February 5, 2011

House of Mouse

(Warning, this is a very long post!)

Four and a half years ago, hubby and I decided never to go to Disney World during "peak" theme park times: major holidays, winter, spring, or summer vacation. We gave in a few weeks ago and decided to join my siblings on their yearly New Year's Eve trip. We were apprehensive at first, knowing how there's "too much" going on during peak park visits: It's too hot (or cold), too crowded, the lines for food, bathrooms, rides, etc are too long. But, the boys wanted to go to Disney for their birthdays this year, and their only wish (besides actually going), was to go with their cousins. The cousins were going New Year's Eve weekend, and would therefore be unable to go three weeks later, so we decided to join them and make it an early celebration. Never say never!

We rented a 5 bedroom, 3.5 bathroom house, and all 17 of us ( four families of four, and my little sister) all stayed under one roof. Sounds crazy, but it went a lot smoother than expected. Nine of the people arrived a day earlier than the rest, so they had a chance to get used to the house, fill the fridge, and get into a routine before the rest of us joined in on Wednesday evening.

The kids were beaming with excitement on Thursday morning, they were finally all going to Disney together!

Day 1 got off to a slow start. My BIL had to handle a business call, which resulted in us not getting to the park until just before 2pm. But luck was on our side as not only was Magic Kingdom closing at midnight that night, we were able to stick around for extra magic hours, which gave us an extra two hours at the park. We got not just one but two fireworks shows, the regular Fireworks nightime spectacular, and the New Year's Eve Eve fireworks, where they test out the routine for the big display on New Year's Eve. We did most of FantasyLand, as well as the bulk of our character greetings for the day during the middle of the night. All the kids (except for baby cousin Ryan) were wide awake until about 1:30am, soaking up the Disney magic. It seemed as if we had the park all to ourselves, and none of us wanted to miss a moment.

(the rest of the trip in the extended entry)

Unfortunately, Day 2 was not as successful. It was New Year's Eve, and we were all pooped from the night before, and did not get to the park until about 4 in the afternoon. Daisy and Stitch were right at the front of the park, so we greeted them and then made our way to Finding Nemo. We were in line for that for almost an hour, and by the time we got out of the ride and the Living Seas, it was almost dark. We had dinner inside The Land, rode Liwing with the Land (another 40 minute line), and started heading over to the World Showcase.

I should mention that phone service had been completely wonky throughout the day. Not sure if it was because there were so many users in one place and not enough towers nearby to support service, but it was horrible. No reception, no texts, no internet, nada. This is a very important detail for what remains of Day 2. Hubby was a bit upset because he likes to have a plan when we go to theme parks. He likes to have structure and do as much as possible, especially Disney, since it really is so expensive and you really want to get your money's worth. That was not happening during this trip, with such a large party most things are very spontaneous. At this point, it was 7pm and we had only ridden two things. I had gone to the bathroom and was taking longer than expected (food from The Land didn't agree with me at all), so he and the boys waited and he told the rest of the group to go on ahead and we would meet later. He wanted to separate for a while to see if we could get some rides in before the New Year's Eve countdown. I finally get out of the bathroom (sorry. TMI, I know) and we head towards Test Track. Over a two-hour wait....uh, no. Next. We head towards Mexico, and go through the line and ride the boat. Meanwhile, I find out later that my older sister and brother had been trying to text me so that we could meet in Mexico, and from there find a place to hang out until the festivities began. As we're coming out of the Mexico ride, we see them going into the ride, and we meet at a designated point after we are all done riding, since we are unable to communicate via cell phone. Then it begins, some people have to go to the bathroom, others go get drinks, and we are trying to just get further ahead into the World Showcase. It is packed, people are tripping over each other, over strollers trying to walk, and Disney employees make human barricades so that traffic flows. My BIL goes to the restroom, and hubby gets fed up with all the waiting and tells me he's taking Brandon to Norway to the ride. I tell him I'll wait for him by the exit, and the rest of the gang is looking for my BIL, assuming they'll run into him, since the bathroom is next to Norway. To make an already long story shorter, my BIL gets lost. I end up losing the rest of the group because I stay behind in Norway, with Matthew in the stroller, waiting for Eric and Brandon.

I am waiting for about 40 minutes, Matthew asleep in the stroller, and I call Eric to see where in the line he is. After about four attempts (remember bad phone service?), he says there's been a couple of delays, but they are about halfway through. When he entered the ride, it was about a 40 minute wait, so there should only be about 20 minutes of waiting left. At this point, my phone is my only lifeline to anyone, and with all the attempts to use it with bad reception, the battery had drained and it had about 3% battery life left. My phone dies, and I am waiting.
And waiting. And waiting. Matty is still sleeping. I finally go inside the store where the ride exit funnels into, and ask the cashier what time it is. He says it's 9pm. I freak out. I've been waiting for Eric and Brandon for over an hour. My mind goes berserk. What if they exited through the other door? How am I going to find them in this sea of people? Do I stay here, or try to find the rest of the group, so that I can try calling him from one of their phones? I stuck around for about 10 minutes, then decided to venture towards Italy, which was our designated meeting point.

Italy is only three countries away, but it takes me forever to get there, not only due to the sea of people, but some concerts had started in China so there were dense crowds to get through and around. Italy also has a stage, by where the courtyard and the masked performers usually are, and it's even more packed than China. I make my way through one of the sides of the stage, looking for my group. I come out onto the main path from one of the stores, deciding to head back towards Norway, and my line of sight happens to spot my cousin. I just lost it crying when I finally reached them through the crowd. I told them what happened and my brother and cousin's husband take off to try and find Eric and Brandon while I charge my phone (Thank God my sister brought her charger, and found an outlet!). After about 15 minutes, my phone has some life in it, and I'm able to get a call in. Eric answers, and I, in hysterics, ask, "Where are you?" He says, "Norway, we just got off the ride". I tell him exactly where we are and how to find us, and we call my brother to come back (thankfully phones are working just fine now). After about ten minutes I see him approaching us and I can't get up to hug him, my knees had buckled. Meantime, he's just fine because he doesnt' realize I had "lost" him, Brandon is telling me all about the awesome viking ride, and Matty is still asleep in his stroller.

We all stay together from this point forward. We walk towards the rest of the countries, watch the fireworks and wait for the New Year in front of Morocco, then head towards the exit. As much as I was looking forward to our first ever New Year in Disney World, I'm glad it's over and I'm ready to head to the house for some sleep.

It's a new year, and a new day. Day 3 takes us to Animal Kingdom. We had a much earlier start than the previous day, and got to the park just before 1pm. We greeted a bunch of characters, went on the Safari ride, say the parade, and all took turns riding Expedition Everest. AK closes early, so we headed to dinner at a pizza buffet place, and hung out and played video games for a while before heading back to the house to relax for the evening. The kids got baths and were in their pj's watching cartoons and most of the adults stayed up until about 3am playing Taboo.

The next day we all slept in, had brunch, gathered our things, packed up the cars and headed home. But our journey home could not begin without a pitstop at Pereiraville. Hubby, the boys and I headed over to visit for a while with writersblock and sherlock, and we all had a late lunch at Cracker Barrel (YUM!). Then we got on the road, and were in our own comfy beds by 11pm.

As with all Disney stories, this tale has a happy ending. Despite some bumps in the road, the kids went on their first trip together and had a blast! There was lots of family bonding going on, and we even got in a quick visit to see some good friends. Overall, a successful trip!

Posted by Amanda at February 5, 2011 11:26 PM | TrackBack
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