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Oh the Places We Go, The People We See Photo TR

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Welcome to my newest Trip Report. For those who don’t know me, I am Jen.



That’s my Daughter Claire with me.


We just got back from an amazing vacation with several family members.

We traveled Nov. 1st thru the 15th, 2012. We rested our headed at 6 different places on this trip, and though it wasn’t always easy to keep moving from place to place, I am happy to have tried some new resorts out and stayed at some familiar ones as well.


This trip came about over a year ago. My Mom’s cousin Vicki wanted to take a trip with her and my Aunt Mary. Her Daughter Katie also wanted to come along.

After some talking and planning it became a group of 16 traveling. I was elected ring leader since I have quite a bit of Disney experience.

Plans were made, some were changed, and some were a little slower at making decisions than others.

My husband Skip is what is known in the Disney groups as a resistor and he decided NOT to come along. He was not so happy about the amount of time I was going to be gone.


The dates for the cruise were set first, Nov 4 through the 8th on the Disney Dream. We all planned to arrive a day early and stay at the Residence Inn near the port. Soon I decided that I must add a few Disney days, and so did everyone else eventually. I thin decide…heck lets add some more, and Claire and I ended up staying 3 more days after the rest left.

Then after doing some research and with a heads up from my good Dis-friend Carey, I was alerted to the fact that the last Halloween party was on Nov. 2nd. How could I pass that chance up? So Claire and I decided to fly in a day earlier than everyone else to hit that party. Claire and I also decided to fly out of Columbus. My family lives near the Toledo, OH area, and the best direct flights are out of Detroit. My youngest sister, who was not going on the cruise, lives in Columbus, and I was able to get a decent priced direct flight from there, so Claire and I drove down Nov. 1 and spent the night before our early flight.


Plans were finally all set in stone and we just had to wait for our time to arrive. Not an easy task, but we all managed.


Let me introduce you to the crew. This is a picture of a picture. My sister has the CD with the actual digital copy, but hasn’t yet loaded it to the computer, so I had to go with this for now till I can get a copy.



In the back row, left to right, we have my parents, Joe and Paula, next to them is my Uncle Geoff. Next to Geoff is cousin Vicki and her son in law Thad. Next to Thad is Pete, Vicki’s husband and then me. Aunt Mary is on the end, she is married to Uncle Geoff and my Mother’s sister.

Down towards the front, left to right, is my nieces Alexis and Abby with their parents Rob and Gail. Gail is my sister. Front and center is Claire. Behind Claire are Jude, and Katie. Katie is married to Thad and is Pete and Vicki’s Daughter. And then we have baby Luke in the stroller. He is only about 9 months old and what a cutie he is.


This trip had the usual ups and downs that most every family will have, but I have to admit things went much smoother than I planned. We never felt the need to kill each other for the most part. LOL

We had several cruise newbies and several Disney World newbies as well.


Please join me in reliving a very magical trip with all the places we traveled and all the people we met along the way!

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Nov. 1, 2012, Thursday


Today was the day….the day we had been looking forward to for so long. But it was a busy day too.

Claire had to go to school today. Of course she tried to figure ways to be able to stay home and help, but I wasn’t going to fall for it. I had a lot to do, actually the whole week had been busy, so it was more helpful for me for her to be away from the action.


The night before had been Halloween. I worked hard that day to get as much ready as possible before we left for the big trick or treating extravaganza.

Claire was a “nice” vampire. So nice that she refused to put in her teeth. Even for pictures. We went with some friends and here is a picture of the kids.



So with a sugar and Disney high, I sent her off to school. That poor teacher.


I had a project I had to finish and deliver before I could leave, so I spent my morning on that and then loaded my car up with luggage.


Before I knew it, it was 2:30 and time to pick Claire up. She was beyond excited…and so was I.


We went home and changed her clothes and had a little time to waste before leaving. We couldn’t leave too early or we would get to my sister’s house before she was home from work.

I told Claire to be sure she put on her white tennis shoes, as those were going to be her main park shoes for the trip.


We said our good byes to Skip and lots of hugs and kisses were given. He acts like he is Mr. Cool, but I know he was going to miss us.


I think we hit the road around 3:30ish, give or take.

This was going to be boring. Within 10 minutes, Claire asked how much longer. LOL She had her ipod and played with that for most of the trip and I had “Mocking Jay” (the last book in the Hunger Game series) on CD, so that kept us both occupied.


Not too far out of the Toledo area we ran over something. It appeared to be just a piece of rubber road “stuff” sticking up. All the cars were running over it and when I saw it I quickly tried to avoid it by having it go down the middle of my car. It looked harmless, but you never know. Well my car made a horrible noise when we went over it. I was surprised because I didn’t appear to hit it with my tire. A few curse words “might” have escaped my mouth and I told Claire that I sure hope we don’t get a flat tire as we had a long ways to go yet. Things kept running smoothly after that and no flat tires appeared while driving. Thank goodness!


As we go closer, my sister Amanda called and said she was on her way home from work. I think we still had about 45 minutes to go, but we were assured she would be there when we got there.


As we got closer, we thought about using the bathroom, but we decided we could make it. Claire was more interested in finding a McDonalds anyways. I told her no, because we had a dinner date a little later that evening.


We arrived at Amanda’s and used the potty and sat and relaxed a little bit. Claire was talking a mile a minute with Amanda.



I pulled out my kindle to check out what was happening in the real world ….aka facebook. LOL


I was sitting in a chair and just looked up and my glance fell on Claire’s shoes sitting on the floor ……and it clicked. Claire had her school shoes with her, which meant the white tennis shoes were still sitting on the floor in my living room. UGH!

I quickly panicked. “Where are your tennis shoes?” She swears I never told her to put them on, yet I know I told her at least 3 times. Plus she had known for weeks that those shoes were what we planned to wear “on the plane”. So a quick trip to Target was in order before our dinner date.


We found the exact same shoes that she has at home and they were purchased and luckily didn’t break the bank. We also picked up some headphones for her ipod since I did leave those at home in another bag. I just never thought about it till we were on the road and I kept hearing the ipod noises.


Next stop was the Cheesecake Factory.



I visited one for the first time in Florida last year and I was hooked. Boy that food is darn good.


When I realized my sister lived right down the road from one I insisted we eat here tonight. We were also meeting a Dis/facebook friend, Carrie, here too. She said she likes any excuse to come there as well.

We arrived a little earlier than planned so I texted Carrie and let her know we had arrived and were seated and to just ask for the Jennifer table.



This actually worked out really well for me. I have to admit, I wasn’t sure exactly what Carrie looked like …..because she doesn’t post many pictures of herself online ……shame on you Carrie. I knew she would probably recognize me first, since I am kind of unusual, LOL, but this worked out great.

She was brought to our table soon after we arrived and we introduced her to Amanda and Claire and we all chatted. She was really easy to talk to and a big Disney fan as well.


We soon were brought bread, which was really good, and Claire devoured a lot of it.



Then we settled in to make our dinner choices.

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For dinner, Claire and I planned to share a pizza. I had had their pizza last year and really liked it and I knew Claire would like this choice as well.



Carrie got the Alfredo…I think with chicken in it.



And Amanda got some sort of club if I remember right.



The food was good, but I think we all ended up with to go boxes with leftovers.


Now for the real reason we came here ….the Cheesecake!


I got the reeses peanut butter one. Yum yum yum!!!




I couldn’t finish it so I brought that home with me as well.


Carrie got a pumpkin.



Amanda got hers to go, and I can’t remember which flavor she got, it might have been pumpkin as well.


Carrie also got one to go for her DH. She said he made her promise to bring home a slice. LOL.


All too soon it was time to say good bye. I was really happy to have the chance to get to meet up with Carrie. It was also amazing how many things she and Amanda had in common.

Before we left I did have Amanda take a picture of us.




We walked out together and then separated to head to our cars.


We headed down the road to Amanda’s house and once again I got on the kindle for a bit and we turned on some TV. Claire pulled out some homework to do too. We figured we wouldn’t have a lot of time to do it once we left, so we better at least put some effort into it now.


Well ….let’s just say …Amanda and I could fail the 2nd grade. We worked on phonics. Who invented such a horrid subject. Neither of us understood how to do her work, but she seemed to know what she was doing. It looked “wrong” to us, but what do we know. In the meantime, we pulled out the cheesecake and finished that off too. She only did a few pages and we gave up and I insisted on going to bed.

Amanda was packing her lunch for the next day at work. She also was driving to Toledo to visit a friend after work, so she was getting that all ready as well. She kept asking me if I was going to eat my pizza, then it dawned on me that she wanted it for her lunch and I told her to take it as I didn’t think I would eat it before we left in the early AM.


We had the car packed with luggage and decided on a time to wake up and leave. I think it was something like 4:50 AM…or some awful time like that. I knew I really didn’t have to do much to myself that morning. So I wasn’t going to get up earlier than needed.

We hit the sack and Claire was anxious …and so was I. But soon she was asleep. Let me tell you sleeping with Claire is drawing the short straw. She is ALL over the bed. I did not sleep well that night at all. It was much too hot and I kept waking in a sweat. Claire kept shimmying over to my side and I kept pushing her back. One time I realized she had absolutely no blankets on her and I realized she was probably cold, so I pushed all the blankets back on her and things went a little better after that.

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Nov. 2, 2012 Friday


4:50 AM the alarm went off, but I think I was pretty much up at that point anyways. I got up and dressed and fixed myself up real pretty. LOL

I let Claire sleep as long as possible. Amanda was up in her room and getting herself ready as well. She was going to go to work early after dropping us off and then she could leave early to drive up to Toledo.


Our plan was to be on the road by 5:30. I finally woke Claire and she was so sleepy. She swore she would sleep the whole way down on the plane …news flash …she didn’t sleep a wink … and we packed up the remaining things. I left my overnight bag right at Amanda’s house. I had packed it so that there was nothing in there that we needed to take with us, there for not upsetting the balance of my big suitcases.

Amanda put 2 chocolate muffins in a baggy for us to take to the airport for breakfast. I also grabbed a banana before we left as well. I am one who needs to eat pretty much right away or I get a headache. Claire, on the other hand doesn’t need to eat for hours.

Soon it was time to leave and we made fabulous time. Amanda was worried about traffic, but I guess when you leave at Butt crack thirty, no one else is on the road. Amanda even made a wrong turn, going naturally towards her work and then made it a little longer route to the airport, and still we made great time.

She dropped us off at the Southwest curbside check in and we said our good byes and Claire and I dragged 3 big suitcases, one carryon, 2 back backs and another little bag she had over to the check in. It probably looked comical. We checked in the 3 big suitcases (and one of those had a rolling duffle for extra purchases for the way home) and went on in to go through security. Now when I had been here just 6 weeks prior, going through security was like a ghost town. Not a person in sight for the most part. So I knew we didn’t have to get here “too” early to make it through just to sit and wait.

This time it was much busier. Not bad, but still a lot busier and they had 2 or 3 lines going this time.

Since we were decked out in tie dye Mickey tees and Disney cruise sweatshirts, and our bags all had some sort of Disney thing on them, we were asked several times where we were going. The one security guard made friends with Claire and told her how lucky she was to miss school for Disney. Claire has such a cool Mom …don’t I know it.


We found our gate and picked some seats and I pulled out one of the muffins. Claire didn’t want anything yet, so I ate the whole thing myself. We played on our gadgets until it was boarding time.



We made one last potty break and bought a drink to take with us on the plane and soon it was time to go. The boarding was much more orderly this time. People did seem to look at the boarding numbers a little more carefully on this flight. On the 4 flights to and from Galveston, no one seemed to care at all.

We also had a better boarding number; I think something like 20 and 21. WE got on the plane fast and found a row not too far back at all. Claire jumped in her window seat, something she was worried about the whole time, and we settled in.


It appeared that the plane was not sold out and we kind of hoped no one would sit with us, but then towards the end, a lady did sit with us. She was very nice and we made a bit of chit chat here and there.

Things were going fast and soon the plane door was shut and we were on our way. The pilot said we would be arriving in Orlando early because we were going to have some good tail winds. YES! I love hearing that. I seem to start getting panic attacks on planes lately. After about an hour in I start feeling like I need to move and it plays with my mind. I did much better this trip. I have learned to take rescue remedy. I don’t know if it works or is all in your mind, but I seem to be a bit calmer with it. I am not afraid of flying; I just hate being cramped up for 2 hours. And for the record, I have been having this issue in car trips over the past year too. If I am the driver, it doesn’t seem to bother me so much.


Soon we were taking off and saw the beautiful lights below us.



We watched the sun come up.



I made Claire pull out some homework. She wasn’t too happy about that, but we did know there wouldn’t be much time to work on it later, so it was best to get through some of it. We did half of the math (the other subject sent with us) done. Technically she could’ve gotten it all done, but she really started grumbling, so we put it away. It was easy math too, with most being greater than and less than problems.


We were served snacks and drinks, which was a highlight for Claire and she watched a movie on her ipod and I did a little reading.

Soon we were landing ….25 minutes early. I was so happy.





I had to go to the bathroom, but figured I would wait since we landed early. I try to avoid the airplane bathroom if I can, plus I didn’t want to make our row mate have to move.

Sadly, with being so early, our gate was not open. So we sat and waited and waited and waited.





Finally we made it to our gate. We got off fairly fast and headed to the bathroom.

We were excited and ready. The weather was nice and we could hardly wait to feel it.


We went over to wait for the fake monorail.



And soon it was there and we hopped on.

In our excitement, I took a picture of Claire on the monorail.



Look closely at the picture. You will see a lady staring at us in the background. I didn’t notice her in the picture till I got home.


Soon after that picture, as Claire and I were chatting away, I notice this lady walking towards me. My first thought was, “Wow, she looks just like Lynne”.

My words to her as she came forward were, “You look so familiar”. And she replied, “I should, I’m Lynne.”

So who is Lynne you may ask?

Lynne is a former coworker. My job is mostly online based and everyone who works for it lives basically all over the country, even one in Canada. We talk on facebook and via emails, but we haven’t met many of each other in real life. I have been lucky enough to meet 4 up to this point, Brook, who I have traveled twice with now, and Mindy and Patty, who traveled to WDW last year when I did too.

Lynne recently quit the company, so I had not talked to her for a few weeks. Originally, many months ago, Lynne was going to come down to WDW and go to the Halloween party and then sail on the same Dream sailing that I was, she ended up canceling that to go on a Princess cruise, which she ended up canceling because her Dad was having health issues. I had not talked to her much since then, and hadn’t realized that the WDW portion of her trip was back on.

I was totally shocked to see her there and what a small world to be on the same monorail car.

We chatted a bit and she introduced me to her niece. We walked and talked after getting off the monorail and then we stopped for a picture before going on our separate ways.




Lynne was renting a car, so she headed off in a different direction.

As we moved on, I saw this for the first time (I usually fly into Sanford), so we stopped for a blurry photo op.




Claire and I headed outside before hitting the Magical Express line. We just had to go and feel the weather before going on a bus.


After getting a quick breath of Florida air we headed back in to get in line for Magical Express. I was shocked to find no one in the Animal Kingdom Lodge line. The bad thing was that meant they probably had just sent a bus there since all the other lines seemed pretty full.


We got in line around 10 AM.



And we waited and waited and waited. We watched them call every other resort but ours. Some got called a couple of times. After a bit another couple joined us in line, than a 3rd a bit later. I figured that had to be good. Hopefully we would soon be called with more people in our line.


Finally we got on a bus. I think we waited at least 20 – 30 minutes before we were called. I kept watching the clock tick away our precious time and so did Claire.


Of course we had 3 other resorts on the bus with us and we were the last stop, but at least we were on our way.


Our driver was Rockland Steel.



Rock Steel to all his friends. Ok, I made that part up, but that’s all I kept thinking …his name is Rock Steel, what a strange name. And then being married to a man who can turn anything innocent into something dirty, my mind wandered a bit and I kept laughing to myself. Skip would definitely think this would be the perfect porn star name.


Claire and I were the first on the bus, so we got the very front seat. I really like that seat. You sure can see a lot and take some pictures a little better along the way.


Rockland told us it was brand new bus and the drivers all had bets on who would be the first to dent it. I swear he said it was $500,000.00, but that seems like an awfully high price for a bus, but what do I know. He also said the Magical Express got a whole new fleet of buses, so maybe that was the cost for all of them. One thing the new buses now have ….seatbelts. I guess enough people complained about the buses not having them, so they added them to the new ones.



Soon the movie started up. Rockland asked if it was playing and we said yes. He said all morning it had just run the audio, but the video hadn’t worked. So we were lucky and it did for us. Claire was entranced in it.



This was a nice sight to see.




And these guys are so cute.



I probably have taken this picture almost every trip I have been on to the World.




Soon we made our first stop, CBR. I took a couple quick pictures, but they are not very good.




And then to one of my favorite resorts.








On our way once again.



But this time only to the other side of the lake.




Now I have to tell you, there was a family in the rows behind us with a couple of kids. After listening to them I realized that the kids had no idea where they were or where they were going.

You could hear them say I think it’s Disney, then the other one would doubt it and say no, it’s just another hotel, and then one would say I think it’s a hotel at Disney, and the other would say there weren’t hotels there, only castles. It was so cute. The Mom told me after a bit that they had no idea and just told them they were going on a plane ride. It was so cute to watch them. At Art of Animation they told them they were getting off and that this WAS Disney. They were so excited. That had to be the best kept secret ever.



I have to admit, I was pretty darn excited to see AoA too. In just over a week we would be staying here ourselves, and my Dis friend Carey was there right at that moment.





I would say the majority of the bus got off here. Now we were down to just a few people and once again on our way.

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Now one thing I forgot to mention. I had not told Claire where we were staying our first night. I am terrible at keeping surprises, plus I wanted her to be in on the planning, so a complete surprise trip was out of the question. Also the whole family knew and she was in on the very first planning meeting with family, so she knew about the trip before my sister even did.

So my one try at a “surprise” was to not tell her our first night’s stay. Well that didn’t go real well because I told my Mom one day and Claire was standing right there. Luckily she wasn’t paying much attention, but I was pretty sure she had a good idea. She asked for months, trying to trip me up, but I held on. But I knew she heard me say Animal Kingdom. She still wasn’t sure and even the name didn’t mean a lot to her without a book with pictures.

Once we got off the plane and headed to the bathroom I did tell her then and she was excited. But I could tell she still wasn’t “sure” where this exactly was or what it meant.


The one thing she did know was that it was the last stop and it was taking forever to get there.


Finally we were en route to our destination.



And here we are!!!! It was now around 11:30.







We got off the bus and waited for our carry on.



And then we made our way to the lobby.



We were both wide eyed and excited. Neither of us have ever been here at all, not even for dinner or to tour, so it was so exciting to see a new resort for the first time.


We went inside and got in the online check in line, which consisted of just us.




And checked in.



Our guy was nice, but very slow. He left for a few minutes and came back with a package.





Good thing he was on the ball because I wasn’t. I had forgotten about getting this box. Earlier in the week, one of the gals from our cruise group had to cancel suddenly. She said she was sorry and if anyone wanted their Fish Extender gift from her, she would gladly send it. I told her if she wanted to, she could send them all to me at AKL and I would be happy to pass them out for her. I knew she had worked hard on her gifts and I would hate to see them go to waste. The package was waiting for us.


We grabbed that and our packet and were told the room would be ready by 3. They would text me when it was ready. Now I know how many people have been told this only to never get a text, so I knew I would have to check back later. Let’s just throw this out now. I stayed in 3 Disney resorts and all said they would text …I did not receive ONE single text from any of them.


Claire received a princess crown too since I listed we were celebrating her birthday. I have never seen this before, and she seemed a bit unsure about it. LOL



I was disappointed that our room wasn’t ready. I was hoping to have a nap before the party this evening, but we still had time.


So with this box (which was not huge, but awkward to carry), and a carry on, plus we each had a back pack on and Claire had another bag she was carrying, we just kind of set out to rearrange our bags and then send some off to luggage services for a while.


We decided to find a bench outside to do our business.



Passing the pool made Claire very excited and she couldn’t wait to get in it.



We found a secluded area and opened up the bags and got what we needed for the day packed into one bag and put the rest in the others and headed back to luggage services. I must say in the short time I was carrying that box, I was becoming annoyed with it. It was just hard to carry with all our other stuff, so I was glad to be rid of it for a while.


As we walked back inside I took a couple of quick shots.




And on to the elevator to go up to the lobby again.



I think I heard a choir of angels sing when I dropped off our bags. I felt a little less like a pack mule now.

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So I am now not so weighted down and feel so much better. Well sort of. Remember that muffin I had a butt crack thirty this morning? Well it’s long gone now. And the few snacks we had on the plane are not doing it for either of us either.


Claire thought she could suffer and swim for a bit first, but I told her no, eating was first on the list.


Of course as we walked away from Bell services I had to take a few pictures first.







In case you do not know where Mara is …the fast food place in AKL, it’s down stairs from the lobby and outside past the pool.






We have arrived.




My biggest complaint about deluxes at Disney …the food courts pretty much suck. They have such a small selection. And it seems most carry the same few items.


Claire and I decided to share a flatbread pizza. I knew it would be big enough for the 2 of us. Claire also LOVES pineapple, so we picked up a container of that for her.



And now was the time to make that decision. What decision is that you ask? Well should I try the Zebra Domes. I have heard off and on for years just how fabulous they are. Then others will chime in and say they are just awful. It seems you love them or hate them. I had asked for descriptions, and people gave me some, but I never quite understood what they were. My fear was that they would taste like coffee, which I hate, or coconut, which I hate. LOL

Well we took the plunge and decided to give them a try.



We paid for our food and were handed a buzzer for the pizza. Another note, it was really weird how you ordered here. They had someone standing there with a pad of paper, printed with the selections and they checked off what you wanted from the grill area. I guess they then took it back there then to be filled.


We sat and started on the pineapple and waited for the pizza.



And we opened up the zebra domes and gave them a try. Verdict is that we like them. I think they are good, but not fabulous. Claire really enjoyed them though.

My description of them is that they are like a chocolaty shell with chocolate mousse type stuff inside. Our outside shell was kind of melty though and we got a little messy eating them. I also would not be able to eat many in a row. One or 2 was fine, but more than that might be a bit too much. We did finish off the box, but I think Claire ate more than I did.


Soon our pizza was ready and we dove into that too.



Now I complained about the selection, but the taste was still very good. I just wouldn’t want to eat this every day as it would become tiresome and boring.


While we ate we called Skip and checked in with him. We told him we were having lunch and he seemed disgusted because the last time he had talked to us we were eating at the Cheesecake Factory. He made some kind of sarcastic comment about that. Well I informed him that we pretty much hadn’t had anything to eat in between time, so we were now hungry.

Claire talked to him a bit and we hung up.




We headed out after that and our mission was now swimming. Well not mine, but Claire was all for it. I even walked around a bit looking at things, but with all the griping next to me it was just not meant to be and we headed to the bathroom to change.




These bathrooms near the pool are VERY nice. They had showers in the back and were very clean. We chose the handicapped shower stall as it had a stool to place our bag on and got Claire changed.





And out we went, passing the VERY tiny kiddie pool.


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That's good to hear!


It'll be my first visit to wdw so if you have any advice based on your experiences, it would be greatly appreciated.


How exciting. Remember top take is slow. Get fast passes when you can, and don't try to over do it. Especially if you have kids with you. Things are notgoingto go in perfect flowing order, especially with kids, so if you know that going in, it's less stressful.

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Pool Time!!!!!



Claire really like the zero entry.

I was then given instructions. I am sure if you are a Mom, or even a Dad, you know about these “rules” you have to follow. I was to walk to the other side of the pool and then “wait” and watch her come in from the zero entry side. Of course she made it much more complicated and there was a reason for this, though I am not sure what it was. I did as I was told and then watched (and took pictures) of her coming in.





I settled on a chair and pulled out my kindle, took my shoes off and relaxed a few minutes and shot a few pictures as well.









I then kind of looked out and around for the slide and spotted it. I found it and pointed it out to Claire. I now had new rules. I had to move close to the slide so she could swim over there and go on it. I told her I could see her just fine from where I was, but that was not the correct answer. I NEEDED to be over near the slide. I am sure this had to do with a bit of the jitters about going on the slide for the 1st time by herself.

So I gathered my stuff and moved over a little ways closer to the slide.




I settled in once again. Claire slowly swam over. Like I said, I think she was nervous and excited about going on the slide. I took some pictures while I waited for the “moment”.



That is the pool bar over on the other side.




And now the moment we all have been waiting for. She is going to go on the slide!!!




I was supposed to take a picture of her coming down, but it was hard to see and then time it right. I think this is her head just going under.



That was not good enough for her and I had to keep trying off and on all day long.


I liked this sign, too bad it’s kind of hidden.




So Claire’s goal was to go down the slide as many times as she could, and I was supposed to take a picture of her each and every time.







Ok, after about 50 times down, I told her that I think I could sit down now as I am sure I got at least a couple of pictures with her in it.


I loved that the resort had free wifi, and though it’s not the best and I would lose it every so often, it was great to take my kindle out and try to catch up on facebook. Sadly facebook doesn’t always like me and at times I try to post and it tells me it can’t be done. I had this issue at home and thought maybe it was my connection there, but it did it to me at Disney as well, so it’s just me in general that isn’t liked. LOL


Claire had spent about a half hour of going down the slide and then she wanted to go check out the hot tub.








And we saw a little creepy crawler friend.





We decided it was time to explore a bit.





And we found some Flamingos.




Off in the distance, these guys were resting.



More Flamingos.



A view of the lodge from here.


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I've never stayed at AKL but have always wanted to, so I am really enjoying your photos of the place! I'm dying to know, once you got back home did Claire approve of the water slide photos you took of her? Or was she over it by then and forgot about them?

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I've never stayed at AKL but have always wanted to, so I am really enjoying your photos of the place! I'm dying to know, once you got back home did Claire approve of the water slide photos you took of her? Or was she over it by then and forgot about them?


She has not even seen them since we've been home. I guess i should show her.

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We just loved watching the Flamingos.



Claire felt the need for a picture.



There are those guys relaxing still.




A look over at the pool.



Back at the birds.





We moved on to get another view of the Flamingos from the other side. We spotted a few pay phones.




Flamingo overload.





They look like headless Flamingos.





And we moved on a little further.



We found the other hot tub.





Getting artsy.





And pool games.



Pool games, I think, are more common now at all resorts than they used to be. I think up until last year, they really didn’t have much going on at Values, at least not like they do now. But since we never really have taken a full resort/pool day, we have never witnessed this too much. This was all new to Claire and as the time went on, she really loved “watching” the games.

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Claire and I kept on with our exploring.



We found the sign for Simbas kids club and went in search of it.



It appeared to be down a hallway and we gave up fast.





We then went in search of more animals. I believe these shots were taken through a window.





Then we found a porch overlook and we were trying to figure out how to get to it.



And another shot through the window, but this was kind of neat looking.




Here’s a porch!



Getting artsy!



Hidden giraffe.



While we stood there, I just took several pictures.





And we kept moving too.




We spotted a few birds.





Another try at an artsy type shot.



I still had rules to follow as we walked around. One being these little tunnel type areas through the rocks. I was NOT allowed to go through till Claire did. Since I was kind of wandering and taking pictures, I broke this rule a few times …and of course was scolded for doing so!




We have found more animals!







Exploring some more.




Aren’t these so cute.





They had these little metal art type animals hidden in the rocks.




We headed inside now to explore the lobby.






It’s really so pretty and I can see the resemblance of Wilderness Lodge.








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I was starting to get a bit antsy that our room was still not ready. It was just after 2 now and I knew our chance at getting a nap was fading away faster and faster.


We decided to head into the gift shop. This place is amazing!







This shop is definitely different than other resorts gift shops.














After our quick browse through the store we headed outside to see the front of the resort.






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  • 2 weeks later...

We sat down for a few minutes out front of the Lodge and Claire was ready for another swim. I told her I would give her 20 minutes and then we were going to go and ask about our room. I was at the point of starting to get a little mad that we hadn’t heard anything yet.






We headed out for the swim.



The only pictures I took that time were of Claire holding Flat Ben.


After about 20 minutes of swim time I told Claire we HAD to see if our room was ready. We needed to get changed soon to go to the Halloween party.


She reluctantly got out and we made our way to the front desk.



It was now 3 PM and when I went to the desk they said yes my room was ready and gave me my number. I was kind of mad that I never received a text and I did mention that fact that it never came and we had been waiting all day, but I got no response.


We headed off to our room, which was very far away from the lobby, but we figured that would be the case since I had booked a standard.


We walked in and Claire immediately had to see our view. Now I warned her that I didn’t book an “animal” view, so we may be looking at a lot of nothing. Well imagine our surprise. We went out to the balcony and this is what we saw.




Claire was so excited!



This was some sort of holding pen and animals were switched out every so often.



We were extremely happy with our view!



And you can see by the smile on her face that she was very pleased.




Back inside the room. As you can see, our luggage was already there, which led me to believe the room had been ready for some time now.








The bathroom door has a mirror on it.



The art on the wall, with a nice glare from the window.



This clock is not right. I have no idea why it says that time, but it was actually about 3:15 now. That could be displaying the time a message came though because we had a blinking light and a welcome message at 2 PM. That also irked me, because that meant our room has probably been ready since at least 2. That would’ve worked out perfect for a nice short little nap.





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What a surprise, that is a great view from your balcony! Do you happen to know what the approximate price difference is between a standard room and a comparable one with an "actual" view?


I do not off the top of my head, but it is quite a difference. I was using a friends DVC points that night, so that is why we ended up staying here. Otherwise, price wise, it would've been out of my budget for this trip. I was trying to make it special, but I couldn't go completely wild. LOL

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Still touring the room, I moved on to the bathroom area.





And back to the main part of the room.




I can’t remember if I have mentioned this yet or not, but our room is obviously a studio. I was using a friends points to stay here for one night.


Here you can see the box that was sent to me with a fellow Disers fish extender gifts.




Opening up the cabinet to see what’s inside.





It was now around 3:15ish. We needed to get ready for the Halloween party. I had wanted to arrive right at 4, but it was looking like that plan was not going to be followed. We had to sort out a few things, repack 2 backpacks and get ourselves situated.


A little before 4 we were ready to head out towards the bus stop.


Of course I took a few pictures on the way.






I just had to get a shot (or two) of Claire on the bridge.




I looked for the mailbox as I had a few postcards to mail out from “Mickey” to a few friends.



A walk through the lobby.



And then out to the bus stop. If I remember right, we did not wait too long at all and a bus arrived. Yay! We were so excited to be going to our first ever Halloween party at Disney!



I caught myself in the mirror.



And the time. We weren’t “too” far behind schedule.



I texted my Dis friend Carey to let her know we were running a bit behind. We had wanted to meet up kind of right away, and I sure didn’t want her waiting at the front for me. Good news, she’s a slacker too! They were running behind as well, so we should be arriving very close to the same time.


Our first sights of the Holiday décor.





Now it was a bit of a madhouse getting in. Lots of people coming and going. I had to go through bag check and so did Claire as we had to backpacks. Then I asked where to go in at, but was directed in the wrong direction, gave my party ticket and then they realized I needed to go to the far end to enter with that. Ok, I was trying to be patient, but we were just so excited.


We got in finally, and we did the boring thing ….stopped to get a locker. I knew this was driving Claire a bit mad, as it was doing the same for me, but there was no way I was carrying these 2 bags all day. We got our locker, put 1 bag in and emptied the other as much as possible so I only had to carry the minimal stuff and we were on our way to a PARTY!!!!!!!


Going in during this time of year, you just can’t help but gasp at the decorations.






There was a photopass set up right at the front and I wanted to do it, but Claire said no way was she waiting in that line. Darn it.

This was the best I got from her.



But I did make her follow me around to take pictures of all the cute scarecrows.







Those were so cute. I tried again to get her to do the photopass op right there, but nope she wasn’t going to.



Carey and I were in contact and they had just gotten off the bus. Claire and I slowly made our way up main street as we waited for them.




I love all the pumpkins.



And we stopped for a photopass picture since there wasn’t a line.





He took one with my camera too. It was really dark, so I tried to lighten it.



And then some of my Princess.






Our first magic shot.



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  • 2 weeks later...

After our Magic shots, we continued up to the hub. There we stopped and waited for Carey and her family. I think we sent a few texts back and forth. While we waited, I took a few pictures of the area. Claire jumped in some of them.



Hey! There’s Tomorrowland!



Looking to see if we see Carey.











We decided to get in line for a photopass picture here then.




Not long after the picture we got a text from Carey saying she too was near the Partners Statue. Hunh? So are we. So we walked around and kept looking, and there she was in plain view!


It was so nice to meet her. We met on Dis a few years ago and hit it right off. She loves to take pictures, which was one of the first things that drew me towards her. She also has an older daughter that is close in age to my older DD Paige. Then her younger DD, Kadence is about a year older than Claire. Claire was super excited to meet Kadence. She had seen pictures of her previous trips online and we have talked about her a LOT! Claire knew that this trip was a complete surprise for Kadence. (I think Claire was secretly jealous about that part) Claire and I will take walks to get in shape, and often on these walks we have to talk about every detail of our upcoming trip. These walks included a lot of talking about Kadence.

So the big moment has finally arrived. According to Carey, Kadence was very excited to find out she would be meeting up with Claire too. Well this big moment, was a DUD! Both girls immediately became shy. Almost hiding behind us. Seriously, after all this planning, you are NOT even going to talk to each other!

Well that didn’t matter, as Carey and I started talking right away. I had a gift for Kadence that we gave her and they had one of Claire as well. Claire kind of peeked in the bag, but I think she was too shy to really take a look, same with Kadence. Carey pulled out a journal from the bag she gave Claire and said it was for me. She said it was a gift from her and Janet (The dress maker who we were borrowing outfits from). OH Gosh! There was no need for either of them to do that. But it was so nice! I have to admit, I have only written about half a days’ worth in there and I need to get at it and finish it up. She also made this very cute autograph book for Claire. I loved it, and so did Claire. But as the trip went on, we forgot to bring it with us on a few key days and it only got a few signatures in it. I may take this with us again next trip. It’s too cute to waste and it has spots to put pictures in too.


Now it was time to get a group shot. We made Carey’s husband, John, take our pictures. Carey warned that he is not the best picture taker, but they came out OK.

The first one looks like we are cringing. We are probably smiling and giving him instructions on how to use the cameras. LOL



And of course we have the bright sun in our eyes too.



We chatted a bit more and then it was time to head off. We would be meeting up in a week’s time, as our girls were going to do the Wonderland Tea Party together.


Claire and I headed back towards Fantasyland. We stopped and asked if the new part was open for previews, but no such luck. I did ask if it would open during the party and she gave me a knowing look and said to check back then once it started.


It was time for a snack. We weren’t quite ready to eat dinner (and honestly we were hoping to eat in new Fantasyland), so we went to get a Dole Whop Float. This is a new favorite for us, just having our first try of these last March.


We got in line and it was moving kind of slow. I think the guy we had was new, because he seemed to not understand what we wanted at first. In line I said we should share one now, but Claire was insistent that she needed her own. She said I was a pig and would eat it all. LOL.

So we decided that she would get the pineapple one and I would get the orange one.



It took a while, but we finally walked away with one in our hands and took a seat across the way,


Claire obviously is mad that I made her wait for a picture before she could eat hers.




They were darn good!

A picture of our view.



After a bit, I asked Claire if I could have a bite of hers and she could have one of mine. This actually worked out great, and we ended up trading then. We got half of one we loved and then another half of another we loved.

After we finished up, we headed out again towards Fantasyland.




As soon as she spotted the sword, we had to stop. She learned about this on our April 2011 trip. She knows it “may” pull out for some lucky strong kid, and she wants to be that kid.




She kept telling me she could feel it move and was sure it was ready to come out.


Anyone out there? Help me!!




We had no such luck, and we headed off again.


After our failure at trying to get the sword out of the stone, we moved on.




I did a quick check to see if we could get into the new Fantasyland, but it was still a no.


I did ask them for a shot though, as they had the cutest outfits on.



So we headed off to Storybook Circus.



We had been lucky to already visit parts of this last spring when we spent the day here on our Universal trip, but more has been added since then. Only 1 Dumbo was running and Barnstormer was up and going then as well. This time around it was pretty much completed, though I suspect that more may be added or enhanced in the next year or two.



We got in line for Dumbo. The wait wasn’t too long.



This was the first time we went into the tent with the interactive stuff, which we passed by and just glanced at.



I still haven’t gotten the gist of how this works. I guess you can ask to play and then you get a pager when it’s your turn to ride? Correct me if you know how this works exactly. Anyways, just passing by this play area, it was unimpressive to us. The first thing Claire said was that it looked like it was for babies. And I have to agree. It really seemed to be more geared towards younger children, not for the very mature 7 year old with me! LOL But again, we only glanced in and we might have missed something good.




The longest part of our wait was actually back outside, so in all the wait time in whole was not bad at all.





And then it was our turn.




Claire gave me strict instructions! She would be controlling the flying and I was not allowed to touch it at all. I told her she better get us up high, as I wanted to take pictures. She failed!




For some reason she just wasn’t getting us very high. I did find out one disturbing thing. They planted trees all around this ride. TALL trees!!!! It’s impossible to get any shots of the rest of the park with trees in the way. I gave up on that idea real soon.



When we got off we walked over near the new splash train.



I am not impressed with this either. Now on a very hot summer day, I am sure Claire would like it, but for the rest of the year, I could see her getting wet and then complaining all day long about being wet. If you plan to visit this area, bring along another outfit to change into as kids appeared to be getting soaked!




Claire wanted to ride Barnstormer next. I don’t remember the posted time, but I do remember the line looked longer than I cared for, but we still jumped in.



The theming in the queue is very cute.



We stalled out for a few minutes so I looked back and took another shot of the train.



And we got moving again.




These would provide shade on a hot sunny day ….though not much.



I believe at some point in time I texted Carey and asked if they wanted to sit together and watch the late parade and she said sure.

Also another co-worker of mine, Stephanie, was at the World this week as well. She had spent the day at Epcot with her son and some friends. She was coming over for the party and had just arrived. So we were sending texts back and forth as well. We planned to meet up at some point too. We had never officially met in real life yet, as we both do our jobs from home and online, so though we talk daily, we have never seen each other face to face.


More theming.





And finally it was our turn.



I tried to get a few shots as we were rolling all around.





It’s fun, it’s fast, and it’s way too short.



As we walked off I got this shot of a car going up. I thought it was neat and I had a poser in there …see the guy smiling for me!



I am still kind of curious what they will end up doing with this area.




Right now it has fast pass machines for Dumbo and Barnstormer. But it’s a big area for just that. And when the new system takes over I am not sure if it will be needed for that anymore either.


We headed towards Pete’s Silly Sideshow and for a moment I had a brain freeze and couldn’t remember what this area was for. Then it dawned on me …character meets!



And we came across some water art too.



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We decided to go in and see Minnie and Daisy. The line wasn’t too long. I texted Stephanie again. We had been texting back and forth about meeting up and I let her know we were making a stop here first.



The line moved pretty fast and soon we were meeting Miss Daisy.



Lighting in here is not too great and it’s hard to get decent pictures.





Daisy has always been a hit with Claire. One year we had to get up extra early to find her at DHS. Claire was not about to leave without seeing her. Luckily we found her first thing that trip.




I have to admit something dumb here. I had thought the characters were already dressed in their Halloween costumes. It was till we went back outside and I saw the signs that I realized they dress this way all the time. Oops!







Next up was Minnie. I like that you can see 2 characters, but only wait in 1 line.




Minnie’s area was even worse for lighting. And many of our photopass pictures came out bad or just a complete blur.










We said goodbye to Minnie and headed out.



Surprise, Surprise! We were let out into a dump shop!




It was really neat in here though!



And this is when I realize that the characters are dressed for a theme and not in a Halloween costume.



Claire had noticed basically no line for Goofy and Donald at all either, so we went back around, and yes you have to go outside to get back in, and got in line ….only to find them gone! But we were told they would be out soon. We also sent out another text to Stephanie to let her know we were seeing more charaters.



Next thing we know, we see Carey, John, and Kadence come walking in. They were only a few people behind us so we chatted a bit while we waiting. Of course Claire and Kadence were both excited to see other and showed it by eyeing each other up and down. LOL


Soon it was time for the Great Goofini and Donaldo! Do you see what I see?





The Great Goofini!




Notice Donald’s giving the thumbs down from behind the curtain in this next picture.



Donaldo was NOT about to be outdone. You know how that duck loves attention.




And then he noticed I had a camera and came over to ham it up.





And then he saw Carey and hammed it up for her.



Don’t believe me? Here’s her shot!



Finally Donaldo settled down and went off to his spot to wait for us humans.


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We didn’t have to wait too long and then it was our turn to see the Great Goofini!





Goofy then gave Claire a spin. Claire LOVES when characters do this. Sadly the photopass photographer didn’t even take one picture of this interaction.








I really liked this picture.






We had to wait a few seconds for our turn with Donald.




Then it was our turn!








We said a final good bye to Donaldo.



We noticed that Carey’s family was just getting to Goody as we were leaving. I believe we waved goodbye and headed out to the dump shop once again.

Claire wanted to wait for Kadence, but if I remember right, they were taking a bit longer than we expected.



Even the flooring here is themed!



We really loved this Dumbo stuff, but we knew it would just collect dust, so we didn’t buy anything.



I wish this nightgown came in a real dress and slightly bigger.



I believe we gave up on Carey and headed out, texting Stephanie once again too.


As we walked it out of the Big Treat Tent, we noticed a lot of CM’s in their Halloween party uniforms. I think they had just come from a meeting.



A nice look at Dumbo and his tent.



The Mine Train Crane. Yeah it’s a new ride. LOL



We thought about riding Pooh. Actually before the character stop, that was our intentions, but the line was too long and it was now nearing 7 PM, so we decided to head up front and get our costumes out of the locker and change.








We spotted the Wishing Well.



And Claire had to jump in.




We spotted the Brave meet area.



It was starting to get dark ….fast!



Now this was one of my dumbest ideas ever. I knew that at 7ish Main Street would be busy. We had guest exciting and others coming in for the party. If I was smart, I would’ve made it up front before 6 to change. I knew this info a head of time …but I just didn’t apply my knowledge to myself. LOL!



We struggled to get to the locker and there we a ton of people doing the same thing and standing in the way and changing right in the locker room as well. We grabbed our stuff and headed off to the bathroom to change, where we found many other people changing as well. Claire refused to change in front of others, so we crammed into a small stall and changed. I was literally working up a sweat trying to do all this. I was cursing myself here.

Finally we got finished and headed out. Claire and I both dressed up as Mary Poppins. Her dress used to be fantastic, but she has really outgrown in and this was our last chance to wear it again. I was very basic, but it made Claire happy to think we were both the same character.



And it was crowded. We swam upstream and finally made it to Fantasyland area.


Again, we had to try our luck.




We made our way straight back to the new Fantasyland. Now for you professional party goers, you are going to cringe, but I didn’t do much party research for myself. I had planned to do it closer to my trip, but I just didn’t have enough time to do it. I did know basics though and what I was about to do was not what a pro would do. I did not even think about anything to do with the party and went straight back into the new Fantasyland and I was going to explore back there before I even gave another thought about the party going on over on the other side of the walls.


And yes, we were allowed back. We just had to show our party bands.


And we saw the incredible Beats Castle!


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