Has it been 30 years already? A Dec. 2017/Jan. 2018 Trip Report! (Updated 1/15/18)

Discussion in 'Disney Trip Reports' started by adamreisinger, Jun 2, 2017.

  1. adamreisinger

    adamreisinger 10+ Year Castmember

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    Way back in the dark ages, a time before iPhones, 24/7 internet access, and FastPass+, a young impressionable boy from Connecticut -- armed with nothing but a handheld electronic football game and the strongest sunscreen available -- was whisked away to a magical land called "Walt Disney World". That first family trip, which included more time spent driving the I-95 corridor than actual park time, created a lifelong obsession with all things Disney.

    To be entirely honest, I don't remember a lot about that first trip to Disney World in 1988, but 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of my first WDW experience. And what better way to celebrate the occasion than by being at the parks when the calendar turns to 2018, watching the fireworks, surrounded by thousands of my closest Disney-loving friends who I've never met and will probably never see again (trust me, that last part sounded a lot better in my head).

    IMG_3695.JPG

    I hope you'll enjoy following along with me on this journey, as I'll try to provide updates as frequently as possible and necessary.

    Trip Details
    Who: Me, Myself, and I (for now)
    What: A New Year's Eve Trip to WDW
    When: Dec. 28, 2017-Jan. 2, 2018
    Where: Port Orleans - Riverside
    Why: Celebrating 30 years of going to WDW and 12 years with TWDC
    How: Money can be exchanged for goods and services

    Once Upon a Time (Pre-Trip Entries)
    1. Allow Me To Reintroduce Myself
    2. How The Heck Am I Getting There?
    3. Help Me Make My ADR Choices
    4. 180 Degrees And Rising: It's ADR Day!
    5. A Disneyland Trip to Hold Me Over
    6. Will I Ever Fit on Flight of Passage?
    7. Wait, I Need Tickets For This?
    8. How the Heck Does This Dining Plan Thing Work?
    9. Planning the Plan: FastPass+ Decision Time
    10. The Too-Far In Advance Minute-By-Minute Plan
    11. Gearing Up With New Gear
    12. Solo on NYE? Won't You Be Lonely?
    13. The Not-Quite-Final Countdown
    14. A Personal Disney World History Lesson
    15. One Week To Go!
    16. Live-Streaming the Drive to Disney World

    Happily Ever After (Trip Entries)

    17. I Made It!
    18. Day 0 - A Magically Frozen Evening
    19. Day 1 - BEST. ROOM. EVER.
    20. Day 2 - FastPasses and Fireworks
    21. Day 3 - New Year's Eve!
    22. Day 4 - One day, four parks!
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018 at 10:48 PM
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  2. dvc at last !

    dvc at last ! DVC Member 2006!

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    Tell us more ......
     
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  4. fallonkendra

    fallonkendra DIS Veteran

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    Following! We'll be there at the same time!
     
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  5. adamreisinger

    adamreisinger 10+ Year Castmember

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    Trip Report, Episode I: The Phantom CM (a.k.a. "Allow Me To Reintroduce Myself")
    So if you read through that whole introductory post, you're probably wondering "who the heck is this guy, and why am I following his trip report?" Well, I can't answer that second question for you (though I hope the answer is "because I find him interesting and hope to be both entertained and educated by his incredibly insightful updates"), but I can go a long way toward answering that first question.

    This guy (though, still to this day, never "That Guy" at the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor) is me:

    MK_RAPUNZELLANTERNSC_20170307_7969680255.jpeg

    And these are my two cats, Felicia and Selina, who shoot me this look every time I abandon them to go to Walt Disney World.

    18723699_172362093297560_5689963577000067072_n.jpg

    One of these years I'll figure out a way to smuggle them down to Orlando with me then keep them hidden inside my resort. But until that day comes, they'll remain home-bound, anxiously waiting by the door for my return.

    So getting on with the introductions... My name is Adam, I'm 37 years old, and I'm a Disney-holic... wait, wrong thread for that.

    Actually, that wasn't always true (the Disney-holic part. I've always been Adam). Yes, I went on my first WDW trip way back in 1988, and my family and I went to the park every year around Christmas time from 1988 to 1994 (yes, including 1989, when there was snow on the ground at Disney World on Christmas!). But after 1994, I didn't go back to the parks for a long time -- even after getting a job at a remote division of The Walt Disney Company called "ESPN." I started there in 2006, but didn't make use of my free park entry benefits at WDW until 2009, then not again until 2014, when I decided to be a good uncle and help my sister save some money on a trip with her three kids, aka my niece and nephews. It was on that trip that my love for everything WDW was rekindled, and I've been going back frequently ever since. I became a DVC member in 2015, a D23 member in 2016, and now have become considered something of a WDW expert among my Bristol-based colleagues.

    Though I've taken trips to WDW with my sister and her family, as well as with my parents on occasion, this is for now shaping up to be a 100% solo trip, so there's no one else to introduce you to here. So let's focus on me!

    MK_PARTLEFT_20170307_7969685018.jpeg

    As mentioned, I'm a TWDC CM at ESPN. When I'm not counting the days until my next WDW trip, I make words about sports -- usually the NBA -- appear on your computer screens via the magic of the internet. If you'd like, you can see some of my work here, though it's sadly lacking in Disney magic.

    While I might not be a fan of bright copper kettles or warm woolen mittens, I do have some favorite things as they relate to WDW, so here they are:

    Favorite park: Magic Kingdom
    Favorite ride: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
    Favorite non-ride attraction: Princess Fairytale Hall (that counts, right?)
    Favorite nighttime show: Happily Ever After (I mean, really, it's still Wishes, but HEA is a worthy successor)
    Favorite character: Rapunzel
    Favorite non-Princess character: Stitch
    Favorite resort: Polynesian
    Favorite TSR: Cinderella's Royal Table
    Favorite QSR: Be Our Guest (breakfast)
    Favorite moment of mine at WDW: The one in my avatar picture, as detailed here
    Favorite holiday to be at WDW: So far Christmas, but I'm hoping after this trip it'll be NYE

    With more than 200 days left until my trip (210 according to MDE, but who's counting? oh wait, I am. Clearly.) there's still a lot of planning to be done, and then a lot of adjusting to those plans, then probably some scrapping of those plans entirely to make all new plans, but I've already got a bunch of stuff filling up the to-do list. Right now the top things I'm hoping to accomplish on this trip are:

    - See the fireworks at Epcot and MK on the 30th and 31st
    - Eat at some TSRs I haven't experienced before
    - Nail down that Jan. 1 breakfast reservation at CRT, so I can start the new year in my favorite place in the world, Cinderella's Castle
    - Do all four parks in one day (I hope Express Transportation is still a thing in December)
    - Ride Flight of Passage

    Relating to that last one, my big pre-trip goal -- the No. 1 thing on my to-do list for each of the 210 days from now until I arrive at WDW -- is to lose weight. As you can see from my pictures, I'm not exactly a small individual. Being Baloo-sized hasn't hindered me too much during my trips to WDW, though my weight has fluctuated throughout the years and I definitely know that I had a better time walking around the parks when I was slightly less Baloo-y. Not being able to fit on FoP during my last trip in May was a bit of a wake-up call, and it's time to get serious about this. Like Captain McCrea says in WALL-E, "I don't want to survive. I want to live." So I hope that while I update you on my planning, I can update you on my weight loss as well.

    I know it's going to be hard, but I believe I can get there. And, as my good friend Cinderella once told me, no matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true.

    MK_CRTLOBBYCHAR_20170311_7973275704.jpeg
     
  6. suse66

    suse66 Mickey Bars should be a daily food group!

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    Awesome start to your trip report! I love the fact that you are starting a new year at Disney, what better place than the best place in the world! I look forward to hearing about your plans and your weight loss journey as well. All the best to you! :)
     
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  7. adamreisinger

    adamreisinger 10+ Year Castmember

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    Trip Report, Episode II: Attack of the Planes (a.k.a. "How The Heck Am I Getting There?")
    After getting back from a work trip, I logged into MDE today just for the heck of it and saw this:

    Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 2.22.19 PM.png

    200 days to go?! Well, that's a nice round number, and a perfect time for an update to the trip report. And, since I'm fresh off a couple weeks of traveling for work, let's have this entry focus on travel, specifically my three options for getting to Disney World in December.

    I live in Connecticut, so most of my Disney trips have involved flying from Bradley International Airport direct to MCO, then taking the Magical Express to my resort. Simple enough, right? Well, not exactly for this trip. Given the time of year, my usual JetBlue route (first flight out on arrival day, last fight out on departure day) would cost more than double what I normally pay to fly those flights. And of course, spending more on the flight means less money to spend in the parks, so I'm looking at other ways of getting down there. As it is, I've narrowed it down to these three options:

    1. Suck it up and pay for the flight
    Pros: Allows me to stick to my normal routine; no additional days off from work needed; extra cost at least means extra JetBlue points, which helps me get my next Disney flight for free
    Cons: It's A LOT of extra money; arrival day and departure day both shortened by splitting day between travel and parks; dealing with airports at that time of year seems like a terrible idea

    2. Drive from Connecticut to Orlando
    A little background here: as I mentioned above, most of my Disney trips have been via flight. However, when I was a kid, my parents used to drive down to WDW with my sister and I every year. We usually stopped at a hotel somewhere in North or South Carolina on the way down and Virginia on the way back, but there were a couple times where we just made the 19-hour drive all the way through (and there was the one time where it snowed in Georgia and Florida and it took us 11 hours to get from Savannah, Ga. to Jacksonville, Fla., but the less said about that trip the better). I have fond memories of sleeping in the back of our Ford Aerostar and later Chevy Lumina and playing GameBoy to pass the waking hours.

    Driving solo is a little harder, but two weeks ago -- when flight delays messed up my work schedule in a massive way -- I did a bit of a test run, driving from Connecticut to Cleveland in one shot. It's only a 9-hour drive, but that's exactly half of what the drive from my house to WDW would be, and it's definitely do-able. Here's how it would break down:

    Leave CT on Dec. 27 - drive 9-10 hours that day, stay in hotel overnight
    Leave hotel on Dec. 28 - drive to parents' house in The Villages (about 45 minutes from WDW), stay there that night
    Dec. 29 - Drive to WDW, get full park day in on check-in day

    Then reverse that on the way out, staying with my parents on the night of Jan. 2 before taking 2 days to drive home.

    The big downside to this -- beyond having to put in 36 hours of round-trip drive time by myself -- is taking the extra time off from work. But I've banked enough vacation days that I think I can swing it without too much difficulty. That said, there is another option:

    3. Take the Auto-Train from Virginia
    For those not familiar, the Auto-Train is exactly what it sounds like: a train for your car. In this scenario, I'd drive to Lorton, Va., load up my car on the train, take an overnight Amtrak trip to Sanford, FL, then drive to Disney World. Seems simple, right?

    Well, actually, it's kind of a convoluted mess, and after doing some research I found out it would be more expensive than simply flying down. It'd really only be an option if I absolutely needed a car at WDW, or if I was traveling with family (we did this a couple times when I was a kid).

    So option 3 is pretty much out, leaving me with either flying down or driving down. Right now I'm leaning towards driving, in part because I'm not too keen on dealing with the airport around New Year's and in part because I want to recapture the magic of that first trip to Disney World way back in 1988 (minus the mini-van and the family and the stops at the cheesy T-shirt shops on International Blvd). Also, I should mention, this is my car:

    IMG_7603.jpg

    I mean, it'd be pretty cool to have that driving around WDW and chilling in the parking lots for a few days, right?
     
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  8. Aermaia

    Aermaia Earning My Ears

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    Wow, small world, I am from Bristol!

    I’ve also been having the same struggles with current flight costs out of Bradley due to the timing of my planned trip. This will be my third year in a row traveling to Disney in the fall with two other adults (usually my mother and sister as combined birthday/Christmas presents for them). Since I pay for the trip, I like to save money where I can, so I usually fly Southwest and have enough rapid reward points to cover the cost of all three flights, thanks to sale rates, and flying into Tampa instead of Orlando if we have to. This year my trip is post-Thanksgiving, from November 25-December 2nd, so I knew that the flight down would be inflated being so close to the holiday, but the cheapest flight out (not including return) costs most than I would usually pay for a full roundtrip ticket to Florida.

    Due to the cost, I was considering driving as well, but after weighing all the options I ended up booking the absolute cheapest flight (and worst, 2 layovers for a normally 3 hour trip!) to Tampa on the 24th in hopes that prices will decrease in a future sale so that I can switch to a better flight, and it still leaves me paying for half of our 6 total flights in cash.

    So anyway, I would recommend as another option looking at the costs of flying into Tampa and renting a car to make the 90 minute drive to Disney. It’s an easy drive, the airport is smaller (from what I remember it is about size equivalent to Bradley) so it will be easier to navigate even with holiday travelers, and the cost of flight and rental combined might still be cheaper than your flight into Orlando (it always is in my case, but we always rent a car instead of using Magic Express at MCO).

    Looking forward to reading the rest of your report!
     
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  9. adamreisinger

    adamreisinger 10+ Year Castmember

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    Ha, small world indeed, I'm literally at my desk in Bristol right now.

    I decided to price out a JetBlue flight from BDL to TPA, just to see what it'd look like, and it still comes out to a shade under $700, so there's no real savings there unfortunately. I could fly another airline (and look for non-direct flights), but I'm really leaning toward driving for the nostalgia factor -- though I'm sure "nostalgia" won't seem as amazing when I'm on hour 13 of driving down I-95.
     
  10. Aermaia

    Aermaia Earning My Ears

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    Wow, that is definitely too much for the flight! Driving down sounds like a good plan. I've driven solo across the country a few times, and really loved it, I just kept myself well stocked with audio books, podcasts and music to both pass the time and keep myself aware while driving. I'd honestly consider it more for my November trip if it didn't interfere with Thanksgiving (stuffing!) and if my mom wasn't such a backseat driver and my sister didn't tend to want to stop every 3 hours for food.
     
  11. adamreisinger

    adamreisinger 10+ Year Castmember

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    Trip Report, Episode III: Revenge of the Sit(-down restaurant) (a.k.a. "Help Me Make My ADR Choices")
    My Disney World trip seems so far away, and I've been focusing on my Disneyland trip next month, but I realized today that I'm less than two weeks from my 180-day mark to December's trip -- which means I need to figure out exactly what I'm doing for my Advance Dining Reservations. That's where you, my humble reader/trip-report follower, come in. I need to lean on you for some suggestions/pieces of advice.

    For a little background, one of my WDW goals is to eventually experience every dining reservation possible at the parks and resorts. I even put together a spreadsheet to help track my progress toward this goal -- as of today I've done 28 of a possible 111 reservations, counting things like dessert parties, dining with an Imagineer and wine tastings as their own separate reservation. And yes, my spreadsheet has categories for all this stuff too. It's VERY detailed. A glimpse at a small portion of it, since I know the people on this board might be the only other people in this world who would appreciate something like this.

    spreadsheet.JPG
    (Note: the spreadsheet also has tabs for each park, with a listing of hotels, rides and shows, as I try to make sure I've done all of those as well. I have organizational issues.)

    On my last trip to WDW back in May, I knocked out Tusker House and Tony's Town Square on my ADR to-do list. Both of them exceeded my expectations, with the cheesecake at Tony's being particularly good (and photogenic).

    IMG_6227.JPG

    Honestly, I wouldn't mind visiting either restaurant again, but I really want to focus on places I haven't been yet when I go in December, with one notable exception. So with that in mind, here's the tentative plan, assuming I can actually get these locked down when ADR day rolls around on Sunday, July 2.

    December 29 (arrival day)
    Assuming I stick with the plan to stay with my parents the night before, I'll probably drive up at some point in the morning, grab some beignets when I drop my stuff off at Port Orleans - Riverside, then do as my one ADR for the day a late lunch/early dinner Fantasmic Dining Package at Hollywood Brown Derby. I was going to do this package last December, but changed it to Hollywood & Vine when I found out my sister would be joining me, since that was a little less expensive (and I was paying for both of us).

    December 30 (Magic Kingdom day)
    Breakfast???
    Lunch - Liberty Tree Tavern
    Dinner - Jungle Navigation or Diamond Horseshoe

    Since my plan is to be in the park at midnight for fireworks (hopefully with some kind of paid dessert party to reserve a good spot), I'm thinking of having breakfast somewhere outside the Magic Kingdom. Since there's nowhere at Port Orleans that does breakfast reservations, I'm thinking of hopping over to one of the other resorts. Right now I'm leaning toward Boma, since I missed out on it when I stayed at AKL in May, but I'm open to other suggestions. To avoid some of the obvious ones, I've already done O'hana, Kona Cafe, and 1900 Park Fare, so I'm good on those.

    December 31 (Epcot day)
    Breakfast - Akershus
    Lunch - Rose & Crown
    Dinner - Chefs de France

    The only one I'm dead-set on here is Akershus. I love my Princesses so much, and though I've done CRT a bunch, I've never been able to land reservations for this one. I could also be persuaded to leave Epcot via the International Gateway for lunch at the Boardwalk or Yacht Club or Beach Club (though I've already done Beaches & Cream). I wouldn't necessarily mind spending all day in the park, especially since I can grab some chill time in the DVC Member Lounge, but getting out for lunch and some Boardwalk time might not be the worst thing either.

    January 1 (Park-hopper day)
    Breakfast - Cinderella's Royal Table (MK)
    Lunch - Sci-Fi Dine-In (DHS)
    App/drink - Somewhere on World Showcase (Epcot)
    Dinner - Tiffins or Yak & Yeti (AKL)

    Again, breakfast is non-negotiable here -- though I could be convinced to flip it to dinner and do an AKL breakfast instead. Otherwise I'm open to suggestion for anything else. The key for the Epcot stop is to get a place where I can get a good app and drink or dessert and drink, since I won't be having a full meal. So probably none of the signature places. I'm leaning toward Restaurant Marrakesh or San Angel Inn right now.

    January 2 (Departure day)
    Taking any and all suggestions! What are some of your favorites and why should I try them out? Originally when I first made my plans, this was going to be a QSR-only day, since I would've been hopping on a flight at some point, but now that it'll basically be a full day before I go to my parents' house, I might try to sneak in some more park time and another ADR or two. Or I could make it a Disney Springs day, do a restaurant there and a movie. Who knows? Either way, I want your input!

    So between myself and the collective genius of everyone on this board, we've got 12 days to knock out a 100% solid plan that I can no doubt see blown to crap when I actually wake up and try to make all these ADRs on July 2. Let's have fun and get it done!
     
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  12. fallonkendra

    fallonkendra DIS Veteran

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    I think I need to see that entire spreadsheet, it sounds amazing! I wish I had the patience to create something like that!

    Boma breakfast was one of my favourites on our last trip, and I'm not even much of a breakfast eater. If you've never tried it, I highly recommend it!

    On January 2nd - if you haven't tried Homecoming in Disney Springs yet, go there! We loved it so much we're doing our wedding reception there! Or go to the Turf Club at Saratoga Springs, it's a bit off the beaten path but we really enjoyed it. Le Cellier is another one we liked a lot - since I'm Canadian I wasn't interested in ordering a steak there (they serve Alberta beef, and I live in Alberta so I can buy a steak for a fraction of the price at the grocery store around the corner from my house), but they have great beer and appetizers. Their poutine is really great (although not at all traditional), the cheddar cheese soup was delicious and La Fin du Monde is one of my fiance's favourite beers.

    Maybe we'll see you in a crazy crowds at Magic Kingdom on December 30th!
     
  13. adamreisinger

    adamreisinger 10+ Year Castmember

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    Glad to hear Boma comes highly recommended. I did Le Cellier in March and the filet mignon was so good. I might have to look into Homecoming too. I've done so few of the DS restaurants and they all seem so amazing. Plus, if I made the 2nd a DS day, I could have my parents join me without having to worry about getting them into the parks.
     
  14. Aermaia

    Aermaia Earning My Ears

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    My two favorite restaurants so far have been Boma (dinner, have not tried breakfast) and 50's prime time cafe, so I would recommend both of those since it looks like you still need to check both off your list. I think as a solo 50's prime time would be fun since the interaction can really make you feel included. I admit I am completely biased though, as I love the decor and the stupid puns the waiters serve up. I was so excited for sci-fi as I love all things b-movie and retro sci-fi, but was honestly a bit underwhelmed once I was actually there.
     
  15. adamreisinger

    adamreisinger 10+ Year Castmember

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    I think I'm definitely going to do Boma, and 50's Prime Time Cafe is under serious consideration as well. I might make that the park-hopper day stop instead of Sci-Fi, since I'm not sure how I feel about the whole "hitchhiker" thing.

    It's crazy that this trip is so far off and yet I've already put more thought into it than I have into my D23 trip, which is in two weeks.
     
  16. Aermaia

    Aermaia Earning My Ears

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    I am going to Disneyland next week and haven't even purchased my tickets yet, but I check three times a day to see if they've released Rivers of Light dining packages for my November WDW trip. It really is crazy the different mindsets in planning.
     
  17. adamreisinger

    adamreisinger 10+ Year Castmember

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    Trip Report, Episode IV: A(DR) New Hope (a.k.a. "180 Degrees And Rising - It's ADR Day!")
    As I write this, it's Sunday, July 2 -- exactly 180 days out from my arrival date at Walt Disney World in December, and everyone here knows what the 180-day mark means: ADR Day!

    So, funny story that almost ruined my ADR Day: I was chatting with some friends at work late last week and we were all talking about our various trips to Disney World (as you might imagine, when you work at a place that gives you free admission to Disney Parks, you end up surrounded by a lot of people who go to the parks for every vacation). I mentioned that I was looking forward to waking up early on Sunday to make my ADR picks, when one of my co-workers said she thought they'd changed the system so the 180+10 windows only open up Monday through Friday. Well, that threw a monkey wrench into my plans.

    I wasn't quite sure that her info was accurate, but when I checked the dining reservation site on Saturday, I saw that Dec. 28 -- 180 days from July 1 -- was still grayed out. Hmm... could she have been right? Was my ADR planning doomed to be delayed another 24 hours?! Well, I happened to still be awake at 1 a.m. ET this morning, so I hopped on to the MDE site and saw that my countdown had indeed been flipped over to 180 days (as expected), but when I tried to make any dining reservation on any day from Dec. 29 to Jan. 2, I just got an error message. Uh-oh.

    Prior to checking the site, I was actually considering just staying up until 6 a.m. to make the reservations (not as crazy as it sounds, considering I'd worked until 4 a.m. on Saturday morning and didn't go to sleep until around 5), but with the whole thing in doubt, I decided to get some sleep. But ... just to be safe ... I did set an alarm for 6 a.m. ET. Just in case.

    As it turned out, I didn't even need the alarm. I woke up on my own at 5:58 a.m. ET, which I took as a sign from the Disney ADR Gods (they're like the Muses from "Hercules", except they only specialize in food). I picked up my phone, opened the MDE app and waited ... then accidentally closed my eyes and didn't open them again until 10 minutes later. OK, well, 6:08 a.m. isn't that much worse than 6:00 a.m., right? How bad could it be?

    I took a deep breath and hoped for the best -- then briefly panicked when no ADR options would load in the app. Was my friend right? Would I really have to wait until Monday? I thought about going downstairs to my computer, but I decided to fire up the mobile site first just to be safe. And when I did, I was greeted with this glorious sight:

    IMG_6963.PNG

    Clickable dates! Yay! I can make reservations!

    OK, first up, let's try and grab the reservation I've had the hardest time getting during all my trips to WDW, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. My plan was to eat breakfast there on Dec. 31, my all-day Epcot day. Unfortunately, that plan was quickly derailed:

    IMG_6964.PNG

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

    But wait! I remembered that at some places, it's easier to get a reservation for 4, then modify it later, than to get a reservation for 1 or 2. And as it turned out, that was exactly the case here! So with my Epcot princess breakfast suddenly secured, I quickly moved on to my Magic Kingdom princess breakfast for Jan. 1 at Cinderella's Royal Table. I'd heard some scuttlebutt that people had been having issues booking Jan. 1 reservations, but as it turned out, I had no difficulties at all.

    In fact, by the time I was done at 6:38 a.m., I'd gotten every reservation I tried for. Here's what I ended up with:

    December 29 (DHS Day)
    3:10 p.m. - Hollywood Brown Derby (with Fantasmic seating)

    December 30 (MK Day)
    9:10 a.m. - Boma - Flavors of Africa Breakfast
    2:20 p.m. - The Plaza Restaurant
    8:05 p.m. - The Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen Dinner

    December 31 (Epcot Day)
    8:25 a.m. - Princess Storybook Dining Breakfast at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
    2:00 p.m. - Chefs de France Lunch
    8:15 p.m. - San Angel Inn Dinner

    January 1 (Park-Hopping Day)
    9:00 a.m. - Fairytale Dining Breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table
    2:00 p.m. - 50's Prime Time Cafe Lunch
    5:00 p.m. - Yak & Yeti Restaurant Dinner

    January 2 (Departure Day)
    2:20 p.m. - Chef Art Smith's Homecomin' Lunch

    The spacing isn't great on Jan. 1, but I figure I can get a couple hours in at MK before taking express transportation over to DHS, where I should be able to get at least one ride in prior to lunch, then probably one after, before heading over to AK for dinner then -- assuming the park will be open a little later -- finishing the night at Epcot.

    The big thing that could change all this is the availability of holiday dessert parties with fireworks viewing. None of those reservations are available yet, but once they open up, I'd like to do what I can to grab them, which could change the late dinner plans on the 30th and 31st.

    But for now that's 11 ADRs in a 5-day trip, and I can sit back, relax, and count the days until my FastPass+ reservation window opens. However, with 179 more days of tinkering left, let's see how many of these ADRs actually end up sticking (my guess: less than half). Oh, and if anyone wants to join me for breakfast on the 31st, let me know. For the time being I still have 3 empty seats at that table, and I doubt Snow White, Ariel, and Belle are going to want to join me for the entire meal.
     
  18. adamreisinger

    adamreisinger 10+ Year Castmember

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2013
    Messages:
    285
    I'm not counting this as a full pre-trip report entry, since it's not actually about my December trip, but I've finally solidified my reservation/nighttime show schedule for Disneyland, along with my preferred panels for D23. Here's how it looks in my Google Calendar:

    disneyland.JPG

    I'm thinking I'll start at Disneyland (where I want to meet Moana and Tinkerbell), then head over to DCA for dinner and World of Color on Thursday night, probably get in some park time at Disneyland Friday night after the convention (and maybe see the fireworks), do the convention all day Saturday, maybe do some post-con park time on Sunday, then start at DCA on Monday before spending the afternoon and evening at Disneyland.

    Planning for just two parks with no FastPass+ is so different from planning for four parks with 180-day dining reservations and 60-day FastPass+ reservations.
     
  19. mbvisitor

    mbvisitor Mouseketeer

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2010
    Messages:
    257
    Hi Adam!

    So happy I found your trip report! My family and I will be at WDW Dec 23-Jan 1 and we will be staying at Riverside as well.

    Have you stayed at Riverside before? This will be our first time. I actually booked to stay at Caribbean Beach but moved when I found out about the construction.

    We also plan to be at MK on the 30th and EP on the Dec 31 and I've been stalking the Disney site everyday looking for those dessert parties to open up. In my notes I have that the MK NYE dessert party bookings started on Oct 16 last year...ugh that's a long time to wait!

    For ADRs we have:

    Dec 29:
    PPO Breakfast at H&V--mainly for the JTA signup. If Disney ends up opening the parks earlier I may cancel this one. Did you do breakfast or dinner when you went with your sister? What did you think?

    Lunch at Sci-Fi---Second time there, we love it! But, I admit you've got me thinking about Brown Derby.

    Dec 30:
    Lunch at B&C--this is another one I'm not sure I'll keep. I'm thinking of perhaps just snacking around world showcase instead.

    Dinner will be at Cali Grill--looking forward to that one. Our previous 2 trips to Disney we stayed at The Contemporary and didn't eat there, so excited to eat there this time!

    We'll then have late night Desserts at MK.

    Dec 31:
    Dinner at La Hacienda then hopefully late night dessert at the dessert party!


    Have you ever been to WDW this time of year? I admit I'm a little scared about the crowds, but I know it will be fun!
    Hazel
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2017
  20. adamreisinger

    adamreisinger 10+ Year Castmember

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2013
    Messages:
    285
    Hi Hazel! So nice to meet another NYE traveler (and, from the avatar, I'm assuming a hockey fan too). Up until a few days ago my biggest fear about this trip was the crowds. Now I'm more worried about the stamina for these long park days. I just wrapped my D23 trip (entry on that coming soon), and I was pretty much tapped out after between 9 and 12 hours. So the idea of doing 15 at Epcot on the 31st is concerning -- here's hoping the DVC lounge is still open by then.

    As for your questions:

    - My sister and I did the dinner package at H&V, but I've found consistently that the breakfast buffets at WDW are better than the dinner ones. Basically it's really hard to mess up traditional breakfast food.

    - B&C is actually a really great American meal (one of the best burgers I've ever had at WDW), but another option if you're going with the full family is to keep the reservation and use it to try and tackle the Kitchen Sink: 8 scoops of ice cream, tons of toppings, and a full can of whipped cream (A full can!).

    This will be my first WDW NYE trip and my first time staying at Riverside (as I try to make my way through every WDW resort), but I've been to the parks at Thanksgiving and Christmas before. I think the biggest thing is just managing expectations. You know the crowds will be big, which means wait times will be higher. Those rides you're used to seeing with 15-20 minute waits might be at an hour. For me, being there at that time of year isn't about the rides, it's about the experience (and having breakfast with Princesses, obvs).
     
  21. adamreisinger

    adamreisinger 10+ Year Castmember

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2013
    Messages:
    285
    Trip Report, Episode V: The Expo Strikes Back (a.k.a. "A Disneyland Trip to Hold Me Over")

    What's this? A trip report INSIDE OF another trip report? That's right, we have to go deeper (cue "Inception" sound). Actually, this isn't going to be a full trip report on my recent Disneyland trip -- otherwise I'd be breaking it out into its own thread -- but I did want to share some of my experiences this past weekend at Disneyland and the D23 Expo.

    Thursday
    I had an 8 a.m. flight out of Boston on Arrival Day, so I landed at LAX around 11:30 a.m. PT. Unlike WDW, DL doesn't offer free transportation from the airport to the resorts, so I hopped in a Lyft and was at Paradise Pier Hotel around 1 p.m. I dropped off my bags and then walked over to Downtown Disney (it's still called that out in Anaheim), where I caught the monorail over to Disneyland. Unlike the WDW monorail, the DL monorail only has two stops -- Downtown Disney and Tomorrowland inside Disneyland -- but if you're going to DL rather than DCA, it can save you some walking. After grabbing a FastPass (paper tickets! How quaint!) for Star Tours, my first two stops were character meets with Tinkerbell and Moana to get my custom artwork signed.

    1_tink.jpg

    Then I headed over to Fantasyland to do the cluster of dark ride-through rides. Of the four that are right next to each other behind the castle, only Peter Pan is available at WDW, so it was fun to do Pinocchio, Snow White and Mr. Toad. Sure, they're not the most exciting rides, but they're classics, so it was fun. After knocking each of those out, I went back to Tomorrowland for Star Tours and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, then went across the street to California Adventure for the rest of the evening. I had dinner at Ariel's Grotto (with the World of Color dining package), rode the Golden Zephyr twice and Ariel's Undersea Adventure twice (both had no waits at all), then got in position to watch World of Color, one of the great DL nighttime shows that isn't available at WDW.

    2_woc.jpg

    The last time I was at DL, World of Color was running the special 60th anniversary version, so it was nice to see the traditional show again. After the show, I considered trying to head over to Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: Breakout (the re-skinned Tower of Terror), but I also wanted to get to my room, unpack and try and get to sleep early so I could wake up for the main event: D23!

    Friday
    I'm an experienced convention goer (I've probably been to 50+ comic conventions over the past 10 years), but this was my first time going to D23, and I wasn't nearly prepared for the chaos that ensued. I walked over from the hotel to the convention center at about 9:30, thinking that if I went after they'd opened the show floor that there wouldn't be too much of a line. I was very wrong. The line to get in stretched the full length of the convention center -- twice. I had to walk all the way to the entrance to get to the back of the line, then all the way to the back of the convention center, where the line looped back toward the entrance. I ended up making it inside around 11:30, and rather than attempt anything else, I headed straight down to the queue hall to get in line for the 2:30pm Animation panel. Now, as you might have heard, about 1,000 people who were in line for the panel didn't make it inside once they started letting people in. Thankfully, I was not in that group, and had a pretty good seat for one of the best panels of the entire weekend. The highlight for me was seeing the scene from "Wreck-It Ralph 2" where Vanellope meets all the Disney Princesses, then having the voice actors for all the Princesses come out on stage. I could have died right then and I would've died happy.

    3_wir.jpg

    Thankfully, though, I didn't die, and got to enjoy the rest of the panel, which was incredible (pun fully intended, as they showed us a scene from Incredibles 2). I'd show you pictures and video, but they made us put our phones in security bags, so I have none to share. After the panel was over, I decided to hit the show floor for some shopping. Even with the absurdly long lines for the Disney Store (3+ hours), Disney Dream Store (2+ hours) and the Pin Store (4+ hours, really), I still managed to find a way to spend more money than I'd anticipated. I dropped a bunch of money at the Music Emporium, where they had some exclusive vinyl soundtracks, then spent even more at the Disney Fine Arts booth, where I bought a bunch of cool art that I have no idea where I'm going to hang in my Disney room.

    Rather than go over to the parks after the Expo, I crashed in my hotel room for a super-early Saturday wake-up call.

    Saturday
    4_expo.jpg
    Hey, did you know there's a 5 A.M.? Well, it's true, and that's the time I woke up to get in line for the Expo -- which, to be clear, wouldn't be opening its doors until 9. I ended up in the outside line, but was inside the convention center by 9:30 a.m. and headed straight upstairs to get in line for the Power of the Princess panel. As you'll notice at this point, a large portion of this convention was waiting in one line for the privilege of waiting in another line -- and as someone who generally won't get in line for a ride if it has a wait time of over 30 minutes, I was a little sick of lines by this point. But those feelings all went away once I got into the panel room, where we got to hear Jodi Benson, Paige O'Hara, Anika Noni Rose and Auli'i Cravalho share stories about recording their iconic roles. And they even sang for us! It was so amazing (though, again, phones were in security bags, so no pictures or video).

    Once that panel was over I spent an extensive amount of time exploring every corner of the show floor, pouring over the incredible detail in every booth and ... just kidding. I, of course, got into another line, this one for the Parks & Resorts panel -- the one I'm sure everyone on this board was anticipating and has already heard about in full. Being in the room as all those new additions to the parks were announced was incredibly cool, even if most of it was just confirming rumors we'd all heard from various sources. It was also worth my time to be there because they gave us passes to see one of the previews of Fantasmic, which returned to DL on Monday, but ran previews on Saturday and Sunday. So after that panel, I got in line (again!) to pick up my wristband for Fantasmic. I ended up picking one of the Sunday showings, because I had dinner reservations on Saturday night.

    5_parks.jpg

    I had dinner at the PCH Grill at Paradise Pier hotel. It was a typical Disney buffet dinner, though having actual fried chicken on the buffet (not just chicken tenders) was pretty cool. After dinner, I headed up to the pool deck to watch the fireworks show. Obviously we couldn't see the projections on the castle or the Matterhorn from that distance, but it was a really good view of the fireworks themselves, and they piped in the music for us to hear as well.

    Sunday
    There were two panels I wanted to see Sunday morning, but I also wanted to spend time enjoying the comfort of my bed, so I decided to sleep in and keep tabs on the line situation on Twitter before making my way over to the Expo. At about Noon, I saw a report that the outside line (which had been anywhere from 2-4 hours long earlier in the morning) had dissipated, so I headed over and walked right into the convention center, then right downstairs to get in line for the first of the two performances of Alan Menken's one-man show. As it turns out, I got into the queue hall just in time to head back upstairs and get a seat, so one of my last lines of the show wasn't really a line at all.

    7_menken.jpg
    The show itself was incredible, as Menken ran through his entire career -- it wasn't just Disney stuff, but obviously the bulk of it was. I don't know if anyone put the full show on YouTube or not, but if you get a chance to check it out, or even just see some of the clips, I'd highly recommend it.

    With it being the last day of the show, I finally forced myself to wait in line for one of the stores, so I could get some exclusive D23 Expo swag. I picked the Disney Dream Store, because they also had some pins I wanted -- though not as many as they had earlier in the weekend. I still managed to spend a bunch more money there, then walked the show floor some more, checking out as many booths as I could (some of them still had long lines to get in) before calling it a night and bringing an end to my convention time.

    After dropping off my bags at my hotel, I headed over to Disneyland to get in position for Fantasmic. I had a pretty good view of the show, which was as good as I remembered it. Then I stuck around to watch the fireworks and the Main Street Electric Parade, which allowed me to cancel my dining package reservations for Monday night -- a very good thing since a couple of those reservations were literally just to secure the good viewing area. I didn't really have plans to eat four meals.

    Monday
    I was going to wake up early and rope drop DCA to ride Guardians (finally), but once again my desire to sleep won out. I did still make it to the park by 8:30 and quickly grabbed a FastPass for Guardians, then went over to Ariel's Grotto for breakfast with the princesses. Again, the food was really just fine, but this was all about the experience, which is always incredible. Also, one note for those of you who, like me, might be considering one of these meals as a solo diner: the fruit and pastry plate they provide for the table is the same size whether you're a solo diner or a party of four. So you actually get more food for your money if you're eating alone.

    8_breakfast.jpg

    After breakfast, I hopped on Ariel's Undersea Adventure one more time, because I love it and I had a few more minutes to kill before my FP window opened for Guardians. Given how hot it was, I was happy to not wait in the line for Guardians, but as it turned out, the ride was well worth any wait. I loved the old Tower of Terror (though I definitely think the one at WDW was better than the one at DL), but this experience was outstanding. I was very impressed that they'd gotten the original cast to reprise their roles for the pre-show video (complete with Stan Lee cameo!), and the ride itself seemed to be an improvement over the original Tower of Terror -- though I could honestly just be imagining that. In fact, it was so much fun that after I finished my FP ride, I got back in the standby line to ride again. And I got a different song and set of scenes each time, so that was cool.

    9_gotg.jpg

    Speaking of cool, once I'd finished riding Guardians a second time, I headed down the street to check out the Frozen stage show. I'd heard that there were specific seats in the theater where the armrest flipped up, giving people like me a bit more space in the seat, so I asked about that. Not only were they helpful enough to direct me to one of those seats, but they also gave me a bench pass to sit on one of the benches by the door instead of having to stand in line. It's funny, I always tell people that if you need extra accommodation at WDW or DL to just ask, but I so rarely do that myself. I was glad I did in this case, and I think I'm going to force myself to take my own advice a little more often on future trips. The Frozen show itself was probably the best stage show I've ever seen at a Disney park, and I'd highly recommend anyone planning a DL trip any time in the future make some time for it.

    10_frozen.jpg

    By the time I got out of Frozen, Radiator Springs Racers was down (again, as it had been multiple times over the weekend), so I crossed the way to take in some of Disneyland on its 62nd birthday. The two rides that I really wanted to do on my last day were Indiana Jones (which isn't at WDW) and Pirates of the Caribbean (which is much better at DL than at WDW). The former was down (again - as were a lot of rides on Monday, I'm guessing in part due to the heat and humidity), so I went to Pirates. The line was a little bit longer than I'd normally wait in for a ride, especially one I've done before, but I'm glad I waited because I really enjoyed it -- and I don't know if I'll get back again before they change out the auction scene.

    20032100_10214051901760436_4123515308251313734_n.jpg

    I didn't do too much more in the parks on Monday afternoon, in part because it was really hot and in part because a couple of the things I really wanted to do were down, plus I did have to get back to my hotel room and pack. I was happy I'd done all the nighttime stuff on Sunday, because I was able to cancel those Monday reservations and focus on packing and relaxing before heading home bright and early on Tuesday morning.

    Lessons Learned for December
    Spending the time I did at Disneyland taught me a few lessons -- or in some cases reminded me of them -- to keep in mind for when I return to WDW in December:

    - First, above all, I badly need to lose some weight. There were a couple rides that I just flat-out ignored because I was almost certain I wouldn't fit on them (or at least wouldn't fit comfortably), and because of the added standing in line time at the Expo, my legs were just jello by the end of the day on Monday.

    - Second, and related to the first, I need to be more proactive about asking for help when I need it, whether its a wider seat, a seatbelt extender, etc. I keep trying to do things the way I've always done them, and that just isn't going to work, regardless of how much weight I lose. I'm older than I was when I started going to the parks, with years of wear and tear on my knees and back. I tend to tell myself to take things slow, then once I get into the park, the Disney magic gets to me and I'm like "I WANT TO DO ALL THE THINGS NOW", then at the end of the day, I'm like "WHY DID I DO THAT?"

    - Be flexible with dining plans. I'm actually pretty good about this, not forcing myself to keep every reservation I made, but given the number of reservations I have for Dec./Jan., it's going to be even more important for me to stay on top of them and make sure I really want to keep them the day before.

    - Prioritize my "must-dos". For Dec./Jan., this is absolutely the fireworks shows and, assuming I can drop some weight to fit on it, Flight of Passage. I'm the kind of person that if I get to do my "must-dos", like I did at the Expo, then the other stuff isn't a big deal to me if I can't do it.

    - Stop buying pins and artwork. I have no more room for this stuff in my house, and yet I keep buying more of it. I bought a handful of pins at the hotel gift shop on Saturday night, then more at the Expo on Sunday, then more at DCA on Monday morning, at which point I said "okay, I'm done now." Then I bought more pins at Pin Traders in Downtown Disney on the way back to my hotel. Then I bought another pin Tuesday morning before my Lyft arrived. I have a problem. (Note: the chances of me actually "learning" this lesson by December are like zero. I might as well just buy another pin trading bag and accept my defeat.)
     

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