Presidential Classic: Large Group Trip Report - Complete

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alicemouse's picture
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Presidential Classic: Large Group Trip Report - Complete

I've mentioned in a few other posts that the gymnastics team that I coach will be participating in the Presidential Classic meet from February 12-15. We have 45 rooms booked at All-Star Sports for 41 families and 7 coaches. We also have 3-4 families staying elsewhere onsite and another 12-15 families staying offsite. The coaching staff and most of the families who are flying will arrive in Orlando on Wednesday, February 10 and depart on Tuesday, February 16. I've never traveled in such a large group before. There are so many newbies and I'm basically the go-to person for all aspects of the trip. I blocked our rooms with Disney Sports travel. I contacted everyone and told them about MyMagic+. I set up the folks who didn't understand the system on MDE and ordered their MagicBands for them. Etc, etc, etc. So it has been a busy winter. I haven't been around much on the boards and this is why!! Thank goodness it's holiday time and real estate has been slow! We have lots of different people who will be doing lots of different things, but here's how our trip is shaping up so far from my perspective:

Wednesday, February 10:
I'll be picking up one of the families on my level 5 team that consisted of a mother and a daughter who are not accustomed to traveling on their own and we will probably caravan with another family from my team. I'm only two happy to do this because arriving at the airport with time to spare is something that I take very seriously--especially since the one time that I arrived at BWI an hour and 50 minutes prior to my 6:25 AM departure and I was running through the terminal to catch my flight because the TSA people were moving at the speed of drunk turtles. My boss will almost certainly drive her personal vehicle to the airport and without picking up these people on my team, I would be forced to ride with her. Don't get me wrong, she's awesome, but she seems to think that the airplane will wait for her and that stresses me out.

We're flying Frontier and after our rather unspectacular experience with them in August 2014 on the way to Villains Unleashed, I'm not particularly excited about that. Also not excited that we have a 4:10pm flight. This means that we'll arrive at MCO around 6:40, which means that we'll arrive at All-Star Sports around 8:30-9:00. And if we use DME's luggage transfer, we'll receive our luggage as late as midnight. C'est la vie.

Thursday, February 11:
It's take you team to Magic Kingdom Day!! I'm half super-excited, half dreading this day. I'm really excited about taking my team to Magic Kingdom! I'm really excited about watching some of our first-timer families experience Disney with complete awe and wonder, with the newness that fades for those of us who are fortunate to be able to take many trips during our life. have a handful of families that scrimped and saved and used every financial trick in the book to make this trip happen and this will likely be a one and only for their family. The anticipation that I feel for them cannot even be measured. I'm dreading the fact that 150 people are going to be looking to me to play hostess. I'm dreading that those 150 people have to use individual ticket media to gain access to the park (something is going to go wrong for someone--it's inevitable) and have to make their way through new security procedures and make their way down Main Street in a group.

We are planning to ride Pirates and Jungle Cruise "together" first and then point the big kids toward Big Thunder Mountain and the little kids towards Aladdin's Magic Carpets. For me, I'll be fast passing Haunted Mansion, 7DMT, and Peter Pan's Flight today and my level of the team will be joining me. I might also have one of my fellow coaches' oldest daughter. My friend Ashley and her kids are rooming with me except that she won't arrive until Thursday night. Ashley's husband will be there because he's driving down with the girls, but the oldest child is a bit of a scaredy cat, so I think he'll take the youngest child and I'll tour with the oldest child. This means that I might have to forego Bg Thunder Mountain today or ride it later after they leave the park for the day, which would be kind of a bummer, but it's not the end of the world. After all, I'll be back in two weeks...

I'm hoping to get an opportunity to check out the Skipper Canteen either for lunch or dinner, but I'll have to be kind of flexible today since I'll have a lot of other families hanging out with me.

Friday, February 12:
MK has morning EMH at 8:00, so I might get up and head over there for like an hour, but I'll probably sleep in instead. We have practice at an offsite facility this morning and I'm the bus coordinator, so I'd have to be back at All-Star by 10:00 for our 10:15 departure. We practice from 11-2 and when we get back, a few of my team kids who bought multi-day passes are going to join me for DHS. Ashley will be here by this point, so she'll probably be with me also. We got fast passes for Indiana Jones, Toy Story Mania, and Star Tours. Some of my folks got RNR and/or ToT instead. I'm looking forward to checking out Star Wars Launch Bay and seeing Symphony in the Stars, which is the one nighttime show that I might actually love more than Wishes.

Saturday, February 13:
We compete at 8:00am. Why do I think that this is the one day that I'll have a hard time dragging myself out of bed? laugh Afterwards (I should be back to the resort around noon or so), it's Magic Kingdom in wall-to-wall people for the rest of the day. I get to hang out with Ashley and her family, so at least being in a smaller group will be refreshing. I have basically the same FPs as Thursday except I have BTMR instead of HM. I've invited my part of the team to meet me at Poly Beach for Dole Whips and Wishes.

Sunday, February 14:
With my work obligations complete, I'll be fighting the crowds at Animal Kingdom today with fast passes for Kilimanjaro Safaris, Festival of the Lion King, and Primeval Whirl. Most of my little team is going with me today, so I'm looking forward to spending the day with "my" kids. Ashley will be leaving right after her 8:00am meet session concludes. She's a nursing student and she's actually risking her grades this semester by coming along at all, so she'll be doing a very short version of the trip.

Monday, February 15:
Well, Epcot's the only one left! I'm not sure who all is tagging along today. I'll be hitting Spaceship Earth, Character Spot, and Test Track on FP. I'll also be making it a point to spend time at the Seas aquarium (don't care one bit about the ride), do Living with the Land (if no one is with me, I might do Behind the Seeds again), and do Journey into Imagination. I wanted to get a FP for the new Pixar Shorts thing at Imagination, but MDE says that distribution has ended for the day? I didn't think that would be a popular fast pass. Maybe it's not actually open yet? I've got a date with some flautas and churros in Mexico and a caramel apple in Germany. I'll probably stay for IllimiNations and I think we're getting a mini golf discount or maybe even a free round, so I'm going to try to make time to walk over to Fantasia Gardens in the afternoon. Hopefully I can get my fellow coaches to meet me here even if they're not doing a park day today.

Tuesday, February 16:
Departure Day. Honestly, with all of the people-management that will have to happen on this trip, I'll probably be ready to come back and re-boot. Plus it will be easy to leave knowing that I'll be 13 days away from my next trip on departure day!!

Our flight isn't until 5:00, so that's roughly a 2:00 DME pick-up. I'm going to DHS for the morning. Of course as luck would have it, there are no morning EMH anywhere. Still, DHS is so logistically easy to get in and out of, so I should be able to spend about 3.5-4 hours there in the morning. Of course if everyone else prefers, I might go with my fellow coaches to Disney Springs as long as I've gotten a change to go to Star Wars Launch Bay. I just got a Disney Destinations email that said that Kylo Ren coming to SWLB soon!

I'm not sure if I'll get a whole trip report finished in between. I'll try, but it depends on how much work backlog I have when I get home. So that's where everything stands at the moment.

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Trip Reports:
December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco

Allie's picture
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Wow! Sounds like insanity! Good luck and have a great time!

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Woah, I am exhausted!!!!!!!!!!! Sounds like fun!

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WOA! That's a heck of a trip - you are so going to need a vacation after that.
pillowfight

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amy1989's picture
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I'm exhausted just reading about it!!!! so many people!!! but I'm sure you can do it!!!

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That sounds like amazing plans but very busy also. I am sure that everyone will have a lovely time Smile

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Kristen K. wrote:
WOA! That's a heck of a trip - you are so going to need a vacation after that.
pillowfight

Fortunately I have one scheduled--two weeks after we get back. It was supposed to be a real estate conference at Swan & Dolphin, but the conference date was changed (in December!! Less than 3 month before the event was scheduled. It was moved to the week after Easter) and I didnt want to give up my Beach Club reservation or my BOG dinner, so. Now it's a vacation. silly

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Trip Reports:
December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco

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I'm home! What a cool trip! TR coming soon, but no guarantee I'll have it done before the next trip. Back to the World in 12 days for vacation! I don't think I even have a pre-trip up for that one and I'm really excited about it, so I'm off to do that first.

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Be good at something. It makes you valuable. Have something to bring to the table because that will make you more welcome. --Randy Pausch

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Trip Reports:
December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco

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*****TRIP REPORT BEGINS HERE*****

Wednesday, February 10 - Travel Day

Our flight wasn't until 4:10pm, which killed a Disney day, but it did give me some time to wrap up a few things and finish packing in the morning. The afternoon/evening before we had gotten a larger than expected snowfall. We were set to have practice from 4:30-8:30, but our facility canceled all classes...only to reevaluate an hour later and declare that teams would still practice as this was our last practice before flying out to competition. So there was a lot of time spent debating on what to do to make sure that everyone was safe while capitalizing on any available opportunity. By Wednesday late morning (I left my house at 11:15), most of the snow/ice event was over and aside from the fact that I had neglected to calculate time to scrape my windshield, my trip to the airport was not in any way hampered by the weather.

Usually, all of the coaches travel together, but one of my team parents had lost her traveling companions at the last minute because they had to back out of the meet and she is very uncomfortable driving and navigating in unfamiliar places. Since she was flying on our same flight, I was happy to pick up her and her daughter and drive them to the airport. Another family who was also on our flight caravanned with us. We were flying out of Dulles International on Frontier Airlines. If you recall my TR from the Villains unleashed event, my last experience with Frontier was less than stellar, so I was not excited about this decision.

We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare and ran into the two other families from our gym who would be traveling on our flight at check-in. (Unfortunately, one of our activities upon arrival was NOT taking a picture of the parking area/signs. That's Benn's job when we travel and he wasn't with me. That oversight would prove to be inconvenient and cold in about 7 days.) The rest of the coaches were nowhere to be found, but our director was driving and let's just say that she has more confidence in the probability that the universe will part the Red Sea for her if she is running late so that she can make it to the airport on time. Cutting it close stresses me out, so I was content to have my own little group to manage.

The Frontier terminal is devoid of any charm or decent food, so we went to Terminal A/B and grabbed lunch at Potbelly sandwich shop. I expected to have time to finish up a few loose ends for a trip that I was working on when I left that morning, but 10 minutes after we made our way to Terminal Z, it was the to board. Our flight had a few bumps (I still don't understand--WHY DO WE HIT BUMPS IN THE AIR??!!! eek ) and we took a pretty sharp turn coming in on the landing, but we made it. We arrived 30 minutes "ahead of schedule", but that tends to happen when you pad the flight time by 30 minutes. Clever move, Frontier.

We had decided to claim our own luggage Since we had landed after 6:00, our luggage wasn't guaranteed in our rooms until 10:00 and everyone was ready to be done with traveling and have access to their jammies so they could get a good night's sleep before Magic Kingdom day. Luggage claim seemed to take forever. We were kind of messing around getting over to the Baggage carousel and we still waited a good half hour before a single one of our bags appeared. They had four arriving flights slammed on the same carousel while the next five carousels in the row stood empty. It didn't help that 15 people out of our 17 member group had checked a bag...oy.

We made it to Magical Express around 7:00 and we were fortunate that our group filled the bus, so we didn't have very long to wait before departure. We arrived at Disney's All-Star Sports around 7:45 and had basically the longest check-in process in existence. We were assigned to the touchdown section, which had pros and cons. The pro was that we were right next to the main building, so we could have stayed the entire time without ever even seeing most of the resort. The con was that the smoking section was on our side of the main building and there was no way to avoid it when walking back & forth. By 8:30, we finally had our bags in our rooms and had made our way to the End Zone Food Court to get a bite to eat. Our rooms were nice--larger than I remember my room being at All-Star Music, so I was pleased by that. We did have one guest in our room block who got a leaky sink and another guest whose heat wasn't working and both were able to be reassigned.

We were a split decision on End Zone Food Court. While it definitely did not have the quality of the Old Mill Food Court at Port Orleans Riverside, I thought that the food was passable. Two of the other coaches agreed with me. Three of the coaches did not care for the food (all three who did not like it had burgers, so maybe that station isn't great). I had chicken potpie and one of our other coaches had pot roast. The potpie wasn't like either of the traditional potpies that you'd be served in Pennsylvania, but it was tasty in its own right. The pot roast looked singed to me, which was why I hadn't chosen that, but I was informed that it was actually quite tender. They had a nice selection of sides--salad, green beans, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, corm...and something else I think.

After dinner, we briefly discussed plans and then headed back to the room. Here are some resort pics...

We were in the touchdown section, room 221 and we had that entire wing I believe.

Touchdown at night--the kids had a great time playing on the artificial turf.

Touchdown Stairway

Homerun Hotel and auxiliary pool

You can see All-Star Music from All-Star Sports

Tennis section

Wetlands behind tennis section--you'd never know that you're still at the resort. This is what you see if you turn your back to the previous picture with the Spalding tennis ball container.

Hoops Hotel

Surfs Up

Surfs Up Pool

__________________

Be good at something. It makes you valuable. Have something to bring to the table because that will make you more welcome. --Randy Pausch

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Trip Reports:
December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco

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Thursday, February 11 - Magic Kingdom Day

So today was the day that I had been eagerly awaiting/ dreading for months. The day that we were going to try to keep more than 100 people together and happy in the Magic Kingdom. laugh rolling

My feet hit the floor when my alarm went off at 6:30am. I had decided that I would be at the bus stop no later than 7:20 so that I could be at the park when the turnstiles opened. I had several families who had purchased stand-alone tickets and had paid me to get the tickets for them and link them to their MyDisneyExperience account. I was a little bit nervous about this situation because I didn't think that I had been consistent in whether or not I had selected will call or standard mail. All of the tickets were linked to each family's MDE account, but I had physical tickets that I had delivered to some and not others and I had one family that I had never received a confirmation number for, despite having their tickets linked to MDE. I didn't want any other them to beat me to the park and have an issue getting in. As it turns out, we only had two individuals who had trouble. One was a family of five whose 5th member had to be technically "booked" in a different room so as not to exceed occupancy. Something happened that the CM at the gate couldn't see her ticket on MDE even though I could see it to reserve her fast passes. Luckily, I had a confirmation number for her and it was easily resolved. The other was a child who was under the supervision of another parent for the day and her mom had purchased a military ticket from another member of the group who accidentally bought an extra ticket. I thought for sure that she was going to be denied access, but they found the ticket, it was legit, and they left her in! There was no train or characters or Main Street Trolley Car dancers for the welcome show this morning??

Prior to arrival, I had sent an email with specific instructions to meet at the lefthand tunnel of the train station at 8:15. I figured that most people would grossly underestimate how much time travel would take (and I was right), so we would actually be assembled by 8:30. I wanted to get a picture in front of the train station, but by the time everyone arrived, it was too crowded to maneuver. AND...half of our group congregated at the righthand tunnel. *facepalm* Now, this should have been no big deal as all of the rest of the coaches were on the righthand side, too. We should have been able to meet up on Main Street. HOWEVER, we had two major things working against us. 1. The matching shirts that we were wearing were largely covered with jackets because it was about 45 degrees that morning. 2. I gave the people at the right the direction that we would walk down the street to the first photo pass photographer...except that there were no photographers out exactly at park open that morning. (Bear in mind that I had contacted Disney to ask if we could get special consideration for our group to enter early and get a photo and I was directed to the site detailing the $400+ Fine Arts Photography packages sarcastic ) So my people on the left ended up all the way at the hub as we searched for a photographer and our people on the right stopped at Town Square. So...close...

my team

We did eventually all make it to the hub where we got about 60 of our people together in one photo. Another 30 or so had already started towards Adventureland and others were taking photos of the rest of the group. I think we were about 100 strong at the beginning, but we never did get an official head count! I was actually really irritated by the photo pass photographer that finally did find us. He gave us a hard time about blocking the Partners statue!! He made some comment about it being rude to other guests who wanted pictures??? I'm sorry...were we not park guests?? And we were getting pictures for 60 people at once and we were completely finished in about 3 minutes. But anyway, we got our photos and we were on our way to Adventureland!

about 2/3 of the group

Unbeknownst to me at the time, one of our coaches had taken the wrong fork and momentarily ended up in Liberty Square. She contacted our two coaches who are sisters and they went to meet her at the hub. The "group of three" texted one of the parents to find out there we were. The parent mistakenly called "Jungle Cruise" "Pirates" and the group of 3 leapfrogged over us to POC.
Also, I had a little side project going on today--my best friend Ashley coaches for our team, too. She couldn't be in the park on Thursday because she's in nursing school and her clinical schedule dictated that she be in class on Thursday. It's non-negotiable. So she was flying down to meet us that evening, but her husband Jessie had driven their two daughters down. Their oldest (Aaliyah) is PETRIFIED of rides--mostly because her mother tricked her into getting on a roller coaster when she was about 6 and she has no trust at all when it comes to adults telling her that rides aren't scary--except me because I "don't like rides" either. We all met up at Hersheypark together the summer before last and Aaliyah and I rode the scrambler together. I talked to her the whole time about what the motion would feel like and how the ride worked. We had a blast together and I'm basically the only one she trusts when it comes to trying new rides. I KNEW that I could break her of her fear and my goal was to work her up to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Well, in the confusion, I had gotten separated from them and they missed Jungle Cruise because Aaliyah didn't trust her dad that it was ok to get on and it wouldn't be scary.

The rest of us entered the queue for Jungle Cruise together and I lost track, but I think that we filled about 4 boats. Unfortunately they were launching the boats at about half speed, so we had a long wait until we finally collected all of our families again. Then we proceeded to Pirates. I met up with Jessie and the girls outside of Pirates and Jessie was beyond frustrated that Aaliyah has refused to ride Jungle Cruise. So I asked her to go on Pirates with me. She refused, so I got down on her level and started talking to her about how I would never trick her into getting on a ride that was scary and that it was selfish to make someone wait with her all day because she refused to get on any rides. I didn't mention the drop because I was pretty confident that I could talk her through it. I held my breath and fortunately, she relented! Hallelujah! First ride achieved. Now to get to the end and hope for a smiling, happy child. We sat down in the last row of the boat. I told her that she could hold my hand and squeeze it as tight as she wanted and that we were going to go down a small drop and that the drop felt a little scary for a second because it was in the dark, but we would count to five together and by the time we finished, it would be over. We made it through the drop and as we sailed through each scene, her eyes got wider with amazement and her smile got bigger and bigger!! Victory! When we got off, all she could talk about was how great the ride was. yay yeah stars

Our three "missing" coaches in the back row

Some of our families on Splash--Irina is first picture, row 2, on the right. Someone tricked her into riding! Our boss is front & enter.

My intent was to skip Splash because it was cold and go to Big Thunder. I didn't think that Aaliyah would ride Big Thunder, but I knew that everyone else would have fun. Well, everyone wanted to ride Splash. (The group of 3 was still an attraction ahead of us at this point.) For those who know me, you know that I'm not a fan of big hills, drops, etc. I love to go fast. I love to spin. I hate anything that makes me feel like I'm free falling. So when I got elected to babysit the people (including Aaliyah) who didn't want to ride, I was perfectly content. We waited for a few minutes--it was freezing, so the line was super short--and then we hopped on Big Thunder. I explained the ride to Aaliyah and she agreed to try it. If you could have seen that kid's grin when we got off of that ride--ohmygosh. She couldn't WAIT to tell her mom that she had ridden a roller coaster and actually liked it!

4 of my kids--left to right: Alexus, Jada, Riley, and Lauren

I persuaded the group that was still together (I think there were about 25 of us still staying mostly around the same area at this point) that we should have lunch and that Pecos Bill's was a dandy place. We waited outside for the group of three for I don't know, maybe 10-15 minutes. When they finally found us, two of them declared that they didn't want to eat Mexican. Several other people decided that they weren't hungry and others wanted popcorn. So at this point, the group fractured and I was with my fellow coach Irina, Jessie and the girls, and two of the kids from the group that I coach (Jada and Alexus) and Jada's mother. Jada and her mom were the ones that I had driven to the airport. They were nervous about traveling on their own, so they were sticking to me like glue! Alexus and Jada are BFF's. Alexus was traveling with her grandparents and since her grandfather has brain cancer, it was practical for her to walk the park with Jada and let grandma and grandpa take it easy and enjoy the atmosphere.

The kids enjoyed the queue at HM--Jessie's youngest daughter Hailey

I learned later that it was a good idea to split when we did. Our program director apparently had it out with the group of three for leaving the coaches' group and not making enough effort to meet back up. On some level, they may have intentionally been trying to dodge the rest of the group and our director had paid for our coaches to be in the park for the day, so there was a certain level of responsibility that went along with that. The whole group of coaches ended up leaving Irina and me as we never did catch back up after lunch, but we were fine because honestly, my idea of a great day at Magic Kingdom was to hang out with my team families. I have a lot of friends amongst the families and I was looking forward to watching them experience Disney and interact with each other--especially since many were first time visitors. We eventually got the official ok from the boss to wander around on our own. You'll like this--she decided to park hop to Epcot at around 2:00 with some of her families and told us that "they had already done everything in this park".

We need up having to do stand-by because Alexus didn't have a fast pass. I had made everyone else's reservations in my group except for hers. 30 minutes lost to stand-by queue. Bummer. My little group stayed in tact through Haunted Mansion and Mickey's Philharmagic, which of course everyone loved! I think this is the most underrated attraction in Fantasyland. Then Jessie and the girls went to Tomorrowland Speedway for their FP. I went to 7DMT for mine. (By the time everyone else had gotten themselves together and purchased tickets, 7DMT was long since gone.) Jada and her mom went to Space Mountain for theirs and then on to the resort to swim for awhile. Irina decided to wander around the park by herself for a little bit. I met back up with Jessie and the girls and we did TTA, met some characters, and caught a little bit of the parade.

Finally got a good witch shot where the sun wasn't in my face and the cart was stopped long enough to grab my camera:

Aaliyah and Hailey on TTA

The Merida meet & greet was really cool--lots of interactive stuff to occupy kids:

Meanwhile at Epcot:

I checked in with the other families on my team and one of the families (Miller) had ended up alone, so I joined up with them while Jessie and the girls went back to the resort for a little bit. We did TTA again, Astro Orbiter, the teacups, Under the Sea, and 7DMT on standby (about 90 minutes). We met back up with Jessie and hopped on IASW and BTMR again before catching the end of the first MSEP and then we watched Celebrate the Magic. Jessie's youngest was starting to melt down and she REALLY doesn't like fireworks, so they left and I stayed for fireworks with the Miller family. We swung by Casey's Corner for corn dog nuggets and hot chocolate--dinner at last--and then headed for the bus. We made it back to the resort around 11:30. It was a very full day, but everyone that I was with had a fantastic time.

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Be good at something. It makes you valuable. Have something to bring to the table because that will make you more welcome. --Randy Pausch

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Trip Reports:
December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco

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Wow, I am truly impressed you kept your group together as long as you did!! That's quite an accomplishment - kudos to your planning. awesome

Love this "they had already done everything in the park" - Ken and I still haven't done everything in MK, although some of that is by choice. laugh

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JanJ wrote:
Wow, I am truly impressed you kept your group together as long as you did!! That's quite an accomplishment - kudos to your planning. awesome

I'm impressed too. Good job.

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Ok, the story about Aaliyah has me in tears. Either I am Disney Homesick already (only been home 2 hours) or I remember telling Abigail it would all be ok.....

Yay Aaliyah!!!!!

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Thanks, friends. It really was a nice day! mickey

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Be good at something. It makes you valuable. Have something to bring to the table because that will make you more welcome. --Randy Pausch

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Trip Reports:
December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco

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Wow! Good job keeping your crew together as much as you did. Your director cracks me up.

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Friday, February 12 - Practice Day & DHS

Since our last practice was Tuesday night and some of our teams didn't compete until Monday, we had scheduled a practice offsite at Jacksons Gymnastics in Orlando from 11-2. Of course since we were staying on Disney property, transportation to practice was going to be an issue. The gym paid the practice fee per athlete, but the parents were going to be on their own to get the kids there. I priced out a cab and they were looking at around $100 roundtrip, so I started shopping buses. Of course Disney recommends Mears because that's who they contract with for event transportation. I found a better price and MUCH friendlier service from Avalos Transportation Company (ATC Bus). I was able to provide transportation for $20/child.

Once again, the morning started early. Ashley had arrived the night before and we were going to go over to ESPN Wide World of Sports to scope out the venue and register early so we didn't have to deal with registration prior to our 8:00am sessions the next two days. For our event, buses ran from the All-Stars twice per hour at :11 and :41 and from ESPN at :00 and :30. We were on our way to get in line for the 7:41 bus when I got a call from a parent. Our boys teams were competing on Friday while our girls teams were practicing. Three families, including the Munufie family have both a son and a daughter on our teams. I had agreed to meet him a little bit early to take Abigail for practice so that he could go watch Michael's competition. The practice bus was meeting at 10:00 and the competition started at 10:15. Early to me meant that I would collect Abigail around 9:30 so that they could get on the 9:41 bus, but apparently early to dad was 7:30am! laugh I really didn't care because Abigail is a really cool kid. Plus her family is from Ghana and her parents are still breaking down a small language barrier. So Ashley and I just took her along to ESPN with us.

Registration tent:

ESPN entrance

Registration was clearly marked, but we were oblivious to the directional signage, so we did get a little bit turned around. Eventually we found the tent. I think I would have had more success following the signs had it not been for doing runDisney events in the past. I'm accustomed to going to the HP building for registration and that's where I was headed. However, this time the turnstiles were manned and active, so we couldn't even get to the HP building. Registration was in a tent out by the globe. So we got registered and went up to make sure that our credentials worked and almost hit a snag. Abigail had already registered and as a competitor, she had free access to the facility, but we had not asked her dad for her athlete credential. Luckily, we explained the situation to the CM's manning the turnstiles and they let us take her along through.

Abigail--my new favorite Disney picture:

Our meet was held in the Josten's Center and as is typical of "convention center" meets, there were three separate gyms set up within the same building. Of course I know the facility well, so I knew that whichever building we were in, we would have a nice experience. So we scoped things out, got a few pictures, and headed back to the resort. We had time, so we grabbed a light breakfast at End Zone Food Court and poked around in the shop for a little bit while we waited for the bus.

Jostens Center

Awards tent and vendor area:

The practice bus arrived around 9:55 and we had everyone loaded up by 10:15. It's fortunate that we were ready early because we did hit some traffic on the way to Jacksons. The gym was definitely not what we are used to--we are VERY spoiled by our facility at home. My kids had a pretty rough practice, but it was still better than going 4 days without any practice and trying to compete cold after traveling and sleeping in an unfamiliar place and then walking around Magic Kingdom all day the day before. Jessie and Aaliyah spent the morning walking around DHS. Hailey is a gymnast on our team, so she was on the bus with Ashley and me.

On the practice bus!

My team at the practice gym (well the half of my team that was able to make the trip)

On the way home, things started to get interesting. Our boss is not a Disney fan. (And I totally get why--she is a very high-energy person and she lives like she's on speed 24/7. For her, a vacation with the level of stimulation that Disney provides is sheer hell. It's why she tore through the Magic Kingdom in less than 5 hours and declared it conquered. For relaxation, she needs quiet and serenity, so the idea of dinner at a nice calm restaurant was heaven compared to the chaos of a food court meal.) She and two of our other coaches were very underwhelmed by the food court at All-Star Sports, so when Ashley unwittingly mentioned that the vehicle that her husband had driven down could accommodate all of us to drive offsite, she jumped at the opportunity to get Ashley to drive everyone to Bahama Breeze on 535/Vineland Rd. near the outlets. This would have been all well in good, but Ashley and I were supposed to meet up with Jessie and we were all going to Hollywood Studios for the evening where we had fast passes that started expiring at 5:15. Then we got back and ended up with a child whose parents were 30 minutes late picking her up. By the time we drove offsite, ate dinner picked up Jessie, dropped off our co-workers, and got to DHS, it was 5:40. We had a good time like we always do at Bahama Breeze, but I knew that Ashley was stressed out because Jessie was irritated that we lost so much park time after practice was over.

Bahama Breeze selfie!

So anyway, DHS. I forget if Ashley and Jessie missed ToT or RNR, but they made the other one. They were going to ride the one that they had missed standby, but fortunately, they ran into another parent who had missed her fast pass due to an issue at the restaurant where they had eaten. The CM graciously let them use the expired pass, so Ashley and Jessie tried the same story and it worked! Of course it's not entirely untrue. We were delayed at our meal. It was just an offsite meal. Aaliyah and I got in the standby line for Toy Story because I hadn't been able to get a Toy Story FP for her. The queue has changed already. The talking Potato Head is gone and in its place, there is a new switchback in that area of the queue. Also, they've removed the map that used to run off the wall onto the floor. Aaliyah loved TSM and I failed in my quest to hit 200,000. I had a 178,xxx--still a kitty. We met back up with the rest of the family at One Man's Dream. They're still showing the Zootopia preview in the theater, which still really torques me out of shape. I think that preview expires the day after we leave on the next trip and hopefully they'll put the Walt Disney biography back in that theater. I think it's such a great film and with a practically empty park, their upcoming film previews could go somewhere else.

Ellis family on RNR

Not really digging the queue changes at TSM. I hope it's temporary while the third track is added

I want that deer!

Green Army Men playing around!

Once we were reunited, it was on to Star Tours! Ashley almost got sick. Aaliyah survived and I think Jessie and Hailey liked it. I was thrilled because we got scenes from The Force Awakens!! We doubled back over to Star Wars Launch Bay where we met Kylo Ren muchlove and Chewbacca. The Kylo Ren encounter was so awesome!! Fortunately/unfortunately, we missed Symphony in the Stars. Hailey, Ashley & Jessie's youngest, is afraid of fireworks, so we saved everyone a meltdown, but I love Symphony in the Stars and was looking forward to seeing it. Fortunately, there's always next week! We were kind of trying to catch Voyage of the Little Mermaid since LM is Ashley's favorite Disney movie, but the timing didn't work out on that on either.

Launch Bay

Protecting LiLi from Kylo Ren

Ash & Chewie

App enabled BB8 in gift shop muchlove

After DHS, we drove over to Disney Springs. This is going to sounds stupid, but we couldn't figure out how to get into the parking garages. I looked at the maps and it looks like you have to enter the old West Side parking lot and the garage entrance is inside the lot, but in the dark in a newly reconstructed area, that was not apparent. So we went around the corner and parked at SSR. Everyone was hungry, so we stopped at Earl of Sandwich. We made through Once Upon a Toy, Pin Traders, and the Lego Store before Hailey completely wore out on us. We got back to All-Star around 11:30. 8:00am competition for me in the morning!

Crazy Potato Heads

LiLi at the lego store

Thanks for reading! Time to go watch the Disneyland 60th special on ABC!!

__________________

Be good at something. It makes you valuable. Have something to bring to the table because that will make you more welcome. --Randy Pausch

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Trip Reports:
December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco

Allie's picture
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Wow, I am completely in awe reading this! I can't imagine the planning and logistics that go into this kind of group trip! And then to have other coaches completely throw wrenches in...I would go nuts! So huge kudos to you for keeping a level head! awesome

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Saturday, February 13

Up early again today! I'm always early for competitions because I like to have a few minutes to survey the area and be there to meet the kids, so I could have made it on time to our 8:00 meet by taking the 7:41 bus, but I made sure that I was there for the 7:11 bus just to be safe. To save money for the program, our director had elected not to bring Lauren, my "partner in crime", my level 5 co-coach. Since we only had 8 girls from our level competing, we expected to be in one group, so Taylor, our fill-in coach, would only be with me for support. Well, turns out that our session was super small--only about 40 competitors, so that meant that we had a maximum of 5 kids in each group and Taylor had to take her own group. Fortunately, she does work with our group occasionally at practice, so she does know my kids. Also, this is my group's 3rd year on competitive team and they are 10-13 years-old. They are starting to be a little bit more self-sufficient. One of the coolest things about this meet was that there were international competitors, something that we never see at meets in Pennsylvania or Maryland. One of our groups rotated with a girl named Valentina from Ecuador. It was really cool. I got to test out my Spanish a little bit with her coach, who spoke virtually no English. I quickly realized that I don't know the Spanish words for "vault table", "springboard", "bar settings", "your turn", and other very important things that coaches have to say to each other when sharing a rotation! Fortunately, Valentina was able to translate.

Of course it's Disney, so we already know that the facility was really nice and the meet was very well organized. It's not unusual for a meet to take 3-3.5 hrs. and we were finished competing in 2 hours. Usually in the format that this meet was in I feel very rushed because there's a lot of pressure to keep the kids moving so that the meet stays on time. This time, everyone was very laid back and all of the officials were more concerned with the kids being safe and having a good experience than they were about their meet schedule. Usually, competition hosts provide a room where coaches can grab a free meal, but these folks gave us Disney Dollars so that we could eat anywhere on property.

We had a pretty good meet. Our scores were lower than they have been during the rest of the season, but that's typical for an event of this size. Even with a season low team score, we still took 2nd place team and had multiple top 3 event finishers, so I was very happy with how they did and the kids were pleased with themselves, too.

Our team with our new friend, Valentina

Most of the kids took a break today and hit the pool or went to Disney Springs. A few went to Fantasia Gardens to play mini golf and then off to the Boardwalk for dinner. I went to Magic Kingdom with Ashley and her family. She had the whole day off today since her session wasn't until Sunday. Ashley and family were already at the park, so I made my way to Casey's Corner for some corn dog nuggets (my new addiction) and met up with them at Crystal Arts on Main Street. It was right around 12:30, so Casey's Corner was MOBBED.

Jessie and Ashley wanted to ride Haunted Mansion and Aaliyah hadn't even wanted to do it the first time and Hailey didn't want to ride again, so I took the girls while they got some alone time. They haven't been on the best terms all of the time lately, so it was important for them to have both family time and couple time while we were in Florida and since we've been home, things seem to be much better, so hopefully they brought a little bit of pixie dust home with them. The girls wanted to see Dream Along with Mickey, which was just starting, and afterwards, I took them to see the Dapper Dans and Jim the Casey's Corner pianist. Aaliyah enjoyed both groups, but Hailey was definitely a little bit bored/tired. Unfortunately, Jim was on a Mary Poppins kick today. I love Mary Poppins, but the girls have never seen it (I know, sacrilege. It's clearly a sign of bad parenting and I promise I'll speak to Ashley about it), so they couldn't relate to what was going on.

We met up with Jessie and Ashley about an hour after we had separated and we headed to Under the Sea. Ashley was super excited to do Under the Sea because The Little Mermaid is her favorite Disney movie. We did Enchanted Tales with Belle--Jessie got to be a knight and Hailey was cast as Chip. Aaliyah didn't want to play a part. This attraction is way more fun when you know the people who are in the show.

Jessie wearing Hailey's Maleficent ears

Ashley loving life!

Tomorrowland time. We did TTA and Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, where Ashley, Aaliyah, and Hailey all got chosen for various things! I swear I took pictures of this happening, but I can't find them... We had a FP issue for today because once again, I had gotten my FP's at 60 days and they hadn't gotten theirs until about 10 days before because their exact plans were so up in the air between Ashley's school schedule and deciding who was actually going and for how many days. Oy! I ran down to 7DMT while Ashley & family browsed the Space Mountain gift shop and then I hung out with Aaliyah while the rest of the family rode Space Mountain. We finished up with Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and it was definitely cool to see Aaliyah so excited about taking her mom on her new favorite ride!

Ashley and family decide to go offsite for dinner and I was tempted to join them because they were planning to go to Chevy's Tex Mex, which is one of my favorite places to eat from when we lived in Virginia, but I was meeting my team for fireworks at the Poly and I knew I'd never make it back in time. So I walked over to the Contemporary for dinner at the Contempo Cafe. I had the salmon with wild rice and green beans. The slab of salmon was huge and it was flaky and juicy and tender. The rice melted in your mouth and the green beans were nice and crisp. The lighting makes it look not so great, but this dinner was seriously yummy. I forget what the soup was--seafood chowder maybe? I remember that it was really good. This is the second good meal that I've had at Contempo Cafe.

After dinner, I browsed the shops looking for a sweatshirt. I'll admit that I'm fairly particular when it come to buying clothing--especially an item as expensive as a Disney sweatshirt. I had consciously decided not to drag a sweatshirt or jacket with me that morning even though I knew that it would be chilly in the evening, so I was quite prepared for the fact that I was about to spend way more money than I wanted to so I didn't freeze on the beach. However, I couldn't find a single sweatshirt in two stores that I would want to wear again after that night that was under $60. The least expensive option was the 2016 shirt, but I hate buying clothing with the year on it. So I hopped the monorail to the Poly thinking that the selection there HAD to be better. Wrong! It was worse! I was supposed to meet my team at 9:00 and it was 8:15. There was no way that I could make it to MK and back in 45 minutes and if I monorailed to GF, I'd never make it back around the loop in time, but luckily just then, I remembered about the walking path between Poly and GF. I asked a nice CM for directions and I was off! I made it in under 10 minutes. First I tried the mercantile and that was a bust. There was one shirt that was kind of OK if I really couldn't find anything else. I tried the other shop on the 2nd floor--oops, men's clothing and not really Disney apparel. If I was going to buy a sweatshirt, I as least wanted it to be a Disney sweatshirt. Tried the women's apparel store on the first floor. Same issue. Then finally, the last beacon of hope! The little beach store across the lobby! If you're keeping track, this was store number 8 and finally, I found a stockpile of DVC merchandise. My first choice was tight in the arms and across my shoulders. That would never do, but I did find a lovely DVC grey crewneck for just $35! Not only was it my favorite out of all of the shirts I had looked at, but it was also the least expensive. Score.

I might have been in a hurry, but there's always time for good music

I rushed back to Poly just in time to meet my team. I had left some space in the schedule for everyone to be a little bit late, but everyone was already there when I arrived, so we had a little bit of time to kill. The kids entertained themselves (and us) by exploring the merchandise in the shop. They were a little bit rowdy, but we were sure to check that order was restored before we left the shop. Some of the moms had spotted the Tambu lounge, so I offered to take the kids out to the beach to wait. Unfortunately, it was a little bit cool for most of the kids and we ended up with only 4 kids, one parent, and myself on the beach. One of the other parents took the kids back and we met up with the remaining parents after they finished their Lapu Lapu's. They were riot with their "pineapple babies" on the monorail/bus ride home!

A new friend for Dee mickey

Love my new sweatshirt! oh yeah, and my kids. love my kids, too...

I think we made it back around 11:00. Sunday was another 8:00 meet session for me because I was helping Ashley with her team.

__________________

Be good at something. It makes you valuable. Have something to bring to the table because that will make you more welcome. --Randy Pausch

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Trip Reports:
December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco

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Sunday, February 14

I offered to coach Ashley's Level 4's with her today so that Taylor, who was coaching 7 sessions to everyone else's 1-2 sessions, could take a morning off. So we were back in the gym for an 8:00am session. At level 4, a travel meet is still about learning how to adapt to knew surroundings and how to keep the excitement of being at a new place in check while you try to do your skills, so it wasn't too concerning that they didn't place as a team. Individually, a lot of the girls fared well. The meet was a little bit longer than the day before, but we still made it to Epcot by 1:15.

Ashley's Team

Arriving at Epcot

We had an ADR for Coral Reef at 2:45 and we were hungry, so we tried to check in early. No dice, so we made a stop at Sunshine Seasons for a snack. The Living with the Land standby was 45 minutes, so we opted for the Seas with Nemo. The kids loved it of course and then we were right on time for our ADR. Lunch at Coral Reef was quite delicious. I had some sort of seafood scampi skewers without the scampi and my favorite fireball cocktail. I really enjoyed watching the divers in the fish tank, too.

Coral Reef

Fireball

After "lunch" (around 4:00), I left Ashley and family and hopped to Animal Kingdom (open until 8:00 tonight, but most of my favorite attractions close early) to hang out with my level 5 families. We had a bit of trouble meeting up at first. There were three families at Rainforest cafe and they were trying to meet me at the restaurant exit (which one, right?)I waited at the park exit and couldn't see them, so I tried the other exit. No dice. I walked all through the shop and finally found them on the restaurant side of the turnstiles. (I keep calling them turnstiles. They don't really turn anymore. Do we have a different name for them? Touchpoints maybe?) By the time I found them, two of the families had rushed off to make a Dinosaur fast pass. I had a Kilimanjaro Safaris fast pass, but my third family did not and the standby time was 90 minutes. We decided on Primeval Whirl instead because this family had to leave the park within the hour. They were stopping over at their in-laws' home in the Cape Canaveral area to visit, do laundry, and re-pack suitcases because when their flight landed the following morning, mom and the girls would be rushing across the airport to make their flight to the Philippines where they would stay with mom's family for 3 weeks. So we enjoyed a quick ride together and then they were off!

I understood my other two families to say that they were now in line for EE and expected a 50 minute wait. Kilimanjaro Safaris was now closed, so I just wandered around for a bit. I found a line of people in a building that didn't really have much information about what was happening inside, so I hopped in line. I knew it wasn't a roller coaster--I'd have known about that--so I figured that it was a safe line to be in. Turns out it was Safari Mickey & Minnie! Cool. I assume that the building was "Adventurers' Outpost". I think that's the name of the building for their meet & greet. It was a great example of how you can be virtually an expert on Disney Parks and still find something cool that's been right under your nose all along. After I met Minnie and Mickey, I grabbed an ice cream cone for "dinner" and took a few twilight photos, realizing suddenly that I'd never been in Animal Kingdom at sunset. It was a really nice time to enjoy the park. It was cool, crowd-free, and very serene.

Somewhere in Africa, I received a text that my other families were now off of Dinosaur--turns out they had gotten back in the standby line after their fast passes and had not actually gone to EE. I met up with them at It's Tough to be a Bug. Yep. Still hate that show. The aerosol scene is awful. It seems like it lasts forever. I felt like I was suffocating. We did survive and everyone agreed that I was correct in my assessment that this is not a pleasant attraction.

Back to Dinoland! I think I've said it before and I'll say it again--I really disliked the whole idea of Dinoland at first, but it's becoming the place that I spend the most time in AK. I had a Primeval Whirl fast pass, so I used that while the girls hopped back on Dinosaur, now down to a 10 minute wait. By the time they finished, the wait for Primeval Whirl had dropped to 20 minutes, so we all hopped in line. When we finished, it was at a 10 minute wait with 10 minutes left until park closing, so we hopped on for one more spin. I love this ride.

A repertoire of multiple Dinosaur and PW rides will give you all kids of energy. I had planned to go back to the room at park close tonight instead of hopping somewhere else, but the girls were still all supercharged and we had one girl's aunt and the other girl's mom on board with continuing the fun. They didn't have park hoppers, so we decided on a walk around the Boardwalk and a kitchen sink at Beaches & Cream!

The children--mesmerized by the tabletop jukebox

My first ever Kitchen Sink!

Entertainment was scarce when we arrived at Boardwalk. I stopped for some mac & cheese bites, which took ages, but at least we could see part of IllumiNations in the distance while we waited. We got a table at Beaches & Cream in about 15 minutes and the girls messed around in the arcade while we waited. Luckily I was still carrying 4 arcade cards that had a non-$0 balance, so they were able to occupy themselves. We did have 5 people, but the kitchen sink was definitely easier to tackle than I expected. Does anyone know if it has crushed pineapple? I kept bracing myself for that flavor, but I never did hit any. Did I just luck out or is that not one of the toppings?

After dessert, everyone was pretty well exhausted, so we headed back to the ranch. I actually got home a little before 11:00 tonight and finally had time to pop into the shop.

__________________

Be good at something. It makes you valuable. Have something to bring to the table because that will make you more welcome. --Randy Pausch

Find me on Facebook

Trip Reports:
December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco

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Monday, February 15

Down to our last full day already. This was my only full day off as well and I was looking forward to spending the day at Epcot with the two families that had traveled to the airport with me. Today was the one day when I knew that everyone I was touring with had the same fast passes! Hallelujah. We met at the bus stop at around 8:20. As always happens when you arrive early, there was virtually no wait for the bus, so we actually arrived at Epcot around 8:40. Fortunately the turnstiles were opened at 8:45, so we basically walked right in. Our first priority was to meet Baymax and because he's not the top 3 most popular attractions in Future World, we walked in with no wait. We might have literally been the first people to meet him that morning. The next time I do this, I'm wearing my Baymax shirt that I made for Wine & Dine. He was so awesome! Of course I got a "fist bump". It was great.

Jada and Jenna

Baymax

We did Living with the Land early since the wait had been so long the day before and with Soarin' down, this was also walk-on at 9:xx in the morning. We walked onto the Seas with Nemo (this was supposed to be busy day--did anyone even come to the park today??!) and finished up in time for our Spaceship Earth FP. We got some awesome pics at the Seas. I should mention here that I went "camera-less" for the first time this trip. All of my photos are cell phone photos and I'm really pleased with them for not having the power of a real camera behind them. I like the small file sizes as it let's me conserve storage space and the camera on my iPhone 6 is way better in low light than my Sony Cybershot. We lucked out and hit the aquarium right around feeding time. Jada, one of my teenagers, declared this to be her favorite attraction in WDW, which warms my heart. Next we had our FP at Character Spot. We got so many pictures there and they turned out great!

Boat selfie

Rice

I love that these lettuce containers are kept in a constant state of Mickey-ness

Manatee feeding time

Rays

Turtles

Spaceship Earth

Character Spot

Next we had a decision. We could either fit in Journey into Imagination or Ellen's Sleepytime Adventure before Test Track. I voted for Imagination and we walked to the pavilion. It was a mob scene! 45 minute standby!! And trying to get to the Pixar Shorts theater looked impossible. So we opted for Ellen--at least I knew that there'd be virtually no wait there! laugh It turns out that one of our parents is a huge Ellen fan, so it was probably the better choice anyway for our group. Plus I hadn't been on this attraction in 3 1/2 years. That's right, I have managed to bypass Ellen for 7 trips. I guess I was about due. I like Ellen as much as the next person and Bill Nye is cool, but I'm just not a fan of this attraction at all. Ellen and Bill Nye had zero screen chemistry together, so the attraction set-up is flat, but that's the least of my complaints about this dinosaur (pun intended). It's such a great concept and I love the Jeopardy/Ellen's dream idea. I just think that the whole thing is executed so poorly. The ride component is too short. Disney created/bought this amazing moving theater concept and all it does is drive through a very small dinosaur land and then turn you around and point you at different movie screens? It seems like a waste of very interesting ride technology. Also, there needs to be something better than a movie at the end. You go through this big animatronic dinosaur build-up scene to come out the other side and watch a movie about where oil comes from?? Maybe we could have a ride through scene where it's really hot and there are rock formations on either side and the cars rumble a bit on the track (something to signify that we're inside the Earth's mantle watching the dinosaurs become fossil fuels) and then finish in a scene that represents an oil field? Maybe an ecological disaster scene to promote the reasons why alternative energy is important? They had a good thing going with the dinosaurs and then totally phoned it in on the rest of the attraction. #rantover

Ok, Test Track time! Of course everyone loved it--I don't think I've ever met anyone who doesn't love this ride. We did have to split up here because Jada and her mom added on later and I couldn't get them a Test Track FP, but going single rider, they were finished within 5 minutes after the rest of us, so it was not a problem. I rode with Jenna and her mom and we left Jenna design the car. Around this time, I got a text from my boss that all of the coaches were getting together and taking a cab to Bahama Breeze for dinner (Ashley had gone home already because she had to be back for school-no more car) and to meet at the hotel at 5:00. Ugh. I had suggested that we use our free miniature golf vouchers and then I was going to pay everyone's cover charge for Jellyrolls, but "no one" wanted to do that. I wanted to go, but I knew that based on the pace that we were touring, we would be in the back of the World Showcase when I needed to leave. I don't know if anyone else has ever timed it, but it's about a 30 minute walk from USA to the front of the park, so I would have to leave around 3:30 to guarantee that I could make a 5:00 meeting time. My solace was that this was a work trip. I was being paid to be here. And I'm going back in 5 days.

Anyway, at this point, I still had about 2 1/2 hours to spend with my families and soak in some "culture" (aka food & shopping). We were all starving and we started at Mexico, so La Cantina was the logical lunch option. This is where tragedy ensued--the Flautas have left the menu. I repeat, the Flautas have left the menu. sad mad Sad( That's a chicken waffle from Sleepy Hollow and Flautas gone in the same trip. And I was JUST here 3 months ago!! I tried whatever the thing was the replaced them. I don't even remember what it was, but it was not delicious--I remember...soggy. Luckily the churros saved the day and the caramel dipping sauce is still in tact for now. We should have gone to Kringla Bakerii og Cafe.

Ok crisis over. We visited Mexico, where I picked up some Chupa Chups to put in a little gift bag that I was making for the kids who couldn't attend the meet. We went to Norway and took pictures with the troll. It's so barren in Norway right now. I'm actually looking forward to the Frozen ride opening just to breathe some life into that pavilion. The temple was getting a facelift in China and they didn't even cover it with a nice scrim. It has basically a burlap sack over it. No one was interested in the movie--some day I'm actually going to watch it. Maybe I can talk mom into it this week. We stopped for a caramel apple in Germany. Jada's proper first name is Carmella, so I took a picture of Carmella in the caramel store. My apple was honestly a little bit lackluster. We got it cut so that we could share and the caramel wasn't cut the whole way through, so it was quite the sticky mess.

We breezed through Germany pretty quickly without even stopping in the shops, but when we got to Italy, wow. Jada's mom is Italian and she was in heaven! We were in Italy for more than an hour. This is usually the pavilion that I don't have much connection to and we just breeze through it quickly. It was really cool to stop and enjoy it with Jada's mom. We watched the flag wavers--this was the first time that I've seen them--and she spoke with them in Italian. We enjoyed Sergio the Juggler and had wine and Limoncello shots. I also found that through the wine store entrance, there is a whole other shop that I've never been in! I picked up some chocolates for the goody bags there. While we were enjoying drinks, Riley and her family found us while they were walking the other direction. They shared some Hi-Chew from Japan with us. This was the first time I had tried it and I think I have a new favorite fruit candy. I had to leave at this point, but I continued around the long way so that I could pick up some Hi-Chew for the goody bags as well.

Jenna's Dad

Jada'a Mom

Jada and Riley

Flower and Garden preview

I made it back to All-Star Sports around 4:45, which gave me enough time to run to the room and change because I knew it was going to be chilly in the evening. Most of us assembled downstairs at 5:00, but someone was missing, which meant that we never got a cab until 5:20. I could have snagged about 40 more minutes at Epcot. We got to Bahama Breeze at 5:30, but we never got seated until 6:30. Our director had called ahead three times to request a table by the fire pit and since we were bringing 12 people, we really didn't want to just take our chances. They wouldn't hold the table and another large party arrived ten minutes before us and claimed the table. gaah We were eventually seated and we had a nice meal and drinks. I had the Salmon from the create your own fish. I forget what "style" it was, but there was to much of the green stuff for my liking, so I scraped some of it off and then it was amazing! The Bahamian seafood chowder was so good the first day that I tried is again. Dana and I had the hot chocolate cocktail. You should add your choice of shot, so I tried fireball. That was a little much. I think the Rum Chata was probably the better option. I had originally thought that maybe I could still go to Jellyrolls in the evening if we finished dinner in time, but we ended up being there until after 11:00, which would have meant transferring through Disney Springs or Magic Kingdom to get there because Hollywood Studios had long since closed for the evening and that's such a hassle. Plus, I think the pianists only play until 1am or 2am at the latest until I would have gotten there, it would have barely been worth the cover charge.

Dana and me

Casey and Taylor (coaches)

Kayla and Jaime (gymnasts)

Lisa (director)

So thus ends the last full day of the trip. Fortunately, we did have an evening flight out, so we had a few hours for fun the next day.

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Trip Reports:
December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco

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I have to say it looks like you had a great time! And, seriously, congrats on how well-organized everything was. We went with 7 people and it was a logistical nightmare at points trying to either keep everyone together or figure out what we all wanted to do.

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Tuesday, February 16

Dana and I had decided that we would do to Disney Springs this morning. I had fast passes for Hollywood Studios, but I felt bad because we had roomed together and other than two meals at Bahama Breeze, we had seen each other for about 15 minutes per day. We got down to the bus stop at about 9:55 and apparently we had just missed a bus. So we waited. And waited. And waited. Turns out that officially, Disney Springs buses only run every 30 minutes--at least during the day. At 10:24 the bus finally rolled up. We were combined with Music and Movies this morning, so we didn't get to Disney Springs until 10:50. I was kind of annoyed because based on the every 30 minutes schedule, we had to be back at the bus stop by 1:00 to guarantee that we would have time to get our luggage from Bell Services and make our 2:05 Tragical Express pick-up.

We grabbed a quick brunch at Earl of Sandwich. I forget what I had--either the original or the club. I was debating between those two. At any rate, whichever one I picked was good. We divided our shopping time equally between Tren-D and World of Disney. I picked up a scarf for Lauren since she had gotten cut form the trip and some new kitchen towels for home. I went with the castle design since our kitchen is blue. They don't quite match, but close enough. I guess I'll just have to repaint the kitchen to match the towels. laugh I was hoping that we would make it down to Characters in Flight because Dana would have really enjoyed that, but our time schedule was too tight because of the bus window. We finished up our shopping and hopped the bus back to the resort.

This little guy was so tuckered out her decided to have a nap on the sidewalk

As it turned out, we did have about 20 minutes to wait when we returned, so we browsed the shop a little bit more. I saw a new(ish) style jersey that I'll probably purchase next week. It was available in black (Mickey), red (Minnie), blue (Stitch), and purple (Maleficent). I couldn't decide which one to get and noway trip is almost here. Feel free to weigh in on which one you think I should get. Sorry, no pics.

Casey was super sad that it was time to go home

Jenna's dad breaking stuff...

Jada playing connect 4 in the lobby

Our Tragical Express ride was uneventful, but the driver dropped everyone off at terminal B, which was kind of irritating because at the very least, our party of 18 was going to terminal A. I'm pretty sure that they usually make stops on both sides... Well Frontier isn't eligible for resort luggage check-in, so we had to schlep all of our stuff across to the other side of the terminal to check-in. I was a little bit worried because I remembered the security line having a HUGE back-up at the A terminal when we were at MCO in November and I was hoping that we'd have enough time to grab a bite to eat. It turns out that we did and of course the Frontier/JetBlue terminal has better options than the Southwest Terminal. There was an On the Border take-out window...and they had Flautas!! Everyone else got in line for Starbucks, but I was like NOPE! Gotta get me some TexMex.

Our flights was "on time", but we actually used back from the gate a little bit late because we were refueling. The pilot informed us that it was because we had to fly low...because of heavy turbulence...ughhhh!!!! yuck We had heard reports from our families who had been on earlier flights that the turbulence was so bad that it was like Tower of Terror and Rock'n'Roller Coaster combined. Lisa, who never panics about anything, actually pulled the flight attendant aside and asked how bad it was going to be and if we should all get off the plane. My sentiments exactly. Well, we decided to stay on the plane and all through the flight, we kept bracing for this heavy turbulence and fortunately, it never came! cool

Baggage claim was average. It seemed like a slightly longer than usual wait, but everyone's luggage arrived. At that point we split up--Jenna and Jada's families with me, our two other families to their cars, and the rest of the coaches with Lisa. I was pleased to see that the snow that we had gotten the day before was gone. I had put a shovel in my car just in case. We did have some difficulty finding the cars. We got off the bus at stop 12, which I swear is where we got on on Wednesday. However, this time we were right next to some trees and when we got on the bus the week before, we were in the middle of a wide open parking lot. Fortunately it wasn't too terribly cold and we did find the cars relatively quickly. This was just one of the many drawbacks to not having Benn with me. He's the best at remembering to make a note of where we're parked. Fortunately the temperatures were still above freezing, so at had wet roads on the drive home, but no ice. I arrived home a little after midnight. It was a great trip and I can't wait to do it again! Only 5 days to go!! (My trip ticker thinks that we're leaving Saturday. I wish.)

(Will ya look at that...only 13 days between trips and I DID finish the trip report. Let's not discuss the photo album. That will have to wait.)

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Be good at something. It makes you valuable. Have something to bring to the table because that will make you more welcome. --Randy Pausch

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Trip Reports:
December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco

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What are Chupa Chups?

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They're suckers/lolliopops.

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Kristen K. wrote:
What are Chupa Chups?

What Tink said mickey They used to be delicious, but there were extras in the pack, so I had one. Either my tastes have changed or the recipe is different. Yikes!

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Be good at something. It makes you valuable. Have something to bring to the table because that will make you more welcome. --Randy Pausch

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Trip Reports:
December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco

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Disney have decided to drop off only at one Terminal now, they just haven't told anyone. We were fairly cross about it last year but at least will be prepared this year. Great trip report and congrats to your team for doing so well

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Sally-Ann wrote:
Disney have decided to drop off only at one Terminal now, they just haven't told anyone. We were fairly cross about it last year but at least will be prepared this year. Great trip report and congrats to your team for doing so well

It's been like this for at least the last 3 times we have taken the Tragical Express back to MCO (April, September and January). We didn't care in April as Air Canada is at Terminal B, but the other times, we've had to walk across to Terminal A.

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JanJ wrote:
Sally-Ann wrote:
Disney have decided to drop off only at one Terminal now, they just haven't told anyone. We were fairly cross about it last year but at least will be prepared this year. Great trip report and congrats to your team for doing so well

It's been like this for at least the last 3 times we have taken the Tragical Express back to MCO (April, September and January). We didn't care in April as Air Canada is at Terminal B, but the other times, we've had to walk across to Terminal A.

I guess in a way, it's less confusing. I felt like you could never understand where the driver was telling you to get off. I can't remember from November now if the DCL bus was making one or two stops. We were terminal B that trip, so it wouldn't have mattered. Before that, it had been a year since we have been to WDW because of the DL trip and we had rented a car for our last three consecutive trips, so that policy was all new to me! It was definitely a pain for Frontier because not only did we have to cross the terminal, but the Frontier desk is all the way down at the end of the A-side ticket counters. Also Frontier does not participate in the "check your luggage at the resort" program, so there was no avoiding dragging your luggage all over the airport.

Thanks, Sally-Ann!

__________________

Be good at something. It makes you valuable. Have something to bring to the table because that will make you more welcome. --Randy Pausch

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Trip Reports:
December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco