little wary about stopping here, but we really needed to go! Plus, in the dark, I was so worried about missing the turnoff that I had my eyes glued to the front windshield for about 10 minutes looking for the sign. I needn't have worried about stopping here for our break, as nobody else was even there. We had driven about 3 hours, and it was only about another hour or so to the hotel in Pine Bluff. My mom was pleasantly surprised to hear that; she's gotten to where she really needs to take breaks during their longer drives, and I think her legs were starting to cramp up a little.

After another short drive we approached Pine Bluff and started looking for the proper direction we should go. Normally we just keep driving straight and Highway 65 turns into Interstate 530 straight to Little Rock. This time we had to take an exit to head into Pine Bluff, then another exit (or was it a turn?) to get over to the hotel. The Comfort Inn was right there off the highway and was easy to reach. Across the road was a mall, and next to us was a gas station and a Staples (I think, I sure am fuzzy on the details here! ), or some sort of office supply store. So it appeared to be a good neighborhood. My dad went to check us in, which I never got up the nerve to ask how many adults and kids he told them would be in the room. Growing up, because I looked younger than I was, he made me lie for a few years to say I was 12 so he wouldn't get an extra adult charge! Anyway, we had 4 adults and 1 child in one regular room, so I'm sure we were violating a fire code somehow. But with my dad, it's usually better to follow "don't ask don't tell" policy and just go with it. Also, he was paying for the room, so I guess it was his call, although it still bugged me!

Happily we had been assigned a first-floor room and that made for easy unpacking of what we needed. My parents had all their stuff for tonight in one bag, plus their cooler. We had all our stuff for tonight in one bag, plus our cooler. Speaking of our cooler, when we got it out of the van to take inside, we thought it would be a good idea to drain the water out before we went inside. Except that there wasn't any water to drain out - the ice hadn't melted a bit! I think it was the frozen turkey breast! I think we also brought in a few more things as well like our camera bags, so we wouldn't have a lot of things sitting in the van to be a temptation to any potential thief. I don't think any of us got a bath or shower tonight, since we had taken care of all that before we left home. So we were able to get right to sleep. My dad (as usual in these circumstances) made a pallet on the floor with the two bedspreads, Joshua slept with my mom in one bed and Jay and I had the other bed.

Up next: Day 1 - Where in the World Can We Find Some Lunch?
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Old 07-19-2007, 07:50 PM   #13
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Glad you made it to the hotel Christie, and that the turkey is still frozen More please
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Old 07-20-2007, 01:55 AM   #14
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Glad to hear the turkey is still fully frozen!
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Old 07-20-2007, 08:42 PM   #15
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I love the detail in your reports, it reallly makes you feel like you're there even without the photos. I'm looking forward to you next installment.

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