Waking up at 4 a.m. is never fun. But, when it’s the day after your wedding and you’re heading to Walt Disney World, you don’t complain. Such were the circumstances when Sarah’s parents came into our suite to wake us up the “morning” after our wedding. We were already thirty minutes late; apparently, the AM/PM mistake happens outside of the world of of Seinfeld.
So began the whirlwind process of getting ready for the day. If our lives were set to music, the same John Williams’ score that plays during the beginning of Home Alone, where the family rushes for the airport, would be played here. Much like that film, we forgot a few things. We both knew this would occur, so we weren’t too upset. Contrary to the film, we did remember each other, which I considered highly positive. We wouldn’t be starting the marriage on the right foot if we forgot one another.
In addition to being late to heading to the airport, neither one of us–individuals who had gone to a Chicagoland school for 5 and 7 years, respectively–could give Sarah’s father adequate directions to the airport. James and Andrew, although it’s unlikely that you’re reading this, sorry for calling you in the middle of the night. After driving 20 miles out of our way, we did arrive at the airport. At this point, you can probably queue the John Williams score again. We rushed to check our bags, at which point we realized we were fine time-wise. Then, as we walked up the concourse towards our gate, the most glorious moment of any trip to the Midway airport occurred: the Golden Arches came into view.
I believe I have stated this before, but I am a huge McDonald’s fan. Even with all of my love for McDonald’s, I only eat there a few times a year since I generally attempt to eat healthy. However, I always eat there the morning we leave for Walt Disney World. McDonald’s breakfast is, unequivocally, the best way to start any trip to Walt Disney World. No matter what the circumstances, two Sausage McMuffins will prepare you for the day. This day acted no differently, as they again prepared me for the day.
I might as well get this out here now since it will be a theme of the trip report; for those who don’t know, photography is a hobby of mine. I normally include my photography-related thoughts in my trip reports. Most of the time, I don’t really know what I’m talking about, and really just ramble on about nothing, so skipping these segments is highly advised.
I always take an inordinate number of photos at the airport. This is because I really am not wild about photography, except for at Walt Disney World, so I don’t practice much outside of the parks. As with anything, you get rusty if you don’t practice. While this particular trip was definitely not about photography, I had two new lenses on the trip that I had used for a grand total of about two hours (almost all of which was use with one of the lenses), and I needed to get familiar with the lenses and get rid of the rust.
This is all much to Sarah’s chagrin, and rightfully so. I can’t imagine anyone being too happy with me taking pictures of them eating breakfast after only two hours of sleep (and that’s being generous–it was probably more like an hour and a half). Sarah has a way of being gorgeous no matter the circumstances, but I still think pictures of her eating are off limits. Still, she’s a good sport while I attempt to figure out what the heck I’m doing with the camera. Luckily or unfortunately, I had a lot of rust, as I hadn’t really used my camera much in the previous month.
After breakfast, it was basically time to board the plane. In all of the hustle and bustle of the wedding, we had forgotten to check in early. Well, at least really early. Normally, I refresh Southwest.com’s check-in page until it will let us check-in on the day prior. This trip, that was not the case. Consequently, we were not seated together. Strolling down the aisle of the plane, I always chuckle to myself to see two people clearly together who are situated window and aisle, as if to ward off stray single riders (don’t know a better term for this, so I’ll use the Disney term), who approach. If you ask to sit next to them, begrudgingly, they allow it (as if they have a choice), but they always move. I guess Sarah and I do the same thing when we are the earlier ones on the plane, so it’s not a knock against everyone else, but it really does seem silly.
This was not the case with the people between whom I chose to sit, unfortunately for them, as it would be. Luckily for them, Sarah was seated directly in front of me. You see, I have a tendency (to put it lightly) of falling asleep while traveling. When this started to occur on the flight, the man next to me took on pillow status in my unconscious. Yep, I’m “that guy.” I always have been that way. My grandpa used to say that there was no point in me getting a driver’s license, because I always fell asleep in the car, so I’d have no idea where I was going, and would always be lost. I really don’t have any explanation or excuse to offer; I would hate it if someone started leaning their head on me, but yet I do the very thing that would irritate me. From my perspective, the man would have had every right to give me a good shot to the head.
To save money, Sarah and I had chosen a flight that had a layover. This was also the same reason that we chose such an early flight. A direct flight that left 3 hours later would have been $70 more per person. Without hesitation, if we could do it over, we would buy that flight. Although Sarah and I are cheap, we do understand the value of time. When you’re on your honeymoon and it’s the day after your wedding, $140 for three hours is a bargain.
During the layover, we moved forward to the second row. There, we were directly behind some people from one of the Disney forums (hi, if you’re reading this, hope the vacation was magical!) who recognized us when we got onto the plane. The husband and wife were taking their kids (they told us the ages, but I’ve forgotten since), probably ages 7 and 5, to Walt Disney World as a surprise. They kept giving the kids opportunities to guess where they were going. The daughter (the older child of the two, I think) thought they were going to Washington, DC to visit their grandma. I can only imagine how the kids reacted when they realized they were at Disney. Something I imagine the kids and the parents both will never forget. I can only hope that Sarah and I are able to do the same for our kids when we’re older. What a great surprise.
Although I was running on only a few (more now, given my sleeping arrangements on the flight preceding this one) hours of sleep, I couldn’t sleep during this flight. I was excited not only for our honeymoon, but for the little morsels I could hear from the folks in front of us. I really am a sucker for that type of thing. I really can’t wait for Sarah and I to have kids so we can do this. At the same time, there is no way we could continue our “style” of touring with young kids, so we will embrace the next few childless years.
Arriving at the Orlando airport (I know it has a memorial name or a sponsor since it’s abbreviation is MCO…and there is no “MC” in “Orlando airport”) is always fun. Sarah and I are always elated. Add tired this time to the mix. Tired and elated, we ran off the plane towards…somewhere. We are getting better with this, but we still seem to get lost at that airport every time we go there. Not this time. We boarded the fake monorail like clockwork, went to the CORRECT floor of the car rental/accommodations area, and got in line for Disney’s Magical Express.
I have a love/hate relationship with DME. Okay, mostly love. Although I do hate it when they want to pick me up and make me leave WDW. I wanted to test out another new toy, my neutral density filter, so I stepped outside and took some pictures of the DME bus. Unlike the lenses, I had used this before, but just for a few shots. Apparently, I had a decent handle of it, because a shot I took using it won me a iPad. Still, I wanted to hone my skills with it. I can be lazy with contest pictures. Disney pictures require precision and perfection.
After a couple of shots, I came back inside to return to Sarah’s side. She really deserves a lot of credit for allowing me to be a “kid in a candy store.” After we waited a bit, it was finally our turn to board the DME bus. If you’re thinking this is a lot of nothing thus far, I promise, it’ll start to get interesting, eh, maybe.
Okay, so nothing all that interesting happened on the DME bus, besides seeing new segments of the video that I absolutely love. Why this isn’t on Mousebits, I don’t know. Passing through the gates was, as always, magical, and I really don’t even mind doing the loop around the resorts before getting to ours. It builds anticipation and this time, allowed us to see “home,” Saratoga Springs.
Then, we arrived there. Stepping out of the bus, I felt somewhat like royalty. As we strolled past freshly minted Beemers and Lexuses (Lexi?) I thought to myself, “how did they allow two poor college kids to stay here?” Well, college kids were we no more. Poor, yes, though. The lobby was as grand as the exterior, and instantly, I knew this was going to be one heckuva stay. Not to stick our noses up to the value resorts, where we usually stay, but this was completely different. It’s not just as if the resort were in another league. It was playing a different sport.
We tried to sweet talk our way into the “best” view out of the crappy view rooms (as I’ve read some can see the BoardWalk…a little; or at least the pool), but the Cast Member assisting us was unable to do anything. We were rarely on the balcony anyway, so the parking lot view wasn’t that bad (although I think we would’ve been a lot more had we had a better view). I think Online Check-In hurts you in this regard. Sarah and I never have had issues having room requests fulfilled with regular check-in; they never happen with online check-in.
After check-in, we stopped at the sundries store to get a snack, then headed to our room. I am in no way “on staff” for Disney, but I’ll give the sales pitch anyway. If you’re our age, or anywhere around our age and in similar circumstances, buy DVC. I did the whole cost/benefit objective analysis (assuming 2 kids, “second best” use of money at ROI of 7.5%, 32 years of use, etc.) and thought it was a good idea for us given that we’d be spending nearly the same amount to stay at the Poly for our time-frame. However, I didn’t fully account for the feeling I’d have when stepping into the room, when getting up in the morning, or a whole host of other externalities. Additionally, I don’t think I accounted for the feeling I THINK I would’ve have had waking up at the Poly thinking, “all we did was sleep here on this particular night, and gee wiz, we spent $300+ on it?!” Despite what Disney says, DVC does not pay for itself after one use (our break-even point for comparable on-property locations is around 15 years), but it is worth it. In an instant. We will definitely be adding on as soon as funds allow. Oh, and Bay Lake Tower, we’ll see you in 2011!
Glad I got that little DVC advertisement out of the way (hey, someone has to fund this thing–am I wrong?). Unlike me, Sarah is not so amenable to falling asleep on the shoulder of a strange man (thankfully). She implored me to take a nap, but I could not. I slipped out of bed and wandered the room before waking her up. We agreed to thirty more minutes of nap time, after which we’d head to the Studios. We also decided that getting me out of the room was the only way to facilitate that nap, so I headed out with the camera and tripod to play.
I make a list of pictures that I want to take before each trip. This isn’t just a “get a picture of the castle” type list, this is a “use an ultra-wide angle lens, approach from 45 degree angle, get a picture of Tiki Room sign” type of list. I don’t know where I come up with a lot of the stuff on it, but I do. Sometimes I’ll be watching a sitcom on TV, and all of the sudden, an idea pops in my head. I run to the computer and type it up. Other times, it’s more contrived. I look at old WDW souvenir books to get an idea of what’s located where, and then think up ideas. Going into this trip, I had 4 pages of three column, single-spaced, 10-point font ideas. Usually, I don’t refer to this list much during the trip, I just keep it in case I run into a creative roadblock.
This day, I knew exactly what shot I wanted to get off of that list. It was actually the reason I purchased the ND filter (for those unacquainted, wikipedia it). I spent roughly 12 hours researching ND filters before settling on this one. Thereafter, I spent a lot more time finding auctions on eBay for this filter set within my price parameters. At market prices of $80-150, I wasn’t going to spend recklessly (I got mine for $75, if you’re curious). I mean, come on, it’s a filter!
The shot I wanted is below. It’s not as cool as it was in my head, but I still like it. I took a few more shots, all while screaming, “THIS PLACE IS AWESOME” to myself in my head, before realizing 25 minutes had passed since Sarah and I had made our deal. I rushed back, getting disoriented in the process, before seeing it. International Gateway. Holy cow. I could enter EPCOT for two minutes, stroll back to the resort, and no one would be the wiser. Already behind schedule, I didn’t. However, at that instant, the EPCOT area resorts just became even more awesome.
When I arrived in the room, Sarah was still getting ready. Phew. After she finished, we left for the Studios. It was the last day of Star Wars Weekends, and we wanted at least one character picture. All things being equal, I wanted Darth Goofy. Sarah didn’t really care. We decided to hoof it, thinking it was a 5 minute walk (they told us 10, but we walk very quickly). However, we took a few wrong turns, and 5 minutes turned into 30 in the nice 100 degree sun. It was a little frustrating, but we were at WDW and on our honeymoon! Nothing to complain about there.
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