Disney World 2016: ‘Twas the day before Christmas

The Art of Animation Resort had left information on our door regarding our DME pickup. We had until 1:30pm to relax, do any final shopping, and pack.

For our final breakfast, we went to Pop Century, to experience their morning fare. I can’t say that the quality was markedly better, but Alex got her gluten-free waffles, and we had something different for a change. So it was far from terrible.

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Disney World 2016: Magic Kingdom

This was the day I’d been waiting for since June. I have nothing against Epcot or Animal Kingdom, and I very much love the Kennedy Space Center. But when it comes to magic, the closest I’ll ever get to witnessing real magic, it’s the looks on children’s faces when they see something wonderful. I had great memories of the Magic Kingdom from when I was a kid, and I wanted to see what it looked like through my own kids’ eyes.

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Disney World 2016: Animal Kingdom

I moved the family as quickly as I had the day before. My biggest need that morning wasn’t to get to Animal Kingdom, it was to return the car before we got dinged another USD$133. I’d gotten over the fact that we’d ended up with an inappropriately large and expensive car, I just didn’t want to be reminded of it again.

We charged through breakfast, Alex and I started to really dislike the constant pattern of food without sufficient variation. Finishing first, I double-backed for the car, and brought it closer to Animation Hall for pickup. However, either due to miscommunication or misunderstanding, my family went left instead of right, and took longer to get out than I’d planned. I ended up literally chasing them around the building, only to find them at the car, wondering where I was.

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Disney World 2016: Kennedy Space Center

We were up early, hitting the front of the hotel for 8:20, to catch our shuttle bus to the Alamo Rental location just inside the Magic Kingdom‘s outer gates. We were renting a car for exploring!

I had originally arranged for a small car the day before, but we’d switched around the days (because we could) to make it a bit easier. I knew the day was going to involve a fair bit of driving for me and the girls, so I figured the day wouldn’t matter. We were going to the coast: I wanted to see the Kennedy Space Center, and I promised the girls we’d go to the beach afterwards.

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Disney World 2016: Resting at the resort

It’s genuinely amazing what a single night of sleep can do for a person. I woke up feeling human. And apologetic about my behaviour the night before. And dying for coffee. Which, fortunately, the Landscape of Flavors has in spades.

Originally, we had planned to go to the Kennedy Space Center. However, we were all still quite tired from our experience the day before, so we opted to take another pool day, and relax. It was definitely the right decision to make.

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Disney World 2016: Epcot

Our first FastPass was booked for 9:40am, so we had a need to usher ourselves along that morning. Up, shower, dress, eat, and on the bus for 9am. It was a bit hurried, but nothing more dramatic than trying to get the kids up for school.

Arriving at Epcot was unique, in that the first thing we could readily see was Spaceship Earth (colloquially known as “the golf ball”) as we drove around Epcot’s massive parking lot to the bus drop-off. The bus ride was punctuated by a conversation with a rather bright girl from Georgia who seemed very interested in the girls’ first trip to a Disney park.

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Disney World 2016: Disney Springs

Walt Disney World covers an area of 110 sq km, encompassing the four theme parks, two water parks, 27 themed resorts, and their shopping/entertainment district, called Disney Springs  (formerly Downtown Disney, among a few other iterations). It’s an experience freebie, in that it doesn’t ding you the $100+/person entry.

Getting there — well, anyway, really — would be a bit of a challenge for anyone without a car. Even with the distances between entrances (we had a minimum 30 minute walk to the nearest park), there was also the reality of walking on freeways (and very few roads in the area had sidewalks), not to mention the wildlife: signs everywhere warned of snakes and alligators. Walt Disney World is built on a swamp, and many watery channels remain.

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Disney World 2016: Arrival at Walt Disney World

We arrived in Orlando at about 1:00am. Amazingly, the girls were still awake (given, it was only 11pm Calgary time). The airport was nearly empty. And yet, Choo Choo sprinted ahead to see a giant (fake) Christmas tree, and neither complained about the extra walking to retrieve our bag. All I wanted at that point was a bed, but they needed tranquilizer darts.

Our first exposure to Disney came on Level one of “Side B” (Orlando has strange names for their terminal building arrangement), where we arrived for our Disney Magical Express. I was half-expecting it to be closed. But there was a nice gentleman, who smiled and said “Good morning!” as if it were breakfast time, but with enough levity to suggest his apology for the late hour. We were directed to Line 7 (devoid of anyone), and led to a large coach bus. There was no extra cost, no hassle: it was simple. This was a pattern that was about to be repeated frequently.

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Disney World 2016: The kids find out

The biggest problem with Christmas around our household is Alex’s work schedule. Being an X-Ray Tech at Rockyview means that she has to work any conceivable day of the year, Christmas Day included. Add to that a near-impossibility for her to get vacation at peak times (notably summer), and we have to wait for when Alex gets vacation.

In May 2016, Alex declared that we “were going somewhere for Christmas”. Originally, that was meant to be Hawaii, which I was all for. However, when we looked into it more, the costs were rapidly approaching “prohibitive”. I think I even joked that “Disney would be cheaper”.

My jokes have a tendency to spur thought on alternatives…

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