Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Getting Going

After a longer than two week absence here, get ready for the photo flood that will be the Disney trip and Christmas week stuff. It's taken me a full week since we returned late Tuesday night to even get to most of the 1000+ photos I came home with, then a ton of work stuff to catch up on, and, oh, Christmas holidays too. 

As always, the Disney trip was not quite enough and always too much. 

According to Nick's tracker on his phone, we averaged 11 miles a day walking. 

This trip, I'd scheduled long day/short day/long day etc to try and get us to make it full strength to the finish line and the group soldiered through admirably, especially that last night/morning when they stayed up to see the Star Wars fireworks I did not expect to get to see at park close near midnight and then got up at 5 the following morning to pack and make rope drop at the Magic Kingdom by 7 a.m.

But that's at the end. 

So, to begin at the beginning . . .

We got up Tuesday morning 12/15 at 4:00 a.m. and left by 4:45. It had been snowing since midnight and I have never driven on roads so icy. I was white knuckling it all the way to the airport, unable to see any lines or shoulders, on unplowed roads. We must've pass a dozen plows going the other direction, but none for the only people out at 5 a.m. trying to get to the airport in the dark.

We made it and decided to park in the garage, despite the extra cost, because no one was up for dragging the 9 bags through a blizzard across a football field and possibly return to do the same. 

I had bought Bob and Jason tickets on Frontier for cheap, provided you have nothing but a backpack to get under the ever-shrinking seats. I'd bought my ticket on Southwest where we could check two big bags and I could carry on two more. When Nick's plans changed and he was going to be home in Denver before the trip, not in Austin, the cheap Frontier option was gone but Southwest was still reasonable, so I got him a spot with me, which doubled our checked bags to 4 and our carry-ons to 4 as well. Once we checked the bags and got through the security, Bob and Jason headed for their gate in Terminal A and Nick and I headed to Terminal C. 

At the gate, right before the announcement.

I'm getting texts from Bob that they are boarding while we are hearing that "all runways have been closed" from our gate agent, with no ETA for re-opening.

Here's what it looked like from the window:

So it was making absolutely no sense that I'm getting texts from Bob saying, "Door closed. Signing off." But okay. Guess Frontier's runways are cleared and Southwest's aren't?

About 45 minutes later, we are cleared to board. Here the snow on the walkway to the plane, blown through the little holes. 

From the window of row 7 I watched Jason's red bag, the boys' big gray bag, and my big flowered suitcase (the handler is carrying it to the drop) come on board. 


We watched one plane being deiced before they got going on ours, and we were off, just about an hour and a half behind schedule.

I'd gotten all of the first season of Serial podcast downloaded and got going on them. I was hooked in the first 10 minutes and listened for 3.5 hours to the first half of the whole show. (I'd finish it on the way home.) And while listening, got another page colored in the now only-for-flights coloring book. 

So as soon as we touch down, I text Sam to tell her we landed, fully expecting a text waiting from Bob when I switch out of airplane mode saying they were either waiting or already headed to the resort. 

Instead, Sam asks, "How did you guys beat them here??"

It turns out, Mr. We're On Our Way didn't get on his way. They sat on the plane for a couple of hours before their runway opened and they could get going. 

So, finally, we were all accounted for and in line for the Magical Express (read: bus) to take us to All Star Sports to meet up with Sam and get the vacation going. 

Now, we'd picked All Star Sports specifically to celebrate Nick's graduation as the first football player in more than half a century to graduate, but despite checking in online with our main request to be in the Football section, they stuck us in the Basketball section instead. I tried to get it changed at the front desk but they had absolutely nothing and were told we could check back the next day. Right. Once we unpacked, it was all over.

This is one of the two connecting rooms we had. I will say being able to move and back forth between the connecting door and having two bathrooms was pretty sweet. 

It was our first time staying at a Value resort. Prior to having 5 people on this trip, we've always been able to squeeze ourselves into a single room and justify the price. But this time around, Value for two rooms and free Dining was definitely the way to go. We just don't use the amenities or table service restaurants that the Deluxe resorts provide in a way that justifies the expense. And Disney is not cheap. A stay in the Polynesian where we could've just fit the five us in a room (tightly, with a single bathroom) runs, with discounts, more than $500 a night. 

We got the two Value rooms for half that. 

And we got free quick service dining on top of that, for what worked out to about $500 on top of the room and tickets. You will spend $500 in less than two days for 5 people paying out of pocket. This covered us for 7 days, two meals and a snack, which was often the breakfast item we picked up at the bakery.

You could upgrade to the table service dining plan, but we rarely eat at these places anyway -- it takes time away from the parks and the upgraded dining plan has so much food, people report basically feeling like they were doing nothing but eating their entire vacation just to justify the plan. 

So we splurged our first night at Raglan Road in Disney Springs knowing the rest of the food bill was covered for the remainder of the trip. 

Our friend Jay, who's been working for Disney for 20 years now as an engineer, met up with us for dinner and a walk around the newly refurbished/renamed area, once called Downtown Disney. 

We also, of course, had to take in the shops and photo ops.



 . . . before heading back to the room for the night. That 4 a.m. wake up was catching up to us. And we had an early park morning and late park night planned!

Tomorrow: Disney Studios opens at 9 a.m. and the Magic Kingdom closes at 2 a.m.!


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