Day 4 - January 24, 2014 Part II

Monday, July 28, 2014


So there we were, the saddest family in all of Walt Disney World. We were feet from the entrance to the International Gateway at Epcot and I had literally emptied our bag onto the sidewalk searching every nook and cranny of our day pack for our missing tickets. I unzipped and zipped the "safe" travel folder I had placed them in. Panic began to set in and then settled securely in my throat.

When we collected ourselves and accepted the terrible reality that our tickets were missing and probably long gone, I approached the guest service booth outside the park to see how they might help. The first cast member I spoke to apologized for our inconvenience and shook his head because clearly, there was nothing we could do to replace them. A few minutes went by and I approached a second cast member and requested they call over to Hollywood Studios on the off chance that they might have been turned in to Lost and Found. She did and miraculously through some unknown force of Disney magic THEY HAD THE TICKETS.

We rejoiced. I cried tears of joy. Yes, real honest to goodness tears. Then I stopped and stood frozen and silent. They had the tickets...all the way back at Hollywood Studios. I abandoned Steve with our bag, the kids, the stroller and with that travel wallet and my phone in hand, I took off back to the Friendship Boat dock to head to Hollywood Studios.

I settled into my seat, took a deep breath and calculated that this slow leisurely trip had taken thirty minutes and this new round trip was going to cost us at minimum an hour, more likely ninety minutes if I allowed for time to collect the tickets and wait for a ride back. I briefly considered renting a boat somehow at the nearby Epcot resorts to garner a faster ride down the river, where I could leave it idling by the shore (obviously) while I raced to the entrance to get the tickets and then Miami Vice style it back to Epcot. If I am being transparent, I began a google search for Epcot area boat rentals, but then I had a moment of clarity and put my phone away. If the Friendship Boat had taken off as soon as I sat down, I wouldn't have had the time to jump up from my seat and literally and completely unnecessarily leap to the dock. This resulted in interesting looks from the crew as I jogged off towards the walking path. This was clearly the most action they had seen all day.

In my planning, I had come across information about the walking route between Hollywood Studios and Epcot. I planned for contingencies and because I had familiarized myself with the route and had a mental map of a shortcut through Boardwalk in my head, I knew I could run it faster. I hadn't run all winter (thanks you very much New England never ending winter), but today, today I was going to run.

I ran a 5K at Disney World, in denim, and I received no runDisney medal for my efforts.

I ran over the bridge near the Beach Club, cut through the pool area at the Boardwalk, and jogged along the water all the way to HS. I collected the tickets at Guest Services where they looked at me breathing rapidly, clearly disheveled and asked, "did you... run here???" I turned right around to start my run BACK to Epcot, passed the boat I should have taken still en route to Hollywood Studios, waved to the stunned crew who were now being lapped by a runner and tried to keep focus because DENIM.
By the time I arrived back at Epcot (approximately 30 minutes later), Steve and the kids were two shows deep on an iPhone and they had eaten all the snacks in the day pack, but I had the tickets. If you ever thought you were your kids hero when they cheer for you as you approach a finish line, I suggest you try it holding Disney tickets in your hand, waving them wildly and feeling like you just saved the universe... because you kind of did. Out of breath, sweaty, deeply in need of an adult beverage and a cronut we made our way into Epcot. The cast members in the guest services booth outside MAY have applauded my efforts. As you can imagine, I am a big fan of linking park tickets to Magic Bands. I'll even spring for a Bit Belt to never had to go through that again.
We hit a kiosk to make our evening plan just before 3pm. This day was about to right itself and we were determined to finish strong.

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Day 4 - January 26, 2014

Thursday, July 24, 2014

This is the trip report that will never end. My subconscious goal must be to drag these out until the next trip to avoid the deep, post-Disney depression. Last I left you, we had taken in a full day at Animal Kingdom.

We planned a split day for Day 4 beginning at Hollywood Studios and ending with Illuminations at Epcot. To refresh your memory, we were using Kiosks to make day of reservations for FP+. Our strategy here was to save our FP+ selections for Epcot in hopes we could snag one for either Soarin' or Test Track for the second half of our day. We were stand-by only at Hollywood Studios. Reflecting on just how badly Expedition Everest had gone for Caroline, I had a feeling Tower of Terror and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster were both going to be way too intense for her. The Great Movie Ride with the inclusion of the witch from Wizard of Oz and some scenes from Aliens ruled itself out as well. Our plan was characters, characters, characters all morning.

We started the day with what I noted as "the never ending bus ride." If I recall correctly, the ride seemed slow, we seemed to keep circling the lot, something was off and it definitely slowed us down. We headed straight for Toy Story Mania and the line was starting to get long. The kids were already spoiled with their Magic Bands and starting the day off with a longer than 45 minute wait, well, you would think we were punishing them the way they dragged themselves through that cue. The wait was unavoidable, we weren't going to use our FP+ options at this park and skipping the ride was not an option for Connor.
After Toy Story Mania, we went on a character streak that lasted almost until lunch with just one brief pause to see the Disney Junior Live show.

Remember the boy who was afraid of characters?? We split into pairs to meet Jake and Sofia. Steve had the autograph book, but came up with a brilliant solution to ask Jake to sign Connor's bandana that we just happened to bring along for the day. Kid was on CLOUD NINE, YO HO, Let's GO!!



Then deeper into the Animation Courtyard,


We snagged an outdoor spot at Backlot Express for lunch so the kids could watch Jedi Training while we ate. I opted for Buffalo Chicken Nuggets for lunch and there were more Power Packs for the kids. Steve again chose a burger and fries and again I asked him why? Connor liked watching Jedi Training so much, he asked to stay to watch the next show (12:40). Did he think he ever might want to learn how to fight Darth Vadar? "No."


The day was slipping by and we had dinner plans at Epcot for the Princess, not to mention FP+ experiences to schedule when we arrived.

We hit Muppets

 Phineas & Ferb

and got an up close view of Lightning and Mater

before bidding adieu to Hollywood Studios and hopping on a leisurely journey aboard a Friendship Boat to Epcot. I hoped the kids would rest and while there was no sleeping, there was quiet peace on our ride.

We disembarked, gathered our belongings, and headed toward the International Gateway. We didn't get too far before I realized that we had misplaced something very important, our entrance tickets!! Our park tickets were NOT connected to our Magic Bands. This was a moment of panic we all could have done without, but was entirely my fault.

What happened next? You simply won't believe how this unfolded.

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Tamu Tamu - Review

Thursday, June 12, 2014

We considered this little quick serve spot to be an absolute gem on our Animal Kingdom day.

The location was exceptional for our plan. We hit Everest first thing in the morning, then went on Safari with our first FP+ reservation, strolled the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, and we were in need of lunch before racing to our next FP+ at Finding Nemo: The Musical. Tamu Tamu was literally on our way to the theater and worth the stop.

Tamu Tamu is located in Africa, adjacent to the Bridge to Discovery Island, across from Dawa Bar and Tusker House. There is wonderful covered seated available behind and restrooms located conveniently around the corner. We were happy to snag some shade back here. While we were eating there was live music and dancing in the street which was great fun for the kids.

The food was really good! Steve looked at me skeptically when I ordered his lunch of Chicken Curry over rice. He later admitted that he almost ate mine while I took one of the kids to the restroom.

Unfortunately, the menu has changed since our visit so I can't review any of the current options on the menu. Looking at the new options and based on our very positive experience, I would definitely stop here on our way out of Africa again to try one or two new items, Quinoa Salad and slow cooked beef in a pita? YUM! Here is a review of the new menu from Disney Food Blog.

Power Packs! Tamu Tamu offers the Kids' Snack Pack which is the meal that keeps giving. We tucked the leftovers into our stroller and the kids picked through the remains all afternoon. My grazers really appreciated this option, as did my pocket. Look at all this glorious shade!

Give this little spot a try! I'd love to hear your thoughts on the updated menu.

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tiny thrill seekers - How?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Our seven year-old daughter loves Big Thunder Mountain. She puts her hands up and yells "weeeeee" from start to finish with the biggest smile on her face. It is by far her favorite attraction at WDW, following closely by Test Track. She is taking full advantage of the "rider switch" right now because her younger brother won't even consider riding anything he deems "fast."

In our little family, we have one thrill seeker and one opposed. No one wants to be the parent who drags their kids on an attraction they have no interest in or worse yet, a deep fear of. I think we have all unfortunately seen that play by play. As a parent, it is easy to see how it happens. At the cost of admission, it is hard to justify the kids not going on attractions. "This is what I paid for!" 

Things to keep in mind:
There is a sweet spot for little ones and "scary attractions." My 20 month-old son would not have closed his eyes for a single second on Pirates, but his nearly five year old sister would have NONE of it. The cue alone pushed her over the edge.

Speaking of cues, Talk about them. Pirates is a perfect example of a cue that is so well-themed that it makes kids think the attraction will be equally dark and creepy. We tried to joke all the way through the cue about "how real this pretend dungeon looked."

Older kids can read. They can read a map, they are like heat sensors seeking out thrills. Set expectations before you go. If they aren't ready this time and there WILL be a next time, remind them of that.

Consider making an agreement to work your way up to the thrills. "If you can handle Big Thunder, you can try Space."

You are the expert on your kids and what they can and, more importantly, cannot handle. I wouldn't dream of taking my kids back through "Tough to be a bug" for a long, long time, but your kids might absolutely love it.

Ride through videos will be helpful, but nothing can quite prepare your child for a ride that goes backward in the dark if they have never done it before.

An enthusiastic kid at home might turn away from an attraction they had been excited about when the time comes to cue up. A reluctant kid at home might be the first in line for something outside of their usual comfort zone.

Whatever the outcome, don't let it ruin your day, move on quickly if it all goes downhill, and remember that ice cream fixes just about everything.

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Day 3 - January 25, 2014

Sunday, March 30, 2014

I love the Magic Kingdom, love it to the depths of my soul. When we were planning this trip, I considered eliminating Animal Kingdom from our itinerary for a variety of reasons; Connor was really into Star Wars, we suspected Caroline would be really into characters. To me, it has always been the hottest park and the one with the most bottlenecks making it feel extra crowded. I kept hearing it referred to as a "half day park." I only had four park days, why would I spend one of them at a half day park, right? Wrong.

I love Animal Kingdom, love it to the depths of my soul. If we had longer to spend on property, I would have gone BACK to Animal Kingdom for a second day, that's how much we all loved it. Yes, the animals are fabulous, but they were somehow more fabulous this time. The safari was by far the best one I have EVER taken. The kids loved the atmosphere, they explored more here than any other park (because it is designed for that!), we lost one for a brief moment of time, but I will get to that scary bit later. Caroline's second favorite attraction is here and she would ride that almost as much, if not more, than her beloved Big Thunder. Steve found his turkey leg. Connor had a churro. We all ate popcorn. It was almost relaxing.


Any day that starts with an impromptu character meet and greet is going to be a good day. We have had great luck meeting characters out front at this park. Last time we stumbled onto Timon just as he stepped out and this year, Rafiki. Funny story here is that we saw him coming from backstage while we were milling about and Caroline was dancing up a storm. We dropped everything and raced over, with one of his handlers waving us on, and jumped right over to him just as others caught sight. The first handler let Caroline meet him, but the second handler gave handler one a tongue lashing because we had not cued up properly. (you can see her using her hands to illustrate her point in the video below.) To be fair, we saw him and followed him over to where he was meeting. We were told to go on up, and really, no one had lined up yet in the designated spot anyway. As Mighty Men of Mouse would say, "Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat." You have never seen a mother react so quickly to get her kid with autograph book in hand to a character. BAM!


(as with all poorly shot videos I post here, you must also endure my endless commentary. I think it is endearing, you can think whatever you want)


How could the day honestly get any better from here?
We made a quick stop over to the Kiosk by Disney Outfitters (that link won't be needed for long as all guests, on property or not, will have advance booking access to the Fast Pass Plus system beginning March 31st). The line was pretty fast and here is a terrible photo of our selections which they once again recommended I take. We had access to our schedule through My Disney Experience, but again, could not alter it from the app.
10:30 - 11:30  --- Kilamanjaro Safari
12:40 - 12:55  --- Finding Nemo
1:55 - 2:55  --- Primeval Whirl
Caroline had one thing and one thing only on her mind: Everest. My seven year-old daredevil was excited to get on this ride, meet the Yeti, and conquer another mountain. On route to Asia we saw a relatively short line to meet Mickey and Minnie and ducked in. To get a sense of how chilly it was this day, please note my husband is actually wearing a COAT. You know how well this little stop went over with Connor.

Caroline was leading the way now, chanting "yeti, yeti, yeti," and I was beginning to think this was not the best idea as the ride came into view and the screams became audible. I took this shot just outside to prove to DCF that she DID in fact want to ride, should they come knocking.
She was thrilled through the entire cue and the line was not long which gave me less time to consider what an epic disaster this was going to be. We jumped on with my cousin behind us and she immediately put her hands in the air, big smiles all around. "This is not like Thunder Mountain," I told her, "this is a ride that Mommy screams on and you are definitely going to want to put your arms down and hold on tight." She was cool all the way until the part where the tracks ends, she waved at the Yeti, told him she wasn't afraid and then we went backwards. I didn't think this would be her undoing, but when we were about to head deep into the scariest downhill of the ride, she announced, "I'm going to throw up." She was clammy, breathing heavy, and I believed her. This was a ride where I needed to manage my own screaming and when your kid is terrified and ready to vomit, you can't even let that scream out. It was all I could to reach over and offer my hand to her.
We told her she could get ANYTHING she wanted after this. Don't judge. She chose a Yeti pillow that she now sleeps with every night. This kid was one brave daredevil and even if she hated every second of it, I was so proud of her for trying. I don't think we will be going back on Everest together for a long while.
After that scary experience, we tried to calm her down as best we could and headed to the Safari for our FP+ return time feeding her Goofy gummies the whole way until her color returned. She was unhappy, scared still, and not feeling well. I felt we had made a terrible error and was feeling awful about letting her go on, but in hindsight, she wanted to do, it wasn't nearly as fantastic as she thought it would be, but she did it! I stand behind it DCF, come and get me. I worried the day would be lost to this one bad decision, but she recovered quickly once we hit the cue for the Safari.
We had the BEST Safari. The kids saw elephants, rhinos, giraffes, hippos, lions and even Connor's beloved cheetah. I knew if we didn't see one he would be incredibly disappointed, but this kid's day was made (and admittedly, mine too) when he exclaimed from my lap, "I see it, I see the cheetah, Mama!!"



 some video snippets

The kids LOVED the Safari and we wasted no time heading right over to the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail after we disembarked. I embarrassed my husband by shouting to the driver that this was "the best Safari EVER!" I do things like that.

Families, DITCH THE STROLLERS for these trails. They are windy, narrow, crowded and your stroller is enormous. We didn't get to do the trails last time we visited Animal Kingdom, probably because the kids were so much younger and would be stroller bound. The trails are designed for meandering exploration and our son was not yet two, not yet ready to really dive into this experience. We made the HUGE mistake of rolling the stroller right on it, which mostly meant Steve had to deal with the bottlenecks and finagling it through tighter spots all while, you guessed it, Connor rode on Mommy's head.

The absolute highlight of this trail is obviously the gorillas. We easily could have spent another half hour just watching the silverback. He was impressive, strong, and just amazing to watch... from a safe distance. This is exhibit A for why I came to love Animal Kingdom. You could really just explore and not feel like you NEEDED to go from one thing to the next and keep up with an itinerary.


We realized we were all hungry as we exited the trail and stopped at Tamu Tamu in Harambe. This was probably my favorite lunch. Steve was reluctant at first, skeptical of my choice, but he really enjoyed his lunch and I still suspect he had a few bites of mine while I took one of the kids to the restroom. The kids each grabbed a Power Pack Lunch here which I cannot say enough about. I love the flexibility it offers, with kid friendly options that aren't the same ol' same ol'. They each ate some and stowed the rest for later. It was nice to have some options for snacks as we waited for the parade and they both announced they were hungry. The dining area here offered some cover above and we were able to listen to the live music happening in the streets of Harambe just beyond our lunch spot. RELAXING.

We neglected (I forgot) to stop on the way in and collect a Wilderness Explorer book at Discovery Island for the kids. Caroline would have loved to have earned some badges while we walked through Pangani, but we didn't have the book. PARENT FAIL and boy, did she remind us about fifty times that she didn't have the book. So back towards the entrance we went to collect our book and say the Wilderness Explorer Pledge. It wasn't too far out of our way as we were already in Harambe and on our way towards Dinoland for Finding Nemo.

I want this guy's job!

Our eager Explorer was off to find some badges, but instead spotted Doug and Russell.


We were headed to Findng Nemo and making good time, when what did we see? A meet and greet with Pooh and Tigger (down a trail across from Flame Tree Barbecue. Tigger is my favorite and a quick glance at the watch told us we had just enough time, maybe? We headed down the path and the Cast Member told us that Tigger would be right back, but Pooh was still meeting friends down below. This was my Magic Moment. Just as we reached the corner to head to the cue, Tigger came down the path behind us. I gasped and covered my mouth and told him, "You are MY favorite." He took my hand and off we went. I love Tigger. Love.


We booked it to Nemo, our second Fast Pass of the day, and got seats second section, center, first row to get an up close view of the performers who run in and out during the show. We love Nemo, so our kids really enjoyed this. Connor loved Squirt and Caroline loved Dory. Steve loved the air conditioning. It was the perfect time of day to take a break. Tonight at bedtime my son looked at me and imitated Dory's "do you, do you, do you?" which had me in absolute stitches. This kid.

Then it was off to Dinoland, USA. We had one more Fast Pass left and it was for Primeval Whirl. This was a 48 inches and up only ride, so we did a Rider Switch with our son. While my husband rode with Caroline, Connor and I walked around Chester & Hester's. We briefly, very briefly, considered taking a twirl for him on Triceratop Spin, but the line was SO long that even Connor was blasé about it. It was warming up and there seemed to be nowhere to hide from the sun over here. So we went on a Turkey Leg expedition. I thought I remembered Steve getting a leg last time over here, but couldn't remember where. We took some cute photos because Connor couldn't believe the dinosaur's foot was bigger than him.

By the time Steve and Caroline were done with their turn on Primeval Whirl, we were still legless. I switched with Steve, suggested they grab a churro we had seen for my churro loving boy to pass the time for our turn and continue their hunt for the turkey leg.

Caroline was super excited to ride this a second time, more so because we had a Fast Pass. This is about the time I realized my daughter was feeling pretty entitled with her Magic Band. She breezed by the Standy By line with a huge smile. I am not sure why, but I wasn't expecting her to be this excited about this attraction. She hadn't been tall enough last time.

Caroline absolutely LOVED this ride. She loved it so much she asked me to video the entire thing. So I did, with hilarious results. I love this so much because we are all giggles and joy. You can see Connor on Steve's shoulders (shocking!) with his churro at the beginning. This is what Disney World is all about. I will always remember riding this with her because it was just fun. She felt like the pro who told me when the hills were coming, when to watch out, when to put my arms up at the end to get out. These few short minutes made a lifelong memory for us.

When we met up with Steve and Connor, Steve was STILL not holding an enormous turkey leg. We grabbed a popcorn and explored a bit more. The kids wanted to spend some time in The Boneyard, so I once again sent Steve on his hunt solo. I heard there was a pretend dig site inside and I knew the kids would love that. I told the big to keep close to the little, the little to stay with the big and they climbed up, up, up together. My big was fearless, pushing on, but my little looked instantly afraid. He was too far from me to come back without me losing sight of my big, so I urged him on and reassured that I would keep my on him the whole time. They reached a point where he could climb down to me and she could continue. She sent him down and took off. By the time I had him in my arms, she was GONE.
I tried not to be frantic. I traced various paths above to seek out her little body, trying to recall her Merida shirt. My pulse quickened, I called her name once quietly, then again louder. I found her suddenly, racing around completely panicked herself. She saw me and collapsed into tears. We had both been equally afraid. The kids played a bit longer, but she was more unsure, tentative. Steve showed up on scene a few moments later and we called it a day in Dinoland, it was hot and we wanted to catch the parade before heading to dinner.
Just as we crossed the bridge, I spotted a woman holding a turkey leg. Let's recall how incredibly embarrassing I was on the safari. "best safari EVER!" I employed the same embarrassing forwardness when I boldly approached her to ask WHERE she had found this wonder of poultry. We were at Flame Tree. Big huge duh. May I present, the happiest man in the world.
We debated It's Tough to be a Bug. Actually, Steve told me we were doing it and I told him a million reasons why we maybe kind of shouldn't because SCARY. The kids loved the idea of this show, but in reality, were absolutely terrified. Once the place when dark, that was it for both of them and when the smoke started I thought Connor was going to climb under the seats to hide. Definitely our second gross error in parental judgment of the day. Steve stands by his decision. I recommend other parents of youngish kids think twice.
I wasn't sure of the parade route, but the lines were present on the walkways making it fairly obvious where we should stand. We were able to snag a pretty sweet spot beside Drinkwallah over the bridge to Asia, across from Flights of Wonder and Yak & Yeti. The kids dug into the remains of their Power Packs and I snagged two frozen lemonades for the grown ups. The kids had front row seats and got lots of "happy birthdays" from the performers. By the end, our daughter was standing and waving to the characters.

If we hadn't had dinner reservations at the Animal Kingdom Lodge at Boma, we would have explored the Maharajah Jungle Trek or headed back to Dinoland. The parade was a good way to end our afternoon at Animal Kingdom, but I think we were all wishing we had more time here. Animal Kingdom was so special that I cannot even believe we considered skipping it. Don't make the same mistake we almost did.

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