Note: I am giving you fair warning – grab snack and a cup of coffee or your favorite beverage – this is a long post with lots of photos. And as I was working on it, I filled up my first blog and had to start another – thetravelinis2. Look for Disney Part 2 and some extra photos at that wordpress.com location.
I believe it was back in March 2014 when we were up north that Courtney announced that the Erik and Jim would be attending a camping conference in Orlando in December and that the wives and children would be joining them afterwards at DisneyWorld. And then I’m sure she said, “Who wants to join us?” Well, that was all I needed to hear and I spread the word and before you knew it everybody was on board and we were going to DISNEY!
The next months were filled with anticipation and a maze of details. Courtney made up countdown calendars and before you knew it it was Thanksgiving and Disney was just days away. Erin ordered groceries from Amazon, of all places, and I shopped at Costco. I spent quite a bit of time in the weeks leading up to the trip crocheting multiple Minnie, Mickey, and Elsa hats for the grandchildren. And then Sam asked me, “Will you make me a Goofy hat?” And so I did. You will see the hats sprinkled throughout the photos.
Everyone except the Rummelhoffs flew to Orlando. Jim flew down early in the week and Erin, Kristin and the girls flew in on Thursday. The Stroms flew down together early in the week and Courtney and the kids visited a friend while Erik was at the conference. The Condaps and the Stroms checked in at Fort Wilderness on Thursday and they were able to get a head start and go to the park on Friday, December 5.
Brooke and Mike left on early Friday morning, December 5, and drove straight through, with a quick stop at Metropolis, arriving at Esther and Anna Penner’s in the wee hours on Saturday. SATURDAY, December 6 – Travel day and Fort Wilderness On Saturday morning, December 6 – Gladstone’s 66th birthday – all the Mechers – Gladdy, me, Kyle, Jenny, Charlotte, Evelyn, Colby and Caitrin – made our way to Midway Airport and flew non stop to Orlando. There was Disney stuff as we made our way to baggage claim. We followed the crowd to the transportation area and boarded the Disney express.
We checked in at Fort Wilderness and boarded a van which would take us to our cabins. As we approached the turn to our loop, we saw a big sign and happy, smiling faces. I was so focused on the smiling faces that I didn’t even notice that the sign said Happy Birthday Poppa.
Brooke and Mike arrived shortly after we did and we unloaded the Costco food that they had packed and passed out the groceries that Erin had ordered from Amazon. Truly, it looked like we were feeding an army. We were housed in four cabins right in a row. Gladdy and I and Rummelhoffs in one, Stroms and Condaps each had one and the remaining Mechers had another. We were amazed at the lengths that people went to to decorate their cabins for Christmas. So we kinda settled into our cabins and almost everyone went to the pool.Well, I think I might have been the only one that stayed behind. I think I was working on potatoes or something for dinner.
Not long before we left I ordered some Disney trading pins from Amazon and on our first night there we gave them to the older grandchildren. They looked them over, made their selections, and pinned them to their lanyards or the felt pieces Erin had made.
After dinner we went to a sing-a-long with Chip and Dale at the campground followed by the movie Frozen.
We enjoyed every minute of our time there. It was fun to travel on the buses and boats. The kids were real troopers. Sometimes we had to wait a long time for the correct bus but they just entertained themselves. It was fun for the cousins to be together. We did not try to stay together – with 25 people it was impossible. So if I had one complaint it would be that I could not be omnipresent. I wanted to be with every family, all the time. So Gladdy and I just tried to spread ourselves around and hop from family to family whenever possible.
SUNDAY, December 7 – Magic Kingdom On Sunday morning we made our way to the boat which would take us to the Magic Kingdom.
Part of Gladdy’s and my morning was spent going back and forth to the main gate because he needed to be present when the military discount tickets were activated. Here we are after the Rummelhoff’s arrival.
Brooke had made reservations for us at Be Our Guest, the restaurant at the Beauty and the Beast castle. The night before she ordered cupcakes online. When we got there we were told to find a seat and they would bring our order to us. At this point I should mention that with our park admission we were issued really cool wristbands which served as our admission to the park, the key to our cabin, identification for our photo pass (more on that later), it could be used to pay for things at the park and held all the information for our Fast Passes. So cool. Gladdy loved the technology involved. Anyway, we found our seats – Adeline chose to sit in the ball room – and before too long they came with our cupcakes. They were able to locate us because of our wristbands! Esther and Anna Penner came to visit us on two occasions which is why you will see them in some of the photos.They arrived when some of us were going to use our FastPasses for the Mine Train Ride.
The kids enjoyed getting to see the characters, getting their autographs and having their picture taken. We only waited in the lines that weren’t miles long.
The roller coaster rides were a hit with most of us but the lines for those were always the longest, but some were able to ride on Space Mountain at least once that day.
In the middle of the afternoon on Sunday we all met up at the Buzz Lightyear ride. Esther and I sat outside with Amelia who was sleeping and visited. All the rest of the family enjoyed the ride. (These are all PhotoPass shots – see below) Somehow we didn’t get shots of Michael, Sam and Kira. One of the things that we set up ahead of time was the Memory Maker Photo Pass. For $149 all of us were able to have our photos taken anytime, anywhere by the Disney photographers. Someone in the party would have their wristband scanned and the photo was ours. I don’t think it would be such a great deal for a single family, but for 25 people we certainly thought we got our money’s worth. When we got home we determined that we had taken over 500 photos. We did not have to get the photos printed by Disney and Colby was able to download all the photos to Dropbox for each family. I will be including some of those photos, but definitely not all.
Throughout the week, each family set their our own schedules and we enjoyed ourselves. Most of the time we were all at the same park, just not all together. It was fun when we’d run into each other at the park. Our cell phones came in very handy to keep in touch. We’ve come so far! I remember when we used walkie talkies on a previous trip. There is also a Disney app that we had on our phones that let us know wait times for the rides. Ahhh,. technology! Late in the afternoon we rode the monorail with the Condaps to Epcot so they could meet up with Michelle, who had given us the benefit of Disney employee discounts.
Later in the evening we went to Hollywood Studios with the main objective to see the Osborne Lights. Trust me when I say that millions and millions of lights synchronized to Feliz Navidad is so cool! I love it! but some had time for a ride on the Rockin’ Roller Coaster and a visit to the Tower of Terror.
MONDAY, December 8 – Hollywood Studios The day started out with rain. We were able to keep somewhat dry with the use of the vintage Disney ponchos that Tammy let us use. Gail had purchased them years ago and Tammy hung onto them. Sadly, I think we were all hesitant to take our cameras out in the rain and we have no photos.
The Stroms and all the Mechers happened to go to the Indiana Jones show at the same time. We made enough of a ruckus to ensure that Colby would be chosen to be part of the show. He did an excellent job, especially when he had to act like he was dying – I think it was from a poison dart. Charlotte was thrilled with the show.
On Monday evening we went with the Condaps to see the decorations at the hotels on the monorail loop. We were only impressed with those at the Grand Floridian. We were able to get some Dole Whip at The Polynesian. No photo, but still YUM!
You will note that Sawyer is wearing her Elsa hat. While we were riding the monorail a couple commented on the hat and they were chatting with Sawyer. As we were about to get off the monorail, the woman said, “Good-bye, Queen Elsa.” Without missing a beat, Sawyer gave her best queenly bow and exited. I loved it!
Kristin, Gladdy and I went back to the Magic Kingdom and met Courtney there for the fireworks. It’s magical! the things they can do with lasers, light and projectors is amazing, not to mention the thrill of fireworks.
TUESDAY, December 9 – Fort Wilderness (for most of us) We did not go into the park on Tuesday and we spent a good part of the day at the pool. The people from Florida did not think it was warm enough to swim but that didn’t stop my northern babies!
The Condaps were able to go to Universal Studios that day and they had a good time there. Erin sent me these photos in a text message. We ordered pizza from the Settler’s Trading Post and ate poolside. The pool staff had activities for the kids which included Disney Bingo and a dance party. Adeline surprised us by doing every dance. The hot tub was a big hit. Jenny managed to forget her bathing suit in Chicago so she made the best of it. And while you are in Florida, a game of shuffleboard is a must.
We went took the bus back to our cabin – Emmet and Adeline had a secret. When we got there Gladdy “took a nap” on the Murphy bed. The kids had been planning how when Poppa took a nap, they were going to close him up in the bed. (Taking rides on the Murphy bed is a wonderful thing that we discovered on our first stay at Fort Wilderness years ago.) with the help of Uncle Kyle, they were able to succeed with their plan.
We had a BBQ on Wednesday night complete with burgers, hot dogs and ‘smores. After we ate most of us took the boat to the Fort Wilderness Lodge. We looked around at the decorations, the kids traded pins and we went to the gift shops where the parents were able to say “No,” to the many items that caught the children’s eye. Esther and Anna met us there and we took photos by the big tree.
It was getting late and it was time for most of the kids to go to bed, (but not the Rummelhoffs) so those families left. We hung around with the Rummelhoffs and the Penners in the big, beautiful lobby. When I’m rich I’m going to book a big room at the Fort Wilderness Lodge. I had been craving a cupcake, so Brooke had the kids pick one out for me. (Sam really wanted the one with the raspberry on top and since he was overruled he has not forgotten it.)
That’s it for this blog. To continue go to thetravelinis2 for DISNEY – Part 2. This will also be the blog for all future travels.