One of the things I miss most about the first few trips we took together was the amount of planning that went into each trip. We’d sit down months in advance and determine where we wanted to eat and when, and the anticipation would build from this time until the 180 day mark when we could make advance dining reservations, and would continue to build as we awaited the trip.
Planning where we wanted to stay was very similar. We would target some resorts, look for discounts, and finally book the resort (or resorts) that had the best combination of what we wanted and discounts.
All of this planning really made for some fun anticipation, and effectively made the trip about 200 days longer than it otherwise was (although I’m in no way suggesting sitting at a computer in Indiana is anywhere close to as much fun as wandering around Walt Disney World, but it was fun, nonetheless).
We rarely make advance dining reservations more than a couple weeks before a trip now. We rarely follow rigid Touring Plans these days. We recently booked a hotel at Disneyland less than a week before the trip. Suffice to say, the anticipation for trips and the planning stages just aren’t quite the same.
All of that said, we still have just as much fun on each trip as we’ve always had by experiencing new things and because we see the parks in a different way, but the build-up that we loved is definitely gone.
Part of the reason why I resist everyone’s urging to move to Florida is because I fear that we’d lose even more by having such immediate access to the parks. Already, I can be jaded at times, and I don’t want to be a local who takes the parks for granted. Visiting whenever we want would be pretty awesome, but there are always trade-offs.
This trip, however, was a bit of a return to old form for us. Not only did we make Advance Dining Reservations nearly 180 days in advance, but we actually made multiple sets of lodging accommodations, some over 7 months in advance. I’ll get to this story later, but for now I just want to build anticipation. It’s a long, boring story and the end result is mostly just me patting myself on the back, so don’t get too excited!
The importance of this, early in the story, is that we were excited for this trip. Very excited. We had done enough planning that we knew plenty of ways we’d be having fun on the trip, but we didn’t do so much planning that our every move was orchestrated in advance. No matter when or how often you travel, I think this is crucial.
Like most of our recent trips, this one began after a partial day at work, leaving in the late afternoon for the Indianapolis International Airport. We’ve received a lot of questions about how we take so much time off of work to take “so many” trips, and the answer is that we don’t. Each trip we take entails about two days off work, and we usually make up for that by going into the office on weekends (in my case) before and after the trip, or going “on call” (in Sarah’s case). Not that we feel we owe anyone an explanation as to our work schedules, but inquiring minds seem to want to know.
When we arrived at the airport, we immediately headed to my favorite place there: QDOBA!!!!
Actually, just Sarah headed there. How she manages to stomach that garbage when there’s a glorious McDonald’s right next door boggles my mind. It’s not just unpatriotic, it’s unconscionable. By the way, I should mention that this portion of the trip report is brought to you by a considerable endowment from the McDonald’s Corporation. You wonder how we really travel so regularly, well, my ringing endorsements of their food and their sponsorship dollars go a long way!
Obviously, I’m kidding, and I’ll be the first to acknowledge that my ritualistic consumption of fine McDonald’s cuisine before each of our Disney trips is a bit odd. What’s even more odd, or awkward, is taking the photos for these portion of the trip report while we’re at the airport. They’re probably wondering why some guy is so impressed by a $1 menu burger that he’s photographing it. I take these photos not because I want to share with you all beautiful photos of McDonald’s food (pretty sure you’ve all seen McDonald’s food in your lives and are relatively unimpressed by photos of it!), but because I need to get in rhythm photographically, and taking photos of food are a great way to do get rid of some of the rust.
All of the food pictured was for me, and I probably (definitely) ordered too much. For the rest of our time at the airport and while on the plane, I sprawled out in a chair, moaning like a beached whale from over-indulgence in this delicious fare.
The flight itself was nice and short, lasting only 2 hours. We have been doing most of our flying from Indianapolis to Orlando on AirTran lately because they have more direct flights at better hours (for us) than Southwest. It seems that Southwest has been dramatically scaling back their flights from IND to MCO in general, and placing a stop somewhere in them. I have no idea why this is occurring, be it demand or if it’s because Southwest and AirTran are beginning the initial stages of integration. I hope that once the airlines are integrated, even fewer options exist at even higher prices (as it stands, a round trip is $260 for October, which is relatively absurd in comparison to what we have been paying), but I fear that’s exactly what will happen.
The bus looked dramatically different than buses we had previously used, with much larger TV screens (woo hoo!) and a somewhat different layout. At one time I recall seeing a news article about Disney buses, but bus transportation isn’t especially high on my list of interests (“You see that? That’s a SIR1995 model Greyhound–it’s the rarest and most regal of the fleet!”), so I didn’t actually read the article. If you are a bus enthusiast, you probably already know all about these new buses.
Our first hotel on this trip was Port Orleans – Riverside. We had last stayed here on our relatively short engagement trip in 2007, and that trip was mostly a blur of nervous excitement for me, so I didn’t really remember the resort. I had also stayed there a couple times as a kid, when it was still Dixie Landings, and I didn’t really remember that, either. Actually, most of the memories I had from there as a kid are mashups of memories of staying there and at Shades of Green. That is, unless they’ve seriously redesigned the layout of the resort since then. Given that I also “remember” when my family got a pet Stegosaurus right around the time Jurassic Park premiered in theaters, I’m guessing it’s just my mind deceiving me. Funny how the mind does that.
One thing I did remember about those childhood trips to Dixie Landings was getting awesome cajun fries at Riverside Mill. I had done some research before our trip and discovered that these fries were no longer offered, but during the course of this research, a current bartender at River Roost informed me that they could still make the fries upon request. Ordering these was my first mission after we checked-in. I wasn’t all that hungry since I had eaten half of the McDonald’s menu only a few hours earlier, but I wasn’t passing up cajun fries!
While doing this research, I had also discovered a few menu items that looked good at Riverside Mill. Unfortunately, I was fixated on those fries, so I didn’t pay careful attention to these. I could have sworn one of them was the Muffaletta. I didn’t know what, exactly, this was, and there was no description on the menu, but it looked like it was filled with delicious meats, so I went with it. Plus, it reminded me of some of the legendary sandwiches at Sunshine Seasons. I figured there was no way it could be anything less than awesome.
I was absolutely wrong. This was the type of result (minus the fancy bread) you would expect to come out of a frat house fridge raid at 3 am on a Saturday night. It’s as if the kitchen staff randomly threw together what was lying around the fridge and called that a sandwich. Except, in this case, as I later found out, the Muffaletta is a real sandwich that is popular in the South! I’ve been to New Orleans a couple of times, and I’ve only encountered delicious food–not any culinary crimes against humanity like this sandwich.
On the plus side, after some initial confusion, the kitchen staff was very helpful in making my cajun fries (not just helpful–downright awesome), and we ended up with the largest side order of fries that I’ve ever seen. The fries were absolutely delicious, and reminded me of those we used to have at Dixie Landings when my whole family stayed there (pet Stegosaurus and all!). We didn’t even end up eating the whole olive spread-laden Muffaletta because the fries were so good.
From there, we wandered over to River Roost to catch a few minutes of Yehaa Bob’s show. Yehaa Bob is a cult favorite in some corners of the Disney fan community, and this was our first time seeing a portion of his show. It was excellent, and he had the crowd in stitches. He was very engaging, and was able to obtain a lot of audience participation.
Yehaa Bob’s website indicates that he’s performed at Walt Disney World for over 14 years, which is quite incredible given his show. He is always on the move, and always giving it his all. I don’t know he constantly has the energy and enthusiasm for his act, but kudos to him for being one of those Cast Member performers who really, truly loves making magic for guests. Given his energy during the portion of the show that we watched, it’s really easy to see why he’s a fan favorite. In retrospect, I wish we would have stayed longer to enjoy his show, but I was eager to get to Epcot and run my new camera through its paces, so we left.
Before leaving, I captured a number of fun photos of Yehaa Bob:
That said, part of me is glad that we didn’t stay, as I think I had a really great night of photography while we were at Epcot. It’s rare for me to be “in the zone” on our first day, but I think I was…
There are multiple pages in this Walt Disney World trip report installment. Navigate to the next page below!