If you're like me and you can't remember what you had for lunch yesterday, much less where I left off in this trip report, let me get you back up to speed. It's the beginning of December 2009. We have just come back from our first DVC Disney vacation: Thanksgiving at Bay Lake Tower. We've booked a Kidani Village 2BR and a BLT 1 BR for our summer 2010 Disney vacation, and I'm excited that we'll finally spend the 4th of July at WDW.
Time moved really fast, but at the same time really slow for the next seven months. We celebrated Christmas, enjoyed the kids’ basketball seasons, tolerated the arrival of mine and DH’s 40th birthday, took a Spring Break trip to Lake Tahoe, celebrated the boy’s birthday, the girl’s Baptism, and finally wound down the school year with parties, 5th grade graduation (sniff…) and more baseball than you can shake a stick at.
All of a sudden June was here, and it was Disney month.
School was out, and all the busy-but-lazy summer fun was upon us. Friends in and out swimming, more baseball, VBS, yada yada yada. It was among all of the summer hoopla that I checked my email one day and realized it had come.
With an Excel attachment.
I opened the attachment, and lo and behold, a bright light came down from Heaven and illuminated my computer screen with a golden glow as I heard angels singing in the background.
DH had sent me the pre-trip checklist in all of its columned glory. It was a masterpiece of pre-Disney organizational delight.
There was a column for each of our four family members, and rows and rows and rows of things to organize, take care of before leaving, shop for and ultimately pack. It was go time.
I pulled the suitcases up from the basement and got jiggy with the packing. We had everything from clothes and shoes, to Frogg Toggs in four different colors, to medicine for any ailment that might strike one or all of us, to matching American flag shirts to wear on the 4th, to every small electronic in our home – along with its charger, case and accessories packed in the bags. And finally, after a week of taking care of pre-trip errands, shopping and packing, it was TIME TO GO TO DISNEY WORLD!!!
So with the car packed full of everything we’d need for the next 11 days, and me looking at my watch and realizing that if we left RIGHT THAT MINUTE we could get to Orlando by 7 pm, DH called everyone into the kitchen. He sat the family down and pulled out a devotional.
God love him. People, I was ready to get on the road. And my man was bringin’ the sermon.
However, knowing that a vacation would not start off well if lightening struck the car and it erupted into flames as we pulled out of the driveway, I did not shun - nor even comment on - the timing of the family devotion time, but sat down with the three people I love most in this world and we talked about and prayed over our trip. Despite my initial internal hesitation, it was a great way to start the vacation.
Even if it DID shave 20 minutes off of The Time. (Hat tip, Mr. LaLa.)
Soon enough we were squealing out of the driveway on two wheels and blaring the Illuminations soundtrack as loud as we could get it. We didn’t have a hotel reservation for the evening, because until the moment we pulled out of the driveway, we weren’t sure when we’d leave and how far we’d go. In fact, we STILL weren’t sure. But if everything went according to plan, we would be in Orlando by 8 pm.
Knowing that night’s hotel reservation wasn’t secured was actually a fun feeling. We’d known for seven months that we’d stay at Kidani Village and Bay Lake Tower. And we (read: I) had done insane amounts of research on both places. But throwing in a one-nighter at somewhere random, and – yep - possibly off-property, was kinda exciting. On the way down to Orlando, as we basked in the “our vacation has started” glow, we had the additional fun of deciding where to spend our first night of vacation. We considered the Poly. We love it there, and with DVC, probably won’t stay there much anymore. We considered our favorite off-site resort, Grande Lakes. That place is sublime. But we really had a hankerin’ to try something new. With an 8 pm arrival and an 8 am departure tomorrow morning, there wasn’t much to lose if we didn’t like our new find. That’s when I remembered Frick had stayed a couple of weeks earlier at the new Hilton at Bonnet Creek. Like us, it was a pre-Disney one nighter, and they had loved it. Frick sealed the deal by sending some pics of the Hilton pool to my cell, and we called and booked our non-refundable room for the evening.
And so it was. The Hilton at Bonnet Creek.
Frick made a good call. The Hilton was an AWESOME first night resort. The pool is fantastic with its lazy river, zero entry and slide. There was a “Dive In Movie” offered that night at dark, and we literally spent every minute from the time we arrived, until we showered for bed, at the pool that night. My son even ate two full buckets of popcorn as he sat in the zero-entry area watching a movie and making sure his popcorn didn’t get wet. The place was a HUGE hit for the little NMs, And Mama and Daddy NM loved it, too. It was a great way to get the vacation vibe rolling.
But as fantastic as that night was, I was REALLY looking forward to the next morning. Because it was then that I was FINALLY going to meet up with LaLa and her family. So I went to bed that night happy in every way. I had driven my car under The Arches to arrive at the hotel I was sleeping in. My family was healthy and happy and sleeping soundly beside me. We had ten full Disney days ahead of us. And the sweet friend that I had met in the most unusual way I’ve ever formed a friendship, was about to make the switch from a voice I’d heard on the phone, and a two dimensional image I’d seen on a computer screen, to a real person I could give a big hug to and share a meal with. I fell asleep exhausted and happy.
I woke up the next morning, and surprisingly wasn’t a bit nervous about meeting LaLa and her family. We’ve been “friends” for about four years now, and I didn’t expect anything about her to be an uncomfortable surprise. I knew she and her husband were funny and fun, and that our families were the same in most every way – and ALL of the important ways.
So it was with great happiness that we checked out of the Hilton at Bonnet Creek (which my son, while admitting it was a great hotel, said it didn’t feel Disney-ish.)
The plan was to meet the LaLas at the International Gateway entrance to Epcot. The LaLas were going home that day, and they had one more CS credit to burn. They had spent the morning floating for the last time in SAB, and walked over to meet at our designated time.
We were waiting in the gift shop (trying to get as much cool air as possible) when I saw the LaLas come walking through the turnstiles. I poked my head out of the door and flagged them down before I rounded up the NMs and we all met outside. Many of you have already heard the deets of this meet, so I won’t spend too much time on it now. But I will say that it was exactly like I expected it to be. Just like meeting up with a friend I hadn’t seen in forever. LaLa and I shared a hug, noticed that we were dressed almost exactly alike, and chatted like best girlfriends as we walked over to Sunshine Seasons to have lunch. Our kids hit it off right away, and our husbands are eerily similar. Mr. LaLa is easy on the eyes, and his bride is a beautiful Southern Belle. The two little LaLas look just like their parents. We enjoyed a meal, and lingered talking and laughing as their trip came to an end and ours was kicking off. Despite the relaxed pace of our time together, the LaLas had many hours of travel ahead of them that day, and they needed to get on the road. Parting hugs were exchanged and off they went.
After they were gone, my husband asked me if LaLa was like I expected her to be. I said she was. She was EXACTLY like I KNEW she would be. Funny, sweet, beautiful, an awesome mom, and – last but not least, and what brought us to that same message board at that same time in our lives – a full on Disney Geek. Which is the icing on the cake.
When we first walked into Epcot that late morning, my husband had immediately bolted across the park and secured some FPs for Soarin’. Our hope was that the FP window would come up right after lunch since we’d be right there in The Land. The timing worked out just as we hoped, and as the LaLas headed up the escalator, we walked over to the Soarin’ FP entrance, flashed the four golden tickets, and made our way down the long queue.
The Soarin’ music is almost at the top of my list of favorite park music, and it was a great soundtrack to the elation I was feeling at that moment. I had just had lunch with one of my first “Disney” friends, my family was hopping on our first ride of our Disney vacation, and we had 10 full days of fun waiting for us once we walked off the ride. There are a lot of things in life that make me happy.
But my friends, I was beyond happy. I was full on giddy.
Soarin’ to Tower: we are ready for take-off…