Pre-trip planning


Planning for this trip started while still enjoying my last trip.  On the table in my room they left a flyer which has a special offer, usually called a bounce back offer.  A bounceback offer is offered to get you to rebook another trip while still enjoying your current trip.  This current offer however is open to the general public, so while I can call up while still a registered guest, I can also do this when I get home.  So on my last day, I called the number on the offer and there was a automated message saying they are having technical difficulties, and I sit on hold for a ½ hr before giving up. I will call when I get home.


A day after I got home, I called up and chose my dates like this, Sept 4th through the 10th , arrive on a Sunday, leave the following Saturday.  Previous years, doing the free dining offer, even at a value resort like Pop Century, you get basic dining but no more.  Now if you book a package staying at value resort, you only get quick service dining.  Quick service dining gets you two quick service meals, 2 snacks per nights stay, plus your refillable resort mug.  But you can pay the difference between Quick and Basic dining, which I do, so I am booked at a value resort with basic dining.


The last couple of years, I upgrade at the 6 month mark for the Deluxe Dining Plan.  All year long, because of my job, I am eating at fast food places.  While on vacation, I like to sit and be waited on.  But I like to make sure I get the places I want to eat at before spending the additional money on the upgrade to the Deluxe plan.


Zoom ahead about 6 months.  Time to choose my adr’s, Advanced Dining Reservations, Disney speak for dining reservations at their restaurants.


I check out the park schedules and I am greeted with my first bad news, no Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party while I am there.  The Magic Kingdom is closing early on Friday and Saturday nights for what is called Night of Joy.


Previous years, when I upgrade to the Deluxe Dining plan, where I can do three sit down meals a day, I usually still do a quick service meal for breakfast, but this year I decide to get the best value and book breakfast meals too.


I will always be haunted by my 2008 trip.  The start of my trip was delayed a day by a hurricane.  Amtrak canceled all service the day I was supposed to leave along the east coast.  So I left the next day, which I felt I was lucky to do.  This caused me to play catch up throughout my whole trip.  Never really felt good about that trip.  So what I did starting in 2010, I add a day at the beginning and end of my trip, so just in case I lose a day, I don’t feel like rushing too much.


So I see what days which park is opened late and such.  My plan of attack is simple, for example, if Epcot is opened late on Monday night for Disney resort guests, I go to a different park on Monday and go to Epcot on Tuesday.  My reasoning is simple.  I figure extra hours will bring more people to that park, and people won’t go to the same park two days in a row.


I also added my extra days, which means I will be going now from Saturday, Sept 3 through Sunday, Sept 11.  Since my favorite method of travel is via train, and it takes about 23 hours to do this trip, I will be leaving on Friday, Sept 2, and get back to New York on Monday, September 12.  Some people are nervous about traveling on 9/11, but not me.  This is one of the reasons I go this time of year.  This gives me 8 days in the parks, the last day, that Sunday, since I usually hang out in the resort since I leave back to the train station at noon.


So I plan to do 3 days each at Magic Kingdom and Epcot, then divide up the rest of the days into half days to use between the studios and Animal Kingdom.


Some parks are opened late a couple of nights a week.  They are called EMH nights, for Extra Magic Hours, which are only for resort guests.  Like I stated, I try to avoid them, except for Sunday night.  In 2010, I went to Fantasmic at the Studios, afterwards I park hop to the Magic Kingdom which is opened till midnight.  So I plot out my dining and this is what I come up with.


Saturday, Sept 3, After checking in,  I go have my traditional first meal on property, Rib meal at Flame Tree BBQ at Animal Kingdom.  I sometimes just go to this park, just to eat there.  Dinner is at Boma (Animal Kingdom Lodge)  So I will be spending time at Animal Kingdom.  Not sure what I will do after dinner, perhaps Downtown Disney.


Sunday, Sept 4, Breakfast at Boma (first time trying this), Late lunch/early dinner at Hollywood and Vine in the Studios.  This also gets me preferred (or reserved seating) at Fantasmic.  And if I want, after Fantasmic, I may go to the Magic Kingdom, to eat at Cosmic Rays for a late dinner.  I will spend most of the day at the Studios (Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I call it studios for short)


Monday, Sept 5, Breakfast at Kona Café (first time trying this for breakfast), Lunch at Crystal Palace, Dinner at Grand Floridian Café.  Needless to point out, this is a Magic Kingdom day.


Tuesday, Sept 6, Breakfast at Crystal Palace, lunch at Grand Floridian Café, Dinner at ‘Ohana. Another Magic Kingdom day.


Wednesday, Sept 7, Breakfast at Cape May Café (first time for breakfast), Lunch at Le Cellier, dinner at Coral Reef.  Epcot day


Thursday, Sept 8, breakfast at Captains Grille (first time eating here for any meal), Lunch at Coral Reef, dinner at Cape may Café.  Another Epcot day.


Friday, Sept 9, breakfast at Grand Floridian Café (first time trying breakfast here), lunch at Kona Café, dinner at Whispering Canyon café.  Magic Kingdom day.


Saturday, Sept 10, breakfast at Sunshine Seasons, maybe.  This is a quick service restaurant, no adr’s needed.  Lunch at Yak N Yeti (Animal Kingdom) and dinner at Le Cellier (Epcot)  So I will be spending some time at Animal Kingdom and Epcot today.


Sunday, Sept 11, breakfast and lunch at my resort, even though I have the pass to go to a theme park, not going anywhere except back home.


As you can see, I am eating at the some of the same places two days in a row, not the same meal, lunch one day, dinner the next for example.  When leaving and asked how my meal was, I say it was so good, that I will be back here tomorrow :)


Some thoughts about my dining plans.


 Last year I had breakfast at the Wave, had a southern.  Basically it was eggs with pork loin.  But looking online at the menus, they no longer offer this.  But this year I notice that Grand Floridian Café offers breakfast, so I plan to eat there one morning.  Last year, I wanted to eat Steak and eggs at Kona café, but decided to sleep in, so I never had that for breakfast.  So I am pschyed about this.


Even though I booked right at the 180 day mark, I couldn’t book ‘Ohana for one, but I was able to book it for two.  Everything else was booked for one.  Now people have spoken about this before, I just never did it.  Over or under booking the amount of people eating.  People have always said, this is no problem. I hope this is right.


Some other plans and unforeseen events.


Since the second year traveling on Amtrak, I got their rewards card.  After accumulation x amount of points, I get to travel for free.  They had a offer, get their Amtrak Visa card, make a purchase, and get 30,000 reward points, more then enough for round trip travel to Orlando in a sleeper car.  But there was blackout date.  You see, when I booked this trip, I didn’t know that I was traveling on Labor Day, a black out date for free travel.  So I will save the points for another trip, possibly in 2012.


Unforseen event.


The end of March, I hurt and found out later, I tore my right calf muscle.  For months, I could hardly walk without a bad limp, and I am going to be able to walk miles at Disneyworld? One of the questions I asked my doctor when he told me what I did, will I be fully healed in September?  He had no doubt I would be 100%  April goes by, May comes and goes, and here in June, I am still walking in pain, still limping, but now starting to worry, will I be able to handle walking Disneyworld in a 3 months?  I am going to Physical Therapist to rehab, he doubts I will be 100%.


So I start to look into renting a ECV aka scooter.  I find out all the companies that offer them for rent.  Now anyone who ever went to Disneyworld in early fall or summer know what will happen more often then not, a afternoon thunderstorm.  I chose Walker mobility for one reason, and one reason only, their scooters can handle getting wet from rain.  Other companies cant, and even warn you against using them in the rain.  They will charge my credit card a day before I am due to arrive, so I can cancel without penalty before that.  Just in case I feel I don’t need it.  Just for information, all rental companies will deliver the scooter to your resort’s luggage assistance.  And when you are done, you drop it off there too.


I also learn about what is called a Guest Assistance Card, GAC for short.  You get a GAC card at guest services at the theme parks.  This helps the Cast Members (CM’s) operating the rides tell them how they can help you on the rides.  My problems are easy, if I put pressure on the muscle, like walking, standing still, and the walking stairs, I am in pain, so I need to avoid these things.


2010 problems and how I am correcting them for 2011.  I had a number of problems on my 2010 trip, so my 2011 trip prep work is taking care so I don’t have a repeat.


My trip started off bad when the handle extension on my luggage didn’t extend when exiting the train. So I started to watch what eBags had for sale on their website.  I found a piece that was 33 inches tall, 19 wide.  The 19 inch wide part is important, as this is just about as wide the piece can be and still fit through the passages on the train.  This piece is also taller, can put more things in it.


If you read my 2010 trip report, I had several issues to bring to Disney’s attention that I felt they failed to live up to my expectations.  So I wrote them a letter about it.  In December, I received a call, and they offered me something called ‘priority passes’, 4 each at each of the theme parks.  I am not sure what it is, but guessing its go to head of line type of deal.


Last year I used for internet connection a usb modem.  I found I had reception problems with the usb cell phone modem.  So this year I got what is called a Mifi cell phone modem.  It connects to computers through a Wifi signal.  I figure I could place the Mifi by the window in my room, and use my laptop anywhere I wanted, not have to be stuck in a location where I have a decent cell signal. Last year I sat outside my room even.


My android cell phone.  Last year, I seemed to be constantly be trying to charge my cell phone, as the battery died in less then 4 hours.  I even thought at one point, the cell phone broke.  I wasn’t a happy camper sitting through Fantasmic thinking I had no cell phone.  So for this trip, I did a couple of things.  I purchased a second battery for my cell phone, and a drop in charger that can not only charge my cell phone, but the second battery too.  But I also bought a pay as you need Cell phone, just in case my Android phone gets lost or broken.  Just feel good about having a emergency cell phone.  Someone told me, to save battery life, instead of having the android phone use its own internet connection, have it use the mifi.  So I will see if that will help or not.


Pretrip anxiety


Since 2008, I am constantly worried about a hurricaine impacting my trip.  This year, it’s a storm called Irene.  While Irene was heading up the east coast a week before I am due to leave, I foolishly think, Irene wont impact my plans, it’s the next one that will.


I leave Friday morning.  Its Tuesday. I am reading tweets from Amtrak, due to storm damage in Trenton NJ, the Silver trains are only operating as far north as Washington DC.  I need to board the Silver Star in NY Penn.


I am sick to my stomach.  No time given when the tracks will be repaired, as the tracks are under water.  I call Amtrak, and feel better.  I am told, that while there currently is no service, they are still able to book passengers on Fridays train, so they didn’t cancel the train yet.


By Wednesday, they announce service will resume tomorrow, so it finally feels like I will be going. A weight has been lifted off my shoulders.


Its Thursday night, I am all packed, batteries fully charged, my new luggage weighs a ton.  I usually take the Subway to the city, but I don’t think I can carry the luggage up all those stairs; it’s the weight and the strain on my leg, still swollen and aches most of the time.


So my plan is this, my father will drive my mother (who will accompany me to the train station) to nearby Stillwell Ave where they have ramps, no stairs to the train platform.  I can even walk it, but I guess it is easier to be driven the couple of blocks.