Walt Disney World 2011 Report

Day 1 - Sunday
Alarm was set for 2:00 AM, however I woke up at 1:45 AM and decided to get up and get things started.  Our flight was scheduled to depart from Kansas City at 6:00 AM and it was snowing here in Columbia.  I was worried about the travel conditions so I was hoping to leave as close to 2:30 as possible to get to the airport in plenty of time.  We were able to get out the door at 2:20 only to have our first setback (though a minor one) right after turning onto I-70 when Elly said "We have to go back.  We need Silas' asthma medicine."  I had to drive all the way to the Midway exit to turn around and head back home.  Once we made that detour, we left the house again at 2:40.  Thankfully, there were no weather problems and we had smooth sailing to KCI.  We pulled up to the airport a little before 5:00 AM and was surprised to see quite a line at the American Airlines counter.  We checked one of our bags and then I went to park the car in economy parking while the rest of the family headed to the gate.  By the time I got back to the terminal and went through security, I was able to walk right onto the plane for the 6:00 AM departure.  The flight to Dallas was painless, even though Marek thought the plane almost crashed when landing as it did seem to lurch to the right immediately upon touch down.

Setback #2 was a major one.  We arrived in Dallas at 7:40 and were to catch a connecting flight to Orlando at 8:20.  Not being an experienced flier, I was worried since our tickets on this leg of the journey did not have seating assignments.  I knew that the flight was full and I was fearful that our family of six would be spread throughout the plane making for a less than ideal journey, especially when two of our children are pretty high maintenance.  The plan was to arrive at Orlando a little before noon and have the opportunity to spend the afternoon and evening at Epcot.  When we arrived at the gate, we were immediately notified that the plane had some mechanical problems and was being worked on in the service hangar, causing the flight to be delayed until 8:50 AM. 

Of course, the kids were disappointed even by this relatively short delay as they were so excited to get to Disney World.  We had no problems getting our seats together, so I was relieved.  This particular gate at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport was packed with people and even had a children's play area, which proved to be a huge blessing.  Elly and I both remarked that there were going to be a lot of kids on this flight judging by all the children at the gate and in the play area.  Many of them could be heard talking about Disney World.  8:50 AM came and went with no plane arriving at the gate so the delayed was pushed back another hour to 9:50 AM.  We were told numerous times that the plane was fixed and was on its way from the service hangar to the gate.  We were getting antzy as every minute that we were delayed was one fewer minute that we were not going to enjoy at Disney World.  While I could rationalize in my mind that we were probably going to be sick of Disney after four full days at the various parks, there is something about getting there and starting the vacation which makes those first few hours (minutes) so precious.  Besides, the kids were so excited about getting there and each little delay was a huge downer for them.

Our flight was pushed back again to 10:15, now two hours later than originally planned.  We were getting tired of just sitting around and waiting there at the airport.  A little after 10:00 AM the plane pulls up to the gate.  The flight crew boards to do a security check only to find that there is still something wrong with the plane.  A service crew is called to fix something on the landing gear.  After about 30 minutes of more work on the plane right there at the gate, American makes the decision to ground the plane.  At 10:35 AM, over two hours after our planned departure, we are informed that our flight is canceled and all other flights into Orlando are full.  The airline tells us to standby as they are trying to find a plane.  At this point, we have been awake for 9 hours and are wearing down and disappointed that a whole day of our vacation is going down the tubes.  Elly takes charge by talking with an airline agent about changing our return flight so that we can have more time at the end of the week as this first day appears to be a waste and we don't know when we'll finally get to Orlando.  Elly is not only able to get a flight 12 hours later on Friday, but we are able to leave from Orlando as opposed to Tampa.  For this reason in looking back with the benefit of hindsight, the delay at Dallas-Fort Worth proved to a major blessing in disguise though at the time it seemed like a major bummer.

American Airlines had a plane of the necessary configuration sitting at the Tulsa airport which they were able to quickly get in the air and bring to Dallas.  We were on the plane by 12:15 PM and were soon on our way to Orlando.  We arrived in sunny Florida at 3:40 PM, exactly four hours later than we had planned.  We grabbed our checked bag and eventually found our way to Disney's transportation service (Magical Express) there at the airport.  We were put on a bus to our resort at 4:30 PM and arrived at the Port Orleans - Riverside resort at Disney World at 5:00 PM on Sunday.

Due to the late arrival, we decided to go to Magic Kingdom as that park was to stay open until 3:00 AM that night.  We dropped off our bags in our hotel room and headed to the resort bus depot to catch a bus to Magic Kingdom.  Our plan was to get to the park and find a restaurant since we had not had a good meal all day.  As we walked into the Magic Kingdom park, we were immediately stopped by a crowd of people who were lining the streets as a Disney parade was underway.  The kids immediately got to see some of their favorite Disney characters, such as Buzz and Woody from Toy Story.  Once the parade had passed we were able to move, but I was intimidated by how crowded everything was.  Elly and I had four children to keep watch over and we were shoulder-to-shoulder with people every step that we took.  I don't like crowds and kept thinking, "A ski vacation in the Colorado mountains would have been a lot more relaxing than this."

We found a restaurant and were initially bewildered about our options as we had a dining plan included with our Disney package.  Once we sorted that out and got to our table, we couldn't believe how much food we had as a result of the dining plan.  This turned out to be one of the very pleasant surprises of the week.

After eating, we looked around for the nearest ride and saw the entrance to Splash Mountain.  At 7:15 PM on Sunday night, the three older kids and I got in line for the first ride of our Disney World vacation while Elly and Ariya headed to the rides for younger children.  We followed up Splash Mountain with Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, PhilharMagic and It's A Small World before heading to the main square to stake our claim to a good spot to watch the huge light and fireworks show at 9:30 PM.

If you've ever been to Magic Kingdom, you know the crowd that exists for the nightly fireworks show.  We enjoyed the high-tech show and were finally able to untangle ourselves from the enormous crowd at 10:30 PM.  Serai and I went one way (to participate in Stitch's Great Escape) while everyone else went back to the Fantasyland area for the more gentle rides.  All of us re-united a short time later and rode Buzz Lightyear, Snow White and the Tea Cups.

It was now 1:30 AM and I had been up for 24 hours.  Marek said he couldn't walk anymore.  Ariya had fallen asleep in Elly's arms.  We were all exhausted.  We slowly found our way out of the Magic Kingdom park and down the long walkway to the bus stop for our resort.  I was amazed to see a number of other families with young kids waiting for the bus.  I was happy to see that they all looked like I felt -- zombies, every one of them.

The bus was so crowded back to our resort that I had to stand up in the aisle.  The fatigue was hitting me harder with each passing minute.  I kept thinking, "Oh my gosh!  This is the first night.  How are we going to survive this for another five days?"  With the few coherent thoughts that I had, I was cursing Walt Disney and myself for giving in to the pressure to take a Disney World vacation.

We finally got back to our room and we all were asleep within minutes.  I slept well.

Day 2 - Monday
Rain.  Heavy rain.  Non-stop heavy rain...all day.

Thankfully, we all slept in even though the sleeping arrangements were far from ideal as Elly and I were sharing a twin bed with Ariya sleeping in between us.  Ariya didn't seem to be bothered by the tight quarters, but I cannot say the same for Elly and me.  We felt somewhat refreshed though and enjoyed a nice breakfast at the resort dining hall.  We bought Elly and Serai rain ponchos at the resort as they did not want to get any more wet than they already were.  I was figuring that it was going to be another miserable day at Disney with the rain expected to last for the entire day.  We decided to go to Epcot since most of the attractions there are indoors.

We got to Epcot just a little before noon.  As we were about to enter the park, a lightning bolt hit the top of Epcot's signature feature (the giant sphere known as Spaceship Earth).  A family who had just walked through the turnstiles to enter the park immediately turned around and left as a result of the lightning strike.  It was pretty funny.  We just shrugged our shoulders and thought, "What next?"  We then entered Epcot.

We first rented a stroller and purchased more rain ponchos as there was no way we were going to be able to get through the day without some protection from the cold, steady rain.  Elly and Ariya went off to meet Disney characters while the three older kids stayed with me and we rode Spaceship Earth, Mission:Space and Soarin'.  Our wait for Soarin' was 80 minutes which turned out to be the second longest wait of the whole week.  It was tough on Marek and Silas, both of whom requested numerous times to leave so we didn't have to keep waiting.

After Soarin', we met up with Elly and Ariya for an early dinner at the Land Pavilion.  After dinner, we then enjoyed the Living with the Land ride followed by the Universe of Energy.  By this time, it was getting close to 7:00 PM and we were all tired of the rain.  Ariya had fallen asleep in her stroller, so I told the kids to take Elly for a ride on Mission: Space while I hung out in the Innoventions building with our sleeping baby.  We were never able to experience Epcot's most thrilling ride -- Test Track -- which was closed due to the rain.

As we trudged back to the bus depot there at Epcot, we were sick and tired of the rain and wondering if this entire trip was going to be a disaster.  After boarding our bus, Serai told me that she didn't see what was so great about Disney World and wished we had gone to Colorado instead.  These first two days were certainly not a whole lot of fun.

Once we got back to our room, we all took hot showers and drank coffee and hot chocolate as the cold rain had chilled us to the bone.  We went to bed at a decent hour and had another good night of sleep.

Day 3 - Tuesday
We slept in again and had another great breakfast at the Riverside Dining Hall.  Today we were going to the Hollywood Studios.  The sun was out and we were all thrilled to have some decent weather for a change.  We arrived at the Hollywood Studios park just before noon and were quickly surprised by how crowded everything was.  I immediately took the older kids over to the thrill rides while Elly took Ariya to meet Buzz Lightyear and Sheriff Woody.  We grabbed FastPasses for the Tower of Terror ride and then got in line for the Rockin' Roller Coaster.

While we did have a considerable wait for this first ride of the day, I spent most of my time in line texting Brad Lademann and my dad, who both were quick to respond.  Brad, a Disney World junkie, was vicariously enjoying our vacation as I kept him abreast of each and every ride that we were enjoying.  My dad was back in Columbia constantly watching the weather radar over central Florida making sure to let me know of any potential weather concerns.  So not only was I making sure that my kids were having a good time, I was keeping Brad up-to-date on our every move, right down to what Aerosmith song was playing as we stood in line to ride the roller coaster.

After about a 45-minute wait, we finally got on the Rockin' Roller Coaster and had a great time.  We all loved it and vowed to come back to ride it again.  Our FastPasses for the Tower of Terror weren't for another two hours, so we decided to hook up with Elly and Ariya.  We found them in line for Toy Story Mania!, which judging from the long line, is the most popular ride at Hollywood Studios.  This turned out to be our longest wait of the entire week (100 minutes).  At least we were all together.  We all had a good time as this was a very interactive ride with some pretty impressive technology at work as you try to hit targets by shooting darts and tossing rings.  To my surprise, Serai had the highest score in the family.

From there, the older kids and I hightailed it over to the Tower of Terror so that we could benefit from our FastPasses which gave us a quick entry to the ride.  This was our first experience of taking advantage of FastPasses and it was great to just walk right by all of the people standing in line and immediately get on the ride.  The Tower of Terror proved to be quite a thrill.  I think we were all a little surprised at what it had to offer.  I was yelling in terror at one moment, then would be laughing my head off when I would look at Silas and Marek who both appeared to be terrified.  This was quite the ride.  Both Marek and Silas told me right afterward that they didn't think they would be able to ride that one again.

From there, we got back in line for the Rockin' Roller Coaster since it was right there and we enjoyed that ride so much before.  I again spent my time in line texting Brad, my dad and Elly.  After another fun time on this ride, we walked almost all the way across the park to the Indiana Jones stunt show where Elly had already grabbed some seats.  We watched that and all came away kind of "ho-hum" about it.  At this point, we were getting hungry so we checked out a few places to grab some dinner and settled on burgers from the Backlot.

After stuffing our faces, we realized we were in the Star Wars section of the park.  Unfortunately, the Star Wars ride was closed for construction.  We then stayed together for the rest of the evening by taking part in the Prince Caspian show (lame!) and the Great Movie Ride (not lame), before heading to Fantasmic -- Hollywood Studio's huge light show and live performance.  This was a very entertaining show with laser lights, fireworks and all sorts of neat effects.  After taking in Fantasmic, we left Hollywood Studios and we all felt as if our week had taken a turn for the better.  We had a lot of fun this day.

At some point during the day, Silas decided that he wanted to go swimming.  As a result, he had been ready to leave the park fairly early on to return to our resort so that we could swim.  Once we finally got back to our room at 10:00, I took Silas to the swimming pool while everyone else lounged around the room watching television.  I introduced Silas to the game of Marco Polo and we had some good father-son time together that evening.

Day 4 - Wednesday
Disney World consists of four parks and we had been to three of them.  That meant that Animal Kingdom was our destination for today.  As was our morning ritual, we slept in and had a hearty breakfast at our resort before heading to the park.

My sister Amaris told me that Animal Kingdom was her favorite of the Disney parks, so I was hopeful that we would have another great day.  The weather was ideal as we arrived at the park right around noon.  Animal Kingdom is part amusement park, part zoo.  After entering the park, we gazed at some of the animals on display before we split into two groups heading in different directions.  Serai, Marek, Silas and I were going to Dino Land to check out the ride which Amaris recommended -- Dinosaur.

On our way to Dinosaur we got derailed by what appeared to be a short line to see the Bug's Life show.  I had heard a number of conflicting reports about it, but Brad telling me that he laughed his head off was really the only endorsement I needed.  So we took that show in.  It was great!  Hopefully I can get Elly to watch this one as it was a lot of fun.  After leaving Bug's Life, we resumed our trek to the Dinosaur ride.

I love my sister Amaris, but we usually have very different tastes on things.  My friends Joe and Brad and just been to Disney World and never said a single word about Dinosaur.  So I wasn't sure what to expect.  Dinosaur proved be a very pleasant surprise.  It was like being in Jurassic Park with Dinosaurs chasing you around from all sides.  My only regret on the whole trip was that I did not pay Disney the ridiculous cost to have the picture that was taken of us during this ride.  It was absolutely hilarious!  Even though that image is seared in my mind, I would have loved for other people to see just how Serai, Marek, Silas and I all reacted when a dinosaur jumped out at us.  So funny!

From there, we headed to the Asia section to ride Animal Kingdom's roller coaster -- Expedition Everest.  I figured that we would want to ride this again so we grabbed FastPasses and then got in line.  This was another fun ride with a number of nice surprises.  While we were doing this, Elly and Ariya were meeting Disney characters and taking in The Lion King performance.  We then all met up for the Jungle Safari.  On the Safari ride, we got to see water buffalo, hippos, rhinos, a lion (sort of), crocodiles, giraffes, elephants and other animals.  We then split up again immediately after the Safari.  Elly and Ariya were headed to the Finding Nemo show, while the rest of us were headed back to Asia for the Kali River Rapids followed by another Expedition Everest.

The kids really enjoyed the River Rapids ride and enjoyed seeing me get drenched at one point due to where I was sitting in the raft.  We FastPassed through Expedition Everest then hooked back up with Elly and Ariya who were buzzing about the Finding Nemo show.  All of a sudden, the sky turned very dark and gusts of wind started blowing through the Animal Kingdom.

The kids wanted Elly to ride Expedition Everest with them so we started walking back to that part of the park when it started to sprinkle rain.  My dad was sending me texts telling me that the weather radar was showing some nasty things headed to the Orlando area.  I didn't need the weather radar to tell me that some crazy weather was on its way.  We decided to turn around and head for the park exit as any moment it looked like we were going to be hit was some serious rain.  Most of the other park visitors were making their way to the exit as well.

Elly and I both realized that we were going to get stuck in the rain waiting at the bus stop, so we thought we would find some shelter somewhere in the park to sit out the storm.  Right as we looked around for a place with a roof, the clouds started dumping rain.  We ran to a restaurant that had an overhang and then stood there for about 15 minutes watching the storm pound away.

Once the rain slowed, we then headed toward the exit.  Immediately after leaving the park, the rain came to a complete stop.  Serai was ready to get back to our room at the resort so that she could watch TV.  Elly mentioned that she thought we would really like the Lion King live performance, so I said "Let's go back into the park."  So we did an about-face and went back into Animal Kingdom and had a good time watching Lion King and then A Bug's Life before calling it a day.

Day 5 - Thursday
I wake up and can hear the rain outside.  Everyone else is sound asleep.  Ugh.  Another rotten day?  (As it turned out, the best was yet to come.)

We were going to return to Magic Kingdom as there were a number of rides there that we had missed on our first evening here at Disney World.  However, the weather definitely was going to make things more frustrating.  Once we finally got up and had breakfast, we put on our rain ponchos and headed to Magic Kingdom.

As miserable as it is to walk around an amusement park in the rain, the poor weather kept the big crowds away and we were able to ride a number of rides with very little waiting.  Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor and the Haunted Mansion were all taken in as they were indoors and mostly dry.  We then packed it in early in the afternoon to head back to our resort for a late lunch and then some rest time as we hoped the rain would pass giving us a chance to return to the park that evening.

Upon returning to Port Orleans - Riverside, we went to the dining hall which was bustling with activity as a number of Disney-goers were holing up waiting for the rain to stop.  We enjoyed another great meal and then returned to our room.  Ariya, Elly and I napped while the other three kids watched television as the rain continued to fall.

Four hours later, the rain had finally stopped.  It was now getting close to 8:00 PM.  We quickly exited our room at the resort to head for the bus depot for our grand return to Magic Kingdom.  Since we were heading back to Missouri the following day, this was going to be our last night here at Disney World.  We wanted to make the most of it.

It was already getting dark as we entered the park that evening and a brightly-lit parade was in progress to the delight of Ariya.  Once the parade passed, we stayed together and headed to the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse.  We then rode the Magic Carpets of Aladdin, Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean.  It was so great having the whole family together, seeing the kids happy and excited.  Words can't describe how great this time was.  We next went to Splash Mountain and the kids rode it twice (once with me and then again with Elly).  The rest of the night was a blur of happy memories: Space Mountain numerous times, Winnie the Pooh, the Mad Tea Party among others.  Our last ride was the Raceway in which Serai, Marek and Silas all got to drive cars.

It was 1:00 AM.  The rides were closing.  It was a great day.  In fact, it was probably the most fun we've had as a family.  We slowly walked down Main Street on this beautiful night.  Serai kept saying over and over again "I don't want to leave."  We stopped in a few stores along Main Street and did not actually leave the Magic Kingdom until 1:30 AM.  We crashed immediately upon returning to our room.

Day 6 - Friday
When you purchase your vacation package through Disney, they throw in additional passes to the parks for almost nothing so that you can even make short trips to the parks on your travel days.  This turned out to be a nice perk as it allowed us to immediately go to a park when we got there and it also gave us the option of spending a little time at a park on Friday before our flight was to leave that afternoon.  Of course, that meant we got up fairly early this morning after staying up past 2:00 the night before so that we could return to Hollywood Studios for a few hours.

While it was tough getting the kids out of bed, they seemed to perk up after breakfast.  We got to the Hollywood Studios with the plan of riding the Rockin' Roller Coaster, the Tower of Terror and taking in the Beauty and the Beast show.  We carried out our plan to perfection.

We first grabbed FastPasses for the Rockin' Roller Coaster and then stood in line for the Tower of Terror.  We had another hilarious ride on that as Marek screamed his head off the whole time as we plummeted through the Hollywood Hotel.  We followed that up with another turn on the Rockin' Roller Coaster and then got in line for the Beauty and the Beast performance.  After that, we left Hollywood Studios to head back to our resort and begin the process of getting to the Orlando Airport for our return to Missouri.  What an amazing trip this turned out to be.